Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador
For pre-1949 Conservative parties see Conservative parties in Newfoundland (pre-Confederation)
|Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador|
Active provincial party
|Headquarters||St. John's, NL|
|Seats in House of Assembly|
|Politics of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador is a centre-right provincial political party in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Originally founded in 1949 the party has formed the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador since the 2003 general election. Premier Kathy Dunderdale has served as the party's leader since April 2, 2011.
- 1 History
- 2 Ideologies and policies
- 3 Federal affiliation
- 4 Electoral performance
- 5 Party leaders
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The party originated before Newfoundland's confederation with Canada as the Responsible Government League (RGL). The RGL campaigned for responsible government to return to Newfoundland, after being suspended in 1934. In the 1948 referendum Newfoundland narrowly voted to join Canada as its tenth province. Following the referendum federal parties started organizing in Newfoundland and most members of the RGL decided to align themselves with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, to form the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland.
In the political wilderness (1949 to 1972)
Harry Mews was acclaimed as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and led them into the 1949 provincial election. Liberal leader Joey Smallwood, who had campaigned for confederation in 1948, led his party to victory, winning 22 seats of the 28 seats available. The Progressive Conservatives only managed to win five seats and Mews, who ran in the district of St. John's West, was unsuccessful in his bid for a seat in the House of Assembly. Mews was elected mayor of St. John's later that year and stepped down as party leader soon after.
The Progressive Conservatives struggled to make gains in the province, being tarred as anti-confederates. Their support was confined to Roman Catholic communities on the Avalon Peninsula, outside of St. John's, which had been anti-confederation strongholds in the 1940s. Smallwood continued to lead the Liberal Party through the 1950s and 1960s, but by 1969 his government started facing problems. Failed megaprojects and controversial policy decisions had started turning the public against Smallwood and his government. He attempted to revitalize his party by appointing younger men to his cabinet, including; John Crosbie, Edward Roberts and Clyde Wells. However, Smallwood continued to face internal strife and announced his resignation as leader and his retirement from politics in 1969. When Crosbie became the front runner to succeed him as leader, Smallwood decided to run for the leadership. Smallwood's leadership bid was successful and Crosbie, along with a number of young Liberals, defected to the Progressive Conservatives.
The move revitalized the Progressive Conservatives. No longer tarred by their anti-confederate stance in 1948, the Tories were viewed to be a fresh and modern party. For the first time since confederation they became a credible force in forming government. Under the leadership of Gerald Ottenheimer, the party became better organized and built district associations throughout the province. In May 1971, Frank Moores was elected leader of the party. Moores was the Member of Parliament for the riding of Bonavista—Trinity—Conception in the House of Commons.
Moores era (1971 to 1979)
In the 1971 election, under Moores the Tories won 21 seats in the House of Assembly, compared to 20 for the Liberals and one for the New Labrador Party. Moores did not become Premier, however, because Smallwood refused to resign as premier. After months of recounts it was confirmed that the Progressive Conservatives had won a slim majority, Smallwood resigned as premier on 18 January 1972 and Moores was sworn in as the second Premier of Newfoundland.
In March 1972, Moores advised the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the legislature and call another election. In the March election, Moores led his party to victory winning 33 seats and 61 per cent of the vote. Smallwood had resigned as leader and was replaced by Edward Roberts, the Liberals won nine seats and 37 per cent of the popular vote. Moores formed a second majority government on September 16, 1975. The number of districts in the province had increased to 52, and the Progressive Conservatives won 30 seats and 46 per cent of the popular vote.
Moores promised that his administration would make government more democratic and accountable, which was in contrast to Smallwood's domineering leadership style. The new Progressive Conservative government vowed to promote rural development, and take greater control of the province's natural resources, it also distanced itself from the Liberal Party's resettlement plans, and industrialization policies.
