Kathy Dunderdale smiles as she speaks to caucus members and supporters while announcing her decision to resign as Newfoundland and Labrador's premier. CBC
Kathy Dunderdale said today she is stepping down as the 10th premier of Canada's 10th province, saying she leaves Newfoundland and Labrador with a strong economy and a higher standard of living.
Dunderdale said Wednesday she will resign as premier on Friday. Her decision comes after months of poor performances in public opinion polls and amid criticism, including from within the governing Progressive Conservatives, that she was failing to connect with voters who may have been growing tired of the Tories after three terms.
Dunderdale met first with members of the Tory caucus at Confederation Building in St. John's on Wednesday, and then spoke publicly for the first time about her decision to resign.
"Just as you know when it's time to step up, you also know when it is time to step back, and that time for me is now," said Dunderdale, who read from prepared remarks and did not take reporters' questions.
Dunderdale is staying on, for now, as the MHA for the St. John's district of Virginia Waters.
Dunderdale said Finance Minister Tom Marshall will take over as premier on Monday.
Marshall, who represents the Corner Brook district of St. John's East, plans to retire at the next election.
Dunderdale made the decision to step down while on vacation in Florida, and on the heels of a political storm sparked by the defection of former caucus chair Paul Lane, who on Monday crossed the floor to join the Liberals.
But political insiders say Dunderdale's resignation had long been in the cards, particularly when she could not make a fast rebound from polling results last year that put the governing Tories in third place.
"This has been mounting for a while. The writing has been on the wall, quite frankly," said Paul Oram, a former provincial health minister who has been vocal for weeks about a perceived need for a change at the top.
Communications cited as key problem
Oram said many Tories hold Dunderdale, who was sworn in as premier on Dec. 3, 2010, in high regard, although there have been mounting frustrations with an often abrupt communications style.
"Kathy's biggest issue has always been that the communications part of her mandate has never been received well," Oram said.
"You can be the best leader in the world but the reality is that if the people are not accepting you as leader, and you just can't resonate with the people, then you can’t be leader of the party and leader of the province."
The date of the next provincial election is now in flux, as well.
Fixed-date legislation has the vote set for October 2015, although it is likely to be held earlier if the PCs select a new leader in the next few months. Provincial law dictates that a new premier must go to the polls within 12 months of being sworn in.
Author of her own misfortune: NDP
Lorraine Michael, leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's New Democrats, said Dunderdale's lack of popularity with voters was her own doing.
Michael told CBC News that Dunderdale was too aggressive with pushing her political agenda, including Bill 29, a law that substantially reduced the amount of information that government is allowed to release to the public.
"The policies that she's been pushing, such as Bill 29, Muskrat Falls, the no brooking of any opposition whatsoever, poo-pooing everything — I think she brought this on herself," Michael said.
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