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Friday, September 14, 2007

Bio - The Provincial Party Leaders

With an election call expected in the province on Monday, this week the Canadian Press ran a short profile on each of the province's mainstream party leaders, Lorrain Michael, Gerry Reid and Danny Williams.

Though the biographies only scratch the surface of the three leaders they do provide some interesting insights into the candidates. I’ve reprinted them here in their entirety.

Lorraine Michael:

Born: March 27, 1943, in St. John's.
Family: Single.

Education: A former nun, she has a degree in education from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and a master's of divinity from the University of Toronto.

Work history: Worked as a high school teacher and principal in various parts of Newfoundland. Served as director of the Office of Social Action in St. John's where she represented the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Served as head of the women and work committee with the National Action Committee on Status Women and executive director of Women in Resource Development Committee.

Political history: She describes herself as a feminist and committed activist for "gender and racial social and economic justice." Elected leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party on May 28, 2006.

Quote: "All of our candidates are new, fresh people who have not been part of the political scene. What I'm hearing people say to them ... is that we do need new faces, we need to ... clean the place up."

Gerry Reid:

As a young boy growing up in the small fishing outport of Carbonear, N.L., Liberal Leader Gerry Reid learned early on he would sometimes have to make do with what little he had.

His father was often away at sea, working as a cook on schooners that traversed the Atlantic. He died of a stroke, when Reid was only 12, leaving his mother to raise the family. "We lived a meagre existence, but we didn't know it because most people were the same at the time," Reid recalled in an interview.

"It was difficult ... you had to be creative on how you were going to raise six kids and get them all educated."

Even Reid's decision to seek a post-secondary education left his mother worrying over how he would pay the bills.

"When I decided to go to university, my mother thought it was a bit naive," he said.

But his time at Memorial University served as the foundation on which he would base his political career. While studying education and philosophy, Reid became president of the campus Liberal party.

After graduating, he juggled a teaching career along with a three-year term as a municipal councillor on a small island off Newfoundland's northeast coast.

In 1996, after working as an aide to former fisheries minister Walter Carter, Reid challenged and defeated his boss for the Liberal party nomination in one of Newfoundland's largest constituencies.

He quietly worked his way up the government ranks, taking over as minister of fisheries in 2001.

The Tory landslide victory in October 2003 left the Liberals in turmoil. Infighting within the caucus led to a change at the top that eventually saw Reid, the party's interim leader, take over the Liberal reins for good.

He didn't even want the job at first, despite widespread support within the party.

"It's just like they say in The Sopranos," says the 53-year-old.

"Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in."

His big challenge now is to fend off the government of Premier Danny Williams, which has enjoyed soaring popularity during its four years in office.

He believes his key to success - which some observers define as the party's survival in the Oct. 9 election - lies in his ability to relate to the common man.

After work on Fridays, he's often spotted quaffing a pint with friends at a British-style pub in downtown St. John's.

"I've always considered myself the underdog," he says with a grin.

"We'll continue to fight."

Danny Williams:

Danny Williams was on holiday, strolling along a sun swept beach in the Caribbean when he decided to dive into the circus of Newfoundland politics seven years ago.

It was his version of Pierre Trudeau's walk in the snow. "I was in Jamaica, so it was a walk in the sand," the Conservative premier laughs in an interview. "I just got up one morning - this is quite truthful - looked in the mirror and said, 'If I don't do this, what am I going to say in 10 years time? Will I say you never had the guts to do it?"'

In truth, Williams was seen as a great hope for the Tories since the early 1980s, when party supporters quietly courted him in an effort to succeed then-premier Brian Peckford.

Since he was acclaimed party leader in January 2001, the political pugilist, former criminal lawyer and ex-cable TV mogul has taken great care to portray himself as Newfoundland and Labrador's Everyman with the common touch.

He whips around town in a Dodge Viper, one of several high-priced vehicles he drives, but has a weakness for fast food.

He earned the nickname "Danny Millions" after selling Cable Atlantic for $232 million in 2000, but now donates his $165,000 legislative salary to a local charitable foundation.
He is a Rhodes Scholar, but can't resist picking a brawl that would otherwise be unbecoming for a man of his pedigree.

During a strike that threatened to disrupt a local American Hockey League game, Williams, an avid fan, challenged St. John's Mayor Andy Wells to a fight, declaring he needed a "good shit-knocking."

The two outspoken politicians are now allies.

But Williams insists he detests engaging in the scraps for which Newfoundland's political landscape is renowned.

"If I was able to devote 100 per cent of my time to doing what I should be doing in the Office of Premier, I think the people of the province would be much better off," he said.

"But you spend at least 50 per cent of your time dealing with the negativity that comes from all sources, whether it's from the media, whether it's from the opposition."

His competitive spirit and love for law came from his father, a criminal lawyer and tennis player in Newfoundland's sports hall of fame. His mother, a long-time Tory supporter, had him handing out brochures for former prime minister John Diefenbaker's campaign when he was a child.
"I think it whetted my appetite," Williams says.

Politics has also dominated his life. Few decisions of any importance are made before landing on his cluttered desk.

"It's 24/7. It never leaves you," says the 58-year-old.

"There's never a full day off unless you actually take a vacation, and even then, when I'm away from the province, there's not a day goes by that I don't have some contact with this office or with members of my cabinet or with members of my caucus."


Stephen said...

Any info on the Labrador Party, NL Greens, any independents etc?

Patriot said...

I haven't come across any (not in the CP articles anyway) I assume they are focusing on the traditional parties.

It's a good idea though. I anyone has any further info on the leaders of those parties locally I'd be happy to update the article and provide "equal time" so to speak.

Ussr said...

Surpisingly "NO" one from the NLfirst Party is not here to speak.

Anonymous said...

The NL First party isn't running in this election and is focusing on registering as a federal party.