Nfld. & Labrador·Analysis

Why have all the federal leaders left out N.L.?

We're already halfway through the federal campaign, but a party leader has yet to make a stop in Newfoundland and Labrador, writes Peter Cowan.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province that's yet to have a campaign visit

As Peter Cowan writes, none of the federal party leaders has made a stop in Newfoundland and Labrador since the campaign began. (Reuters)

Every day, the federal party leaders have popped up in different provinces with a fresh batch of local cheerleaders behind them to emphatically endorse the daily announcement.

If you watch closely, you'll notice something is missing.

Not a single leader has shown up in Newfoundland and Labrador during the election campaign — and it's already more than half over.

In a tight race with all the leaders trying to pick up seats, the reality is Newfoundland and Labrador isn't much of a battleground.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has made it to every province and territory, except here.

It makes sense. His party is struggling just to find candidates in this province, and with the party struggling in the polls nationally he has to focus on holding on to the seats he has in other parts of the country.

On election night, one or two seats may be the difference between government and opposition.- Peter Cowan

Picking up a seat in Newfoundland and Labrador could charitably be called a remote possibility.

A trip now wouldn't be a pleasant experience for him. The questions would focus on why he can't find candidates, why his party rejected lawyer Ches Crosbie but is happy to have Peter Penashue even with his past campaign that broke the rules. It's not like talking about how he yanked the $400-million fisheries fund would make up for it.

Not showing up at all would be a sign he's completely written off this province, so expect him to show up at some point, just not yet.

Holding seats

When it comes to ground covered, Justin Trudeau isn't far behind. He's been to every province except N.L. The Liberals hold the most seats in this province and are expected to hold on to them.

They even hope to snatch away one seat from the NDP in St. John's South-Mount Pearl. Their candidate there, Seamus O'Regan, is a personal friend of Trudeau, so between now and Oct. 19 he'll have to make at least one trip. He can't afford not to come.

The question is whether it will be one visit or two. If the Liberals think they have a good shot at St. John's South-Mount Pearl, expect to see him a second time to try and seal the deal.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is the only leader who has actually shown up here in 2015; he was here in June before the official start of the campaign.

Mulcair's official trips have always been to St. John's, where they already have seats. For him it's about holding on to the seats they have, rather than picking up ones from the Liberals.

This election is shaping up to be the closest in decades and even though the drama may not be focused on Newfoundland and Labrador, all the leaders need to make sure they show voters they care about the province.

No voters like to feel ignored, but any leader who underestimates the scorn of a Newfoundlander or Labradorian who feels taken for granted, does so at their peril.

And on election night, one or two seats may be the difference between government and opposition.


About the Author

Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.


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