St. John's too costly, N.L. Liberals shelve plans for 2017 annual meeting

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St. John's too costly, N.L. Liberals shelve plans for 2017 annual meeting

St. John's too costly, N.L. Liberals shelve plans for 2017 annual meeting

The governing party in Newfoundland and Labrador will not hold an annual general meeting this year, and it's all because of the cost of staging a convention in St. John's, says the party president.

John Allan confirmed Tuesday that the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador has shelved plans to hold an AGM in St. John's in October.

Instead, the party executive has voted to postpone the meeting until June 2018, and relocate to Gander, where these meetings have traditionally been held.

"It's hard enough to raise money in this environment right now, and to turn around and potentially lose $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, and not have an AGM well attended because the costs to attend are almost double what it would be in Central, it just didn't make sense," John Allan told CBC News Tuesday.

Party executive supported decision

Allan said the party executive overwhelmingly endorsed the decision during a conference call last week.

He said a St. John's meeting would require a doubling of registration fees, and hotel room costs of roughly $250 per night, versus $130 in Gander.

He said the party didn't want to burden district associations with these higher costs, and risk the possibility of hosting a money-losing event at a time when the party is scrutinizing every penny.

The decision will also allow the party to return to its transitional pattern of holding an AGM in June, Allan said.

"We just felt we'd regroup." 

Instead of an AGM, Allan said the party will focus on strengthening district associations throughout the province and preparing for the 2019 election.

The Liberals were elected 17 months ago, and have struggled in the polls as the party grapples with a serious financial situation.

Premier Dwight Ball's popularity has also suffered, with a recent poll putting his approval rating at 21 per cent, well back of Progressive Conservative leader Paul Davis, at 33 per cent.

Not about protecting Dwight Ball

Some party insiders contacted CBC News, saying the decision was related to Premier Dwight Ball's desire to avoid another confidence vote, similar to the one held at the November 2016 AGM in Gander.

Ball received widespread support at that meeting.

"Never, never. Not on. Not a chance," Allan said when asked if the premier asked for the postponement.

When asked for comment, Premier Ball sent the following statement:

"Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the board meeting that occurred last week. The president of the party informed me later in the week that the AGM date was moved to June 2018 because of financial considerations for our party members.

"There was concern about putting an additional financial burden on volunteers and that the party would stand to see some decline in revenue and attendance if the AGM was to be held in St. John's this fall," Ball wrote.

"I very much look forward to connecting with members of the Liberal Party across the province this summer and also I look forward to the June 2018 AGM."