An emotional year

Dave Bartlett
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Jones focused on 2011 provincial election

Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones

Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones rode an emotional roller coaster in 2010.

About a month after being acclaimed full-time leader of the Official Opposition — after leading the party on an interim basis since 2007 — she announced she had been diagnosed with cancer and would be taking a leave of absence.

“It’s been a challenging year for me personally. There’s no doubt about that,” Jones said in a year-end interview with The Tele­gram.

“I was happy to be acclaimed leader of the Liberal party and to be able to lead the party into the next election. The lowest point, obviously, was my diagnosis with breast cancer.”

But Jones said everyone has challenging times and it’s important to stay positive.

“It’s like everything in life. No matter how bad it is, you have to look for the good.”

Jones said before her diagnosis, she had never experienced such a significant health issue, and, ironically, it came at a time when she felt healthier than she had in a long time.

She went public as a way to convince the government to lower the screening age for breast cancer from 50 to 40 years old.

Jones planned to introduce a private member’s bill in the House of Assembly this fall asking for the change, but because of her health, she wasn’t able to sit in the House this fall.

Her plan now is to table that legislation in the spring.

Overall, Jones thought 2010 was a mixed bag of good and bad for the province.

“One of the high points … is we’ve had continued growth in the oil and gas sector and it has allowed us to achieve a balanced budget,” she said.

But Jones said higher oil production this year means less oil to come out of the ground in future years.

The Liberal leader is also happy the pro­vince accepted the majority of commissioner Robert Wells’ recommendations following the inquiry into offshore helicopter safety, but she’s waiting to see if and how those recommendations will be implemented.

The inquiry stems from the 2009 crash of a Cougar helicopter which killed 17 people.

Jones also gave a thumbs-up to provincial spending on public buildings, roads and new ferries, but noted the provincial budget has doubled in seven years.

“Therefore, we should not have the infrastructure gaps that we had seven years ago,” she said.

Jones contends the province is generating revenue from mining and offshore royalties, yet still has the country’s highest unemployment rate, has created few new jobs and is not doing enough to diversify the economy.

More people in rural parts of the province need access to broadband Internet, she said, to improve the chances of creating work in smaller outports.

She said one of her goals heading into the next provincial election in October is to close the gap between rich and poor and redistribute the province’s wealth.

Increasing poverty and a housing crisis, especially on the Northeast Avalon, she said, means young people can’t afford homes.

And Jones worries about rural area as the government prepares to release it’s memorandum of understanding on the fishing industry, which the Liberals believe will mean fishplant closures and the death of some small communities.

The lowest point of 2010, Jones said, was the swath of destruction across the Bonavista and Burin peninsulas left by hurricane Igor in September.

“It affected a lot of families and is still affecting a lot of people,” said Jones.

And there were other low points, she said.

“Removing the air ambulance from St. Anthony was obviously a low point. As an Opposition we fought to improve that service, to add additional ambulance services in Labrador, to (add) medevac teams in St. Anthony as a means or increasing and boosting the service,” she said.

Jones feels the move was vindication for the Liberals’ win in The Straits-White Bay North byelection last fall.

She also wasn’t impressed with the way the government handled negotiations with physicians.

“I think government has really mismanaged that entire issue, right from the beginning,” she said.

Jones also thought a strike by modestly paid job coaches, who work with disabled people, went on far too long.

“I was happy to be acclaimed leader of the Liberal party and to be able to lead the party into the next election. The lowest point, obviously, was my diagnosis with breast cancer.” Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones

“What they did to the workers in Burin was absolutely shameful,” she said.

“They left these people out in the street for a whole year on a picket line. There was every reason to (end) this strike at a minimal cost to government and they chose not to.”

Jones had a lot to say about the term sheet former premer Danny Williams signed to develop a hydro project at Muskrat falls in November.

She said said Muskrat Falls is not the Lower Churchill as it doesn’t include the second, larger dam at Gull Island.

“The term sheet that was signed on Muskrat Falls obviously is a turning point of that development. We’ll have to wait and see where it goes.”

She said Liberal research suggests it may not be feasible to proceed with only part of the original Lower Churchill project.

She also claims Muskrat Falls alone has no real benefit for the people and will cost taxpayers a small fortune in the short term.

“Do we want to see Muskrat Falls developed? Absolutely we do. We want to see Gull Island developed; we do. We think that there is benefits for the whole province in the joint project and we think that it still can be done.”

 Jones said her party will also be keeping an eye on the term sheet signed with Nova Scotia and Emera Energy.

“You need to remember, if all these terms are not met come November of 2011, that this deal is off the table. This has a short shelf-life and to accomplish everything that is there by 2011 means there’s going to have to be some tremendous co-operation on behalf of the federal government, and so far we’re not seeing that happen …,” she said. “We’ll have to wait and see if it’s actually a deal at all come next November or if it’s gone out the window.”

Jones isn’t convinced the province will get a loan guarantee from the feds to proceed with the project considering Ottawa had to settle a $130-million North American Free Trade Agreement challenge by AbitibiBowater this year, after this province expropriated the company’s timber and water assets.

Meanwhile, the provincial election is Jones’ focus as she looks ahead to 2011.

She believes the political gap left by Williams has created a level of desperation in the Tory caucus that her party can exploit.

“This is not the government they were (just) weeks ago,” said Jones.

“It changes everything for us. We were preparing to go into an election against a leader that was 80 per cent in the polls.”

Now, instead of focusing on winnable seats, the Liberals will be gunning for full victory.

