“A bright spot for me has been how Newfoundlanders have responded to public health guidelines,” said Crocker. “And, it’s been challenging. I have many good friends who are rotational workers, for example, and they have sacrificed a lot. Our essential workers have sacrificed a lot, from the grocery store employee to the doctor, and our police officers and volunteer firefighters and paramedics.”
Not surprisingly, Crocker said COVID-19 was a challenge unlike any other faced during his six-year tenure as MHA.
“This was a disease that we knew very little about… there was no institutional memory of this,” said Crocker. “No one could remember the last time we were through something like this. So, it was new for absolutely everybody on earth, I would say. People were genuinely concerned, not only for their physical health, but then you had the economic challenges, because this created such a level of uncertainty for people. So, that became a major challenge as well.”
Crocker said that in the thick of the pandemic, the call volume to government went into the hundreds, and that staying in touch and getting information out to people was key.
“This was very challenging on people, but we spent a lot of long hours from home, working from our kitchen tables, to reach as many people as we could and got as much reassurance to the people in our constituency as fast as we could,” said Crocker. “And even today, we’re still busier than we would be in a normal year. We’re still in a pandemic, and we’re still learning of and suffering from some of the financial consequences of that.”
Amongst concerns about CERB benefits and COIVID testing, Crocker said another big concern in the district was the execution of the fishery.
“The fishery is vitally, vitally important to the district that I represent. There are literally thousands of people, through harvesting to processing, working in the fishery in the district,” said Crocker. “So, going into a fishery which is executed in April, May and June primarily, there was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of apprehension. But our harvesters and our plant workers found ways to get through that.”
Crocker is optimistic about a bright 2021, he warns constituents to stay vigilant.
“I think when we get back to normal, it will be a ‘new normal.’ I see a very bright 2021, we’re going to see vaccines delivered to this province before we have turkey on Christmas, and that’s extremely promising,” said Crocker, who added the vaccination process will be a long one. “We’re still going to exercise caution going into 2021. By the end of the first half of 2021, hopefully we’ll be in a situation where we start seeing a move back to the new normal. I think some of the changes we have seen from COVID, in the way we interact, personally and professionally, will be changed forever.”
Crocker acknowledged the economic hardship that government will face in the fall out from COVID-19.
“I can draw all kinds of parallels between COVID and financial COVID,” said Crocker. “We will leave a health crisis and enter into a time fo fiscal uncertainty. But, with that being said, reflect on that health crisis and how successful we have been getting through that.
Crocker said the province, already facing economic hardship before the pandemic, will not get by without help from Ottawa.
“We will, make no doubt about it, need help from the federal government, make no doubt about it; there’s no skirting that. And, we will have to accept new economic realities,” said Crocker.
And though 2021 will likely be another year of uncertainty, as was 2020, one thing, as per provincial law, is certain: Premier Andrew Furey will call a provincial election. According to legislation, Furey, who was elected on August 19, 2020, has to call a provincial election within a year of taking office.
Crocker said despite concerns about COVID-19, the province can hold an election safely.
“I think we’ve seen that, absolutely, we can have safe elections during COVID,” said the Liberal member. “Dr. (Janice) Fitzgerald has said that very early on, and you have to look no further than other jurisdictions. During COVID, we had a provincial election in New Brunswick, we had a provincial election in Saskatchewan, and we had a provincial election in British Columbia. So, it is absolutely something that is achievable. And the law of the province says that Premier Furey has to call an election by August of next year. That’s a call that he has to make, and I look forward to going into that election and offering myself again, for what will be my fourth time.”
Crocker said he looks forward to working more with Furey, who he counts a friend.
Crocker is set to face off against Carbonear Mayor Frank Butt, who was acclaimed as the PC candidate this fall.
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News