Tight race in Port de Grave
Tories, Liberals duking it out; NDP seeking to build presence
It’s a warm fall afternoon in Bay Roberts and Tory candidate Glenn Littlejohn is standing on the doorstep of a home on Snow’s Lane. He leans in to hug the cheerful and friendly woman who has just answered the door.
After some easygoing banter and a commitment of support from the woman, Littlejohn lowers his voice and states: “ We’re not taking anything for granted this time.”
After coming within 260 votes of winning the Port de Grave district in the 2007 provincial general election, Littlejohn is campaigning like a man possessed this time around.
With the incumbent Liberal MHA, Roland Butler, retiring from politics after the Oct. 11 vote, Littlejohn says he is feeling energized by the positive response he is getting from voters, and believes the time may be right to wrestle the district away from the Liberals after nearly three decades.
“It will come down to who can get the vote out,” Littlejohn states during an interview on the steps of the nearby 50-plus Club. What is he hearing from voters? “People are saying they want to be on the government side. They are giving it some serious thought that it’s time for a change,” Littlejohn states. “ They’re saying, ‘I hear Roland isn’t running, and we’re with you this time.’”
A clean slate
Observers are describing Port de Grave as a district to watch. The district has deep Liberal roots, having survived the Tory onslaught in 2007, in which only three Liberal MHAs were returned to the House of Assembly.
But the slate is wiped clean this time around, with newcomer Leanne Hussey of Shearstown, a 28year-old political science graduate and longtime party activist, looking to hold onto the seat for the Liberlals.
Hussey has been knocking on
People are saying they want
to be on the government side. They are giving it some serious thought that it’s time for a change. They’re saying, ‘I
hear Roland isn’t running, and we’re with you this time.’
doors since last spring, working hard to raise her profile and gain the trust of voters with a promise to fight on their behalf and “not just sit back and listen and be directed in one way or another.”
It’s become a battle of experience and stature versus youth and enthusiasm, and both sides appear poised to race at top speed to the very end.
“ We are going to win this district, and we are going to send the Tories backpacking,” Hussey told a gathering of 100-plus people at her campaign headquarters opening on Sept. 26.
Butler casts a large shadow over the district, having worked with former MHA John Efford for 11 years, and serving as MHA for an equal amount of time. He has been working actively on Hussey’s campaign, and is feeling “ very encouraged” about his succesor’s chances.
“ We’re not foolish enough to think we are running away with this. We know we have work to do, but we’re hearing wonderful things,” Butler said.
Too close to call
Littlejohn speaks with confidence, touting his experience as a municipal leader in Bay Roberts, his 24 years in the public service and a lifetime of volunteering in the region.
But he’s understandably circumspect when talking about the possible outcome of the election. After coming so close in 2007, he’s careful to leave it all in the hands of the voters.
“All this stuff is fluff and duff,” he says of the campaigning.
When asked why people should vote for him, Littlejohn says he knows how to get things done, and has a thorough knowledge of the district and “the needs and wants and aspirations of people.”
Hussey, meanwhile, doesn’t buy the suggestion that voters are turning away from the Liberals in order to have a representative on the government benches.
“ That’s a false impression,” she says. “ There’s been a lot of money put into this district during Roland’s time in opposition. He has worked very hard, and I intend to do the same.”
The district has never had a female MHA, and Hussey wants to change that. She’s also promoting her youth and never-give-up attitude.
“It’s not exactly where you sit, it’s how you stand,” she offers.
Building a presence
The third candidate in the race is 20-yearold Sarah Downey of Makinsons, who is representing the NDP.
Downey is a former student activist, outspoken member of the LGBT ( lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, and 2009 winner of the Miss Central Avalon Achievement pageant.
She has been working with an “extremely small” team of campaign workers to explain the NDP platform to voters in the district.
In 2007, the NDP candidate garnered just 162 votes, of a total of 6,583.
Downey’s goal is to improve those num- bers, and help make the NDP a viable alternative for the 2015 provincial election.
“Right now it’s about building a solid foundation and educating people on the fact they do have a choice. We would really like to see everybody be informed, because it’s such a shame when you see an election won by apathy,” she said.
Port de Grave Liberal candidate Leanne Hussey (right) chats with retiring Liberal MHA Roland Butler (left) and Liberal party president Judy Morrow.
Progressive Conservative candidate Glenn Littlejohn raises his arms for emphasis during a speech to supporters at a campaign event in Bay Roberts on Sept. 21.
Sarah Downey is the NDP candidate for Port de Grave. In the background is her father, David Downey.