And they’re off

The Southern Gazette - - NEWS - BY JAMES MCLEOD

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Lea der Paul Davis struck a de­fi­ant - and funky - tone as he kicked off his cam­paign in Par­adise Thurs­day night.

Davis burst into a rally in his home dis­trict of Top­sail to “Up­town Funk” by Mark Ron­son, as about 200 sup­port­ers danced, cheered, waved signs and chanted “Davis.”

When he got to the podium at pre­cisely 6 p.m. - co-or­di­nated to go live on the sup­per-hour TV news­casts - Davis chan­nelled his cam­paign song to de­liver a de­fi­ant mes­sage.

In Up­town Funk, singer Bruno Mars de­clares, “Don’t be­lieve me, just watch,” and Davis made it a cho­rus of his own, re­peat­edly pro­claim­ing, “You just watch us!”

The speech was at times hope­ful, and at times de­fi­ant.

Davis framed him­self as a de­fender of New­found­land and Labrador. He said he looks for­ward to work­ing with new Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, but if “his­tory re­peats it­self ” and the re­la­tion­ship turns ugly, a Tory pre­mier is bet­ter able to fight back against the fed­eral Lib­er­als.

“I will not be bound by a Lib­eral leader, a Lib­eral cousin in Ot­tawa. I will fight for New­found­lan­ders and Labradori- ans,” he said. “Our first al­le­giance will al­ways be right here at home in New­found­land and Labrador, and we’re ready to fight any­one who stands in our way. Just watch us!”

Ear­lier in the day, Davis vis­ited Gov­ern­ment House to get Lt.Gov. Frank Fagan to of­fi­cially is­sue the writ and start the 2015 cam­paign.

When he emerged to speak to re­porters, Davis said he be­lieves the cam­paign will be about strong lead­er­ship and a clear, con­crete vi­sion for the next four years.

“I be­lieve the peo­ple of New- found­land and Labrador are look­ing for a strong leader. They’re look­ing for a leader that they know what the leader stands for, they know what the poli­cies are,” Davis said, wrapped in seal­skin gloves and a seal­skin jacket, in the blow­ing snow out­side Gov­ern­ment House. “They want to know who they’re elect­ing, and I think that’s what this elec­tion is go­ing to be about.”

The Tories have an up­hill bat­tle ahead of them, with the polls show­ing the Lib­er­als are more pop­u­lar by a size­able mar­gin.

Lib­eral Leader Dwight Ball started tour­ing the prov­ince ear­lier last week, but the Tories ac­cuse him of run­ning a clas­sic fron­trun­ner’s cam­paign - safe, vague and cau­tious.

“The cam­paign is on. The op­po­si­tion’s free ride on ac­count­abil­ity comes to an end to­day,” Davis said in his speech. “Their lack of ideas, their ar­ro­gance, their lust for power, their tak­ing you, the vot­ers, for granted, comes to an end, right here, right now.”

RHONDA HAY­WARD/THE TELE­GRAM

Pre­mier Paul Davis and his wife Ch­eryl Davis went to Gov­ern­ment House in St. John’s Thurs­day to see Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan and for­mally start the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion.

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