Nfld. & Labrador

Byelection heats up in Humber-Gros Morne as premier seeks seat in 4-way race

Four parties are fielding candidates for the seat vacated by former premier Dwight Ball, including the current premier, Andrew Furey, ahead of Tuesday's deadline for candidates.

All 4 provincial parties have candidates in the running

The Humber-Gros Morne byelection is set for Oct. 6, with Tuesday the deadline for all candidate nominations. (Lukas Wall/CBC)

A high-profile byelection that will prove the public electoral test to Newfoundland and Labrador's premier is proving a popular race, with four parties filing their nomination papers ahead of Tuesday's deadline for candidates in the district of Humber-Gros Morne.

The race was triggered by former MHA Dwight Ball's resignation, a move by the former premier and the Liberal party meant to clear the way for current Premier Andrew Furey to gain a seat in the House of Assembly.

But the path to Confederation Building is anything but clear for Furey, who became Liberal leader on Aug. 3 without a seat, saying he would run in the first race he could to do so. Prior to Tuesday's 2 p.m. nomination deadline, three other parties had all filed their papers to field candidates in the race: the Progressive Conservatives, the NDP, and the N.L. Alliance.

Furey, who lives in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, has made two visits to the district in campaign mode, and said he's seeking help from Liberal locals along the way.

"This is a team sport and I'm very fortunate to have the support former premier Ball and his entire team, making sure we represent the people of this district in the best possible way," he told CBC News on Monday.

Graham Downey-Sutton, left, is the NDP candidate in Humber-Gros Morne, while Mike Goosney is the PC candidate. (CBC)

Campaigners, old and new

While none are as high-profile as Furey, the three other contenders all hail from Newfoundland's west coast and stress their connections to the area. Graydon Pelley, the leader of the N.L. Alliance — a party without a seat in the House of Assembly — lives in Deer Lake, and said he's heard numerous local concerns while campaigning, as well as calls for change.

"I believe the people of Humber-Gros Morne should have the right to elect their representative, not just to get someone in here because the Liberal party wants their member elected, because he's premier," said Pelley.

"What I'm challenging people of this district to do is to listen to the message of the candidates."

Pelley had previously been involved with the PC Party, and the PC Party's candidate in this experience also has political experience for a different party. Mike Goosney, who is also Deer Lake's deputy mayor, ran in the 2015 provincial election for the NDP, and said his social values remain a priority despite the change in political stripe.

"To have those strong social needs taken care of, you need a fiscally responsible government, and under the Progressive Conservatives, it seems to be the best fit for me," said Goosney.

Goosney said he'll be drawing on his municipal political past and deep knowledge of the area as he campaigns.

"I know where the cracks in the roads are, I know where the snow clearing needs to be improved, I know where there's a need for clean drinking water," he said.

Graydon Pelley, left, the leader of the N.L. Alliance, is going up against Liberal Leader Andrew Furey in the byelection. (CBC)

Meanwhile, the NDP's candidate is, like Furey, campaigning for the first time. 

"I'm looking forward to getting out on the campaign trail, speaking with people and standing up for everyday working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," said Graham Downey-Sutton, a developmental support worker and social work student in Corner Brook. He says social justice is top of mind.

"I strive to build a fairer, greener and more equitable Newfoundland and Labrador, where all citizens can have the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential."

While each candidate has vowed to campaign as much as public health restrictions allow, Furey has the additional task of running the provincial government, but said he will balance that job with in-person campaigning.

"I'll be back out here as much as possible," he said. "I'm committed to this district."

The byelection is set for Oct. 6.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Colleen Connors

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