Stage set for Crosbie-Antle showdown in Windsor Lake byelection
Ches Crosbie confident, but admits losing would be a blow for him and PC Party
The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador Ches Crosbie will face a stiff challenge in his quest to earn a seat in the House of Assembly.
The governing Liberal party announced Tuesday that high-profile businessman Paul Antle was acclaimed as the party's candidate, setting the stage for a heavyweight byelection bout in the St. John's district of Windsor Lake.
Crosbie hungry for legitimacy
Crosbie has been party leader for four months, and is hungry to earn himself legitimacy in the eyes of voters ahead of next year's provincial general election.
But he admits his authority to lead the PCs would be severely wounded if he loses to Antle.
"If I lose, it's obviously a blow to our chances to form a government," Crosbie said Tuesday afternoon, "but I have no intention of entertaining that prospect."
Crosbie has been on the campaign trail for a week, out of the gate quickly after Liberal MHA and former finance minister Cathy Bennett announced she was leaving politics after less than a term in office.
Bennett's resignation became effective on Tuesday, meaning government now has up to 60 days to call a byelection, and up to 95 days to hold a vote. But Premier Ball is signalling that he will act quickly, and voters could be casting ballots in early October.
Crosbie said he's ready, whatever the timeframe, and wouldn't say what he'll do if he loses.
"The only thing on my mind is winning this byelection, and the reception I'm getting at the doors confirms in my mind that's going to happen," he said.
A strong Liberal vote
Crosbie faces an electorate that stood firmly behind Bennett and the Liberal party in 2015, with Bennett receiving 66 per cent of the 5,000 votes cast in Windsor Lake.
He faces a Liberal opponent in Paul Antle who came a strong second to NDP MHA Lorraine Michael in St. John's East-Quidi Vidi in the last election. Antle also came second to Dwight Ball in a crowded Liberal leadership contest in 2013.
Antle was not available for interviews Tuesday, and has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday morning.
But if Crosbie is worried, he's not showing it.
"I'll just say that it's very important for me to win this byelection and I think that's what's going to happen."