Democracy the winner

Barb
Barb Sweet
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The political makeup of Newfoundland and Labrador after the 2011 Provincial Election. Blue districts are Progressive Conservative, red districts are Liberal and yellow districts are New Democratic Party. — Photos courtesy of ESRI Canada

The Liberals held on to Opposition as predicted and the NDP scored second-highest in popular vote, pollster Don Mills noted Wednesday.

“That’s exactly what happened,” the Corporate Research Associates president and CEO said, referring to projections in a poll done exclusively for The Telegram which predicted a solid Progressive Conservative  win and a tight race for second place between the NDP and Liberals.

The PCs finished with 37 seats.The NDP finished with five seats and the Liberals got six seats, retaining official Opposition. The split in 2007 was 43 PC, four Liberal and one NDP.

But the unofficial count has the NDP with 24.6 per cent of the total vote, ahead of the Liberals with 19.1 per cent. The Progressive Conservatives finished with 56.1 per cent of the vote. Turnout was 57.7 per cent of the eligible votes cast.

Memorial University political scientist Alex Marland said it may sound corny, but the real winner Tuesday night was democracy, as two parties will be holding the government to account.

“The system was begging for a level of scrutiny,” Marland told The Telegram Wednesday.

Marland also said Tory Premier Kathy Dunderdale now has her own mandate, which means she doesn’t have quite the shadow from popular ex-premier Danny Williams. In fact Marland said she had a impressive showing, compared to Williams’ first time out.

In 2007, then Tory leader Williams became premier elect with 34 seats to the Liberals’ 12 and the NDP’s two.

Marland said the biggest surprise Tuesday was the Liberal result and he said it shows the Liberal brand is still resilient in the province, but added it will be hard for Kevin Aylward to overcome as a leader with no seat in the House. Marland said he wasn’t sure going into the election that the NDP would gain official Opposition, and wondered how much of the success can be attributed to the phenomena of late NDP leader Jack Layton’s popularity.

Federal St. John’s East NDP MP Jack Harris, a former longtime provincial leader, said he was proud of his party Tuesday night. The party took three seats from PC incumbents — including cabinet minister Shawn Skinner — in St. John’s, re-elected Leader Lorraine Michael and gained Chris Mitchelmore in The Straits-White Bay North over the Liberals.

“It was the coming of age of the NDP in the province with a substantial leap forward,” he said, adding the party’s newfound success is consistent with the rise of the party federally, where it is now the official Opposition.

Harris, who once sat solo in the House of Assembly, and also now has a fellow NDPer from the province federally — Ryan Cleary in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl after Layton brought the party to new heights nationally.

“You dream about these things in the 1990s. It was not a great time for the NDP provincially or federally. In 1993, we sunk below party status in the House of Commons,” Harris said.

Harris said he doesn’t buy Dunderdale’s excuse it isn’t practical to open the legislature for a fall sitting because legislation can’t be readied, noting Dunderdale is not taking over from a different government — she’s been premier for almost a year.

And he said the federal House of Commons was back in session a month after the election.

He said there are new faces anxious to bring a new voice to the House of Assembly.

And Harris noted once it does sit, the House will be much more interesting.

“Democracy is not healthy with a big imbalance. It makes the government lazy and gives government backbenchers nothing to do,” Harris said.

The Liberals must start rebuilding from the district level up, says a former longtime Liberal.

Beaton Tulk, who was interim premier after Brian Tobin stepped down in 2000, said he helped recruit candidates for Aylward.

 Organization from the grassroots is key to rebuilding the party, Tulk said Wednesday.

But given the circumstances, Tulk said Aylward did as well as he could, having taken over the party in August when Yvonne Jones stepped down due to health concerns.

Tulk said there is a lot of work to do, but Tuesday night’s showing augers well for the future.

“Contrary to popular belief, the Liberals are alive and well,” Tulk said.

Former Bellevue Liberal MHA Percy Barrett acknowledged Dunderdale and said it’s nice to see a woman elected premier, regardless of what party she is from. “Too bad there were not more women elected to the House of Assembly,” said Barrett, who declined to seek re-election in 2007. (He was named in the MHA overspending reports by former auditor general John Noseworthy but not charged and repaid his excess cash.)

Barrett fund-raised for failed candidate Pamela Pardy-Ghent in his former riding, but acknowledged the popularity of returning Tory incumbent Calvin Peach and said a lot of his longtime key supporters backed Peach.

As for the Opposition party split, Barrett said it should be interesting times in the House of Assembly.

“Politics have changed,” he said, referring to the strength of all three parties. “There may come a time in politics — although I may not be around to see it — where we may have a minority government. Our forefathers never thought that would happen.”

