The next Newfoundland and Labrador general election may not happen for more than a year, after the House of Assembly on Wednesday approved a motion to delay it.
The House voted 18-16 to approve a private member's bill that called to change legislation that requires an election to be called within a year of a new premier's swearing-in. With Andrew Furey recently taking the position, that would have meant an election call by early August 2021.
Although the motion was passed, a private member's motion is unable to change provincial legislation. In order for the provincial legislation that states an election must be held within one year of a Premier being sworn in to change, a bill would need to be voted on in the house.
Grand Falls-Windsor–Buchans MHA Chris Tibbs kicked off the debate on the motion on Wednesday afternoon in the House by arguing that an election amid COVID-19 is not ideal.
"The people of the province do not want an election this fall.… The best interest of the people must be paramount," said Tibbs, of the PCs.
"To call a snap election is not doing a service to the people of the province, it's more of a self-service than anything at all."
Tibbs repeatedly cited COVID-19 as the reason to push the election until the third week of October next year, saying the province needs "stability and accountability" at this time.
Ferryland MHA Loyola O'Driscoll echoed several points Tibbs argued.
"People need time to plan.… If it's a planned date, you can plan around it," he said. "A locked election, or a locked date would fix everything. And then you can plan yourself."
Earlier this week, PC House leader David Brazil said the push for a delayed election had nothing to do with the party trailing in recent polls.
"Everybody wants to exercise their democratic rights," Brazil said Monday. "We can dispel all of that and keep people safe by putting it [off] until we have a better understanding of how we can deal with COVID-19. Hopefully there's a vaccine."
PCs' push is 'political' theatre: Coady
On Wednesday in the House of Assembly, Finance Minister Siobhan Coady agreed with Tibbs, saying people want stability and accountability.
But she said it wasn't necessary to amend legislation.
"[The premier] has said time and time and time again that he has no intention to go to a vote this fall," she said.
"The only people speaking of an election are the members opposite, particularly the leaders of the Opposition."
Coady said the chief medical officer of health has said an election could be carried out while abiding to COVID-19 guidelines and safety parameters being enforced.
"I don't want the people of the province to be concerned or afraid of that.… There is a bit of political theatre happening here today," Coady said.