Monday, 6 November 2017

The Race Is On

The Race is on

By: Ryan Young

The writ has officially been dropped and the by-election to replace Steve Kent’s vacant seat in the House of Assembly for the district of Mount Pearl North will be held on November 21st. Traditionally, by-elections do not experience large voter turnouts, but they are often a good measure of how the current government is performing and perceived among the people. It should be an interesting election to watch.

The Liberal’s badly wanting to win this seat. With the massive drop in public support since the last general election, Dwight and his crew are going into panic mode and are already trying to prep for the next election in 2019. Real estate mogul Jim Burton is the Liberal nominee, and the party has put its full weight behind his candidacy, with the premier and federal cabinet ministers joining him at the doors. Burton is well known in the region as a successful businessman who gives a lot back to the community, but he does not live in the district and may find himself hard-pressed to find support as a candidate representing a weak government. Still, his name recognition and community involvement may see him carry enough of the vote to win the seat for the Liberal’s.

Jim Lester is the PC nominee. Lester ran in the 2015 general election and narrowly lost to Paul Lane who was then a member of the Liberal’s. He is well known in the region, but he does not reside in the district and recent media attention regarding a possible attempt to run as a Liberal may hurt his credibility. All the same, Lester is a familiar face and may be able to pick up the seat based on dissatisfaction with the current governing party. The distract now known as Mount Pearl North has traditionally been a Tory stronghold, with the PC’s holding the seat for all but 5 years since 1975. Lester may be able to ride his way into Confederation Building based on the strong PC support in the district.

The NDP have also fielded a very credible candidate. Nicole Kiely is originally from the distract, and has a long track record of non-profit work and community involvement. She has been committed to speaking to the issues and has been receiving strong support in Mount Pearl North despite the current apathy in the polls towards the NDP. I would not have bet much on Kiely’s hopes originally, but she is establishing herself as a formidable opponent in the race who may have the potential to pull off a big upset.

There is also an independent candidate who has thrown his hat into the ring. Hudson Stratton, a small business owner and family man has decided to run as an independent. While Stratton stresses that he is not trying to make a political statement by running as an independent, he also acknowledges that he is doing so because he no longer believes in the party first political structure that we have in this province. While independent candidate traditionally has a hard time finding support in NL, Stratton may be able to take advantage of a dissatisfied electorate and make a big splash. Even if he does not win, if he can pick up a significant portion of the vote, it will send a strong message to the 3 existing parties that people are ready for real change.

I think the PC’s are still the favourites to win this by-election, but with the negative media attention surrounding Jim Lester, the race is still wide open. All four candidates have a legitimate chance of picking up a significant share of the vote, and depending on the turnout, we could be in for a big surprise. It will be very interesting to see how the people of Mount Pearl North cast their votes and if they are ready to rock the boat or stick with the status quo. If you live in Mount Pearl North, make sure to have your voice heard by voting in this by-election.

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