Voters in Canada’s least populous riding are set to make a big impact in Ottawa, either returning a Conservative MP and cabinet minister or giving a boost to the opposition.
The polls closed at 8 p.m. local time in most of Labrador (8:30 p.m. south of Black Tickle, which is on Newfoundland time; 7 p.m. Eastern).
Elections Canada reported lineups at some polling stations when they opened at 8 a.m., and turnout was steady throughout the day in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Monday’s Labrador byelection was complicated by a spring snowstorm that hit the north coast near Natuashish.
Elections Canada permitted the use of transfer certificates, allowing voters stranded by weather to cast their ballots at other polling stations.
National implications of vote
The Labrador byelection is widely viewed as a crucial first test for new Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. The Official Opposition New Democrats are also hoping for a strong showing.
And the stakes are high for the governing party. Since taking power in 2006, the ruling Conservatives have never lost a byelection in a seat they held prior to the vote.
Labrador residents are making their choice from two distinct messages — whether it’s better to have someone at the cabinet table, or a vocal advocate pressing decision-makers to take action.
Peter Penashue, the former Conservative MP and cabinet minister who is running to get his job back, has repeatedly stressed the importance of the former.
Penashue quit as MP in March after repaying $30,000 in compensation for “ineligible contributions” he accepted during the 2011 election. He immediately announced he would run in the ensuing byelection.
The Liberal candidate, Yvonne Jones, represented the coastal Labrador district of Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair in the provincial legislature for 17 years before stepping down to run federally. She also served as provincial Liberal leader before a successful treatment for cancer.
The New Democrats are pinning their hopes on Harry Borlase, an analyst with the cold-ocean research organization C-CORE.
Longtime Liberal riding
Labrador has traditionally been a Liberal stronghold.
Penashue — a prominent Innu leader — wrested the riding away for the Conservatives in 2011, eking out a 79-vote win. He garnered less than 40 per cent of the ballots cast, and was helped by a stronger than expected NDP showing that siphoned off Liberal support.
Up until that surprise victory two years ago, the region had only once gone Conservative blue since Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949.
From 1968 to 1972, Ambrose Peddle represented Labrador in Ottawa, as part of a near Tory sweep of federal seats in the province.
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