Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador
|Active provincial party|
|Preceded by||Confederate Association|
|Headquarters||Suite 205, Beothuk Building|
20 Crosbie Place
Newfoundland and Labrador
|National affiliation||Liberal Party of Canada|
|Seats in House of Assembly|
20 / 40
The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador is a political party in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada and the provincial wing of the Liberal Party of Canada. It has served as the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador since December 14, 2015. The NL Liberals were re-elected to a minority government in the 2019 provincial election.
The party originated in 1948 as the Newfoundland Confederate Association. At this time, Newfoundland was being governed by a Commission of Government appointed by the Government of the United Kingdom. The NCA was an organization campaigning for Newfoundland to join Canadian confederation. Joey Smallwood was the NCA's chief organizer and spokesman, and led the winning side of the 1948 Newfoundland referendum on Confederation.
The Joey Smallwood era (1949–1972)
Following the referendum victory, the NCA reorganized itself as the new province's Liberal Party under Smallwood's leadership. It won the province's first post-Confederation election for the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly held on May 27, 1949.
The Liberals under Smallwood promoted the diversification of the province's economy through various megaprojects. The provincial government invested in the construction of factories, the pulp and paper industry, the oil industry, hydro-electricity projects, the construction of highways and schools, the relocation of rural villages into larger centres, and other projects. These projects were often very expensive, and yielded few results.
Smallwood led the province virtually unchallenged for two decades, during which he never faced more than eight opposition MHAs. However, by the late 1960s, disaffection with Smallwood and his government mounted within the province. He had always had a somewhat autocratic bent, a tendency that increased during the 1960s. He tended to treat his ministers as extensions of his authority rather than colleagues.
In hopes of stemming the tide, Smallwood brought several younger Liberals into government during this time, but this did little to rebuild his popularity. He announced his retirement in 1969, only to run in the ensuing leadership contest. Smallwood defeated John Crosbie, one of the younger ministers, for the leadership. Crosbie along with many young Liberals defected to the opposition Progressive Conservatives. The Progressive Conservatives had previously found support largely in the business community, and in and around St. John's.
The Liberals narrowly lost the 1971 election, but Smallwood refused to resign as Premier until January 1972 as the support of the Labrador Party's lone MHA resulted in a 21–21 tie in the House of Assembly for Smallwood's government. Frank Moores' Conservatives attempted to form government but its shaky hold on power resulted in the 1972 general election. This time, Smallwood's Liberals were conclusively defeated, falling to only nine seats.
Smallwood was forced out of the party, and formed his own Newfoundland Reform Liberal Party, which ran in the 1975 general election against the Liberals and the Tories. Due in part to massive vote-splitting, the Tories won 30 seats against 20 for the two Liberal factions combined (14 for the Liberals and 6 for the Reform Liberals). The Liberals were badly split and demoralised, and remained on the opposition benches until 1989.
The party under Clyde Wells (1987–1996)
In the 1989 provincial election the Liberals returned to power under Clyde Wells, winning 31 of the 52 seats in the House of Assembly. Despite their majority win the Progressive Conservatives narrowly won the popular vote, winning 47.6% of the vote compared to 47.2 for the Liberals.
Under Wells, the Liberal government eschewed the megaprojects and spending of the Smallwood, Moores and Peckford eras in favour of an economic development program laid out in the Strategic Economic Plan. During a severe economic recession, the Wells administration introduced spending controls and reduced the size of the public service while at the same time maintaining social program spending and working to diversify and develop the economy. Wells rose to national prominence in early 1990 for his opposition to the Meech Lake constitutional Accord. In September 1990, Wells signed a development agreement for the Hibernia project, thereby laying the foundation for the province's oil and gas industry and future economic prosperity. When Wells retired in 1996, he was replaced by former federal Liberal cabinet minister Brian Tobin. Tobin returned to federal politics in 2000, after only four years as Premier.
2001 leadership convention
Less than two years into his second mandate Tobin announced his resignation as premier on October 16, 2000, to return to federal politics. Tobin's Deputy Premier Beaton Tulk was sworn in as his successor the same day and served as premier till a leadership convention could be held the new year. Minister of Health Roger Grimes, Fisheries Minister John Efford and Mines and Energy Minister Paul Dicks all announced their intentions to contest the February 2001 leadership race.
