PC nomination attracts four of a kind, as Liberals raise one, NDP still not ready to ante
By Mark Squibb | Vol. 12 No. 8 (April 18 2019)
PC incumbent Keith Hutchings won’t be running again for the PC Party in Ferryland district, but there’s no lack of candidates looking to stand in his place.
The PC party opened nominations on Sunday, April 7 and when they closed four days later, a total of four candidates had signed up to vie for the chance to contest the seat.
Danny Tuff, President and CEO of GroundWork Solutions Inc. and VP Corporate Affairs of YourStlye Kitchens Ltd., thinks he’s the man for the job.
“The Member of the House of Assembly is an important role, and it’s important that whoever does that role be qualified to do the job, and that’s one of the reasons that I came forward; because I know I’m qualified to do it,” he said. “I’m certainly one of the most qualified people that have ever put their names forward in the Ferryland district.”
Tuff, a graduate of Memorial university with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Business Administration, was born and raised in Witless Bay, and said he has a heart for the district.
“The people matter to me. I don’t have to pretend, I don’t have to fake it, I don’t have to be a chameleon and adapt to every situation,” he said. “The wellbeing of people matters to me… I think my ability to respond in an empathetic yet rational way to help the people will shine through.”
Tuff argued he also has a vested interest in the district. “I live here, my kids live here and go to school here. I definitely also think that what we’ve been doing in the past is not working for us,” he said. “We have a changing economy right now in Ferryland district, and we don’t have a well-formed strategic plan, we don’t have a vision that we can share, we need the convictions and capacity to execute a plan.”
Tuff, who said that people who know him describe him as stubborn, persistent, and resilient.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics, and business, and leadership and roles that directly affected the well being of others,” said Tuff. “So, politics and business are not unlike in that way. I am genuinely interested in the well being of others and have always loved putting my skills towards something that I know will have a positive impact on the people I’m working with… I know that politics at times can leave people disillusioned; it can leave people feeling apathetic, without hope, powerless. I’ve felt all those things myself watching what has been going on in the province over the last number of years.”
For Tuff, it’s important to study the past in directing a course for the future, but not to dwell to much on it. He uses the analogy of a car’s rear-view window; you need to look into it from time to time, but your main job is to look forward.
“I think that whatever happened in the past, happened in the past. I look forward… We have to prepare for the future, and I don’t think a lot of that has been going on in the province.”
As to the PC Party, Tuff said he was largely drawn by the strength of it’s leader, Ches Crosbie.
“It’s an opportunity for me to work with a leader who is genuine. I think, based on his past and his career, he has always fought for the underdog,” Tuff said. “I think he’s naturally inclined to do the right thing. He comes off as a very honest person with a lot of integrity. He may not be the Brian Tobin type of showman, but he definitely has character. And he’s really the reason I was attracted to the PC Party.”
Tuff admitted there are some people whom he would advise not vote for him.
“If people are looking for someone to maintain the status quo, someone who is okay with the maintenance and management of the district, then I’m probably not the person for them,” Tuff said. “I’m more of ‘Where are we going to go, how are we going to change?’ In terms of assessing what we have, and setting the course and setting a vison for the future and executing that plan, that’s what excites me about this opportunity.”
Jennifer Aspell, the School board Trustee for Zone 14, which includes Bauline South to Mobile and Witless Bay to the Goulds, Mount Pearl and Paradise, has also put her name forward for nomination.
Aspell, who was raised in Witless Bay and is currently raising her own children there, served on St. Bernard’s Elementary School Council from 2009 to 2016 and other community boards and committees. She is the Sales Manager of the St. John’s Convention Centre and was CEO/Principal Consultant of Strategic Sales Consultants in Witless Bay from Oct. 2015 to Jan. 2018.
She volunteers with softball and hockey organizations when needed.
“I’m really rooted in the district. I have a lot of good connections there, a lot of family, so I’m very interested in seeing the area do well,” she said.
The decision to make the leap to politics was one that she had considered for some time, but not made in a flash, she said.
“I think politics is something I’ve always considered as a possible career choice. Certainly when Keith Hutchings announced that he wouldn’t be running, the opportunity presented itself,” Aspell said.
“I did a lot of consultation with my family, had a lot of good heart to heart chats about what would be required,” she said, noting that that includes things like missing her children’s games. “It’s something I really think I would enjoy, but also I really think I would bring something to the role.”
As for the PC Party, Aspell said she was drawn by the strength of past leaders, including incumbent Keith Hutchings and Party Leader Ches Crosbie.
“I’ve been a supporter of Keith’s over the years, and I think that he has always been a very accessible representative. And he’s done a lot of great things for people in the district,” she said.
“He (Ches Crosbie) is talking about having an affordable life here in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Aspell. “He’s talking about mitigating a lot of the costs that we’re incurring, and about creating employment and opportunities for people that live here.”
She said that her experience in the region, and her concern for citizens, make her a good candidate for the district.
“I’ve got a good history of having commitment to the people of the region, and while that might have been in a specific area, I think that those skills and that passion is something I can transfer to the whole district. I don’t claim to know all the issues that people have concerns about, but I’m willing to listen, and I’m willing to learn,” she said. “I’m a good listener, and I’m invested. I live here; I want to see the area do well. I think there’s lots of potential, and I think there’s also lots of issues… I will learn an issue and make sure that I’m prepared to speak to it, and to advocate for it.”
She said that as a resident, she is well aware of the challenges the district faces.
Poor roads, she noted, is a big one.
“We have areas in our district that rely heavily on tourism as a means of employment, economic development, and we need a road system that is reliable, and not falling apart,” said Aspell. “We have a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the southern tip of the coast, and the road conditions to get there are terrible.”
Other issues include capacity problems in some schools, and a lack of sustainable growth.
Loyola O’ Driscoll, who has also put his name forward for the nomination, noted these same issues.
O’Driscoll said he’s not surprised that so many people are seeking the PC nomination.
“There’s always been a great interest in politics on the Southern Shore,” he said.
It’s not the first time O’Driscoll has eyed the political realm. He ran for the PC nomination against Hutchings in 2011, and assisted Charlie Power and Loyola Sullivan when they campaigned.
“It wasn’t an easy decision (to seek the nomination again),” O’Driscoll said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, so I said I’m going to give it another try.”
Born and raised in Bay Bulls, where he still lives today, O’Driscoll’s is a familiar face along the Southern Shore, having helped the Southern Shore Breakers win five Herder Championships. He has also volunteered with the Bay Bulls to Bauline Athletic Association, served on Bay Bulls Town Council, coached minor hockey, and taught power skating.
“I know that I’m going to put my best foot forward, and I’m going to work hard. And that’s what people generally look for,” said O’Driscoll, who is a sales consultant with Hickman Motors.
Denise Leonard is also vying for the PC nomination, but could not be reached by deadline.
The PC Party is scheduled to select its candidate for the district on Thursday, April 18, from 4:00 p.m. to 8 p.m.