Ottenheimer promises moose fences, Come Home Year, but is hazy on costs

James McLeod
Published on August 5, 2014
PC leadership candidate John Ottenheimer speaks to the media at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s Tuesday. Ottenheimer is promising to organize a Come Home Year in 2016 if he’s elected premier.
— Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

John Ottenheimer has ideas, but the details are more than a little fuzzy.

On Tuesday, he called the media to the Capital Hotel to talk about plans for a Come Home Year in 2016, and a committment to beef up moose protection for drivers in the province.

Ottenheimer is running for leadership of the PC party, and if he wins at the Tories’ convention in September, he’ll be premier of the province.

On Tuesday morning, he couldn’t give an idea of how much the latest policy promises will cost taxpayers if he’s elected premier of the province.

This builds on his policy announcement a few weeks ago, when he promised to make child care a priority, but couldn’t say how many child-care spaces he would create or how much it would cost taxpayers.

At the same event, Ottenheimer promised to give the Public Utilities Board a role in the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project, but couldn’t clearly say what role that would be.

Also, at this week’s announcement the news release handed out to media included two typos in the headline. Ottenheimer’s campaign staff even managed to misspell his name — “Ontenheimer” — in the headline.

But Ottenheimer isn’t focused on the details; he’s excited about the big picture and the possibilities.

The Come Home Year — which will take place in 2016 — would mark the 100th anniversary of Beaumont Hamel, the 75th anniversary of the Atlantic Charter and the 50th anniversary of the original Come Home Year organized by then-premier Joey Smallwood.

“Remember 50 years ago, in 1966? I’ll bet there are still Newfoundlanders and Labradorians today who have that orange licence plate in their garage or in their shed,” Ottenheimer said. “We will have a new licence plate — 2016 Come Home Year. I can see it in my mind now.”

To plan the events, he promised to create a new government secretariat and a provincial advisory committee. He said the money spent should be viewed as an investment, because it will increase tourism and expatriate Newfoundlanders and Labradorians visiting home.

On the moose-vehicle prevention, Ottenheimer was similarly vague.

He floated the idea of reducing the speed limit at night in high-risk parts of the province, and said the government needs to push for greater awareness about the risks posed by moose.

“As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we have to be continually reminded that we live in moose country. We drive in moose country,” he said. “We have a menace on our highways, and we have to deal with it.”

Additional moose fencing is an option, he said, along with better brush clearing.

Again, he had no idea how much his government would spend on these measures, but he said all that matters is that it will save lives.

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