Stephen Harper faces little warmth in Newfoundland
Tory leader attends rally in Avalon riding after hotly contested candidate nomination
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper ventured into a lion's den that is perhaps the least fertile electoral ground for him in Canada on Saturday.
The Tory leader attended a rally in the riding of Avalon in Newfoundland and Labrador. The event in Bay Roberts is Harper's first foray into the province this election campaign.
Newfoundlanders have shown little electoral warmth toward Harper. In the 2011 federal election they elected only one Conservative MP.
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Even some Harper supporters at the rally were realistic about the Conservative's chances in the riding.
"It's problematic at the moment," said Joel Noel after hearing Harper speak. "It's a remote possibility."
In the last election, Fabian Manning ran for the Conservatives in Avalon. After he lost to then Liberal Scott Andrews, he was re-appointed by Harper to the Senate. He was at the rally and told reporters the chances are slim the Conservatives will be able to win it this time.
"Look I mean none of us are naive to the tough call we have to make here," he said. "There's always a possibility."
The provincial Progressive Conservative government has been at times openly hostile toward Harper, with former premier Danny Williams actively campaigning against the federal Tories in 2008.
He had accused Harper of breaking a promise to protect offshore oil earnings from federal equalization funding clawbacks.
Harper was also heavily criticized for what many fishers in Newfoundland and Labrador saw as a betrayal of a promise he made during negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union.
According to Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis, Harper's government promised a $400-million fisheries fund to compensate fishers for losses as a result of the trade deal.
According to Davis and industry advocates, however, the government is only offering compensation for the elimination of minimum processing requirements.
During a campaign event in Upton, Que., NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Harper had reneged on his commitment to Newfoundland and Labrador in the EU trade deal, and said he may do it in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
By mid-afternoon Harper supporters and protesters had gathered at the site of his rally at Harbour International in Bay Roberts, N.L., some waving placards and chanting slogans.
Harper started his day in Montreal where, following Friday night's second French-language debate, he again defended the Tory government's ban on wearing a niqab during citizenship oath ceremonies and touted the benefits of the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Ches Crosbie rejected
The Conservative candidate in Avalon, Lorraine Barnett, got the nomination after the party rejected prominent lawyer and apparent shoo-in Ches Crosbie, the son of former Tory cabinet minister John Crosbie.
Barnett is running against independent candidate Scott Andrews, the incumbent MP and a former Liberal who was ousted from the federal caucus amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Liberal candidate is Ken McDonald. Jeannie Baldwin is the NDP candidate. Krista Byrne-Puumala is running for the Greens.
With files from The Canadian Press and CBC's Peter Cowan