Two N.L. Independent say they look forward to minority government

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s recent election resulted in a rare minority government, partially due to wins by two Independent candidates — and both former Liberals say they won’t be swayed to rejoin any political party.

Eddie Joyce and Paul Lane both crossed the floor to sit as Independents since Dwight Ball’s Liberal majority government took office in 2015.

On Thursday, Ball’s Liberals were re-elected but took a hit, holding 20 of the legislature’s 40 seats while the Tories took 15, the New Democrats won three and both Lane and Joyce held onto their seats as Independents.

The two members now hold more power in a minority setup, and both say they’d rather keep it that way, remaining the non-affiliated voices their constituents elected.

Lane, who also previously sat as a Progressive Conservative, crossed the floor in 2016 after refusing to support a controversial, high-tax budget he said was too hard on people.

Joyce’s unceremonious exit from the Liberal ranks came last year, when he was ejected from caucus and the Liberal cabinet following harassment and bullying allegations from other elected members.

Lane said Friday that a more collaborative minority setup is something he’s been in favour of for some time, adding he looks forward to more debate and critique on Liberal legislation in the House of Assembly.

“Budget 2016 is what landed me as an Independent to begin with,” he said. “I see my role now as holding government to account.”

Lane said he doesn’t intend to be overly adversarial, but he’s looking forward to a new era of the province’s politics, which has traditionally elected majority governments.

“I’m not going to try to stop every piece of legislation from going through the house … but by the same token if there are things that are done that I fundamentally have problems with, if they want my support they’re going to have to work with me.”

Joyce, who was first elected in 1989, won by a landslide on Thursday, and he said Friday he’s also planning to remain independent.

Both men also waved away speculation that they would take the Speaker of the House position, with Lane saying it would conflict with his role of critiquing the government.

Joyce, who didn’t leave the Liberal caucus on sunny terms, said he’s also expecting an apology from Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie, who remarked last year that Joyce had “issues” and would be a poor fit for the Tories.

As of Friday, the two Independent members, NDP Leader Alison Coffin and premier Dwight Ball said they’d rather work together and avoid another election, suggesting the province’s minority government will hold for the time being.

Still to come is a recount in the riding of Labrador West, where NDP candidate Jordan Brown defeated Liberal cabinet minister Graham Letto by just five votes.

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