The Progressive Conservatives won a squeaker of a byelection in the federal riding of St. John's West Monday night.

Tory candidate Loyola Hearn inched past New Democrat Greg Malone, who trailed by only a few hundred votes.

Hearn's victory over the NDP ended a night of seesawing leads between the two parties. Each candidate ended up with about a third of the more than 30,000 votes that were cast.

The byelection was hailed by some as a test for Joe Clark's Conservatives.

The seat has long been a Tory stronghold. Held by Conservatives for more than 30 of the past 50 years, the seat has been up for grabs since January when Conservative Charlie Power resigned.

Hearn's campaign, which focused on health-care and education, leaned a little to the left of where the party is now headed because a socially progressive message is easier to sell in Newfoundland.

Hearn was quick to attribute the victory to Clark's leadership saying the win proves the Tory party is alive and well.

The NDP's Malone, a well-known social activist and comedic actor, put in a strong performance. His campaign, too, focused on more money for health care.

Five candidates ran in all. Liberal Anthony Sparrow captured a quarter of the vote while Canadian Alliance and Extreme Canadian Wrestling Party candidates Frank Hall and Sailor White trailed far behind.

Clark was quick to pounce on the poor showing of the Canadian Alliance. He said that even under a new name, the Alliance cannot hide their true policies as a Western party.