So, what the heck happened in 2011 that handed this riding over to Penashue, even if it was by the smallest of margins?
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more mixed between Aboriginal populations and whites (evident by HV-GB’s population, which is 63% white to 36% Aboriginal), and seems to be the Conservative’s traditional “base” in Labrador, evident by the PC wins here provincially, and the 2006 poll-by-poll results.
In 2011, the NDP’s base is fairly obvious. In West Labrador, where Labrador City and Wabush are located (and where the NDP do the best provincially in Labrador), the NDP rushed past its two opponents. The area is big on mining, forestry, and hydro companies, thus there is a big union presence in the area. Its also mostly white, with very little in the way of an Aboriginal population. Unfortunately for the NDP, this kind of support wasn’t seen anywhere else.
On the southern coast of Labrador, we see where the Liberals reign. This area is covered by Yvonne Jones’ riding of Cartwright-L’Anse-au-Clair, important given her candidacy. The area is dominated by tiny hamlets and fishing villages, the largest of which are L’Anse-au-Loup (pop. 550) and Cartwright (pop. 516), and despite the names, no one seems to speak French there. I suspect the Liberal domination has to do with high unemployment, the rural Protestant nature of the area, and tradition – but I don’t know. I just like the pretty colour.
I could say from the outset that the chances of the Liberals winning back are good – and they are! For once. However, this is a by-election and we all know how weird these things can be, as we saw with Victoria and Calgary Centre only a few months ago.
A lot will depend on the candidates. We know who will likely be running for the Conservatives – Peter Penashue. Unless he gets kicked out in a nomination battle or something, he will be the government candidate. And why not? Unless one of the two provincial PC MHAs resign and jump to the federal ship, Penashue is the highest profile Conservative the federal party can get in Labrador.
It also seems as if the Conservative association is supportive of Penashue, so if he wants it, he'll get it pretty much unconditionally. However, if he doesn't want it (who could blame him for not wanting to run under a cloud of corruption allegations), there are a couple of possibilities: one is former Torngat Mountains MHA and cabinet member Patty Pottle, the other is current Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor Leo Abbass. We'll see what happens, though.
On the Liberal side, we could have a race. On the one hand, we have former MP Todd Russell, who is said to be considering running again - but he does have other duties right now, and may not want to slog out another campaign. On the other hand, Yvonne Jones is pretty much confirmed to be running for the nomination. However, Jones' base is in an area where we already dominate, and I'm not sure what her appeal is like beyond Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair.
For the NDP… uh, I dunno. Jacob Larkin, the 2011 candidate, could run again. 2011 Labrador West candidate Tom Harris, or 2007 Labrador West candidate Darrel Brenton, might also make good candidates for the NDP out of their base. I don’t really see the NDP going anywhere in Labrador, however, so I don’t think it matters too much.
The other consideration is, of course, the Muskrat Falls projection, and other developments. Penashue is seen as fully supportive of the project, while Russell and Jones have more muddled positions. I'm not from the region, and I don't know how the issue plays out over there, but what the candidates and their parties say their positions are will probably play into the race. That being said, the by-election isn't over Muskrat Falls and so on, its over Penashue's stupidity. Maybe it won't matter at all.
It'll be an interesting race, folks. That much I do know.