The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador - predictions


While several aspects of the federal government and specific federal policies are not popular in much of Newfoundland, this unpopularity does not seem to translate to individual candidates, unless they have made a specific stand supporting a federal party over a locally contentious issue (really, only in Avalon). Even where the representative expresses the federal views, as with the looming Portnoy family deportation, quite often such actions seem to be seen as being required to "do the dirty work" on behalf of a distant, amorphous, arbitrary federal government. Instead, candidates tend to be judged on a personal basis ... and I don't think any of the incumbents, either Liberal or Tory, have slipped up badly enough not to be given the benefit of the doubt. Only Efford would not have won -- but Efford is not running, and Manning is not standing on a solid-enough foundation to effectively challenge.

10001 Avalon

In the previous election, Liberal incumbent and cabinet minister John Efford won by a wide margin, almost doubling the votes of his nearest rival (Conservative), but announced he would not seek re-election. During the offshore oil revenue debate Efford had been caught in the middle between the prime minister and the premier; followed by an extended absence due to stress and illness which left Newfoundland without adequate federal representation: the combination endeared him to nobody. (A constant frustration in this riding is that despite the offshore oil fields, skilled oil workers can find adequate work only out-of-province, most often in Alberta.)

This election, between the same four parties, sees no return candidates. Given the Efford plus Gomery combination, I would have said the federal Conservatives might well have eased into power in this riding this time around; had their chosen representative not been Fabian Manning, a formerly involuntarily-independent MHA after having been expelled from the provincial Conservatives. As it stands, however, I don't think a friendship with St. John's South - Mount Pearl MP Loyola Hearn is enough to swing the balance past a general distrust of Stephen Harper: and so I predict this riding to go Liberal by a narrow margin.

(Bill Morrow, Liberal: 35-45%)

10002 Bonavista - Gander - Grand Falls - Windsor

Five candidates in the previous election but mostly a two-horse race, resulting in a fairly tight win by Liberal Scott Simms, who this time will be running against three new opponents. (No independent is registered to run this time.) The race this time is much less tight than it looks at first glance. Again two primary candidates, no major personal scandals or hatreds of either Simms or the Conservative candidate Aaron Hynes, social policy splits (eg. over gay marriage) will preach only to the already-converted without altering outcome, Gomery and oil balances out distrust of Stephen Harper: so the decision will end up being made on a personal level. Although he has generational roots in the area, Hynes, a commissioned officer and now six years in and around Ottawa, just is not a local anymore; while Simms comes across as a nice guy who seems happy to promote his home province.

(Scott Simms, Liberal: 45-55%)

10003 Humber - St. Barbe - Baie Verte

Solidly Liberal in the last election. Gerry Byrne is running for his fourth term against three other candidates, one other of whom is a repeater (Holly Pike, NDP). Byrne is not an initiator by nature, which also translates into not having created for himself any real opportunities to trip up. In fact, he seems to run into his greatest problems when he is required to express or explain policy for himself. His major fortune is that (despite the current cabinet title, a triumph of words over substance if ever I have seen it) he is and will remain a small fish in a small pond, a go-quietly who tries to toe the line without making waves. The Conservatives tried by nominating a strong local candidate, Cyril Jr. Pelley (for Byrne is very vulnerable in the "what have you actually done" department): but in these times, maybe better not much of anything than a possibly dangerous change, and maybe keeping oneself small is the best way to keep from being speared.

(Gerry Byrne, Liberal: 45-55%)

10004 Labrador

No independent running this time, so again the predictable four parties fielding the predictable four candidates. Everyone this time around is fairly new on the federal field, even Liberal incumbent Todd Russell, who had only just won his seat in a by-election seven months ago on the heels of the earliest growlings from Gomery ... but, unlike so many other newcomers, having inherited no political difficulties whatsoever from his predecessor Lawrence David O'Brien. (Perhaps such a clean slate is the kindest legacy any MP can bequeath to his or her successor. Deeds, not words, make the truest eulogies.) Nor has Russell given his constituency any reason to look elsewhere for a replacement. Even without the Bloc right on the doorstep and Paul Martin having fanned separatist flames, this riding would have certainly remained Liberal in any case.

(Paul Russell, Liberal: 45-50%)

10005 Random - Burin - St. George's

Another strong Liberal seat, contested by another multi-term Liberal incumbent, Bill Matthews. Even where he happens to be the bearer of unpopular federal news, personal responsibility for that news somehow seems not to cling to him. I almost feel like running this one through a photocopy machine: more of the same, another secure Liberal seat.

(Bill Matthews, Liberal: 45-55%)

10006 St. John's East (briefly "St. John's North" for a single election)
10007 St. John's South - Mount Pearl

Now we jump to the "odd man out" of the Newfoundland octet: especially the government and service sector of St. John's East, where unemployment is as low and average education and family income just about as high as it gets in Newfoundland. Here, what will be remembered is the close vote over the budget -- both St. John's MPs admitted strong pressure from their constituents to vote with the Liberals to keep the government from falling and the Atlantic Accord intact -- and (to a lesser extent) same sex marriage. That they voted against their party to support the budget and the Accord will win Norman Doyle and Loyola Hearn their respective seats, this election -- even had Siobhan Coady's own sponsorship link not already caused her own campaign to stumble right out of the gate. In Newfoundland, local loyalties outweigh party politics.

(Much the same pattern, in fact, as in rural southwestern Ontario: except that here it is the Tories that are elected and are expected to lean toward the Liberal policies; while in rural SW Ontario it is the Liberals that tend to be elected, and are expected to lean toward [libertarian] Tory policies. There is, however, a sharp difference in local expectations over the acceptability of rocking the boat.)

(Norman Doyle and Loyola Hearn, Conservative: 35-40%)

PREDICTION: Despite increasing dissatisfaction with federal rulings, 5 out of 7 ridings will remain Liberal; while 2 out of 7 will remain Tory. In other words, keep things the way they are, we have an Accord, don't rock the boat.

Running Total
Conservative: 2
Liberal: 5


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