Grimes and Efford were the perceived frontrunners in the leadership race and were considered to be very different candidates with different strengths. Grimes was considered to be the candidate of the party establishment, he had a low-profile with a proven track record in several difficult portfolios. Efford on the other hand was a charismatic, populist politician whose outspokenness has caused some controversy. Efford's outspokenness alienated members of the establishment but won him the support of the party's grassroots.
After the first ballot at the convention no candidate won the 50 per cent required to be elected leader. Dicks was thus eliminated after finishing third and immediately threw his support behind Efford, hoping to defeat Grimes who had finished first on the ballot. Dicks' support was not enough and on the second ballot Grimes was elected leader; defeating Efford by 14 votes. The three-month race had included nasty and personal attacks between the candidates, and when Grimes was announced as the leader he received boos from Efford's supporters. Grimes was sworn in as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador on February 13, 2001. While Efford had called for the party to unite behind Grimes at the leadership convention, Dicks left politics immediately while Efford turned down a cabinet post and resigned in May of that year to enter federal politics.
The party under Roger Grimes (2001–2005)
Grimes served as the province's eighth premier from February 13, 2001, till November 6, 2003. The Liberals had been in power for 12 years when Grimes won the leadership and he attempted to reinvigorate the party by distancing himself from Tobin. A major priority for Grimes as premier was to re-open talks with the mining company Inco Ltd., who had proposed to build a nickel mine in northern Labrador. Talks had stalled under Tobin, who insisted the nickel from Labrador must be processed in the province. On June 11, 2002, Grimes' government reached a deal with Inco, six years after negotiations first began. Inco agreed to build a processing facility on Newfoundland, but the deal allowed for them to ship nickel to other facilities for processing before that facility was built.
In 2003, the federal government declared a moratorium on the last remaining cod fishery in Atlantic Canada in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. While Newfoundland and Labrador was again the most directly affected province by this decision, communities on Quebec's North Shore and in other parts of Atlantic Canada also faced difficulties.
Grimes called for a review of the Act of Union by which the province had become a part of Canada and on July 2, 2003, the findings of the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada (which Grimes had created in 2002) were released. Critics called this inquiry the "Blame Canada Commission".
Grimes often clashed with the federal Liberal government of Jean Chrétien and became increasingly critical of his predecessor, Tobin. When Grimes accused the federal government of bias in the Gulf of St. Lawrence cod moratorium, many even in Newfoundland and Labrador saw him as stirring up unnecessary trouble for political gain. After the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada, Grimes' popularity began to decline as his increasingly confrontational approach made it more difficult to win concessions from the federal government.
The party in Opposition
2003 general election
By 2003, the Liberals had spent fourteen years in power under four different leaders. Public disaffection had mounted resulting in their electoral defeat by Danny Williams and the Tories. Grimes stayed on as Liberal leader until his retirement on May 30, 2005, when he was replaced, initially on an interim basis, by Gerry Reid.
Lawyer Jim Bennett was acclaimed party leader on February 6, 2006, after no other candidate came forward for the post. Bennett's leadership started causing rifts within the Liberal caucus after controversial policies statements and his reported abrasive leadership style. In April of that year Bennett was criticized by Reid, who was still serving as Opposition Leader, over his proposal to create a two-tier minimum wage based on age. On 8 May 2006, Bennett resigned as Liberal leader, just three months after being acclaimed to the position. Reid then resumed the leadership, now on a permanent basis, and lead the party into the next election.
2007 general election
In the October 2007 provincial election, the Liberal Party's support fell to its lowest level since Confederation. The party won just three of the 48 seats in the House of Assembly. Reid resigned as leader after losing his seat, and Yvonne Jones was named interim leader.
Liberals under Yvonne Jones (2007–2011)
With only three members re-elected following the 2007 general election the party decided that Jones would stand as the party's leader on an interim basis, and therefore as the Official Opposition Leader in the House of Assembly. Jones became the first woman to serve as the leader of the Liberals and only the second woman to serve as Official Opposition Leader.
