Senator Fabian Manning was noncommittal Wednesday about whether he’ll run in the next federal election.
The Newfoundland senator, who lost his Avalon seat to Liberal Scott Andrews in the 2008 election, spoke to the St. John’s Board of Trade, reciting a list of features from the proposed federal budget, delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty Tuesday.
But despite the campaign-style speech — Manning told the crowd that with Canada still recovering from a recession, “now is not the time for instability” — the senator was cagey about his intentions to run should an election be called.
“I’ve received many calls from people throughout the Avalon riding over the past couple of weeks, and I’m on the way home tonight, hopefully to talk to family and friends. It’s a big decision,” he said.
“We’re not sure when the election’s going to be called. Certainly it seems like it’s going to be called in short order, but we’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
Manning said Conservatives will sell the budget — which includes cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) — to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
“We’ll sell it,” he said.
“I remember the 2006 election. Our opponents in that election were running around saying we’re going to do away with ACOA. ACOA has been enhanced, and we’ve provided more funding to Newfoundland and Labrador in the past five years than ever.”
Manning also touted the $43 million in Atlantic Gateway projects announced earlier Wednesday, but acknowledged the federal government has been slow to fund Newfoundland projects from the fund, which had already committed $229 million to projects in the other three Atlantic provinces before Wednesday’s funding announcement.
“There’s a list of projects that have been worked on for quite some time. It took a little longer than others,” he said.
“It’s not broke down on population. We look at projects that will improve access in Atlantic Canada, access to the world for that matter. It’s ongoing work there. We have other projects that are on the books that are being discussed with our provincial counterparts, and with people in the private sector, and we look forward to some more announcements under Atlantic Gateway.
Little slow off the mark there I will admit, but the fact is we’re there now.”
Manning rejected the argument that the lack of funding was a hangover from Danny Williams’ Anything But Conservative campaign.
“The ABC campaign for all intents and purposes is behind us now. There’s no doubt it created some acrimony between the federal government and the provincial government, but you know we’ve had a wonderful relationship with the province over the past couple of years as we’ve brought forward the economic stimulus package. As a matter of fact, Newfoundland and Labrador were miles ahead of others in relation to being ready when we came forward with that program. So you see roads being built, you see bridges being built, you see infrastructure in communities being built, and we’ve done very well and we’ve had great co-operation with the province in doing that.”
Manning also said Conservatives aren’t interested in an election, but rejected the idea that the Conservatives should have worked more closely with Opposition parties to produce a budget that would have been supported by a majority of members of Parliament.
“Many of the issues that the Opposition have raised, some of the issues have been addressed in the budget, such as the ones that were brought forward by the NDP in relation to ... it may not have gone far enough in relation to their belief, but there’s only so much that we can do in relation to a $50-plus billion deficit that we’re running,” he said.