Voters across Newfoundland and Labrador are heading to the polls today to choose the next provincial government and decide whether or not Liberal Leader Dwight Ball will get a second term as premier.
On the island, polls opened at 8 a.m. NT and will stay open until 8 p.m.
In Labrador, polls opened at 7:30 a.m. AT and will stay open until 7:30 p.m.
Those looking to unseat Ball include the Progressive Conservatives under Leader Ches Crosbie, 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.
Ball, who cast his ballot in his district of Humber Valley 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 3½ years.”
Ball said that the province’s political landscape has changed in those 3½ years, and 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.”
Ball said he’ll spend the rest of the day in his district, before visiting with Liberal candidates in Corner Brook.
Crosbie said he was also happy with his party’s campaign after casting his ballot.
“I think we’ve done everything more or less right, there’s always the odd glitch or slip-up in a campaign,” he said.
“It’s a complex thing to execute, I think it went pretty smoothly and we got out the message to the voter that we wanted to get out, and that will make a difference.”
Crosbie said no matter the result, it’s been “a great education” learning from voters about the issues that are important to them.
The PC leader said he’ll spend the rest of the day making a few phone calls and visiting campaign headquarters, and has two speeches prepared — just in case.
Crosbie confirmed he will also stay on as PC leader, win or lose, as the job as leader is “not a short-term gig.”
Coffin and Pelley both voted in advanced polls last week.
As the polls opened, 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.”
An amazing feeling
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 will start at 7 p.m. NT.