Nfld. & Labrador

Advance poll numbers up big time in Big Land

Peter Penashue will be right back in the Conservative cabinet if he wins next week's byelection in Labrador, Defence Minister Peter MacKay says.
Peter Penashue resigned his seat in Labrador in March, triggering next Monday's byelection. (CBC )

Elections Canada says the turnout for the advance poll in the Labrador byelection is up significantly over the last federal election in 2011.

Officials say 1,552 people have already cast their ballots. That's up from the 990 who voted early in the 2011 advance poll.

Meanwhile, two polls of limited sample size both show Liberal candidate Yvonne Jones as the frontrunner in the May 13 byelection. Jones is a one-time cabinet minister and 17-year veteran of the provincial legislature. She's up against former MP Peter Penashue, the NDP's Harry Borlase, and Libertarian candidate Norman Andrews.

On Monday, Tory Deputy Leader Peter MacKay guaranteed Penashue would immediately be returned to the federal cabinet if he wins the byelection. MacKay made the promise while campaigning in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

"None of the other candidates can say that. They can guarantee that they're going to be in opposition and maybe get to yell at the government two or three times a week in question period. Or you can have somebody sitting at the table directly across from the prime minister saying, 'Sir, this is what's needed by the people in Labrador,' " said MacKay.

"The ongoing support is one thing, but there are other issues yet to be resolved, and this is an opportunity, a unique opportunity, to elect somebody who you know — this is a guarantee — is going to be in the cabinet of the federal government," MacKay said.

Centrepiece of campaign

Penashue has made his reappointment to cabinet a centrepiece of his campaign, and has told voters he is bound to be put back in cabinet to push for such projects as infrastructure and development of the Canadian Forces air base in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The former minister of intergovernmental affairs was forced to resign his seat amid an Elections Canada investigation into illegal contributions to his 2011 campaign.