Nfld. & Labrador

Highlights of the Liberal Party platform include health care, economic growth

The Liberal Party released its long-awaited platform Thursday afternoon, a day after the election's only televised leaders' debate and nine days ahead of voting day.

But platform has no mention of health-care cuts, pledges $55M in expenses

The Liberal Party released its costed platform Thursday, nine days before voting day. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The Liberal Party released its long-awaited platform Thursday afternoon, a day after the election's only televised leaders' debate and nine days ahead of voting day.

The release makes them the second party to offer a compilation of campaign pledges, after the New Democrats unveiled their uncosted platform Wednesday.

The document emphasizes health care, economic growth and inclusion, but contains few surprises, as the party had provided many of its policies in daily breadcrumbs spread throughout the campaign thus far.

The Liberal promises would add an additional $55.6 million to the province's expenditures next year, according to an appendice in the platform, but the party says it would pay for the majority of those policies by rearranging savings or using existing budgets.

Expanding health care

The party leads its pitch with an array of ideas for improving the medical system.

By 2031, the Liberals want to elevate Newfoundland and Labrador from a province plagued by heart disease and diabetes to the "healthiest province in Canada." It stopped short, however, of laying out any metrics for that goal.

The party also insisted it would not cut health-care costs, but would instead rearrange money in accordance with a principle it calls "value-based health care."

Leader Andrew Furey scrums with reporters after releasing his party's budget Thursday afternoon. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Cuts to the medical system arose in Wednesday's debate, with PC Leader Ches Crosbie alluding to Liberal Leader Andrew Furey's prior statement that all opportunities to climb out of debt, including making cuts, were on the table.

The party also devoted a section of its platform to virtual medicine, claiming the move would reduce doctors' workloads and patient travel costs.

It did not introduce any new promises to improve mental health care — a key component of the NDP platform.

Food security noted, but only slightly enhanced

The platform makes note that Newfoundland and Labrador relies heavily on imported food, and reiterated the Dwight Ball government's promise to increase the province's food self-sufficiency to at least 20 per cent by 2022. 

At the time the former premier made that promise, Newfoundland and Labrador produced only 10 per cent of the food it consumed. While the platform doesn't augment that goal, it does pledge $100,000 toward community gardens.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with nearly one in six people not getting enough to eat at all times.

The platform touches on food security, but the party hasn't said it will introduce aggressive measures to address it, besides a $100K contribution to a community garden fund.

The party only briefly touched on the issue of minimum wage, committing to tying future raises to inflation. Furey said in Wednesday night's debate that wage increases were just one "tool" the province can use to reduce poverty, in addition to educational opportunities and child-care support, and emphasized the perceived need to remain competitive with its minimum wage.

The NDP, in contrast, have promised to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Back to black — but without a timeline

The Liberals would introduce a new senior advisory position in government — a chief economic recovery officer, a "non-partisan civil servant" responsible for overseeing recovery projects. Applications for that position are already open, and close Friday.

The job is an analog of the chief medical officer of health, the party said, and would support Furey's appointed recovery team.

The platform provided no timeline or suggested date for when Newfoundland and Labrador will repay the $16 billion it owes and balance its books.

The party also leveraged Furey's self-proclaimed close relationship with the federal Liberal Party, one that came under fire in Wednesday's debate as Crosbie dryly mocked Furey's mention of weekly calls with Ottawa.

The Liberals outline their deals with the federal government to date, including $840 million in debt repayment deferral and lump support sums for oil and gas companies.

The platform document also includes a public relations photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Furey smiling in a teleconference.

Tourism in a pandemic?

The Liberals, in a "stay home year" twist, say they'd support a "come home year" in 2022, encouraging expats, their families and "anyone seeking to explore" the province to vacation here.

The campaign promise, presumably relying heavily on vaccine efficacy and availability, doesn't detail how such a scheme would differ from tourism marketing materials already in use.

2020 was the Liberals' 'stay home year,' encouraging domestic tourism. The party is hoping 2022 will encourage expats and long-term travellers to visit for lengthier periods. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Like the PCs, a Furey government would test a program to encourage remote workers to take up temporary residency in Newfoundland and Labrador. The pilot would launch advertisements geared toward long-term stays and promote career opportunities in the province to entice these remote workers to move here permanently.

The party is also pledging $50 million for a COVID-19 stimulus fund for affected jobs and industries. That promise was contained in a section earmarked for oil and gas sector support, and the fund announcement didn't detail which industries it would support or how, or how it would differ from the safe restart and stimulus programs already offered.

Cultural sensitivity training

After a controversy involving former Liberal MHA Perry Trimper last year, the Liberals are aiming to prevent discriminatory incidents, vowing to work with the province's Indigenous leaders to train all politicians and staff in cultural sensitivity practices.

The party would also redesign the province's coat of arms, citing its current colonial symbolism, and commission Indigenous statues. 

It also vowed to undertake an inquiry into Innu children in care, which Furey called a "priority" late last year.

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