Tom Rideout calls Paul Davis appointments 'political madness'

A former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says the appointments made by Premier Paul Davis this past week have left him baffled.

Nails in the coffin for new premier, according to Rideout

Premier Paul Davis speaks at Government House after members of his cabinet were sworn in on Monday. Former premier Tom Rideout says some of the latest appointments by Davis are 'madness.' (CBC)

A former premier of Newfoundland and Labrador says the appointments made by Premier Paul Davis this past week have left him baffled.

Tom Rideout, also a former justice minister, said Davis is putting the nails in his own political coffin.

"This is political madness on a scale that I haven't experienced on my 30-plus years in politics," said Rideout, who endorsed Steve Kent during the Progressive Conservative leadership convention in September.

"I said to a friend of mine today, the afternoon after Premier Davis announced former police chief [Joe] Browne was going to be his chief of staff, I said one more appointment like that and Paul Davis will go down in political history in this province as being the premier who tried to create a police state."

Tom Rideout, seen here in a file photo, says the latest appointments by Premier Paul Davis are the nails in the coffin of his cabinet. (CBC)

But Rideout told CBC News the other shoe dropped when Davis appointed Judy Manning to his cabinet, while Manning announced she intended to not seek a seat in the legislature in one of the upcoming byelections.

"There's nothing wrong with appointing a non-elected person to your cabinet, but political convention dictates — not only dictates, it makes it a must — that that person will seek a seat in the legislature as soon as possible after the appointment," he said.

Manning said she intends to seek the PC nomination in Placentia-St. Mary's in the next provincial election.

"There's two byelections ready to be called and there's one pending, so excuse me, Ms. Manning and Premier Davis, but you don't have a choice but to seek a seat in the legislature if you're going to hold down a position in the cabinet when one becomes available. You can't pick and choose. I mean, for goodness sake, Judy Manning could be challenged for the nomination up in Placentia-St. Mary's and lose it," said Rideout.

Nails in the coffin

"It's the second nail that Davis has driven deep in the coffin of his cabinet in two days. The first one was delivered to him by the Auditor General on Monday, and he drove the second one yesterday himself. And we're only at Wednesday — God help us between now and Friday."

This smacks of political cronyism of the highest order.- Tom Rideout

Rideout was referring to the resignation of Nick McGrath, who stepped down from his role as Transportation and Works minister on Monday following a report from the Auditor-General on his role in the Humber Valley Paving contract cancellation.

The report found that the cancellation was not appropriately documented and pushed through in just a matter of hours.

Rideout said the situation is unusual, adding he thinks there was an outside source pushing for the cancellation to get Frank Coleman, who was connected to the contract, to run as a PC leadership candidate.

"Who made the call to those ministers and told them that it had to be done and had to be done that day because if it wasn't done that day, Frank Coleman would not be a candidate? And they were all behind Frank Coleman and wanted him to be the candidate for the leadership of the party," he said.

"This smacks of political cronyism of the highest order."

Rideout said MHA Kevin O'Brien's "fingers are all over" the Humber Valley Paving issue, but nothing had been done about it, adding that he shouldn't have been appointed to a role in cabinet again in Davis's cabinet shuffle on Monday.