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Nick Whalen gracious in loss of St. John’s East seat

St. John’s East incumbent Nick Whalen gives his concession speech at his campaign headquarters on Stavanger Drive on Monday night. Whalen lost to NDP candidate Jack Harris.
St. John’s East incumbent Nick Whalen gives his concession speech at his campaign headquarters on Stavanger Drive on Monday night. Whalen lost to NDP candidate Jack Harris. - Joe Gibbons

‘This guy is a giant in Newfoundland and Labrador politics,’ he says of rival Jack Harris

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

You win one, you lose one.

That was Liberal Nick Whalen’s fate with federal election 2019 — after a shocker of an election in 2015 in which he beat then St. John’s East NDP MP Jack Harris — a veteran of provincial and federal politics. The tables were turned Monday night.

“When you step up to the plate against a guy like Jack Harris, it’s going to be tough,” Whalen said in his concession speech after a campaign worker whispered in his ear and showed him a phone screen at the Stavanger Drive campaign headquarters.

“You got to dig your heels in. You got to work hard. This guy is a giant in Newfoundland and Labrador politics. And his reputation and loyalty to his community is impeccable.”

Whalen thanked his family and supporters in a gracious speech.

He talked about hard conversations at the door, tense debates and lessons learned from all his opponents as well as the four years and 80 days he spent as the MP for St. John’s East. He also praised Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

“I worked very hard. Nobody worked harder than Justin Trudeau,” Whalen said.

“I am just glad that last time (2015) we were able to pull it out in a close and magical campaign and this time make it interesting and put up the good fight.”

Early in the evening, Whalen was relaxed as about 40 supporters and family members gathered with him to watch the election night results.

He munched popcorn and the crowd whoo-hooed for other Liberals declared elected.

But the mood in the room was both subdued and cautiously optimistic when it came to Whalen’s own chances.

St. John’s East incumbent Nick Whalen watches the federal election results come in on TV at his campaign headquarters on Stavanger Drive in east-end St. John’s on Monday night with his family, daughter Sophia, wife Sarah Noble, and son Isaac.
St. John’s East incumbent Nick Whalen watches the federal election results come in on TV at his campaign headquarters on Stavanger Drive in east-end St. John’s on Monday night with his family, daughter Sophia, wife Sarah Noble, and son Isaac.

“If we win, it won’t be by much,” a worker was overheard saying in conversation.

As Whalen spoke to reporters afterwards, he said he hasn’t plotted out his future and whether he’d ever take another stab at politics. He said he’ll take a long delayed proper vacation with his family and think about requalifying his law and engineering designations.

“Who knows where the future holds,” he said.

Whalen said his campaign team left no stone unturned and worked hard to prepare for the debates. He acknowledged the Liberals spent plenty of money in his riding, but said it also takes a connection with voters to sway the electorate.

All week, he said he thought he had a shot at winning.

“Nobody wants to be fired in front of the country and their family and everyone they have ever known, so that’s sort of tough. But the last time I was anointed in front of my family and everyone I have ever known. That was thrilling and I guess it all comes full circle tonight,” Whalen said.

“Jack is a good guy and he’ll be a great MP. … Good on him. He’s a neighbour and he gets his old job back. I wish it was mine, but more power to him.”

During his concession speech and to reporters, Whalen also said he’d do some soul searching as to why people had vandalized some of his election signs.

But he said he’s learned lots of lessons and even the hardest days “were only terribly interesting.”

“Democracy is a beautiful thing. I am a big believer in it and just to be in the race was probably pretty fun,” Whalen said.

Seamus O’Regan, the Liberal incumbent who won St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, said Whalen is one of the hardest working public figures he’s come across, that he worked hard for his riding and was in tune with the oil and gas industry — the results of which he said was a streamlined environmental assessment process that cut wait times, plus the Atlantic Accord deal.

Twitter: @BarbSweetTweets

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