The Moores government was successful in bringing abut democratic reforms. His government brought in daily question period, which was common in most legislative assemblies in Canada but was non-existent Newfoundland. The government also passed the Conflict of Interest Act in 1973, which was the first legislation of its kind in Canada. The act required elected officials and senior civil servants to make public any investments or relationships that could influence the performance of their official duties. It also forbade MHAs from voting or speaking on issues where a conflict of interest could exist. Cabinet Minister acquired greater independence under Moores and had more control over their departments than in the past. The government created a planning and priorities committee of senior ministers, who would discuss and create policy on resource development, government services, and social programs. In 1975, an independent and non-partisan provincial ombudsman was created. Their role was to investigate complaints from citizens who felt they were unfairly treated by government departments or agencies.
While the Moores government was successful in implementing democratic reforms, his government had little impact on improving Newfoundland's economy. Much of his time in power was monopolized with completing unfinished industrial projects negotiated by Smallwood, many of which were unsuccessful. The government tried to re-negotiate the sale of Upper Churchill Hydro electricity to Hydro-Quebec, but were unsuccessful. In 1974, $160 million was paid to paid the British Newfoundland Corporation (BRINCO) to buy back water rights and obtain a controlling interest in the Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Limited, with hopes of developing hydro power on the Lower Churchill river. However the government was not able to negotiate a transmission route across Quebec to sell power into the North American market. The Stephenville linerboard was another drain on government money and resources. By the time Moores took office in 1972, the mill's projected cost had increased from $75 million to $122 million, and government guarantees had more than doubled from $53 million to $110 million. The mill was losing $100 on every ton of linerboard it produced by 1976, and needed government subsidies to stay afloat. The province closed the mill, owned by the Crown corporation Labrador Linerboard Limited, in August 1977 and sold the mill to Abitibi-Price Ltd. for $43.5 million. The Come By Chance Refinery also cost the government millions of dollars in loans, including $60 million in 1975. The refinery was $42 million in debt to the province when it filed for bankruptcy in 1976.
With so much money and resources being spent on industrial projects the Moores government was unable to follow through on promises of rural development. Between five to 10 per cent of government spending was earmarked for fisheries, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and rural development. While Moores disagreed with Smallwood's resettlement plans outmigration of rural to urban areas continued without government intervention. The province's fishery struggled, due to overcapacity in the industry. Unemployment was a major problem in the province, which was only exacerbated by an increasing birth rate since the 1940s. During its first five years in power, the Moores administration increased the public service from 7,600 employees to 9,300. By 1977, the province was spending more money on salaries than it received in tax revenues. At the same time the province unemployment rate was estimated at 34 per cent. Newfoundland relied on loans and federal transfer payments to pay salaries, finance industrial project and fund other expenditures. Moores announced he was retiring as premier in 1979, when he left office the provincial debt was approximately $2.6 billion, up from $970 million in 1972.
Peckford era (1979 to 1989)
In the 1979 leadership convention 10 candidates came forward to succeed Moores as leader and premier. The five leading candidates in the race were; Leo Barry, Walter Carter, Bill Doody and Brian Peckford. At the convention Peckford, who most recently served as Minister of Energy and Mines, was elected Progressive Conservative leader after three ballots. He was sworn in as the third Premier of Newfoundland on 26 March 1979. On 26 May 1979, the legislature was dissolved and an election was set for June 18, 1979. On election night Peckford led the party to an increased majority government, winning 33 seats and 50 per cent of the popular vote. In the 1982 provincial election Peckford led the Progressive Conservatives to a second, and larger, majority government. His party won 60 per cent of the popular vote and took 44 of the 52 seats in the legislature. In the 1985, provincial election the Tories were once again re-elected under Peckford's leadership. However, a significant increase in support for the New Democratic Party (NDP), and a bump in Liberal support, led to a small majority government for the party. They won 49 per cent of the vote and 36 seats in the House of Assembly.
Peckford's premiership was heavily focused on resource development. He strove for greater independence from the federal government through constitutional reform, so that Newfoundland could manage their natural resources. Peckford's goals resonated well with voters in the province who were embracing nationalism and their distinct culture. However, much of the province's natural resources were already controlled by outside interests. The disastrous Upper Churchill deal, signed by Smallwood, was benefitting Quebec instead of Newfoundland, mining in Labrador West was controlled by the Iron Ore Company of Canada, multinational companies controlled the forestry, while the federal government controlled much of the fishery. The offshore oil was a new industry which could have very lucrative benefits for the impoverished province, however the federal government challenged Newfoundland's claimed ownership of the resource.
