St. John’s Centre candidates have deep connections to district

Candidates in St. John’s Centre are preparing for a potentially tight race. Voters there must choose among three candidates with long histories of community service in the district.

Candidates of St. John’s Centre are trying to reach out to as many voters as they can.

St. John’s Centre is a unique district in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is diverse, densely populated and geographically small, covering just five kilometres. Currently, there are about 14,000 people living there.

Through the years, St. John’s Centre has had representation from the Liberal, Progressive Conservative and  New Democratic parties. Since 2011, the NDP has held on to the seat.

Jim Dinn is the current MHA for the district. He was first elected in 2019 and is seeking a second term.

“A lot of my work is helping those who are unable to advocate for themselves or they’re in a position where they have no agency,” said Dinn. “It’s that opportunity to be that voice for people who feel they don’t have one in many cases. That’s what I’ve lived by in my career.”

Before entering politics, Dinn was a teacher and served as president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association from 2013 to 2017.

Dinn says a number of issues need to continue to be addressed in the district.

“I am going right back to dealing with the housing issues that have been plaguing the people in my district, promoting small businesses and helping people seeking medical care,” said Dinn. “To me, it’s back to trying to solve problems for people.”

‘An advocate to the core’

Another candidate running in St. John’s Centre is Gemma Hickey, who is running for the Liberals. The Grits have not captured the seat since the 1993 election.

Hickey, a community activist and author, is known for having founded the Pathways Foundation, which helps people who have experienced abuse within religious organizations.

Gemma Hickey is the Liberal candidate for St. John’s Centre. Hickey is a local advocate and has done work in the district before. Photo supplied by Hickey’s campaign

This is not Hickey’s first election campaign. They ran as the NDP candidate in a byelection in February 2007 in the district of Kilbride and also in the general election in October of the same year in the district of St. John’s East.

Hickey runs a charity called ArtForce NL, which aims to help at-risk youth. Many of organization’s clients live in the district.

“I felt that I had to step up. I’m an advocate to the core,” said Hickey. “I’ve been an advocate for over 20 years. I’ve been successful with advocacy work, and I saw a gap and I knew it needed to be addressed. So here I am.”

Hickey feels they have a lot to offer to the people of the district.

“There’s an interesting demographic in this area,” Hickey said. “It’s a unique district in so many ways. The needs are varying. I can connect the dots in this district and get results for people.”

Sees the hurt

Robyn LeGrow is running for the Progressive Conservative Party, which hasn’t won the district since 2007. A first-time political candidate, LeGrow has worked extensively with the Jimmy Pratt Foundation, which helps youth at risk.

Robyn LeGrow is the PC party candidate for St. John’s Centre. LeGrow sees a need for more community support in the area. Photo supplied by the Robyn LeGrow campaign.

LeGrow is active in her community and has been an advocate for a variety of issues. She has lived in the district for five years and believes that more help is needed there.

“The district is very diverse. I’ve seen everything. There’s crime, a lot of poverty, mental health and addiction issues,” said LeGrow. “I’m witness to that every single day and I see the hurt and I see a lack of supports that are available to them.”

Despite being a first-time candidate, LeGrow is getting her name out there.

“I’m getting a great response,” she said. “I’m very happy considering I don’t have a big following.

“I’ve never been one to make my work about me and I don’t have a big name, so going into this election I knew that. My plan is to get people to know who I am and what I’m all about.”

Election delayed

On Thursday, chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk announced the provincial election originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13, would be delayed in St. John’s Centre and 17 other districts due to the spike in COVID-19 cases on the Avalon Peninsula this week.

As of deadline a new date had not been identified. However, Chaulk has decided to extend special ballot voting for all districts in the province. Voters have until this Saturday, Feb. 13, to apply for special ballots. The special ballots must be returned by Thursday, Feb. 25.

Applications for special ballots are available on the Elections NL website. They can be filled out and emailed to or faxed to 709-729-5671.

See Election Newfoundland and Labrador’s special ballot voting page for more details.

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