In 1949, the Dominion of Newfoundland became the province of Newfoundland as it joined Confederation in Canada. Since then the province has had 9 premiers and this is that history.
Joey Smallwood, 1st Premier
Naming himself the ‘last Father of Confederation’, Smallwood led the charge for Newfoundland to join Confederation during the Newfoundland referendums of 1948. He was successful in convincing the people of Newfoundland of the benefits of joining Canada and in 1949 when Newfoundland because the last province of Canada, the people elected Joey Smallwood, a Liberal, their first Premier.
Smallwood would win six elections as premier and remain in that role for the first 23 years of Newfoundland’s history as a province. In 1971 he fought a seventh election that resulted in a tie and ultimately led to him leaving the Premier’s office in 1972. He was kicked out of his own party and failed at a political comeback in an another party before finally retiring from politics, both loved and hated by the people of Newfoundland.
Frank Moores, 2nd Premier
Moores was chosen as the leader of the Progressive Conservative party in 1970 and tied Joey Smallwood in the election of 1971 before being asked to form government several months later in 1972, ending the long reign of Smallwood. He was reelected in 1975 before finally resigning in 1979, remaining undefeated as Premier.
Brian Peckford, 3rd Premier
Peckford was first elected in 1972 as the Progressive Conservatives, of which he was one, were swept to power. He served as a Minister under Moores until eventual replacing him as the leader of the party. He became premier and was elected to the position later on in 1979. He won election again in 1982 and was largely known for fighting for provincial rights to natural resources throughout his term and during the Constitutional discussions with the other provinces and the federal government. After a decade as Premier, Peckford retired in 1989.
Tom Rideout, 4th Premier
Rideout was originally elected as a Liberal in 1975 but switched to the Progressive Conservatives under Peckford in 1980. He became a Minister and when Peckford retired, was selected as leader of the party, becoming Premier in 1989. In the election that occurred only one month after his selection as leader, he was defeated by the Liberals who had secured less votes but had won more seats. He stayed on as opposition leader until 1991 when he left politics.
In 1993 he returned to politics only to lose the riding race he had entered. Once more, in 1999, he reentered politics and won. He was reelected in 2003 and became the Deputy Premier before being reelected in 2007. He quit politics again in 2008 after a dispute with the sitting Premier on policy.
Clyde Wells, 5th Premier
Wells was first elected as a Liberal in 1966 and became a Minister in Smallwood’s government. In 1968 in resigned from Cabinet and left politics all together in 1971. He returned to politics in 1987 and two years later ended 17 years of PC rule by defeating Tom Rideout in the 1989 election by securing more seats in the legislature. Wells did not win his own seat and was acclaimed in a different riding where one of his members stepped aside. Wells led Newfoundland during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords and eventually resigned in 1996, eventually being appointed to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland.
Brian Tobin, 6th Premier
Tobin entered politics at the federal level, first elected in 1980 and reelected each election up to and including in 1993. In 1993, Tobin’s Liberals left opposition and formed a government under Jean Chretien who made Tobin a Minister in the government. When Clyde Wells retired as Premier of Newfoundland, Tobin quit federal politics and easily won the leadership of the Newfoundland Liberals, becoming the province’s 6th premier.
Tobin was elected as premier later that year and reelected as Premier in 1999. In 2000, with the sudden election at the federal level, Tobin quit as premier and ran once more at the federal level where he was reelected. Tobin resigned from federal politics only two years later in 2002.
Beaton Tulk, 7th Premier
Tulk was first elected as a Liberal in 1979 and was reelected in 1982 and 1985. He was defeated in the election of 1989 and became a deputy minister in the government before returning to elected politics in 1993. He was reelected in 1996 and 1999, becoming a Minister and eventually Deputy Premier in 2000. When Tobin resigned, Tulk became the Premier.
His time as premier was short lived as he did not run for the leadership and was replaced by the eventual winner of that race, Roger Grimes. Tulk became Deputy Premier once more until resigning in 2002 to run federally for the Liberals. When he lost, he ran in the by-election called to fill the seat he had vacated but lost that race as well.
Roger Grimes, 8th Premier
Grimes was first elected as a Liberal in 1989 and served as a Minister in the governments of Wells and Tobin. He became Premier in 2001 after winning the leadership contest to replace Tobin. It was also in this year that Newfoundland became Newfoundland and Labrador officially. In 2003 he was defeated by Progressive Conservative leader Danny Williams and resigned as Liberal leader in 2005.
Danny Williams, 9th Premier
Other than Joey Smallwood, there is probably no Newfoundland premier better known than Danny Williams (Tobin is arguably better known for his work at the federal level than as premier). Williams was not a politician, becoming a wealthy millionaire before deciding in 2001 to enter politics where he won the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives. In 2003, he swept his party to power effectively ending 14 years of Liberal rule in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Williams fought the governments of Paul Martin and Stephen Harper, lowering Canadian flags in Newfoundland in response to federal government actions under Martin and creating a campaign called ‘ABC-Anything But Conservative’ during the 2008 federal election as a rebuke to Harper’s government that was successful and led to no federal Conservatives being elected within Newfoundland.
Williams’ focus was expanding the energy network of Newfoundland and gaining greater control over natural resources for the province. His party was reelected in 2007, gaining more seats and seen as more popular because of Williams’ leadership. During his second term his personal popularity regularly sat around an 80% approval rating, cresting at times into 90%. Even when Williams had heart surgery in the United States instead of Canada while in office, his popularity did not suffer.
On November 25th of this year Williams announced his resignation after securing a major energy deal with Nova Scotia that would bypass Quebec and link Newfoundland with the rest of the North American grid. He selected December 3rd (five days from now) as he last day as Premier. Williams will be replaced by Kathy Dunderdale, Newfoundland and Labrador’s first female premier.