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Premier Andrew Furey says he will “follow the letter of the law” when it comes to calling the next provincial election, meaning the province will go to the polls sometime between now and next September.
But Furey’s language has shifted slightly from statements made prior to his swearing-in as an MHA on Thursday.
After the Progressive Conservatives brought forward a motion against an election in the fall, Furey issued a statement that read, “There is no appetite in our province for an election this fall, as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. I have always respected this and will not call a snap election this fall.”
During Thursday’s question period, Furey’s line was about the “letter of the law.”
“As I have said publicly and will continue to state, I intend to follow the letter of the law with respect to the legislation and election timing,” he said.
That phrasing left some daylight on the question of whether that election would come before the end of 2020, as the letter of the law states the election can be held any time between Furey’s becoming premier on Aug. 19 of this year and August 2021.
Speaking with reporters after question period, Furey was more definitive in his language.
“My position hasn’t changed. It’s not my intention to call an election. We’re in a minority government — it’s not just my decision,” said Furey.
The overall direction of the budget was approved unanimously on Thursday, meaning the opposition kept their word not to bring down the government — at least not yet. While more procedural votes will come next week, the Liberal government survived a confidence vote on the budget speech, all the same.
While other provinces like New Brunswick and British Columbia have managed, or will manage, to go to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic, opposition parties say the government needs to keep its eye on the ball and not on the ballot.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says he’ll take Furey at his word that an election will not come before the end of the year.
“The public thinks the government should get down to business, the business of governing, and not be wasting time with an election. Their attention should be on the betterment of the province,” said Crosbie.
“All I can say is that any government that calls an election at this moment in time, with so many massive problems confronting us — including still the pandemic — is putting itself first and the people of the province second.”
New Democratic Party Leader Alison Coffin said she believes Furey will stand by his word.
“I’m very happy to hear that,” she said.
“I would like to be able to trust the premier on that, absolutely. Time will tell, for sure.”