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Clyde Wells wins Newfoundland election

The Story

After 17 years, Newfoundland and Labrador's Conservative dynasty is smashed by a straight-laced Liberal federalist named Clyde Wells. Tom Rideout's Tories, leading in polls going into the election, are stunned. For Liberals, it's a long awaited triumph and opportunity to finally be rid of lingering memories of Joey Smallwood. But as we see in this clip from The National, the Liberal jubilation is tainted by Wells' loss in his own riding of Humber East.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 20, 1989
Guest(s): Clyde Wells
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Brian Dubreuil
Duration: 2:54

Did You know?

• Progressive Conservative premier Tom Rideout took over from Brian Peckford just a month before the election. His party won 21 seats compared to the 31 of Wells and his Liberals. The federal Conservatives of Brian Mulroney also handed Rideout a series of pre-election setbacks, including delays to Hibernia and a fishing deal with France.

• Clyde Wells had been a member of Joey Smallwood's cabinet, but resigned over a disagreement about the Come By Chance oil refinery. He became Liberal leader in 1987.

• The election of Wells to the province's top job immediately cast doubt over the struggling Meech Lake Accord to amend the Canadian constitution. Newfoundland ratified the accord under Peckford, but Wells was a proponent of provincial equality and opposed granting Quebec a special constitutional status. Wells abstained from voting on the constitutional resolution, contributing to the demise of the accord.

• Wells also garnered criticism for his policies of fiscal restraint, including attempts to sell or privatize government-owned corporations and maintaining wage freezes for civil servants. He weathered the collapse of the cod fishery, offset somewhat by the growth of non-cod fisheries and of the Hibernia oil field development.

• Newfoundlanders and Labradorians often vote contrary to Canadian federal trends. The Conservative dynasty of Moores and Peckford took place during the height of Pierre Trudeau's Liberal era. Much of the reign of Clyde Wells took place during the era of Brian Mulroney's Conservatives.


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