Nfld. & Labrador·Weekend Briefing

Ches 'I am a new broom' Crosbie and his plan to win over NDP voters

While positioning himself away from his own party's recent past, the Tory leader is also hoping his platform's left flank will appeal to New Democrats.

Tory leader wants to remind voters what the P in PC stands for

PC Leader Ches Crosbie speaks with reporters Wednesday evening after the televised leaders' debate. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

He may be into yoga, but few people would mistake Ches Crosbie for your stereotypical, crunchy-granola, downtownie New Democrat. 

And yet, here's Crosbie — whose blood must be a true Tory shade of blue — finding his inner orange. 

The other day, just after he unveiled the Blue Book — which included some conspicuous promises, like an affordable child-care policy — Crosbie went out of his way to remind voters that the P in PC stands for progressive. 

"In fact, I think many NDP voters would be happy to find a home with the PC Party," Crosbie told reporters, pointing also to the former government's poverty reduction strategy and the applause it received across the country and beyond. 

"Those are the kinds of values, those progressive values, that NDP supporters value," Crosbie said. "They can look to us for a home to keep advancing that kind of progressive agenda." 

They can look to us for a home to keep advancing that kind of progressive agenda.- Ches Crosbie

I imagine some hard-core NDP types will be aching from belly laughs as they think of Ches Crosbie as a magnet for their constituency. 

But here's the thing. Alison Coffin and team have candidates in place in just 14 districts. That leaves the other 26 districts without any option for committed New Democrats — not to mention left-leaning undecideds. 

In steps Mr. Crosbie, and a spotlight on the left flank of his platform. 

No wonder, then, that Coffin at Wednesday's debate gently mocked the PC timing for affordable child care, which has been a core NDP demand for decades. 

Watch Wednesday's televised debate: 

No wonder, too, that Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has gone on the offensive against Crosbie, depicting him as a scissor-wielding Conservative who will slash spending and services. 

And, of course, Ball keeps raising the spectre of Muskrat Falls, the boondoggle that has made our net debt soar — and how the critical decisions were made on PC watches. 

Crosbie's having none of it. 

"I am a new broom," he said during the televised debate. (Calling this one, by the way: I bet Rising Tide's inevitable Revue 2020 will feature a Crosbie stand-in holding a broom.) 

"A new leader, and new management." 

Speaking after the debate, Crosbie — who has staked out some political territory of independence, beholden to no one — went a bit further. 

"I have had no contact and no responsibility in previous regimes. I am the new PC Party," he told reporters. 

(Which is interesting, because if you'll note in an above paragraph, Crosbie was conspicuously proud of the former Tory government's poverty reduction program. Just saying.)

What will stick in the final stretch?

Both Crosbie and Ball are facing uphill battles, but I don't think the Liberals are necessarily safe. The public apathy and frustration that have become dominant themes in this campaign could work against the governing party. 

While both the PCs and NDP are taking shots at the Liberals' economic record — Coffin aimed to score points against Ball by questioning what kind of jobs are being created in this economy — there seems to be some opposition opportunity in another arena: ethics. 

NDP Leader Alison Coffin needled Dwight Ball over the Liberals' employment record during Wednesday's televised debate. (CBC)

I started covering provincial politics in the 1980s, and I would hardly rank Dwight Ball's tenure as being the most egregious for ethical lapses. But still, I wonder why the opposition is not making a lot more hay out of some recent stories. 

This is, after all, a party that touts its independent appointments commission in the hiring of appointments to boards and agencies — except when it doesn't, like how Liberal staffer Carla Foote got a senior job at The Rooms last year, without competition. It also installed three former Liberal candidates as senior departmental managers. 

To be fair, Crosbie did put his finger on the latest ethical issue — "Skategate," as some wags on social media and elsewhere have called it — and why a receipt seems to be missing for the 34 tickets acquired for Liberal insiders when now-retiring Olympic champ Kaetlyn Osmond returned to Marystown in April 2018. 

"With a government with this kind of track record of favouring their friends, they don't get the benefit of the doubt," Crosbie said this week. "They need to show the proof. Show the documentation that proves the tickets were purchased." 

(The issue to me is not that a whole bunch of Liberals wanted to be near a celebrity. Not even that they expected favourable treatment. It's that the story doesn't add up.) 

We're well into the last half of the campaign now.

Dwight Ball went into the campaign with some advantages: a full slate, many of them incumbents; an obvious edge in terms of money and other resources; and the momentum of knowing what was going to happen well before his opponents. 

Crosbie and Coffin will have to step up the hardball game — and on a multiple number of issues — to gain traction with voters who are undecided, and would-be voters who just don't care. 

Speaking of that last point, Bailey White in our newsroom has been working on a series of specials for Here & Now called Undecided, and has been diving into the issues … including voter apathy. We had the dubious distinction of having the lowest voter turnout in provincial history in the last election, and it's reasonable to worry this election could be as bad. 

Here's the first edition of Undecided with Bailey White: 

Shed rules 

Here in the newsroom, we've been talking a lot about why so many people appear to be disengaged with politics — and that includes the very process of voting. 

We asked the comedians at The Outhouse to take a crack at voter registrations and other rules, and they came back with an edition of their Shed News. 

Need to review the rules in writing? Here's a guide

In the meantime, you can keep up with our ongoing election coverage on our Newfoundland and Labrador Votes page, and by subscribing to our Trail Mix newsletter. (After the election, we'll be reinventing it with a more general list of topics to bring you!) 

See you next week. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

John Gushue

CBC News

John Gushue is the digital senior producer with CBC News in St. John's.

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