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Five districts to watch in Newfoundland and Labrador election

There will likely be many familiar faces seated in the chairs of the House of Assembly after the next provincial general election.
Who will sit in chairs of the House of Assembly after the next provincial general election? - SaltWire Network

New faces might enter, and old faces might leave in these key races

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

As the 2019 election campaign heads into full steam, there are five races emerging as ones to watch on May 16.

Election day is still far away and an hour is a day in Newfoundland and Labrador politics, but here are some early races to keep an eye on as the campaign continues.

Mount Scio

Former Liberal cabinet minister Dale Kirby is the incumbent MHA in Mount Scio — and so far he has not made it clear whether he’ll seek a seat in the House of Assembly this time around.

First elected as a New Democrat in 2011, Kirby, along with Liberal cabinet minister Christopher Mitchelmore, joined the Liberals in 2014 following a leadership challenge against then-leader Lorraine Michael. Following allegations of harassment and bullying, Kirby was removed from the Liberal cabinet and now sits as an independent MHA.

Dale Kirby. - SaltWire File Photo
Dale Kirby. - SaltWire File Photo

If Kirby does not run, that leaves a former cabinet minister’s district without an incumbent.

The Tories have nominated Lloyd Power — PC Leader Ches Crosbie’s constituency assistant, who left that role to seek the nomination — to hold the Tory banner in the coming election after a spirited, four-person nomination race.

Mount Scio is also the district Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley hopes to represent.

A former president of the Progressive Conservative party, Pelley started his own party promising electoral reform would be the top issue for his party and his campaign. The N.L. Alliance became the fourth party in the 2019 election just before the campaign started and has already named nine candidates for the coming election.

The Liberals have nominated Sarah Stoodley for their nominee in the district. Born in Grand Falls, Stoodley is a member of Memorial University’s board of regents, a board member of the Pippy Park Commission, and a board member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries.

The New Democratic Party has yet to name a candidate for the district, but musician Sean Panting came in a close third for the party in the 2015 election.


Mount Pearl-Southlands

Another former Liberal, now independent, holds the incumbent seat in this district, although Paul Lane made his own decision to leave the Liberal ranks after opposing the 2016 provincial budget.

While Lane won big as a Progressive Conservative for his first term in 2011, the race was much closer in 2015 when he defeated now Mount Pearl North MHA Jim Lester for the seat.

The Liberals have brought forth Hasan Hai as their nominee for the district. Founder of Project Kindness and the successful Merb’ys campaign, Hai has made a name for himself for his philanthropy, whether as the Dark Elf on the Shelf or on his Merb’y calendars.

Gillian Pearson is the PC nominee and is the founder of Parents for Affordable Childcare NL. With a lot of families concentrated in that district, voters may perk an ear to a campaign focused on Pearsons’ key issue.


Humber-Bay of Islands

Eddie Joyce. - Contributed
Eddie Joyce. - Contributed

Independent MHA Eddie Joyce has indicated his plan to seek re-election as an independent in this year’s election, after being kicked out of the Liberal cabinet amid allegations of bullying and harassment in 2018. Joyce has remained defiant amid the allegations, proclaiming his innocence at every opportunity.

Joyce’s electoral record since first winning a seat in 1989 (before stepping down to allow Clyde Wells to run in his seat, and being re-elected in 1999) has been strong, but how will the allegations against him sit with the long-time supporters in his district?

So far, Liberal Brian Dicks is the only challenger for the district. Dicks is a ward councillor with the Qualipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, so has proven he’s capable of winning votes.


St. John’s Centre

Now that former NDP leader Gerry Rogers has called it a political career, the field is wide open to succeed her.

Former Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association president Jim Dinn is the NDP pick to succeed Rogers.

Former St. John’s city councilor Jonathan Galgay has spent his time heading the George Street Association since he was ousted from city council in 2017 and has finally made the leap into provincial politics.

The Liberals matched one George Street representative against another, choosing Seamus O’Keefe to wave their flag for the district. O’Keefe was head of the George Street Association just before Galgay was, serving seven years at the helm of the organization.

Rogers won the seat narrowly in 2011 and won another narrow victory in 2015 against a strong Liberal candidate in Lynn Sullivan.

While there have been no public polls released to date, the path seems clear for a hotly contested race.


St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi

Speaking of districts without an NDP incumbent, new NDP leader Alison Coffin is hoping the longtime NDP stronghold can remain the same when her name hits the ballot.

The NDP has held the seat since 1989, with former leaders Jack Harris and Lorraine Michael representing the district.

But oh, how things have changed. After Rogers announced her resignation as NDP leader 10 months into her tenure, Coffin was quickly acclaimed NDP leader. After an initial challenge from

George Murphy. - SaltWire File Photo
George Murphy. - SaltWire File Photo

St. John’s Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary for the nomination in the district was smothered by Coffin’s own announcement, all eyes will be on the district to see how the party can recover from an interesting start to 2019.

Standing in Coffin’s way is former NDP MHA George Murphy – now running for the Liberals.

Murphy served one term as a New Democrat, but decided against seeking re-election in 2015. The head of the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices, Murphy has plenty of name recognition to go around and NDP voters are used to putting an X by his name.

After an initial thought that chef Todd Perrin would fly the Tory banner, David Porter was named the Tory nominee.

The Tories are the only other party to hold a seat in the St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi area (due to a few changes to the district boundaries over the years), after former St. John’s mayor Shannie Duff briefly held the reins in the district.

But there are 35 more districts to account for, with lots of campaign left to run.

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL


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