and not just pundits, are salivating in anticipation of the results of the Virginia
Waters byelection. Perhaps, as its ‘bellwether’
history suggests, the outcome will confirm the winner of the next general election. Of course, a multitude of signals are sought. In particular, the Government wants to know
if its free-falling popular support has been arrested with Dunderdale’s banishment.
riding is a term used to denote a single electoral district or region which reflects,
with consistency, a larger political trend.
The District of Virginia Waters qualifies; but don’t bet your last dime
on the accuracy of this gauge.
Polls suggest the Liberals are the Party with momentum; the Tories and the NDP
of the byelection is not a forgone conclusion.
In 2011, Premier
Dunderdale took 60% of the vote against 30% for the NDP and a mere 10%
for the Liberals. Given the corrosive
political environment of the past three years, no one expects the Tories to
replicate recent victories.
elections of 2003 and 2007 the Tories took 58% and 73% of the vote respectively. That Dunderdale’s vote was reduced to 60%, in
2011, was indicative of the growing NDP strength in that middle-class riding.
successive wins suggest the district now contains a large “core” Tory vote. To put it another way, a ten year pattern of
partisan consistency may, in fact, have disqualified the Riding as a source of
serious ‘bellwether’ interpretation.
possible three years of nagging acrimony has had a corrosive effect? Virginia Waters surely has been in the eye of
this caustic storm.
Parties in the byelection are represented by experienced and respected players.
Danny Breen, Sheila O’Leary and Cathy Bennett carry less baggage, on a personal
level, than that which their respective Parties have saddled them.
O’Leary hopes to build on the Party’s 2011 credible showing. But her Party is simply not the political
force it was even a few months ago.
Bennett, like O’Leary, has come through a recent contest which serves to
enhance her electoral strength.
to turn the Liberal Party’s meagre 10% share in 2011 into a win, is a monumental
task. Bennett faces Dwight Ball’s
questionable strategy of letting the Tories fall on their sword rather than capitalize
on the legitimacy and policy flexibility afforded him by his Leadership victory. If she wins, Bennett might just become the
ball (sic) of energy the Liberal Party needs to propel it through the next
has earned a kind of respect, in municipal politics; but it is less than clear
he is ready for the big leagues. Nevertheless, the
baggage of the Tories’ fall from grace, and Dunderdale’s forced exit, finds him
in the position of pivot. A discredited Government expects him to demonstrate its fortunes are on the turn. If he fails the voters might get ready for a ‘damn the torpedoes’ strategy next (though it might be hard to distinguish from the approach taken in the
recent deficit Budget).
Danny Williams hoofing it on the streets of Virginia Waters, in support of
Breen, it’s not that the odor of victory has been detected; it’s just that the
stakes are so high for him personally; like the Emperor in Hans Christian
Anderson’s Fairy Tale, Williams feels he must risk being seen without clothes.
crippling levels, is on the rise Dwight Ball must
prove that the Liberal juggernaut is still alive, that it is irreversibly on
the way to crushing the Tories in the next general election. The NDP will be content to prove it is not
look for guidance as to the outcome?
of the Liberals going all the way over the top from the low figure of just 10% seems dim; yet the
Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection confirms turnover is not impossible.
Jerome Kennedy won 76.3% of the votes cast against only 14.8% for the Liberals and
8.5% for the NDP. When Kennedy resigned,
two years later, municipal politician Liberal Sam Slade, won the Seat with just
over 50% of the votes.
when the voters are pissed!
Waters campaign, reflecting the Riding’s demography, has been a respectably
middle-class affair; the Candidates have been very nice to each other.
took the gloves off. The voters of Carbonear-Harbour
Grace weren’t bored. They were constantly reminded that an election was on,
that the stakes were high.
Waters, neither Candidate has adequately defined the other’s failures nor those
of the Parties; it’s as if the mountains of unploughed snow are a welcomed
shield denying each other (and the voters) an uncomfortable encounter.
the way to gain uncertain ground.
clue within the results of the most recent CRA Poll? A March 6th report placed overall
support for the Tories at 33% against 53% for the Liberals, and 13% for the
standings are a far cry from the numbers that bolstered the Dunderdale
Government’s 2011 bid which also dates Virginia Waters’ last trip to the Polls. They paint a
picture of odious leadership and unwise public policy.
Virginia Waters’ recent history of voting Tory three times, successively, constitute
a partisan and impenetrable wall protecting the P.C.’s? Or, is the public’s faith in this
Government breached beyond repair?
Bennett replicate Sam Slade’s minor miracle in Carbonear-Harbour Grace?
O’Leary advance the NDP in spite of itself?
Waters ‘bellwether’ and is the signal one of change?
night can’t come soon enough.