Nfld. & Labrador

Federal Tories hoping for N.L. comeback

Shut out in Newfoundland and Labrador in the last federal election, the Conservatives are hoping for a breakthrough in Danny Williams's former stomping grounds.

Shut out in Newfoundland and Labrador in the last federal election, the Conservatives are hoping for a breakthrough in the former stomping grounds of Danny Williams.

Williams, who led a successful ABC - Anything But Conservative - campaign against Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the 2008 federal election, had already improved relations with the federal Tories before he retired in December.

Danny Williams waged the ABC campaign against the federal Conservatives in 2008, leading to a shutout in that year's election. ((CBC))

Potential candidates for the next election, which could come as early as this spring, are gauging their chances, with one of them already going public.

"I'm an engineer, I'm a builder and I think what we need most in this province is a bridge between St. John's and Ottawa," said Jerry Byrne, who has played a significant role for decades in the development of Newfoundland and Labrador's now-flourishing offshore oil industry.

"And so I'm going to start working on that bridge as soon as I can," said Byrne, who has retired from DF Barnes, an engineering company that now has an international reputation in the oil trade.

Byrne is aiming for the Conservative nomination in St. John's East, now held by the NDP's Jack Harris. Byrne is the brother of the late provincial cabinet minister Jack Byrne, who died in 2008.

"We talked about it many times. Politics is in our blood," Byrne told CBC News. "We talked about it, he did it, and now it's my turn."

Byrne could face a challenge for the nomination from Beth Crosbie, a local realtor and the daughter of former federal cabinet minister John Crosbie, who represented the former riding of St. John's West for 17 years and is now Newfoundland and Labrador's lieutenant-governor.

Fisheries Ambassador Loyola Sullivan has his eye on a political comeback, sources say. ((CBC))

The ABC campaign had a debilitating effect on the federal Tories three years ago, choking off donations and volunteers.

Everything, though, seems to have changed.

CBC News has learned that former provincial finance minister Loyola Sullivan, who was appointed Canada's fisheries ambassador in 2007, has his eye on St. John's South-Mount Pearl. Sources say Sullivan is telling Conservatives he is 90 per cent likely to run.

Liberal Siobhan Coady has held the St. John's South-Mount Pearl seat since 2008.

Meanwhile, John Ottenheimer, a former provincial health minister, has his sights set on the neighbouring riding of Avalon. Sources say if Fabian Manning does not leave the Senate to run there, Ottenheimer will likely be the candidate in Avalon.

Liberal Scott Andrews defeated Manning in 2008 in Avalon.