2011 Provincial Election Endorsements (for St. John’s)


This provincial election is pretty much a foregone conclusion. The PCs are ahead in the polls by a zillion points and aren’t budging, while the NDP moving past the plummeting Liberals is merely a race for a second. Yet, the candidates are still on the stump, out knocking on doors, pasting signs all over town. The parties are rolling out exorbitant platforms, promising lots of free sh**—promises we all know they can’t possibly keep—and making political hockey pucks out of seniors and single moms.

We admit, it’s been hard to come up with an interesting and engaging way to present all this: there has been a lot of crap to wade through. In all honesty, it’s a pain in the ass and it’s frustrating. And for us, it’s our job. We make money doing this. So we figured, for those of you who aren’t paid to read the zillion page party platforms and talk to people pretending to be angry about stuff you don’t really care about, it’s way more painful and frustrating. So, in case it helps, this is who we would vote for in the St. John’s districts. We wish we could have done more, but this took us forever, and we are exhausted.

You’ll notice our candidate endorsements are as orange as, well, an orange. All of them. Go ahead and call The Scope’s Mötley Editorial Crüe a bunch of bike-riding pinkos if you like, but we honestly did our best to approach our endorsements as colour-blind as possible. We tried to look seriously at each candidate and pick based on their individual abilities­, but since provincial government is a team sport in Canada, we had to take parties into account when we made our decisions.

We think, in St. John’s, it makes sense to vote NDP this time around.

Yes, in some ridings the NDP candidate was the best, in others, it was too close to decide. But we figured that barring the second coming the PC should win an easy majority on the 11th. They don’t need our help with that. They don’t even need your help with that. But when you are giving a lot of your money to someone to take care of your affairs, you want someone watching them to make sure they’re doing what they should. A strong opposition is just as important as a strong government. So, in St. John’s where the NDP stands the best chance of gaining seats, and is running their strongest candidates, we decided that any tie between candidates goes to them.

“Hey,” you say. “What about the Liberals, you bike-riding pinkos?”

“Oh yeah,” we say. “That guy!”

True to their campaign slogan “we can do better,” the Liberal party can indeed do better. And we think, this time around, the province can do better than the Liberals. The once-formidable party is a disorganized mess. In many districts, as we go to press (September 25), they have yet to name candidates. In other districts the candidates were near impossible to contact. One candidate we spoke to said they didn’t know the issues in their district because they hadn’t been out to talk to anyone yet—and that’s just two weeks before election day.

We know they were left without a leader at the last minute when Yvonne Jones was forced to resign in August due to poor health, but this election has been on its way for four years, and unless it is one of a handful of parties on Earth where the leader writes the policy and handpicks the candidates, someone, anyone, in the Liberal machine should have checked the calendar.

Last time around, Danny Williams and his crew took 96 per cent of the seats in the House of Assembly, leaving only a raggle taggle handful of MHAs not in the ruling party running around like maniacs trying to keep an eye on everything the government was up to. This time around, appearing as disorganized as they do, the incumbent opposition Liberals are lining up for an even heavier beating.

So! For the past several weeks we have called and called, hounded and harrassed all the candidates we could track down. We’ve been stood up. We’ve been repeatedly hung up on (Mike Duffy’s law office receptionist we’re looking at you). All in all, we managed to track down and talk to 17 candidates from the eight St. John’s districts—eight NDP, six PC, and three Liberal. All these interviews are available in audio and text at thescope.ca/election. We’ve also sifted through party platforms, googled through the news and blogs, and sat around debating a range of issues from particular candidates’ smarm-factor to the nuances of Muskrat Falls.

Here, then, is the result.

Our endorsements:

 

Kilbride

Paul Boundridge (NDP)


PC Incumbent John Dinn is a city councillor at heart, roaming the House of Assembly to find funds for new sidewalks in his district. He’s kind of wacky—he’d like to fix the housing problem by loosening regulations and building more trailer parks—but at least he’s doing more than just repeating the phrase “affordable housing is an important issue!” at election time. Plus, his favourite television show is “baseball.”

