Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was elected the 13th premier of Newfoundland and Labrador on Nov. 30, 2015, and if it’s up to him, it will be four more years until Newfoundlanders and Labradorians find out who the 14th premier will be.
Ball dropped the writ of election on Wednesday afternoon, setting in motion an election campaign that will take the province to May 16, when all the votes will be counted.
“I am now seeking a mandate from the people of our province to continue our plan,” Ball told a room of supporters in the lobby of Confederation Building.
Just one day after tabling the fourth budget in the Liberal government’s mandate, Ball says he’s taking the budget to the doorsteps of the province.
But in doing so, the legislature will forgo the 75 hours of budget debate and countless estimates meetings, where politicians take a line-by-line look at the budget documents and ask questions before the budget is passed.
"It’s important for me to get out there and engage Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.” — Dwight Ball
Ball says the debate and scrutiny of the 2019 budget will still happen after the election.
“For me, it was about a sense of letting people have some say. We will hear it at the doorsteps and explain the budget,” Ball said in an interview after the election date announcement.
“It gets lost, in some of the scrums you see, there are certain things that are said that aren’t right. We saw quite a lot of that yesterday from the opposition parties. It’s important for me to get out there and engage Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
The budget document touts a $1.92-billion surplus that’s more accounting than a change in the province’s fiscal situation. Ball committed to referring during his election campaign to the more accurate $570-million deficit figure that does not include the long-term payments of the Atlantic Accord.
Bus already rolling
While Ball was making the announcement at Confederation Building setting the election in motion, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and supporters were gathered at the PC
campaign headquarters in St. John’s to follow it with the announcement of the start of their campaign. In fact, the PCs’ campaign bus has been seen around St. John’s for the past couple of days as an apparent message the party is ready – despite not having candidates in place in a number of districts.
To a number of sign-carrying and cheering supporters and caucus members Wednesday, Crosbie said that, under his leadership, they will restore confidence in the province’s future and keep young Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from leaving the province.
“The days of no fight in Dwight are gone and you don’t mess with Ches,” Crosbie said to cheers.
“I spent my career as an aggressive litigation lawyer defending the rights of people and I’m going to bring that same aggression in favour of defending the rights of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to the position of premier.
“I’m talking about the opportunity to tax the export of power to Quebec, I’m talking about defending our offshore against federal government incursions — it’s time to get tough with the federal government by every means available, including making a reference to the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal to enforce our jurisdiction over the offshore, over the pace and mode of development which was given to us and agreed under the Atlantic Accord.
“I would bring to the job the ability to inspire people with confidence in the future again — something we are lacking now.”
Crosbie said the party’s election platform will be unveiled in the coming days.
New Democratic Party Leader Alison Coffin didn’t have a flashy campaign launch on Wednesday, but says she’s as ready as she can be for the weeks between now and election day.
To date, the party has four candidates in place – 36 short of the 40 needed for a full slate.
Coffin says many candidates are in the works, with announcements due soon.
Coffin says she’s concerned about the lack of debate around the provincial budget, but now is the time to focus on the campaign.
“This comes on the heels of the premier saying they didn’t have the full picture in 2015,” said Coffin.
“We’re actually going to have less information going into this budget than the premier would have had going into the (2016) budget. I have a lot of concerns about that. However, I’ve been paying attention.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley sent a brief tweet on Wednesday evening, saying today is an exciting day for Newfoundland and Labrador. Pelley’s new party has four candidates confirmed for the coming election. Pelley will run in the district of Mount Scio in St. John’s.
The deadline for candidate nominations is April 25. Advance polls will take place on May 9. On May 16, the province will decide its future.
With files from Jeff Pelletier