Tories already ahead by two in Topsail – Paradise by-election preparations

By Craig Westcott   |   The Shoreline

The by-election has yet to be officially called, but two high profile municipal leaders are long out of the gate in a contest for the PC Party nomination in Topsail – Paradise. Both Paradise councillor Paul Dinn and Conception Bay South Ward 1 councillor Darrin Bent declared their candidacies last Wednesday sparking a race that, given the apparent lack of interest in anyone seeking the Liberal of NDP nods, may signal the winner of the Tory nomination will probably be the district’s new MHA. The party’s call for nominations closed at Noon today with the venue and time for a nomination meeting expected to be set shortly. “I have no frustration with municipal politics,” said Bent, who was acclaimed in his seat last fall following his first full term on council. The first time he ran, Bent was one of five people vying for the ward seat. At the time, he had the value of name recognition, given he had recently come off a 25 year career with NTV News and had embarked on a second one as the general manager of the CBS Soccer Association. “I enjoy municipal politics and have enjoyed it since the moment I got involved in it,” said Bent. “But you asked why (run provincially) now and why the PCs: I feel (it’s) based on the concerns of the residents I’ve been talking with – increased tax burden, uncertainty over electricity rates, rising insurance costs, interest rates, all of this is weighing heavy on everyone and their families. And I believe we need a new direction to address these concerns. Because of this, I feel aligned more with the philosophy of the PCs at this point and concerns raised by them over the direction of the province and some of the things we’ve seen. It’s a new time for this party, there’s a new leader and it’s good to be part of building something new. You’re not shackled to the old ways and I think that makes it exciting, it creates all kinds of wonderful, positive possibilities for the future of this province and I think it would be good to be involved in that personally, and I think the residents would enjoy being involved in that process too, building towards the type of province that we all want for ourselves and our children.”
Dinn feels similarly about municipal politics. People had been encouraging him for years to run for council, he said, but he kept putting it off while his three daughters were still in school and he was busy volunteering in their activities. Five years ago, he finally ran, polling the most votes amongst all the candidates. “I enjoy it,” said Dinn, “I’ve got to say I really enjoy working with people and helping people and we may not always agree, but everyone knows where I stand when it comes to an issue.” Dinn said the timing may not be great for the by-election, given that within a year’s time the seat will have to be contested again in a general election. But he is determined to make the best of it. “Even when I worked for the provincial government, people said, ‘You should run provincially,’ and it was always there in the back of my mind,” said Dinn. “I guess you wait for the door to open and an opportunity to come forward and it happened with Paul (Davis) stepping down. I said I’ll put myself put there and at the end of the day either the people want you or they don’t… I stand by my reputation and try to be open and honest with everyone and above all, if you truly want to run in politics for the right reason, you’ve got to have empathy, you’ve got to be able to treat all people with respect and
even though you might differ on opinions, you’ve got to be able to put yourself in their shoes and take it from their perspective and I think I can do that. Some people will talk about when you move into provincial politics you move into bigger issues, but I don’t look at like that. How big an issue is depends on the individual. You’ve always got to keep that in mind.” Dinn has waged a campaign on council for more transparency of council’s
activities and meetings. He said it’s not because he thinks there is anything there to find. “We work for the people and at the end of the day they should be privy to what’s happening and how decisions are being made or not being made and then they can make their own decisions after that,” said Dinn. “I think when you start making decisions behind closed doors you create an uncertainty in terms of ‘is the right thing being done and are people
speaking up for the right reasons?’ I’ll take that as far as I can and if there ever comes a time when I can’t be honest and open that will be the time that I’ll be walking away.” That’s one of the reasons he has sided with the PCs, said Dinn, namely leader Ches Crosbie’s professed goal of pursuing openness, honesty and transparency in government. “I think that’s a big thing,” said Dinn. “It’s a hard thing to do when you’re in politics to keep it open
and transparent and that really appeals to me. To date, Mr. Crosbie has given me no reason to disbelieve that he is trying to be as open and transparent as he can with decisions that are being made for the public good.” In terms of district specific issues, for Bent, the first one is highway infrastructure. “Topsail – Paradise is one of, if not the fastest growing districts in the province,” said Bent. “And the major road system here has not kept up with the growing population. Paradise is the only place on the TransCanada Highway where you have to line up to get on in the morning and line up to get off in the evening. The overpass at Manuels Access Road, on Pitts Memorial Drive and the Paradise interchange need major upgrades… It’s not only frustrating the way it is now, it’s also a safety concern.” Bent said it’s time the provincial government stepped in and dealt with it. “There are schools in this district that have been delayed in construction or expansion,” Bent added. “And they need to get moving soon.” Bent said he also wants to fight some of the regressive taxation of the current government and make sure the cost of living is affordable so that seniors can keep their homes and younger people can afford to buy new ones. For Dinn, taxes and jobs are big issues. “You’re just hearing the Rona stores are closing, there are a couple of stores closing down on Stavanger,” said Dinn. “You always want to build employment opportunities within your province and within your district and within your communities. But I’ll go back to stressing honesty and openness. I think people in general now just want an honest answer and for you to be upfront on things that are happening or not happening. You may not always get what you want, but you’ll understand why you’re getting what you’ve got.” Bent said his experience as a journalist, which has exposed him to all levels of government and trained him to digest large volumes of information quickly and ask the tough questions when necessary, is a good background for an MHA’s job. His time at
NTV also afforded him experience in labour management, he added, as a contract negotiator. “I live in the area, I work in the area,” said Bent. “And I have a keen interest in making this a better place for all of us. When I ran for council first, I had some key issues: council spending, road improvements, traffic calming and safety in school zones. We’ve come a long way in the last three years of so that I’ve been around council in all these areas… I hate the personal sell thing, but this (politics) is what it is… I’ve built a professional career and an extensive volunteer resume based on hard work and I don’t know anything different. It’s something my parents instilled in me and that’s what I do, I go to work.” Dinn, believes his experience working inside government and knowing how the wheels turn and how public figures can get involved, or not, will give him a good foundation, if he wins the nomination and then the seat. Dinn worked a 30-year career in the provincial government in the fields of policy development, labour market training, and assessments on major projects, including Hibernia and Terra Nova. He finished up with the province a little over a year ago. Since then he has been doing contract work as an employment trainer. “I won’t be changing my approach in terms of municipal as opposed to provincial (politics),” said Dinn. “You’ll get what you see. There are no smoke and mirrors. I’ll treat everyone with respect and just do my best… My approach will be to keep it honest and keep it open… Whatever happens I’ll carry on with what I do, either at a provincial level or a town level. I enjoy it and I’m going to keep doing it.”

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