Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador

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
Leader Kathy Dunderdale
President John Babb[1]
Founded 1949
Headquarters St. John's, NL
Ideology Red Toryism
Liberal conservatism
Political position Centre right
Official colours Blue
Seats in House of Assembly
37 / 48
Official website
Politics of Newfoundland and Labrador
Political parties

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.




The party originated before Newfoundland's confederation with Canada as the Responsible Government League (RGL), which campaigned against Newfoundland joining Canada. The RGL lost the 1948 referendum, and Newfoundland became Canada's tenth province.[2] Following the defeat, the Responsible Government League decided to align themselves with the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, and form the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland.[3]

In the political wilderness (1949 to 1972)

Harry Mews was the party's first leader and led them into the 1949 provincial election. The party lost to Joey Smallwood's Liberals and Mews himself failed to win a seat in the Newfoundland House of Assembly.[4] He was elected mayor of St. John's later that year and stepped down as provincial party leader soon after.[5]

After Confederation, the Progressive Conservatives remained in the political wilderness for the next two decades. Its 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.[2] The party was unable to win more than seven seats in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly until the 1970s.

By 1969, Liberal Premier Joey Smallwood had grown autocratic in power and intolerant of opposition within his party. Smallwood announced he was retiring from politics but when it became clear that John Crosbie was the front runner in succeeding him, he decided to run in the leadership election against him. Smallwood won the leadership and Crosbie and a number of young Liberals defected to the Progressive Conservatives. The move revitalised the party; they were no longer tarred by their anti-confederate stance which made the Tory's a credible force for the first time.

Frank Moores became the leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1970 and would lead the party for nine years. In the 1971 election, under Moores the Tories won 21 seats in the House of Assembly and 51% of the popular vote. Moores did not become Premier, however, because Smallwood refused to resign. His party had won 20 seats in the election and he remained Premier with the help of the lone MHA from the Labrador Party. Smallwood's government only lasted several months and a new election was called in 1972. The Tories easily defeated the Liberals, winning 61% and 33 seats. Moores was sworn in as the 2nd Premier of Newfoundland.

In government (1972 to 1989)

The instability in the House of Assembly after the October 1971, election led to another election being held on March 24, 1972. In the election, Moores led his party to victory winning 33 seats and 61% of the vote, compared to nine seats for the Liberals and 37% of the popular vote. Moores became Newfoundland's 2nd Premier following the election victory. During the election campaign Moores promised greater democracy within the government. Upon entering the premier's office he undertook a much needed reorganization of the cabinet and government departments. The reforms led to cabinet ministers having greater responsibilities over their portfolios, which had not been the case during Smallwood's time as premier. Much of Moores' time as premier was absorbed with the completion of mega-projects negotiated by the previous Liberal government, namely the Come By Chance Refinery, the Stephenville linerboard mill and the Churchill Falls Generating Station. When it became apparent that there were major flaws with the Churchill Falls agreement, to the benefit of Hydro-Quebec, the Progressive Conservative government set out to compensate for this with initiatives to gain greater control over natural resources. Moores won a second majority government in the 1975 election, this time winning 45.5% of the vote and 30 seats in the House of Assembly. Moores retired from politics in 1979.[6]

Brian Peckford succeeded Moores as premier following his win in the 1979 leadership convention. Peckford continued the fight over resources, particularly offshore oil, and it became a major part of Tory platforms. Under Peckford's leadership, the party went on to win the 1979, 1982 and 1985 general elections. Under his tenure the province signed the Atlantic Accord agreement which has led to the development of the province's offshore oil industry. Towards the end of his political career, Peckford became increasingly unpopular and retired from politics in 1989, being succeeded as leader and Premier by Tom Rideout.[6]

Rideout called an election soon after being sworn in as the 4th Premier of Newfoundland but he failed to lead his party to victory, losing the election to Clyde Wells' Liberal Party. Though the Liberals won 31 seats compared to the Progressive Conservatives' 21 seats, the Tories actually won the popular vote.

In opposition (1989 to 2003)

Rideout stayed on as Leader of the Opposition till 1991. He was succeeded as leader by Len Simms, who led the party during the 1993 general election. The party was unable to make any gains in the election, and lost support and seats to both the Liberals and New Democrats. Lynn Verge became the first woman to lead a political party in Newfoundland when she succeeded Simms as Tory leader after winning the 1995 leadership race. Verge led the Progressive Conservatives into the 1996 general election, but the party was soundly defeated by the Liberals under their new leader Brian Tobin. They won nine of the 48 seats in the legislature and 39% of the popular vote, their worst electoral result in 30 years. Verge was defeated in her own district and subsequently resigned as party leader. Loyola Sullivan became the Official Opposition Leader and interim leader of the party following Verge's defeat. 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.[6] 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.[7]

Williams era (2001 to 2010)

Danny Williams

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 35 of the province's 48 seats. The next provincial election in 2007 brought about a landslide victory for the Progressive Conservatives. The party gained nine extra seats, winning 44 out of the 48 seats in the House of Assembly. The party won just under 70% of the popular vote, the largest win for any party in the province's history.

