After a slow start to campaigning, the final push to connect with voters has begun in the Topsail-Paradise byelection, slated for Jan. 24.
Paul Dinn, the Progressive Conservative candidate, was first to be confirmed as a candidate in the byelection. Dinn is the deputy mayor of Paradise, and formerly held a number of positions in the bureaucracy of the federal and provincial governments.
The party he’s running for is the incumbent in the byelection, after Paul Davis stepped aside in November.
Dinn says taxes and power rates are what’s coming up most on the doorsteps.
“When taxes are too high, people have less to spend, there’s less money in the economy … the spiral leads to layoffs, loan defaults, bankruptcy, and out-migration from our province,” Dinn said.
Dinn blames the Liberal government for the tax increases that came in under the 2016 provincial budget, but does acknowledge the cost of the Muskrat Falls project and the effect it’s set to have on power rates in the province. He says there needs to be outside-the-box thinking on facing power rates in the province.
“Energy costs, that’s part of taxation, in a way. I’m not naïve to say to the public, ‘don’t you worry, you won’t be affected,” he said.
“But it’s a way of looking at that and seeing how we can address it. It could be as simple as what you do with your mortgage when the payments get too high – you extend the payments. Maybe the federal government needs to give more than the loan that we have and call it an investment — take part ownership.”
Dinn says should he not be successful on election day, it’ll depend on PC party strategy as to whether he’ll be on the ballot for the provincial general election.
Patricia Hynes-Coates was next out of the gate. The most recent former president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, her role as an advocate for that organization is front and centre of her election strategy.
“I’ve been in a strong leadership position for a period of a couple of years now, so I have advocated right across this country by listening to victims of impaired driving,” said Coates.
“I’ve been successfully working with a team that has moved legislation federally and provincially that we were told would never happen. I’m bringing my listening skills, my passion, my hard work, my dedication and my determination to the constituents of this area.”
Hynes-Coates says she’s not intimidated by the prospect of entering the House of Assembly and joining 39 other strong voices advocating for their districts — she plans on standing out.
“I have no concern whatsoever of being silenced or quieted in any way. If I know that this is what my constituents want and it’s possible that it’s going to be able to be implemented, I will not be silenced. I am not that type of person. I never have been,” she said.
Hynes-Coates says she will run in the 2019 general election, should she not be successful on Jan. 24.
Engaging with voters
Kathleen Burt was the New Democratic Party candidate in the 2015 provincial election in Harbour Grace-Port de Grave.
The NDP has taken a more distant strategy with the Topsail-Paradise byelection. It is the only party without a headquarters in the district, instead choosing more of an online and satellite campaign.
Burt says the party is testing a few things — like online cup-of-tea question and answer sessions to engage with voters. But, by and large, the NDP is focused on the general election.
That said, Burt is still hitting the doorsteps in Topsail-Paradise. She says people are looking for a new kind of government.
“Of the people that I have actually talked to, there’s a lot of people dissatisfied,” said Burt.
“People don’t have the tools anymore to know what to do when they’re dissatisfied with their governments. That’s why, I think, you see a lot of this bullying and whatnot because they feel frustrated. I’m talking about bullying online. People sometimes say horrible things to politicians online.”
Burt says the all-party committee on mental health, spearheaded by NDP Leader Gerry Rogers, is one example of more ways to engage the people and the experts of the province on the largest issues. She says she hopes the NDP can provide an example that changing the political culture of the province is possible.
“I’m giving them the message from the NDP: there is a better way of doing things. We can be more democratic. We can make decisions in a better way than we have,” she said.
“In order to get true democratic reform, we need to change constitutions and all that, but what the NDP has been saying is we already have possibilities for more democracy in the way we do things, if any government wants to use them.”
The first day of advance polling took place Thursday.