Seven by-elections have been held since Jones took over the leadership of the Liberal Party, each one to replace a Tory MHA. Six of the by-elections were won by a Progressive Conservative candidate and the Liberals won one. The by-election they won was held on October 27, 2009 in the district of The Straits - White Bay North. The by-election was held to replace Minister of Transportation and Works, Trevor Taylor, who resigned on October 2, 2009. Liberal candidate Marshall Dean squeaked out a win taking 1,975 votes compared to 1,799 for PC candidate Rick Pelley. The by-election was mostly focused on Premier Williams' plan to make cuts to rural health care in this area. He announced days before the by-election he would not make cuts to the district's rural health care after protests from residents.
May 2011 leadership election
A leadership convention was scheduled for the spring of 2008, but due to lack of interest in the leadership the convention was delayed. The convention was rescheduled for November 2010 with nominations closing on 30 July 2010. On 9 July 2010, Yvonne Jones officially submitted nomination papers, and with the close of nominations at the end of the month she was the only candidate to file nomination papers and was acclaimed leader. Jones announced weeks later she had breast cancer and the leadership election was postponed till May 2011. On 25 May 2011, she was sworn in as the permanent leader of the party.
Liberals under Aylward (2011–2012)
On August 9, 2011, Jones resigned as leader due to her health. That night the executive of the party decided the process of choosing the next leader, nominations for the leadership opened on August 10, 2011, and Kevin Aylward was chosen by the executive on August 14, 2011. Aylward led the party during the October 11, 2011, election. The campaigned on a platform that 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.
The party was unable to gain momentum under Aylward's leadership, after tying the NDP in opinion polls in May 2011, the Liberals fell to third place in polling during the election campaign. On election night the Progressive Conservatives won their third straight majority government. The Liberals placed third in the popular vote on election night, winning just 19.1 per cent of the vote. However, they managed to increase their number of seats to six and remain the Official Opposition. On October 26, 2011, Aylward announced his resignation as leader after failing to win the district of St. George's-Stephenville East in the election.
Liberals under Ball (2012–present)
In December 2011, the party announced that Humber Valley MHA Dwight Ball would assume the role as Leader of the Official Opposition and interim leader of the Liberal Party on January 3, 2012.  The Party announced in May 2012, that their next leadership election will occur between November 15 and 17, 2013. On July 18, 2013 Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce was named Leader of the Opposition replacing Dwight Ball who resigned to run for the leadership permanently in the 2013 convention.
Ball Government (2015–present)
In the 2015 general election, the Tories lost their majority to the Liberals making their government the shortest in the province's history since joining Canada (it lasted from 2003 to 2015, 12 years). The party won every by-election in the years between the 2011 general election and the election in 2015 and some Tory MHAs crossed the floor to the Liberal Party including former cabinet minister Tom Osborne. In the months ahead of the election in 2015 the Liberals lead in the polls, often with support from the majority of respondents. The party won 31 of 40 seats in the election.
Since the election support for the Liberal Party has dropped significantly. This started in April 2016 when Finance Minister Cathy Bennett unveiled the government's budget. Due to the ongoing fall in oil prices and high public debt due to overspending by the Tories under Williams and Dunderdale, the province faced a massive deficit and thus, the Liberal government planned tax increases and cuts to government services including the closure of libraries and courthouses. Combined with the mismanagement of the Lower Churchill Project and Nalcor Energy, this led to Ball being one of Canada's least popular heads of government only seven months after being elected with a majority of votes.
In the 2019 provincial election, despite consistent Progressive Conservative leads in polling through the debate, including a 9 point lead in the final poll, released a day before the election, the Liberal Party led by Ball won re-election, but nonetheless fell one seat short of retaining their majority after an unexpected loss to the New Democrats in Labrador West by 5 votes (later lowered to 2 votes). The Liberals won 20 out of 40 seats in the legislature.
