Nfld. & Labrador

Battle for the Exploits, as Tory candidate hopes to flip district back to blue

Independent Gloria Cooper hopes to capture the youth vote, while Liberal Jerry Dean makes pitch to hold seat.

Independent Gloria Cooper works to capture youth vote, while Liberal Jerry Dean makes pitch to hold seat

Signs for the three candidates vying to be the member for Exploits are planted on lawns and street corners. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Jerry Dean insists he's a strong voice for the district of Exploits — even if constituents may not believe it.

"I've been an outspoken voice when it's been required and I've been a good listener when it's been required," the Liberal incumbent said Thursday, while taking a break from campaigning in Bishop's Falls.

Dean served as mayor of Botwood for four terms before entering provincial politics in 2015 with the Liberals. He's hoping voters will put faith in him once again, as he faces off against PC Pleaman Forsey and Independent Gloria Cooper. 

As a backbencher, Dean hasn't been an overly vocal member of the Liberal team, but he said he's gotten results for his home district. 

Incumbent Jerry Dean, former mayor of Botwood, is campaigning to keep his seat in the district. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

"Just because I haven't been always in front of a TV camera or microphone, that doesn't mean this former mayor and this current MHA hasn't been standing tall and proud for the people in this district."

Dean pointed to the upcoming construction of two new 60-bed long-term care homes in central Newfoundland as well as a 20-bed protective care unit at the Dr. Hugh Twomey Health Centre in Botwood as proof, the latter a much-needed health-care extension which, he said, he began fighting for while on council. 

"It didn't happen until it got on my watch. I accomplished that without tearing people down."

Going door-to-door at Exploits Manor, a care home in Bishop's Falls, Dean was given a friendly reception when he asked residents to consider him on election day, with some committing to voting Liberal on May 16. 

"Sometimes when you speak the truth, sometimes people don't want to hear that. I've tried my very best."

The other Forsey

Dean won by 165 votes in the last election, knocking out longtime Tory MHA Clayton Forsey. Before that, the region was represented by former premier Roger Grimes. 

Though he's not on the ballot himself, Clayton Forsey is very much still involved in the political scene as he acts as campaign manager for his younger brother, and current PC candidate, Pleaman Forsey.

Pleaman Forsey has long worked behind the scenes of the Progressive Conservative party. This election, he decided to put his own name forward. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

"As I go door-to-door, yes, I get comments of 'You're Clayton's brother, are ya?' I say,'Yes I [am]' and if we can drag something from that, I'll take it," Pleaman Forsey said. 

"Before the election people were saying they needed representation, and I felt I could step in there."

The younger Forsey said after working on five previous campaigns and serving as president of the PC association in Exploits, the time was right to enter the political arena. 

PC Clayton Forsey, right, served the district of Exploits for three terms before he was unseated by Liberal Jerry Dean. Now his brother, Pleaman Forsey, is hoping to turn the district back to blue. (Katie Breen/CBC)

He stopped short of saying there's a dissatisfaction with the current MHA, but Forsey said some government decisions have left a bad taste in people's mouths. 

"Losing the biofuel plant and data centre in Grand Falls-Windsor and the [24-hour emergency department] at the hospital in Botwood, the Dr. Hugh Twomey Health Centre … people are not pleased with those decisions."

"We're knocking door to door, getting good response and we'll keep going until May 16 and let the voters have their choice."

Non-party option

Dean is not the only former Botwood mayor on the Exploits slate.

Gloria Cooper, a music teacher and guidance counsellor, has offered herself up as an Independent candidate.

"When I look at how I've voted in the past, it's been for the person — not for the party," she said.

Gloria Cooper, a music teacher originally from Point Leamington, says she has always voted for the candidate instead of the political party. That's why she's decided to run as an Independent. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Campaigning is a learning curve, Cooper said, but it's worth it.

"As an Independent I'll be able to express their concerns very clearly and strongly without any partisan influence," said Cooper, who grew up in Point Leamington.

"I'm asking people to vote, exercise that right, and to, at least, look at why they vote how they do, and perhaps do it a little differently."

Job growth, road conditions and health care are among the top concerns of residents, Cooper said, speaking in front of the Twomey Health Centre.

People expect someone to stand in the house to put forward petitions and motions and to be a true voice.- Gloria Cooper

In particular, Cooper is referring to cuts to the ER that saw its hours cut back from 24/7 to a 12-hour-a-day operation in the 2016 budget. 

The province already spends more per capita on health care than anywhere else in the country. The cost associated with extending the hours is immaterial, she said. 

"In the case of an emergency, time is of the essence, so the amount of money we would have to spend on this would be insignificant in the budget that we have in this province for health care." 

A lack of strong representation is also an issue at the door, Cooper said.

"I think that it is mostly because of the partisan influence and partisan control. People expect someone to stand in the house to put forward petitions and motions and to be a true voice."

Besides Botwood, the district of Exploits includes many other communities, like Bishop's Falls, Leading Tickles, Point Leamington, as well as part of Grand Falls-Windsor. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.

With files from Katie Breen

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