Brian Tobin was a man in a hurry in 1998. He began thinking about an election in the late spring, and commenced to put things in order should he need to call a snap vote. The budget was out of the way in the spring, changes were made to the Elections Act just before the legislature closed in June, and members had their pictures taken just in case the party needed to get the printing presses going for production of election materials.
Tobin didn't require a new mandate in 1998, he was only halfway through his term. But his political radar was picking up signs of trouble- thousands of provincial public servants, including nurses, wanted to emerge from a near decade of frozen wages. Where would the money come from? The TAGS fisheries compensation program was ending, and people would get their last cheques in late fall or early winter. Add to that, the giant nickel discovery at Voisey's Bay, Labrador was not going to be developed quickly.
Brian Tobin says the moment he starts thinking about an election, the matter takes on a life of its own. That certainly was the case in the summer of 1998.
This book is about Brian Tobin's quest for a second term, a search that ended in victory for his Liberal Party on February 9, 1999.
Brian Tobin is not the only character in this book. But he is the central character, as he has been since his return to Newfoundland from federal politics in January 1996. This book traces the story from the "summer tour" of 1998, the 'dry-run' election as some have called it. You will meet many of the politicians; all of them played a role in a Brian Tobin-led drama.
Brian Tobin was the subject of much intense questioning as he made his quest for a new mandate. Many people believed his 'real' motives were not the leadership issues he defined at the start of the campaign, but rather, a desire to get an election out of the way to avoid getting caught campaigning in a future political storm. And then, there was his perceived interest in succeeding Jean Chretien as leader of the federal Liberals. An electoral victory would give Tobin five good years to wait for his chance.
About the Author
Doug Letto is a journalist in St. John's