Because of a “a significant and challenging family matter,” Newfoundland PC leader candidate Frank Coleman has unexpectedly resigned, leaving the PCs with no viable options less than three weeks before the leadership convention. Oops.
In January, then-Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced her resignation after two years of disastrous polling and dissatisfaction, and days of rolling blackouts across Newfoundland in the dead of winter. She oversaw PC support decline from 56% to 27% support, a feat even Tim Hudak wasn’t able to pull off.
The Finance Minister, Tom Marshall, swooped in to save the (interim) day, relinquishing the post after the July 5th leadership convention, with Frank Coleman set to man the party.
After all, he was CEO of the year running the “Coleman Group of Companies,” and he was the Chief Economist of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. His wife is even pro-life, marching in rallies for the cause. He was the conservative of everyone’s dreams, and it seemed as though nothing could go wrong. Confidence in Coleman was so high that all then the other PC candidates were forced out or deemed ineligible.
Yes, he was the king-to-be of Newfoundland Conservatism… that is until he fell victim to the nadir of Canadian politics: a spending scandal. Apparently one of his construction companies was found to have been paid for a government contract they never completed. (Weird… we were under the impression that construction corruption was monopolized by the island of Montreal.) An Auditor-General was called in, Coleman’s son would bear the brunt of the blame, and the match made in heaven would have to end, culminating in Coleman’s resignation.
So what’s the big deal? There’s an interim guy in now and clearly he can just stick around for 20 months and win in…October 2015. A week before the federal election, Uh-oh. You see, Newfoundland conservatives don’t like federal conservatives very much, ever since PC Premier Danny Williams launched the “Anything But Conservatives” campaign. So expecting the electorate to vote Liberal/NDP in the federal election and then PC in the provincial one is a bit awkward, and voters have these notions about momentum.
The hope was that Coleman would ascend, there would be a snap election, and the PCs would coast to another victory. But if they can’t find a suitable replacement, it may be back to the fisheries for the Newfoundland PCs.