'I'll have a buddy or two,' MP Manning insists
The lone Conservative incumbent running in Newfoundland and Labrador is convinced he'll be re-elected in the Oct. 14 general election — and will have company, to boot.
Fabian Manning got a boost on the weekend when Conservative Leader Stephen Harper campaigned in Harbour Grace, in Manning's riding of Avalon. It was Harper's only appearance in the province.
Manning said he is not worried by the "anything but Conservative" campaign that Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, a Progressive Conservative, has unleashed on the federal Tories. In fact, Manning said he expects voters will hand Williams a surprise.
"I'm confident that I'll have friends with me in Ottawa from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador but you know the decision rests with the people of our province," Manning said.
"I've been alone before at times — it's lonely — but, you know the bottom line for me is the people of Avalon riding [and] I feel confident that I'll have a buddy or two with me in Ottawa."
The Conservatives held three Newfoundland and Labrador seats at dissolution, but incumbents Loyola Hearn and Norm Doyle are retiring from politics.
Manning is squaring off against Scott Andrews, a veteran Liberal organizer and a councillor in Conception Bay South. The New Democrats have not nominated a candidate in Avalon.
Harbour Grace resident Jeannette O'Neill told CBC News that Manning has her vote. She said Manning can take some of the credit for economic progress in her community.
"I think most people will vote for him," she said. "I think Scott Andrews is a newcomer, relatively new — I don't think many people even know who he is."
But Rene Sergerie said he knows who Andrews is, and that he plans to vote Liberal. While Williams's ABC campaign has been highlighting how the federal Conservatives changed their policy on equalization, Sergerie said the key issue for him is the war in Afghanistan.
"Ninety-seven times now, every time a soldier dies, I say, 'Thanks, Harper,'" said Sergerie, who until now has always voted Tory. "That's not our war — that's [U.S. President George W.] Bush. So let Bush do it."
Bill Farrell, another Harbour Grace resident, said he has always voted Conservative, but lost faith when Manning supported the budget that included changes to the equalization formula that incorporated offshore oil revenues.
"Fabian Manning, when he was up in the nosebleed section in the House of Commons … when it came time to vote, he was down sitting next to Mr. Harper and voted against his Newfoundland family," Farrell told CBC News.
"That's what turned me totally. He'll never get a vote from me again."
Farrell said he would vote NDP, but does not have the choice in this election.
Manning won Avalon in the 2006 election by a comfortable margin of 4,814 votes.