Polls are closed and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are waiting to see their next provincial government.
In what has been billed as anybody’s race, the Progressive Conservatives are seeking to end the reign of the Liberals under Dwight Ball. If successful, it would be the first time the province has ousted a government after one term.
The PCs are led by Ches Crosbie, a lawyer who entered provincial politics slightly more than a year ago.
New Democrat Alison Coffin, who won her party’s leadership uncontested in March, and NL Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley, who formed his party just a month before the election was called, are also on the ballot for their first elections.
There are a number of districts where the races will be interesting to watch, including two popular independents — and former Liberals — running as incumbents.
By early evening, Ball and his team of Liberal contenders were set up at the Greenwood Inn and Suites in Corner Brook, a short drive from his hometown of Deer Lake, and prepared for a party.
Before polls closed, the room was mostly empty aside from media and some party volunteers.
So. Was very intrigued by these balloons. Turns out they did it this way because there’s a helium shortage. They’re not planning to drop the balloons/giant net and trap the unsuspecting crowd underneath. #nlpoli pic.twitter.com/53ZDyip0CW
Ball, who cast his ballot in his district of Humber–Gros Morne on Thursday morning, said he feels great and asked for the support of voters to continue his work in government
“Everyone recognizes the challenges that we’ve faced, and this campaign has been about a lot of that,” he said.
“But [Newfoundland and Labrador] is a better place today, it’s a better province today with a brighter future because of what we’ve been doing in the last three and half years.”
Ball said that the province’s political landscape has changed in that time, and that he was happy with how the Liberals ran their campaign.
“In reflecting on this campaign, however, there’s been probably some of the dirtiest politics I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“We’ve ran a good, clean campaign with a great, experienced team. People have a choice today.”
Crosbie staying as leader
Meanwhile, the PCs are posted up in a small conference room at the Holiday Inn Express in St. John’s.
Crosbie told reporters earlier in the day he had prepared two speeches — one for a victory, and one in the event of a loss.
After casting his ballot this morning, he said he was happy with his party’s campaign, and was indignant when asked if he would stay on as leader even if the party failed to form the government.
“Absolutely,” he told reporters. “This is not a short-term gig. I promised to rebuild the party and bring the party into power. That is what I will do.”
The NDP set up its headquarters at the Benevolent Irish Society in St. John’s, where Coffin is expected to speak later Thursday night.
The party is only running 14 candidates after fractures inside the NDP left them scrambling for a leader in the weeks before the campaign launched.
In the 2015 election, the NDP ran candidates in all 40 districts provincewide.
As the polls opened in the morning, a number of voters turned out at St. Pius X Parish in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi.
Helen Walsh said it was tough to pick a candidate.
“They’re all much the same to me, and you don’t know who to believe,” she said.
“[I’m] kind of saying eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”
Kelly Davis voted in the district of Mount Scio. She said she was “not impressed” with Ball’s mid-April election call and felt it was unfair to both voters and candidates.
“It just feels kind of sneaky to me, to be honest. I’m usually very optimistic and I’m a concerned citizen. This time I just feel apathetic and under-informed about the election,” she said.
“I feel a bit duped, you know? I just feel like it was sprung [on voters].”
Davis said the election came so quickly that she wasn’t able to get to know her candidates or study the platforms.
“I feel like I’m kind of going in and voting quite blindly.”
In Corner Brook, Pansy Caines said she only voted on principle — not because any party’s campaigning caught her interest.
“I didn’t see anybody; nobody came to the door. I had one little poster in my mailbox,” she said. “[But] you’ve got no right to speak if you don’t have a vote.”
In Happy Valley–Goose Bay, Karen Best marked her vote with the intention of shifting the status quo.
She said violence against women and Indigenous land issues were her two biggest priorities, and she didn’t feel the previous Liberal government had done enough to rectify them.
“We’re in dire need of change,” she said. “Absolutely.”
Odily Onyia became a Canadian citizen last year and said it felt amazing to cast his vote in Canada for the first time.
Onyia said voting is much different in this province than where he grew up in Nigeria, and he’s glad to know that his vote will make a difference.
“It seemed that [a] vote doesn’t count because of a lot of corruption. Sometimes people lose their life in polling booths or go to cast votes and come home [after going] through hospital, it’s quite disencouraging,” he said.
“But look at it here, no police, no military, nobody hanging around.”
Onyia encouraged people in Newfoundland and Labrador to cast their vote as well, saying it makes a difference.
Back in the November 2015 election, the total number of votes cast was 200,834 with a voter turnout of 55.3 per cent.
Elections Newfoundland and Labrador opened polling stations at 8 a.m. NT, giving people 12 hours to mark their ballots.
CBC Newfoundland and Labrador will have live coverage on all platforms tonight.
Online streaming on Facebook started at 7 p.m. NT.
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