The steady rollout of policy announcements from party leaders hoping to win over Newfoundland and Labrador voters slowed slightly this weekend, as candidates headed into a week of debates.
Though the campaign for the Feb. 13 election is half over, the leaders of the three major parties have yet to release platforms or square off against one another to debate the issues.
The province’s teachers’ association and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, among others, have leaders debates scheduled in the upcoming week. The labour federation has confirmed participation from Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and NDP Leader Alison Coffin, but Liberal deputy premier Siobhan Coady will be stepping in for Premier Andrew Furey.
A spokeswoman for Furey’s campaign says his travel schedule conflicted with the timing of the debate.
“While he was grateful for the invitation, he and the Liberal Party of N.L. are confident in deputy premier and Finance Minister Siobhan Coady’s leadership and ability to speak to the issues raised,” Meghan McCabe said in a statement Sunday.
Mary Shortall, the head of the labour federation, set off a series of political fireworks when she resigned from the premier’s economic recovery team earlier this month. Furey assembled the team to review the province’s expenses and operations, with an eye to restructuring. To lead the team, Furey tapped Moya Greene, a St. John’s businesswoman who led the privatization of Britain’s postal service.
Shortall has said she resigned because she felt the team lacked transparency and that it was ruled with a top-down approach. She said she was asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement about its deliberations.
Both the Tories and the NDP have since been calling on Furey to release the team’s draft report before voters head to the polls. Though Furey has promised to make the draft public when it’s submitted, the team’s deadline to submit the draft is Feb. 28, two weeks after the vote.
The province is facing staggering financial challenges, with a $1.84-billion deficit and a $16.4-billion net debt – the highest per capita debt in the country. With no platforms released yet, the parties’ plans to correct course are sure to come up in the upcoming debates.
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