Liberal Leader Andrew Furey has been spotted visiting Government House — the residence of Newfoundland and Labrador’s lieutenant-governor — stoking expectations that a general election call is imminent.
The visit to Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote — almost certainly to request that she dissolve the House of Assembly, paving the way for an election — follows days of increased announcements by the provincial government, including new funding and programs, as well as agreements reached with various unions.
CBC reporter Terry Roberts had a brief exchange with the Liberal leader as he left Government House
“Lovely day isn’t it? We’ll talk to you later,” Furey said.
“What’s the plan for this evening?” Roberts asked.
“6 p.m.,” Furey replied, tacitly confirming an election has been called. Furey was referring to a Liberal Party campaign kickoff event Friday evening at Confederation Building.
Furey was required by provincial law to call an election within 12 months of being sworn in as premier.
However, the likelihood of Furey’s decision to call an election now — in the middle of both an unpredictable North Atlantic winter and a pandemic — has already come under fire from both the Opposition Tories and the NDP, who have both said the governing Liberals should wait for the premier’s economic recovery team, chaired by Moya Greene, to report first.
A progress report from the recovery team, outlining recommendations for dealing with public services and an escalating debt, is not expected until the end of February. Its final report is due April 30.
The template for campaigning during COVID-19 has already been established, however, with Furey winning both the Liberal party leadership last summer and a byelection in Humber-Gros Morne in October.
Three provinces — Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and British Columbia — have already gone to the polls during the pandemic.
Like N.L., there had been minority governments in New Brunswick and B.C.
The last general election took place on May 16, 2019, when the Liberal Party won 20 of 40 seats. The PCs nabbed 15 seats and the NDP held three, with Independents making up the remaining two.
Flood of promises from Liberals
As of 4 p.m. Friday, the Liberals have issued 33 news releases in 36 hours.
On Friday alone, various departments made cash commitments to the tune of at least $31,182,500.
Liberal politicians have promised that money to technology start-ups, municipalities and tourism operators, among other interested parties.
The costs related to medical program expansions also announced Friday, including an insulin pump subsidy for low-income adults, are not included in that figure.
The amount also doesn’t include any costs associated with wage and salary increases in four collective bargaining agreements struck this week, on the brink of an expected election…