22 / 28
24 / 28
32 / 36
31 / 36
34 / 42
39 / 42
20 / 42
9 / 42
16 / 51
19 / 52
8 / 52
15 / 52
31 / 52
35 / 52
37 / 48
32 / 48
12 / 48
3 / 48
6 / 48
31 / 40
20 / 40
History of leaders
- Joseph Roberts Smallwood (1949–1972)
- Edward Roberts (1972–1977)
- Bill Rowe (1977–1979)
- Don Jamieson (1979–1980)
- Len Stirling (1980–1982)
- Steve Neary (1982–1984) interim
- Leo Barry (1984–1987)
- Clyde Wells (1987–1996)
- Brian Tobin (1996–2000)
- Beaton Tulk (2000–2001) interim
- Roger Grimes (2001–2005)
- Gerry Reid (2005–2006) interim
- Jim Bennett (2006)
- Gerry Reid (2006–2007)
- Yvonne Jones (2007–2011) interim 2007–2011
- Kevin Aylward (2011–2012)
- Dwight Ball (2012–2013) interim
- Eddie Joyce (2013) interim
- Dwight Ball (2013–present)
Smallwood, Wells, Tobin, Tulk, Grimes, and Ball have been both leader and Premier.
- List of Liberal 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
- Liberal parties in Newfoundland (pre-Confederation)
- "History". The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "Former Newfoundland premier Frank Moores dies". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "Liberals pull upset in Newfoundland". Toledo Blade. 21 April 1989. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- Jackson, Peter (25 May 2008). "Rideout's career a real rollercoaster ride". The Telegram. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "The following statement was issued by Premier Brian Tobin:". Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. 16 October 2000. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "Efford eyes the premier's job". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 November 2000. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "The Grimes Government, 2001–2003". Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "Grimes becomes premier of Newfoundland". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 February 2001. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- "Nfld.'s Grimes resigns". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 May 2005. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
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- "Tories win majority in Newfoundland election". CTV News. 22 October 2003. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "Bennett acclaimed as Liberal leader". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 February 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "Tories make cracks at Bennett's expense". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2 May 2006. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "Bennett plans comeback in Liberal ranks". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 16 February 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
- "Wage issue exposes rift in Liberal ranks". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 April 2006. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
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- "Taylor calls it a day - Regional - The Telegram". thetelegram.com. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
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- Liberals take Straits and White Bay North. Retrieved September 2009.
- "Liberals put off leadership vote to 2010". CBC News. February 11, 2008. Archived from the original on February 15, 2008.
- Jones formally enters Liberal race
- "Jones acclaimed Liberal Leader - Local - The Telegram". thetelegram.com. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- "Jones acclaimed N.L. Liberal leader". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 July 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- "Jones illness postpones Grit convention". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 September 2010. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
- "N.L. Liberal leader resigns over health". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 August 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "Aylward sets sights on October surprise". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "People's Platform – Liberal Party Platform" (PDF). Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labraddor. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 March 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "Liberals pitch legacy account for oil money". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. September 23, 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "Support For NL Progressive Conservatives Decreases". Corporate Research Associates. 10 June 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- "Dunderdale leads N.L. Tories to majority". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
- "Kevin Aylward resigning as Liberal leader". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 October 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- "Dwight Ball named Liberal Party leader". The Telegram. 14 December 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
- "Ball new interim N.L. Liberal leader". CBC News, December 15, 2011.
- "Liberal Party Announces Date of Leadership Convention". Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- "Long-serving MHA Eddie Joyce named Opposition leader". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 19 July 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
- "Tom Osborne joins Liberals". cbc.ca. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- "NL Election Kick-Off: Liberals storm to a 47-point lead. It Isn't About the Economy". abacusdata.ca. 6 November 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- "A budget to drive Newfoundlanders away - Macleans.ca". macleans.ca. 14 April 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- "'He didn't do his job': PCs hammer premier on 'incompetence' during Ed Martin scandal". cbc.ca. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- "VOCM - "Blame the PCs": Government Reacts to Dire Muskrat Falls Report". vocm.com. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- "Premiers' Performance: Ball drops, Wall bounces post-election - Angus Reid Institute". angusreid.org. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
- Grenier, Éric (May 18, 2019). "What didn't happen in the N.L. election — and why that matters". The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
- Cooke, Ryan (May 16, 2019). "Liberals to hold minority government in N.L., PCs not conceding defeat". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Sterling lost his seat in the 1982 provincial election and Neary became interim opposition leader. Sterling resigned as leader several months after the election.