Nfld. & Labrador

PC Leader Ches Crosbie wins Windsor Lake byelection

Tories take seat held by former Liberal cabinet minister Cathy Bennett.

Crosbie edges out Liberal Paul Antle, NDP's Kerri Claire Neil

PC leader Ches Crosbie said the Windsor Lake district was always going to be tough, and even coming close to winning would have been a victory in and of itself. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

St. John's lawyer Ches Crosbie gently kissed his father — Tory titan John Crosbie — as he entered a jublilant campaign office after scoring a critical victory Thursday night in a byelection in Windsor Lake. 

"It was nip and tuck all through the night," said Crosbie, 65, who defeated Liberal Paul Antle in a hard-fought contest in the suburban St. John's district. 

Crosbie, who took over the reins of the provincial Progressive Conservatives in April, said his victory in a district that voted heavily for former Liberal cabinet minister Cathy Bennett in 2015 "means trouble for the Liberals." 

Crosbie had 2,034 votes to 1,816 for Antle, while New Democrat Kerri Claire Neil performed strongly with 856 votes, according to 38 polls reported by Elections Newfoundland and Labrador. 

"This was a hard hill to climb. This was a district three years ago where the Liberal candidate took two thirds of the vote. It was always going to be tough," Crosbie said during his victory speech to his dozens of supporters. 

"If we came close it would be a victory. If we won it would be a triumph. And we won," Crosbie exclaimed, followed by a thunderous cheer.

The byelection was made necessary by the resignation of Bennett, who quit her role as finance minister last year and left politics altogether this summer. 

Crosbie's victory gives the Tories an eighth seat in the House of Assembly, but more importantly, it puts Crosbie — a litigator known for class action lawsuits — a seat directly across from Liberal Premier Dwight Ball in the House of Assembly. 

"What I told people at the doors was if you're happy with the last three years of the Dwight Ball Liberal government, you know how you can vote," Crosbie said.

"But if you want someone with an alternative vision in the House of Assembly, whose job it is to hold the Liberal government to account, you know who you can vote for. And we know who they did vote for."

Crosbie provided his opponents with some encouraging words.

"It takes guts and determination to enter a contest like this, or any electoral contest. So, I salute them for those qualities." he said.

"And also the Liberal leader and Mr. Ball for coming here. Unfortunately I missed the two of them, and I salute him as well for having those qualities that make for democracy, which involve respect for people while contesting over ideas."

'Machine' helped secure victory, volunteers told

Crosbie grew up with an intimate view of politics. His father is a former federal and provincial cabinet minister and a former lieutenant-governor in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

In a victory speech to volunteers and other members of the Tory caucus, Crosbie credited "a machine" for helping his campaign win the race. 

'Once a Liberal, always a Liberal,' Paul Antle said Thursday as he cast his ballot. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The byelection marks the third unlucky provincial campaign for Antle, a successful businessman who placed second to Ball in the 2013 Liberal leadership campaign. 

Even after casting his ballot Thursday, Antle said he would be involved in politics somehow, regardless of the outcome. 

"Hey, listen, I've been a Liberal for a very long time. Once a Liberal, always a Liberal. We'll always be there for the party, through thick and thin."

NDP candidate Kerri Claire Neil casts her ballot Thursday morning. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Antle and Ball came to Crosbie's campaign office to concede defeat, shortly before the final results were reported. 

Neil, a political newcomer, indicated Thursday that she would be back. 

"Definitely, I will be running again next year, for sure. And I should finish my master's [degree] as well," she said, laughing.

PC Leader Ches Crosbie (l-r), NDP candidate Kerri Claire Neil and Liberal candidate Paul Antle competed for the Windsor Lake district. (Submitted photos)

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