Nfld. & Labrador·Election Notebook

Should bankruptcy be a bargaining chip for federal help? The Tories say yes

Ches Crosbie says the threat of the whole province going belly up could be the path toward federal funds to support the province's offshore oil and gas industry.

Crosbie says province would be shooting itself in the head to give up on oil

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  • PCs standing behind oil industry, improved mental health
  • NDP announce home heating rebate
  • Liberals pledge support for IVF treatments
  • Where the leaders are

PC Leader Ches Crosbie says he's willing to use Newfoundland and Labrador's dire financial position as leverage to get federal support for the offshore oil industry.

While on the campaign trail in Grand Falls-Windsor Thursday, Crosbie claimed that the threat of the whole province going belly up could be too much for the federal Liberals to risk, leading them to step in and provide some help.

"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," he said.

"Ottawa cannot afford to have a failed province, that's why they have to step up and recognize their obligations under the constitution of Canada and help us attain the level of public services that people here are entitled to." 

Crosbie said he doesn't consider bankruptcy a threat toward Ottawa, however, but a reality that will inform negotiations for federal support for the province's oil industry.

PC Leader Ches Crosbie said the province would be shooting itself in the head if it were to transition away from oil and gas production. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"It's hard to imagine a Newfoundland and Labrador that can continue to function, or ever has a chance of being a contributing member of Confederation, without a thriving offshore," he said.

Welcome back to the Election Notebook, your regular roundup of campaign chatter. Here's what's been happening on the campaign trail:

'Decades' before N.L. should transition from oil: Crosbie

In addition to discussing his negotiation strategy, Crosbie doubled down Thursday on his backing for the province's oil and gas industry.

He said the world will continue to need oil as the transition away from fossil fuels begins, and the province has good amounts of high-quality oil accessible in the offshore. World markets for crude oil and natural gas, Crosbie said, "are enormous today and will remain enormous for decades to come."

"We would be shooting ourselves not just in the foot, but in the head, if we did not take advantage of those vast resources, low-carbon resources, off our shores," he said.

Crosbie said coal-fired power plants are commonplace in China, and that Newfoundland and Labrador could actually help "attack" climate change by selling its natural gas.

"If we can develop our offshore natural gas reserves, which are enormous, and we can market them to countries like China, and elsewhere in the world, we're thereby reducing the climate change carbon footprint of those countries enormously when they convert from coal-fired [electricity] to natural gas," he said.

For what it's worth, Crosbie's comments stand in pretty stark contrast to what University of Waterloo professor and researcher Angela Carter told CBC News in an interview broadcast this week. 

"It used to be that we would talk about the need for oil wind down on climate grounds alone, the imperative given the climate crisis. What we are seeing now, though, is markets are turning away from oil," Carter said.

Heating homes with 'better choices'

During a campaign stop in St. John's Centre, NDP Leader Alison Coffin announced a program to help people who are struggling to pay home-heating costs.

Coffin said more than 70,000 people would be in line to get the rebate, which would cover up to $250 toward the costs of heating their homes for anyone who makes less than $40,000 a year. 

That rebate would climb to $500 for people in coastal Labrador.

"Heating your home in Newfoundland and Labrador in the winter is a necessary expense. This is an absolutely essential cost that people simply cannot choose to go without," she said.

"We can choose to make life a little more comfortable for seniors, single parents, students and others living in our communities who are making less than $40,000 a year."

NDP Leader Alison Coffin says her party's proposed home heating rebate would 'make life more comfortable for seniors, single parents and students.' (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Coffin said the program is needed to replace a similar plan scrapped by the Liberal government in 2016, as electricity rates are rising and people are spending more time at home during the pandemic.

The rebate would cost about $15 million a year, Coffin said, but it'd be possible to "make better choices" when spending government money to cover the cost. 

"Instead of, say, putting $40 million into the West White Rose project, with no guarantee those jobs are going to be there, let's put that money into the hands of the people who need it right now," she said.

"Then, maybe they'll be in a better place to engage in new types of jobs and other activities and will be able to use the savings to contribute back to our local economy."

Funding for fertility from Furey

Meanwhile, the Liberals pledged to increase access to fertility treatments while campaigning on Thursday, eventually allowing for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Right now, the province is one of only two provinces that doesn't have the service.

