Liberals ascendant in Atlantic Canada

There was a monster-sized voter turnout in the Newfoundland and Labrador leadership race which concluded over the weekend. As Liberal Matt Ostergard notes (in video above), the voter turnout amounted to nearly 5 per cent of the entire population of the province or nearly 24,000 votes cast. Dwight Ball was the eventual winner.

But voter turnout number is just the latest indicator of how ascendant Liberals are in Atlantic Canada politics these days.

  • In Prince Edward Island, the Liberals hold power and there does not appear to be any substantial threat on the horizon that would suggest they are going anywhere soon.
  • In Nova Scotia, the Liberals hold power, having just won a convincing majority. Premier Stephen McNeil is in command.
  • In New Brunswick, an election will be held next fall but had it been held over the summer, Liberal leader Brian Gallant may very well have led the Liberals back into power there, ousting incumbent Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward. A June poll from Corporate Research Associates (only firm I’m aware of that regularly takes the pulse of New Brunswickers) had Gallant’s Liberals at 41%, compared to Alward’s PC’s at 29% and Dominic Cardy’s NB NDP at 27%.
  • In Newfoundland and Labrador, the most recent poll (I’m aware of) from the end of last month had the then-leaderless Liberals at 52% compared to incumbent Progressive Conservative Premier Kathy Dunderdale at 29% and the NDP — now embroiled in their own leadership and caucus crisis — at 18 per cent. The next provincial election, though, is not until 2015.

Might all this good will spill over for the federal party. Highly probable. In the NL leadership race, several current and former Liberal MPs were active on behalf of different candidates and one, Gerry Byrne, kept popping up in the papers as a potential provincial leader or cabinet minister some day. In Nova Scotia, images of federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau were actually used in some of the election videos of the Nova Scotia Liberals. Moreover, Trudeau actively campaigned for and with McNeil.

The next federal election is still a long way off — October of 2015. But right now, Liberals — like Ostergard but also many of the region’s MPs – are confident not only of holding the 13 of the 32 seats they hold in Atlantic Canada but perhaps boosting that number to 18 or even 20 with gains in all four Atlantic provinces.

Mind you, Atlantic Canada in 2015 will become less important so far as the math in the House of Commons goes as it is the one region in the country that is not getting any new seats. So even if the Liberals gained 6 seats in Atlantic Canada in 2015 putting them at 19, that could be offset if, as expected now, most or all of the six new seats in Alberta fall to the governing Conservatives.

But as Ostergard noted in our chat on my program Battleground on Sun News Network last night, Liberals talk about Fortress Toronto as their last great bulwark against the Tory and NDP hordes but now, Fortress Atlantic is looking very plausible and a base federal Liberals can build on.

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