N.L. election polls closed
Tories aim for 3rd N.L. majority - NDP, Liberals compete for Opposition status
Polls have closed for Newfoundland and Labrador’s 19th provincial election amid blustery autumn weather and expectations of a third consecutive majority government for the Progressive Conservatives.
Results are expected to begin coming in quickly after 8 p.m. NT.
At dissolution, the PCs held 43 of the 48 seats in the house of assembly, while the Liberals held four and the NDP held one.
The campaign lacked the fiery presence of former premier Danny Williams, although the election seems poised to make history all the same.
CBC News will carry election coverage Tuesday night on TV, radio and online.
Results are expected to come in quickly after 8 p.m. NT, when the polls close.
You can stream CBC's election night coverage here. Online, use our interactive results map, with district-by-district results updated in real time.
Tory Leader Kathy Dunderdale, who succeeded Williams in December after he retired from politics, is completing a three-week election campaign as the front-runner, and if elected Tuesday night will become the first woman in the province to lead a party to power.
While Dunderdale's Progressive Conservatives are widely expected to form a third consecutive majority, many voters have been focused on the fight for second place, with the upstart New Democrats consistently edging the struggling Liberals in opinion polls. [On Point: Who will form the Opposition?]
Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward said he is confident his party will remain the Opposition, and that he will win his own seat in a tight race against Tory incumbent Joan Burke, who is both education minister and government house leader.
"I feel good about it. Our candidates are feeling good," Aylward told CBC News after he voted in Stephenville. "I was talking to them last night. Everybody was upbeat, and we're looking forward to what the results are going to be tonight."
Dunderdale was equally confident as she voted Tuesday at a school in St. John's. She said that if the Tories win, she will turn her mind immediately to following through on the party's platform, a mix of both Red Tory promises and cautions of fiscal prudence.
"I need to be thinking about cabinet and what that's going to look like," Dunderdale told reporters. "I have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me here."
Dunderdale said that it would be "very unlikely that we would get the house to sit before Christmas."
The NDP's mission in the campaign has been to project a more credible alternative than the Liberals. Michael has been bolstered by a series of polls that have put the NDP in second, albeit well behind the Tories.
"No one will ever think of us again as the third party," NDP Leader Lorraine Michael promised at the outset of the campaign. Holding the NDP's only seat, Michael hopes to gain several seats, especially in St. John's.
"I feel great about the possibility that we could be the Official Opposition — we could be government as far as that goes," Michael told CBC News Monday.
While the NDP has had the benefit of momentum, the Liberals — who were pushed out of government in 2003, after 14 years in power — have been struggling throughout the campaign. The party entered the race with a crushing deficit and was not able to complete its slate of 48 candidates until hours before nominations closed.
Aylward, a former cabinet minister who took over the Liberal leadership in August after former leader Yvonne Jones stepped aside for health reasons, has dismissed poll results and believes the Grits will make significant gains on Tuesday night.
"We can win a number of major seats here in the province," Aylward said last week. He claimed the party was "in play in 15 to 25, easily 25 to 30 districts."
Tories have advantages
Dunderdale's Tories headed into the campaign with every advantage, from a high standing in the polls — considerably less than the stratospheric levels above 80 per cent that Williams once recorded, but never less than 51 per cent — in 43 of the legislature's 48 seats at dissolution.
Dunderdale's critics have argued she inherited a bank account made possible by surging oil revenues, gripes that she has dismissed as unfounded.
"While we've had some windfalls on oil, I think the more important question is, ‘What did we do with it?'" said Dunderdale, a former minister of natural resources.
While the governing Tories have increased program spending by more than 60 per cent in the last two terms, Dunderdale's platform has emphasized fiscal prudence. The laundry list of Red Tory initiatives in the platform, including greater spending on home care for seniors and an array of social projects, is contingent on government having the money to pay for them.
Dunderdale has eschewed the flashy style that Williams was known for, and controversially has adopted a much more conciliatory tone with the federal Conservatives, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Dunderdale said the relationship is largely pragmatic.
"It is very easy, in terms of the politics of it all, to stand down here and throw rocks at the federal government … and appear to be standing up for the rights of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," said Dunderdale, adding that she intends to keep cordial relations as the provinces negotiate the next health-care accord, scheduled to take effect in 2014.
"We need to be at the table. It doesn't mean we're always going to get heard. It doesn't mean we're always going to agree," she said.
The Liberals have tried to make the Tories' multibillion-dollar plan to tap hydroelectric power at Muskrat Falls the pivotal issue in the election. Williams unveiled the Lower Churchill deal in November, shortly before he retired from public life.
Dunderdale has staunchly defended the $6.2-billion plan, which would see power generated in Labrador sent to Newfoundland, with as much as 40 per cent exported to Nova Scotia through subsea cables.
While Dunderdale's campaign slogan was "New Energy," she has said her platform is about far more than Muskrat Falls. Asked if a victory Tuesday can be interpreted as a mandate on Muskrat Falls, Dunderdale said, "I think I'll consider it as a clear mandate to continue the process that we've laid out."
The megaproject, which has already received federal government support for a loan guarantee, still has several hurdles to clear before it can be sanctioned.
While carrying through on one of Williams's key goals, Dunderdale has tried to both praise and distance herself from her predecessor.
"I think history will judge Danny Williams to be the finest premier that Newfoundland and Labrador ever had," Dunderdale told CBC News midway through the campaign.
"[But] I like to stand on my own two feet."
Dunderdale is one of a small — but growing, with changes this year in B.C. and Alberta — number of women who have become premiers. However, only one — Catherine Callbeck in Prince Edward Island, in 1993 — has ever won a general election.