Demonstrators marched in downtown St. John's Thursday as Conservative Leader Stephen Harper arrived to help engineer an electoral turnaround in a province that spurned him.

Harper, who expressed conditional support for the Lower Churchill energy megaproject, is hoping to win back some of the seats the Tories lost in the 2008 federal election, amid the "anything but Conservative" campaign launched by then premier Danny Williams.

Demonstrators, though, protested Harper's record on various issues. Some of the protesters used signs to spell out C-O-N-T-E-M-P-T, referring to the contempt motion that led to the government being defeated last week in the House of Commons.


Labour leader Lana Payne said Stephen Harper is more autocratic now than in 2008. ((CBC) )

The demonstration marked a very different tone from the enthusiastic applause that Harper received from a rejuvenated Tory base. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale and members of her caucus greeted Harper, whose candidates this year include four former MHAs.

Lana Payne, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, said voters in the province are not willing to accept that Harper's views have changed in less than three years.

"The only thing that's changed about Stephen Harper since 2008 is that he's more autocratic, more anti-democratic and just as contemptuous of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Payne told the protest rally.

Jenn Graham, a Memorial University student who helped organize the demonstration, said the protest came together within hours.

"We had to send him a message and within hours we had Facebook events, Twitter updates, [a] real social media campaign. [We were] really using the new technology to get the word out there," she said.