“The strength of the Conservative party was really in Danny Williams, and that’s not there anymore,” Jones said.

“Our intention, and our strategy, is to go into an election in the fall with a full policy (plan) we can provide to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and with the intention of winning the government.”

To get ready, the Liberals will launch a series of consultations around the province to help develop their political platform.

Another focus will be candidate recruitment.

“This election, I think, is going to be fought candidate by candidate,” said Jones.

“The voter in every district is going to stop and look at who they are electing as a representative as opposed to just voting for a government or voting for a leader.”

Jones thinks Williams’ popularity was the main reason the Liberals did so poorly in 2010’s two byelections.

“Obviously, we had hoped to do much better. We went into both these byelections knowing we couldn’t win the seat simply because they were held by very prominent Tories,” she said.

“But I really think that both of those byelections were about voting for Danny Williams and I don’t think anybody really looked at the candidates on the ground.”

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: AbitibiBowater, Tory

Geographic location: Burin, St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Labrador Gull Island Northeast Avalon Bonavista The Straits-White Bay North Nova Scotia Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • ron
    December 29, 2010 - 22:59

    Yvonne, we know you are dreaming in technicolour.. Do you also dream in 3D... that"s the NEW FAD!!!!

  • realistic
    December 29, 2010 - 21:36

    First i wish Miss Jones all the best for a healthy recovery. But i have to make a few comments on her take on 2010. She gives a thumbs up to spending on provincial infrastructure but that the budget has increased over the past 7 years. Well, hello, thats why we have better roads, more hospitals and schools, stadiums, etc. To me thats a good thing! As for the memorandum of understanding with the fishery...there are some tough decisions that have to be made! Not all these are going to be popular with all areas of the province. Gone are the days when there is a plant in every community in the province...we should have learned our lesson from that by now! We can thank Efford for doing that back in the 90's. Maybe if people had listened to Trevor Taylor when he tried to bring in the RMS we would be better off than we are now. Anyways...i would like to see what Yvonne's plans are for restructuring the fishery. Close the gap between rich and poor...would really love for her to explain this a little more. Lots of money being spent outside the overpass and into the rural areas...hard to stop progress inside the overpass despite of it!! And i can't believe that Yvonne would have the gaul to say that the air ambulance move was a vindication for the Liberals winning the bi election. She was the person who stated that she wanted a review of the air ambulance service completed. The service was kept in St Anthony because of politics...just ask Chris Decker and Trevor Taylor, both faught tooth and nail to keep the service in the region. It is common knowledge that both would not issue a review knowing that the service would move to somewhere in Labrador. Yvonne makes it sound as if this is like going out and buying a 3rd car...this service is very expensive. There will always be problems with this service but once the second medivac team is in place it will be improved. Again Labrador thanks Yvonne for the service, and deep down Yvonne is laughing at this. She keeps bringing it up to try to make Marshall Dean look good...lets not go there!! And as for the physicians negotiations...you can't give into every demand that a group wants. Personally i would not have given in so quickly to these so called doctors who held the patients of the province at ransom. Oh and i seem to remember a doctors strike in the 90's when the Liberals were in power, and a nurses strike...wow!! But i can see the interm Premiers point in wanting to get it settled. As for Muskrat Falls and Gull Island...we will see what happens!! And election 2011...again it will be interesting. The bi election in Conception Bay East-Bell Island had nothing to do with Danny Williams, he had nothing to do with the outcome!! He actually announced his resignation in the middle of it...which should have been a help for the Liberal "star" candidate(haha). I don't see any desperation in the PC caucus...i am sure they felt the same way as the Liberals did when Brian Tobin left. Hopefully the PC's have learned from the mistakes the Liberals made during their leadership campaign. Oh and i suppose Yvonne always has Danny Dumeresque and Roger Grimes to fall back on. Oh i am rushing to place my X for the Liberals...haha(NOT). I think i will stick with the government that has done so much over the past 7 years, despite who the leader might be. I am willing to give them another shot.

  • Frank Blackwood
    December 29, 2010 - 13:36

    The first elected female Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador to be recorded in Canadian History will be Newfoundland's own lady, Leader Of The Liberal Opposition, Yvonne Jones. This will be a big turn around in Newfoundlands political era where Yvonne Jones will have a strong opposition instead of being a Premier with an iron fist like Danny Williams who controlled his ministers like a lion trainer, listen and follow the leader or get out of the circus. We will see a strong Liberal government in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011, a team of politicians who will get the job done. What I would like to see is professional ethics back into the Legislative Assembly when dealing with our people who have elected politicians to represent them. I don't think Premier Williams and most of his ministers have any professional ethics with the exception of Darrin King, Harry Harding, Kathy Dunderdale, and a few others. Credit has to be given where credit is due! Frank Blackwood

  • kd
    December 29, 2010 - 09:09

    I see ms jones still haven`t awakened from that wonderful dream she has been in for the past two years then again I suppose everyone has a dream

  • roy
    December 29, 2010 - 08:24

    Ms. Jones i wish you all the best in the new year and hope you beat this cancer. I think you are doing a good job as liberal leader..I am not and cannot vote liberal having worked as a govt employee under Smallwood, Tobin and Grimes and the worst premier nl has ev er had Clyde Wells. As a layman let me just say be very carefull of Grimes and Danny Domeresque or as i like to say" Danny Do Her In" I feel he is coming after your job because every time you turn on the radio or read the telegram he is on giving the impression that he is leader of the opposition. I think he is Quebecs $50,000,000 man because he is always telling us how good Quebec is to us giving us $50,000,000 every year for or surplus power