Opposition members sought a promise from Premier Andrew Furey that there will not be a fall election, as the premier took his seat in the House of Assembly for his first question period after being officially been sworn in as the MHA for Humber-Gros Morne.
Furey won the seat in former premier Dwight Ball's district in a byelection earlier this month. Since being sworn in as premier in August, Furey has been unable to sit in the House for debate without a seat in a provincial district.
The first set of questions put to Furey had to do with the province's economy and ensuring jobs for its citizens, while followup questions about a possible election were quick to follow from Opposition House leader David Brazil.
Brazil cited a statement from Furey this summer that there will not be an election this fall, as the province continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As I've said publicly and will continue to state, I intend to follow the letter of the law with respect to the legislation on election timing," Furey said in response, to derision from the opposition.
"As the members opposite know, it was their government that brought in that legislation, and I'm going to follow that legislation to the letter of the law. I'm not gonna use the law for politics; I'm going to follow the law."
When asked again about a possible election, Deputy Premier Siobhan Coady said the only people talking about an election are the opposition.
"They are constantly, constantly talking about an election, Mr. Speaker," she said.
"We're following the letter of the law, Mr. Speaker, a law that has been in the books in Newfoundland and Labrador for decades and I certainly do appreciate that the people of the province understand that we must as government follow the law."
Brazil took issue with the responses from both Furey and Coady, saying they were vague.
"That just indicates to me that they're dragging along the people of Newfoundland and Labrador while we're in the midst of a crisis," Brazil said. "Not acceptable."
When pushed by reporters following question period, Furey said he doesn't plan to call an election any time soon, but noted the minority government status and the tabled budget.
"It's not my intention currently to call an election, but of course we're in a minority government — it's not just my decision alone," he said.
"We have a confidence motion today, of course, with the budget speech, so we could be in an election this afternoon, it's not all just me. My intention remains not to call an election, and to follow the letter of the law."
According to provincial rules, an election must be called within a year of the swearing in of a new premier — which would mean an election any time before early August 2021.
The Progressive Conservatives tabled a motion calling for an election to be pushed to October 2021, citing concerns for public safety in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While that private member's bill — to change legislation that requires an election within 12 months of a new premier's swearing-in — was approved 18-16, it won't actually change the rules. For legislation to be changed, a bill would need to be voted on in the House.
Just two days ago, Coady was asked if there would be an election before the year is out.
"We will be, again, responsible and follow the letter of the law — the legislation that was duly passed and implemented by this house," she said Tuesday.
Attorney General Andrew Parsons, asked by reporters about the possibility of an election before the end of the year, also did not give an answer.
"I absolutely cannot give you a one-word answer because the answer would honestly, truthfully be I don't know," he said.
If Newfoundland and Labrador did end up having an election during the pandemic, it would not be the first province to do so: New Brunswick held its general election in September, while British Columbia goes to the polls on Saturday.
PC Leader Ches Crosbie wants Furey to guarantee there will not be an election for another year.
"I'd like to see the premier live up to his promise that there won't be one," Crosbie said earlier this week.
"That's what he said before the results of the Liberal leadership that were announced on the third of August. He promised there would not be an election this year, so let's see him stick by it."
The premier has previously said he would not want to send the province to the polls right away.
Furey did not take questions after the swearing-in ceremony at Government House, but said he would take questions from reporters after Thursday's question period.
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