Nfld. & Labrador

Here's what happened at the province's 1st election debate for 2019 campaign

All four party leaders squared off Tuesday night for the first political debate of the 2019 election season, but two focused in on each other.

During debate, Crosbie makes allegations of political firing by Liberals

All four leaders took part in the debate Tuesday.

All four party leaders squared off Tuesday night for the first political debate of the 2019 election season, but two focused in on each other.

Many of the answers given by PC Leader Ches Crosbie and Liberal Leader Dwight Ball circled back to what they felt the other party was doing wrong.

"We gave Mr. Ball a chance. He wasted the last four years," Crosbie said in his opening remarks.

In response, Ball's opening hit on "some of the contrasts" between himself and Crosbie, naming positions on collective bargaining agreements and health care costs as two.

All four political leaders took part in the province's first debate of the 2019 election season. (Katie Breen/CBC)

The Q&A forum was hosted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour in St. John's.

Questions covered areas like privatization, equality, the green economy, education and retention.

"As I was sitting and observing and listening to everybody, I thought, you know, this is the very reason that NL Alliance was formed," Alliance leader, Graydon Pelley said.

NL Alliance

"For 70 years we've been listening to the mainstream parties go back and forth," Pelley continued. "And questions that were asked tonight that were very important about education, health care, they just — these two leaders went after each other about Muskrat Falls and things. And I need not say any more, this is why we need change in Newfoundland and Labrador."   

NL Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley says his party's approach is to talk to people and base decisions on that. (Katie Breen/CBC)

During the debate, Pelley said conversations with people in the "real world" are key to his collaborative approach.

He wouldn't say yes or no to privatization — repeating that decisions would be based on talks with stakeholders — but he did say efficiencies in healthcare would come from the top, not front-line workers.

NDP

NDP leader Alison Coffin called the Ball and Crosbie back-and-forth "totally unnecessary."

Coffin says the NDP's election platform should be out next week. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Her party hasn't released its platform yet — it's expected in sometime next week — but in the debate, Coffin said the party would hire more healthcare workers instead of paying out as much overtime, raise the minimum wage and ensure more women were brought into government agencies, boards and commissions.

Coffin also said the NDP would introduce binding arbitration that would force multinational companies back to the bargaining table during a lockout.  

Liberals

Amid jabs at Crosbie, Ball touted a 68 per cent decrease to wait times for mental health services under his government.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball says the wait time for mental health services has dropped under his watch. (Katie Breen/CBC)

He said his party brought in the tuition freeze and intends to keep it. He's against privatization and pro-carbon tax.

Progressive Conservatives

When not ridiculing Ball, Crosbie said he was anti-carbon tax and that the party has "no agenda" for privatization.

Ches Crosbie says under his leadership, new grads who stay in the province would get money. (Katie Breen/CBC)

He brought up a tax credit announced in his blue book Tuesday for graduates who stay in the province.

Political firing?

During an answer around equality, Crosbie named two women on his team — his sister, Beth Crosbie, who's running in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville, and his chief of staff, Denise Tubrett.   

Tubrett was the deputy assistant minister of regional services under the Department of Health and Community Services.

Crosbie told the crowd Ball "had her fired because her father-in-law is a PC senator."

A government bio online says Tubrett spent more than 20 years in the public service.

It certainly wasn't because of any family connection that she would have had.- Dwight Ball

Tubrett confirmed by phone Tuesday evening that she was let go from her position, without cause, in December 2017 — two years into Ball's mandate.

Tubrett feels her termination was "definitely" due to her connection to Senator Norman Doyle.

Other than saying "I did not know that" immediately after Crosbie's accusation, Ball didn't elaborate on it during the debate.

He told reporters afterwards that he doesn't know who Tubrett's father-in-law is and that any political leanings would have had "nothing to do with the decision that was made."

The only possible reason for her firing would be political- Ches Crosbie

"I don't know the details," he said. "But it certainly wasn't because of any family connection that she would have had."

Crosbie didn't provide any evidence to back up his claim around Tubrett's dismissal.

He said she "had a sterling reputation in government" and "the only possible reason for her firing would be political."

"There was nothing else," he said. "You can ask people in the health department if you want."

The NDP, PC and Liberal leaders will face off again Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. NT for the televised debate, after CBC's Here and Now.

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