The provincial party's relationship with the federal Conservative Party of Canada has been at best tenuous since the formation of the latter in 2003. In fact, Williams has openly campaigned against the federal Conservatives, due to a dispute over equalization payments with the Stephen Harper government. During the 2008 federal election, Premier Williams campaigned against the federal Conservative Party candidates for Parliament with the Anything But Conservative campaign. This campaign was effective in stopping any Conservative candidates from getting elected in Newfoundland and Labrador during the 2008 federal election.

A poll conducted in 2009 by Corporate Research Associates showed that halfway through his second term as Premier, support for Danny Williams' Progressive Conservative government was on the rise with 77% of decided voters backing the PCs; that was up from 72% in the last poll. Another poll conducted by Global News and Ipsos Public Affairs during the same period showed similar results of support for the Premier which made him by far the most popular leader in the country. Williams announced on November 25, 2010 that he would resign on December 3, 2010, after seven years as Premier.

Dunderdale era (2010-present)

Kathy Dunderdale

A leadership election for the Progressive Conservative Party was prompted by Williams' resignation as premier and party leader on December 3, 2010.[8] Kathy Dunderdale was sworn in as premier after Williams' resignation and was the only eligible candidate for the leadership election. She became leader at the party's convention on April 2, 2011.[9] Before being sworn in as premier Dunderdale was deputy premier as well as the Minister of Natural Resources. On October 11, 2011, she led the Progressive Conservatives to a third straight majority government, the party won 37 of the province's 48 seats.[10]

Ideologies and policies

The Progressive Conservatives are a centre-right political party and have always been more supportive of the business community and free enterprise. They have avoided the neo-liberal policies of some other conservative parties elsewhere in Canada and have tended to be Red Tories. This is a result of the once widespread poverty and economic problems in the province, particularly in light of the failure of the fishing industry. These factors make hard right fiscal policies unsellable to voters.

During the Constitutional negotiations of the 1980s, the Tories supported a decentralized federation, while the Liberals were in favour of a strong central government.[11] 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.

Electoral performance

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
1949 5 28 55,111 32.72%
1951 4 28 46,782 35.33%
1956 4 36 36,591 31.69%
1959 3 36 33,002 25.3%
1962 7 42 45,055 36.6%
1966 3 42 50,316 34.0%
1971 21 42 118,899 51.3%
1972 33 42 126,508 60.5%
1975 30 51 101,016 45.54%
1979 33 52 119,151 50.4%
1982 44 52 152,966 61.2%
1985 36 52 134,893 48.6%
1989 21 52 138,609 47.6%
1993 16 52 127,150 42.1%
1996 9 48 110,312 38.66%
1999 14 48 108,772 40.77%
2003 34 48 162,949 58.71%
2007 44 48 155,943 69.59%
2011 37 48 TBA 56.1%

Party leaders

Leader Years in office
1 Harry Mews 1949–1950
2 John Higgins 1950–1951
3 Peter Cashin 1951–1953
4 Malcolm Hollett 1953–1959
5 Jim Greene 1960–1965
6 Noel Murphy 1966
7 Gerry Ottenheimer 1966–1969
8 Frank Moores 1970–1979
9 Brian Peckford 1979–1989
10 Tom Rideout 1989–1991
11 Len Simms 1991–1995
12 Lynn Verge 1995–1996
13 Loyola Sullivan 1996–1998
14 Ed Byrne 1998–2001
15 Danny Williams 2001–2010
16 Kathy Dunderdale 2010-present

See also


  1. ^ "Executive Board". Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  2. ^ a b "The 1948 Referendums". Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Provincial Government: The Smallwood Years, 1949-1972". Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Jack Higgins: Newfoundlander Through and Through, Memorial University archives
  5. ^ Baker, Melvin, St. John's Municipal Chairmen and Mayors, 1888-1988, Newfoundland Quarterly, Vol. LXXX1V, No. 1, Summer 1988, pp. 5-11.
  6. ^ a b c "Provincial Politics 1972-2001". Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  7. ^ Barron, Tracey (1 February 2001). "No Contest: Williams Acclaimed PC Leader". The Telegram. Retrieved 21 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Williams departure shakes N.L. politics". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2010-11-26. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  9. ^ "N.L. Tories reject Cabana appeal". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2011-01-27. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  10. ^ "Dunderdale leads N.L. Tories to majority". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  11. ^ Brownsey, Keith; Howlett, Michael (2001). The provincial state in Canada: politics in the provinces and territories. Broadview Press ltd.. pp. 40-42. 

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