Nfld. & Labrador

NDP takes campaign to Burin Peninsula

Lorraine Michael took her campaign out of St. John's for the first time, increasing speculation that a Tory minister's Burin Peninsula seat is in play.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael and candidate Julie Mitchell in Marystown on Friday. (CBC)

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael took her campaign out of  St. John's for the first time Friday, and increased speculation that a Tory cabinet minister's Burin Peninsula seat is in play.

Michael campaigned with Burin-Placentia West candidate Julie Mitchell, who is in a rematch with Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman.

The Tory incumbent defeated Mitchell by 1,439 votes in 2007, but the local economy is in different shape. The Ocean Choice International plant in Marystown is idled amid a dispute about raw exports, and the Kiewit-owned shipyard in the town is also inactive.

Michael, who has campaigned until now in St. John's-area districts where the party is hoping for a breakthrough, said Friday that Mitchell, the deputy mayor of Marystown, could be joining her in caucus.

"Here in Burin-Placentia West, we have one of the best candidates in Newfoundland and Labrador," Michael told supporters.

Jackman, however, says some of the economic malaise in Marystown could be resolved, particularly at the OCI plant.

"This is frustration. They are not certain if this plant is going to open," Jackman said Friday.

"The union, I truly do believe, needs to contact the company and say, company can we please get back to the table? People's lives are affected here."

Dispute over government's role

Mitchell said government could do much more to help Marystown, a town that relies on heavy industry.

"The government does have a role to play in both of those industries. They are traditional industries in this area and that the government should look at investing to keep those industries here," said Mitchell.

Jackman does not see things the same way.

"I cannot force harvesters to harvest and plant owners to open plants, I simply can't force that, but if there's a solution to be found here it's got to be found sitting at a table and discussing it," said Jackman.

Mitchell said Jackman, as provincial fisheries minister, could prevent OCI from exporting undersized raw product for cheaper processing overseas.

"He certainly could look at stopping the shipment of fish to Asia, to China and Japan," she said. "The workers have been telling me that if 18 weeks is all they can get, they'll be satisfied with that, if that's all there is, as long as the rest of the fish stays in the water," said Mitchell.

Jackie Mullett, who is running for the Liberals, finished a distant third in the last campaign.