Tight race in Port de Grave

Tories, Lib­er­als duk­ing it out; NDP seek­ing to build pres­ence

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS

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.

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