It's official: Simms is in race for Mount Pearl North

     It came in the middle of a scorching day in early August after a month of everyone waiting for summer weather to finally arrive, but it didn’t stop a crowd from filling the Masonic Community Centre to hear Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms announce he is seeking a seat in provincial politics.
     Simms’ confirmation that he is running in Mount Pearl North against PC incumbent and Deputy Premier Steve Kent didn’t come as a surprise, but the timing did: Most political watchers in the city expected Simms to make the final decision on whether he would run at the end of the summer.
     “I had an awful lot of people asking me about it and there was a lot of pressure to do something or to say something and I didn’t want people to believe that I had changed my mind or anything of that nature,” Simms said.
     The announcement drew as much media attendance as normally accorded to a federal candidate or a provincial party leader. Simms said he was surprised by the attention. He puts it down to the fact he is running against a Deputy Premier and cabinet minister. “Everyone says this is going to be the one to watch,” he admitted.
     Simms used the occasion to highlight some of the challenges facing the province in the coming years and said people are looking for a change in the way the province is managed.
     “There is a certain sense in the air that change is upon us and that change is needed,” Simms repeated during an interview this week.
     He pointed out the party in office has been in power some 13 years. “And I feel that the public are telling them that with our changing economy and our challenging demographics… it may be time for us to take a different direction.”
     The time is also right for him personally to take a serious look at running provincially, he added. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Simms, who sought provincial office on two other occasions in his younger years. Since then, he has built a higher profile, not only as a councillor and now mayor of Mount Pearl, but also as one of the province’s best known media personalities and for a while as a manager of a non-profit organization.  He has also served as the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities.
     “I think I’m ready for it,” Simms said. “And I think my record is intact, that people feel that as a community leader and as a policy maker I have served my community well in that capacity and I am hoping they will look at me and say ‘We think you can serve our community well in this new capacity,’ and I look forward to maybe having that opportunity.”
     Simms is one of the few politicians who have acknowledged that the province is facing serious economic and demographic challenges. But he said there is always a sense of trepidation on the part of the incoming party when administrations change.
     “It’s one thing to get out there and run for it, it’s another thing to find yourself in the morning with the job,” he allowed. “I think we all know that the economic outlook for the next few years is not good. We all know the situation with oil prices and iron ore prices is not good. But we also know there are other opportunities in other natural resource fields, including what’s happening with our fishery. A lower Canadian dollar will bring some benefits. But how we spend money, where we’re going to spend money, what our priorities are going to be in the future – these are the kinds of things that I think the public are looking for a change in.”
     Simms said he supports some of the initiatives announced by Liberal leader Dwight Ball and the party, including the promise to build a new Waterford Hospital for mental health care and to not implement the additional two cent cent levy on the province’s sales tax, which PC Leader and Premier Paul Davis has pledged to bring into effect starting January 1, 2016.
     The HST hike would be a bad move to make at a bad time for the economy, Simms argued. “In this district we have an awful lot of people on fixed incomes, an awful lot of people who are retired, as well as young families who are trying to get ahead,” Simms said. “And they don’t need another two per cent stuck on their tax, not when your government and economists are telling you that the economy is actually slowing.”
     As for his job on council, Simms said he will continue as Mayor until the first week of November when the writ for the provincial election is dropped. “When that happens I will take a leave of absence and I will stay out of City Hall until the election is over,” he said. “If I should I win, I will submit a resignation, the Deputy Mayor would become the mayor and there would be a by-election in late winter or early spring for a new councillor.”
     Simms has appointed retired City Clerk and City Manager Gerard Lewis as his campaign manager, while the former general manager of VOCM, John Murphy, has agreed to serve as manager of communications. Simms and Lewis became acquainted in 1989 when Simms was first elected to council just months after Lewis began working for the City. Murphy was Simms’ boss when served as host of VOCM Open Line. “It’s good to have people participating whom the community knows,” said Simms, who is tickled by the irony of having one key person who in a sense worked for him for years on council and another for whom he worked for for years. “I think that’s very positive stuff,” Simms said.

Posted on September 3, 2015 and filed under Sept-2015.