Dwight Ball kicks off election year with 'political jabs' at opposition
Ball challenged Ches Crosbie on power rate mitigation in speech Thursday
Based on Dwight Ball's first public speech of 2019, the campaigning for this year's provincial election has already begun.
The premier came out swinging at Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie in an address to the Rotary Club of St. John's Thursday.
"I will make a few little political jabs to start the new year," he said.
Ball touched on what he sees as his government's accomplishments — an increase in employment and forecasted economic growth for the coming year — before taking aim at Crosbie's comments on power rate mitigation after Muskrat Falls becomes fully operational.
"Ches is now telling the people of this province the only option is that we need some sort of a bail out from the federal government. Well, the bail out that he's talking about is a bail out from a PC decision," the premier said.
In a Jan. 3 release, Crosbie said interim reports on rate mitigation completed for the Public Utilities Board show the Liberals were slow to ask for help from Ottawa to reduce electricity rates.
He went on to accuse Ball and St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O'Regan of "clowning around," rather than working to find options to lower rates.
"If Premier Ball had effectively engaged the Trudeau Liberals in 2015 instead of wasting his entire term in office achieving nothing, the rate mitigation problem could have been solved long before now," said Crosbie.
The premier said that he is asking Ottawa to "play a role," but said he's not asking for a bail out.
Crosbie 'hasn't told us anything'
After his speech wrapped up, Ball again turned his attention to the opposition leader while speaking with reporters, challenging him on what he sees as a lack of a plan to lower electricity costs.
"There's no options that came from Ches Crosbie," he said.
"He's given us nothing to look at when it comes to affordable rates — what does that mean to Ches Crosbie? He hasn't told us anything. I think it's time for him to stand up and let the people of this province exactly know."
Ball wasn't ready to give any specific details on his plan for rate mitigation, however. He expects the PUB's own report on mitigation in mid-February and said he will wait to see the final financial shortfall of Muskrat Falls before solidifying his plan.
"We know there are a number of options out there," he said.
"The project will be finished in 2021, which is when we'll see the impact, but we know now that we will be identifying the number and we will have a number of clear options that we will have available to us to keep the rates competitive with other jurisdictions."
I'll be running as leader and I can't wait.- Dwight Ball
Whatever the plan will be, Ball said the government is planning for a fall election, and he'll be at the helm of the Liberal party.
"I'll be running as leader and I can't wait."
With files from Mark Quinn