Timeline: Changing Government 1971-72

6 October 1971 Liberal Premier Joseph Smallwood calls an election for 28 October 1971.

28 October 1971 Voting begins in Newfoundland and Labrador's seventh general election as a province. When counting ends at 2 a.m., Liberals and Conservatives each have 18 seats, the New Labrador Party one, and five seats remain undecided.

29 October 1971 Counting resumes and produces a final result of 21 Conservatives, 20 Liberals, and one New Labrador Party. The outcome leaves undecided which party can command a majority of seats in the House of Assembly and still elect a Speaker. Smallwood stays in office pending recounts.

2 November 1971 Smallwood announces he will step down as premier if the recounts do not give the Liberal Party a majority of seats in the House of Assembly.

11 November 1971 Smallwood announces he will resign as both premier and Liberal leader no matter what the outcome of the recounts. He says a leadership convention will be held on February 4 and 5.

12 November 1971 At a joint press conference with Conservative leader Frank Moores, New Labrador Party MHA Tom Burgess announces he will support the Conservatives, giving them a majority pending recounts. (Conservative support 22, Liberals 20)

12-16 Nov 1971 Petitions are submitted for recounts in six ridings: Bay de Verde, Burgeo-La Poile, Carbonear, Ferryland, St. Barbe South, and St. Mary's.

22 November 1971 The St. Barbe South recount cannot be completed because the ballots at polling station 13 in Sally's Cove were burned shortly after being counted on election night. The October results showed that Conservative candidate Edward Maynard had defeated Liberal Trevor Bennett by eight votes. Recounts in the other five districts confirm election night winners.

1 December 1971 Burgess writes a letter to Lieutenant Governor E. John A. Harnum affirming his previous decision to support the Conservatives in the House of Assembly.

2 December 1971 Bennett files a court petition to have the St. Barbe South election declared void.

11 January 1972 The Supreme Court of Newfoundland rules against Bennett. The original results for St. Barbe South stand and Maynard retains the seat.

13 January 1972 Smallwood tells a press conference he will resign as premier and vacate office. He says he did not make the announcement immediately after the court ruling because Burgess and an unidentified Conservative MHA approached him about joining the Liberal Party; both men decided against switching support, which prompted Smallwood to call the press conference.

15 January 1972 Burgess announces he will send a second letter to Harnum revoking his commitment to the Conservative Party, blaming a failed promise from Moores to give him a cabinet position. (Conservatives 21; Liberals 20; New Labrador Party 1)

18 January 1972 Smallwood resigns after almost 23 years in office and Moores is sworn in as Newfoundland and Labrador's second premier.

21 January 1972 W. Augustus Oldford, Liberal MHA for Fortune Bay, announces he will give up his seat in the House of Assembly to return to the magistracy. (Conservatives 21; Liberals 19; New Labrador Party 1)

24 January 1972 Hugh Shea, Conservative MHA for St. John's South, leaves the party to sit as an Independent. (Conservatives 20; Liberals 19; New Labrador Party 1; Independent 1)

31 January 1972 Shea and Burgess announce their intentions to join the Liberal Party. (Conservatives 20; Liberals 21)

2 February 1972 The Liberal caucus unanimously accepts Shea and Burgess into the party.

4-5 February 1972 Smallwood resigns as Liberal leader after Edward Roberts wins the leadership convention.

21 February 1972 Roberts publicly pressures Moores to open the House of Assembly.

22 February 1972 Moores announces the House will meet during the first week of March.

25 February 1972 A by-election is scheduled for 20 March to replace former Fortune Bay Liberal MHA Oldford.

28 February 1972 Moores promises that if his party loses the Fortune by-election, his government will step down in favour of a Liberal administration. Later that evening, he announces the House will meet on 1 March. Liberal MHA William Saunders (Bay de Verde) writes a letter to the Clerk of the House of Assembly stating that he will not take his seat. (Conservatives 20; Liberals 20)

1 March 1972 The House of Assembly opens for an afternoon sitting. Tory James Russell is appointed speaker, leaving a Conservative government of 19 facing a Liberal Opposition of 20. That evening, Moores advises the Lieutenant Governor to dissolve the legislature since neither party has enough seats to form an administration.

2 March 1972 Moores calls an election for 24 March.

24 March 1972 Voters go to the polls in the second general election in less than five months. The Conservatives win 33 seats, the Liberals nine. Smallwood did not run in the election.

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