Inside Politics

UPDATED: A Political Sea Change in Newfoundland and Labrador?

It is impossible to overstate the grip Danny Williams had on politics in Newfoundland and Labrador during his seven years as premier. Williams didn't just dominate the provincial scene. He also held an iron grip on federal politics.
Most notable was his "anything but Conservative" campaign, that delivered its promised "goose egg" for the Tories in the 2008 federal election, when they were shut out of the province's seats.
How quickly things can change.
With the emergence of Loyola Sullivan, John Ottenheimer and, quite possibly, Trevor Taylor as federal Conservative candidates, we could see three of Williams' former cabinet ministers running on a Harper-led ticket. All three were front benchers for Williams, holding key portfolios such as finance, health and fisheries.
Clearly, this isn't 2008 anymore.
The big three join a slate of Tory candidates that include former MP and Senator Fabian Manning, former Innu Nation president Peter Penashue, and well-known and highly successful businessman Jerry Byrne. Jerry Byrne is the brother of the late Jack Byrne, who was also a cabinet minister in Williams' first government.
More important than the names is the apparent reunification of the federal and provincial parties.
A week ago, Premier Kathy Dunderdale gave her caucus and staff the green light to campaign for their federal cousins. In 2008, Dunderdale went door knocking with Liberal Siobhan Coady. Now her government is throwing its full strength behind the federal party. As each new conservative candidate comes forward, they are flanked by provincial cabinet ministers and MHAs.
All of this is leading to speculation of something big from Harper's first campaign stop in Newfoundland and Labrador, expected later this week.
How big? Maybe as big as $6.2 billion. That's the estimated cost of the Muskrat Falls hydro development that would reshape the energy map of Eastern Canada. It's a joint venture between Newfoundland and Labrador's public energy company Nalcor and Nova Scotia-based Emera.
Wednesday afternoon CBC News confirmed that Premier Dunderdale and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have reached an agreement on a loan guarantee to help with the province's financing for the project.
Dunderdale met with Harper's chief of staff Nigel Wright two weeks ago in St. John's.
The sudden rush to elect federal Tories had provincial insiders assuming the deal was done.
Conservative candidate John Ottenheimer resigned Wednesday as chair of Nalcor to run for the Conservatives.
It's not yet known whether Harper will make the formal announcement at a campaign stop on Thursday.
The big question now is whether Newfoundland and Labrador voters will embrace Harper's party once more. The provincial Tories may be on board, but the real test is the voters who abandoned the Conservatives two years ago.
Comments are closed.