ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Premier Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador launched a bid for a third straight Conservative majority government on Monday with the start of a provincial election campaign scheduled for Oct. 11.
Dunderdale met with Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie to dissolve the provincial legislature, where the governing Tories hold a large majority over the Liberals and NDP.
“I think that what we have to say will resonate with voters again, and that together we’re going to build a wonderful future for this place,” Dunderdale said.
At dissolution, the Conservatives had 43 of 48 seats compared to four Liberals and one New Democrat.
This is Dunderdale’s first campaign as leader after taking over for Danny Williams, who quit politics last December. A rift has grown between the two since then, but Dunderdale has tried to resist engaging in a public squabble.
When asked if she would invite Williams to campaign alongside her, Dunderdale said she already has a trusted team.
“Mr. Williams is in private life now,” she said. “I have good people all around me who are anxious to get on with this campaign, and that’s where our focus is going to be.”
Dunderdale, 58, put her mark on her first budget last April with a $7.3-billion big-spending fiscal blueprint.
It included cash to create child-care spaces and bolster programs and services for seniors and people with disabilities.
But critics have chided the government for not doing more to pay off the net debt, which was forecast to grow by almost $460 million to about $8.7 billion.
Kevin Aylward, 51, has been the Liberal leader for just over a month after Yvonne Jones suddenly stepped down to focus on her breast cancer recovery. But he comes with 18 years of political experience, some of which was at the cabinet level.
He has promised to stop spending on the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam, a $6.2-billion project in Labrador that he says could raise electricity prices for the province’s residents. He has also questioned its viability and says if elected, would launch a review of the province’s future energy needs.
But Dunderdale says the project would provide a clean and secure source of renewable energy, providing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for the province’s coffers as it plans to export excess energy to Nova Scotia and the northeastern United States.
This is Lorraine Michael’s second campaign as NDP leader. Michael, 68, has echoed similar concerns about Muskrat Falls and has voiced worries that the benefits of the province’s offshore sector have not been seen in rural outports — charges that Dunderdale denies.
The NDP is hoping to make a historic breakthrough in this campaign, Michael said.
“It’s time,” she said.