The Peckford administration worked to renegotiate the lopsided Upper Churchill contract with Quebec, however repeated attempts were unsuccessful. The federal government was unwilling to intervene, and in 1984 and 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled twice in Quebec's favour. Like his predecessor Peckford hoped to develop the Lower Churchil hydro project, but his government was also unsuccessful in securing a transmission route through Quebec. His government sought for constitutional change so that the province would have greater control of the fisheries, but Peckford was unable to get enough support from other premiers. The government did its best to influence federal fisheries policies, but Ottawa still brought in controversial policies that Peckford felt were disastrous. His government also continued with policies that added to overcapacity in the fishery, such as allowing to many fish processing plants to operate.
The biggest success of Peckford's tenure was the signing of the Atlantic Accord, which led to the development of the province's offshore oil industry. In 1984, the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that the due to oil being located offshore Newfoundland it fell under federal jurisdiction. However, in 1985, Peckford negotiated the Atlantic Accord with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the Accord gave the province equal say over offshore management and a large slice of all revenues. The Accord received widespread support and was hailed as a turning point in the province’s economy, however it would take years for the offshore oil industry to be developed.
Constitutional reform was a major topic in Canada throughout the 1980s. In 1981, Peckford was instrumental in adding a clause to the Canadian constitution recognizing affirmative action programs. He also supported the Meech Lake Accord, which he hoped would decentralize federal authority and give the province a greater say over fisheries and offshore oil management. Other notable events under Peckford included the appointment of Lynn Verge and Hazel Newhook to the provincial cabinet in 1979, they became the first women to serve as cabinet ministers in Newfoundland and Labrador. Peckford's government also adopted a new provincial flag on 6 June 1980. The province implemented twelfth grade in 1983, the same year construction began on the Trans-Labrador Highway. His government also partnered with Philip Sprung to build hydroponic greenhouses on the island and sell cucumbers in Atlantic Canada and the eastern United States. The "Sprung Greenhouse" was constructed near the St. John's-Mount Pearl boundary, but was an economic failure. Cucumbers grown at the greenhouse were more expensive than what was already available in grocery stores, the province spent $22 million on the Sprung Greenhouse before it went into receivership in 1989.
Towards the end of his political career, Peckford became increasingly unpopular. The provincial economy continued to struggle throughout his premiership, unemployment remained high and revenues were low. A global recession hurt the province's resource sector and the fishery was the brink of collapse. Peckford's promise of rural development only led to make-work projects and federally administered employment insurance programs. While he had hoped the Sprung Greenhouse would help diversify the economy it only hurt the credibility and popularity of him and his party. On 21 January 1989, Peckford announced his retirement from politics.
Defeat and Opposition (1989 to 2003)
Rideout was sworn in as premier of Newfoundland on March 22, 1989. A week after being sworn in as premier he called a general election to be held on 20 April 1989. The Progressive Conservatives went into the election with a large lead in public opinion polls, however over the course of the campaign their lead evaporated. On election night Clyde Wells led his Liberal Party to victory, winning 31 seats compared to the Tory's 21. While the Liberal Party were able to win more seats and form government, the Progressive Conservatives had actually won the popular vote.
Rideout stayed on as leader of the party till January 17, 1991, when he announced his resignation. Rideout stated that the party had a better chance of winning the next election with a new leader. Rideout was succeeded as leader by Len Simms, who led the party into the 1993 general election. The economy was heavily focused on the economy. The Liberals, under Wells, campaigned on cutting $70 million from the public sector payroll, while both the Tories and New Democrats felt the cuts proposed by Wells were too drastic. The Liberal Party was re-elected and the PC Party lost support and seats to both the Liberals and New Democrats.
Simms resigned as leader in 1994 and a leadership convention was held on the weekend of April 28–29, 1995. Unlike the 1979 and 1989 leadership conventions, which saw a large number of candidates, the 1995 race saw just two candidates seek the leadership; Lynn Verge and Loyola Sullivan. Verge was first elected in 1979, she became one of the first woman to serve as a cabinet minister and was the former Deputy Premier. Sullivan was a businessman and former educator who was first elected in a 1992 by-election. Both were seen as representing different factions of the party; Verge represented the progressive wing while Sullivan represented the conservative wing. The leadership contest was considered to be a bitter affair by some, with Verge winning by a margin of three votes. With her win Verge became the first woman to serve as leader of a political party in the province's history.
