Nfld. & Labrador

The new leader of the Progressive Conservative party in N.L. has a familiar last name

Ches Crosbie has defeated Tony Wakeham to become the 20th leader in the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative party's history.

Ches Crosbie, elected Saturday, is the son of politician John Crosbie

Ches Crosbie raises his arms in victory after learning he'll be the next leader of the PC party. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Ches Crosbie is the new leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservatives.

Crosbie beat Tony Wakeham to succeed outgoing leader Paul Davis as the 20th leader in the history of the provincial party.

Immediately he looked toward next year's provincial election, proclaiming that it will be the most important election since Confederation.

"Since 2001, all the leaders of the PC party have served as premier, a habit I hope will continue next year," he said to the crowd following his victory.

"At this crossroads, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will be tested to decide whether we become a financial ward of the federal state under the failing Dwight Ball Liberals, or continue in Confederation as a proudly independent and sovereign province under a Ches Crosbie PC government."

Wakeham was graceful in defeat, quickly taking care to don a Ches Crosbie scarf and shake hands with his opponent. 

A political newcomer who previously served as CEO of the Labrador-Grenfell Health Authority, he says it's important the PC's present a unified front ahead of the next election.

Tony Wakeham, seen here wearing Ches's colours, says he's happy to jump on board Team Ches to help unify his party ahead of the 2019 election. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"I'm obviously disappointed that I didn't win, but I'm very happy for the party," said Wakeham.

"I think you've seen a united party coming out of this convention, with a direction that we are ready to take on the Liberals and take back government."

How Crosbie gets in House remains to be seen

A hundred points were awarded in each of 40 districts across the provinces, based on the percentage of vote each candidate won. The final tally: Crosbie with 2,298.92 and Wakeham with 1,701.08.

The St. John's lawyer was the first to put his name forward back in October at an event that featured the surprising admission that he has a conviction for refusing a breathalyzer.

And while Crosbie is new to politics, his last name is far from it. His father is John Crosbie, former lieutenant-governor as well as a provincial and federal cabinet minister who famously said he "didn't take the fish from the goddamn water" when, as Fisheries minister in Brian Mulroney's cabinet, he announced the cod moratorium in 1992.

John Crosbie wasn't in attendance on Saturday, but he appeared in a video shown earlier in the convention wishing his son good luck in the leadership race.

Crosbie said he plans to introduce legislation to prevent overspending, as well as an "honesty in politics" law, His three priorities being rebuilding the economy, restoring confidence in government, and revitalizing the PC party.

Ches Crosbie speaks at the PC Party's leadership event at the Delta Hotel in St. John's on Saturday. Crosbie has defeated Tony Wakeham to become the 20th leader of the provincial party. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)
Crosbie is now tasked with rejuvenating a party that was reduced to seven seats in the 2015 election after 12 years in government and — if the PCs return to power in next year's election — tackling mounting debt.

With much of that debt added to the books during those 12 years — due in part to the ballooning cost of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project — a political outsider like Crosbie is the party's best chance to rebuild, according to a Memorial University political scientist.

Crosbie said it remains to be seen how he'll get a seat in the House of Assembly, but that he's currently looking at all possibilities. 

His preference would be a seat in the St. John's area.

"Short of arranging for the demise of a member, there's not a lot I can do about it," he quipped. 

"There's only been one byelection so far in the life of this particular House of Assembly and we're more than halfway through it so there may not be one."