A brave choice

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The trouting season opens Wednesday. A good opportunity, perhaps, for Peter Penashue to get out and reflect on his next move.

For now, he's done fishing for votes.

Liberal candidate Yvonne Jones handily beat the former Conservative cabinet minister to take the federal Labrador riding, sweeping up almost half the total vote.

The NDP's Harry Borlase placed a close third, while write-in Libertarian candidate Norman Andrews registered in the double digits.

This was a byelection born of controversy and rife with political twists and bizarre true confessions.

The latter came in the form of a remark Penashue made during the campaign in which he bragged about holding a Newfoundland project at ransom to extort provincial money for the Labrador highway.

Whether he was exaggerating or not was beside the point. The mere notion that such divisive politics would succeed in garnering extra votes left a bitter taste in the mouths of most people - though not, evidently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In another astonishing twist, Defence Minister Peter MacKay rode into town late in the game to assure voters that Penashue would be back in cabinet if he won.

This, supposedly, was great news for the province of Labrador. Not so much for the Newfoundland protectorate.

Harper's government has proven in recent years that bad ministerial behaviour rarely comes with consequences.

Thus, a minister who allows campaign spending violations to happen right under his nose, and who proudly betrays an entire region of his own province, is still a shoo-in for a portfolio.

It is to the credit of the majority of Labradorians that this behaviour was deemed unacceptable.

It's not every day they get a cabinet minister to themselves, and Penashue was certainly influential when it came to nickel-and-dime affairs in his district.

But on big ticket items - like pushing for better search-and-rescue service - Penashue was as useful as a hole in a parachute.

Pundits across Canada will scrutinize Monday's byelection.

They'll poke and prod it till they've exacted some broader implication for the country. They'll see it as a big boost for the charismatic Justin Trudeau. They'll see it as yet another sign of eroding support for Conservatives. Perhaps even a quelling of the NDP's promise of an orange wave.

In fact, it was primarily just quirky Labrador politics in action, and a rekindling of the region's long-standing love affair with Liberal members.

Jones will prove to be a vivid contrast to Penashue. She is loud and insistent, and an unabashed heckler.

But that won't translate into much in a Conservative universe.

This time, Labrador voted for principle over pragmatism.

Organizations: NDP

Geographic location: Labrador, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Rob
    May 15, 2013 - 16:57

    "Pierre Neary - May 14, 2013 at 18:21:41 Nothing wrong with having principles I say. Jones would have won without Trudeau but it doesn't hurt to have him behind you." The race would have been a lot tighter without it. I think an extra week or two and Jones might not have won - she was hemorrhaging support near the end of the campaign. I'm not against Yvonne or pro peter or Harry but I think a lot of people woke up the next morning wishing they weren't put in the position of having to vote for Yvonne. People know she will never be a minister and people know she will be loud but doesn't ever get anything for her ridings.

  • Pierre Neary
    May 14, 2013 - 16:51

    Nothing wrong with having principles I say. Jones would have won without Trudeau but it doesn't hurt to have him behind you.

  • Jay
    May 14, 2013 - 08:51

    I would hope that being a "loud, insistent, unabashed heckler" wouldn't translate into a Liberal or NDP universe either. If that's what we want from politicians, no wonder our concept of democracy is troubled