The NDP’s Paul Boundridge may not be as charming as Dinn, but is a familiar player in local government. A city planner who has worked with St. John’s city hall, he was president of a CUPE local for city employees in the 90s. He answered the questions we asked him thoughtfully.

We couldn’t decide. Tie went to Boundridge.
 

Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi

Lorraine Michael (NDP)


This will be fight to watch. John Noseworthy, the province’s former Auditor General, is the PC’s choice against Lorraine Michael, leader of the NDP, and Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi’s MHA since 2006. Noseworthy is a big, big deal. Remember the big spending scandal that sent one PC, two Liberal, and one NDP MHA to jail for fraud? He uncovered it. He’s also famous for repeatedly calling the PCs’ spending habits “unsustainable.” According to the Huffington Post, he joined the party because he wants to help them out with that.

Lorraine Michael is, well, Lorraine Michael. She’s strong and outspoken, and she did a great job standing up to Danny Williams, most notably during his dispute with the province’s doctors. Her constituents—a downtown, left-leaning bunch­—love her and it’ll be tough to knock her out of her seat. Sit tight, Ms. Michael.
 

St. John’s Centre

Gerry Rogers (NDP)


Aside from Lorraine Michael, Gerry Rogers is probably the most high-profile NDPer running this year. She’s well-known around town as co-owner of the Travel Bug and she’s well-known around the province as an activist and documentary filmmaker, most notably for My Left Breast, her story about grappling with breast cancer. She’s definitely the best bet to beat Shawn ‘Mr. High Profile’ Skinner, Minister of Natural Resources and PC voice of the Muskrat Falls project. We hope she does. Gerry is outspoken and passionate, sometimes to be point of being completely over the top, but we think she’s got the heart and the character to be a strong opposition member.
 

St. John’s East

George Murphy (NDP)


“I like that Ed Buckingham’s a bit of a loose cannon,” says one Scope staffer. “I like that George Murphy drives a taxi for a living,” says another. What to do? Buckingham was one of the few Tories to not support the Harper government in the federal election this year, and that gets him a point from us. George Murphy is a co-founder of the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices and he’s the reason you’ll be getting a rebate on the taxes you’ll pay on heat sources this winter. So, you know he stands and delivers. There’s also Mike Duffy, a lawyer who has run for the PCs in the past. He’s thrown his support behind the Liberals this year because he doesn’t feel the Dunderdale gang has the chops to lead the province. While we admire his gumption, our vote goes to George Murphy.
 

St. John’s North

Dale Kirby (NDP)


Two things made us endorse Dale Kirby: 1. Dale Kirby. 2. Bob Ridgley, the PC candidate in the district. Kirby, a MUN Education professor and president of the provincial NDP, knows his stuff, and has shown he can criticize the PC government beyond petty name calling. This looks pretty damned good next to Ridgley, who has said “it may be a worthwhile ideal that we are all equal, but I do not think, in reality, it is a realistic philosophy for the society in which we live.” Ridgley, whose insistence on the inability for things to change isn’t exactly what you want in an MHA who has power to change things.
 

St. John’s South

Keith Dunne (NDP)


Tom Osborne has been the MHA for St. John’s South for a hundred years (since 1996 anyway). He’s been in both opposition and government, and has ministered several different departments. That wealth of experience, you would think, would leave him on top of the issues both locally and provincially, but in speaking with him and reading through his propaganda, Osborne seems to simply be going through the motions, and to have lost touch with the issues­—in his interview with The Scope (available at thescope.ca) he cited “drugs getting into the hands of children” as one of the top provincial issues. But there is hope, rookie NDP candidate Keith Dunne, the NL Organizer for the Canadian Federation of Students, promises to breathe life into the House of Assembly for St. John’s South. What Dunne lacks in experience, he more than makes up for with earnestness, enthusiasm, a keen grasp on the issues, and a strong desire to improve things for his constituents–all things Osborne seems to have lost.
 

St. John’s West

Chris Pickard (NDP)


Both Dan Crummell of the PCs and Chris Pickard of the NDP are both well-spoken, intelligent folks who seem like they’d kick butt on either side of the legislature. Crummell, as a sales manager for Molson, has a track-record of supporting arts and community groups, not to mention he writes historical fiction in his spare time. Pickard, a former CBC Radio poet laureate, manages the Tommy Sexton Centre, the AIDS shelter and resource centre. Who’s the best? We say it’s pretty much a toss-up between the two, but, as we mentioned, a tie goes to the NDP. Pick Pickard.
 

