Nfld. & Labrador·Election Notebook

Health care takes centre stage in N.L. election campaign

The Liberals, the NDP, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association are all talking health care on Day 3 of the campaign.

Latest

  • NDP plan to spend more on dental care
  • Furey reiterates Corner Brook PET scanner promise
  • PCs hope to lure remote workers
  • Where leaders will be Tuesday

The countdown is on: politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador have 26 more days to earn their votes from residents of this province, with a mid-winter election drawing closer by the hour.

Welcome to CBC N.L.'s Election Notebook, your regular filling of yarns, bits and bobs and tales from the campaign trail. You'll see this feature regularly until Feb. 13, when voters will choose who should shepherd the province through — and beyond — the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's what the parties are talking about so far:

NDP's promises for seniors

The New Democrats kicked off their election campaign in St. John's by pledging to spend more on dental programs for seniors.

Alison Coffin said the party would invest more money in the provincial adult dental care program and give more power to dentists, denturists and dental hygienists to set the program criteria and direction.

"Despite the tremendous need in our province, last year the Liberal government spent less money on adult dental services than on Ed Martin's severance package when he left Nalcor," Coffin said at a press conference in St. John's.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin says the party is focused on dental care for seniors and vulnerable people. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

That promise, like others the NDP plan to make, comes without a price tag. Coffin told reporters Monday she can't release a costed platform this year because the provincial auditor general's office has not completed a report for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

About that PET scanner...

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey also talked seniors' care at an appearance in Corner Brook on Monday, saying his government would work closely with the federal government on long-term care issues.

He also told reporters he is fully committed to seeing a PET scanner at the new Corner Brook hospital, although he didn't commit to a time line on the scanner entering service.

Just before the election, the Liberal government promised $2 million to the Western Regional Hospital Foundation for the purchase of a PET scanner — but history suggests much more will be needed. The commitment also came after the foundation accused the Liberals of breaking a promise, and Health Minister John Haggie saying a scanner isn't needed on Newfoundland's west coast, prompting a protest last week.

The money will be held in a trust until cancer-care doctors decide the machine is needed.

Furey answers a question about the proposed Corner Brook PET scanner on Monday. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

A factor in the decision, Furey said, was the fact he's a doctor himself.

"There was nothing more irritating then when someone told you you had to use something at a particular moment in time."

Doctors want better retention of medical grads

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association held its own press conference in St. John's, to get their key election issues into the public debate.

The association says the province has the worst record in Canada for holding onto its medical graduates, and that has contributed to a big gap in health-care services.

Dr. Lynette Powell, who heads the association, said 90,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have no family physician.

According to the NLMA, these residents will spend more time in hospital emergency rooms, because they have less contact with the health-care system earlier in their disease progression.

In a letter the association is sending to campaigns, available on its website, it is asking leaders to commit to a plan that would see 75 per cent of Memorial University's family medicine graduates stay in the province.

PCs focus on remote workers

Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie on Monday kept his focus on the economy, the issue he plans to make the centre of his election campaign.

He pitched a plan that would try to lure workers who have been working remotely for mainland companies to Newfoundland and Labrador. If technology allows you to work from anywhere, Crosbie said, you should consider this province.

"We've got great, beautiful scenery and lovely communities," Crosbie said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says his government is focused on creating jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

He said it would be a boost to the economy.

"They may be earning dollars from away, but they are spending those dollars here."

Weekend update

Saturday marked the beginning of the election period, and the first full day of campaigning for all parties.

NL Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley suspended his campaign over the weekend. A spokesperson for the party said Pelley was brought to hospital after a medical emergency and underwent surgery.

He has decided to pause his campaign "pending the outcome of his medical procedure and required recovery time," according to a press release.

The Liberal, NDP and PC leaders all spent their first weekends campaigning in the St. John's area.

A Liberal Party press release said "Sundays will remain family days" for Furey, suggesting he will not campaign on those days.

On Saturday, he promised to make the province "one in the healthiest in Canada" by 2031, and said he'd develop a plan to do so if the Liberals form government again. 

That's a sizable promise — Newfounland and Labrador's health indicators trail the rest of the provinces' in many significant ways. Almost 40 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians report body weight that puts them into the obesity category of a body mass index scale, compared with 27.7 per cent across the country.

According to data from Statistics Canada, the province also has comparatively high rates of diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, smoking and heavy drinking.

However, residents of the province do report lower life stress in response to some questions, and a stronger sense of community.

Across the airwaves (and the web)

The youth arm of the Progressive Conservative party took a run at the Liberals and the Moya Green report — Photoshopping her face onto a fake campaign bus — and received a fair bit of criticism themselves on Twitter.

The NL Alliance reports that their leader, Graydon Pelley, is doing well.

And on Here & Now, political watchers Gillian Pearson, Hasan Hai and Caitlin Urquhart muse about what they think is at stake in this election campaign.

What is this election going to be about? Here's what our panel of political watchers think

CBC News Newfoundland

3 months ago
7:41
The CBC's Peter Cowan speaks with Gillian Pearson, Hasan Hai and Caitlin Urquhart about what's at stake in the campaign for the Feb. 13 election in N.L. 7:41

Coming up:

  • Liberal Leader Andrew Furey plans to hit Port aux Basques and Stephenville on Tuesday.
  • NDP Leader Alison Coffin plans to campaign in St. John's on Tuesday.
  • PC Leader Ches Crosbie has scheduled a press conference with four St. John's-area candidates for Tuesday morning.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now