Conservatives have a race brewing for nomination title in Avalon

·9 min read

Although the next federal election isn’t scheduled for another three years (October of 2023, tentatively) federal parties across Canada are busying calling for nominations.

That’s because an election may be called at any moment if Parliament is dissolved by a vote of no confidence in the government or if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls a snap election.

Just this month, Canada teetered on the brink of an election.

In mid-October, Trudeau interpreted a Conservative motion to create a committee to investigate the government’s ethical and fiscal response to the pandemic (including the controversial WE Charity scandal, which would fall under the umbrella of the committee’s investigation) as a motion of confidence. Should the motion pass, a snap-election would have been called.

Coincidentally, the vote for that motion was cast on October 21— exactly one year from the 2019 election.

In Avalon district, a nomination race is already brewing between candidate of record Matthew Chapman and former premier Paul Davis, who announced his intention to run vis social media Thursday, Oct. 22— an announcement that did not go unnoticed.

That next morning, former Avalon Electoral District Association President Chris Power, announced that he would be resigning from his role as President, citing Davis’ announcement.

“Last night Paul Davis announced on Facebook that he would be seeking the CPC nomination for the District of The Avalon. I strongly feel that he should have first given notice to the CPC Nominating Committee before any public announcement was made. Aligning with the Avalon Conservative Association and declaring intentions is logical and party aligned,” said Power in the release.

“Our progress together rebuilding the Avalon Conservative Association has been nothing short of incredible,” said Power in a release.

“Based on immense feedback and conversations with constituents throughout the district over the last year, it is my opinion that Matthew Chapman would best serve the long-term interests of the people. Given his strong commitment to the people of The Avalon, I will be actively and publicly supporting Matthew Chapman in the upcoming nomination process,” he concluded.

Davis called the letter “most unfortunate.”

“I don’t think it serves anybody any benefit,” said Davis.

Chapman, meanwhile, said that Power’s resignation caught him off guard.

“That caught me by surprise. I respect Chris. Chris was one of the few people out knocking doors with me a year ago. He’s obviously seen my work ethic, my passion, my desire to see the province thrive. As the president, he couldn’t be biased, so he stepped away so he could focus his full efforts on helping me. And I do appreciate that.”

‘The reality is, every single member of the Conservative Party is eligible to run. I wish Paul nothing but the best, and I’ve told him that,” added Chapman.

Chapman entered the political arena first as a volunteer, but would soon wind up the Avalon Candidate in the 2019 election.

Although Liberal incumbent Ken McDonald would reclaim his seat, Conservative support increased significantly, as Chapman claimed 31.10 percent of the vote (compared to Conservative candidate Lorraine E. Barnett

“All things considered, we did very well,” said Chapman, who said that the Avalon Conservative Association has spent the last year organizing and preparing for the next election, whenever it may come.

Chapman said that questions about the oil and gas industry loom over the election.

“I believe the next federal election has to be a referendum on oil and gas in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Chapman.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is only going to survive if we develop our resources. We need to see an expansion of our natural resources. For Newfoundland and Labrador, our province has been built on natural resources, and we need to play to our strengths. We need to get the offshore booming. It’s the revenues from our natural resources that are going to pay for the economic transition in the future, when it comes to funding of healthcare, education, social programs. It’s not that the Liberals are trying to shut down the oil and gas industry, it’s that they’re not allowing it to expand. And we know that oil and gas demand is going to rise for decades to come, and no one develops oil and gas to the standard that Canada does.”

Davis echoed several similar sentiments.

“In every community and in every corner of our province, Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have benefited from business opportunities and employment opportunities, through oil and gas. And many, many, many times they bring those salaries and those economies back to their home communities,” said Davis.

He said that government ought to be willing to invest in the industry, and points back to when government bought equity stakes in the Hibernia project.

“It wasn’t a gift; it wasn’t a handout. It was a partnership, and an investment in a industry that ahs benefited Newfoundland and Labrador every since then,” said Davis.

“That’s what I believe needs to happen today; not a gift, not a handout, but an investment with a return. And it takes a revenue source the size of what the federal government ahs to make that happen. But what has the federal government done? Handed over a cheque for $320 million,” he said, referring to a cheque cut by federal government back to September to both support industry workers and cut carbon emissions.