Virgina Waters

Dave Sullivan (NDP)


This is Kathy Dunderdale’s district, and she will surely run away with it. But, ours is a parliamentary system, not a presidential one. We elect a representative to represent our region’s interest, not a king or queen to rule an entire kingdom. So, The Scope endorses Dave Sullivan because he is the best candidate for the district of Virginia Waters. Sullivan, a grade six teacher, is running to represent his district and to speed the process of building a much needed school in Airport Heights. No more, no less. Dunderdale, on the other hand, will make a fine premier, but has much more to worry about than schools in Airport Heights, which doesn’t help Airport Heights.
 

Final Thoughts: Why the sky won’t fall when the PCs win

It’s tricky, and probably foolish, to endorse a party based on their platform promises, because politicians always promise the moon. But what we can gather from the platforms, sifting through the clearly political and pandering B.S., is a glimpse at what a party’s priorities are, hinting at what they will act on in government. These platform documents are often used as guides by the bureaucracy, which is where stuff actually gets done.

So, wild promises and petty politicking aside, the PC platform looks to us way more progressive than conservative. They can’t easily be lumped in with Stephen Harper’s Conservatives­—even if Dunderdale did support them in the last federal election. Many of their ideas, too, can be found in the other parties’ platforms—­which shows they aren’t above stealing good ideas­. Which isn’t a bad thing in government.

From their platform, the PCs have innovative and interesting ideas about affordable housing (grants to low income owners to put a down payment on their own home), education (continuing the tuition freeze and replacing the provincial student loan program with needs-based grants), health (a focus on fitness, and prevention of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes), childcare (funding for home-based infant care), and food security (an entire section on improving the province’s ability to feed itself). This is all very promising.

Will all of these things happen? Probably not all of them. Especially taking into account a line on page three which says “Implementation of our priorities will be phased, if necessary, to accommodate fiscal constraint.” But, to give credit where credit is due, some of the PCs past programs, particularly the Poverty Reduction Strategy–the best of its kind in Canada—have shown their ability to grapple pretty effectively with giant complicated problems, and their tendency to err on the side of P more than C.

So, as dirty as we might feel saying this, a PC victory won’t be the worst thing that could happen. We don’t like a lot about how they operate, especially the high degree of cronyism, and a bunch of their candidates are wealthy middle-aged men who have difficulty seeing outside of their own privleged station (ahem… Bob Ridgley). But with a strong NDP opposition to steal ideas from, we might just get through this term alive, if not a little better off.

Or at least that’s what we think. Get out and make up your own minds.

15 comments

  1. Steve · August 8, 2011

    Congrats, Scope – a very nuanced and intelligent piece.

  2. Chad · August 8, 2011

    This is the worst political advice ever given. While I agree with voters taking the time and ensuring they vote for the candidate that represents their interests and concerns for their districts, just by looking at the NDP platform you can see they have no idea what is going on or how to fix or pay for anything. Of course we would all love to live in the ideal world that the NDP live in, but that will never happen. At least the PC’s are Progressive and are through sustainability are moving the province in the right direction. I would like to think the residents of St. John’s would like to be a part of that and have representation in the Government.

  3. Terry · August 8, 2011

    “The worst politcal advice ever given.” Worse than that leading to the second Iraq war? Worse than that leading to the original Churchill Falls deal? Put your hyperbole away, Chad, people are trying to have a serious discussion here.

  4. Steve · August 8, 2011

    Chad,

    I see your point, but I had a different understanding of the Scope piece than you did. The PCs are relatively progressive here in NL, definitely not Harper Conservatives. The reality is that we are looking at another large PC majority. Furthermore, it’s not like St. John’s is not going to be strongly represented in the new PC government. You think Dunderdale is going to lose her seat, or Dinn? Not a chance. The NDP will win one or two, maybe three seats in the St. John’s area at the very most. The rest will all go to the PCs. I think what Scope was saying is that that is not necessarily a bad thing. But what is a bad thing is for the governing party to continue to have such an overwhelming majority that the opposition does not have the people, presence or resources to present alternative viewpoints on key policy issues, and to hold the government accountable. The best thing for democracy in this province is a strong opposition, no matter who forms the government. In supporting the candidates listed in this article, I think they are essentially saying just that.