 

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: NDP, Corporate Research Associates, Tory House of Commons House of Assembly.And Harris

Geographic location: Don Mills, The Straits-White Bay North

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Recent comments

  • Tony Young
    October 13, 2011 - 23:45

    MB had its provincial election the week before your's and again a majority government was won by the NDP. Our province has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. Our province has one of the fastest growing populations in Canada. And Our province has a bright future. None of which NL can boast. Far too many MHA's in NL, 48 compared to our 57 MLA's in MB with 1.3 million population and the area of MB is over 200,000 square kms larger than NL. My fellow NL'ers love to waste money, I bet if you had the number of districts you should have which would be 24 max, your payroll and benefits to govern your small dropping population would save 1/2 a billion per year. Money that could be wisely put into your terrible health care, education and maybe to attract some actual industry to the dieing province. I left NL 30 years ago and made MB my home. I can't like most of us who left well ever return to live. I have never seen a more poorly run province. You can't have a domocracy with a dictatorship like NL has had for the past 10 years. Mankitoba's Legislature returns to the table early November, obviously the elected government of NL, does not like to work and has no issues. Well inside Sin Jon's there might be very little to fix. Just keep pouring more and more into that area. Let rural NL swim.

  • Garth Staples
    October 13, 2011 - 18:32

    What a pile of crock from the Prof in the Ivory Tower. The PC's are part of the the democractic sytsem too. The largest part by far. Stop mollycoddling to the Lieberal Party.

  • stephen
    October 13, 2011 - 17:11

    Those sour grapes must taste bad today liberals.HAHAHAHAHAHAHA:::::

  • Edward Sawdon
    October 13, 2011 - 15:21

    You say Democracy is a winner? I beg to differ. How could it be democracy when about 19% of the eligible voters provincewide were able to keep the Liberals as the official opposition when the provincial New Democrats are plced third inspite of the fact, the NDP received 24% of the popular vote. Shouldn't the NDP be the official opposition? Would the LIberals be the offical opposition if Newfoundland & Labrador had "Proportional Representation?" As for Ms. Dunderdale, she should call all the newly elected MHA's to the House within a months time! Why should they wait till next spring? Is she afraid the opposition will gain support against her Muscrat Falls Project?

  • Cyril Rogers
    October 13, 2011 - 14:44

    Sorry, Professor Marland, democracy did not win in this election! Far from it! Consider this: we had the lowest turnout in our history, we saw the PC's grab 77% of the seats and get only 56% of the actual votes. In terms of total eligible voters, the PC's garnered the support of roughly 30%---that means ONLY 3 out of every 10 voters, supported the PC's. That, to me, is unconscionable, no matter which party gets that kind of result. We need electoral reform in a big way and we need to find ways to have more people engaged in the actual process. Any time a party wins a large majority of seats with such small returns, we need to question ourselves and the notion that democraccy is alive and well!

    • conversely
      October 14, 2011 - 09:35

      Lets apply some more of your math and we can say that only 25% of eligible voters voted against the PCs, that less than 3 out every 10 voters opposed the PCs. Well, using your logic, the PCs should have all but 25% of the seats. Your logic is seriously flawed because it's based on the wild assumption that the people who didn't vote would somehow have voted differently than those that did. We need something more than electoral reform. Turnout is on the decline because more people are becoming aware that there's no difference between the parties once they're elected.

  • roy
    October 13, 2011 - 13:20

    I argee with Tulk, that the liberal party must build from the grass roots up, not from old hay, they are still under the influence of the old Smallwood clan, the Rowes, Roberts, Tulks, Effords,Callahans etc. those who were elected because Smallwood told the people to elect them or else. Give them some say but very little , some guidence is good, but my way or no way is bad ,let the younger people take the party to the top, Stop bringing back has beens, these people have to let go, the world is changing.

  • Only problem is
    October 13, 2011 - 11:48

    Only problem is Scott is assuming that the only place of 'work' for MHA's is in the house - not true. In fact, it was routine to hear people during the election complaining they never see their MHA. One person even suggested that they should be required to spend a minimum number of days in their district. No matter what, someone will always complain.

  • Russell
    October 13, 2011 - 10:33

    "Turnout was 57.7 per cent of the eligible votes cast." Shouldn't that be "57.7 per cent of eligible voters?"

  • Derrick
    October 13, 2011 - 10:16

    Scott Free....you are correct and further to that, do we need 48 MHA's in this tiny populated province? I think 24 would be sufficient.

  • Kent
    October 13, 2011 - 10:04

    I agree with Scott Free!!!

  • Bill
    October 13, 2011 - 09:32

    Memorial University political scientist Alex Marland said it may sound corny, but the real winner Tuesday night was democracy, as two parties will be holding the government to account. Sorry Mr. Marland, there will be little holding of Government to account as the Premier said yesterday that there is no need to open the House until the spring and then today said she doesn't think the debate in the House is that constructive. Democracy has been lost as we have an arrogant Premier who doesn't really believe in the basic principles of democracy.

  • Scott Free
    October 13, 2011 - 08:17

    How's this for democracy...none of the 48 elected MHAs receive a cent of salary or benefits until the House opens; bet you they'll show up for work by Monday. In the real world, when people apply for jobs and get them, they go on the payroll when they start work; not when they are hired. I could apply for a job today, get hired tomorrow, but not start until, say...next spring; my new employer will put me on the payroll then, not now. Stop with the arrogance Premier Dunderdale, and serve the people who elected you to represent them and are paying your way; be accountable to the electorate and earn your pay.

    • Carl
      October 13, 2011 - 15:07

      @Scott Free: Your suggestion only makes sense if you assume (wrongly) that MHAs only work when they're in the House. They have district offices too, and handle case work for constituents when the House is not sitting. If you find that your MHA is neither in the House nor in his or her district office, then and only then do you have a right to complain.