By Craig Westcott | The Shoreline
In front of a foyer of about 60 relatives, friends, fellow PC MHAs and party die-hards, Topsail – Paradise MHA Paul Davis bid an emotional goodbye to politics last week.
Davis chose the Paradise Double Ice Complex as the setting for his swan song, noting later in a scrum that its construction was one of the highlights of his years in politics.
Davis’s Thursday afternoon announcement also put paid to the speculation the former premier and RNC officer plans to run in Avalon Riding as a Conservative against Liberal incumbent Ken McDonald in next year’s federal election. Davis said he is finished with provincial and federal politics.
“It’s a good day, it’s a good day,” said Davis, who was on the verge of tears throughout his resignation speech.
Davis thanked everyone for turning up and noted the absence of former Premier and provincial finance minister Tom Marshall of Corner Brook, who had told Davis he had hoped to make it. Davis said Marshall gave him great advice after he won the PC Leadership and that was not to stop spending time with his friends, no matter the demands of the job.
“I see people here who have supported me through the good days, the good times and also the difficult times,” Davis said. “There are some really important people here that are very rarely seen publicly and that’s our political staff. Some of them like to dodge and hide away from the cameras… I can tell you, politicians will all agree that you are never, ever what you can be if not for the people who spend sometimes very late nights in the office, very early mornings working on our behalf. In many ways they make us what we are.”
Davis also called attention to the media presence, threatening, half-jokingly to call some of them out, Donald Trump style, for things they have said about him. “I remember you, I remember what you said,” Davis said, trying to imitate Trump’s speaking style.
“The truth of it is with politics is that the media are not always going to be supportive of you,” Davis said, turning serious. “And that’s not their job, to be supportive of you. Their job is to be fair and to represent things accurately and fairly. And I can tell you my experience over the years has been that for the most part the media here in Newfoundland and Labrador have been fair. There were times I can tell you that I didn’t want to be anywhere near them and (it) probably wouldn’t have been good if I was. But there are actually people here today whom I’ve built friendships with and I hope those friendships continue as well.”
Davis said he enjoyed his 25-year career in the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, but there is no greater honour than being chosen by people to serve them in politics. He was first elected as a town councillor in Conception Bay South in 2001, serving two and a half terms before running in a 2010 by-election in what was then Topsail District.
“I have done my very best to represent my constituencies, to serve people and the communities to the best of my ability,” Davis said, noting his only child, Andrew, was nine at the time of the first council election.
“Since then there’s been three council elections, (including) two runs as deputy mayor, a couple of nomination runs, three provincial elections, the leadership in 2014, which was a really taxing and difficult one, and the general election in 2015,” Davis added.
Though he didn’t mention it, Davis also recovered from an episode of non Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer during his time as an MHA.
Davis said he and his wife Cheryl and their son, who now lives in Nova Scotia, have discussed his future many times. “We talked about it again last night and together we very carefully talked through the past and to the future roles that are available for me and for us as a family,” he said.
“I’m personally in a good place today,” said Davis. “My health is good, real good, I have a great family, a wonderful network of friends – from long ago and friends I’ve met in more recent times – and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my working life. Today is not a retirement for me, it’s a transition from politics to what lies ahead. I have no commitments… I have no commitments for work, I’m not leaving for a job, I’m leaving because it’s the right thing to do.”
In a scrum with reporters after his speech, Davis said he was leaving politics November 2 instead of waiting to finish his term because his party has a bit of momentum going after winning two by-elections, in Mount Pearl North and Windsor Lake, against Liberal heavyweights. “I believe people are speaking about wanting a change from the Liberals and one of the things you can do is build on that momentum (with another byelection),” Davis said. “The time is right for me personally, I think it’s a good time for the party as well, for people interested in running in this seat for our party, so everything lined up for me.”
The Liberal government has 60 days after November 2 to call a by-election in Topsail – Paradise District.
“Politics is really tough,” Davis said. “It’s tough on your family, it’s tough on the people around you, it’s tough on your friends… And politics is not a 9 to 5 job. It’s a full-time job.”
Asked to reflect on his greatest achievement and biggest regret from his time in politics, Davis focused on the former over the latter. “I was never one to be focused on legacies,” he said. “I have great memories. And in earlier versions of my speaking notes today I was going to reference them. Like this building right here. The very thought and idea of this building happened under my watch, it was completed under my watch, we were still in government. This is a beautiful facility that is used regularly… It’s used by hundreds and hundreds of people… I’ve always enjoyed the constituency work. It’s very similar as a municipal councillor and as a provincial elected representative as well. There have been some very personal constituency items that have been important to me that gave me some good inner peace in that we were able to help individuals out. And sometimes, in many ways, that’s what the job is about.”
Davis also touted the Homebuyers Assistance Program that his government introduced as one of the highlights of his career.
“I try to focus on positives and solutions,” Davis added. “We’re not able to help everybody, we’re not able to cure everything and I try not to live my life with too much regret or looking too much in the mirror. We try to find ways to do things better in the future.”