MHA says party rebuilding can now begin
“I feel we’re on the right path now.”
That was the reaction of Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South MHA Ray Hunter to Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s decision to resign.
© Advertiser file photo
MHA Ray Hunter
Dunderdale announced at a press conference in St. John’s on Wednesday morning that she would be stepping down as Premier and party leader this Friday.
Finance Minister Tom Marshall has agreed to serve as interim leader, with the support of the PC caucus.
The day before Dunderdale’s resignation, which came a day after Mount Pearl South MHA Paul Lane’s decision to cross the floor to join the Liberals, Hunter told The Nor’Wester he was under pressure from his constituents who, he says, are dissatisfied with the current government.
“In the past six months, I’ve had hundreds of calls from constituents, and there’s a lot of pressure to deal with it, and there are a lot of people out there not satisfied with the current government,” he told TC Media in an interview on Tuesday, the day after Mount Pearl South MHA Paul Lane announced he was crossing the floor to join the Liberals.
Hunter says the voters in his district are telling him “they’re not satisfied with the leadership of the current government. And I’ve had hundreds of calls of people saying that.”
Hunter has spent a decade and a half in provincial politics, and has run in seven elections. He’s been in opposition as well as government and says he’s seen his fair share of prosperous and troubling times in the ranks the PC Party.
As for Lane’s decision to cross the floor, Hunter said Tuesday, that’s something every MHA has a right to do, for whatever reason they see fit.
“Crossing the floor – there could be a thousand reasons why people do that,” he said. “And the good thing about our democracy is that we have the ability to do that. We have the ability to decide where we want to sit, even though we may be elected for one party; the thing is you need that flexibility when you see things are not right and something is not going the way that it should go, then you’ve got that ability to go somewhere else, on behalf on your constituents, on behalf of the province.
“There’s all kinds of different reasons why people cross, and I think it’s healthy for democracy that we could do that.”
When the veteran politician was asked Tuesday whether he has ever considered leaving the PC Party, his reply was quick and simple.
At the time of that interview, there was no hint of Dunderdale’s impending resignation.
“I really don’t want to comment on what I’m considering right now,” Hunter said Tuesday morning.
“Timing is everything in politics; so you can’t say I’m going if it’s not the right time to say I’m going.
“Things can change overnight,” he added. “I’ve seen a lot of premiers come and go, speakers come and go, members come and go, ministers come and go – and just when you think everything is ok, it’s not, and you can never take anything at face value.
“Politics is a dirty game, and sometimes people have to do it for a different reason. I just appreciate that we have the option. You don’t have to stay there and take it if you feel you shouldn’t.”
As for his long-term political future, though, Hunter was clear.
“It’s a different ballgame for me, because I’m not running again,” he explained. “If I was running again, I’d probably feel a lot different than I do now. I’d be more concerned. Not that I’m not concerned now, because I’ve got a lot of friends in caucus that want to get re-elected.”
For that to happen, though, he said, they’ll have start paying more attention to what’s going on around them and what the voters are saying.
“If other MHAs aren’t hearing the same message I’m hearing, then why am I hearing it? And why am I saying it? I’ve even thought that there was something wrong with me because I was hearing all these messages, and nobody else was hearing them,” he explained. “I’ve questioned people after that, and I can tell you, well, there’s a lot of people getting the same message, put it that way.
Following the Premier’s resignation Wednesday morning, Hunter told The Nor’Wester he was sticking with the Party until the next election.
He said for him, the future now is about rebuilding public confidence in the party.
“We’ve got to rebuild the party and rebuild the confidence in party and the government and that couldn’t start until this process was over, what happened today.
“For her to resign today started another process, and that renewed the confidence of the caucus to each other, and renewed the confidence of the people of the province to a PC Government,” he said.
It’s going to be an interesting year and half leading to the next election, he said, adding that while he hasn’t changed his mind about his own future and won’t be running in the next election, he hopes to be able to be part of the process of rebuilding.
“It’s a long road yet – big battles yet, and it’s going to be a tough rough, but I think this is the start.”
He added, Dunderdale’s decision to step down “took a lot of burden off my shoulders if I was going to be part of this party and caucus, or if I was going to retire, or whatever.”
While Marshall has agreed to serve as interim Premier, the next step for the PC Party will be to hold a leadership convention to choose a permanent leader.
“I have some opinions on who I’d like to see there,” Hunter said, “but we don’t know who’s putting their name forward so there’s no point in saying until we know for sure. But there are good people in and outside the party.
“But now we have that opportunity to move forward – we couldn’t have done that if she didn’t resign. Now we can rebuild the party and move forward.”