MHA Tony Wakeham makes bid for PC Party's leadership

Tony Wakeham ran for leadership once before. In 2018 he was defeated by Ches Crosbie. (Peter Cowan/CBC - image credit)
Tony Wakeham ran for leadership once before. In 2018 he was defeated by Ches Crosbie. (Peter Cowan/CBC - image credit)
Peter Cowan/CBC
Peter Cowan/CBC

Tony Wakeham has thrown his hat into the ring for the PC Party leadership race.

Wakeham, who is the MHA representing his home district of Stephenville – Port au Port, made the announcement late Tuesday afternoon in St. John's.

His slogan: "Right leader, right time."

"The people of the province deserve better and I intend to lead the PC Party to form the next government of Newfoundland and Labrador," Wakeham said to a room filled with supporters.

"My vision is simple: A healthy, prosperous Newfoundland and Labrador where life is affordable, where health care is accessible and where no opportunity is left untapped and no one is left behind."

Wakeham's announcement comes on the heels of interim leader David Brazil announcing his intention to bow out of the race a day ago.

Brazil told reporters he ultimately decided not to pursue leadership due to health concerns. He, along with other PC caucus members, attended Wakeham's announcement on Tuesday.

PC MHA's Craig Pardy, Joedy Wall and Pleaman Forsey all told reporters they are endorsing Wakeham's run.

Wakeham took aim at Premier Andrew Furey and the Liberal Party for its handling of the ongoing health-care crisis and the sugar tax while inflation soars.

He said he'd immediately remove the sugar tax if elected premier in the next general election.

Wakeham ran for leadership once before, but was defeated by Ches Crosbie in 2018.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

"Let me tell you, if the premier wants to tell you that his hands are tied and factors are beyond his control, I am here to tell you my hands are ready to go to work," he said.

"I know with absolute certainty that the Liberal premier is wrong. It does not have to be this way. There are always choices and better choices. Better choices will be accomplished with a different approach with the right people around the table."

Wakeham was first elected in May of 2019. He was then re-elected in March 2021. He has spent over 30 years in the public service, including a stint as CEO of Labrador-Grenfell Health.

Health care was among his biggest focus during Tuesday's speech.

"We've got to acknowledge that health care is one of the most pressing issues the province is facing right now," Wakeham told reporters after his speech.

"It needs to be top of mind for everyone. As I said, I believe there are choices to be made and things can be done differently but I think it's urgent that we do that."

He said government needs to be more proactive in meeting graduate students from nursing and medicine with full-time job offers to address the labour shortage.

"Recruitment is wonderful but we have to be retaining the people we have, and I think we've got to do things a little different," said Wakeham.

"Let's start now. Don't wait until they graduate to start recruiting them."

In July, Lloyd Parrott was the first to enter race. Parrott is the PC MHA for Terra Nova and was also first elected in 2019.

The party will open nominations for leadership candidates in May and then choose its next leader in October. Voting begins on Oct. 4.

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