By Craig Westcott | The Shoreline
The PC Party nomination in Topsail – Paradise district turned out to be a close contest Tuesday with no sore loser.
Paradise town councillor Paul Dinn narrowly beat Conception Bay South councillor Darrin Bent for the right to represent the party in the coming provincial by-election, which Premier Dwight Ball must hold by January 28.
After the official count, which was 274 votes for Dinn to Bent’s 256, the pair were quick to praise one another.
“It’s a good feeling,” Dinn said after the vote, which was conducted at two polling stations, the United Church basement in Topsail and the Paradise Double Ice Complex. “We were a little late getting off to the start, but we pulled it out, it’s all good.”
Dinn admitted he would have liked a bigger turnout. “We only got a fraction of our people out, which was surprising, but I guess that’s what happens when you look at nomination meetings,” he said. “Hopefully you’ll see more in the by-election.”
The window for voting was a short one, just four hours. It was also complicated by the fact voters had to sign on as party members, or supporters, in order to cast a ballot, necessitating a navigation of the PC Party website or the completion of forms at the polling station. As well, the party only set the date for the nomination last week. The governing Liberal Party and the third-party Opposition the NDP have yet to call nominations.
“It was a pretty quick process, no doubt about it,” Dinn allowed. “And it’s a little different than the municipal (process). In the municipal elections I’ve run mostly on my own with some close friends helping out, but with this one there was a lot more pounding the phones so to speak and getting the vote out. Up until the last minute we were calling and obviously those 18 calls made a difference.”
Dinn said he will continue to serve on Paradise council until the by-election is called. “I will continue to put my effort in there,” he said. “I worked full time and volunteered full time my first four years on council, so I don’t see that being any different. I’ll continue to push the concerns of residents. If it does get to be an issue where it isn’t going to work out, then (I’ll reconsider). But hopefully the by-election will be soon.”
Dinn had kind words for Bent. “It’s a hard thing when you have two great, clean campaigns and just by the results it was almost a 50/50 split,” he said. “There was a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication by both sides. From a party perspective, it’s win-win for them because there were two strong candidates. And like I said before the election, win, lose or draw, Topsail – Paradise doesn’t lose because they either got myself or Darrin. My hat goes off to Darrin for throwing his hat in the ring. It’s not an easy thing to do, not everyone wants to jump in and credit to him for doing it. Unfortunately, somebody has to come out on top, but it was a close one.”
Dinn said he will take the same objectives to provincial politics that he has pursued municipally. “My key with the town has always been to try to keep it open, transparent and honest and I’m going to take that to the House now hopefully,” he said. “It aligns with what (PC Leader) Ches Crosbie is saying about honesty and trust, so hopefully there will be a good match there and we’ll advance and get more seats for the PCs down the road.”
Bent was equally gracious towards Dinn. He asked his supporters to support Dinn in the by-election.
“Even though we fought hard, both of us, for the win, we’re all rowing in the same direction, we’re all trying to get to the same end in this,” said Bent. “I congratulate Paul. He fought a good campaign and congratulations for coming out on the winning end. I wish him all the best in the by-election coming up.”
Like Dinn he was disappointed with the turnout, but added from what he was told, its was typical for a nomination contest.
Bent said he is “absolutely” staying on as the Ward 1 councillor in the Town of CBS.
“One of the things that I considered before I put my hat in the ring was that I would still be representing the same people who supported me all along for the last couple of (council) elections,” Bent said. “I had no interest, and I have no interest, in running to represent any other area or any other group of people. This is where I live, this is where I work, this is where my family is and we love the area and we love working with the people here. The people of Topsail and Paradise are fantastic. There’s a lot of progress in this area and it’s because of the hard work and the groups of volunteers and the people in this area who really care about the place where they live. This is the place I love and I’m not interested in representing any other place. So I’m very pleased to be with council and if I had to pass on the chance to continue representing the people of this area, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
Bent said he has no regrets about running. “I felt it was important,” he said. “I had the time, I had the ability, I have the interest and I had the desire to represent the people of Topsail – Paradise at the provincial level. We fought very hard in this campaign, we had a great team, we had great support from many people in the area, and I have absolutely no regrets in venturing into this type of political realm. But this is the first time I’ve done it, the first time I’ve put a stripe on my back. It was a learning experience, it was a great experience and I’m overwhelmed by the people who helped me in this campaign and came out. There are lots of people out there who were truly great supporters and worked so hard. I think I feel worse tonight for all the people who put in the hard work to help me with this campaign than I do for myself. They’re the ones I’m looking at now with the sort of frowns and stuff and I’m the one on facebook and Twitter updating everybody, telling them what happened. So, no regrets at all.”
Despite losing in a squeaker, the experience has not put Bent off politics. He admitted he would consider running at another level of office again.
“Like I said, this was a learning experience for me,” said Bent. “I had never tried it before. I learned a lot about how party politics work. Some things need some improvement for sure, and I think that going forward I have learned a great lot and the people who are with me who had never done it before learned a great lot and some of the talk already tonight is, ‘What’s next? What are we going to do next?’ I’m not sure what that’s going to be, I’ve no idea. But you know in politics and in life a year is a long time and anything could happen.”