05/13/2013 05:02 EDT | Updated 07/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Labrador Byelection Puts Penashue Credibility To The Test


Today's byelection in Labrador will determine whether former MP Peter Penashue will win his riding back after he resigned his seat in March over revelations that his 2011 campaign accepted ineligible donations.

Polls will close at 8 p.m. AT (7 p.m. ET) in a byelection being closely watched across the country, as it involves a former cabinet minister who was found to have violated Elections Canada rules in the 2011 election.

The former cabinet minister insists that he is still Labrador's best option for representation in Ottawa, and that a Conservative MP would be able to get more for Labrador.

"You have members that will be going into the opposition, that's one choice, and then you have me, who will be going into the cabinet," Penashue said.

During his campaigning leading up to the byelection, Penashue revealed that he withheld approval for a project in Newfoundland until he got approval for money for a project in Labrador.

Some voters feel that this is the kind of representation Labrador needs, and that the region has been ignored on Parliament Hill for too long.

Last week, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to campaign with Penashue.

MacKay said he guaranteed that Penashue would get his cabinet seat back if he was re-elected on Monday.

Tough competition

However, Liberal candidate Yvonne Jones has proved to be tough competition for Penashue.

Jones has 17 years of experience in the province's house of assembly as a provincial MHA for her Labrador district of Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, and is the former leader of the provincial Liberal party.

In mid-March, Jones announced she would resign from her seat as an MHA to officially run for the Liberal candidacy when the byelection was officially called.

She said Labrador needs a strong, vocal representative in the House of Commons.

"I'm not a person who's going to run and ride when times get tough," Jones said. "I'm not a person who's going to give up on what's important to the people of Labrador."

In late April, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in the Big Land to campaign with Jones.

Trudeau told a crowd of supporters in Happy Valley-Goose Bay that the byelection was their chance to send a strong message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by sending a Liberal back to Ottawa.

NDP candidate Harry Borlase is trying to get Labradorians to try something new, promising an alternative to what he calls the old ways of the other two parties.

Borlase won a three-way race in late March for the NDP candidacy, despite calls from the Green Party of Canada to stand down in the byelection on the grounds that a concerted opposition could prevent a Conservative from winning.

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