Nfld. & Labrador·Election Notebook

There's nothing like a run in winter: N.L.'s political hopefuls are braving extra challenges

Newfoundland and Labrador has had two February elections before. As Garrett Barry writes, they happened to work out well for the governing Liberals, too.

NDP add new candidates, easily topping the slate in last election

(CBC)

Latest

  • NDP add 5 candidates
  • Furey talks virtual health
  • Coffin hits the ice
  • Where the leaders are going next

Newfoundland and Labrador's New Democratic Party has added four new candidates to their slate, ahead of Saturday's nomination deadline for the upcoming election.

New candidates in the districts of Cape St. Francis, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans and Humber-Gros Morne bring the NDP's total to 24. That eclipses, by a fair bit, the 13 candidates that the party ran in 2019.

Meanwhile, the province's Progressive Conservative Party has completed nominations for all 40 districts, and the Liberal party moves within one name of a full group, with the nomination of a town councillor from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Welcome to the latest edition of the Election Notebook, your writ-period home for regular updates from Newfoundland and Labrador's campaign trail.

Here's how the race shaped up on Tuesday:

Sticking with health

While the Progressive Conservatives talked taxes in St. John's, Liberal Leader Andrew Furey remained on the west coast of Newfoundland Tuesday, stopping in Port aux Basques and meeting with representatives from the newly formed Three Rivers Mi'kmaq Band.

Furey pushes for greater e-health services to help rural patients

CBC News Newfoundland

3 months ago
2:24
Liberal Leader Andrew Furey said he would push for more supports for digital services so that patients in small towns do not have to travel as much for health care, reports Heather Gillis 2:24

The Three Rivers Mi'kmaq Band exists in parallel with the Qalipu First Nation and represents Indigenous people from the Bay St. Georges South area.

Furey said Tuesday that a Liberal government would spend more on virtual health-care infrastructure, which the party said would save money and shorten travel times for patients in the province.

"One of the things that we've learned from the pandemic, if we can find positives in this time of disruption … it's that telemedicine and e-health [are] incredibly important," he said.

"Having been on the other side of this, I've often seen patients travel for eight to 10 hours to come to see me for a 10- to 15-minute visit."

The Liberals promised any money saved from the move would be spent increasing travel subsidies for residents of rural Newfoundland and Labrador — but Furey said an analysis has to be done to see how much that will be.

A winter election? Not all that weird

Candidate schedules are likely to get some tweaking this week, with expectations that Newfoundland's northeast coast will be getting its first big winter blast on Thursday.

More than 20 centimetres of snow, and winds gusting between 70 km/h and 90 km/h, is sure to put a pause in door-knocking. It also represents, of course, the first blast of bad weather for this election campaign.

A February election is not the norm, but it's not that weird either. Newfoundland and Labrador has gone to the polls twice in the dead of winter, both at the behest of then premier Brian Tobin.

From the archives: the winter election of 1996

CBC News Newfoundland

3 months ago
2:29
A snapshot of campaigning in tough weather during a winter election in N.L. Tonda MacCharles filed this report on Feb. 12, 1996. 2:29

In 1996, and again in 1999, Tobin sent voters to the polls in February. Both times, voters rewarded him and his Liberal candidates with a majority government.

There was some peril: During a road trip on Feb. 7, 1996, then PC leader Lynn Verge's campaign bus hit whiteout conditions and collided with another car. A 28-year-old man was injured in the crash.

"It's a terrible time of year to have an election campaign," Verge told reporter Carmel Smyth that day.

This year, CBC's Mark Quinn reports that Elections NL has said polling day can be moved if extreme weather interrupts it.

But Saturday? Very weird

This will definitely be the first time we've gone to the polls on a Saturday. Tuesday has been the most popular day to elect a government; we did that eight times. Our last election was on a Thursday, marking the sixth time we we voted on that day of the week. Wednesday and Fridays are not popular: just one apiece (in 2015 and 1972, respectively).

Until now, a weekend election has never happened — and until the pandemic, it was politically off the table. 

COVID-19 and physical distancing rules, though, have changed the political landscape. Elections officials not only need more public spaces than normal, but need access to them (think schools, community centres, churches, parish halls) when people aren't around. 

If you are super-curious about election days and dates, here's the list from 1949 through to this year. 

Monday, May 27, 1949
Monday, Nov. 26, 1951
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 1956
Thursday, Aug. 20, 1959
Monday, Nov. 19, 1962
Thursday, Sept. 8, 1966
Thursday, Oct. 28, 1971
Friday, March 24, 1972
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 1975
Monday, June 18, 1979
Tuesday, April 20, 1982
Tuesday, April 2, 1985
Thursday, April 20, 1989
Monday, May 3, 1993
Thursday, Feb. 22, 1996
Tuesday, Feb. 9, 1999
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2003
Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007
Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2015
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021

The notebook's notables

Representatives of the NDP and the PCs tell Canadian Press reporter Sarah Smellie that they worry winter weather could depress voter turnout. Both parties say they will focus on advance polls and mail-in ballots, which can be filled before the Saturday election.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin had no scheduled public events Tuesday but took some time from door-knocking to hit the ice in her regular Tuesday afternoon hockey game.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin paused her campaigning Tuesday to take part in her regularly scheduled hockey game. (Newfoundland and Labrador NDP)

Coffin was unavailable for an intermission interview, but hockey analysts at the Election Notebook can surmise that she focused on getting pucks in deep, giving 110 per cent, and creating some traffic in front of the goalie.

And, speaking of elections past…

What's coming up

We've asked the three leading parties about their plans for the week. Here's what we've heard so far:

  • Liberal Leader Andrew Furey and the Liberal bus will travel through central Newfoundland Wednesday, and will take questions from reporters in Grand Falls-Windsor.
  • NDP Leader Alison Coffin will fly to Happy Valley-Goose Bay Wednesday to campaign with Lake Melville candidate Amy Norman. 
  • PC Leader Ches Crosbie will hold a news conference in downtown St. John's Wednesday, and then travel to Marystown.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.

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