The federal New Democrats are kicking off their Labrador by-election campaign in the region where they have enjoyed the most success in the past.
The Leader of the Official Opposition will be in Labrador West tonight to officially kick of Harry Borlase’s campaign at a town hall meeting in Labrador City.
The NDP have been working the region in preparation for an anticipated by-election. In December the Atlantic Caucus visited Labrador West. Megan Leslie, MP for Halifax, Nova Scotia; Ryan Cleary, MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl; Yvon Godin, NDP for Acadie-Bathurst, New Brunswick; and Robert Chisholm, MP for Dartmouth-Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia met with the Chamber of Commerce, the Housing and Homelessness Coalition. They also discussed the shutdown of the Regional Development Corporation because of the Conservative cutbacks at ACOA and supported a call for an up to date study on silicosis.
The NDP have won the provincial district of Labrador West/Menihek on three occasions since 1984. They have won or placed second in every election over that period.
All evidence of a full court press by the NDP as the Liberals are winged by an ugly internal spat. Todd Russell, who lost the 2011 campaign to Peter the Cheater Penashue by just 79 votes told the CBC yesterday that he was disappointed by Yvonne Jones “hasty” announcement. Russell is the president of NunatuKavut which represents over 6,000 members from Southern Labrador.
Russell swept the seat in his three previous campaigns. In the 2006 by-election he beat Conservative Graham Letto, earning 51.48% of the vote.
Letto, a former mayor of Labrador City was hired as a researcher for the Provincial Liberal Opposition office when Yvonne Jones was leader. Great foresight on Yvonne’s part!
Russell won the 2008 election with 50.28% of the vote and in 2008 he captured 70.28% of the vote. He was just 11 days away from qualifying for his M.P pension when the 2011 election was called.
There are only 20,000 eligible voters in the riding. Voter turn-out has often been a challenge. The percentage of participants over the past three elections has been 50.1%.
A strong ground team and an NDP campaign that gets voters to the polling booth could upset the normal Conservative/Liberal rivalry in the riding making for an interesting campaign.
I predict the Conservatives will place third. Newbie Borlase is up against one of the provinces most calculating veterans in Yvonne Jones. The Liberals will be sure to bring in Justin Trudeau to shore-up the vote. His star quality will be hard to match. The Liberals are the party to beat. However if one looks at the NDP polling numbers from the last provincial election, it shows the NDP did very well in Labrador West and Goose Bay where the Liberals placed a distant third.
The by-election date has yet to be determined, but could be called as early as this Friday, or as late as October.