Dwight Ball has made history — but maybe not in the way he wanted to.
“No one can say my political career has been boring,” Ball told a crowded ballroom at the Greenwood Inn in Corner Brook.
For the first time since 1971, Newfoundland and Labrador has a minority government.
We’ll find out if this one will last more than a day before a second election is called, as it was back then.
“Ours will definitely last longer. There’s great things we can do,” said Ball.
“I’ll be reaching out to the other party leaders as well as the independents to put together a plan that we can actually move this province forward.”
The difference is five votes separating the Liberals from a minority or a majority, with New Democrat Jordan Browne playing spoiler, winning by a hair over former Liberal cabinet minister Graham Letto. Elections NL will hold an automatic recount of votes in Labrador West, so there’s still a chance for a Liberal majority, pending those results.
Peter Miles, senior adviser to the Liberal party, says Labrador West isn’t settled yet.
“We all knew there was going to be some close races in places. Definitely some surprises,” said Miles.
“I’ve been hearing from headquarters that there were a number of special ballots that were disqualified in that district. I’m not sure if those were Liberal or NDP special ballots — no idea. You can understand where the next couple of days might go.”
Ball says he’s not making a decision on calling for recounts just yet.
“I will speak to the MHAs that are involved there. The thing is, for me, is the people of Newfoundland and Labrador spoke tonight. They expect all 40 members to work together,” he said.
“That’s the message that I take from tonight’s election.”
Beyond a 10-vote margin, a recount can be requested by a candidate in a race, with requests accepted starting on Sunday at 9 a.m. The Tories have taken Bonavista by 55 votes and Stephenville-Port au Port by 31 votes, so recounts are likely there as well.
If requests for recounts are accepted and they go in the Liberals’ favour, a 23-seat majority is still possible.
Liberal volunteer John Andrews is neighbours with re-elected Corner Brook MHA Gerry Byrne. He says he was surprised to see the minority.
“Not shocked, because when you’re looking at all the polls going all the way along, they were just so all over the place,” he said.
“It really depended on voter turnout. I haven’t really looked at the numbers, but it didn’t seem as many people came out to vote. So, when that happens, you never know.”
If the numbers stay the same, the attention turns to Independents Paul Lane and Eddie Joyce.
Stelman Flynn served a brief term with the Liberals in Humber East. He says he, personally, would like to see Joyce welcomed back into the Liberal party after being expelled amidst allegations of harassment and bullying in 2018.
“I would love to see Eddie Joyce back in the Liberal fold. I don’t know if that’s possible. Eddie was a mentor of mine, I have a lot of respect for Eddie,” said Flynn.
“I’ll be reaching out to the other party leaders as well as the independents to put together a plan that we can actually move this province forward.” — Dwight Ball
The question becomes whether Joyce or Lane would accept a position as Speaker.
“The best thing for any leader to do tonight is get a good night’s sleep, recover from the last 28 days, recover from where this campaign has taken us, have some conversations with people that we can work with. These decisions will then be made,” said Ball.
Ball says it’s too early to say whether Joyce or Lane will be invited back to the Liberal caucus to try and ensure a majority government.
With 20 Liberals elected (pending recounts), taking a Speaker from the Liberal ranks would decrease the size of the minority, forcing more co-operation within the House of Assembly to pass laws.
Whenever things are decided, the Liberals will have to find a way to pass their proposed budget 2019.
Will the election promises hold true? Will the Speaker vote make the difference between minority and majority? What of the recounts?
While lots of questions remain, one thing is for certain: Every. Vote. Counts.