Simms staying put

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One of the reasons Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor MP Scott Simms, right, decided to stay in his federal seat is to assist the federal Liberal Party leadership aspirations of Justin Trudeau, who was in Gander before Christmas with Mr. Simms.

Beacon file photo

The past few weeks have been a time of contemplation for Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor MP Scott Simms.

On one hand, he’s been one of the most supported MPs in the country since being elected to the seat in 2004, and being re-electing on two more occasions. In 2011 and 2008, he was declared the first MP to win a seat in Canada.

On the other hand, he had a truckload of provincial Liberal supporters wooing him to go after the provincial Party leadership, and be the person to lead the Party into the next provincial election, with hopes of him ending up in the Premier’s seat on Confederation Hill.

However, while the thrill was there, in the end, it came down to what he felt was the best decision for him and his son.

“No…I’m not running…I will not at this time be seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Mr. Simms told The Beacon Friday afternoon, while waiting for a flight to take him from St. John’s to Gander.

“It was a more personal thing than anything else in why I decided this. I was quite honoured and privileged to be considered and (then) asked to seek the leadership, but the time just isn’t right for me now.”

Mr. Simms said his son is still in school and living at home, and he felt the additional amount of time that would be required as Party leader to campaign and travel the province in preparation for the next provincial election in 2015 was just too great.

“It’s a huge commitment to build up the Party over the next three years to become Premier, because you have to commit not only to be leader of the Party, but also Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “That’s a large commitment financially and personally…even though it’s not (travelling to) Ottawa, the travel is going to be more because you have to criss-cross the province…that’s a huge time commitment now and over a three-year period that, personally, I just can’t do at this time.

“(Also,) three years is a long time to be without a position, as I would be leader without a seat…I would have to leave a job in order to do this full-time, and that’s also something I just can’t do at this time.”

It took Mr. Simms approximately a week to make up his mind after he met with supporters of the Party — a decision he said he wanted to make quickly.

“I never set up a team…I never went out to raise money, and that’s why it took me only a week to decide this because I didn’t want to drag it along…I don’t think this (dragging it along) is fair to people who are supporting you...you’re either in it or not,” he said. “When it comes to politics, you need to make up your mind quickly whether you are running or not…this is stage advice I got from some people awhile ago.”

Mr. Simms said, even though it was a quick decision, it was definitely a tough one to make, as the appeal of being Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador was certainly attractive.

“The feedback I got on both sides of the issue was great, and I certainly appreciate and thank the people who I talked to on both sides,” he said. “It (the decision) got tougher as the time went on, and more people gave me advice…There’s a lot of life in the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador…maybe a lot more than I had anticipated. There was also a lot more people willing to help me out than I anticipated.

“It was hard to say no to people (showing this much confidence in you), but in the end, it came down to what was best for me personally at this time in my life.”

 

Trudeau factor

However, there was an outside factor much further away from home that Mr. Simms said also played a role in his decision to stay in Ottawa and work on behalf of his constituents of Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor — Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidate Justin Trudeau.

“I made a commitment to Justin, and whether or not I decided to pursue the leadership of the provincial Party, the (Canadian Liberal) leadership is concluded April 14. I would do this first and then would’ve switched my focus to the province,” said Mr. Simms. “I believe Justin will be the next leader of the federal Party, and I want to be there to help him move towards a federal election.

“So, this commitment I made to him, and the belief I have in him were also certainly factors in my decision.”

For the immediate future, he said he is looking forward to serving the people of his riding. As for a little further down the road, even though a federal election is more than two years away, he said he will be keeping an eye and an interest on what will be a new riding in 2015.

“That’s some time from now, and a lot of things could happen between now and then, but, in my mind, I will be running to be a Member of Parliament for the new riding,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of work because I’m going to be running in new territory…there’s going to be a big chunk of this riding that I haven’t met yet.”

khiggins@ganderbeacon.ca

Organizations: Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, Liberal Party of Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa Bonavista Grand Falls

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