Liberal Leader Dwight Ball and Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie exchanged verbal jabs at brief rallies during Wednesday-evening news shows to kick off Newfoundland and Labrador’s election campaign.
Ball, coming off four years spent running the province, gave a speech to supporters at Confederation Building in St. John’s. That was after he announced the May 16 election date.
“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are facing a stark choice,” he said. “It’s onward or backward.”
Moments after Ball stopped speaking, Crosbie’s speech began across town at the PC party headquarters. Using repeated rhymes, Crosbie took aim at Ball throughout the speech, referring to him as “dithering Dwight Ball.”
“As premier, I will defend our offshore rights, and I will make equalization fair, and I will tax Quebec power. Ottawa and Quebec City will learn the days of ‘no fight in Dwight’ are over,” he said.
He repeated, “No fight in Dwight,” and, “Don’t mess with Ches,” while the crowd chanted, “Yes for Ches.”
While politics in Newfoundland and Labrador has long been a two-horse race, this contest will feature four political parties.
NDP Leader Alison Coffin said her party is still getting candidates in place — she’s only been leading the party since March, and said she was surprised by an early election call. The province wasn’t supposed to be going to the polls until the fall.
“We feel as good as we possibly can,” she said, thanking the support team that was in place when she took over. “We’re as ready as we can be.”
The NDP will go into the election without two of its best-known members on the ballot. Former leaders Gerry Rogers and Lorraine Michael are stepping away from politics, but Coffin said they are still “staunchly by our side.”
The newest party is the NL Alliance, led by former PC president Graydon Pelley. It was granted official party status only five days before the election call, but has four candidates in place.
“Even though I don’t feel that this is the way it should be done, Mr. Ball has dropped the writ and we’re going to be on the ballot in 2019,” Pelley said.
Pelley said he was baffled by the way the election was called — one day after Ball’s Liberals tabled a budget, which will not be passed unless his party comes out on top after a 28-day campaign.
“We’re not sure why the process has gone the way it has, with regards to the way he called it,” Pelley said. “The budget came down yesterday, with no opportunity to debate the budget.”
Pelley said the party will take a “people-centred, people-focused, collaborative, common sense approach to government.”
Priority bills get required royal assent
Ball dropped by Government House before his big speech, meeting with Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote and getting her signature on the writs.
Hours earlier, House Speaker Perry Trimper paid Foote a visit with three bills in hand, gathering the signatures needed to pass them into law.
“My job is to make sure that the legislation is passed and passed appropriately, so in light of rumours and everything else I just wanted to make sure that these bills, through which so much work has been done, that it’s not wasted,” Trimper said.
The bills were the Correctional Services Act, Automobile Insurance Act and Insurance Companies Act.
If they didn’t get royal assent — a formality, but a necessary step in enacting legislation — they wouldn’t be passed before the election.
“If that hadn’t happened and, say, for example, the writ dropped for an election, these bills would die on the vine,” Trimper said.
“As the person who oversees the legislature, I’ve done my bit.”
What’s the score?
It was anticipated Ball would drop the writ this week, after weeks of government announcements leading up to the 2019 budget being unveiled on Tuesday. CBC News reported Tuesday that Liberal sources said the election date would be May 15, The sources calculated the mandatory minimum 28 “clear days” of the election period incorrectly.
The Liberals have held a majority government for the last four years. When th election was called they held 27 seats, while the PCs had eight and the NDP two. Three members sat as Independents.
The governing party has a full slate of candidates ready to go, while other parties are still scrambling to put people in place in districts around the province.
The NL Alliance has members running in three districts on the Avalon and one on the west coast.
This story originally appeared on CBC