Nfld. & Labrador·Election Notebook

Talking about bankruptcy? Overdue, says this prof. But as a ploy for Ottawa? Not so much

PC Leader Ches Crosbie raised a procovative issue earlier this week: using Newfoundland and Labrador's weakened financial situation as a potential strength in getting a new deal from the federal government. Political scientist Kelly Blidook says Crosbie is dishing "the same kind of garbage that leaders keep doing in this province."

Political scientist accuses Crosbie of dishing 'the same garbage that leaders keep doing in this province'

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PC Leader Ches Crosbie raised a procovative issue earlier this week: using Newfoundland and Labrador's weakened financial situation as a potential strength in getting a new deal from the federal government. 

"Us failing as a province will cause damage throughout the country, damage that no national government would want to have occur and cannot tolerate, so when you're negotiating with Ottawa, you have to know what your ultimate points of leverage are," Crosbie said during a campaign stop Thursday in Grand Falls-Windsor. 

For Memorial University political scientist Kelly Blidook, an open discussion about bankruptcy is worthy — but his support stops there. 

"I would give Ches Crosbie a lot of credit for saying 'bankruptcy.' I think the term 'bankruptcy' needs to get used. I think we need to be talking about bankruptcy," Blidook told CBC's Adam Walsh on Friday. 

"This is a province that actually went to the prime minister and said we can't pay our bills a number of months ago and that's going to happen again."

Blidook is referring to a letter that then premier Dwight Ball sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last March, in the early days of the pandemic, warning that the province had "run out of time." (Ball later downplayed the implications of that letter.) 

Blidook, though, was less kind to the Tory leader for his tactical approach, and what that strategy might yield from the federal government. 

Poli sci prof blasts PC leader for bankruptcy negotiation tactic

CBC News Newfoundland

29 days ago
1:30
Memorial University's Kelly Blidook welcomes a frank discussion on N.L.'s dire finances, but criticizes Crosbie for thinking it will get a good deal from Ottawa 1:30

"Where I wouldn't give any credit is that he kind of did the same garbage that leaders keep doing in this province. He basically said, 'Well, we're going to get Ottawa to do what we want. We're going to be in a position of power,'" he said. 

"I'm sorry, you're not in a position of power when you're just about to go bankrupt." 

Furey dismissed Crosbie's strategy, and said he wouldn't comment on "Mr. Crosbie's pessimism."

"I believe in a bright future here in Newfoundland and Labrador.… We have tremendous potential here, so I don't see us as being bankrupt. I see us with true potential," Furey told reporters Friday morning.  

"Our forefathers and foremothers joined Canada because they believed in a federation. That's the strength of a federation. You contribute in good times and you lean on the federation in bad. We're proud Newfoundlanders and Labradodians but we are Canadians. We need to lean on our Canadian partners right now during these troubling times."

Welcome to our latest edition of Election Notebook, our (almost, very nearly) daily roundup of what's happening on the campaign trail. 

Political risks and COVID campaigning 

Blidook also had things to say about a key bit of context in the campaign toward the Feb. 13 election: it's all happening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Furey called the election on Jan. 15, there had been only five cases in the preceding two weeks. Well, things can change in half a month: there have been eight cases in just the last two days. That's tiny compared with the numbers in most other provinces, but quite out of the step with the last few weeks. 

It's worth noting that Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald held back-to-back unscheduled briefings on Thursday and Friday to address new cases, including a small cluster that Fitzgerald called "worrisome."

When Furey and Health Minister John Haggie left for the campaign trail, the idea was that the public would still see Fitzgerald, but only weekly. Blidook said the Liberals have been lifted by management of the pandemic but deterioration could have public consequences.

"This was always a risk. If this does go badly, it could actually make a big difference," said Blidook, who added Friday morning that it's too early to raise alarms.

"One of the things for this government was that they've handled the pandemic well. If we're actually moving towards a state of lockdown on election day, that could really change things."

Both Crosbie and the NDP's Alison Coffin have criticized the Liberals for holding an election in winter weather. 

Furey, though, has defended the decision, arguing that circumstances are safe. 

"Looking at the COVID numbers and what was happening around the world right now, I thought that now is the time to call an election," Furey said last week. 

A Photoshop artist confesses

The man behind an altered photo that put the face of Moya Greene, the head of the premier's economic recovery team, onto the Liberal campaign bus has come clean.

Jerome Terry Sr., who owns a garage in Mount Pearl, told CBC Radio's On The Go he created the image that was shared by the youth arm of the Progressive Conservative Party.

"I wanted to have a sarcastic shot at Andrew Furey," he said. "Whether he wants it or not, Moya Greene is front and centre in this election."

He said it wasn't right for the Liberals to call the election before the Greene report came in.

Earlier this week, he told On The Go host Ted Blades that he was surprised to see some people were apparently fooled.

"There was nothing special about it, you know what I mean? You can see it was sloppy. It was just one picture superimposed over another," he said. "I'm surprised that you are even talking to me."

He concluded: "Some people will believe anything, I suppose." 

Lights, camera, action for Liberal film tax credits

While in Clarenville on Friday, the Liberals unveiled a plan to form a group of artists, actors, musicians and others to advise the government.

The advisory council on creative and cultural industries would guide the Department of Tourism, Arts and Recreation in growing the arts and culture sector in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The Liberals said they will also create a "local labour and spend tax credit program" to attract large film and television productions to the province.

"Our government will invest in modernizing arts and cultural infrastructure across the province, including … enhancing the equity and tax credit programs to ensure that we have one of the most competitive spaces in order to capture more of the potential value in film and television production," Furey said in a news release. 

The party also plans to develop a digital portal called CreateNL to help people in creative industries connect with potential customers and employers.

No word yet on what any of those plans will cost.

NDP support continued tuition freeze 

The NDP, meanwhile, announced they would keep costs for post-secondary students low and progressively reduce tuition fees in the future.

"Students shouldn't have to start off their working lives saddled with huge debt loads because they got an education," Coffin said in a media release Friday. 

"Post-secondary education in our province has to be accessible and affordable. The very least we can do for young people is to maintain the tuition freeze so they can afford to make the choices they want to make about their future."

The New Democrats also plan to reinstate a full needs-based grants program and use federal dollars to repair and expand the infrastructure of Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic, if elected.

In its release, the party said it would also ensure that MUN and CNA are "properly funded." Presumably, that would mean more money for the university and college. 

A conversation on mental health 

Earlier in the campaign, Here & Now carried a great conversation about mental health… and we'd like to keep that conversation going on Instagram. Click this post to take part. 

If you missed our panel, worry not! We've got you covered. You can read this story here, and you can watch the panel itself by clicking the player below. 

Mental health is an election issue. This panel outlines what they want to see changed

CBC News Newfoundland

1 month ago
8:10
Kristi Allan, Dr. Janice Hubbard and Dr. Nazir Ladha speak with Here & Now's Carolyn Stokes 8:10

What's coming up

  • Liberal Leader Andrew Furey will begin Saturday in Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde with candidate Steve Crocker, before heading to Harbour Grace-Port de Grave, ending the day in the district of Harbour Main.
  • PC Leader Ches Crosbie will meet with volunteers at his campaign headquarters in St. John's ahead
    of a door-knocking blitz.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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