Nfld. & Labrador

'Who is ready for 2019?' Premier Dwight Ball aims to retain his political position

The Liberal Party's annual general meeting is happening in Gander this weekend.

Leadership vote scheduled for Saturday afternoon

Premier Dwight Ball received a warm reception ahead of his address at the Liberals annual general meeting Friday night in Gander. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

The provincial Liberals are billing this weekend's convention as one of the biggest for them, and Premier Dwight Ball is making his intentions clear right out of the gate.

"Who is ready for 2019?" he said as he took to the stage Friday night.

He then followed up by asking delegates "to confirm and support me."

As he stood  behind the podium at the start of his speech, delegates were on their feet, chanting "Dwight! Dwight! Dwight!"

Earlier this week, Ball wouldn't specify a percentage of support that would confirm him staying on, but had expressed his confidence that he would lead the party in the next election. 

A sentiment echoed by the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberals.

"The premier is going to be fine, he's doing really well, we're all so proud of him and we're really pumped going into 2019," John Allan told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show this week.

Backing Ball

Ball had the public support of many of his cabinet ministers, in the wake of his handling of the allegations against Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby, who were both removed from caucus and cabinet after allegations of bullying and harassment were levelled against them by MHAs.

Those sticking by Ball included Finance Minister Tom Osborne, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons, Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady, Children, Seniors and Social Development Minister Lisa Dempster and acting Education Minister Al Hawkins, among others. 

At the AGM in Gander, there are signs that the allegations that rocked the party and the House of Assembly this spring are still top of mind. 

The first one? Literally a sign. 

Display boards outlining a code of conduct are set up at the Quality Hotel and Suites where the convention is taking place. 

Signs displaying a code of conduct were placed throughout the hotel. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"We've made sure that people are aware of how seriously we take harassment, how seriously we want to make sure that people feel completely comfortable here at our convention," said Coady on Friday.

The other indication is really an absence — two to be specific. 

"As you know, Mr. Joyce and Mr. Kirby are no longer members of the Liberal Caucus. I understand that they are not registered for the convention, so I'm not anticipating seeing them for the convention," said Coady.

PCs back on top in recent poll

There is a lot on the line for the Liberals, with the next provincial election set for Oct. 8, 2019.

A recent poll put the PCs back on top as the preferred provincial political party, while its leader Ches Crosbie had the edge on Ball with 34 per cent of the vote versus 27, respectively.

If the numbers fazed him, Ball didn't show it. 

"Not at all surprised ... This is really about timing, " he told a CBC reporter on June 5.

Ball, the Liberal party and the public will find out if the warm reception at the start of the convention carries over into a vote of support on Saturday.  

With files from Garrett Barry and Fred Hutton