Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, arrives to appear as a witness at a Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources in the Senate of Canada Building in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Premier announces May 16 provincial election for Newfoundland and Labrador

Recent polling suggests the Liberals are in for a tight race with the Progressive Conservatives

Premier Dwight Ball has called an early election in Newfoundland and Labrador for May 16, in what’s shaping up as a close race between the ruling Liberals and opposition Tories.

Ball made the announcement Wednesday evening in the lobby of the Confederation Building in St. John’s after visiting the lieutenant-governor.

He said the province is turning the corner toward a brighter future.

READ MORE: Orange peeled: Jason Kenney’s UCP defeats NDP with majority in Alberta

“Our team is ready to build on our success,” said Ball, surrounded by supporters.

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are facing a stark choice in this upcoming election: it’s onward or backward,” he said.

Ball’s government tabled an optimistic budget Tuesday, with a lower deficit, nearly $600 million in infrastructure spending and no tax hikes.

Recent polling suggests the Liberals are in for a tight race with the Progressive Conservatives trailing close behind and the NDP a distant third.

The Liberals took power as frustrated voters booted the long-ruling Tories in 2015 but Ball’s government has had a rough ride facing down a dire financial situation.

The government has struggled to get its finances back on track after years of heavy deficits and concern over health care costs, outmigration and a rapidly aging population.

The provincial election had been slated for October but the premier narrowed the window down in late March, promising to send voters to the polls before the school year ends.

The standings at the dissolution of the legislature were 27 Liberals, eight Tories, two NDP and three independent members.

The early election date comes close on the heels of some hefty government announcements — most notably, the updated Atlantic Accord. The federal-provincial agreement on offshore resource revenues will see Newfoundland and Labrador receive $2.5 billion from Ottawa over 38 years.

The federal funding gave the yearly fiscal projections a slight facelift in Tuesday’s budget — though the election call means the budget will not be passed before voters go to the polls.

Finance Minister Tom Osborne has said the Liberal government will present the same budget if re-elected.

The May voting date also means voters will cast their ballots before Ball testifies at the inquiry into the over-budget, behind-schedule Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject.

Since last fall, former PC cabinet ministers and premiers have taken the witness stand amid testimony on alleged mismanagement that led to excessive cost and schedule overruns.

Ball is scheduled to testify in July.

Opposition members criticized the Liberal government Wednesday for calling an election early.

The NDP and PC house leaders issued a joint statement saying the election date will cut short important government work like the proposed harassment-free workplace policy tabled by a legislature committee that has not yet been put to a vote.

“This is in no way keeping with the repeated Liberal promise to govern differently and to reform and improve upon our democracy,” NDP legislator Lorraine Michael said in the statement.

Nevertheless, Ball’s rivals have been poised and ready as rumours of a writ drop swirled over the past week, with a Tory campaign bus rolling into the parking lot of Confederation Building on Tuesday.

Tory Leader Ches Crosbie promised tough love on government spending if elected, including possible measures to curb health care spending.

“What we’re missing, in a word, is leadership. It’s leadership that makes the tough decisions, you’re not going to please everybody,” Crosbie said Wednesday.

“While preserving the quality of (health care) you can root out a lot of waste.”

NDP Leader Alison Coffin said Wednesday her party is ready for the campaign, though only a handful of candidates have been officially nominated.

She said she’s confident nominations will be filled and she’s been out meeting with voters in anticipation of the election call.

“I’ve already started knocking on doors because of course, this is one of the worst kept secrets, really,” Coffin said.

Coffin said she’s believes her party can be the change from the status quo that voters are looking for, despite their small presence in the latest legislative sitting.

Ball spoke only for a few minutes Wednesday before exiting the Confederation Building with his Liberal caucus and nominees in tow.

He touted his government’s steady fiscal improvements while taking jabs at the Tories, criticizing their plans as unclear and insufficient to meet voters’ needs.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Reader survey offers Free Press readers $5000 cash prize

The Free Press is offering readers the chance to win $5000 cash… Continue reading

SD5 drafts business case for Fernie school expansion

Ecole Isabella Dicken Elementary School is currently 30 per cent over capacity

District of Elkford celebrates grand opening of new municipal office

Submitted District of Elkford The District of Elkford has officially begun serving… Continue reading

GALLERY: Fernie hosts mine rescue competition

Fording River, Line Creek mine rescue teams off to provincials after placing first and second

Fernie beer named Canada’s best pale ale

Fernie Brewing Company’s Campout West Coast Pale finishes first at the Canadian Brewing Awards

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Wildfire between Jaffray and Cranbrook under control

A wildfire discovered yesterday between Jaffray and Mayook is now classified as… Continue reading

Crackdown on money laundering does not include federal public inquiry: minister

An independent report commissioned concluded $7.4 billion was laundered in B.C. last year

Trudeau’s action plan on climate change brings B.C. politician out of retirement

Terry Lake, a former B.C. health minister, is running for federal office in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo

Survey finds minimal progress in Canadian military’s fight against sexual misconduct

1.6 per cent of regular-force members — 900 military personnel — reported having been victims of sexual assaults over past year

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

Toddler seriously injured after falling from Okanagan balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment in Kelowna

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Most Read