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Newfoundland and Labrador Votes 2003
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  Main > Indepth Features > Accountability target in Topsail
Voting Day October 21, 2003  
Indepth  Features

Accountability target in Topsail
Heidi Petracek and CBC Online News | Oct. 2

The district of Topsail is one to watch during this election campaign.

Elizabeth Marshall checks off her list as she makes the rounds in Topsail
Elizabeth Marshall checks off her list as she makes the rounds in Topsail

Elizabeth Marshall, the former auditor general for the province is trying to take down a strong Liberal incumbent and cabinet minister.

It even has the NDP candidate in the district feeling a bit like a mouse caught between two hungry cats.

Marshall was handpicked by Conservative Leader Danny Williams to run here. She's been knocking on doors since March - long before the election was ever made official.


Ralph Wiseman (centre) confers with campaign workers at his headquarters
Ralph Wiseman (centre) confers with campaign workers at his headquarters

But that doesn't mean Liberal Ralph Wiseman is behind. He says he's been campaigning since being last elected in 1999.

Wiseman, a businessman and assistant to former MHA Patt Cowan, first was elected as part of Brian Tobin's team in 1996.

He was appointed minister of environment by Premier Roger Grimes in 2001, and minister of human resources and employment in 2002.

Liberal seat for 21 years

The last time the district elected a Tory was 1982. Marshall is hoping to change that.

"(I'm getting) really good reception at the door. A lot of people who've said they've always voted Liberal are voting PC," she says.

Campaign signMarshall spent 10 years criticizing the Liberal government for its spending habits and book keeping as auditor general. She's the Conservative poster candidate for transparency and accountability — two areas in which she hammered the Liberals in her annual reports.

"I think I'm going in with a great benefit in that I know government very, very well," she says. "I've already thought a lot of things through in my mind, so I think it's a great benefit that I've had that experience in the past."

Cut wasteful spending

Marshall's message when campaigning in the district is one of fiscal responsibility. She says the government has to prioritize, given the province's fiscal position.

"Some of the things where government has been spending money lately. Like the Ahelaid, the $9-million boat, that wouldn't even be high on my priority (list)."

Campaign signWiseman is campaigning on his record as a member. His re-election signs don't mention his leader, unlike those of his Tory rival.

The pamphlet Wiseman leaves at the doors in the district contains a tally of the work he and his party have done here, from an extension on Topsail elementary school to $1.5 million for the Manuels River trail.

Wiseman is known as a strong district politician — someone who takes constituents' calls personally, even at home.

"I got to be a minister because the people elected me here, and my first and foremost commitment is to the people here," he says.

Controversies as minister

Wiseman hasn't had an easy ride as cabinet minister.

He was environment minister during the controversy over trihalomethanes (THMs) in the province's drinking water. Then there was the bungled tire recycling contract, which was awarded to a company that was in financial and legal trouble.

Wiseman says he stands by all his decisions, and he thinks his record in handling constituency problems will put him back in office.

"I'm running here on what's been accomplished. What the Opposition does is entirely up to them," he says. "People will have to take a look at who's offering themselves up for public life and then when the time comes, you decide who's best going to represent you there."

NDP driving for everyday voter

NDP candidate Mike Kehoe is campaigning as a champion of the everyday voter. That is, when he's not driving his taxi to pay the bills.

Kehoe, a former fisheries marketing director with the provincial Fisheries Department and lobbyist for the taxi industry, may not be able to campaign full time, but he's still hoping to have a loud voice.

It's the powerlessness of the consumer on all issues — from education and health care to automobile insurance — that Kehoe is trying to fight against.

"I'm waiting myself for an MRI and it's going to take months and months, I don't know how long. It's like you're powerless," he says. "You're told to go and sit down and wait, and that's not good enough, but the (last) straw was in public insurance."

NDP Leader Jack Harris talk about auto insurance
NDP Leader Jack Harris talk about auto insurance

Automobile insurance is the NDP's key election issue. The party wants lower rates through a public insurance system, similar to what's in place in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Kehoe hopes that issue alone will win him support in the district, and put more NDP candidates in the legislature.

"If the gods smile on us and there's a minority government or something, then we'll have the ability to impact it," he says. "But at least we're going to give it a profile it deserves."

Automobile insuranceNo matter what happens, Kehoe just hopes the people of the district, and the province, think hard about who they support. He's urging voters to see through the politicking, and make an informed decision.

"I hope we don't jump on the saviour bandwagon. Every time we jump on a wave, the wave goes out and we end up on the rocks," he says.

"Whatever decision you make, you're going to live with it for the next four years."




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