Nfld. & Labrador

Paul Davis to resign as PC leader, 'in best interests of party'

Paul Davis is resigning as leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party.

Party president says planning will start immediately for leadership convention

Paul Davis says questions about his leadership will not go away, and resigning is in the best interests of the party. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Paul Davis is resigning as leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Party.

"I don't feel like I'm being forced out," Davis told reporters outside the House of Assembly in St. John's on Tuesday. But he said he wants to avoid a rift in the party over his leadership. 

"There are some people in the party who want to have that leadership discussion. There is a division occurring as a result of that," he said. "That's not in the best interests of our party."

The former premier said he believes the questions about leadership are coming from a "small number of party members," who are pushing for a leadership review at the party's annual general meeting Oct. 22-23 in Gander.

While he feels most caucus members are behind him, and is confident he could survive a leadership vote, Davis said he will not be a candidate in an upcoming convention.

"Right now it's about unity and what steps I can take as a leader to continue to build our party," he said. "And I believe this is the right thing to do."

Convention planning to begin now

The president of the party, Mark Whiffen, said Davis has written him asking for a leadership convention.

Whiffen said the party's executive committee will begin the process immediately and continue the discussion at the party's AGM.

Davis says he will continue to sit as MHA for Topsail-Paradise but wouldn't say if he will run again in the next election (CBC)

Davis said he will stay on until a new leader is chosen. He will also retain his seat as the MHA for Topsail-Paradise, but doesn't know if he will run in the next provincial election.

When asked if the upcoming judicial inquiry into the shooting of Don Dunphy was a factor in his decision, Davis said no.

He said it is time for the Progressive Conservatives to stop being distracted by leadership issues, and instead concentrate on holding the government accountable.

"We've taken literally, not just figuratively, taken our eye off the ball," he said.

Who wants the job?

Party insiders say there will likely be a handful of prospective candidates lining up for the leadership job, and it's believed St. John's lawyer Ches Crosbie will be one of them.

"There will be several camps. Will Ches be one? Likely," said a source.

Sources say St. John's Lawyer Ches Crosbie is considering a challenge for the PC Party leadership, but he refused to comment on that Tuesday. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Crosbie would not comment Tuesday on his political aspirations, saying he will speak more openly after the party's annual meeting in Gander.

"Right now he deserves congratulations for his public service. This is his moment," Crosbie said of Paul Davis.

Crosbie has never been elected to office, but is a member of one of Newfoundland and Labrador's most distinguished political families.

He is the son of John Crosbie, a retired provincial and federal politician who once came close to winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and who also served as the province's 12th lieutenant-governor.

A formidable debate opponent

Premier Dwight Ball thanked Davis for his public service, saying he and his family have contributed to the province.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy also praised Davis, calling him a formidable debater.

"While we certainly represent political parties with very different values and beliefs, I certainly appreciate his many talents and strengths. As leader, he held his party together during some difficult times.

"I am glad, as I am sure his constituents are, to see he is continuing in his role as MHA and his service to his district."

With files from Peter Cowan and Terry Roberts