Nfld. & Labrador

Blue Book vows cautious spending hikes

Newfoundland and Labrador's ruling Tories releases a campaign platform that runs the gamut from fitness classes to offshore oil royalties.
The Tory election plan has a cautious tone, reports Chris O'Neill-Yates 2:02

Newfoundland and Labrador's ruling Tories released on Thursday a campaign platform that runs the gamut from fitness classes to offshore oil royalties.

Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale released details of the Blue Book in Grand Falls-Windsor, even as she cautioned that promises in the document are contingent on fiscal conditions in the months and years to come.

Kathy Dunderdale, flanked by Jerome Kennedy and Susan Sullivan, unveiled the Blue Book Thursday in Grand Falls-Windsor. ((Nadia Stewart/CBC))

The platform appears to have something for everyone, from a cut in some hunting and fishing licence fees to better asphalt and new ferries to phasing out the payroll tax over six years.

The platform includes eliminating provincial student loans and replacing them with upfront needs-based grants over a four-year period. The platform says the policy will apply to both full-time and part-time students.

Dunderdale said promises included in the document [read a full copy here] amount to $135 million. However, the Blue Book, which includes a chapter on fiscal responsibility that promises year-to-year reductions in the accumulated debt, clearly warns that the province's books will need to be in order first.

"[We] will not be tied to hard and fast numbers," Dunderdale told reporters during a news conference.

Dunderdale revealed the platform with two of her key cabinet ministers — Tom Marshall in finance and Jerome Kennedy in health — and said costing details on each pledge would be revealed later in the campaign.

Dunderdale described the promises as "very measured," and that they were made with the province's fiscal health in mind.

"We're very conscious of the debt," she said, adding that the Tories have reduced the debt since taking office in 2003.

"I can tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I never want to go back there," she said.

'They're following us': Aylward

Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward shrugged as he responded to the Tory platform, which he described as suspiciously familiar.

"They announced the platform and half of it has already been announced by us," Aylward told reporters in Daniel's Harbour where he campaigned with St. Barbe candidate Jim Bennett.

For example, a Tory promise to revive a Fisheries Loan Board left Aylward unimpressed.

"They've had eight years to have one and they don't have one. But now it might be politically right to do it maybe because the Liberal party is proposing it," Aylward said.

"So now they decided to follow us."