Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundland and Labrador's Tory Government Will Chart Course with Throne Speech

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Newfoundland and Labrador's Tory Government Will Chart Course with Throne Speech

Article excerpt

Newfoundland throne speech to set course

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservative government will use a throne speech Wednesday to chart its course amid a leadership race before an election expected as early as this fall.

It's the first time the legislature has opened since the fall sitting and Kathy Dunderdale's sudden decision to quit as premier Jan. 24.

She led the Tories to a third straight majority government in October 2011 but stepped down after provincewide power failures in early January stoked public outrage. Dunderdale was already under increasing pressure after two members questioned her leadership as they left the government benches. Both now sit as Opposition Liberals.

The house of assembly resumes business just before the Tories close nominations Friday for a leadership contest to be decided at a convention July 4-5.

Former finance minister Tom Marshall, who took over as premier, has said he will not run for the top job. And he has moved decisively since Dunderdale resigned to win back ground with voters that eroded under her watch.

Marshall declared when he was sworn in the same day Dunderdale quit that his government will listen to concerns, particularly around perceived secrecy. He started by announcing a three-member panel of independent experts to review legislated restrictions to government information passed in 2012. Those changes have been a heavy hammer for opposition critics.

Marshall has said he'd like to see the panel's non-binding report by this fall.

Stephen Tomblin, a political scientist at Memorial University of Newfoundland, said a throne speech is the government's bid to start fresh and restore confidence.

"I think there's a huge problem in terms of trust," he said. "There was always a sense that they were hiding something or they're not willing to openly discuss issues or problems. …

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