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.
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.
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.