The PC Party caucus was divided following Verge's win, not only due to her representing the progressive wing but also because of her gender. The divisions within the party remained quiet during her first six months as leader, but became public by November. The PC Party had originally been confident that they could defeat Wells' Liberal Party, but by November 1995, a Corporate Research Associates (CRA) poll showed that the Liberal Party had a large lead over Verge's PC Party. The following month Wells announced he would be stepping down as premier of Newfoundland. On January 26, 1996, Wells was replaced by Brian Tobin, a popular federal minister in Jean Chretien's government. There was discussions of ousting Verge as leader, until Tobin called a snap election for February 22, 1996. Despite a crushing defeat in the election, the PC Party's worst result in 30 years, Verge had been able to close the gap between her party and the Liberals throughout the course of the election campaign. There had been fears Tobin could win every seat in the legislature, in the end the PC Party won nine seats and 39 per cent of the popular vote. Some Liberal insiders even admitted she could have won the popular vote in the election if the campaign had lasted another week. The election did see the defeat of Verge in her own district by seven votes, she subsequently resigned as leader and was succeeded by Sullivan.
Ed Byrne became leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1998, when he was uncontested for the leadership, and led the party into the 1999 general election. The party gained 2.11% of the popular vote in the election and increased their caucus from nine members to 14. Two years later, Byrne stepped down as leader of the party and successful businessman and lawyer Danny Williams was acclaimed party leader.
Williams era (2001 to 2010)
Williams became leader in April 2001, and in June of that year he won a by-election in the Corner Brook district of Humber West. The Progressive Conservatives won four by-elections after the 1999 election, and gained another MHA when Liberal Party member Ross Wiseman crossed the floor to join the party. When the legislature was dissolved for the 2003 election the party had increased its caucus to 19 members. In the election the Tories were returned to power after 14 years, winning 34 of the province's 48 seats. In the provincial election in 2007 the Progressive Conservatives won a landslide victory. The party won 44 out of the 48 seats in the House of Assembly and took just under 70% of the popular vote, the largest win for any party in the province's history.
Early in Williams first term as premier he took a more fiscally conservative approach to governing. He reduced the size of the provincial cabinet following the election, and months later reformed government departments. After discovering that the province was in worse financial shape than previously thought, and facing annual deficits of $1 billion, he made a number of controversial cuts. The construction of new hospitals and schools, that had been planned under the previous Liberal government, were put on hold, and the number of school and health boards were compressed. After a month long strike the government legislated public service employees back to work in April 2004, without a pay raise.
After a successful fight with the federal Liberal government to re-negotiate the fiscal arrangement of the Atlantic Accord and a significant increase in oil prices, offshore oil revenues led to record surpluses for the provincial government. The new surpluses led to the Williams government reducing income taxes and significantly increasing government spending. The increases in spending was largely focussed on upgrading the province's infrastructure and social programs. He also gave public service employees increases in pay of over 20%, to make up for years that their pay was frozen. By the time he left office in 2010, government spending had skyrocketed, his provincial cabinet had increased to 18 ministers and the size of the public service was significantly larger than when he took office. While government spending was up substantially his government still managed to reduce the province's net debt by roughly $4 billion and Williams was considered one of the most fiscally responsible premier's in Canada.
On 25 November 2010, Williams announced that he would step down as premier on 3 December 2010, and that Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale would serve as the premier of the province until the Progressive Conservatives chose a new leader in 2011.
Dunderdale era (2010 to present)
On 3 December 2010, Williams tendered his resignation as Premier and Dunderdale was sworn in as the tenth Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, becoming the first woman to hold the office. Dunderdale was the only eligible candidate for the leadership of the party and was sworn in as leader at the party's convention on 2 April 2011.
