With talks of a potential snap federal election, people are wondering about what’s going to happen in St. John’s East.
In Newfoundland and Labrador federal politics, the riding of St. John’s East has always been one to watch.
In 2019, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government won a second term, but as a minority government. Lately, there have been talks of a snap election, with voters potentially returning to the polls soon.
Newfoundland and Labrador has seven of 338 federal ridings. All of them are held by the Liberal party, except for St. John’s East which was won in 2019 by Jack Harris and the NDP.
The Liberal nomination process recently opened and two candidates stepped forward to pursue the nomination for St. John’s East.
One of the candidates is Joanne Thompson.
Thompson is the executive director of the Gathering Place in St. John’s. She has never run in politics, however, she believes that she has the skills to win.
“I firmly feel that public service is a place of honour and I lived that throughout my life and, so, this is the opportunity to give back and to use what I’ve learned to bring people together,” said Thompson.
Her experience at the Gathering Place, Thompson believes, will be beneficial to the party in the next federal election.
“I am fearless in terms of envisioning what we can be. I’m absolutely passionate and unrelenting around making that happen and doing it in a way that’s inclusive and it brings others with you,” said Thompson. “I think that’s a skill set I possess and is one that is needed at this time.”
Michael Duffy, a lawyer, has also filed papers with the Liberal Party of Canada.
Duffy is the vice-chairman of Easter Seals NL as well as the chairman of Easter Seals Canada. He feels this makes him a good candidate for the riding.
“I have a few layers of lived and shared experiences that I can bring to the job,” Duffy said. “I can listen to people, communicate what I hear and make decisions on their behalf that will lead to the best outcomes for the people of St. John’s East.”
Duffy ran in the provincial district of Cape St. Francis in 2019, placing second to PC incumbent Kevin Parsons.
Now he is aiming at federal politics.
“The party needs someone to come forward for this seat. I think I fit the job. At this point in time, it seems to be the appropriate thing to do and the best use of my skills and experience. To give back because this community has been really good to me,” said Duffy.
Despite the enthusiasm from both candidates, there has been no announcement yet of when a potential election could be.
Former Liberal MP Nick Whalen, who lost the St. John’s East riding to Harris in 2019, says it’s normal for people to step up this early.
“If the federal government is generally seen as having performed well with the pandemic and that perception continues, I’m sure it will improve the position for all of their candidates and a place like St. John’s East would seem like a place they could steal back from the NDP.”
“It’s because it’s a minority parliament,” said Whalen. “An election can happen at any time. In order to be ready, to build your team and be greenlit to run, you need to plan early, declare your intentions early.”
The St. John’s East riding is a mix of rural and urban voters. The Liberals face an uphill battle against the popular Harris. The red wave of 2015 swept the incumbent Harris from power until he launched a comeback and defeated Whalen in 2019.
The voting behaviour of Canadians is what associate professor of Political Science at Memorial University, Scott Matthews studies.
While Duffy and Thompson are new faces to federal politics, Matthews says voters tend to be more influenced by party leaders rather than individual candidates.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem,” Matthews said. “Voters are generally voting for the top of the ticket, if you like. I don’t think for local candidates, newness is a problem. I don’t think it’s important because people don’t focus on it.”
Matthews says it’s within the realm of possibilities that the Liberals could win in St. John’s East.
“If the federal government is generally seen as having performed well with the pandemic and that perception continues, I’m sure it will improve the position for all of their candidates and a place like St. John’s East would seem like a place they could steal back from the NDP,” said Matthews.