Third-place NDP admits the past still affecting party
By Josh Pennell and Russell Cochrane
It was a tight race between Liberal Cathy Bennett and PC Danny Breen Wednesday as the seat of former premier Kathy Dunderdale went up for grabs in the Virginia Waters byelection, but the Liberals took the formerly PC district.
© — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
PC candidate Danny Breen speaks to his campaign workers and supporters at his headquarters on Torbay Road Wednesday night after he was defeated by Liberal Cathy Bennett in the Virginia Waters byelection.
The final numbers gave Bennett 1,932 votes, Danny Breen 1,892 and the NDP’s Sheilagh O’Leary 1,021.
“There has never been a more humbling moment in my life,” Breen said at his headquarters after the results were in. “The people of Virginia Waters have spoken clearly here tonight and, trust me, we were listening.”
Despite the closeness of the numbers between Breen and Bennett — just 40 votes — part of his speech addressed how a connection needs to be remade with the voters.
“A loss this evening is an indication that much work needs to be done to gain back the trust of the voters in this area,” Breen said.
If Breen was viewing it as a sign this was the case, other PCs at his headquarters seemed to have another take on the day’s results.
Premier Tom Marshall, who arrived with Breen, saw it as turning the tide back in the PCs’ direction after a serious period of dropping in popularity under Dunderdale.
“We’re back in the game,” Marshall said. “Look where we were in the polls. We’re back.”
Former premier Danny Williams, who went campaigning with Breen, seemed to agree. He arrived before Breen with much gusto and optimism, and to echoing applause of those in the room.
“Danny Breen, who is an outstanding candidate, pulled this to a draw tonight. Next time around we’ll bury them,” Williams said. “I’m very proud to be a Conservative tonight, let me tell you.”
Things were a little quieter at NDP headquarters.
“Well, obviously, it’s not the result that we wanted, but we ran a fantastic campaign and this campaign for us is an extremely important time because, as a party, we had all kinds of energy during the campaign,” NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said.
Michael didn’t shy away from admitting that the dealings in October that saw several members of her party cross the floor had an effect on the NDP, which seemed not so long ago to have the most momentum of the three parties.
“There is absolutely no doubt that we are still bearing the brunt of what happened in October. I can’t deny that,” she said.
O’Leary, too, commented on the past and how it has affected the party.
“We know that we have taken a hit,” she said. “Obviously the first reaction is disappointment, but, you know what? I have to say, honestly, it has been a phenomenal experience.”
Like Breen, O’Leary commended the team that worked with her and said she wasn’t walking away devastated. Disappointed, certainly, but not beaten down.
Breen made no mention of a recount, despite the small number of votes separating him and Bennett. He will return to his position as a St. John’s councillor. As for whether either he or O’Leary will run again in the provincial general election next year, neither would confirm or deny another run.