31 October 2007

Could call legislature sitting less than a week after taking leadership: Tom Rideout, 1989

Ah, if only Tom Rideout was in charge:


Thursday, March 23, 1989,

Rideout takes office as Newfoundland premier 

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - Tom Rideout became Newfoundland's fourth premier yesterday. The straight-talking son of a fisherman was sworn in as Conservative premier by Lt. Gov. James McGrath during a brief, simple ceremony in the lieutenant-governor's residence.

"We are embarking on a journey which requires a captain on whom the people can depend," said a sombre Rideout, as his family of four proudly looked on. "We have survived and grown in number and prospered so we no longer believe it is a fantasy for us to be masters of our own destiny."

Rideout, who dreamed of being premier as a teenager in his hometown of Fleur-de-Lys, Nfld., succeeded Brian Peckford who held power for 10 years. Peckford announced his resignation in mid-January, saying he'd lost the ruthlessness to make hard political decisions. The 40-year-old Rideout is the province's fourth premier since Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949. Tory Frank Moores and Liberal Joey Smallwood held office before Peckford.

nl-rideout-tom-20070430bOnly hours after the pomp of the swearing-in, the new premier got down to business, telling reporters he could call the legislature into session as early as next Tuesday to pass an interim financing bill. If the opposition doesn't agree with that scenario, he would begin the session in early April with a new budget and speech from the throne.

But the former fisheries minister could be on the election trail before members of the legislature are long in their seats. "We could be very close or we could be far away from an election," he teased reporters. "But April 2 is the fourth year of this government and a new premier would want to seek his own mandate as soon as possible."

Before an election, Rideout said he wants to honor several promises such as setting up a premier's task force on family violence and sexual abuse against children. Rideout hopes to announce his new smaller cabinet Monday as the first phase of a reshuffling of departments aimed at producing a leaner, more efficient government. The premier said he is thinking about taking on a second cabinet position as part of his duties.

While Rideout met with reporters, his staff moved from a hotel suite into the rambling eighth-floor premier's office. Only three of Peckford's 20-member staff have been asked to stay on and most senior people, including Peckford's bodyguard and press secretary, will leave.

"I want to bring new faces to the premier's office. . . . I want to portray to the people of the province I intend to lead, to take a new direction as we spring into the 1990s." The government, however, will follow established policy and provide the outgoing premier with money to operate an office with a secretary for up to three years.