CORNER BROOK — Just before the first poll reported, Gerry Byrne said he wasn’t sure how Monday’s election was going to go.
It didn’t take long for the Liberal incumbent in Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte to feel much more comfortable.
The first poll that came in showed Byrne leading Conservative Party of Canada candidate Trevor Taylor by a margin of 38-11 and that trend held as Byrne cruised to a victory that would see him finish about 9,600 votes ahead of Taylor.
Byrne, who finished with more than 57 per cent of the votes cast in the riding, was projected the winner within a half-hour after the polls closed.
“I am always surprised and humbled,” said Byrne, who won more than 68 per cent of the vote in the last election in 2008. “I never expect those kind of results but it is consistent with what has happened over the last number of elections. What always surprised me is the polling numbers themselves don’t always equate to what’s going to happen on election night.”
Byrne took a shot at the provincial government, which threw its support behind federal Conservative candidates, for having held a press conference in Corner Brook earlier in the day. Byrne took that as a sign that Taylor and his camp thought the race was tighter than it was.
“Either they were going to get it wrong or we were going to get it wrong,” said Byrne. “I knew we had it right.”
Taylor, acknowledging the distrust of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was palpable in the riding, thought his experience and record as a provincial cabinet minister would help him mount a stronger challenge.
“People get the representation they deserve ... Gerry has been in for 15 years and I haven’t been able to find anybody who can point to anything substantive he has done for the riding,” said Taylor. “Apparently, they like the fact he hugs people and gets on open line and shoots off his mouth.”
New Democratic Party candidate Shelley Senior finished third, despite giving up a lot of campaign time so she could keep a commitment she made to vacation in Florida with her granddaughter. Senior, who said the trip had been planned long before the election call was made, said she will seek the nomination again when the next election rolls around.
While she never won, Senior was “over the moon” with how the NDP did elsewhere in the nation, particularly in Quebec where the NDP essentially wiped out the Bloc Quebecois.
“I think that shows Quebec wants to be part of this great country,” said Senior. “If nothing else, if Jack Layton manages to crush the Bloc Quebecois, he would have done us all a huge favour because we should not have separatists in our halls of parliament.”
Robin Gosse, who ran for the Green Party and finished fifth, was not surprised at the results in the riding and figures he could have done better if he actually had a budget.
“I had no illusions from the beginning but, because I even participated for the Green Party, that’s a win for us,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t win, but that is proof that I was only doing it for the right reasons.”
Independent candidate Wayne Bennett, who finished a distant fourth and only slightly ahead of Gosse, was just happy to see the big-name Conservatives who ran in Newfoundland and Labrador — like Taylor, John Ottenheimer, Loyola Sullivan and Fabian Manning — get shut out.
“I’m ecstatic that none of them won.” he said. “It shows you can’t con people in Newfoundland and break promises and not be held accountable.”
The Conservatives did win one seat in the province this time around with Peter Penashue gaining the seat in Labrador. Byrne said Penashue’s likely inclusion in Stephen Harper’s cabinet, combined with Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s government support for Conservative candidates, had better translate into good things for the province.
“I will give minister Penashue a full opportunity to prove himself and deliver for Labrador and for Newfoundland and we’ll go from there,” said Byrne. “Kathy Dunderdale put her credibility in the hands of Stephen Harper ... There are no more excuses for anything any more. We will expect this government to deliver on behalf of the province.”