His campaign launch speech was filled with information about his family, his business history, and even a bit about the province.
But it wasn’t until after the applause ended that Frank Coleman answered questions about the things that people want to know.
Why has he avoided the media for so long? Is he being backed by former premier Danny Williams? And why does he want to run?
Frank Coleman. — Photo by The Western Star
Coleman told members of the local media who attended his campaign launch at the Blomidon Golf and Country Club on Wednesday morning that the month since his interest in leading the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador was made public was an opportunity for him to have a long chat with his family and his business partners.
“I didn’t really have (an) answer,” he said when asked why he didn’t respond to questions about whether or not he would run.
“I had to get through what I had to get through. There was that rumour that I was going to do it, but I really didn’t reach that decision till quite late.”
The Danny question
“Danny and I are friends going way back. We’ve been friends for many years, and I did discuss my potential candidacy with him, and he gave me his advice on what to expect and told me to do what was right for me and my family and for the party.”
Coleman said he didn’t know if Williams was going to support him.
“Danny’s his own man and I’m my own man.”
Coleman said running for politics is something he’s been considering for four or five years and has been approached numerous times by both the PCs and Liberals.
“I believe in this party.”
With the party declining in the polls, Coleman was asked why he wants the job now.
“That’s a great reason to do it,” he said. “I believe in what this party has accomplished. Where we’ve come from and where we currently are is amazing.
“Look, we’ve got some work to do, but I can’t think of a better group to be associated with than the group that put us where we are.”
Coleman is not alone in his desire to lead the party and, ultimately, the province. Two other contenders, Corner Brook businessman Bill Barry and Howley Coun. Wayne Bennett, are also running.
Coleman and Barry have been friends for years. The relationship is close enough that Coleman is a godfather to one of Barry’s children.
Coleman said he told Barry he was thinking about running when his friend announced his candidacy.
“I have a lot of respect for Bill’s talents in business. He is a very capable man, but this is about me today.”
Coleman also noted that he doesn’t know Bennett.
The leadership convention
There’s been some discussion of late around how the July 4 and 5 leadership convention will unfold, especially in terms of how delegates will be selected and what the voting process will be like.
Barry has said in a public letter that he won’t be running slates of candidates, and encouraged his competition to leave the decision on delegate selection to a true democratic process.
Coleman said when the three of them signed on as candidates there was a specific formula laid out by the PC party and the organizing committee for the leadership that follows a constitutional requirement that delegates get picked in the district.
“This really ... is about me getting into those districts and trying to earn the support of those delegates.”
He said it’s not about trying to change the rules and he doesn’t think he can control the process of who votes for him.
Once selected by the districts, Coleman said delegates can vote however they feel.
“I can try to persuade people that I’m the right guy.”
Lack of political background
To a question on not having political experience Coleman replied, “You know, when I had my first child I had no background being a dad either. I can get through that.”
Coleman said he now has to outline a platform, attract people and encourage people to vote for him first at the convention and then later in a general election.
“This is about leadership and I think I’m qualified for that role. And I think the politics side, learning the ins and outs of the House and the day-to-day running of the House of Assembly and government is something I can learn.
“Leadership is the key issue.”
Running the province
Coleman said there is a need to keep up the momentum the province has experienced recently.
“The economy has done well and we want to keep this going.”
He said key issues for him include investment in infrastructure, education and health.
“When we are doing that, to remain fiscally prudent and not to forget elements of society that require our help,” he said.
In terms of health care, a big issue for this region is the new hospital for Corner Brook, and the time it’s taking to be built.
When asked his position on the hospital, Coleman said, “It should be built right away.”
Coleman has also been known to support denominational education and responded to questions about bringing that system back and reversing the amalgamation of the province’s school boards into one: “I can’t make a comment about that. It’s something I’m not as familiar with. In due time I’ll get in, get behind the facts, understand it a little better.”
If he wins the leadership, Coleman indicated he will seek a seat in the legislature within a reasonable time after the convention, with Humber East being the obvious choice. That seat is currently held by Premier Tom Marshall, who has already said he won’t run in the next general election.
The Western Star