  5. Roo · August 8, 2011

    That was sarcasm, right?

  6. Mark · August 8, 2011

    What bullshit. The scope is pretty bias here. Even Ryan Cleary called the NDP a bunch of ‘losers’ (http://theindependent.ca/2011/05/13/ryan-cleary-could-be-ndp%E2%80%99s-biggest-caucus-challenge/)

    Why not endorse at least one other party in this piece to maintain some sense of creditability? Honestly, why would you endorse Boundridge when you could have picked Dinn in Kilbride? Dinn at least knocks on doors come election time, while all I have seen from Boundridge is some goofy guy standing by the Irving in Kilbride waving at cars as they pass by.

    And FYI – I am voting NDP this time, but only because I want to punish Dunderdale for supporting Harper, and Dinn for supporting Fabian Manning.

    Thank you.

  7. Mark · August 8, 2011

    To follow up on my last comment – I think i Keith Dunne and Dale Kirby would both be great MHA’s – I would vote for them if I could!

  8. Maggie · August 8, 2011

    I live in Saint John’s West and am voting for Chris Pickard. He came to my door a few nights ago and chatted to me about how, should he be elected, one of his main goals is to not only work hard for our district, but also to be accessible. To return calls the same day, have regular meetings with residents like me. We’ve definitely lacked that in the past, so go NDP!

  9. Gary · August 8, 2011

    The PC’s need to be sent a message that many of us can’t afford to see our electric bills rise by 40-100%. When they win their majority they will immediately say they have a ‘strong mandate from the people’ to move ahead and put our childrens childrens children in dept to pay for Muskrat Falls. I pay about $350 per month for electricity in the winter and would have difficulty paying $490 to $700. I can guarantee you not a single one of the proponents of this project (Nalcor and politicians) will have any problem coming up with an extra $150-$350 a month. We’ve heard just about every Nalcor employee support this project in the newspapers and on radio and tv, except the janitor. I’d like to hear his opinion.

  10. Veggie Lover · August 8, 2011

    I think this is ridiculous advice. Essentially all this will do is create an even bigger schism between St. John’s and the rest of the province. If the NDP is unwilling to at least venture outside of the city to present their platform and garner votes from the rest of the province, then I certainly don’t feel compelled to give them my vote, because they are either a) too lazy, b)don’t care or c) feel they don’t have a chance. Why should they not have to work to convince the rest of the province to vote for them. Instead they have the Scope speak on their behalf? I really expected better from the Scope.

  11. reader · August 8, 2011
  12. Anonymousse · August 8, 2011

    I’m incredibly disappointed that the PCs have chosen to carry on the proud Newfie tradition of upending the provincial purse come election season. Yes, they should be given credit for at least paying lip service to the issue of the public debt but their platform shows that this issue will always take a back seat to electioneering. I’ve voted in many elections and i’m ashamed to say that this is the first where I have seriously considered spoiling my ballot in protest. If there was an independent running in my district I would vote for him/her.

    To the Scope: I know that your primary focus is on the city itself, however many of your readers live and vote in the ‘burbs. Suburbanites pour money into the city’s economy, work its offices, workshops and schools, and most importantly they buy from Posie Row and the Hava Java and all of your paper’s other advertisers. Shouldn’t we at least get a token amount of attention, especially during an election?

  13. Kilbride Woman · August 8, 2011

    Boundridge spends every day out knocking on doors since he signed the nomination papers. He is someone fresh and new to have rep Kilbride. Yes maybe he did stand out with his sign waving at cars, but he did it so people who are not home when he is out knocking on doors or who he may never get to see could put a face to his signs. He is passionate about this change and I believe is a good choice. Talk to him, he may not be as “goofy” as you believe…

  14. Elling Lien · August 8, 2011

    Good game, good game.

    Find election results at http://cbc.ca/nlvotes

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