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LETTER: Terrible timing for N.L. election

On Jan. 15, Newfoundland and Labrador premier Andrew Furey called a provincial election for Feb. 13. — Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Premier Andrew Furey has called an election for Feb. 13. — Telegram file photo

The recent call by the Liberal government of this province for a general election is nothing more than a self-serving and shameless grab for power.

The province went to the polls less than two years ago which resulted in a Liberal minority government. Soon after, the premier abdicated and Andrew Furey stepped into Dwight Ball’s shoes. This had all the appearances of a prearranged succession with none of the Liberal caucus seeking to replace Ball. What has happened in the last two years to make an election necessary now, in the middle of a pandemic?

To be sure, the province is in a dire position with an ever-ballooning debt, record high deficits, uncertainty over the future of offshore oil, concerns about the future of the Come By Chance refinery and the huge issue of rate mitigation arising from the Muskrat Falls project, an issue which affects every household and business in the province.

The Liberals need to come clean with the public and present a plan which can be voted on.

How is a Liberal government going to address these issues? This the problem; they haven’t said. They have appointed a recovery task force to present recommendations as to how the government can deal with the desperate financial situation that the province is in. The task force is headed by a person who hasn’t lived in the province for several decades and who, to my knowledge, has not expressed any intention of living in the province in the future. The task force is mandated to present a preliminary report by the end of February 2021 and a final report by April 30, 2021. The deliberations of the task force have been secretive and the labour representative on the task force recently resigned citing a top-down approach in which the concerns of labour were not considered or appreciated. This raises the spectre of draconian measures which the government is afraid to deal with prior to an election.

The Liberals need to come clean with the public and present a plan which can be voted on. This means waiting until the task force has presented its final report and providing for input from the public and from the various groups and organizations whose members will be affected by any recommendations of the task force which government proposes to adopt. It also means that the Liberals need to present a budget which sets out a plan for economic recovery. Instead, they have asked the public to give them a mandate without telling the public what they intend to do. This, in my view, shows a profound lack of respect for the people of this province.

The province is now in a state not seen since Commission of Government days in the 1930s. The government is no longer able to borrow in the normal bond markets without federal government or Bank of Canada support. This is no time for opportunistic politics and the slick TV ads which were launched on the very day the election was called. The people of the province deserve better.

Leading up to the election call, the government has been throwing money around like there’s no tomorrow. Having maxed-out the credit card, they continue to spend money we don’t have.

The latest example is the $16.6-million grant to assist in the warm-idling of the Come By Chance refinery during the winter months. Nobody wants to see the refinery close, but shouldn’t this assistance have been by way of a loan? Why would Silverpeak not be expected to repay this money from the sale proceeds, assuming a buyer can be found? This raises the larger question: can this government be trusted to spend our money responsibly? Do they deserve the blank cheque they have asked for? In my view, the answers to these questions are all too obvious.

Edward Shortall

St. John’s


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