Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Labrador Byelection Result Makes Relations with Ottawa More Difficult: Premier

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Labrador Byelection Result Makes Relations with Ottawa More Difficult: Premier

Article excerpt

Tory loss affects federal relations: premier

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Premier Kathy Dunderdale says she respects the choice of Labrador voters, but losing the province's only Conservative MP in Monday's byelection won't help relations with Ottawa.

Federal Conservatives had urged voters in Labrador to overlook spending violations in 2011 by incumbent Peter Penashue, who said he was guaranteed a cabinet post. He finished a distant second to Liberal challenger Yvonne Jones, the clear winner with just over 48 per cent of the vote.

Dunderdale said having no one in the majority Conservative government's inner circle will have an impact.

"It always makes it more difficult when you don't have somebody inside the tent," she said Tuesday outside the legislature. "But you know, we're charged with a responsibility to advocate on behalf of the people of the province.

"The federal government is responsible for all of the people in Canada, including the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They have to listen to the legitimate aspirations of the people of this province, and assure us that we're being heard and responded to."

Dunderdale's Progressive Conservative government has tried to build bridges with Ottawa after years of fractious relations under her predecessor Danny Williams. Conciliation has worked on some issues but not others, such as search and rescue response, Dunderdale said.

Still, she stressed that she does not begrudge Labradorians the choice they made.

"I'm certainly not going to blame anybody for exercising their franchise and making decisions that they feel are in their best interests," she said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Penashue knew he was in a tough fight in Labrador.

"Peter Penashue knew full well that this would be difficult," Harper said in French during a news conference in Summerside, P.E.I.

"At the same time, he was determined to do the right thing and therefore he made that decision. And we want to thank him for his service to Canadians. …

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