Battle lines drawn

Dave Bartlett
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Conservatives attract all-star candidates after 2008 shutout

Unlike in 2008, the Conservative Party of Canada seems to be having little trouble attracting star candidates to run in this province on May 2.

During the last federal election, the Anything But Conservative (ABC) campaign — started by former premier Danny Williams — helped shut out the Conservatives in this province.

But less than a week into this campaign, five of the seven ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador have a Conservative candidate in place, including two former provincial cabinet ministers, a former MP and a past Labrador Innu leader.

The Telegram asked Memorial University political science professor Alex Marland to discuss the Conservatives’ chances this time around.

The conversation focused on four ridings — Avalon, Labrador, Random-Burin-St. George’s and St. John’s South-Mount Pearl which are thought to be the most contentious battlegrounds.

Marland said the results of the ABC campaign were impressive and there may be quite a bit of anti-Conservative sentiment still lingering in the province.

“I’ve always said I would have been way more impressed if Danny Williams could have delivered seven Tory seats federally. And the reason I say that is because what he did (with ABC) was he really fed into an existing suspicion about the (Stephen) Harper Conservatives,” said Marland.

“So it’s not like everybody just necessarily went en masse with what Danny Williams was saying so much as Danny Williams was simply reaffirming what a lot of people already felt.”

He said people in the province seem to be softening towards Harper this time around, “but there’s a heck of a lot of people in Newfoundland and Labrador who still are unlikely to support the Harper Conservatives.”

But Marland suggested the big-name candidates carrying the governing party’s banner this time around shows the Conservatives’ chances of winning at least one seat in this province are better.

“Immediately it tells you that there’s a completely different situation than the last campaign,” he said.

“The one thing everybody seemed to be focused on (was) the results of the last campaign, that there were no Conservatives elected. But to me, what I looked at, is how the Conservatives — right from the beginning — just had the wind absolutely knocked out of them because they couldn’t even attract (a full slate of local) candidates the last time, and (two of three) incumbents didn’t run again.”

Avalon was the only riding that had a Conservative incumbent run in 2008, and Fabian Manning is back for more this time.

Two months after the last election, Harper appointed Manning to the Senate. But Manning announced Monday he’s trading his Senate seat for a rematch with Liberal Scott Andrews, who beat him by more than 3,000 votes three years ago.

NDP candidate Matt Fuchs will join them on the ballot.

Marland said it was both interesting and unusual for Manning to quit the Senate to run again.

“It definitely tells you the man is a politician,” he said. “He wants to be in the elected game.”

Historically, Marland said, Senate seats are given to people after they’ve bowed out of elected life. However, another current senator, Larry Smith of Quebec, will also run in this election and it’s not the first time that’s happened.

In 2008, former Quebec senator Michael Fortier left the upper house for an election bid and lost.

Manning suggested this week the ABC campaign was largely to blame for his defeat.

There will also be a rematch in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl where Liberal incumbent Siobhan Coady faces the NDP’s Ryan Cleary, who came within 1,000 votes of her in 2008.

But this time around, former provincial finance minister Loyola Sullivan will enter the mix for the Tories in what many feel will be the race to watch in this province.

Sullivan resigned as Canada’s fisheries ambassador Tuesday to enter the race.

“Incumbents definitely have an advantage,” said Marland, as they have won before, they usually have a team in place and they have a sustained presence in the news media before a campaign begins.

But Marland thinks the lack of an ABC campaign this time around will likely hurt Cleary more than anyone.

“My impression is a lot of Conservatives who couldn’t bring themselves to vote Liberal voted NDP, and this time those NDP votes ... might go Conservative,” he said.

He said many other Conservative loyalists simply stayed home on election day in 2008.

In Labrador, Liberal incumbent Todd Russell, the former president of the Labrador Metis Nation, will face Conservative Peter Penashue, both a former president and deputy grand chief of the Labrador Innu Nation.

The riding has voted Liberal since Confederation, except for in 1968.

Russell won the seat with 70 per cent of the vote last time around.

Random-Burin-St. George’s has also historically been a Liberal stronghold, with the Progressive Conservatives only winning two elections there since 1949. And Bill Matthews, one of the two Tories to claim the seat, eventually crossed the floor to join the Liberals and was later re-elected as a Grit.

Incumbent Liberal Judy Foote will have a familiar face running against her. Foote and her Conservative opponent, John Ottenheimer, are both former provincial cabinet ministers — in different governments — who were first elected as MHAs in 1996 and left provincial politics just before the 2007 election. Stella Magalios will carry the NDP banner this time around.

Marland said while no candidate is ever really safe in an election, the historical voting pattern can suggest how the election will play out in a riding.

“I don’t really get a sense of a mass ground swell of voter dissatisfaction that would suggest that people would be willing to turf out (either) incumbent,” he said.

“There has to be a reason for people to get angry to ... vote against a candidate.”

