Liberal leader facing another tough challenge from well-known Twillingate resident
He may not have a target on his chest, but Gerry Reid knows hes being hunted.
The Liberal leader has been a vocal critic of Premier Danny Williams and the governing Tories since they came to power in 2003, and is said to be in the sights of the PC partys campaign machine for the Oct. 9 fixed date general election.
With public opinion polls predicting a landslide for Williams and his party, some are openly questioning whether Reid will also fall prey, and are suggesting that the district of The Isles of Notre Dame (formerly Twillingate and Fogo) will be the race to watch.
One of those is Harry Cooper of Twillingate, a former mayor, town councillor and fire chief.
The 76-year-old is a retired businessman and an admitted Liberal supporter for most of his life.
That support faltered in 2003, however, and this time around hes solidly behind the PC candidate, Derrick Dalley.
Most people think the PCs are going back in again. If youre on the opposition side of the government, you dont get very much in your district. We proved that over the years when we were 17 years on the opposition side of the PC government, Cooper said Thursday during a telephone interview.
He said many people in his circles are also sensing change, and will likely vote for Dalley.
We think hes a viable candidate, Cooper said. Hes well-educated, and Derrick has got cabinet potential.
Nonsense, countered Calla Guy, the mayor of Twillingate and vice-chairman of the districts Liberal association.
This is a strong Liberal district and I think it will remain that way, she said.
The straight-talking mayor said there will be plenty of mudslinging during the upcoming campaign, and predicted Reid will win.
Guy said officials at the very top of government are out to get Reid. She said the district has been cut off from government in a bid to instill a sense of desperation among voters.
We certainly believe hes being targeted, Guy noted.
Reid said hes not surprised.
Lets face it. (The premier) doesnt like to be questioned, and who has questioned him more than I have over the last couple of years? he told The Telegram Thursday.
He said hes in the district as much as possible these days and doesnt sense a draining of support from his party to the Tories.
My team is ready to go and well take this election as seriously as any of the others, said Reid, who has represented the area since 1996.
The Tories hope Dalley will be the magic bullet that puts an end to Reids political career.
Dalley came within 600 votes of knocking off Reid in the last election.
To pull off the upset, Dalley will have to make inroads in communities like Joe Batts Arm, Summerford and Durrell, where Reid polled strongly in 2003.
The political climate is different this time around, however, and Dalley is looking to capitalize.
In 2003, Reid was the fisheries minister and the Liberals were in power.
Four years later, the Liberals are the official opposition and Reid is the party leader, which means hell have to campaign provincewide in the lead-up to the election.
One political observer in the district, who asked not to be identified, said Reid has two things working against him a notion that its more advantageous to be on the side of government, and the demands of being party leader.
Despite what some people say, those things really do matter.
Theres also a belief that Dalley, who is principal at J.M. Olds Collegiate in Twillingate and arguably the best hockey player the town ever produced (he was the 1988 Newfoundland Senior Hockey Leagues rookie of the year), is a credible alternative to Reid.
Theres a sense among some people that (Reid) hasnt done anything for the district and it wouldnt be a shock if (Dalley) wins.
Reid and Williams have a well-known dislike for each other.
Theyve repeatedly clashed in the House of Assembly over a wide array of issues, mostly notably the allocation of $15 million of untendered public money for the installation of a second fibre-optic link to the mainland.
At one point, Williams put Reid on notice, saying there would be a target on his chest during the election.
But a spokeswoman for the premier, Elizabeth Matthews, denied the PCs will place special emphasis on The Isles of Notre Dame.
Our party is treating that district exactly as we treat every single district in the province, she said.
We will put forward our leadership and our record equally right across the province and the people will ultimately choose their representation on election day, she added.
Dalley could not be reached Thursday.