I loved the byelection in the district of Windsor Lake and followed it poll by poll online. Halfway through the campaign I thought Paul Antle and the Liberals would scrape out a win. Closer to election day I moved in the other direction and thought Ches Crosbie would eke it out.
A lot Riding on the Vote
The TV ads for Crosbie in the news were effective. Ches hammering his own campaign sign in the ground from news coverage was also an upper-mind awareness image. If I were voting, which I wasn’t, I bet Ches and the hammer would have been an image that ran through my head.
There was a lot riding on that vote in Windsor Lake. If Ches Crosbie had lost it would have left the PC party in dire straits and right behind the eight ball with a general election looming next year. They would have been a party with no leader in the House of Assembly.
Crosbie’s victory in the district was impressive given the fact the NDP candidate Kerri Claire Neil polled well, getting over 900 votes. She in fact helped split the anti-government vote so that, while Crosbie won by a couple of hundred votes, there were 3,000 people who voted who didn’t want a Liberal win.
It was the Liberals who lost in Windsor Lake rather than Paul Antle. That isn’t really a big surprise because it is after all a byelection where people get to voice their frustration with government on all kinds of issues without actually kicking them out of office and replacing them.
It is critically important that there be a strong opposition to any government of any political stripe. Crosbie, in his deliberate way, I suspect will do that well. In the House of Assembly, in opposition, he may well shine.
No one will Blame Him
I remember when Steve Neary took over a battered Liberal party. In the House of Assembly he was a monster. He was a constant thorn in the side of the ruling Conservatives alternatively laughing at them and generally getting under and staying under their skin. Federally Robert Stanfield was dynamite in opposition. He won the respect of Canadians without ever assuming the reins of government. Someone wiser than myself said Bob Stanfield may have been the best prime minister Canada never had.
None of that precludes Ches Crosbie from becoming premier in the future. It is just to say that right now he will be a most welcome opposition leader. He is thorough and studious and smart. He has another quality that is not to be overlooked and it is that he isn’t directly connected to the ‘old’ PC party that was turfed out of office by the Newfoundland electorate in the last election. No one is going to blame him for Muskrat Falls or call him to task for the PC performance in ‘dark NL.’
It will all make for an interesting session of the House of Assembly and a better chance for us to see which ways the political winds are blowing.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]