Although they have been leading in the public opinion polls lately, the Liberals have come under criticism in recent months for being a little light on the policy side. [Case example: John Crosbie, whose withering criticism of the Tories was matched by this remark: "The Liberal party, for example, nobody really knows, in my opinion, what their policy is. They haven't given much attention to policy, because naturally they're just waiting for it to fall into their hands because the other main party is committing hari-kari."]
Nonetheless, the Liberals will be debating some substantive issues at their convention this weekend in Gander. Peter Cowan will be on the floor, and will be filing updates via Twitter and to our live blog.
Here are some of the issues on the agenda that could play into the party's platform for the next general election.
1. No-zero grading policy
The Young Liberal Commission wants to scrap the provincial government's dictum that teachers may no longer give a zero for a school assignment. The resolution notes "no zero policy ill prepares students for post-secondary institutions, who take academic misconduct very seriously; as does it ill prepare young people for a world where actions beget consequences."
2. Voting age
Earlier this week, we heard how acting treasurer Jeff Marshall is calling for the party to endorse a plan to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. The resolution before delegates notes that 16-year-olds can legally enter the workforce and start paying taxes, raising the issue of taxation without representation.
3. Bicycle helmet
Noting that Newfoundland and Labrador is one of only three provinces not to have such a law, another resolution calls for a provincial law requiring mandatory use of bicycle helmets. It cites research on prevention of severe head injuries.
4. IVF under MCP
One resolution suggests that a way to address the province's low fertility rate (1.45 per woman, among the lowest in Canada) is to cover the costs of in-vitro fertilization and assisted reproductive technologies through MCP. The resolution says such a program could be operational within two years.
5. Work for apprentices
A resolution says the two-year-old Journeyperson Mentorship Program is failing to meet training targets, with little of the $2 million budget spent and only five individuals now trained. It calls for a Liberal government to "implement an apprenticeship program that facilitates work placements to better support apprentices as they progress through their plans of training."
6. Moose meat
Touting moose as a "free-range, antibiotic-free, a lean source of protein," another resolution would like to see moose meat sold commercially, so long as it meets food safety standards.
7. Fixed link
A fixed link between Labrador and Newfoundland across the Strait of Belle Isle may be moving back on to the political agenda. Former premier Danny Williams commissioned a study, which recommended a bored tunnel, although the Tories shelved the idea as unfeasible. The resolution calls for that feasibility study to be updated.
8. Family Violence Intervention Court
The governing Tories have defended the elimination of the Family Victim Intervention Court on grounds that it was not widely used. A resolution notes that the cost is less than $1 per person per year, and that "immediate steps" need to be taken to re-establish it.
9. Women in politics
Another resolution notes that only 17 per cent of the MHAs elected in the last election were women, and that about a third of municipal councillors are women. The resolution calls for "special proactive protocols of encouragement and pathways for women to enter provincial politics."
10. Energy conservation
In the wake of this winter's rolling blackouts, another resolution says a Liberal government will introduce energy conservation programs affecting all energy consumers.