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Editorial: Opportunity knocks

Progressive Conservative candidate Ches Crosbie signals victory to his supporters in the Windsor Lake byelection Thursday night at his campaign headquarters in St. John’s.
Progressive Conservative candidate Ches Crosbie signals victory to his supporters in the Windsor Lake byelection Sept. 20 at his campaign headquarters in St. John’s. - Keith Gosse

Regardless of your politics, there are good reasons for being satisfied that Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie managed to find his way into the House of Assembly.

Crosbie won a seat in a byelection Thursday to represent the district of Windsor Lake, taking the seat by a margin of 218 votes out of the 4,763 votes cast.

At least this way, we’ll get to see what he can do in the House of Assembly, and whether it looks like the Tories can be a credible and effective opposition, and potentially a government.

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Ches Crosbie victorious in Windsor Lake

Nothing would be served — at least, not in the way of democratic government —by having the Tories undergo another year of turmoil, and potentially offering the Liberals a cakewalk towards forming another government. Instead, we get to see Crosbie in action, something that should help to shape voters’ views for the not-so-distant 2019 election.

(Likewise, there would have been reasons to be pleased if the NDP’s Kerri Claire Neil had won, if for no other reason than to shake the other two parties’ comfortable complacency that they are destined to permanently take turns holding the reins of government in this province.)

Paul Antle? Whatever his personal strengths and weaknesses as a candidate, being another chorister in the Liberal choir was unlikely to have even a ripple of an effect in the great political pond, especially since the byelection’s winner will be in office for only 12 months or so before the next general election.

It’s important to point out that, in our political system, opposition is a critical role: governments that aren’t rigourously held to account seem to have the singular ability to decide that their own ideas are the only good ideas, and to move ahead with those ideas with their blinders locked full on.

That kind of thinking, of course, can bring about multibillion-dollar power dams miles and miles away from potential markets, and can erase billions of dollars of government revenues.

Also important to keep in mind? Byelections are rarely about the individual candidates. More often than not, they are a barometer of the electorate’s feelings about the government of the day. They are the perfect place to register a protest vote against the sitting government, without the risk of actually toppling a party and putting a new and untested administration into place.

So, it’s a message for the Liberals (although maybe only a small one) and an opportunity for the leader of the Tories to show the province what he can do.

Not a bad outcome at all.

One thing is for certain: the smugness index in Liberal circles is probably lower now than it would have been if they had managed to eke out a win in Windsor Lake.

And a little less political smugness in government is always a good thing.

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