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Cablegate: Little Suspense in the Dying Days of The

VZCZCXRO6918
RR RUEHGA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHHA #0081 2771651
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041651Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL HALIFAX
TO RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0482
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1222
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHHA/AMCONSUL HALIFAX 1301

UNCLAS HALIFAX 000081

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR WHA/CAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CA
SUBJECT: LITTLE SUSPENSE IN THE DYING DAYS OF THE
NEWFOUNDLAND-LABRADOR PROVINCIAL ELECTION

REF: HALIFAX 0077

1. SUMMARY: In a campaign that has seen no direct U.S.
interests emerge, Newfoundland-Labrador Premier Danny Williams
appears to have sewn up solid support going into the October 9
provincial election. Given that election-watchers believe there
will be no stopping Williams and his Tory party, the consensus
is the opposition forces will do well just to hold on to their
slight representation in the legislature. END SUMMARY

2. Despite the best efforts of his opposition foes, Tory
Premier Danny Williams appears destined to roll to an easy
victory in the October 9 Newfoundland-Labrador provincial
election (Reftel). Williams, who entered the contest with a
75-plus percent approval rating from the electorate, has been
focusing his re-election campaign on his government's record
since he scored an upset victory over the previous incumbent
Liberal government in the 2003 provincial election. High on his
achievement list is the Premier's boast that the province has
seen a momentous turnaround in its economy. This, according to
Williams, has not only seen a corresponding improvement in the
province's fiscal health, but has brought new prosperity and
inspired a new sense of pride and can-do attitude across the
province.

3. The foundation for the Premier's successful campaign to date
is his commitment to continue the fight to see his province gain
all it can through development of its rich resources,
particularly from offshore oil and gas projects. While the
Premier's get-tough approach has brought unprecedented benefits
to the province, his stance has caused much angst among the
large international oil companies, particularly U.S. energy
giants such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron. But as the pundits
note, the bottom line is that these polices have resonated very
well with the electorate and the voters seem more than willing
to give the Premier a resounding vote of confidence on election
day.

4. Given that background, election-watchers are united in their
predictions that the Opposition Liberals and the third-place NDP
will do well just to hold on to their seats. At the time of the
election call, the Liberals held only 11 of the 48 seats; the
New Democratic Party had one, leaving the governing Tories with
the remainder, minus two vacancies. Liberal leader Gerry Reid
acknowledged early on that there is little he could do to
counter the premier's strong record. Instead, he has accusated
the Tories of not ensuring that all areas of the province have
shared equally in the province's various resource windfalls.

5. Likewise, the NDP, led by rookie leader Lorraine Michael,
has zeroed in on this inequality theme, but Michael has also
been accusing the Williams government of neglecting health care
and services for seniors and failing to address rural poverty.
Interestingly, while Michael is the lone NDP member in the
legislature, pundits and the premier himself, give her high
marks for effectiveness and political acumen, which they contend
distinguish her from Reid, who is often accused of being too
aggressive and bellicose. The problem for the NDP is cashing in
on Michael's image and translating it into new seats. Because
of its relative weakness, the party has always been in
third-place and this time out, only had the resources to run
candidates in 34 of the 48 districts.

5. COMMENT: In an election campaign with no apparent direct
U.S. interests, our contacts tell us the excitement among
election-watchers is not over whether Williams will be
victorious, but rather what his margin of victory will be.
Barring any last-minute fumbles, we can find no one who believes
that Premier Williams and his Tories won't be right back to work
on October 10, laying the groundwork for mandate number-two.
END COMMENT

FOSTER

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