"We have some of the lowest fertility rates in the entire country and this is one tool that we can use to help combat that," Furey said.

"We want to make Newfoundland and Labrador a place where we can grow families and this is one way that we can do that."

The Liberal leader said his party is now figuring out the costs of implementing IVF treatments, based on other provinces. In the meantime, Furey said his party would provide support for families that would have to travel to get the treatments.

Both the NDP and PCs also expressed their support for improving access to IVF treatments in Newfoundland and Labrador.

And with four new cases of COVID-19 announced Thursday, Furey said he'll be watching the number of cases closely before making any changes to his campaign.

"This is great evidence of how we're engaging people virtually just by the nature of this interview," Furey said over Zoom from the Liberal bus Thursday afternoon.

"We've been encouraging candidates from Day 1, as we did in the leadership campaign, as we did in the byelection, to have more of a virtual presence." 

(Despite repeated requests from CBC News, the Liberals would not grant virtual interviews with Furey on Friday or Saturday last week.)

Trending with mental health

As #BellLetsTalk trended on Twitter Thursday, both the PCs and NL Alliance made commitments to support mental health.

In a news release, PC candidates David Brazil and Kristina Ennis announced that if their party gets elected, they'll make it easier for young people to get help for mental health and addictions, beginning as soon as the party takes office.

Brazil said "the system has been failing" young people and that the PCs would implement the recommendations of a report released in October by the province's Child and Youth Advocate. 

The recommendations in that report include making supportive housing options more accessible to young people, providing additional training for those working with children requiring mental health care and implementing a provincial plan for suicide prevention.

"It's not good enough that people are dying because the system is failing to meet their mental health care needs," Brazil said in the release. 

"On Bell Let's Talk Day, we need to do much better to ensure the talk leads to action, before more lives are needlessly lost."

The NL Alliance supported calls to make the province's Bridge the Gapp site easier to navigate, broadening the kinds of medical professionals considered mental health care providers, and adding extra support to help people as they're discharged from the Waterford psychiatric hospital.

Signs defaced

Just two days after a man was arrested near a PC candidate's office in Deer Lake after allegedly uttering threats toward candidates in the election, photos of defaced PC campaign signs appeared on social media.

Photos showing defaced signs for PC candidate Jim Goudie in Deer Lake were posted on social media Thursday. (Richard Dewey/Facebook)

Photos of candidate Jim Goudie's signs were posted on Facebook Thursday morning with black spray paint covering the U in Goudie's name, leaving the message "go die."

It's not clear if the painted signs have any connection to George Brake, 66, the man arrested on Tuesday with three dozen knives who reportedly said he was on his way to "stop the election," according to police.

Vote Compass is here

You may know Vote Compass from previous federal elections in Canada. CBC teams up with Vox Pop Labs, and its team of political scientists, to put together a questionnaire of major issues in a given campaign.

We've never had one in a Newfoundland and Labrador election before … until now. 

Vote Compass just launched Thursday morning, and has already had hundreds of people take part. You can, too: click here to get started. In addition to 30 different questions, you will be asked  

How does Vote Compass work, exactly? Please see this feature, which explains it fairly well.

In the days to come, we'll know a fair bit about what voters in the province think about specific issues, and we'll come back to you with what Vote Compass finds. 

Cartooning the election

You may remember Liberal Leader Andrew Furey reacting strongly to criticism that the party's candidate in Torngat Mountains has been facing. Devon Ryan had yet to visit Labrador's north coast, which is largely Inuit, when he declared. 

Furey was not impressed with the criticism. Here's what he said earlier this week: "This is the democratic process, and you know, we want to give the people a chance to vote for a Liberal majority government and Mr. Ryan has stepped up, and that's part of the democratic process. Anyone who says otherwise is frankly not defending democracy and that's not something that I'm willing to tolerate."

Well, Kevin Tobin — whose cartoons have been a presence on the Telegram's editorial page for decades — posted his reaction to those words: 

What's coming up

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey will speak in Clarenville Thursday morning before heading to Bonavista.

PC Leader Ches Crosbie will be in Twilingate for a policy announcement in the morning, followed by stops at Robin's Donuts, Cottles Island Lumber Company and Tim Hortons.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lukas Wall

CBC News

Lukas Wall is a journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's.

With files from Garrett Barry

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