There's change in the wind

Randy Simms
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The Liberals won a big one in Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair this week. Or did they?

The party had been languishing in third place for a long time and only recent polls show any kind of change. Some people would say that change has been driven more by dissatisfaction with the governing Tories than anything good coming from the Libs.

So, was it really a big win? Certainly Liberal candidate Lisa Dempster thinks so. It was her first foray into partisan politics and her numbers were solid. She beat both the  NDP and Tory candidates handily, winning 54 per cent of the vote,  compared to 33 per cent for Jason Spingle and 13 per cent for Dennis Normore, respectively.

Current Liberal Leader Dwight Ball must consider it a big win as well. He’s running for the top job in the party and wants this victory viewed as a positive outcome for him and his quiet leadership style. He may be hoping that Liberals will see the party’s new standing in the polls and the byelection victory as reasons not to change horses midstream.

People outside the Liberal Party may be seeing this as a big win as well — folks like Dean MacDonald and businesswoman Cathy Bennett, both rumoured to be interested in the Liberals’ top job. Bennett would be a surprise candidate and MacDonald, who dropped the idea of running earlier in the year, would raise eyebrows if he suddenly returned to the race.

The Liberals’ fortunes appear to be turning around and that makes the prospect of being leader a lot more attractive than it was. The nominations close July 5 and it  could turn into an interesting race.

But did the win in Cartwright L’Anse au Clair have anything to do with it?

It’s hard to argue the byelection victory was a big one. If anything, it went as anticipated. The Liberals have held the seat since Confederation and no one has been able to shift political allegiances there, not even the mighty Danny Williams.

For Dempster it was a big win, but for the party? Not so much. There were no real surprises, except perhaps for the NDP vote, which rose dramatically from the almost always dismal results of past elections.

Its unusual to see two parties claim victory in a byelection, but the Liberals and the NDP are doing just that. Spingle tallied up 703 votes, an unheard of level of support for the NDP in the district. In the general election of 2011, the party got 44 votes. Spingle is calling it a “moral victory” for his party. NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, while not claiming it as a win, has to see it as a harbinger of things to come. Her message to rank-and-file New Democrats will be the same as Ball’s message to the Liberals. “Let’s not change a thing!”

The one group downplaying the byelection is the Progressive Conservative party. Premier Kathy Dunderdale expressed no surprise at the outcome and pointed to dissatisfaction with the  budget for her party’s dismal showing.

“Some difficult decisions were made, and while those decisions were the best ones for the future of the province, we recognize that until people see the full positive effect of these efforts, people will express their discontent,” she said.

The premier’s comments were surprising. The government is saying that the decisions they’ve made are making them unpopular, which is true, but that it will all change when people see the “full positive effect” of those decisions. And just when will that be?

Doing the things people don’t want done and claiming some moral high ground to justify it, and then hoping that everyone will suddenly come to their senses at some point and agree with you, is a high-risk strategy. Discontented people have a tendency to cast off the symbols of their discontent, and unlike her colleagues in the other parties, the premier can’t simply say to her troops, “Let’s not change a thing.”


Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at

Twitter: @RandyRsimms

Organizations: NDP, Tory, Liberal Party

Geographic location: Cartwright

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Recent comments

  • Enough is enough, we have to stand up and take control.
    July 01, 2013 - 12:20

    Stephen Redgrave you hit the nail right on the head with your comments. I will add that if both the Governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa had set out from the beginning to develop a viable economy in the province from Newfoundland and Labrador's own coveted and superfluous natural resource base, along with its great location, the economies would have been built in Newfoundland and Labrador first and foremost and the immigrants would have had to come here. But the development of our raw natural resources were backwards and some of the other provinces of Canada, under the auspices of Ottawa received our raw natural resources, therefore the vibrant economies from them and the resulting immigrant population that were accepted into Canada in the Millions to work the factories and farms that were built on Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources were systematically congregated into cities that were selected and hand picked by Ottawa, so now it is impossible to get the immigrants to come here since they want to be around their own vibrant communities full of their own kinfolk. Nothing will change until Newfoundlanders and Labradorians stand up firm and tall and say to Ottawa, enough is enough. we want to change the way our natural resource base and location are utilized in Canada. The economies have to built on our natural resources right here or they will not be extracted from the ground or the water. We have to take control of our own economic destiny.

  • Stephen D Redgrave
    July 01, 2013 - 07:49

    It is true, kathy Dunderdale has little or no chance of re election. It is sad to hear her blaming her last budget for her popularity, or lack of. Newfoundlanders are intelligent people who absolutely do have the ability to look into the future based on current policy. What do we see? Nothing for the average family except higher wages and bigger homes for the select few working in the energy industry. Sure, immigrants come, they look around for a few years , and say "I'm out of here". Most have nothing to do with drilling at sea or fracture drilling our National parks , so why bother staying? People want to live and work in their own communities, not at some distant location run by a foriegn country. I would never want to see my sons or daughters risking their life everytime they set foot on an aging helicopter to take them to work. I do not stand alone in this opinion. All the home building in the world does not make a community. We will be nothing more than a 'people farm' for high risk labour.

  • wto
    June 29, 2013 - 07:37

    You say the Liberals have held the seat since Confederation. Didn't Yvonne Jones get elected first as a Independent ?

    • Yeah
      June 29, 2013 - 19:03

      Yes and no. If I recall correctly, she did get elected as an independent but only after she lost the Liberal nomination for the riding.