Roger Grimes | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Roger Grimes

Roger Grimes, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador (b at Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld 1950). Roger Grimes was sworn in as Premier after an extended career as teacher, union leader and cabinet minister.

Grimes, Roger

Roger Grimes, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador (b at Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld 1950). Roger Grimes was sworn in as Premier after an extended career as teacher, union leader and cabinet minister. Son of a mill worker in the pulp-and-paper town now called Grand Falls-Windsor, Grimes attended Memorial University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Education and a Masters in Education. He taught math, physics and chemistry in schools in Grand Falls, Bishop's Falls and Norris Arm. While teaching, Grimes turned to union activity, holding executive positions with the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association (NLTA), ultimately becoming its elected president (1985-1987). He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Teachers' Federation.

Grimes's attention then shifted to politics. In the 1989 provincial election that saw the new Liberal government of Clyde Wells take office, Grimes squeaked out a narrow victory in the District of Exploits and was appointed Parliamentary Assistant to Wells. He quickly ascended a stairway of greater political challenges. He became Minister of Employment and Labour Relations in 1991; Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation in 1994; Minister of Education in 1996 in the new Brian Tobin government; Minister of Mines and Energy in 1998 and Minister of Health in 2000. In most cases, he became minister to fight the political brush fires that were then burning in the portfolio in question. In Education, he spearheaded the replacement of the province's denominational education system; in Mines and Energy, he dealt with the contentious policy issues arising from the Voisey's Bay development; and in Health, he oversaw cuts to the hospital system.

When Brian Tobin decided to return to federal politics in the election of 2000, Grimes ran for Liberal leader in a fractious three-person contest in February 2000 that saw him edge out his nearest rival, John Efford, by 14 votes and saw both Efford and Paul Dicks - both former cabinet ministers - resign from provincial politics. After the Progressive Conservatives, invigorated by their new leader Danny Williams, won two by-elections in traditional Liberal districts, the Grimes government began an effort to distinguish itself and renew the image of the Liberals, now in power for nearly a dozen years.

The Grimes government has committed itself to an openness and accountability plan, manifested by re-establishing the position of Citizens' Representative (formerly the Ombudsman), televising the House of Assembly, implementing fuel price regulation and establishing a Child Advocate. In energy matters, the Grimes government received a boost in March 2002 when Husky Oil announced the go-ahead on the $2.3 billion White Rose offshore oil development, making this the province's third major offshore energy project. (The $6 billion Hibernia project had started producing oil in 1997 and the $3 billion Terra Nova project began production in January 2002.) Negotiations with INCO continued on Voisey's Bay, ostensibly nearing successful completion. On the federal-provincial front, Grimes spent most of his first year decrying the retrograde nature of the federal equalization program as it affected the Atlantic provinces, especially Newfoundland and Labrador. In the 2002 provincial budget, he stunned observers by promising a provincial royal commission on the province's place in the federation. In April 2002 he announced the membership and timeline of the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our (sic) Place in Canada. It was to be headed by former FPI chair Vic Young, Sister Elizabeth Davis, former CEO of the Health Care Corporation of St. John's; and Judge James Igloliorte, and report before 30 June 2003.