Two Newfoundlanders who've built careers in Ottawa are among those mulling bids for the helm of their province's Progressive Conservative Party – a contest that will ultimately select the next premier of the Rock.
The job is up for grabs after Kathy Dunderdale stepped down as Newfoundland's 10th premier last week.
Tim Powers, 45, originally from St. John's, is a co-owner of public-affairs consultancy Summa Strategies and opinion-research firm Abacus Data. His great-grandfather William Warren was one of the last prime ministers of the Dominion of Newfoundland – decades before it joined Canada.
Fabian Manning, 49, from St. Brides, Nfld., is a federal senator, appointed by Stephen Harper, who previously served as a Newfoundland legislator and, for a short time, as a Conservative MP in Ottawa.
Mr. Powers, who began his career as an assistant to former Mulroney cabinet minister John Crosbie in the early 1990s, has in recent months frequently guest-hosted on VOCM in St. John's, a popular AM radio station known for talk shows. He said he's considering the idea but a decision could depend on when the leadership vote is held.
"I've received many calls from people offering their perspective on the upcoming PC leadership race. I am listening, but haven't made a decision either way," Mr. Powers said. "Right now, my main focus is on work, and the commitment I have made to it, but the future of Newfoundland and Labrador is important to me too. We'll see what the party decides in terms of the dates for convention and then I hope to have more to say."
The race for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador will be the first competition in some time. Recent leaders were uncontested when they sought the job.
Mr. Manning said he's currently talking to other prospective candidates.
"I'm a long-time Conservative. My family are long-time Conservatives and I've been talking to many people within the party and throughout the province," the senator said. "To make a decision of that nature is not something that is made lightly. So let's just say we're exploring possibilities."
The executive of the provincial party is meeting shortly to make plans for the leadership race. The PCs have said they intend to have a new leader in place by June.
Other potential candidates include western Newfoundland businessman Bill Barry.
Sources say if he were to run Mr. Powers would sell himself as a fresh alternative to the current PC caucus in St. John's: a businessman who's got strong communication skills. He's a regular commentator on CBC and has written opinion pieces for The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Manning said he doesn't believe his stint in Ottawa would hurt his appeal in his home province. He said the province needs a leader who has a good working relationship with the federal government because the task as premier so often includes dealing with Ottawa, whether on controversial portions of the Canada-European Union trade deal or the Muskrat Falls hydropower project.
"Many of the big economic issues in Newfoundland and Labrador have a federal side to them," he said.
The senator, who comes from a town of 350 people, said he's particularly sensitive to the problems in rural Newfoundland. "There's a lots of economic activity happening in Newfoundland at the present time that bodes well, but at the same time many rural parts of the province are still hurting. It's a different world in rural Newfoundland."
Mr. Powers, who played rugby for Canada's age-21 team in 1988 and 1989, is on the board of Rugby Canada.
He's also a member of the Smiling Land Foundation, a philanthropic organization run by people from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Back in 2008 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then Newfoundland premier Danny Williams were feuding over support for the province, Mr. Powers, managed to maintain a positive relationship with the Williams government. That was no mean feat for a card-carrying federal Conservative.
Mr. Williams at the time was leading an "anyone-but-Conservative" campaign designed to discourage voting for Mr. Harper's party in the 2008 election.
Steven Chase is a parliamentary reporter in The Globe's Ottawa bureau.