Voters still waiting for platforms as election reaches mid-way point

·6 min read
Voters still waiting for platforms as election reaches mid-way point

The province has reached the halfway mark for the upcoming general election, but some voters remain undecided, as plans for the future from the three main political parties have yet to be fully unveiled.

"This has been a pretty quiet election so far, and it feels like — in the middle of a pandemic — that people are not engaged in the same way in talking about the real issues," said Anne Whelan, who runs a variety of businesses under the banner Seafair Capital.

"Everything is a bit muted because of it."

And because of that, Whelan hasn't decided on who she's voting for. She said she wants to hear substance out of the parties in the coming days, noting only the provincial Liberal Party had parts of a platform published on its website.

A spokeswoman for Furey's campaign told the Canadian Press on Friday the party will release its full platform next week, but hasn't decided yet what day that will be. The Progressive Conservatives also said voters can expect its platform next week, while the NDP said it will be releasing its platform within the next few days.

"We have a really difficult and imminent economic challenge, and we've got to have some good leadership to get us through there, and I think frankness is a part of that," Whelan told CBC Radio's On The Go.

"Actually tell the story of, not just what's wrong, but how we're going to make that right. That takes not just complaining, or stating 'we can fix it all with a magic wand,' but to really lay out some clear plans."

What about food security?

Groups such as Food First NL are also still waiting on policy announcements, given Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the latest data collected in 2017 by Proof Canada, has the highest rate of food insecurity among Canadian provinces at 15.9 per cent.

The squeeze brought on by the pandemic had many of the province's community food networks struggling to keep the supplies going for those who need it.

"We haven't seen a full roll out of policies from anybody yet, and there's a lot to talk about right now," said Joshua Smee, CEO of Food First NL.

"I'm really curious to see what will land, particularly from the food security perspective."

Smee said food security is a topic that always comes up whenever the public is asked about important issues, and he wonders whether or not that will play a role as policy announcements continue to come out one-by-one.

Watch the full interview below:

"Bits and pieces" of support around community gardens have made their way into campaign announcements, Smee said, but he's more interested in seeing systemic solutions such as procurement of local goods by schools and health care institutions.

"That both benefits the patients, or the children in schools, but also helps stimulate production," he said.

"On the economic access side, we have had a conversation ongoing already about the minimum wage, and the level of minimum wage is a critical part of that. What we haven't heard anything about yet is around the other side, which would be social assistance rates or a conversation around the guaranteed basic income."

Smee said upwards of 65 per cent of households on social assistance are food insecure.

"I really hope the policies land sooner rather than later," he said.

"Right now it's really hard to make your choice, and I would hope that people would hold off on making their choice until those policies land."

Running a deficit

So far there hasn't been much chatter about how to get a handle on the province's near record deficit, while each party has made promises to instead expand government programs.

PC Leader Ches Crosbie has, however, pledged to threaten bankruptcy on Thursday, if elected, to leverage federal support for the offshore oil industry.

Former PC cabinet minister Sandy Collins told CBC News none of the party leaders have addressed the spending problems the province has.

"The debt, it's enormous. We have the PC leader talking about playing the bankruptcy card with the feds, that's his plan, we have Andrew Furey talking about let's plan a come home year and we have Alison Coffin of the NDP saying lets download further pressure on the private sector and raise the minimum wage," Collins said.

"It was only a couple of days before the election [call], it was all front and centre, the fiscal challenges we have. Since the election has been called, the writ has been dropped, we start hearing from leaders and parties — we've heard nothing and I think our spending problem is what people want to know."

Watch the full panel interview below:

Former leader of the NDP Gerry Rogers said the province's debt is well known, and households are suffering because of economic downturn coupled with the ongoing pandemic, but it's not the time to cut spending on the services that help them.

"What we need to look at is the growing unemployment, and what government's role right now is to talk about what are they going to do to make sure that our people are as healthy as they possibly can be, to make sure our people are as educated as well as they possibly can be," she said.

"If that's not what our focus is, that's what parties should be talking about."

Former Liberal MHA Colin Holloway said the parties are going to have to be open about their mandate, noting many residents realize cuts are going to have to be made somewhere.

"They're going to have to be very honest with the public and say 'we have no other choice. If we're going to be sustainable then we can't go to the federal government,'" he said.

"I think that is the wrong approach, to think that the federal government is going to bail us out every time that we go with our hand out because we're a part of Canada and that's part of the terms of our confederation. I think we have to take care of our own household."

Holloway said he doesn't think there will be a majority government formed on Feb. 13, and all parties will have to support the tough decision going forward.

As for Whelan, she said there's a lot at stake in this election.

"This really, really matters and I think everybody needs to take some time and have a look at it and reflect on where we know we're at as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," she said.

"We've got a lot of opportunity to change right now."

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