Election 2021 Newfoundland

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Ken Burch wrote:

Anybody know anything about the four independents who were elected?  Any idea where they can be placed on the ideological spectrum?

(on edit) It was three independents, not four. My bad.


 Trimper resigned from cabinet on September 13, 2019 after comments critical of the Innu Nation were left on the voicemail of an Innu Nation staffer and publicly revealed.[8][9] 


On October 20, 2020, Trimper said homeless people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay were "choosing" a risky lifestyle, in the wake of a video that showed a homeless Inuk man being thrown to the ground during an arrest in the town by a municipal enforcement officer.[11]

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

And this Trimper person, called out as the racist he is, managed to get re-elected - wow.


A look at the polls before and after the election was suspended show an enormous shift in support away from the Liberals because of the election shambles. Even this does not fully cover the voter shift as the polls only run to the end of February, while people could vote until March 21st. 

At the beginning of 2021, the N.L. Liberals were in an enviable position. Due to the province's electoral law requiring a vote within one year of a new premier being sworn in, the Liberals had to call an election by August.

The party had a solid lead in the polls and the COVID-19 caseload in the province was negligible. Furey decided the time was right and the election was called for Feb. 13.

The party kicked off the campaign on track for a landslide. According to a poll conducted by Mainstreet Research at the end of January, the N.L. Liberals had 62 per cent support among decided voters, giving them a 36-point lead over the trailing Progressive Conservatives.

With those kinds of numbers, Furey's Liberals would easily win a majority government, perhaps with as many as 30 or more of the province's 40 seats.

As election day approached, the Liberals were still on solid footing. Narrative Research told CBC News that the Liberals still had 55 per cent support when it polled between Jan. 28 and Feb. 8, just before the spike in cases. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they were satisfied with the government's performance.

The news of the spike in cases did not put a huge dent in Liberal support, according to another poll by Mainstreet Research conducted on Feb. 10 and 11 — but compared to the firm's earlier campaign polling, the Liberals had slipped eight points to 54 per cent.

Their lead over the PCs was down to 28 points — still majority territory, but now with a very-best-case scenario of around 30 seats.

Once the election was delayed, however, the Liberals saw their support slip.

In its final poll of the campaign conducted on Feb. 20 and 21, Mainstreet Research found there was a big difference between voters who already had cast ballots (in advance voting or by mail) and those who had not.

Among those who already had voted, the Liberals had 59 per cent support and a 29-point lead over the PCs. Among those who had not voted, the Liberals had 49 per cent support and a 15-point lead.

Furey's own personal approval ratings took a hit by the end of the campaign. According to the Angus Reid Institute, Furey's approval rating had slipped eight points between the end of November and a poll conducted Feb. 26 to Mar. 3. His disapproval rating had jumped by 18 points.



The St. Johns Telegram, Newfoundland's largest newspaper, has a hard-hitting editorial on the Newfoundland election shambles, not only for Newfoundlanders but for all Canadians. It calls for major electoral reform so that elections are not run to benefit the governing party, but for the people, and to introduce proportional representation. 

The 48.0% voter turnout was down 12.1% from the last election and 7% below the previous lowest turnout in Newfouundland reflecting the problems created by Covid and raising questions about legitimacy of the election, especially for voters, such as the poor, elderly, indigenous, those with disabilities, and those in Labrador, who found it more difficult if not impossible to vote. I predict this question will hang over the Furey Liberal government, and even more so if he brings in an austerity budget that he did not run on. 

With regard to how bad it became for marginalized groups to vote,  the riding of Torngat Mountains gives a vivid picture of the story. The voter turnout drop in Torngat Mountains, the northernmost riding in the province, which also is heavily indigenous, reflects the legitimacy problems created by Covid, especially for the economcially and digitally disadvantaged. I immediately noticed the low voter turnout of 473 votes (PC 420, NDP 37, Liberal 16) as the results came in and looked up the 2019 results when 1,117 people voted there (PC 623, Lib 478 spoiled 17, with no NDP candidate), resulting in a 58% drop in voter turnout from 2019. Just 22% of eligible voters voted. The collapse of the Liberal vote in just two years from 43.5% of the vote to 3.4% of the vote may also be reflecting the fact that many voters in Turngat Mountains protested that the set-up of the Covid mail-in vote was denying many of the ridings residents the right to vote and those who did vote therefore turned against the Liberals. 

The citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador have now lived through the strangest election in our history and the engagement of the electorate during this election is worrisome for our democracy.

In terms of results, there wasn't a great deal of change. The Liberal Party won 20 seats in the 2019 election for a minority government, had one member kicked out of caucus to become an independent during their period of power, and won a slim majority this time around with 22 seats out of 40. This is similar to trends in other provinces that have held elections during the pandemic, where the party in power either gained or increased their majority during the election.

But that's about the only thing in common with other provinces during this strange election.

The system needs to be fixed so that future elections do not continue this trend of reduced participation of the voting public. The Election Act needs to be amended to clarify the rights and responsibilities of election officials to avoid the confusion and uncertainties that plagued this election.

While other provinces saw either a small drop or similar voter turnout in their elections, there was a significant drop in voter participation in this province, which accelerated a process that has been ongoing for a while. In 2015, voter turnout was 61 per cent; in 2019, it dropped to around 58 per cent, and in 2021, it was only around 48 per cent.

In a strange twist that few had predicted, two of the seats that the Liberals picked up were the seats of both opposition leaders, meaning that both the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democratic Party will not have leaders sitting in the house. A small change in number of seats has led to a big shift in power and this shift was based on the lowest voter turnout in this province's history; strange times indeed, and not a healthy sign for the troubled times we are facing in this province.

