The winners and losers of NL Election 2019

After a campaign that had all the excitement of waiting for your clothes at the laundromat, NL Election 2019 is mercifully over. Bereft of any idea how to deal with the massive structural failings of the province’s finances, there was nothing the parties could offer or promise, nothing to differentiate themselves or inspire a vision for a better day.

All the same, it probably turned out better than we could have hoped.

In an election that was only about political power, it’s appropriate the three main parties came out as losers, each in their own ways. Appropriate too it’s the politics of the people that rocked the boat and maybe helps the province change tack.

The winners

The big winner in this election is the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Looking at the number of votes for independent candidates and new parties, and the number of Liberal MHAs who were defeated, it has to be viewed as a protest vote, and that protest is now represented in the form of a minority government.

The outcome of the election provides a window of opportunity for important changes to happen. Concerns brought forward by any MHA need to be taken seriously. Having any MHA defect or join a party or vote in coalition can either pass legislation or bring down the government. MHAs will also need to show they are responsive to their constituents, since another election may not be so far in the future. The politicians will be on their toes, so it’s a great time to push for some very reasonable and necessary reform. It’ll also be a window to start hammering out real plans to deal with the province’s finances.

Another winner in this election is the newly elected Labrador West MHA, Jordan Brown. The upstart worker’s candidate defeated Liberal incumbent Graham Letto by just 5 votes. The people of Labrador West have been going through a great deal of turmoil with respect to the mining industry and its impacts on the community. It helps having a voice in the House of Assembly that can directly air their grievances, which have for the most part gone unheard in recent years.

Paul Lane, another winner. He’s something of a NL politics outcast, but you have to like his newfound forthrightness. He was re-elected to his seat handily, and he was back at work the day after the election. Perhaps people admire the way he took his lumps for being Dunderdale’s attack dog, then started thinking for himself. Lane is now an experienced politician with deep roots in his district and he knows exactly how the game is played. Watch for Lane to keep shaking things up.

In between

Not quite winners and not quite losers, somewhere in between: voter turnout. Voter turnout was up this election to about 60 percent. That’s 5 percent more than the last provincial election. Still, having 40 percent of electors not casting a ballot is not a vote of confidence in the political system. It’s another protest that says, “There need to be ways for people to engage in politics other than just voting.”

Not quite a winner, not quite a loser, the NL NDP. They’ll be happy to have held on to both their seats and added another in Labrador. Jim Dinn was an easy winner in St. John’s Centre, and Alison Coffin held off a tough challenge by George Murphy (who ran as a Liberal though is well known in the community from his time as a NDP MHA.) Still, the NDP lost almost 6 percent of their overall vote-share against a Liberal Party that was hemorrhaging votes. Fielding only 14 candidates can’t have helped.

Another in-between, the NL Alliance. They’ll of course be disappointed not to have gotten a seat or even come close, but running the campaign will have helped galvanize the new party. Likely a lot of their votes were protest votes, but overall they’ll probably be encouraged. Either that or they’ll implode tomorrow. Like I said, in-between.

The losers

Just over the borderline inside being losers in this election, the PC Party and Ches Crosbie. They’re only a toe over that line because they so wanted to win, and apparently they might have a few months down the road. There was only a few thousand votes between them and the Liberals in the popular vote, it just didn’t translate into the number of seats they needed. It’s really quite a feat for Crosbie to have overhauled the image of the party to such an extent, even as the Muskrat Falls Inquiry drags up corpses from the last PC administration, that voters almost handed government back to them. That probably won’t console Crosbie and he’ll probably come out swinging in the House of Assembly. That’s probably a good thing in a minority government where you want the opposition leader rocking the boat.

The big loser in this election, the Liberal Party NL and Dwight Ball. A snap election must have seemed like a good idea for lots of reasons. Alongside the Muskrat Inquiry, the Liberals figured the fallout from Budget 2016 was over, the protests at Muskrat Falls finally stopped. Maybe they thought it was a good time to hit that election button, against disorganized opposition who were unable to field a full slate of candidates. “We’ll hang on to the seats we have and maybe even pick up a few,” they thought. I suppose they got what they deserved.

Marching on Confederation Building in response to Budget 2016. Photo by Michael Hollahan.

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