Nfld. & Labrador

'I raised that': Ryan Cleary admits he wanted Bob Buckingham out

Ryan Cleary has admitted during an interview that he asked the provincial NDP about running in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville, despite flatly rejecting that very question on Oct. 30.

Former MP backtracks on 'absolutely not' statement from a week ago

Defeated NDP MP Ryan Cleary is seeking the Tory nomination in the district of Windsor Lake. (CBC)

Embattled Progressive Conservative candidate Ryan Cleary has admitted during an interview that he asked the provincial NDP about running in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville, despite flatly rejecting that very question on Oct. 30.

"That was one of the things that was mentioned in the meeting," Cleary told NTV's Lynn Burry, during an interview Thursday.

"I raised that."

Cleary says 'absolutely not'

The meeting in question involved Cleary, NDP Leader Earle McCurdy and several members of the party executive, Cleary said.

It occurred just days after Cleary went down to defeat as the NDP MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl Oct. 19.

When asked that very question by CBC News reporter David Cochrane on Oct. 30, after rocking the political landscape by announcing he was joining the PCs, Cleary said "absolutely not."

Cleary said he was seriously considering running for the NDP, and questioned how the party's candidate for Virginia Waters-Pleasantville, high-profile lawyer Bob Buckingham, could contest an election campaign while also acting as defence attorney in an ongoing murder trial.

"You can't do both," Cleary said during the interview. "And then it was raised about whether I could run there."

Burry did not ask Cleary why he didn't reveal that on Oct. 30, and Cleary has declined repeated interview requests from CBC News.

N.L. NDP is 'poisonous,' says Cleary

An NDP spokesperson, Jean Graham, said McCurdy quickly rejected Cleary's suggestion that he replace Buckingham.

A week later, Cleary announced he was joining the PCs, and is now the party's candidate in Windsor Lake.

Cleary has been heavily criticized for his decision, and admitted to Burry that he's been called a "hypocrite."

But Cleary revealed a longstanding dislike for the provincial NDP, calling it "poisonous," and also explained an earlier comment about not seeing "eye-to-eye" with McCurdy.

Cleary said he was blamed for instigating a leadership revolt that resulted in a serious fracturing of the provincial NDP in the fall of 2013.

Cleary said he was disciplined by the party's federal leader, Tom Mulcair, and Cleary "went off his head."

"I had absolutely nothing to do with it," Cleary said, adding that he later received an apology from Mulcair.

As for McCurdy, Cleary said his dispute with the party leader dates back to McCurdy's time as president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union..

Cleary questioned whether McCurdy and the union were in a conflict of interest. He said he learned in early 2014 that the organization was receiving millions of dollars from the federal government to administer various programs, while at the same time being charged with representing the interests of the fishing industry.

Cleary also commented on what he said were disrespectful comments by McCurdy about PC Leader Paul Davis during a meeting with Mulcair prior to the federal election.

He said it all played into his decision to run for the PCs.

"I thought about how I felt about Earle McCurdy, as leader of the FFAW, as leader of the NDP, and the different things that happened with the provincial NDP down here, and in some ways it has been poisonous. And I did consider running for the NDP because it was the easy way. In the end I couldn't do it," he said.

When asked Friday about Cleary's comments, McCurdy said he was not willing to engage in a mud-slinging match.

He said he would only talk about values, issues and NDP candidates.

"I have no interest in giving that story any more oxygen," he said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.