Paul Davis tells NAPE delegates 'axe will fall' if Liberals form government
Defends plan for public-private partnership, encourages union to 'get in there and organize'
Premier Paul Davis pledged Friday that he will protect public sector workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, and described the Opposition Liberals as the "real threat" as an election nears.
Davis warned that the "axe will fall" if the Liberals are elected on Nov. 30.
His comments were part of a sharp attack against the party favoured to win next month's election during an address to delegates at the biennial convention of the Newfoundland and and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).
"I am your ally in this fight," Davis said in reference to efforts to cope with a sharp decline in government revenues because of a prolonged slump in oil prices.
Liberals 'sharpening the axe'
In an unusual twist, Davis called upon NAPE members to "vote strategically" and "I will reward you fairly and quickly when we regain fiscal capacity."
He noted "that's not the future behind the red door. Back in that room they're sharpening the axe."
Davis said many of the backroom advisors with the Liberals are the same people who "used the iron fist of government to shred collective agreements" back in the 1990s, and "now they're back."
"You can trust me to have your back," he added.
Speaking about privatization in union hall
Davis also defended his government's proposal to consider public-private partnerships for the provision of long-term care, and he did so before an audience that is vehemently opposed to such a plan.
The PCs want to work with the public and not-for-profit sector build facilities to accommodate 360 new beds, which will be constructed, owned and operated privately.
NAPE has been highly critical of the proposal, describing it as an attack on public health care and public servants.
But Davis said there is an urgent need for long-term care beds, and the province is not in a fiscal position to build such facilities.
He issued a challenge to NAPE and other unions to "get in there and organize the workers. I welcome that."
Ball says he will not strip public sector
Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball addressed NAPE delegates earlier on Friday, and pledged to do things "differently and better" than the PCs.
He blasted the government for its management of the province's finances over the past decade, and promised to form a government that listens, shares information and can be trusted.
"These are things we can do differently. And these are things with your support that we can do better," he said.
As for Davis's assertion that the Liberals are planning to slash jobs, Ball said "that is not my idea of doing things differently."
Speaking later with reporters, Ball said he will be "very fair" to public sector workers and "we have no intentions of going in and striping the public service."
"In this economy now we need people working," he added.
On the question of public-private partnerships, Ball is open to the idea of partnerships when it comes to the construction of buildings such as a new hospital to replace the Waterford, but emphasized that health care will be delivered by public sector workers.
He also cautioned the premier against signing any agreements related to public-private partnerships with just over a month left in the current government's mandate.