Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. provincial election campaign kicks off with parties promising growth

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey and NDP Leader Alison Coffin visited the St. John’s Farmers’ Market, while Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie knocked on doors — and stood two metres back.

Liberals make campaign announcement, first PC and NDP announcements Monday

Liberal Leader Andrew Furey began his campaign at the St. John's Farmers' Market on Saturday. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador provincial election campaign got off to a slow start Saturday, as three party leaders began with promises for growth instead of cuts.

The leaders began meeting with voters, despite the cold winter weather and the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Liberal Leader Andrew Furey and NDP Leader Alison Coffin visited the St. John's Farmers' Market, while Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie knocked on doors — and stood two metres back — in the district of St. John's West.

Furey was joined by about half a dozen other Liberal candidates at the farmers' market Saturday as he discussed plans to transform the province's economy. That transformation will likely be driven by Moya Greene's report from the premier's economic recovery team, which won't be complete until after election day.

But the Liberal leader said he won't be tied to the report's recommendations if he's elected.

"The report is just a report. They're going to make recommendations and then there's gonna be broad consultation with the general public," he said.

Furey said the report is being made out to be "a boogeyman."

"It's not.… This report will come with recommendations, and they are just recommendations. Dame Greene is not the premier. The task force is not the cabinet."

NDP Leader Alison Coffin says her party will be campaigning safely and from a distance in this election. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Coffin said it's not fair to voters to hold the election before the findings of the report are made public. 

"The people who are going to elect the next premier deserve to know what the next premier is going to do and he only needs to wait another two weeks and the preliminary report will be out, so why the urgency?" she said.

"I think the voters do deserve to know what is coming next and be able to make an informed decision."

But the Liberal and NDP campaign stops were unbeknownst to the market's executive director, Pam Anstey, who wanted to remind politicians that the market is neutral territory.

"One of the pieces of our policy is that we've always been non-partisan, no politicking, no campaigning, no nothing of that nature," she said.

"We want to make sure that the folks that come here have a really comfortable relaxing environment and aren't being approached or solicited."

PC Leader Ches Crosbie was out knocking on doors in St. John's on Saturday. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

PC Leader Ches Crosbie, meanwhile, began his campaign making physically distanced visits to homes in Cowan Heights in St. John's to share his party's plan to increase employment in the province.

"There's a level of interest, for sure, in our program, which is all about jobs and growth, and people are interested as well about the approach to cuts that Mr. Furey has taken," he said.

3 plans, no cuts

All three leaders discussed their ideas to tackle the province's economic challenges, but don't plan to make cuts to improve the province's finances.

"Now is not the time for cuts. We're seeing governments, federal governments, borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars, the U.S. borrowing trillions of dollars to stimulate the economy," Furey said.

"We need to grow the economy and the cuts are not going to come on the backs of hard working men and women across the province.… They never created this problem and they're not going to bear the full responsibility."   

Coffin said the NDP are focusing on affordable living and strong public services, and also has no plans to make cuts.

"That means we need a sound public service, we need to make sure that we build a good strong foundation where people do want to come, where businesses can develop, and that does not mean cutting the public service," she said.

"That does not mean making cuts. You can't cut your way to a solid foundation."

Likewise, Crosbie said cuts are not what the province needs, instead promising more jobs and economic growth.

"You don't cut your way out of a financial mess, you've gotta grow your way out and so that's the tactic and strategy we're going to take," he said.

"We have the resources, we have the natural resources, we have the people; all we have to do is get government out of the way to facilitate jobs and growth, and we have the plan to do it." 

Crosbie and Coffin said their parties will make their first policy announcements on Monday, while Furey announced a policy promoting healthy living Saturday.

The election will be held on Feb. 13.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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