The Canadian Imagination

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

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Newfoundland overview

All but one riding here stayed the same colour it had been, St. John's Conservative, much of the rest of Newfoundland Liberal: but in every case the Liberal vote fell sharply, even to the point of threatening a change in a second riding. Throughout this series of entries, I focus entirely on the changes and specific messages.

While Bill Matthews would be wise to heed the message sent by the people of Random - Burin - St. Georges, his is no longer the influence of the governing party. I suspect the only reason he was re-elected at all -- by 5%, the smallest margin in the province -- is that in Newfoundland the choices tend to be between Conservative and Liberal, and some might have realised the Conservatives would be likely to be even less sympathetic to the specific circumstances of an illegal immigration case. However, no longer being a member of the governing party, but being in a strong minority position, might actually make it marginally easier for Matthews to bring influence to bear in this case. While I don't agree that mandatory military service by itself is a sufficiently strong reason to seek what at this point has become effectively a refugee claim, I acknowledge that by all accounts the immigrants in question are significant assets to the community -- to the point that, even though none of the Portnoys has a vote, the community as a whole has tried to speak on their behalf -- and is that not exactly the kind of people we in Canada claim to want? Surely we can grandfather a bending of the strict Law for those already long enough established in Canada to have established a successful (legal) business and have borne children?

Avalon was the upset here but not really so much of one: former Liberal MP John Efford left behind neither a solid foundation nor much of his personal baggage; and while Bill Morrow, running for the Liberals, was seen as a nice guy, a rumour was going around that he was also from the mainland. (He did not deny, and I am not in a position to confirm.) Fabian Manning, on the other hand, had previously established himself in the provincial parliament (once, but once is all it takes to establish the image) as an independent thinker willing to stand against his own party to represent the people of his constitution in speaking out against crab production quotas for processors, which edged voters over the general uneasiness over Martin:
Do you really think that with the likes of Loyola Hearn, Norman Doyle, and Fabian Manning, to mention a few, Mr. Harper will be allowed to ruin Newfoundland and Labrador?
- DM
I had thought maybe the Liberal tradition, together with the Williams-Martin oil accord, might be enough to pull this one through: but ultimately it turned out that people here chose to vote for an individual person but against the Liberals: and (vs. Manning's personal popularity) the "against the Liberals" vote was stronger than the non-incumbent Morrow could overcome on a personal basis. In fact, more than one Avalon resident commented that while Morrow seemed a nice enough person, he belonged to the wrong party.

This result set the trend for subsequent results all the way across Canada: this election was about individual people where they were known and trusted, against against one party (and sometimes two!) where they were relative unknowns. Only in Conservative Alberta would I venture to guess that voters voted for (rather than against) a party: and even there, this time, it was Harper specifically who drew the votes for the sweep.

What I don't know is how this continuing out-migration of Newfoundlanders to Alberta (Fort McMurray and other oiltowns) will affect the results in future elections. Newfoundlanders are understandably frustrated over the state of fishery and ACOA management (echoed elsewhere in grassroots agriculture issues) and over the lack of employment in the oil industry off their own shores. One way of thinking suggests that wealth coming in by way of Alberta will gradually nudge Newfoundland to a more Conservative line; the other, that Newfoundlanders will hold all the more strongly to what keeps them distinct ... and that against the Alberta shadow, these values will shift ever more strongly toward a Newfoundland=Liberal identification on a parallel with the long-time Alberta=Conservative equation. My opinion is that it will be the latter.

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