Tuesday, 25 June 2013


The Cartwright L’Anse Au Clair By-Election was supposed to have been a yawn. Given the Tory record in the District, you could hardly blame Dunderdale for calling it as soon as she secured a sacrificial lamb to run for the P.C Party and arranged to be out of Town, when the ballots were counted. 

The by-election might have been a simple affair.  It almost was.  That the Liberals won, (53.5% of the vote), was a forgone conclusion.  But, these pesky NDPers won almost 33% of the vote.  While one should not take anything away from the Liberal’s victory, it would be a serious oversight if one failed to acknowledge the importance of the NDP support, at this time.

A second and minor point is that when the governing Party perceives it has a “shot” at winning a riding, held by an Opposition Party, the cash register is flung open and the Party’s financial, organizational and PR capacity is liberally made accessible in the pursuit.  The Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair by-election was not one of those contests.  This was a by-election in which only the Liberals could lose face. 

A little history will offer perspective.

In 2003 General Election, Liberal Yvonne Jones captured 59.8% of the vote; in 2007 she won 73%, in 2011 it was 71.1%. Yvonne’s overwhelming personal support did not make either race a real contest. Dennis Normore, of the P.C.’s (also the current Tory candidate) took 31.8% of the vote in 2003; slightly less in 2007 and in 2011 a different P.C. candidate won a mere 26.8% of the votes cast. For the Tories, this was not friendly territory.

The NDP got around to running a Candidate in 2011, but garnered only 2.5% of the vote.

Even Premier Danny Williams failed impress this solidly Liberal riding.

In 1996 General Election, when Yvonne Jones and Danny Dumaresque duked it out, the Tories barely registered a presence in the District, coming up with a mere 45 votes.

The best Tory showings in the District (pre-redistribution) occurred in 1979 when Peckford mania was sweeping the Province.    

In April, 1979 Election, smelling the possibility that the District could be taken, Peckford surprised his Campaign Manager and Campaign Staff, including this scribe, with the announcement that he would fly into the District personally, within a day or so of the Writ having been dropped.  At that time of year, it was a concern that if the weather turned bad, the Chief Campaigner might find himself marooned in fog (or worse), and unable to fly back out. But, Peckford knew that no Premier, including Smallwood, had visited the District up to that time. He hoped his gamble might pay off with a Tory win, given how well he was connecting with rural voters.

Peckford flew in and out the same day, escaping any delays feared by Party organizers; his Candidate, in that Election, took 44.46% of ballots cast; the best Tory vote ever, in the post-Confederation era.  Subsequent election results, for the Tories, paled in comparison.

Bottom line: the Liberal Party ‘own’ Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair and have owned it forever. Tonight’s win confirms it still does.

The NDP would love to have overturned the Riding, placing the Liberal’s Official Opposition status, in the House of Assembly, in jeopardy.  That was never going to happen. But, don’t think the NDP a loser in this campaign.

The NDP would have to go back to 1985 to find any support in southern Labrador (in the district then known as Eagle River); a local NDPer, named Claude Rumbolt, chalked up 22.7% of the vote. After that election, the Party as much as disappeared.   

Reportedly for the current by-election, the NDP sent in several of its best names to campaign.  Any success at all, would have outdone the paltry 44 votes it received in the 2011 Election.  But, Lorraine Michael does not have to claim some pseudo victory.  After literally being absent, the NDP suddenly goes in and takes 32.9% of the vote! That result cannot be discounted.

I recently wrote that the ascension of the NDP and Michael, to first place, in the contest of Public Opinion Polls, suggests that the Tory vote in rural Newfoundland is collapsing; its support, in the St. John’s area, having already dissipated.

I believe that the Cartwright L’Anse Au Clair by-election is hard evidence of this trend.  13.6% is much less than one-half of the support the Tories could typically claim.  It’s a disastrous number for the P.C.’s, even given its poor history in the riding.
The Liberals may be celebrating, but the message of this by-election result will likely not be lost on Dwight Ball.

Still, it is the Dunderdale Tories that are under the most severe stress; the NDP are eating their lunch. 

Dunderdale shouldn’t take too much comfort from Christy Clark’s big come back in B.C.  But, she can always hope.