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Smallwood concedes, Newfoundland Conservatives win… we think

The Story


The only thing clear about the 1971 election: Joey Smallwood did not win. Who will lead the province is still very much unclear. The Conservatives take 21 seats to the Liberals' 20. Some ridings are decided by just a few votes, and recounts are demanded in seven ridings. The sole third-party member elected is the New Labrador Party's Tom Burgess, who offers to join whichever party gives Labrador the most new facilities -- and a cabinet seat for himself. The impasse is broken on Jan. 11, 1972 when the provincial Supreme Court awards the hotly contested St. Barbe South riding to the Tories, who win the riding by just eight votes. After weeks of clinging to power despite his minority position, Joey Smallwood finally announces he will step down. But who will step up? CBC Radio talks to party leaders about the aftermath. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: Jan. 16, 1972
Guest(s): Tom Burgess, Frank Moores, Joey Smallwood, Joey Smallwood
Host: Frank Herbert, Bruce Rogers
Duration: 5:33

Did You know?


• A recount of the St. Barbe South riding could not be completed because 105 ballots had been accidentally burned. The Liberals wanted the results of that riding declared null and void, but the Supreme Court rejected their application. Recounts in six other ridings showed no change.
• Though they won one more seat than the Liberals, the Conservatives could not form an effective majority. They had to appoint a speaker, who could only vote in the case of a tie.

• Tom Burgess, a union leader from Labrador City, was elected to Smallwood's Liberals in 1966. Denied a cabinet seat and unhappy with the exodus of natural resource revenue from Labrador, Burgess deserted the Liberals. He became an independent, creating the New Labrador Party in 1969. After easily winning his seat in 1971, Burgess promised his support to the Conservatives, but withdrew in January 1972, denying the Conservatives a majority.

• Burgess was courted by both parties, but decided not to ally himself with either.
• In early 1972 the Liberal member for Bay de Verde resigned his seat, giving the Lieutenant-Governor a chance to dissolve the legislature and order another election. In the March 24, 1972 election the Conservatives won 33 seats to just 9 for the Liberals. Frank Moores became the first Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

• Joey Smallwood had "retired" as Liberal leader in 1968; his return two weeks later angered many Liberals and caused some to defect to the Conservatives.
• Smallwood held on to power until the 1972 Supreme Court decision. Then he finally stepped down.  He did not run in the subsequent election, which was easily won by Frank Moores.

• Smallwood attempted a return in 1974, losing the Liberal leadership race to Edward M. Roberts. He then led the splinter Liberal Reform party in the 1975 election but his impact was minor. He returned to the Liberals in 1977 but retired for a third and final time that year. In his retirement he began writing an encyclopedia of Newfoundland. After completion of the first two volumes, health and financial difficulties prevented further work. Smallwood died in 1991 at age 91.

• Frank Moores spent much of his time as premier working to wrest greater control over natural resources from Ottawa. He supported major projects like the Churchill Falls power development and the Hibernia oil field 315 km east southeast of St. John's. Discovered in 1979, it is the fifth-largest oil field ever found in Canada.
• Frank Moores was re-elected in 1975 and handed the leadership over to Brian Peckford in 1979.

• Third parties have been all but shut out of Newfoundland and Labrador politics since Confederation. The most successful was Joey Smallwood's splinter Liberal Reform Party which captured four seats in 1975. The New Democratic Party has never had more than two seats.


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