23 October 2009

Kremlinology 9: By-elections

If it seems to you that there have been more by-elections since 2003 than at any comparable previous time in recent political history, you are absolutely correct.

Twice as many, in fact.

On average there was one by-election per year between  1982 and 2003.  But in the period of the provincial government’s greatest prosperity, politicians have been leaving their jobs on average at the rate of two per year.

There have been a dozen by-elections in the six years since the provincial Conservatives returned to power in 2003.  In the six years before that there were only seven and in the entire period of Liberal rule – four Premiers and 14 years – there were 16.

And just to really drive the point home, in the seven years between Brian Peckford’s massive victory and the fall of Tom Rideout’s Tories in 1989, there were just six.

The Conservatives have also shed more cabinet ministers compared to any administration since 1982 and lost them in unusual or controversial situations.

Former Tory leader Ed Byrne resigned to face corruption charges.  Former leader Loyola Sullivan left politics in a complete shocker later that same year. Paul Shelley resigned suddenly in early 2007.  Since the 2007 general election, Tom Rideout packed it in during a dispute over road paving work.  Trevor Taylor walked in the middle of controversies over health care cuts, fisheries and forestry affecting his district and Paul Oram pulled pin a week after Taylor amid controversy over health care cuts.

Here’s the data:

1.   Number of by-elections since October 2003:  13

  • Exploits
  • Placentia and St. Mary's
  • Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi
  • Port au Port
  • Kilbride
  • Ferryland
  • Humber Valley
  • Labrador West
  • Baie Verte-Springdale – 2007*
  • Baie Verte-Springdale – 2008
  • Cape St. Francis
  • The Straits & White Bay North
  • Terra Nova

*  Cabinet minister Paul Shelley resigned in early 2007 necessitating a by-election in Baie Verte-Springdale.  In the event, the by-election wasn’t called until late in the year with a date a few days before the general election.  The writ for the by-election was vacated by the general election writ.  The seat was won by Tom Rideout who resigned the next year.

2.  Number of by-Elections in same period before 2003 (i.e. 1997 to 2003): 7

  • Trinity North
  • The Straits & White Bay North
  • St. Barbe
  • Port de Grave
  • Humber West
  • Bonavista North
  • Conception Bay South

3.   Number of by-elections between 1989 and 2003:  16

4.   Number of by-elections between 1982 and 1989: 6