A coalition government in N.L.? Not much to see here, say party leaders

PC Leader Ches Crosbie and NDP Leader Alison Coffin refused to shed much light Friday on reports that serious talks are underway to form a coalition government in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Liberal caucus also issued a statement to some journalists Friday, calling reports that some Liberal MHAs were part of those talks "false and misleading."

In that statement, caucus chair Derrick Bragg said Liberal MHAs are "unequivocally" united, "solidly supportive of this government," and look forward to getting back to business with the House of Assembly opens for the spring session on March 2. 

Bragg described the reports as "political rumour."

A new leader by May?

Meanwhile, sources are saying that a new Liberal leader and premier could be selected during a leadership convention in St. John's in May, meaning Premier Dwight Ball could remain in the province's top political post for another three months.

The party executive also issued a news release Friday, saying the official call for nominations and rules for the leadership candidates will be revealed on Monday.

House of Assembly

Amid all this political upheaval, Independent MHA Paul Lane mused publicly this week about the prospect of a coalition to replace the minority Liberals.

Sources were also telling The Telegram that MHAs from all parties were discussing the establishment of a coalition strong enough to oust the Liberals from government, less than a year after Premier Dwight Ball and the Liberals were reduced to minority status.

But Crosbie and Coffin added very little to those reports Friday when interviewed by the CBC in Labrador.

"It's politics. Anything could happen," said Crosbie. "But if I were talking to anyone about a coalition, I'd have to stay quiet about it, because those things have to be done behind closed doors."

Coffin said her priority is to find a way to work together with other MHAs to "come up with a configuration that will work for everybody."

Dwight Ball

She said it would not be fair to force another election on the province, less than year after the Liberals had their wings clipped and lost their majority status.

"I imagine we'll see some interesting things happen before the House opens," said Coffin.

Ball to stay on until next general election

Ball shook the political landscape on Monday when he announced he will step down as premier once a new leader can be found.

His announcement came as the government was reeling from the scrutiny of two hiring scandals, and fears about possible electricity rate increases once the Muskrat Falls hydro project is completed.

There are currently 20 Liberal MHAs, 15 Progressive Conservatives, three New Democrats and two Independents, meaning the departure of any Liberal MHA could, at present, weaken the Liberal's fragile hold on power.

Ball said he will stay on as an MHA until the next election.

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