Jones promises to axe gas tax if elected
Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones speaks the party convention Friday night in St. John’s. Jones was formally declared leader of the party as they prepare for the fall provincial election. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones had two simple messages at the Liberal party convention Saturday night: Premier Kathy Dunderdale is not good enough, and the Liberals would do things differently.
With just over four months until the provincial election, Jones also made her first big campaign promises: eliminate the gas tax and light up rural Newfoundland and Labrador with fibre optic cable.
But after nearly eight years out of power, Jones said it is now a great time to be a Liberal.
The weekend was full of high spirit by provincial MHAs, federal MPs and party officials.
“I think it’s a good time to be a Liberal,” said party president Judy Morrow.
“We’re not naive for the challenges that lie ahead, but we’re up for the challenge.
“We’ve got a lot of energy, we’ve got young people being recruited into the party.”
The two-day convention formally declared Jones as party leader, and held an array of planning sessions to get candidates ready for the fall election.
Over the course of the weekend, the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project was a major focus for convention organizers. The party rolled out a video of “Winston” a water droplet who explains why Muskrat Falls is a bad project for people of the province. The Liberals also distributed “Muskrat Fails” postcards, water bottles and buttons. (The video can be viewed at MuskratFails.ca)
Jones said that if elected, she will work to negotiate a different deal to develop Muskrat Falls and the much larger Gull Island hydro project, and that any deal would be vetted by the Public Utilities Board and the Auditor General.
“The deal that I will sign will not be secret,” she said. “It will not hide the real cost from you, the people.”
“I think it’s a good time to be a Liberal. We’re not naive for the challenges that lie ahead, but we’re up for the challenge. Judy Morrow
But as things wrapped up Saturday night, Jones used her speech to supporters to turn attention to some other issues as well.
She said the cost of living for people of the province is too high, and she promised to eliminate the 16.5 cents per litre provincial gas tax.
The tax cut would cost the provincial government $174 million, but Jones justified it by saying the government had spent more than twice that on Nalcor Energy in the 2011 budget.
Jones also promised a comprehensive home care strategy, expanded access to information laws, and a new push for high speed Internet connections in rural Newfoundland.
“When you look at the province as a whole, there’s certain things we need in order to be successful,” she said. “One of those things is information technology; today we’re being held back in parts of this province.”
The speech didn’t have much in the way of specifics, but Jones promised more of that, and a fully costed policy platform in the coming months.
But while Saturday night gave an injection of new policy ideas, there were also plenty of shots at the current government, and Dunderdale in particular.
West coast MP Gerry Byrne said coming on the heels of the federal election, he thinks the government is in trouble.
“I was knocking on doors. I was on the ground,” he said. “I’m the hearing the discontent, the concern and quite frankly, the confusion that the Dunderdale Government is bringing to Newfoundland and Labrador.”