Dunderdale made minor changes to the provincial cabinet after succeeding Williams, but kept the number of ministers at 18. Her government was warned by the auditor general that the current level of government spending increases was unsustainable, however in her first budget she continued on Williams' path of increased spending. In the October 2011, provincial election the party campaigned on a platform that included $135 million in new annual spending. The platform promised to continue the freeze on post-secondary education and eventually eliminating loans in favour of needs-based grants, phasing out the payroll tax over six years, investing a third of any surplus into unfunded public pension funds, reviewing the province's income tax rates to ensure they are progressive and competitive and continuing to make payments on the province’s direct debt, among other things. However, Dunderdale also made clear that the election promises outlined in the Blue Book were contingent on the fiscal condition of the province. On 11 October 2011, she led the Progressive Conservatives to a third straight majority government, the party won 37 of the province's 48 seats. Dunderdale became only the third woman in Canadian history to lead a political party to power.
After the election she appointed a smaller cabinet, by reducing the number of government ministries. In a speech to the St. John's Board of Trade in February 2012, Dunderdale outlined a more conservative agenda. She announced that it was time to rein public spending and that all government departments were told to find ways to save money. During the speech she stated that the public service would not grow any further and that they should only expect a modest increase in pay in the upcoming contract negotiations. Dunderdale also announced that her government was committed to reducing Newfoundland and Labrador's per capita debt to the Canadian average over the next decade.
Ideologies and policies
The Progressive Conservative Party is a centre-right political party which is made up of two dominate factions; progressives or Red Tories and fiscal conservatives. The leadership of the party has tended to be dominated by Red Tories throughout the party's history. Party leaders Brian Peckford, Tom Rideout, and Lynn Verge were all seen as being part of the Red Tory base of the party, while their main challengers in at the leadership conventions, Bill Doody, Len Simms, and Loyola Sullivan, were considered to be further to the right. Danny Williams has stated that he considers the PC Party to be a grouping of Red Tories whose social and fiscal viewpoints are softer than those of the federal Conservative Party that was formed in 2003.
During the Constitutional negotiations of the 1980s, the Tories supported a decentralized federation, while the Liberals were in favour of a strong central government. The Tories lost power in 1989 but continued to argue for decentralization in opposition, voting in favour of a package of proposed constitutional amendments called the Meech Lake Accord, while the Liberal Party led by Clyde Wells opposed it.
Since the merger of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance to create the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, the provincial Progressive Conservatives have not been formally affiliated with a party at the federal level. Under Premier Williams the party's relationship with federal Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, was often tenuous. After Harper reneged on a promise made to Williams during the 2006 federal election, regarding equalization payments, Williams launched the Anything But Conservative (ABC) campaign. The ABC campaign encouraged people to vote for any other party but the Conservatives, with a goal of making sure no Conservative was elected in the next federal election in Newfoundland and Labrador. The campaign, which was supported by all but one member of Williams' caucus, crippled the federal party's ability to find candidates and volunteers. On election night the campaign was successful, the Conservative Party lost the three seats they had held prior to the election, and won only 17% of the popular vote in the province. Despite being shut out of Newfoundland and Labrador the Conservatives did manage to win a second minority government. Following the election Williams announced that it was time to end his battle with Ottawa, and both he and Harper signalled a willingness to work with each other.
When Dunderdale succeeded Williams as Premier she worked to build a stronger relationship between the province and Harrper's Conservative government. At the beginning of the May 2011 federal election campaign Dunderdale gave the green light to members of her caucus to campaign with the federal Conservative Party. At a campaign stop in St. John's Dunderdale, along with the majority of her caucus, endorsed the Conservative Party. After having difficulty attracting candidates in 2008, the Conservative ran three former provincial cabinet ministers who served under Williams. Despite the support from the provincial party the Conservatives were unable to get back to their traditional level of support, they elected one MP and increased their popular vote to 28%.
Results of elections for the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador:
|Year of election||# of seats won||# of seats available||# of votes||% of popular vote|
Moores, Peckford, Rideout, Williams, Dunderdale have been both leader and premier.
- Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador leadership elections
- List of Newfoundland and Labrador premiers
- Leader of the Opposition (Newfoundland and Labrador)
- List of political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador
- Conservative parties in Newfoundland (pre-Confederation)
- List of Newfoundland and Labrador general elections
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