Five NDP votes in Labrador to determine status of N.L. Liberal government

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The deciding seat in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal minority setup came from a surprising race in Thursday’s election, with an NDP political rookie unseating a Liberal cabinet minister by a slim margin.

An official recount is pending but official results released Sunday for the district of Labrador West showed NDP newcomer Jordan Brown still ahead of incumbent Liberal Graham Letto by just five votes.

Brown’s was one of three seats taken by the NDP Thursday in an election that reduced Premier Dwight Ball’s Liberal government to a 20-seat minority, just shy of the 21 needed for a majority.

The Progressive Conservatives took 15 seats and two Independent members were also elected.

The minority setup is a rare event in the province and Brown’s five-point win highlighted the difference each vote can make in an election.

Brown said it was a special moment watching the results teeter on the edge with his small but mighty volunteer team at his campaign headquarters on election night.

“They were making a lot of noise for a small group, that was for sure,” Brown recalled by phone on Saturday.

Brown’s win was part of a small surge by the provincial NDP, which many had speculated might be shut out of the legislature with just 14 candidates and zero incumbents in the running.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin said Friday that she’s looking forward to more vigorous debate in the House of Assembly with her party’s fresh-faced cohort.

Brown, a welder by trade, said his scrappy volunteer team of five made most of their campaign efforts on foot, going door-to-door talking to community members about key issues on their minds.

“I banged on as many doors as possible,” he said.

He said mental health and addiction services were top-of-mind issues with constituents, work he hopes to bring with him to the legislature.

Despite the tight competition reflected in the results, Brown said it was a respectful, positive campaign between all three candidates in the district.

The two front runners have known each other for years, Brown said. Letto was mayor of Labrador City when Brown was a volunteer firefighter, and the two have worked together on tourism initiatives and other projects over the years.

Brown said he focused on connecting with students and engaging the youth vote during his campaign. The 29-year-old father of two said he hopes he can encourage other young people in the province to get involved with politics.

While he’s waiting for the mandatory recount, Brown said he’s optimistic about outcome.

“I feel like the outcome is still going to be in my favour,” he said on Saturday. “I’m getting ready now to take on the job and this role.”

Official results released Sunday reported the same tally of 1366 votes for Brown and 1361 for Letto.

In the meantime, Brown said he’s preparing for his new gig in a House of Assembly dynamic that will be “new to everybody” in a province that’s historically elected majority governments.

“It’s a whole new era for Newfoundland and Labrador … we’re going to see how it plays out.”

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