Nfld. & Labrador

Strange bedfellows: Williams's ABC campaign heads to trenches

A Newfoundland and Labrador cabinet minister campaigned door-to-door with a St. John's-area Liberal candidate Monday night, as Danny Williams denied his 'anything but Conservative' campaign is intimidating provincial Tories.

Williams launches website to expand anti-Harper message

A Newfoundland and Labrador cabinet minister campaigned door-to-door with a St. John's-area Liberal candidate Monday night, as Premier Danny Williams denied his 'anything but Conservative' campaign is intimidating provincial Tories.

Though a Progressive Conservative, Williams is encouraging Newfoundland and Labrador voters to boycott federal Conservative candidates in the Oct. 14 general election.

Williams is furious that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper abandoned a written pledge made before the 2006 election to exclude non-renewable energy sources from the equalization formula. Williams has also warned Canadians that Harper intends to pursue a far-right agenda if he forms a majority government.

On Monday night, Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale joined Siobhan Coady — the Liberal candidate in St. John's South-Mount Pearl — in an attempt to turn a seat that has voted Tory since 1997.

In neighbouring St. John's East, however, Dunderdale is helping New Democrat Jack Harris, a former MP and former provincial NDP leader, who came out of political retirement earlier this month. St. John's East has also voted Conservative since 1997.

Dunderdale said she is backing "people who are people of principle, and, you know, when they say something you can rely on their word."

Federal Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador have made no secret of their disdain of the ABC campaign, and have accused Williams of using dirty politics, by intimidating provincial Tories and threatening to choke off funding.

For instance, Jim Morgan, a former provincial PC cabinet minister, told CTV that provincial Tories have been instructed to stay away from the federal Conservative campaign or face consequences.

'Absolutely, unequivocally, absolutely untrue'

Even though he solicited the support of members of his caucus — with all but one member agreeing to join the ABC campaign — Williams said he has intimidated no one.

"I can swear on my father's grave that that is absolutely, unequivocally, absolutely untrue," Williams told CBC News Monday.

He said the accusations are part of a pattern with the federal Conservatives, who he has accused of abandoning local concerns to support Harper's agenda.

"[Avalon MP] Fabian Manning was not prepared to stand up for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, so what better smokescreen than to start to accuse the premier of the province of threatening people's businesses?" Williams said in an interview.

"I mean, there's nothing further from the truth."

The ABC campaign has brought a very different air to campaigning in Newfoundland and Labrador. Nancy Riche, a longtime NDP activist, described the campaign as "bizarre" but said it couldn't hurt her party's chances. Nonetheless, she said Harris would win the St. John's East race under any circumstances.

Coady, who was defeated twice by now-retiring Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, welcomed the extra help from the Williams camp.

"Most certainly," she told CBC News. "Any time a minister of the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, you know, speaks highly of a candidate in a federal election, of course, it's very helpful."

Voter Tina Jacobs sees merits in the ABC campaign.

"[It] really makes you stop and look at it a little deeper and think about it a little more than just going out and voting," she said.

But fellow voter Jim Collins sees risks.

"To have no Conservative representation in Newfoundland may not be the best policy in the long term," he said.   

Anti-Conservative website launched

Williams, meanwhile, has launched a website to help spread the ABC campaign: The site bolsters Williams's arguments that Harper broke election promises and cannot be trusted.

The site includes prior Harper campaign literature, as well as comments Harper has made over the years, including a notorious remark that Atlantic Canada is plagued by a "culture of defeat."

The website was registered early this month by the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.