With McDonald bowing out, who will stand in Avalon?

By Craig Westcott

With Avalon MP Ken McDonald making it official this week that he won’t be running in the next federal election, speculation is turning to who might run, especially for the Conservatives who are surging in the polls with an 84 per cent chance of winning the seat, according to projections.

Conception Bay South MHA Barry Petten said Wednesday his name won’t be on the federal ballot. Petten said he likes his position in provincial politics and has no intention at this time of changing horses to run federally.

“It is something that has been brought to my attention on many occasions by a lot of people over the last couple of years,” Petten admitted. “People have asked me that question about running federally. I’ve given it a bit of thought, but I’ve got no plans on running federally. I’m content here in the provincial (legislature). I’d rather be boots on the ground locally and dealing with local issues and provincial issues.”

Petten allowed there is some appeal to federal politics. “But I’ve done pretty well here provincially, and I enjoy the constituency work. It’s a case of you’re more comfortable where you are to. I enjoy the provincial scene.”

Another person who could conceivably be a Conservative contender is Conception Bay South Mayor Darrin Bent, who was noncommittal when asked if he is considering a jump to federal politics.

“I can say to you that I haven’t given any thought to this at this time,” Bent said. “We currently have an MP, we don’t have an election call, and I look forward to seeing what the future brings.”

Bent said he had only just heard that McDonald intends on retiring from federal politics after 10 years. “And Ken is right, 10 years is a long time, especially if you’re travelling back and forth to Ottawa.”

Asked if it would be fair to think of him as a Conservative, Bent was equally noncommittal.

“I don’t think any guessing at this time would be fair or appropriate,” he said. “I can tell you this; I know there’s a municipal election next September. That’s a fact.”
McDonald, 65, is a former town councillor and Mayor of CBS. He was first elected as the Liberal MP for Avalon in 2015 and has won two subsequent elections.
Bent, while he was a councillor in CBS, sought the provincial PC Party nomination for the district of Topsail – Paradise in a 2019 by-election losing in a close race to the winner, Paradise councillor Paul Dinn, who went on to win the seat. Bent went on to win the mayor’s position in CBS two years later, emerging as the runaway contender in a field of three.

As for the state of relations these days between the provincial Progressive Conservative Party and the federal Conservative Party of Canada, Petten said things are improving from the years following the big rupture of PC Premier Danny Williams’ declaration of war on the federal wing with his ABC – Anybody But Conservative – campaign in 2008.

“They’re improving,” said Petten. “I will say that. There is improvement. We’ve come a long way since the ABC campaign, which is a good thing, because you’re better off being more united than divided. There are aspects of the federal Conservative Party where we may not always agree on issues, and that’s fine, and that’s going to happen.”

But Petten noted the two parties’ constitutions share many policy points.

“So, our relationship has improved immensely, but obviously some things will come up where we’re not always going to be on the same page, because people need to realize we’re the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and they are the Conservative Party, they’re a bit more right (wing) than we are. Which is fine, that makes us all unique. We’re not the same party, but we do align on a lot of similar issues and relations have improved greatly, which is a good thing.”

According to the 338Canada, which aggregates polling numbers in ridings throughout Canada, the Conservatives have a commanding lead in Avalon. The numbers show the Conservatives at 45 per cent in the riding with the Liberals at 38 per cent and the NDP at 14 per cent. The Conservative Party’s chances of winning the riding at this point stand at 84 per cent.

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