In another bid to separate his team from the governing Liberals, PC Party Leader Ches Crosbie promised Thursday to elevate honesty and integrity in government to the highest standard in the country if his party is elected in the Feb. 13 provincial election.
But the Liberals are accusing Crosbie of gutter politics driven by his lack of any substantive ideas.
Crosbie made the pledge to restore trust and accountability in politics Thursday during a glitchy virtual news conference from Marystown, in which his speech about government corruption was corrupted by technical problems.
But a clean video recording posted later to the party's Facebook page showed Crosbie on the attack against the governing Liberals and its leader, Andrew Furey.
Crosbie said Liberal "corruption, scandal, and cronyism" are barriers to job growth in the province and he would ensure government hiring is based on merit.
In a telephone interview, Crosbie said there's a perception that individuals and companies are hired based on their political connections, and not their qualifications or experience.
"That must stop," he said.
Asked for proof, Crosbie said, "Everybody has stories about it."
When reached by phone, Burgeo-La Poile Liberal candidate Andrew Parsons, who was one of the targets Thursday of Crosbie's comments, fired back.
Parsons said the PCs lack any ideas and are resorting to unfounded smear campaigns.
"It's an old school form of politics I thought everyone was trying to get past," said Parsons. "Everybody wants to move forward to a different politics, (yet) Ches keeps going back to the old school mudslinging."
Parsons said Crosbie is recycling ideas from the 2019 election.
Crosbie, meanwhile, said a PC government would "root out corruption and bring ethics and accountability to government" by implementing the "strongest anti-corruption legislation in Canada."
Crosbie said a PC government would order a review of the code of conduct for members of the House of Assembly and adopt what he called "honesty in politics" legislation.
"That will provide penalties and sanctions if I don't do what I said I was going to do. That will serve to restore confidence in truth-telling by politicians when they make promises," he said.
To make his point, Crosbie criticized the Liberals for their handling of the PET scanner controversy in Corner Brook.
With accusations mounting that the Liberals had broken a promise to install the advanced imaging technology at the new Corner Brook hospital, Furey and the Liberals announced they would put $2 million into a trust account to be used for a scanner at some point in the future.
"Imagine that politicians, cabinet ministers would feel the need to put money in trust because they know the public doesn't trust them," Crosbie said.
Any member of a cabinet that he leads will be forced to step away from their duties if they become the subject of an investigation, he added.
The PCs have been hounding the Liberals about such a situation involving Parsons.
The RCMP in Nova Scotia are investigating whether Parsons, a former justice minister, played a role in the decision to charge former RNC officer Joe Smyth with obstruction of justice over his handling of a traffic stop in 2017.
Parsons has denied any involvement, and his position is supported by RNC Chief Joe Boland and the director of public prosecutions. As such, Furey refused to remove Parsons from his inner circle.
Crosbie said it was the wrong decision.
"The fact he remains in cabinet while under investigation by the police and the premier is content to keep him there is on a level with what happens in banana republics," he said.
Crosbie 'orchestrated' RCMP investigation, says Parsons
Parsons said Thursday the substance of the RCMP investigation hinges on what he called an "imaginary text message," and he accused Crosbie of "orchestrating" the events in an attempt to create an political scandal.
Parsons said Crosbie began asking about the matter before he was even aware there would be an investigation.
"How did he know about a police investigation that nobody else knew about? It's because he orchestrated it," said Parsons.
Parsons said he will fight to protect his reputation and integrity, and added, "I'm not going to have it ruined by the likes of Ches Crosbie."
Parsons went on to criticize Crosbie for accepting former Labrador West MHA Nick McGrath as a candidate, knowing that McGrath came under fire in 2014 from the auditor general for his role in the Humber Valley Paving scandal.
McGrath resigned from cabinet before he could be fired by then premier Paul Davis.
"He should look within," said Parsons, adding that it was a PC government that approved Muskrat Falls, a project described by Parsons as "the biggest fraud perpetrated on the people" of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Crosbie, meanwhile, said erasing any perception of corruption is essential to encouraging investment in the province, and helping revive the economy.