Conservative victory in Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame still not certain as lead narrows

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From left, NDP candidate Jamie Ruby, Liberal Scott Simms and Conservative Clifford Small. (CBC - image credit)
From left, NDP candidate Jamie Ruby, Liberal Scott Simms and Conservative Clifford Small. (CBC - image credit)
CBC
CBC

Nearly 24 hours after federal election polls closed Monday, the riding of Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame still doesn't have a representative in Ottawa.

Conservative candidate Clifford Small's lead on Liberal incumbent Scott Simms shrank early Tuesday morning, as election workers continue to count votes.

As of 4 p.m. NT, Small was leading Simms by 569 votes. Small had 47 per cent of the vote, while Simms had 45 per cent. NDP candidate Jamie Ruby had seven per cent of the vote with 2,171 ballots marked in his favour.

Simms called Small to concede on Monday night, but walked that back Tuesday, saying he's waiting to see the final results.

The final result will come down to the 2,134 mail-in ballots that Elections Canada is processing. The agency is expected to begin reporting mail-in ballot results at 4:30 p.m. NT.

It isn't clear when counting will finish, but chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault previously said it could take two to five days for Elections Canada to verify and process all special ballots.

A Conservative flip?

If Small wins the race, he will be the first Conservative MP elected in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2011. Simms has won every federal election in the riding since 2004.

Simms declined an interview on Tuesday, saying he didn't have anything to add, but would speak once the final results come in.

In an interview with CBC News, Small said he's "fairly confident" that he will emerge as the victor.

Small said his focus on the economy and support for the oil and gas industry helped lead to his success.

"We have tremendous numbers of rotational workers involved in the oil and gas industry that have been displaced here," he said.

Clifford Small/Facebook
Clifford Small/Facebook

If Small wins, Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame will be the only riding in Newfoundland and Labrador without a Liberal MP; however, Conservative vote share also grew in other parts of the province.

Small cited Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole's message as key to his success.

"I think that our leader's message really resonated, especially in these rural parts of Newfoundland and Labrador," he said. "I can see the support growing as we go forward because our leader is so relatable to the people of this province."

Memorial University political science professor Kelly Blidook said the result shows that while Simms may have been personally popular, the Liberals lost their lustre for many in the riding.

"A lot of voters in that constituency felt that they were simply more comfortable with Clifford Small and with the Conservatives," he said.

Blidook said even though the riding has had a Liberal MP for years, voters in that area of the province tend to have a more Conservative ideology.

"People may not have quite the same sort of progressive slant that Trudeau himself has," he said.

Blidook said the results of the 2021 federal election across Newfoundland and Labrador are more in line with provincial politics than in previous years.

CBC
CBC

"It did always kind of seem a little bit odd that given how many people are actually willing to vote Progressive Conservative provincially, or just the general ideological disposition of a lot of people in the province, that the Conservatives had such a hard time doing well here," he said.

Blidook said Conservatives will likely gain a foothold in the province as the anti-federal Conservative sentiment stemming from the days of Stephen Harper begins to fade.

"What we're seeing is just a little bit of a balancing out," Blidook said.

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