Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection voting underway

Voters in a Conception Bay district will determine today which party will represent them over the next two years.

Voters in the Conception Bay North district of Carbonear-Harbour Grace are voting for a new MHA today.

Three candidates are vying for the seat: Progressive Conservative Jack Harrington, New Democrat Charlene Sudbrink, and Liberal Sam Slade. 

The byelection became necessary in October when former Tory finance minister Jerome Kennedy quit politics to return to his law practice. Kennedy took the seat from the Liberals in the 2007 general election. 

The byelection is critical for the standing of each of the three parties. The Tories want to show that support for Premier Kathy Dunderdale and her government is stable, while the Liberals hope to build on the momentum of Dwight Ball's election this month as the party's full-time leader. The NDP also needs a boost following the defection of two members of its caucus over Lorraine Michael's leadership.

Dunderdale said Tuesday she hoped her party could hold the seat, but insisted a loss would not be a major setback for the government.

"You know, there's been predictions of gloom or dire events looming that are going to affect our governance. They come and go, and we're here. We have been given a mandate to govern for four years."

Ball said the byelection is a big opportunity to show weakness in the government.

"The people in this province are looking for change, they're looking for people, and they're looking towards the Liberal party to form the next government in 2015," he said. "I think that would be the message that the people of Carbonear-Harbour Grace would have the opportunity to send to this government tonight."

Michael, meanwhile, said it's a three-way race that's simply too close to call.

Current standings in the house of assembly are 35 Tories, seven Liberals, three New Democrats, two Independents and one vacancy.