Liberals flip St. John's East, as Conservatives look to claim Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame

·3 min read
Liberal candidate Joanne Thompson has won the St. John's East, replacing outgoing NDP member of Parliament Jack Harris. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Liberal candidate Joanne Thompson has won the St. John's East, replacing outgoing NDP member of Parliament Jack Harris. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

The Liberals have picked up a seat in Newfoundland and Labrador, while trailing in stronghold Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame as the riding remains uncalled as of Tuesday morning.

St. John's East Liberal candidate Joanne Thompson defeated New Democratic Party candidate Mary Shortall with 43.7 per cent of the vote at time of publication, to Shortall's 34.7 per cent, with all but two of the riding's polls reported.

"Change is possible, we can move forward together, we can work with partnerships and there's so much we can so when we sit at the table and we say we're going to work together," Thompson said in a speech thanking volunteers and supporters.

On Tuesday morning, Thompson said she was "quite humbled" by her win. She said she was ready to move St. John's East toward "what I believe will be an exciting, green economy."

Thompson also defeated Conservative candidate Glenn Etchegary and People's Party of Canada Candidate Dana Metcalfe.

Shortall did not concede the election on Monday night, telling supporters to wait until morning. Early Tuesday, however, she congratulated Thompson on the win.

"The voters of St. John's East have decided, and I respect that. That's what our democracy looks like," Shortall told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

St. John's East is the only riding in Newfoundland and Labrador in which an incumbent did not run. The province's six other ridings all had incumbent Liberals, five of which were returned to office Monday night in an election that saw the Liberals stay in power with another minority government.

Shortall, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour — on leave from her position during the campaign — replaced outgoing Jack Harris as the New Democratic Party candidate.

During a St. John's campaign stop in early September, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh discussed his connections with Atlantic Canada and his friendship with Harris.

Harris retired after a lengthy political career that started with a 1987 byelection breakthrough. He held the St. John's East seat from 2008 until 2015, when he was defeated by Liberal Nick Whelan in an upset. In 2019, Harris won the seat back.

Shortall said NDP support remained strong in the riding, and she didn't rule out another run at federal politics.

"I've been inspired by so many people during this experience that I'd be remiss if I didn't seriously consider doing that again," Shortall said.

The Liberals wanted to repeat the success of 2015 in St. John's East with Thompson, the former executive director of the Gathering Place in St. John's. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland both campaigned with Thompson in Newfoundland.

Before the election was called in late July, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole visited the riding to campaign with Etchegary.

Conservatives may win in N.L. for first time since 2011

As of Tuesday morning, there was still no declared winner in the riding of Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame.

At publication time, Conservative candidate Clifford Small maintained a 569-vote lead over Liberal incumbent Scott Simms, with 99.6 per cent of polls reporting.

Simms had won in every federal election since 2004.

Clifford Small/Facebook
Clifford Small/Facebook

In an interview with CBC News on election night — before the result had been called — Small said he believed his support for the mining industry, rotational workers and seniors would be key to ousting Simms.

"We had a positive message. A message for growth for our riding here," he said. "I think the electorate felt that our party would be the best choice to foster the mining industry."

By Tuesday morning, with the outcome still not finalized, Small said he believed his lead would hold, and thanked Simms, saying the Liberal ran a "very clean, respectful, honest campaign."

Small, who owns several Smitty's restaurants and ran a fishing enterprise, said the economy was the main issue he heard about from voters during the campaign.

"In their eyes, it was a negative change in 2015. And they know that we can make a positive change going forward."

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