Nfld. & Labrador

Liberals aiming to 'catch parties off guard' with election call, says MUN professor

The 2019 provincial election is off to the races — but why is it happening now?

Election call has left other parties 'scrambling,' says Kelly Blidook

Kelly Blidook is a professor of political science at Memorial University. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

With election signs sprouting from front lawns and branded busses on the roads, the 2019 provincial election is off to the races — but why is the election happening now?

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has said he didn't want to interfere with the federal election scheduled for late October, but Memorial University political science professor Kelly Blidook says there was also some political strategy involved in the decision.

By calling the election right before the Easter long weekend — and just a day after tabling a budget — Blidook says the Liberals are hoping to surprise their opponents, and it's left the other parties "scrambling."

The Liberals took advantage of the rush of people heading to work Thursday to launch their election campaign in St. John's. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

"I think they are looking at parties that are not fully ready — the other parties simply don't have all their candidates in place," he said.

"Because they are the governing party, it's easier for them to get candidates in place and lined up. They're trying to catch parties off guard if they can. They're taking what advantages they can."

One of those advantages for the Liberals is Elections NL's Thursday afternoon deadline for candidate nominations, a timeline that Blidook says will make it more challenging for Ches Crosbie's Progressive Conservative Party to run candidates across the province.

"You just want to be campaigning at this point, you don't want to be recruiting, and you don't want to be recruiting on the Easter weekend," he said.

"It would be detrimental, certainly, to not have the full 40 [candidates]."

After nominating six more candidates on Friday, the PCs now have 28 in place. 

Ches Crosbie, accompanied by his team, at CBC Thursday for an interview with the St. John's Morning Show. (Kenny Sharpe/CBC)

And while it's within the governing party's rights to divert from the fixed election date, Blidook says it's understandable that some voters could be cynical about a Liberal decision that works to their own advantage.

"This is a party that could've passed a budget, that could've given us exactly what they said they were doing, could've governed," he said.

"They've done the governing part up to the point where they feel it's advantageous and then called an election. I don't know if I'd say it's somehow unethical, but I think it does invite a cynicism."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Carolyn Stokes