CORNER BROOK, N.L. — The Liberals earned a hefty majority win in Monday's provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador, where they ended 12 years of Progressive Conservative rule by sticking to a low-key campaign that tapped into voters' desire for change.
Buoyed by Liberal victories in every one of Atlantic Canada's 32 federal ridings on Oct. 19, provincial Liberal Leader Dwight Ball repeatedly invoked Justin Trudeau's winning strategy, saying, "People of our province want politics of hope, of change.''
Once Ball assumes power, every province east of Manitoba will be governed by Liberals, and there won't be any governments - federal or provincial - using the Conservative brand.
The newly-minted premier-designate was introspective when asked about his party's win Monday, citing his late father as a sure source of inspiration in the days ahead.
Dwight Ball, Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal leader, on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
"He would say, 'Dwight, stay grounded and if you can do anything to contribute ... to people who are less fortunate, people who struggle in life, will you do that?''' Ball told reporters gathered at his campaign headquarters inside a Corner Brook hotel.
"That's the kind of work ethic you can expect from me in the next four years."
Elected as Tory leader only 13 months ago, Premier Paul Davis told voters the election was about leadership. But he also issued dire warnings about what he called a Liberal hidden agenda that includes making massive cuts to government spending and public service jobs to deal with a projected $1-billion deficit.
Davis, a 54-year-old former police officer, won his riding of Topsail-Paradise Monday evening.
For his part, Ball stuck to a safe, front-runner strategy that included a politically popular pledge to kill a Tory plan to increase government revenue by raising the harmonized sales tax from 13 to 15 per cent on Jan. 1.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis takes a question from a reporter during a visit to the Ontario legislature in Toronto on March 3, 2015. (Photo: Chris Young/CP)
NDP leader Earle McCurdy, a 65-year-old former union leader who won the party's leadership race last year, failed to win a seat.
During the campaign, he took aim at the Liberal promise to find $400 million in savings, saying the only way they can achieve that is by cutting government jobs, which Ball has denied.
The New Democrats held on to two seats in St. John's.
The Conservative party's popularity seemed unassailable during Danny Williams' tenure as premier between 2003 and 2010, when a growing offshore energy sector helped increase government spending from $5 billion to $7 billion.
Under Kathy Dunderdale, Tory popularity tanked. She stepped down in January 2014.
Her departure was followed by an aborted leadership race and a sustained slide in world oil prices, which has crippled the province's finances. In 2013, about one third of provincial revenue came from the offshore energy sector, but that figure has since dropped to about 20 per cent, leading to much larger projected deficits.
Liberal wave across Canada?
Erin Crandall, a politics professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., says it's interesting to note there will soon be Liberal governments in every province east of Manitoba. But she said it would be a mistake to draw conclusions about the state of Liberal popularity across the country.
"I think it's a bit more nuanced than that,'' Crandall said in an interview, adding that voters decide provincial elections based on regional issues that don't always align with federal issues.
As for federal-provincial relations, that often has more to do with personalities that party labels, she said.
"You can look at Danny Williams and Stephen Harper who had terrible relationships but were both representing Conservative parties," she said.
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