“It’s not permitted to be used for exploration as I understand it, and I also understand that it’s not to be used as an equity stake.”

Davis said that a denial of equity stake is “a denial of responsibility and willingness to work together.”

“It takes partnerships with government and industry to make those kinds of things happen. And right now, we don’t hear of that happening. When they announced that $320 million, int eh days that followed it became known that Come by Chance was in critical trouble. And the answer from the federal government, that I heard in Question Period, was ‘well, we just gave Newfoundland and Labrador $320 million, they can use that.’”

Although Davis did not mention it specifically, most readers will likely remember that just last week Minster of Natural Resources Seamus O’ Regan told reports that the federal government was not interesting in purchasing an equity stake in the West White Rose project.

He added that while demanded exists for oil, it ought to be clean, regulated Canadian oil produced and supported.

Davis, who retired as Leader of the Opposition and Progressive Conservative Party Leader in 2018, said that he hasn’t lost his interest in— or passion for— politics over the years.

“I don’t think a weeks gone by, or at least there’s been very few, since 2018 that I haven’t been in contact with a constituent in some manner in which they continued to seek help, advice, direction, on matter that are important to them,” said Davis, who admits to having contemplated federal politics even before his 2018 retirement.

He said that recent happenings, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, from small business to tourism operators to the fisheries and oil and gas industries, prompted his return to politics.

Davis was invovled in politics at a municipal level, being the deputy mayor of Conception Bay South, in 2008 when Danny Williams launched his ABC (Anything But Conservative) campaign, as a way to strike back at Stephen Harper for his handling of equalization payments.

Since then, the province has been swallowed by a sea of red, and has only once voted in a Conservative MP (Peter Penashue in Labrador district in the 2011 election.)

Davis said that ABC was a different message for a different time.

“We have to live in the here-and-now. We have to live facing the challenges that face our province today,” said Davis, adding that having Liberal MPs who boast of having “friends in Ottawa,” has done little good over the years.

“That was the direction taken by the government of the day to take a stand against the federal government because they weren’t supporting Newfoundland and Labrador, they way they felt they should at the time. But, we’re in a different time here now, with different circumstances, and different governments, and it’s time to ask, ‘what is the right approach here?’”

Both candidates say that they applaud certain aspects of the Liberal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including how quickly government was able to get financial income to those impacted, but, in light of a potential second wave, say that there are areas of concern hat need to be addressed; Chapman stressed the necessity of rapid testing and avoiding another lockdown, unless absolutely necessary, as well as question Liberal accountability, while Davis also said he believed there was a lack of accountability in how Liberals made policies and decisions.

Both candidates also say they are ‘ready-to-go’ in case of a snap election, should they win the Conservative nomination first.

“I’m prepared to go into an election tomorrow,” said Chapman.

Davis, likewise, said that whether the election is called next week or next year, he’s prepared.

“The fact of it is, with the minority government, and the instability that appears to exist within federal politics today, it would be responsible for all parties to prepare now for an election that could happen at any time. And that’s why the Conservative Party of Canada has opened all nominations across the country and starting the process of closing those nominations and choosing candidates.”

Both candidates are fighting hard for that nomination.

“I fully intend to win. Too many people have put in two much work to stop now. Outside of my family, this has been the most rewarding experience of my life. And I intend to see it through,” said Chapman.

“‘We need a strong voice. I’ve spent the last 14 months advocating for Newfoundland, and it’s shown results. I firmly believe that people in Avalon are going to recognise the work that I put in. I am the candidate of record; I had a very strong showing as a first-time candidate.”

Davis, meanwhile, said his political track record recommends him.

“It’s important to have experience at the time right now that understands how politics works, and how government works,” said Davis.

“One thing that I’ve always prided myself on is being able to bring good people around the table. I’ve always said, I don’t have to be the smartest in the room, but I have to be able to bring people together and get the best out fo them and be willing to listen to the advice and information they provide.”

The nomination date for candidates hasn’t been set yet. Conservative party members will have seven days after the nomination closes to cast their vote.

Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News