Manning takes Avalon as Grits hold 4 ridings
Last Updated: Monday, January 23, 2006 | 11:58 PM NT
The Conservative party picked up an extra seat in Newfoundland and Labrador on Monday night, taking advantage of the appeal of a Tory maverick and unease with the federal Liberals.
Fabian Manning easily took the riding of Avalon – the seat that Liberal heavyweight John Efford conquered in 2004 – in an election that has seen a dramatic reversal of political fortune.
Manning attracted almost 52 per cent of the vote in Avalon. Efford, who has been struggling with diabetes but was also scorched politically during the Atlantic Accord dispute, announced his retirement from politics last fall.
Manning became somewhat of a folk hero in the province after standing up for fishermen – and against the popular premier, Danny Williams – when he spoke out against the government's crab management policies last spring.
Manning was thrown out of caucus in May and sat as an Independent in the House of Assembly until December, when he threw his hat into the federal race.
"We ran an absolutely wonderful campaign … We organized it to the hilt," said Manning, who said his team was able to reach voters in 227 communities.
Efford, former minister of natural resources in Paul Martin's cabinet, won Avalon in 2004 with 58 per cent of the vote, and almost twice the number of votes as his nearest competitor.
Manning said he is looking forward to working in Ottawa, and indicated his spat with Williams is in the past.
"We went through a tough year politically, but it's behind me now," said Manning, adding he sees his job as bringing the concerns of the provincial government to the House of Commons.
The Conservatives maintained the two urban seats they held at the start of the campaign.
Loyola Hearn, first elected in a 2000 byelection, won St. John's South-Mount Pearl in a three-way race with Liberal Siobhan Coady and New Democrat Peg Norman.
Norm Doyle won his fourth victory in St. John's East, edging out Liberal Paul Antle and the NDP's Mike Kehoe.
Hearn said he was happy to see the Conservatives pick up a seat, and he was not surprised that the party had difficulty tipping more seats in the Atlantic region.
"In Atlantic Canada, people stick with whom they're familiar," he said.
Liberals hold rural seats
While the Conservatives took all three seats in the Avalon Peninsula, the Liberals held favour in the rest of the province.
The Conservatives had high hopes for making other gains, especially in Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor, the riding that stretches through most of central Newfoundland.
However, Liberal incumbent Scott Simms was able to hold off a strong challenge from Aaron Hynes, a political aide from Ottawa with Newfoundland roots. By the end of the evening, Simms had won 52 per cent of the vote.
Simms said on Monday night he was exhausted from the campaign, in which he scrambled to shore up support in the riding – including with a controversial pledge to transfer federal government jobs from Ottawa to Gander and St. John's.
"As soon as the sigh of relief was out, I think I fell flat to the floor," Simms said.
Hynes said he was disappointed with his own results, but was pleased with his own campaign. "We ran a very clean, issues-based campaign," he said.
Gerry Byrne, the incumbent in Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, picked up almost 53 per cent of the vote.
Byrne, a former aide to then cabinet minister and Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Tobin, has represented the riding since 1996. The riding has consistently voted Liberal since 1980.
"I'm feeling great," Byrne said. "I'm tired, but I'm pumped."
The Liberals had little difficulty holding on to other, traditionally strong ridings.
In Labrador, Todd Russell – who was elected to Parliament only last year in a byelection, to replace the vacancy created by the death of Lawrence O'Brien – defeated Conservative candidate Joe Goudie.
Goudie, a provincial cabinet minister from the Brian Peckford era, came out of political retirement to challenge Russell. Both men are former presidents of the Labrador Métis Association.
In Random-Burin-St. George's, incumbent Bill Matthews defeated Conservative candidate Cynthia Downey, the only female member of the Conservative slate in Atlantic Canada. Matthews was first elected in the riding as a Progressive Conservative in 1997, but crossed the floor in 1999.
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