And they’re off
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.”
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.