Tom Osborne is part of the old townie Tory establishment in Newfoundland and Labrador.
He quit Kathy Dunderdale’s party on Thursday to sit as an independent member of the House of Assembly. Osborne’s announcements sent a shock through the political community since no one saw it coming. He cited a series of grievances he’s had with the way Dunderdale is running the party, although he never referred to the Premier by name.
Osborne’s announcement was a neat bookend to the week in which CBC’s David Cochrane reported on leaked news of a pending cabinet shuffle. As SRBP noted, that sort of leak suggested that Dunderdale’s administration was “in far more serious political trouble than it first appeared.”
Osborne was the only current provincial Conservative MHA to show up on Wednesday night for the launch of Brian Peckford’s political memoir. That was another sign of a deep division within the ranks of the ruling Conservatives.
The other big sign: the first comments from Osborne’s former caucus mates were from relative johnnies come lately to the party: Paul Lane, Steve Kent, Joan Burke and Sandy Collins. They attacked Osborne on television, online and on radio. Burke - a senior cabinet minister and former government House leader - tweeted simply “Good riddance.” Kent in particular was aggressively attacking Osborne on Thursday on Twitter, on CBC television and later on province-wide talk radio.
Their comments suggest that Osborne’s departure caught the party flat-footed and unable to develop a co-ordinated response. They also reveal a deep personal aspect to the rift that can cause events to spiral farther and farther from control. In that regard, note the insightful comments by CBC’s Anthony Germain on Twitter on Thursday night:
The cavalier dismissal of a guy who's been with the NL PCs 16 years by his former caucus colleagues is not exactly a "high road" strategy…
Even beyond respect: he knows where some bodies are buried.
Former cab mins have friends, e-mails, memos, gifts, photos. If I were KD's c-of-staff I'd pour some water on the pit bulls.
The Osborne story will continue into Friday no matter what the Tories do. If the intensity of the reaction by members of the Dunderdale party against Osborne, continues into Friday, they will guarantee Osborne will be an issue well into next week. Those angry Dunderdale supporters may prompt a widening of the verbal war. The Dunderdale party doesn’t need that right now.
Whether or not Kathy Dunderdale has a cabinet shuffle won’t change the news focus on Osborne and the apparent problems inside the Tory caucus.
It’s amazing how much the political world can change in four days.