ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Kathy Dunderdale is stepping down as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and leader of the province’s Progressive Conservative party.
Dunderdale, who was under growing pressure after two members left the Tory caucus questioning her leadership, said she concluded it was time for her to resign.
“Ancient Hebrew scriptures teach us that there’s a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens,” Dunderdale said Wednesday.
“I have discovered that this also applies to public service. Just as you know when it’s time to step up, you also know when it is time to step back, and that time for me is now.”
Dunderdale, 61, made her announcement in the lobby of the province’s legislature, surrounded by members of her caucus and the public service, who greeted her arrival with a long applause.
The first woman to become the province’s premier, Dunderdale has held the job for just over three years. The announcement of her departure, which takes effect Friday, comes two days after backbencher Paul Lane left the government to join the Opposition Liberals.
Lane had been one of Dunderdale’s most vocal supporters but said she has lost touch with voters and badly handled a series of major electricity failures earlier this month that left the province coping with rotating blackouts.
Lane’s decision to cross the floor of the legislature followed Tom Osborne’s departure from the Tory caucus a year ago. The former cabinet minister initially sat as an Independent before joining the Liberals.
Dunderdale said she is leaving the province in better shape and listed her government’s accomplishments, including smaller class sizes, a stronger economy and construction of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador.
Finance Minister Tom Marshall, who has said he will not seek re-election, will be interim premier. Marshall said Dunderdale told him she will remain as a member of the legislature for a while but will then “move on.”
“This was her decision. This wasn’t a caucus decision,” Marshall said. “She left as she served: with dignity and with grace.”
Dunderdale did not take questions after her announcement.
Marshall said the details of a leadership race and a possible election are to be worked out. But party organizers say it’s widely expected a leadership convention will take place in the spring.
Under provincial law, Dunderdale’s resignation triggers an election earlier than the scheduled date of Oct. 13, 2015. An election must now be held within a year of the new full-time party leader taking office as premier.
Dunderdale was first elected in October 2003 to represent the St. John’s-area riding of Virginia Waters and took over as leader of the Tories when former premier Danny Williams quit politics in late 2010. She was re-elected with a majority government in October 2011.
The Tories have 34 seats in the legislature, the Liberals nine and the NDP three. There are also two Independents.