Cancel that: Tory candidate in southern Labrador still running, after momentarily stepping down

·4 min read
Joshua Nolan/Facebook
Joshua Nolan/Facebook

In a swift reversal of his previous comments, the Progressive Conservative candidate for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair says he will continue to run in the provincial election after all.

Joshua Nolan will remain in the race, telling CBC News he spoke with his campaign manager Tuesday morning and that chat convinced Nolan to continue campaigning.

Nolan's flip-flop comes after he initially told CBC News in an email Monday night that he couldn't run in an election where a candidate — from a different party, in a different district — was "being bullied."

In that email, Nolan said the decision to step down came on the heels of criticism of Devon Ryan, the Liberal candidate for Torngat Mountains. Ryan has been widely called a parachute candidate since he does not live in, nor has he visited, the district where he is running.

"I am seeing how much this Devon Ryan is being bullied and I am [an] advocate against bullying. And I am not going to be a hypocrite over my beliefs," Nolan wrote.

"I respect [PC Leader] Ches Crosbie, but I respect myself and beliefs more."

The news that the PCs may have been without a candidate in southern Labrador caught Crosbie off guard during a press conference in Corner Brook, where Crosbie said he was "not personally aware" of the resignation. Neither was Elections NL, which confirmed no resignation paperwork had been filed.

Nolan, in fact, had changed his mind prior to filling out any forms, and refused a recorded interview with CBC on the subject, saying that he wants to stay away from the media as the campaign continues ahead of the Feb. 13 election.

'Very bothered by the critics and form of bullying'

In his initial message about stepping away, Nolan cited the 2019 provincial election, when Michael Normore was the PC candidate in Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair and came under fire for his anti-abortion, anti-gay views, with Crosbie later saying that if elected, Normore would not sit in the Tory caucus. Nolan said as a gay man, he demanded an apology from Normore — which he said he never got — and doesn't want to see himself as a hypocrite.

Nolan said he has also contacted Ryan, saying he was "very bothered by the critics and form of bullying" he's receiving. "I support you 100%. And if you need anything, please reach out," reads a screen shot of the message, sent to CBC by Nolan.

Lindsay Bird/CBC
Lindsay Bird/CBC

Nolan said he remains concerned about Ryan's situation.

Nolan, who lives in St. John's, faces one other political opponent for the Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair seat, Liberal incumbent Lisa Dempster.

She was surprised to hear of Nolan's initial decision to not to run, but said she had "stepped up to support Devon Ryan simply because I believe voters needed a choice," and respected what turned out to be Nolan's momentary resignation.

"My opponent stepped down because he couldn't support or condone bullying, and I have a tremendous, tremendous respect for him in doing that," she added. "He may have saved lives because he is speaking out against bullying. And in particular, in this case …cyberbullying."

'The democratic process'

Torngat Mountains has a largely Indigenous population, said resident Andrea Andersen, who thinks the Liberals could have fostered a young Indigenous person from the district to run instead of Ryan.

"To me, as a young Inuk person, if they're putting Mr. Ryan in for him to gain experience, then why didn't they do that to another Indigenous youth?" she said.

Ryan had previously sought the Liberal nomination in his home district of Labrador West, but conceded to Wayne Button, before putting his name forward for Torngat Mountains.

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey came to Ryan's defence Monday, suggesting critics of the nomination were criticizing the democratic process.

"This is the democratic process, and you know, we want to give the people a chance to vote for a Liberal majority government and Mr. Ryan has stepped up, and that's part of the democratic process," Furey said while in Labrador City.

"Anyone who says otherwise is frankly not defending democracy and that's not something that I'm willing to tolerate."

Other Liberal candidates have also defended Ryan's nomination, including Burgeo-La Poile candidate Andrew Parsons, who called the decision a great way to encourage interest in politics for young people.

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