Crosbie accuses Furey of flip-flopping after tweet claiming 'misinformation' on economic report
'Moya Greene is not the premier,' tweets Liberal leader about head of economic recovery team
Liberal Leader Andrew Furey is alleging "misinformation" about an impending report from his economic recovery team report, and his political opponents are accusing him of flip-flopping on his intentions to consult the public on its recommendations.
On Twitter on Saturday afternoon, Furey said he "wanted to address the misinformation out there" about the report from the team, led by Moya Greene.
"Dame Moya Greene is not the premier…. The recommendations that Dame Moya Greene and her task force will put forward are just those — recommendations," Furey said in the tweet.
"Everyone will have the chance to have a say and we will table that final report in the House of Assembly."
His tweet followed criticism from the PC Party and NDP, which are calling for the report's release before the Feb. 13 election. Greene has publicly discussed the need to look at public spending, particularly in the areas of rural health care and transportation.
I want to address the misinformation out there about the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team’s report. Dame Moya Greene is not the Premier.<br><br>They are tasked with generating big ideas to reimagine government — with government making decisions. <a href="https://t.co/OrLKwTrrRI">pic.twitter.com/OrLKwTrrRI</a>—@FureyAndrew
A progress report from the recovery team, outlining recommendations for dealing with escalating debt, is not expected until the end of February. Its final report is due April 30.
But Greene's report — and the decision to hold an election before its release — has been a lightning rod for criticism of Furey and the Liberals.
Furey told reporters Saturday the report was being made out as "a boogeyman," but was not clear about exactly what he was labelling "misinformation."
On Monday, Furey again did not point to any specific criticism, but instead said his statement was meant to broadly prevent incorrect assumptions about his plan.
"We've seen political campaigns and how some less-than-truthful tweets in particular, and Facebook posts, have been [put] out and how that can unduly influence campaigns," he said.
"As social media has evolved, it's changed how campaigns are run, and [we] just have to look to our neighbours to the south to see some of that. We just want to make sure that this is a campaign on ideas, and about growing the future of the province, and not one that's based on mistruths."
Furey flip-flopping: Crosbie
PC Leader Ches Crosbie, at a press conference Monday, framed Furey's tweet as "backpedaling."
"This report from Dame Moya Greene has gone from being the saviour of us all, with instructions given to cabinet ministers — 'Your job is to implement the Greene report' — and that was how the campaign started on Friday," Crosbie said.
"Now the premier is backpedaling and it's only … recommendations that he's going to debate with the public. Well, if that's the case, he should bring it out now, before the votes are cast."
The PCs cited a letter to Siobhan Coady, Furey's deputy premier, on Sept. 15, in which he asked her to implement the report's suggestions.
"I ask you to work with me to oversee and implement recommendations of the premier's economic recovery team," the letter said.
"We will bring together expertise from a variety of sectors and sources to identify opportunities to advance the development and diversification of the provincial economy."
Furey on Monday defended the language in that letter, saying his position on the report since accepting the premiership has "not at all" been contradictory.
"The recommendations are just those — recommendations," he said.
"What we will do, and we're committed to [doing], and was always the intent, was to take those recommendations … and we're going to do broad consultations with the public. Everyone will have a chance to have a say, and then we'll table that report to the House of Assembly and make the decisions then."
Only then, he said, would his party apply those recommendations.
"It's very straightforward: gather the evidence, do public consultation and then act," Furey said.
Recovery team facing ongoing scrutiny
In recent weeks, the recovery team has faced criticism from both without and within, as one member dropped out and critics decried what they say is a lack of transparency. Russell Williams, a professor in Memorial University's political science department, also said the team's process is flawed and secretive.
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president Mary Shortall abruptly resigned from the team earlier this month.
Shortall said Monday she took issue with the consultation process. Unlike a recent economic task force appointed in British Columbia, which Shortall says held consultations prior to forming recommendations, she pointed out that Furey's team is bound by non-disclosure agreements and has not made any of its research or discussions public.
Shortall said the team was operating under the impression their report would be taken seriously by the provincial government and tabled in the House of Assembly — but if that report is tabled by a majority government, instead of the minority Liberal government, its debate loses a sense of significance.
"It's a little bit like adding an ingredient after the cake is made," she said.
"Once government is in a position to pass recommendations either way, the consultation process may not be as effective."
Both Crosbie and NDP Leader Alison Coffin have called on the Liberals to delay an election until after the report is released publicly. Crosbie has referred to a Liberal "secret plan" filled with cuts, while Coffin said it's not fair to voters to withhold the report's findings.