Harris's resignation clears way for Signal Hill byelection
VeteranMHA Jack Harris has resigned his seat in the legislature, a move anticipated since he stepped down as leader of the New Democratic Party nearly a year ago.
Harris said Friday he will leave his seat in the St. John's district of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. He indicated he would step down as party leader in October 2005.
Harris's decision clears the way for a byelection that will likely be held this fall. Provincial legislation requires a byelection to be called within 60 days of a seat becoming vacant.
The governing Progressive Conservatives have accused Harris of delaying his retirement to allow new NDP Leader Lorraine Michael more time to raise her profile.
Michael, a veteran social activist, was elected party leader in May and is expected to represent the party in a byelection.
Harris asked the other parties to letMichael run unopposed.
Liberal Leader Gerry Reid says his party will be gracious and oblige.
"Let's face it, theNDP have played a very important role in the democracy of this province, especially in the last 15 to 20 years," Reid said."We thought it might be best for everybody if we gave her an opportunity to sit in the house of assembly."
But Liberal sources say there was no way the party could put up a solid candidate because it's concentrating on its finances and recruitment for next year's general election.
Premier Danny Williams says he'd like to see the seat filled by the end of October and his party will be running a candidate.
Harris had been leader of the provincial NDP since 1992. His 14-year tenure is second only to former premier Joseph R. Smallwood for length of party leadership in provincial history.
Harris, who will turn 58 in October, was first elected to the legislature in a December 1990 byelection. He had served as the federal member of Parliament for St. John's between 1987 and 1988.
Provincially, Harris represented the district of St. John's East and then Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, as it was renamed during a redistribution in the 1990s.