For anyone even halfway clued in to local politics, the rumours have been thick for months that Jerome Kennedy was about to bail from provincial politics.
Now it seems the time has come. The latest media reports have him going as early as today (Wednesday) while the versions reported Monday had the departure coming next week.
There are three things about Kennedy’s resignation that stand out.
First thing: Kennedy will be the second serving Conservative finance minister to quit politics entirely since 2003.
Loyola Sullivan left suddenly in 2006. There was plenty of speculation at the time about why Loyola ran from the room unexpectedly. Maybe it was to take a federal appointment. After all this time, that explanation still doesn’t seem to fit the haste with which Sullivan bailed.
Now Kennedy is going, and while the rumours have been around for a while, you do have to wonder why now. He’s been in politics since 2007. Unless someone in his family is sick, there’s no obvious reason to leave now, thereby triggering a by-election when his party is so low in the polls.
Second thing: there’s something about the timing of this that doesn’t really fit the media reports claiming he is pissed off about some policy or other.
The rumours about Kennedy’s departure are too old for some policy argument to be the trigger for his resignation. The story about a fight in China also is nothing new. Kennedy has long been known as a volatile character. He’s notorious for losing his temper and later apologising. Having a shouting match with Kathy Dunderdale in China and then flying back to the province in a snit would be nothing new.
The story on Tuesday that Kennedy and Kathy Dunderdale have already talked about his departure could feed into another scenario rather than the idea of a disagreement.
That would be the third thing, namely that Kennedy may be leaving as part of a transition plan. Certainly the fact that Kennedy stayed around suggests that if he really was pissed off, it wasn’t so bad that he had to get out or could only get out in a scorched earth strategy.
Instead, he cleared a few key irritants off the government’s plate – like the union contracts – got them through the spring budget, and started the pension review. he’s been working away and even showed up at the earlier-than-usual party convention last month in Gander.
Kennedy’s resignation will trigger a cabinet shuffle and a by-election. If he goes on good terms, Kennedy could give the Tories a fighting shot at keeping his seat in the Tory caucus. The Tories have 60 days to call the by-election. That would put likely polling dates after the Liberal leadership when the party might be tired out after months of campaigning.
A loss would be the result everyone expects. If they win, as they could, the Tories would have something to crow about. That would buoy them up at the start of the long fight.
As for the cabinet shuffle, the Tories now have a chance to do what they should have done last year when cabinet shuffle rumours were rampant. They can bring in some new blood to refresh the party in the short term. They can also promote some of the potential leadership candidates of their own to give them experience before the Tories launch their own leadership race 12 months from now.
Just watch as things unfold over the next few days. we’ll know pretty quickly if there is a problem or if the Tories have a plan.