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Wednesday 10 August 2011

Liberal Leadership Sprint

Definition of Courage
I stood in a room at the Holiday Inn yesterday (Aug 9) and saw courage personified in Yvonne Jones. Her political history is well known. She took the leadership of the Liberal Party when no one else would. She proceeded to face off against one of the most popular Premiers NL has ever seen, holding her own every step of the way. The cancer was a shock to all, but her courage in the face of that cancer should have been a surprise to no one.

While fighting the most difficult battle of her life she continued, not only as MHA but as Liberal Leader. Her battle was seen as an inspiration to women with breast cancer and people working through health issues throughout NL. Following chemo and radiation treatment she wore a wig, as do many, and finally the day day came when she no longer needed that wig and she proudly donned her own hair once again. It was seen as an indication of just how strong and healthy she was, and that she was ready to take on all comers in the fall election. The spirit was willing but the body was not able. Following long days on the pre-campaign trail her body was not recovering as it should have been and medical advice clearly pointed to the fact that she needed time to rest. Then came the decision.

By her own admission she was angry that cancer had taken from her this opportunity to lead the Liberal Party into the fall election. Thankfully she is able to stay involved and focus on her health and her district. There are rumors that she was forced out, but every last person who was in the room for her announcement will know the foolishness of that rumor. In fact it is verging on insulting. She has been the epitome of strength and courage and she will be missed as leader.

Now what?
The election is little more then 60 days away and the Liberal Party needs a new leader. Unfortunately 60 days is not sufficient to run a full leaders process, so instead of a leadership race we get a leadership sprint. The Party executive have decided to open the leadership to nomination beginning today(Aug 10) and closing on Friday(Aug 12) at noon. The executive will then consult with the membership for 48 hours, no word on exactly how that will happen. On Sunday August 14th each candidate will have an opportunity to make a presentation to the executive board, after which the executive will decide who the next leader will be. It's not ideal but it will have to do in a pinch. Unfortunately it will lead to a fall election where none of the three leaders were actually elected by their membership. 1 acclaimed, 2 appointed.

The Ideal Candidate
Yvonne is stepping back, the leadership void must be filled ASAP, and possible successors were mentioned as soon as her departure was rumored. The next few days will likely see a number of possible suitors reach out for support from the membership, touting themselves as the ideal candidate to lead the flock into the fall election. Regardless of what names come forward the criteria for the position should be clearly defined and include some of the following:

The leader must have an understanding of the government processes, the political landscape and at least a solid base of knowledge of the major election issues: fishery, healthcare, education, rural NL, and Muskrat Falls.

Name Recognition
A regular candidate can get by without much name recognition with some hard work, however the leader of the party is essentially asking to be Premier. That ask is a difficult one if the voters don't know who you are.

This one often gets overlooked by parties in favor of things like name recognition, usually at their own peril. The ability to unite people with passion, and clearly point the way is essential to the success of any leader.

The current Liberal Party has a real chance of significant gains in the fall election, possibly even taking control of the government. This can only happen if the leader of the Party can develop and focus a clear vision of where the Liberal Party will lead the Province. It is an opportunity to clearly define how the Liberal Party will take NL to a much more positive and healthy direction then the alternatives.

Whatever the outcome of the leadership sprint, it's going to be an interesting political Fall in NL.

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