Dunderdale kicks off N.L. election campaign

Kathy Dunderdale set out Monday to become only the second woman in Canadian history to lead a political party to victory in a provincial election.
PC Leader Kathy Dunderdale speaks with reporters at Government House, after visiting Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, right. (CBC)


  • Election Day is Oct. 11
  • PCs holding launch party Monday evening
  • Liberals, NDP holding earlier campaign launches

Newfoundland and Labrador's Kathy Dunderdale set out Monday to become only the second woman in Canadian history to lead a political party to victory in a provincial election.

"I'm glad the day has finally arrived," Dunderdale said as she left Government House with Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie to mark the dropping of a writ for the Oct. 11 election.

Dunderdale told reporters that the governing Progressive Conservatives — which already hold 43 of the 48 seats in the legislature — are aiming for an overwhelming mandate.

"We're going to hang on to all of our seats that we have and perhaps we're going to pick up a couple more," Dunderdale told reporters.

Dunderdale said her job during the three-week campaign will be "to create a new vision for the next eight years so that the people of the province understand what we’re putting before them as a party."

The PCs are expected to reveal their "blue book" — the platform that will turn into a government blueprint if they are re-elected — by the end of the week, with policy statements expected along the way.

If re-elected, Dunderdale, who became premier in December after Danny Williams retired from office, will become the first woman in the province to win an election, and only the second in the country's history after P.E.I.'s Catherine Callbeck. [Read a profile of Kathy Dunderdale.]

Dunderdale cast the campaign in optimistic terms. "Together, we're going to build a wonderful future for this place," she said.

PCs out of touch: Liberals

But Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward said the governing PCs have nothing to crow about, and that the offshore oil industry has left much of the province far behind. He said the Tories have been stained by a sense of entitlement, and have shown they are out of touch with what ordinary people need.

"This is especially true in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, where the rural agenda has been forgotten by the Dunderdale Conservative government," Aylward told reporters outside the Liberal campaign bus at Confederation Building in St. John's.

"Newfoundland and Labrador is looking for someone to fight for them again. And fight we will, listen we will, and respect we will."

While Aylward was poised to head to western Newfoundland Monday, Michael will be sticking closer to home for the start of the NDP campaign. She planned to knock door-to-door in her own St. John's district of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, where she faces a challenge from star Tory candidate John Noseworthy, the former auditor general who broke the legislative spending scandal that sent four politicians to jail.

NDP looking to make history

Lorraine Michael is expecting big things for her New Democrats come election day.

"I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that I think we're on the verge of a historic breakthrough in this province," said Michael at her campaign launch in St. John's on Monday.

The latest political poll had the NDP edging out the Liberals for popular support for the first time and Michael is confidant the support will translate into more seats.

"I truly believe that after Oct. 11 politics in this province will have changed forever. No one will ever think of us again as the third party," said Michael.

Tories start with advantage

The odds are in Dunderdale's favour. The PCs were the first to nominate a full slate of candidates and have a clear advantage in terms of cash and other resources. [ANALYSIS: Read provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane's take on the start of the campaign.]

One of Dunderdale's strongest opponents may be apathy.

"I don't think there'll be a big voter turnout at all, is the way it strikes me," pundit Ray Guy, who has been covering Newfoundland and Labrador politics since the Smallwood era, told CBC News.

Dunderdale lacks the charisma of Williams, and also seems to be lacking the overt support of the former premier, as well. Williams — who dropped out of a tribute dinner in his honour this spring — levelled more critical comments just last week, raising questions about Dunderdale's abilities.

"He's certainly entitled to [his opinion]. I don't particularly care," Dunderdale said in an interview with CBC News. "My focus is on the people of the province. It's from them that I get my mandate, and it's them that I'm here to serve."

Guy said Williams's popularity - polling once pegged voter support at 82 per cent - lingers in the air, and may pose problems for Dunderdale.

"His devout followers don't know what to think, or what to be interested in or what to root for. I mean they're chickens with their heads cut off," Guy told CBC News.