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Tension builds for voting day in Windsor Lake

Antle, Crosbie and Neil spend last day of campaign in very different parts of Windsor Lake

The final day of campaigning in the Windsor Lake byelection found the three candidates spread across very different areas of the district.

In a multi-purpose room at the MacMorran Community Centre at noon, New Democratic Party Leader Gerry Rogers and NDP candidate Kerri Neil gave their pitch to about a dozen pensioners, as the group chewed on homemade lasagna and strawberry tarts.

Some interrupted with concerns about health care, some scoffed and shook their head, and others nodded along.

“I can’t afford to buy new teeth,” said one attendee.

Seniors tend to vote more than other demographics, so while the stop saw only a small crowd, the likelihood they’ll show up to the polls is high – the community centre will be a polling station.

“I want to be someone who’s an advocate for our seniors and members of our communities who might be struggling,” said Neil.

“There’s a lot more we can do for our seniors and I want to meet with them to hear what their concerns are.”

Neil might be getting through to people who haven’t voted NDP before.

“I went Liberal, PC, Liberal, PC all my life,” said one attendee.

“But I think I might give her a chance.”

The only public poll released during the campaign showed Liberal Paul Antle with the support of 41 per cent of decided voters, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie with 37 per cent and Neil with 22 per cent. Another 23 per cent of that poll – released on Sept. 11 – were undecided.

Antle says he’s lost 14 pounds since being named the Liberal candidate.

Starting at 1 p.m. the last day of the campaign, Antle aimed to knock on 150 doors in the district – it’s a lot of walking, though a Ford Expedition dubbed the “Antlemobile” helped here and there.

“We haven’t left anything on the table. We put it all out there in the last four or five weeks,” said Antle.

Antle and campaign assistant Len White made their rounds on Calgary Street and Ottawa Street – an area with lots of large homes, large dogs and two-car garages.

As they made their rounds, Antle recalled one man who specifically requested a personal visit.

Antle went to school with the man’s son, and found him mowing his lawn.

“I hadn’t made up my mind until I saw you just now,” said the man.

Without missing a beat, White wrote “LIB” on his clipboard, one of eight Liberal voters identified in the area on Wednesday afternoon.

White says according to the Liberals’ data, the number of undecided voters has shrunk from 25 per cent to less than 10 per cent in the last week alone.

Thinking back to the MQO poll, Antle says it gives him energy, but not relief.

“I knew we were tight, but I didn’t know by what percentage. That was within the margin of error, so it showed we were tight. I was very happy with that,” he said.

“But we don’t take anything for granted.”

When Crosbie started the campaign, he knocked on doors with his right hand. Halfway through, he had to switch to his left – his knuckles were bruised and aching.

Now that the callouses have hardened, he’s back to using his right hand.

Crosbie’s first stop at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday was at Parkside Pizza in the Anne Jeanette Trailer Park, to speak with the owner of the business.

“Maybe I can help you by lowering those taxes,” Crosbie said as he left the store.

“Yeah, I hope you can,” the man called after.

With less than a day until he finds out whether he’ll get a seat in the House of Assembly, Crosbie put on a stoic face.

“As a lawyer, I’m used to waiting for decisions and getting an envelope and not knowing what’s in it. I think my nerves are fairly steeled after 30 years of that kind of thing,” said Crosbie.

“It’ll be an exciting day, for sure.”

It’s been a close race, to say the least. But Crosbie says the Progressive Conservatives’ internal polling is looking strong.

“If you look at the results from three years ago, 66.2 per cent of the vote went to the Liberal candidate. That told you this was always going to be a tough race,” he said.

“I’ve learned a lot from it, if nothing else. I’ve learned what’s on the minds of the people of the province, what keeps them up at night.”

At one house, the Crosbie camp found four new voters they hadn’t counted before – and one child who admired the T-shirt worn by PC MHA Tracey Perry.

As quick as the child could ask, Perry gave the child the shirt off her back.

With raised arms, Crosbie and the child posed for a photo, shouting the slogan written on the shirt: “Yes for Ches.”

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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