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Jack is going back to Ottawa: NDP candidate takes St. John's East

Jack Harris addresses supporters at the MUN Geo Centre after reclaiming the St. John's East riding from Liberal incumbent Nick Whalen.
Jack Harris addresses supporters at the MUN Geo Centre after reclaiming the St. John's East riding from Liberal incumbent Nick Whalen. - David Maher
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Jack Harris is back in the House of Commons.

Shortly after 10:00 p.m., Harris was declared the winner in St. John’s East, winning the seat from Liberal Nick Whalen, who held the seat after winning with 2015 election in the riding.

It wasn’t as close an election this time around, with Harris holding a 2,800-vote lead as of 10:10 p.m. in St. John’s, compared to a 464-vote win for Whalen in 2015.

Newfoundland and Labrador NDP Leader Alison Coffin was predictably delighted with the result.

“It’s a real recognition that this is New Democrat territory. Glad to have Jack back,” she said.

“I’ll use one of Jack’s quotes. Jack says a Liberal government is only as good as the number of New Democrats you elect.”

St. John’s Centre MHA Jim Dinn says orange on the federal and provincial levels in St. John’s is notable.

“It’s good to have a New Democrat in the federal seat and two New Democrats in the city. It’s a great combination,” said Dinn.

“I’m hoping this is going to send a notice that the Liberals have got to start working on behalf of Canadians. It’s about keeping the Liberals honest – not only the Liberals but Conservatives as well.”

About 40 supporters gathered in Whalen's campaign headquarters to watch him concede St. John's East after just one term as an MP.

St. John’s East incumbent Liberal Nick Whalen (seated, third from left) and his family — daughter Sophia Whalen, wife Sarah Noble and son Isaac 11,  watch results at his headquarters on Stavanger Drive.
St. John’s East incumbent Liberal Nick Whalen (seated, third from left) and his family — daughter Sophia Whalen, wife Sarah Noble and son Isaac 11, watch results at his headquarters on Stavanger Drive.

"I look forward to you being my MP again," Whalen said shortly before 10 p.m. as he congratulated Harris.

Whalen, conceding with grace, called Harris a giant in Newfoundland and Labrador politics, acknowledged there were a lot of hard conversations during the campaign and thanked his family and supporters.

"I worked hard, but no one worked as hard as Justin Trudeau," he said of the prime minister.

Early in the night, supporters gathered around a TV screen, with Whalen and his family in the front row.

Supporters knew from the get go it was a tight race.

"If we win, we won't win by much," a supporter was overheard to say.

After the results were in, Whalen said it’s not fun to be fired in front of the country, and he hasn’t thought ahead to what he will do next, except that it’s been a long time since he took a vacation with his family.

Other than that, he said he will look at restarting his law and engineering credentials.

Whalen defeated Harris in 2015 in what was the biggest upset in Atlantic Canada, and a shocker given Harris's status in his party on both the provincial and federal scene.

St. John's East is a notoriously volatile riding, changing hands in three of the last four federal elections.

Whalen and his family munched popcorn as the early results rolled in, and supporters seemed at times pumped and at times subdued.

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