Nfld. & Labrador

Furey endorses Trudeau in upcoming election, but what could that mean for N.L.?

In brief comments to CBC News on Wednesday, Furey said Trudeau has been an "immense friend" to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that he stands by the Liberal leader in the upcoming election.

Trudeau 'an immense friend' to N.L., says premier

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey are greeted as they walk from the Confederation Building in St. John's last month. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says he is standing by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the upcoming federal election, leaving his opposition to question how his endorsement could affect relationships with other candidates.

Furey has taken part in Trudeau's two stops in Newfoundland during the federal campaign, making announcements on child care and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

In brief comments to CBC News on Wednesday, Furey said Trudeau has been "an immense friend to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador," and that he stands by the party leader heading into the Sept. 20 election.

Asked how he thought endorsing Trudeau would affect relationships with other candidates, like poll-leading Conserative Leader Erin O'Toole, Furey said he doesn't think it will.

"We've written Mr. O'Toole, we've written all the federal leaders as we said we would for their opinions on the agreement in principle, in particular with respect to Muskrat Falls," he said. "But I think you've seen me show a willingness with multiple parties at multiple different times, and that's how you get things done."

Furey also offered a short response when it was noted that Canadian premiers largely opt out of endorsing leaders.

"I make my own decisions. You'll have to ask them about theirs," he said.

Furey was unavailable for a full interview, and spoke to CBC News outside Government House while attending the most recent Order of Newfoundland investiture.

Taking sides brings risk, says Opposition

In response to Furey's endorsement, Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative Leader David Brazil said he would have preferred to see the premier stay neutral in the election.

"I get why he wants to campaign with his Liberal cousins out of Ottawa, but the reality is he's the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. He represents all the residents of the province, regardless of how they voted," he said.

"Taking a side publicly with one particular party puts at risk the working relationship and the hopes to be able to negotiate what's in the best interest to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

PC Leader David Brazil says Furey should be neutral during the federal election campaign. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

While Brazil said he has attended a rally for and spoken with O'Toole over the course of his campaign, the difference is Furey holds the title of premier.

"He has to speak for all the residents and citizens of this province, and he gets to negotiate with the individual who's going to be prime minister. I don't have that opportunity," Brazil said.

"I would hope the prime minister, whichever party that person is with, is going to be open-minded and obviously very flexible … but you don't want to put anything at risk."

Context is key, say political scientists

Amanda Bittner, a political science professor at Memorial University, said that while a provincial leader endorsing a federal candidate is not unprecedented, the context of the situations where it is done is important.

"Newfoundland and Labrador has a lot of needs. A lot of them are economic, and a lot of them depend on the good will and preferences of the federal government," Bittner said. 

"There's a lot of reasons right now why leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador, and other places across Canada too, would come out clearly in support of particular parties … because they want certain things.

"I think there's always a risk in making political choices no matter what. I think the risk would be greater if the parties weren't the same, so if ... Furey was clearly campaigning for Erin O'Toole [for instance] the consequences of that decision would be quite substantial, I think."

While leaders like Brazil question the impact on future relationships, political scientist Alex Marland said the endorsement could also benefit the province in the event of a second Liberal minority government.

"There's a big difference between showing up at a rally and showing some support ... and actively campaigning," Marland said.

"If Erin O'Toole becomes prime minister, he's not going to think about that. It would be nice if we lived in a world where [endorsing] didn't happen, but the reality is that politicians understand that you support those in your own party."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Patrick Butler and Radio-Canada

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