 

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Progressive Conservatives, ABC, NDP Conservative Party of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Canada

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Recent comments

  • dan d man
    April 05, 2011 - 02:27

    Ignatieff and Layton spent all of last year calling down the armed forces and accusing our soldiers of war crimes just to get some sicko politico points ....I will never vote for them after they accusations they brought against Rick Hillier ..calling him a liar and all that based on the testimony of some half whacked Afganee immigrant..

  • Docron
    April 02, 2011 - 12:10

    It took the 3 opposition parties 5 years to think of a way to defeat the Tories, by having the majority of members on the committe that recommended a comtempt vote, one would have to be a brain dead Liberal not to think it was only a matter of time for this vote to come. If you want to see unemployment wait until you have a Liberal or NDP Government, employers will be moving jobs south like they did under the last Liberal government.

  • Laura
    April 02, 2011 - 11:55

    What's this about all star canadiates. They are all recycleables. They are suppose to be melted down, and turned into something else.

  • libsforprez
    March 31, 2011 - 10:14

    i don't think NL'ers are ignorant enough to elect any CONservatives. I would be embarrassed to live in a riding where I was represented by a lying, contemptuous Con. Education, health care and pensions over prisons and jets thank you very much.

  • Harper is a scum bag
    March 31, 2011 - 10:10

    I doesn't take a scholar to figure out why Fabian Manning gave up over $100,000 a year salary until he turns 75 to run in the election. He got the plum job as senator on the condition that he would resign and run for the Harper Tories in the next election. It just shows what kind of a flunkie he is for Harper. He turned his back on Newfoundland before and he'll do it again, heaven forbid if Harper wins a majority. You have been warned.

  • Townie
    March 31, 2011 - 10:06

    "The fact that Fabian quit his senate job doesn't tell me that he is a politician, it tells me that he is an arrogant moron." Is there a difference? ;)

  • Justin
    March 31, 2011 - 10:02

    What I don't get is why Harper is running again. According to Parliamentary law, being found guilty of contempt of Government means he's barred from running again. Have a look at this article, and it might shed some like on it. http://presscore.ca/2011/?p=1980 Methinks I need to pull a page from the Mackenzies..."We're gettin' hosed!"

  • Red
    March 31, 2011 - 09:39

    The fact that Fabian quit his senate job doesn't tell me that he is a politician, it tells me that he is an arrogant moron.

  • Keith
    March 31, 2011 - 09:36

    They are coming out of the woodwork like ants trying to feed off the public purse again. A number of these people had plum appointments given to them when they left politics and I guess they have enough time put into their new positions to collect some sort of pension, so they can now come back to politics again. Fair weather politicians. I guess we will even see Ed Byrne show his face again. None of them are to be trusted to do good for anyone but themselves and their cronies

  • Scott Free
    March 31, 2011 - 09:32

    What is truly sad and pathetic here is the spineless jellyfish provincial cabinet ministers and the dyed in the wool Tories who are coming out now to support re-treads now that King Danny is out of the picture. The sheep couldn't think for themselves last time around and had to follow the dictator's directive to stay home. I don't want any of those ministers of the clown making any decisions for me whatsoever; we have an opportunity to toss them all out this year; let's do it. That goes for Federal and Provincial elections; let's have a new ABC: Anybody But Current...and no recycled deadwood please.

  • james
    March 31, 2011 - 09:24

    people are confused they have no one to tell them how to vote, o danny boy where are you, o my what to do

  • anything but harper
    March 31, 2011 - 08:53

    my sentiments exactly chantal. how anyone could look at his expression and know the things he has done against atlantic canada and still vote for him is beyond me. id rather vote for bart simpson

  • David
    March 31, 2011 - 08:41

    The conservatives will definitely win one seat in NL, perhaps two with some luck, but that would be about it. NL has historically voted Liberal in federal elections and I don't see that changing this time around.

  • Chantal
    March 31, 2011 - 07:59

    I didn't need Danny to tell me not to vote Conservative any more than I needed him to tell me not to put my tongue in a light socket. The only difference this time around is that we KNOW the levels Harper will sink to to retain his grip on power as well as his contempt for the Canadian public. You would have to be pretty high on tar sand fumes to even give this wesal a second glance.

  • Politically Incorrect
    March 31, 2011 - 07:46

    The Conservatives didn’t lose their seats because of Williams, they lost them because Newfoundlanders knew that it is not in our interests to elect the Reform Party Lite. This isn’t the Conservative Party of Joe Clark or Robert Stanfield, this is closer to the Republican party of George Bush and Sarah Palin. Personally, I’m not surprised that former Progressive Conservatives are hesitant to associate themselves with this crowd. Those that have are either hard-core right-wingers or opportunists who will just rot away in the back benches while Harper goes ahead with tax cuts to the wealthy and cut backs for the rest of us.

  • Laura
    March 31, 2011 - 07:00

    Seems like Canadians especially Newfoundlanders have a short memory. They also thrive on crockedness. Harper and his gov. and some of the provincial members are, should I say not so straight. (all parties) yet they are eager to get them around us. No wonder Danny left, He didn't have a lot of intelegance around him. Canada is becomming more like the USA every day. If we get more like them we will be sorry.