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NL VOTES: Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance happy with inaugural effort, candidates say

Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley watches an election night TV broadcast at the Capital Hotel Thursday in St. John’s.
Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley watches an election night TV broadcast at the Capital Hotel Thursday in St. John’s. - Barb Sweet

‘We’re holding our heads high’

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

They were a relaxed group with nothing to lose Thursday night — no past history as a political party and any showing at all on the vote tabulation board was a win.

At press time, the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance had no candidates elected among their nine and no chance of any going to the House of Assembly with the remaining polls.

But they’d only been certified April 12 and this new day will bring thoughts of four years down the road, regrouping, planning and taking stock of whatever recognition they gained in the three-week, hastily called election.

“We’re holding our heads high,” said NL Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley, 55, who ran in Mount Scio against New Democrat Jason Mercer, Progressive Conservative Lloyd Power and Liberal Sarah Stoodley, who won the district. Pelley’s final vote count was 406.

“Party politics runs hard in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Pelley said, reflecting on the stronghold the PCs and the Liberals have as the top two parties in the province, followed by the NDP.

He ought to know — he was the president of the PCs for more than two years.

Pelley said the party would get up Friday — post-election — and start organizing how to keep the interest in the upstart fourth party going and ready to roll in the next election.

It’s no surprise Mount Scio went red.

In 2015, the Mount Scio district was won by Liberal Dale Kirby, who declined to run this election. With 1,899 votes, Kirby easily beat Progressive Conservative Rhonda Churchill Herder (1,104 votes) and the NDP’s Sean Panting (1,030 votes).

The NL Alliance fielded nine candidates in the provincial election — besides Pelley’s district, in Baie Verte-Green Bay, Cape St. Francis, Conception Bay South, Harbour Main, St. George’s-Humber, Terra Nova, Topsail-Paradise and Mount Pearl North.

At 7 p.m., the empty executive boardroom was all set up at the Capital Hotel for the party’s election night do. Adjacent the posh table was a seating area dominated by a podium backdropped with a large sign depicting a typical Newfoundland and Labrador lighthouse scene under the slogan “NL Alliance: Working together for Change.” The podium faced a comfy arrangement of grey leather chairs with circle-patterned accent chairs. The coffee was hot, and ice buckets were filled with juice, water and soft drinks. A tray of cookies and Danishes waited under a cover of plastic cling wrap.

As candidates, family members, campaign workers and supporters trickled in, there were no more than two dozen people in the room at any given time as the election results came in. Early arrivals blew up red, white and yellow balloons to decorate the room.

Ryan Lane, the NL Alliance candidate in Cape St. Francis, with his son, George, on election night at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s.
Ryan Lane, the NL Alliance candidate in Cape St. Francis, with his son, George, on election night at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s.

Cape St. Francis candidate Ryan Lane’s son, George, was by far the youngest supporter, at nine months. While the adults munched on pizza, wings, onion rings and cookies, his dad spoon-fed him baby food.

Lane — who ran for the Liberals in 2011 in Terra Nova, and manages a garage, but has worked in government, for non-profits and as a teacher — said he would absolutely go again for the NL Alliance. He said he knew it was a long shot to defeat PC incumbent Kevin Parsons, but that wasn’t the point.

“This was an exercise in seeing how people were interested in something pretty different than before,” said Lane.

He wasn’t the only candidate who was gung-ho about the future of the party.

“I wouldn’t change one thing,” said Mike Cooze, a contractor/developer turned activist opposing the Eagle Ridge Gold Mine project and its access road on the Salmonier Line.

“I met a group of (candidates) who are totally for N.L.”

Cooze said with the rush of the election, there wasn’t enough time to let the electorate know what the NL Alliance was all about, and tough to turn opinion away from the PC-Liberal “merry go-round.”

William Neville ran in Mount Pearl North and planned to stick to being a party executive at first, not a candidate.

“I’ve got the fire in me now,” said Neville, a project manager at Memorial University, who ran as an openly gay candidate.

He had 80 signs and 5,000 brochures he paid for himself.

“We’re brand new. I didn’t know what I was getting into … (but) we’ve had wonderful encouragement from people” he said.

Pelley, a former teacher, campaigned on a populist platform of electoral reform, including having MHAs vote freely in the House of Assembly.

Another main part of his platform was tackling the province’s fiscal situation by reducing spending, but he also promised not to reduce the number of frontline workers in health care and to guarantee quality education.

In 2018, Pelley split from the Progressive Conservative party.

In 2015, Pelley ran against Premier Dwight Ball in the district of Humber-Gros Morne for the Progressive Conservatives.

As part of its electoral reform, the party’s principles stated if it formed a government, all 40 elected members would choose the House Speaker and the cabinet through nomination and secret ballot.

The NL Alliance also pitched that voters elect their premier using a district-weighted voting system, whereby each district has an equal voice.

The NL Alliance candidate who drew the highest number of votes — 968 — was Ben Callahan in Baie Verte-Green Bay.

Twitter: @BarbSweetTweets

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