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Tony Wakeham seeks PC party leadership

Tony Wakeham, who is seeking the leadership of the provincial PC party, is the MHA for Stephenville – Port au Port . – File photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WEST COAST — MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port) has officially announced his bid to run for leadership of the provincial PC party. His announcement on Jan. 17 came roughly seven months after the first candidate, Lloyd Parrott, MHA for Terra Nova, entered the race back in July.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while and I certainly have had a lot of encouragement from people all over the province for a number of months now,” said Wakeham. “The leadership convention isn’t until October of 2023, and there is a significant period between now and then obviously, and you don’t become an official candidate until sometime in May, but I thought it was important to get out there and to let people know that I am going to seek the leadership and start getting people signed up as supporters for Tony Wakeham. The way the leadership works is it’s based on a points system where every district is worth 100 points, so it’s important to have people support you in every district of the province.”

Wakeham campaigned for leadership once before in 2018 and was ultimately defeated by Ches Crosbie, but that hasn’t dampened his spirit this time around.

“The last time I ran I had no political experience whatsoever. It was a new venture and I got in the game late. Had I had more time I think I would’ve had a different outcome, but right now I think the opportunity is here to get around the province, reach out to people, and to get my vision for the province out there and what I believe in.”

Wakeham said there is plenty that he learned the first time around and believes there is a lot he has to offer Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I’ve been saying the same thing since I first got elected. I firmly believe that politics should be about people, not politicians. I firmly believe that we need to make sure that Newfoundland and Labrador is a place that’s affordable to live, that we have healthcare that’s accessible, we leave no opportunity untapped and no one gets left behind.”

There are a few items that Wakeham has announced as a central focus during his campaign but healthcare is his number one priority.

“There are too many people getting left behind in healthcare and there are too many people without access to a primary care provider. That needs to be dealt with immediately and there’s ways of dealing with that” said Wakeham. “We’ve seen the statistics from the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, which basically told us there’s now 13,000 people without a family physician. So that number hasn’t gone down. It’s actually gone up and that’s concerning. Yet, at the same time, there are people in other positions who have stepped up to help, like nurse practitioners, and they’ve opened up clinics, but unfortunately this government has made a choice not to fund them, which means the people in the province that go to a nurse practitioner have to pay. That needs to change and should be changed immediately. We don’t need any more excuses. That needs to happen right away.”

Wakeham said the cost of getting back and forth between specialist appointments is also a serious concern.

“Nobody should have to worry about how they get to their medical appointments. We recognize there’s only one tertiary care centre, for example, St. John’s, and whether I live five miles or five hundred miles from that tertiary care centre, I should not be disadvantaged because I can’t afford to get there,” said Wakeham. “There’s a role for government to play to ensure I get to my medical appointments and that’s the last thing people should have to worry about, how they’re going to afford to pay for their medical transportation. I think there’s a significant role here for government to play on that, to enhance the policies that we currently have.”

Wakeham has also been very vocal about his opposition to the province’s sugar tax..

“That, to me, when the federal government introduced the carbon tax and the provincial government approved it and brought it in our legislation, and then went further to introduce a sugar tax, both taxes were brought in under the guise of modifying behaviour, but I would argue that these taxes aren’t modifying behaviour, they’re actually hurting people,” said Wakeham. “It’s hurting people at a time where inflation is running at six to seven per cent. The last thing people need is more money taken out of their pockets because of taxes. There are better ways to have an influence on carbon in our country, and I would argue that the province and people of Newfoundland and Labrador have paid more than anyone else to make this country greener.”

Since announcing his candidacy, Wakeham has received endorsements from fellow PC MHAs, Craig Pardy, Pleaman Forsey, and Joedy Wall, and he said the overall support has been outstanding.

“It’s been overwhelming. I knew I had a lot of support prior to making the announcement, and since I made the announcement, the number of messages, emails and texts we’ve been receiving from right across the province has been very humbling,” said Wakeham. “I believe this province needs strong leadership, a team approach, and it needs someone who is going to go out, sit down, and work with communities, and try to do things differently for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

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