|5th Premier of Newfoundland|
May 5, 1989 – January 26, 1996
|Preceded by||Thomas Rideout|
|Succeeded by||Brian Tobin|
|MHA for Humber East|
|Preceded by||Noel Murphy|
|Succeeded by||Tom Farrell|
|MHA for Windsor-Buchans|
|Preceded by||Graham Flight|
|Succeeded by||Graham Flight|
|MHA for Bay of Islands|
|Preceded by||Eddie Joyce|
|Succeeded by||Brian Tobin|
November 9, 1937 |
Buchans Junction, Newfoundland
Clyde Kirby Wells, QC (born November 9, 1937) was the fifth Premier of Newfoundland and was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Court of Appeal) from 1999 to March 2009. He remains a supernumerary justice of the appellate court.
Entry into Newfoundland politics
Wells entered the cabinet of Joey Smallwood in August 1966 and was elected to the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly for the district of Humber East in the 1966 general election as a member of the Liberal Party.
Wells and John Crosbie resigned from cabinet in 1968 over concerns about financing of the Come by Chance oil refinery project.
Wells left politics in 1971 and resumed his legal practice full-time.
Return to provincial politics
In the 1989 general election, Wells led the party to power, defeating Tom Rideout and ending 17 years of Progressive Conservative rule. In that election, the Progressive Conservatives won a slightly higher percentage of the popular vote (one percentage point). Nonetheless, the Liberals won 31 of the 52 seats in the provincial legislature and formed a majority government.
Wells ran in his home riding of Humber East instead of Windsor-Buchans, but was defeated by Lynn Verge despite having led his party to victory. Subsequently, another member of his caucus, Eddie Joyce, resigned and Wells was acclaimed as the new member for the electoral district of Bay of Islands.
Wells became a major figure on the national political stage during the Meech Lake Accord for his opposition to several of its provisions. Wells was heavily criticized for his role in the Meech Lake Accord's failure. Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney described it to Maclean's: "Mr. Wells signed a formal constitutional instrument before the people of Canada committing his province to either hold a referendum on Meech, or a vote in the house of assembly. He did not attach conditions to it: the commitment was unequivocal. He cancelled the vote - he dishonoured his signature. He'll have to live with the consequences."
Technically the vote was not cancelled - the session was adjourned and the vote was never taken. However, Wells only took this course of action after the Accord failed in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, where native MLA Elijah Harper prevented the assembly from ratifying the Accord, on the grounds that the Accord was devised without proper aboriginal input. The Accord would have required ratification by all ten provincial legislatures and parliament to come into effect. (Wells also noted that, in addition to the failure in Manitoba, the Accord was headed for a likely defeat in the Newfoundland House of Assembly.)
Wells later participated in discussions that led to the development of a set of constitutional proposals known as the Charlottetown Accord.
The Wells administration reformed the province's educational system, implemented far-reaching economic reforms, concluded an agreement to develop the province's first offshore oil field and coped with the consequences of the collapse of cod stocks off the coast of the province all at the time of a severe economic recession.
Retirement from politics
Wells retired as Premier in January 1996 and returned to private practice. In 1998, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland (Court of Appeal) and was appointed Chief Justice in 1999. He retired from that post in March 2009. On November 8, 2012 Wells for formally retired as a justice of the court.
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