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From police officer to premier


February 3, 2015
By Danette Dooley

Paul Davis looks to lead Newfoundland and Labrador into the future

by Danette Dooley

When former Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale resigned in January 2014, Paul Davis’ name was one of the first in the media as a possible contender for the job.

However, during an interview with in February 2014, the former Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer turned provincial cabinet minister said the timing wasn’t right for him to run the province.

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Davis took a second look at the premiership several months later when Premier Designate Frank Coleman walked away from the job. Davis explained in a January 2015 interview why he had a change of heart.

“When Premier Dunderdale resigned I was just coming off two-and-a-half years of treatments (for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) so for me there wasn’t enough distance between coming off (cancer treatments) and deciding to move forward (into the race for premier).”

When Coleman decided he didn’t want the job in June 2014 Davis felt he was ready to make the commitment.

“I was in a different place then personally… I was asked to consider running… I could leave the party in the hands of someone else or I could step up and take control.”

After a race that went to the third ballot, Davis was declared the 12th Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and sworn into the position on Sept. 26, 2014.

{RNC career}

Davis joined the RNC in 1985 and served in numerous capacities, though he’s best known as the face of the force for his time as media relations officer.

After almost a decade as councillor in his home town of Conception Bay South, Davis handed in his police badge in 2010 to throw his hat into the provincial political ring.

He was elected MHA for the District of Topsail. He was named to cabinet in 2011 and served in a number of portfolios before moving into the Premier’s position at a challenging time.

Some 35 per cent of the province’s revenue comes from the oil industry. With oil prices plummeting to below $50 US a barrel (the government had budgeted $105 a barrel) the government faces a projected deficit of more than $900 million.

“People talk about an election budget but it’s hard to do an election budget when you’ve lost such a significant amount (of money) from your revenue. The people of the province are looking for someone willing to make hard decisions and I’m willing to do that,” he said of this year’s provincial budget, which will likely come after the feds put theirs on the table.

Since that time he’s faced numerous challenges and criticism, including his decision to appoint former RNC Chief Joe Browne his chief of staff.

Davis is steadfast – the appointment was in the best interests of the province. Bowne is a strong administrator, he said, and he put him in the position knowing not everyone would agree with the appointment. That’s what politics is all about, he said.

“We live in a political world. We have two other parties. I know that they will have people who will take the opportunity to make public comments… every move I make they are going to criticize. I expect that… It’s part of their job.”

Davis recently introduced a bill to reduce the number of seats in the House of Assembly. Once the Liberals came onside, Bill 42 reduced the number of seats to 40 from 48.

With a general election likely taking place later this year the PCs are well behind the Liberals in opinion polls. Davis is confident, however, that making the right decisions, taking a team approach, being open with the people and providing more opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to voice their opinions and concerns will help his party turn things around.

Davis said his career as a frontline police officer gave him an opportunity to be inside people’s homes, often when they were at their most vulnerable. No matter their background, he said, you help them through their problems.

“I’ve worked with people all my life and I still enjoy that,” he said.

Davis encourages other police officers looking for a second career to think about politics.

“I’ve been given a bit of a hard time going from policing to politics. Every now and then you’ll get some heckling across the (House of Assembly) floor from opposite members but that really doesn’t bother me.”

Davis said he’s proud of his past career with the RNC and has many friends in the force as well as retired members.

“I’ve learned so much from policing and I owe so much to my career and the people I worked with. I’m still saddened when I hear about devastation striking the policing community. Just recently when Cst. (David) Wynn got killed in Alberta, that had an impact on me. And I wear a ribbon on my jacket to honour police officers who are lost in the service of others.”

While skimming through a hard copy of his previous interview, Davis smiled and said – while much has changed, one thing remains the same – the legacy he hopes to leave behind.

“When I came into politics I did so, I believe, with my integrity intact. And my goal is to leave with my integrity intact. My family deserves nothing less.”

dooley@blueline.ca


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