It wasn’t enough to overtake the Liberals for official Opposition status, but Tuesday’s election was still historic for the provincial New Democrats.
The NDP captured five seats — three more than it has ever held at one time and only one shy of the Liberals. Speaking to a large ballroom full of supporters at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s, Leader Lorraine Michael told her supporters it was reason to celebrate.
Click here to compare 2007 and 2011 provincial election results through this interactive map developed by ESRI Canada.
“This is an amazing night folks,” Michael said. “We have never won so many seats. ... It’s a truly historic evening.”
Michael was re-elected in the district of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi and will be joined in the House of Assembly by Gerry Rogers, St. John’s Centre; Dale Kirby, St. John’s North; George Murphy, St. John’s East and Christopher Mitchelmore in The Straits-White Bay North.
“I’m just very excited about the whole team. I’m just so pleased with the four people who’ve (also) been elected,” Michael said shortly after inviting all the NDP candidates in the room, both winners and losers, to join her on the stage. “We had a strong message that resonated with voters. When we said ‘it’s time’ voters of this province agreed and they voted us in with record numbers.”
The NDP actually topped the Liberals in percentage of the popular vote, garnering 24.6 per cent to the Liberals’ 19.1.
The party also came second in 23 other seats.
One of the party’s candidates, Julie Mitchell, came within 40 votes of unseating Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman in Burin-Placentia West.
After her speech, Michael spoke to reporters and admitted she was a little disappointed the party came up short on opposition status.
“No matter what the polls said, I ... knew there would be more than me (heading to the House.) I didn’t know how many. I never ever said we would be (the official opposition),” she said. “I would have loved to be the (leader of) the official opposition, but we are where we are and we’re going to make the most of it.”
Michael said with her lone voice in the House she was able to lobby for change, like the removal of the provincial portion of the HST on home heating.
She said with the bolstered numbers, the NDP would be a louder and stronger voice.
Michael also said she can now spread the political workload around and noted the NDP will be a real caucus, not just her and her political staff.
The NDP leader was also happy to note that two of the five New Democrats elected Tuesday were woman.
But for all the joy, there was some sadness as well.
Michael noted the recent death of former party president and long-time labour activist Nancy Riche
“We are still in shock that Nancy Riche was taken from us during this campaign,” she said before calling Riche a “leader, an inspiration, a tireless worker and a great friend to many of us.”
“I know that if Nancy were here with us tonight she would be celebrating harder than anyone else, wearing her orange shoes,” added Michael.
She also noted the death of former federal party leader Jack Layton in August, saying he would have been the first to call to congratulate the party on its gains.
Before the party faithful began to pat themselves on the back and celebrate a job well done, Michael reminded them the next election campaign begins immediately.
“Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we continue the planning and building that we have begun,” Michael said. “In four years, I know that we will celebrate another historic victory. Of that I am sure.”