Last night we saw what should be the last provincial election before the Fall general election take place in Newfoundland and Labrador. The eyes of many political watchers were on the province as voters there went to the polls, with polls showing a tight race. And the night didn’t disappoint, with a result that seemed very fitting for 2019 and the current political environment:
Wow, that’s an amazing result folks with quite the reactions from everyone. For the Ball Liberals, they will get a chance to form a minority government as they fell one seat shy of a majority (I’ll come back to that in a bit). The Crosbie PC’s improved their result from the last campaign, but did fall short of getting the 21 seats needed to form a majority. But what was most striking about the night was Crosbie’s reaction and speech after the votes came in. Not only did he refuse to concede the election when it was clear that he wouldn’t get more seats then the Liberals, he decided to take shots at the Lieutenant Governor of the Province, Judy Foote. Not only was that attack a low one, it’s one that made such little sense in my eyes as the result here made this whole thing very clear. The Liberals having fallen just shy of getting the majority and with the PC’s five seats behind them, it made sense that the Liberals would not only get the first crack to form a government but their path to doing so would be much easier. So Crosbie’s reaction, where he basically declared war on the Ball Liberals, not only came off as petulant but he sounded like a very sore loser, something that many other commentators have pointed out.
The big surprise of the night came from the New Democrats of Allison Coffin. Going into this race the NL NDP was in a bad spot; after a sudden leadership change and infighting that came with it, and a sudden drop of the writ, the party only managed to field 14 candidates in the provinces 40 ridings. That was a major set back, one that many (myself included) thought would lead to a very bad night for the Orange Team on the Rock. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. Not only did the NDP hold the two seats they held previously with two new candidates (Coffin and Jim Dinn), they pulled a stunning upset in Labrador West with Jordan Brown knocking off Liberal incumbent Graham Letto. But it wasn’t just the win itself that shocked, but the margin:
5 votes people. 5 votes total gave the NDP that seat. And while there were many other close races in the province, you can argue that 5 votes in Labrador West kept the Ball Liberals from getting their majority. Yes there were two independents who won, but they are both long standing figures in Newfoundland politics so their win was much more expected than Brown’s in Labrador West. So, add this result to the long list of examples of every single vote counting and matter.
Going forward though there promises to be a lot more drama to come out of the House of Assembly in St. John’s and while this situation seems to be very fractious and partisan right now, I actually think this minority government stands a decent chance of lasting longer than most. The main reason for that is the simple math: the Liberals only need to find one Opposition member to become the Speaker of the House of Assembly to assure their agenda can pass. Despite their histories and different comments after their wins, I would naturally peg one of the Independents who won to be the most natural choices to take the Speakers chair. But will one of them? That remains a seriously open question.
If it isn’t one of them, don’t be shocked to see a member of the PC caucus cross the floor or take the Speakers chair. Newfoundland and Labrador in recent years has seen many examples of MHA’s crossing floors from Opposition to Government, Government to Opposition, from Party to Party. So if there is any place where this is mostly likely to happen, Newfoundland and Labrador is at the top of that list.
But regardless of what happens there, last nights results gave a lot more drama than we might have expected. For the Federal Liberals, they maintain another provincial partner, which they desperately need. For the Federal Conservatives, the stronger showing in the province should make the Blue Team feel better although it is a bit of a letdown from not actually forming government. For the Federal New Democrats, somehow this rough situation turned into a gain, holding two seats in St. John’s while grabbing a new toehold in Labrador. With rumours circulating that veteran Jack Harris might try to win back his old seat in St. John’s in the next Federal election, seeing the NDP continue to do well in these hard circumstances must surely put some wind in his sails.
And with that another piece in the Canadian electoral picture is in place. Unless a snap election is sprung on Manitoba, the table seems to be set for the Fall election. Now we have five months to look ahead and read more tea leaves, but if anything can be said for the Canadian political scene today, it’s far from being boring.