The system needs to be fixed so that future elections do not continue this trend of reduced participation of the voting public. The Election Act needs to be amended to clarify the rights and responsibilities of election officials to avoid the confusion and uncertainties that plagued this election.

The time is ripe to do a major overhaul of our elections and bring in proportional representation so all voters can feel their votes count. That people voted for three independent candidates, something that is unprecedented in Newfoundland, shows a level of frustration with the present system and a desire for members who can represent their constituents more than a political party.

In an odd juxtaposition, while we hope to increase voter participation here in Canada, many states in America are enacting laws that aim to restrict voter participation after the past election. I'm not sure which of us has the biggest problem, but neither is healthy for our democracies, and it appears that such decisions are being driven more in the self-interest of the political party over what is best for citizens.



NDP Leader Alison Coffin "says she is ready to fight what she contends are enormous mistakes in the balloting process that compromised both her ability to resume her seat as an MHA and the credibility of the entire election." in an election that she lost by 53 votes and in one where voter turnout dropped by 12% to 48%, the lowest in Newfoundland history. Furthermore, in the heavily indigenous riding of Torngat Mountains, the northernmost in the province, voter turnout dropped by 58%, reflecting the strong impediments to voting faced by all marginalized people. 

Coffin is considering a constitutional challenge to the election results based on the many problems that occurred during the election. 

Late last week Coffin asked for a recount in her district of St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, which she lost by 53 votes. 

She talked Tuesday about a potential constitutional challenge to overturn the election, a battle that could take up to a year and would be a separate undertaking from the recount.

“This recount is 50 votes, but we have heard so many problems with people accessing the vote, people feeling disenfranchised, people getting the wrong ballots, people not getting ballots at all, too many people getting too many ballots, so just a variety of things that are happening,” Coffin said.

“The recount will give us a sense of what happened to some of the ballots and why were they rejected. … And from there we can determine, well, was there even more problems with this election. It’s about the numbers, but it’s also about let’s find out what is going on here and maybe we can decide whether we want to challenge this even further — like does this warrant a constitutional challenge."

Whatever the outcome, Coffin said she is dedicated to the party as long as it wants her. “I have a renewed sense of purpose. … Again, I am disappointed I did not get my seat, but realizing that I am in a very special place in that I have an opportunity to win my seat (in the recount), but I also have a cause that needs to be championed,” Coffin said.

“It’s not just St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, and it’s not just New Democrats that are frustrated with this election, it’s people all across Newfoundland and Labrador (who) are so frustrated. And the phone calls and the emails that I’m getting and my family are getting and all the people around me are getting just says we are all so upset with how poorly this election was run, we need to do something about it. And I have been given time, I have an abundance of energy and now I have purpose. Could be dangerous.”

With the state of the economy, rate mitigation for Muskrat Falls still not negotiated and the Greene economic task force report still to come, as well as a budget, Coffin said it’s important to her to fight for democracy.

“Some very difficult decisions are on the horizon and I don’t think I would feel very comfortable or very proud of being a leader if I saw these things happening that are going to affect everyone all across Newfoundland and Labrador, and they are happening on the back of an election that no one has any faith in,” she said. “This is not over. This is about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, this is about democracy, not so much about me.” ...

Court documents filed by the party last week set out a number of problems Coffin has with the balloting and scrutineer process.

In the recount application documents filed in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court, the NDP leader alleges that some ballots were counted improperly and others were improperly rejected, and non-compliant restrictions on the scrutineers gives rise to “a reasonable fear and concern that a returning officer has, in counting the votes, inadvertently made an incorrect statement of the number of ballots cast for a candidate or candidates.”

It includes affidavits by Coffin and NDP scrutineer Judy Vanta, who pointed out that in a typical election there are many scrutineers at polling stations across the province.

However, because this election was largely carried out by mail-in balloting, each party had a sole scrutineer overseeing the count at the Elections NL headquarters in St. John’s. (Election day having been cancelled by an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.) ...

“With all of these ballots being counted at the same time, from multiple districts in the province, I was unable to adequately observe the counting process or review each ballot cast for the district of St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi,” Vanta’s affidavit states.

“Due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was limited in my ability as scrutineer to clearly observe the counting of ballots, as is my right under the Elections Act."

Vanta also stated she was unable the first week of counting to view the tally sheets where counted ballots were recorded to be totalled for each candidate, adding they were shielded from view by Elections NL staff, a procedure later reversed after the party objected.

She stated some blue envelopes were left unopened because they were deemed to be invalid due to missing or misplaced signatures on the voter declaration form, and in her view at least some of them ought to have been opened and counted.

Vanta also stated she observed at least one error in tallying the vote, and was prevented from taking notes, contrary to previous elections. ...

Coffin, in her affidavit, alleges — among other concerns — that she has been told many individuals in the district were added to the voters list without being properly sworn, and without providing identification.

“Thousands of individuals were added to the voters list upon having a simple telephone call with Elections NL workers, and were provided with ballots, or in some cases were provided with multiple ballots, without producing proof of identity,” Coffin stated. She also said some ballots postmarked prior to March 25 — the deadline to be received at Elections NL — did not arrive in time to be counted, and some known NDP supporters didn't receive their requested mail-in ballots.


Ken Burch

Has the recount in Coffin's riding occurred yet, btw?  If so, what was the outcome?


NDP Leader Alison Coffin has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland that identifies 29 alleged irregularities and errors (see #43 in the url below) in the election. The lawsuit states that because "the number and severity of the aforementioned irregularities is so great, the results of the  Election must be voided and a new election must take place forthwith"  (#44). Furthermore, "the aforementioned irregularities and errors are not limited to the electoral district of St. John's-Quidi Vidi (Coffin's riding) and permeate all 40 electoral districts, thus calling into question the value of the Election results as a whole" (#45).