Heads to the polls
Today is election day in Newfoundland and Labrador and The Telegram is encouraging all eligible voters to get out and mark their X.
At the time of the election call, the Progressive Conservative Party held a huge majority in the House of Assembly, 43 of the 48 seats. The Liberals had four seats and the NDP one.
Select group of women
Premier Kathy Dunderdale hopes to be among a small group of women to be elected
as premier of a Canadian province, after taking over the job from former premier Danny Williams last December.
The governing Tories are trying to hold on to power after eight years and ran a safe campaign on the government’s record of economic prosperity, buoyed by offshore oil revenues and renewed infrastructure spending.
Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward — who only took over that party’s helm from a recuperating Yvonne Jones in August — ran on a platform centred on help for the fishery and rural parts of the province as well as the intention to scrap the government’s current plan to develop Muskrat Falls, the first phase of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.
Aylward has said the election amounts to a referendum on the project.
Aylward continues to hold out hope for a rebirth of his party which was decimated in the 2007 election, and reduced to three seats. The Liberals did win an extra seat — The Straits-White Bay North — in a byelection in Oct. 2009.
Had Yvonne Jones been well enough and remained at the reins of the Liberals, this election would have been the first in Canadian history where all party leaders, and potential premiers, were woman.
The NDP have seen its star rise in the last year, with the party’s federal cousin forming the official opposition in Ottawa. The provincial NDP feel confident they can eclipse the Liberals this time around.
While the other leaders crisscrossed the province in buses, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael spent much of the campaign in the St. John’s area with day trips to the west coast, the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas, Labrador and, this weekend, to central Newfoundland.
One big factor on the outcome of today’s election will be how many people actually cast a ballot.
In the last provincial election, voter turn out was just over 60 per cent.
However, if advance polling numbers are any indication that could go up this time around.
In 2007, 7,553 people voted in advanced polls. But that number almost doubled in the 2011 advanced polls with 15,199 people voting ahead of election day.
Alex Marland teaches political science at Memorial University.
“A lot of people look at (voter turnout) as an indicator of the strength of democracy, the competition of choices, so as a measure it’s important,” he told The Telegram.
But he said the importance of voter turn out to political parties depends on if you are trying to hold on to power, or overthrow the existing government.
“The lower turn out is, the better it is for the Progressive Conservatives because it probably suggests that there’s not this groundswell of anger or frustration or desire for change,” said Marland.
He said voter turnout usually goes up if the outcome of the election is in doubt, competition for who people feel will form the government is fierce or if people feel how they votes will matter.
But that’s not always the case. Last week, Ontario held its provincial election which was considered to be too close to call, with a minority government likely.
However, voter turnout in Canada’s largest province hit an all-time low with fewer than 50 per cent of people casting ballots.
Polls will be open at 8 a.m. — 7:30 a.m. in parts of Labrador — and remain open for 12 hours.