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Newfoundland and Labrador Elections: Brian Tobin's election triumph

"Governing Newfoundland is a form of licensed insanity," CBC's Rex Murphy once said. Premiers don't really govern, "they measure their stamina against the intractabilities of history, geography and the unemployment stats." Canada's newest province has only had a handful of leaders since joining Confederation in 1949. From firebrands like Joey Smallwood to measured – some say dull – diplomats like Roger Grimes, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have chosen their premiers not by party but by personality and promises.

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Less than a month after replacing Clyde Wells, Brian Tobin guides Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberals to their most decisive win in 30 years. CBC reports on Tobin's victory; so swift that broadcasters project a Liberal win just 13 minutes after polls close. Tobin inherits a tough job. The unemployment rate is 20 per cent, with more cuts coming. Hopes run high that Tobin, a former federal cabinet minister, will be able to make the deals necessary to get the province on track. 
• Brian Tobin was first elected as a Liberal MP in 1980 at age 25.
• In 1993 Tobin became federal minister of fisheries and oceans under Jean Chrétien. He earned the nickname "Captain Canada" for starting a Montreal unity rally before the 1995 referendum, and for standing up to Spain in the so-called turbot fishing war -- going so far as to seize a Spanish trawler.

• In response to Clyde Wells' December 1995 decision to step down as premier, Tobin announced in January 1996 that he would return to Newfoundland in response to popular demand.
• In the 1996 election, Tobin's Liberals took 37 of 48 seats.
• After being elected premier in 1996 Tobin set out to cut government spending and increase natural resource revenue.

• In 1997 he oversaw the first oil being pumped from the Hibernia platform on the Grand Banks.
• In 1998 Tobin implemented education reforms that stripped religious groups of their power to run the province's school system.

• Tobin was re-elected in 1999, due in part to his tough stance on two issues. He insisted that Inco would only be granted a mining lease for Voisey's Bay if they guaranteed only to hire Newfoundland workers. Tobin also worked hard to develop the $12 billion Churchill River hydroelectric project.

• On Jan. 14, 2002, at age 47, Brian Tobin resigned from politics, citing family reasons. Tobin was considered a candidate for prime minister, and his resignation came as a shock. "Up until yesterday, politics was his full-time and life-consuming occupation," CBC's Rex Murphy commented the day of Tobin's resignation. "If Mr. Tobin has stepped out of politics for good, then it is as if salmon no longer leap upstream, birds now walk to work and Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, has turned its gloomy back on the fogs. It's strange, and if I may say so, and I may say so, it's unnatural."
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Feb. 22, 1996
Guest(s): Brian Tobin
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Tonda MacCharles
Duration: 2:14

Last updated: September 12, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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