Nfld. & Labrador·Election Notebook

Most people want action taken on cutting spending and curbing debt, new poll suggests

The political parties may not be talking much about spending cuts, but most participants in a new poll say they agree government should "make changes to program and service delivery to reduce spending."

Employers' Council poll arrives same day as 3 major party leaders face off in televised debate

Latest

  • New poll suggests appetite for spending cuts
  • NAPE sees sharks in the water
  • PCs talk COVID-19 testing
  • Where the leaders are Thursday
  • An auditory trip to Virginia Waters

A majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians support a reduction in provincial government spending and a plan to tackle provincial debt, according to a poll conducted by Narrative Research for a local business group. 

About 77 per cent of respondents — after hearing a question about the province's dire financial straits, including the net debt — said the government should "make changes to program and service delivery to reduce spending." 

Eleven per cent said it should increase taxes, and eight per cent said it should continue borrowing.

The poll was sponsored by the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, a group that has been calling for spending cuts at the provincial government level for years.

The poll arrived the same day that leaders of the three biggest political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador take the stage in the only televised debate of the election campaign.

Welcome to the Election Notebook, your regular home for campaign news in the lead up to Newfoundland and Labrador's mid-February election.

Survey says…

Participants in the Narrative poll were asked to rate on a scale from one to 10 how much they agreed with certain positions. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents gave an answer of seven or higher when they were asked to rate how much they supported "reorganizing the public sector to match current needs and population distribution, which may involve layoffs or relocation of staff."

Twenty per cent of participants opposed that position by rating it a four or lower.

A question about "restructuring delivery of government services so there is no duplication of services within a one-hour drive" polled better, at 68 per cent approval, but when the questions got somewhat more specific — about amalgamating schools in neighbouring communities — support fell to 56 per cent.

The poll sampled 400 adults in Newfoundland and Labrador through telephone calls between Jan. 6 and Jan. 19. (The election was called on Jan. 15.)

The margin of error is 4.9 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.

Richard Alexander, who heads the Employers' Council, told CBC reporter Terry Roberts that the results of the poll show that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are for tough conversations on provincial finances.

Richard Alexander is the executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council, which commissioned the Narrative Research poll. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"I think this should be a wakeup call for all politicians that this is the will of the people and they want politicians to get on with the job of leading this province," he said. 

"This is not left versus right. This is not a business versus labour issue. This is a math issue that we have to solve as a province."

Like a shark, says NAPE

On the other side of the argument is the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, the province's largest public sector union. President Jerry Earle said the poll lacked specifics in its proposals — and presented simple solutions.

"Is this poll suggesting that if 10 highway equipment operators retire next month, that we won't replace any of them? You've seen the conditions of our roads," he said.

"Social workers, we have 47 vacant positions as we speak today. So are they suggesting if another social worker, or 10 social workers in rural Newfoundland leave tomorrow, that we won't replace those?

"It's not as simple as that."

He compared the Employers' Council to a shark in bloody water, and called the provincial government the "injured person in the water."

Jerry Earle is the president of the Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"When there's difficulties, they look to benefit themselves," he said. "I see nothing there that they are suggesting that will benefit the average Newfoundlander and Labradorian."

He said specific cuts in communities across the province have been poorly received, like the closure of a 24-hour emergency service in Botwood.

A trip to Virginia Waters

CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show took listeners on an auditory trip Wednesday to Virginia Waters-Pleasantville, an electoral district in the east end of St. John's.

Since the district was created in redistribution before the 2015 election, it's only had one MHA — Liberal Bernard Davis. 

The show checked in with each candidate in the district, and then reporter Adam Walsh hit the road to hear from the voters themselves.

You can hear it all in the player below.

COVID-19 positions

PC Leader Ches Crosbie held a news conference in St. John's on Wednesday afternoon to highlight his party's positions on various COVID-19 issues.

He restated his party's position to institute point-of-entry testing — something the PCs have been calling for since last year.

Crosbie said Wednesday that testing would catch cases earlier, and called it even more urgent now that new variants of the COVID-19 virus have been circulating in other provinces.

Last November, Liberal Leader Andrew Furey said point of entry tests have a false negative rate of about 30 per cent, and said that could lead to a false sense of security.

An NDP blast from the past

The New Democratic Party released their platform on Wednesday. As usual, it was a sleek, nicely produced book containing a litany of promises that the NDP have made to voters.

In a nod to These Uncertain Times, the book also contains a few photos of NDP Leader Alison Coffin wearing a mask, and practising physical distancing.

Kudos to the New Democrats for being first to the mark. But we couldn't help but notice that for at least half an hour on Wednesday morning, the NDP's website accidentally pointed readers to its 2015 platform — one that showed a crowded arena and packed group photos. And, oh yes, former leader Earle McCurdy. 

The NDP platform from 2015, right, shows a tightly packed political rally that is inconceivable during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Newfoundland and Labrador NDP)

A good old-fashioned political rally. Remember that?

The NDP weren't the only party to release a platform today: The NL Alliance also shared a one-sheet explainer of their positions.

What's coming up

While Wednesday night's action is focused on a leaders' debate that will be broadcast on CBC at 7 p.m. NT, the leaders of the three major political parties are also making plans for tomorrow.

  • NDP Leader Alison Coffin will speak with reporters in St. John's at 11 a.m.
  • Liberal Leader Andrew Furey will visit five districts in the St. John's-area throughout the day.
  • PC Leader Ches Crosbie will also stick around St. John's Thursday. He will participate in an Employers' Council event in the morning and knock on doors in his district in the evening.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

with files from Terry Roberts

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