Under amendments passed by the Legislature in 2004, elections in Newfoundland and Labrador are now held on fixed dates: the second Tuesday in October every four years.
The Progressive Conservatives, led by Kathy Dunderdale, won their third straight majority government. Dunderdale became only the third woman in Canadian history to lead a political party to power. The Liberal Party, led by Kevin Aylward, formed the Official Opposition, however the party placed third in the popular vote and Aylward was not elected to the legislature. Lorraine Michael's New Democratic Party won a record number of seats and placed second in the popular vote for the first time in the province's history.
Under Dunderdale’s leadership the PC Party won a third straight majority government, winning 37 seats in the House of Assembly and taking 56% of the popular vote. The party platform included the phasing out of the payroll tax over six years, eliminating provincial student loans and replacing them with needs-based grants over four years, improving health care wait times, establishing a ceiling for new spending growth, investing a third of any surplus into unfunded public pension funds, the creation of a population growth strategy, reforming the adoption process to make it easier for people to adopt children and provide province-wide high-speed access within four years. While releasing the platform Dunderdale stated that promises outlined were contingent on fiscal conditions in the months and years to come.
Under Aylward’s leadership the Liberal Party won a total of six seats. While they increased their number of seats, by two, the party placed third in the popular with 19.1%, the worst showing in their history. The party platform advocated for the creation of a legacy fund for offshore oil revenues, a new deal to develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric development, annual increase to retired public service pensions, improve high-speed internet a cellphone service in rural areas, merge the Department of Business with the Department of Innovation, Trade, and Rural Development, establish a fisheries investment and diversification fund, creation of a fisheries loan board, initiate a judicial inquiry dealing with management of the fishery and operating a marine rescue subcentre in the province.
Under Michael’s leadership the NDP won a total of five seats and took 24.6% of the popular vote, the best result in the party’s history. While the party placed second in the popular vote they placed third in seats. Their platform advocated for a 25% reduction in the small business tax, an all-day kindergarten pilot project starting in September 2012, an independent review of the health care system, elimination of the “tax on tax” on gasoline and diesel fuel, regular increases in the minimum wage, reductions in public post-secondary tuition fees with a move towards free tuition, and the introduction of a three per cent petroleum royalty surcharge on oil companies.
Following Liberal leader Gerry Reid's defeat in the 2007 general election he resigned as the party's leader. The party subsequently chose Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair MHA Yvonne Jones as interim leader of the party and therefore the Official Opposition Leader in the House of Assembly. The party delayed calling a leadership election until 2010, and when nominations for the leadership closed on July 30, 2010 Jones was the only candidate to come forward and was acclaimed leader of the party. Only weeks later on August 13, 2010, Jones announced she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would be taking time off to undergo treatment. During her time off Liberal House LeaderKelvin Parsons took over for Jones on an interim basis. The Liberal convention that would swear Jones in as leader was rescheduled from October 2010, to May 2011, due to her illness. She was sworn in as leader on May 28, 2011. On August 8, 2011, it was announced that Jones would step down as leader the following day on the advice of her doctor. The Liberal Party executive chose former MHA and cabinet minister Kevin Aylward as her successor on August 14, 2011.
On November 25, 2010, Premier Danny Williams made the surprise announcement that he would resign as leader and premier the next week. On December 3, 2010, Kathy Dunderdale, Williams' Deputy Premier, was sworn in as Newfoundland and Labrador's tenth Premier. Although she had originally stated she would not seek the permanent leadership she announced on December 30, 2010, she would run for the Progressive Conservative leadership. Her announcement came after several high profile cabinet ministers announced they would not run and endorsed her candidacy. In January 2011, Dunderdale was acclaimed party leader when she was the only eligible candidate to seek the leadership. On April 2, 2011, she was sworn in as leader of the Progressive Conservatives.
The tentative deal to develop the $6.2 billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador was negotiated by the Progressive Conservative government in November 2010. The Liberal Party opposes the deal, saying it is bad for the province because it will increase the province's debt and will see electricity rates increase for consumers. The NDP have had similar concerns and both party leaders have called for spending on the project to stop until more independent analysis' can be conducted to see if the current deal is the best one for the province.
Public sector pension increases
The Liberal Party announced they would provide a one-time increase to public sector pensioners of 2.5%, as well as provide annual increases equivalent to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) up to 2%. While Aylward has said increasing payments would cost $13 million in the first year and about $10 million extra for each additional year, the Department of Finance stated that the plan would add $1.2 billion in additional liabilities to the pension plan. Dunderdale slammed the Liberal Party's plan calling it 'foolhardy'.
Toward the end of the campaign, Tory Leader Kathy Dunderdale was confronted by frustrated fisheries workers in Marystown in the district of Burin-Placentia West held by Minister of Fisheries & Aquaculture Clyde Jackman. Dunderdale, accompanied by Jackman and Grand Bank district MHA Darin King, refused to negotiate with the workers until after the election. Jackman went on to win the election by only 40 votes.
Controversy arose at the St. John's Board of Trade debate when Liberal candidate Danny Dumaresque was asked about an appeal by the mayor of St. John's for a new financial arrangement between the city and the provincial government. Dumaresque stated that "there are a hell of a lot more priorities outside the overpass that need to be addressed before we start forking more money over to the City of St. John's." The comment led to divisions within the party, with Liberal candidate Drew Brown stating it was an “idiotic comment by an idiotic man.”