Andrew Furey sworn in as Newfoundland and Labrador premier after tumultuous election
Published Thursday, April 8, 2021 11:15AM ADT Last Updated Thursday, April 8, 2021 6:10PM ADT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Newfoundland and Labrador premier Andrew Furey vowed Thursday to govern for a full term as he again affirmed his faith in the troubled election that returned him to power.
Furey and his cabinet were sworn in at the residence of Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote in a small, socially distanced ceremony. It came less than a week after the NDP announced it had requested a judicial recount in a St. John's district, with an eye to filing a larger challenge about the election's constitutionality.
When asked if he would commit to calling another election when the pandemic abated and more people could participate, Furey was blunt: "This is a legitimate election, I've said from Day 1, and we're going to govern for four years."
Furey returns to power as the province faces a bleak financial outlook and a dwindling population. With about 520,000 people, Newfoundland and Labrador is shouldering a $16.4-billion net debt, which yields the highest net debt-to-GDP ratio in the country. The province spends more on debt servicing than it does on education, according to its budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
"The problems we are about to tackle are not Liberal problems," Furey said before his swearing in. "They're not Conservative problems. They're not NDP problems or Green problems. They are the problems of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."
He called the election on Jan. 15, about five months after he won the Liberal party leadership to replace then-premier Dwight Ball. The cabinet he unveiled Thursday morning showed few changes from the team in place on the day of the election call.
Some of his most experienced ministers -- Siobhan Coady in finance, John Haggie in health and Tom Osborne in education -- kept their posts. However, Furey increased the size of his cabinet to 16 members from 14.
After a tumultuous election plagued with delays and controversies, the Liberals hold 22 of the province's 40 seats, up from the 19-seat minority government elected in 2019. The Progressive Conservatives hold 13 seats, down from 15, and the NDP won two seats, down from three. Three Independents were also elected.
Ches Crosbie, the former Progressive Conservative leader, and Alison Coffin, the leader of the NDP, both lost their seats in their St. John's districts. Coffin lost by 53 votes and her team is due to appear in court Tuesday to set a date for a judicial recount. She said Tuesday the party is also considering launching a constitutional challenge to examine the legitimacy of the election itself.
Crosbie lost his seat to John Hogan, a young lawyer and newcomer to politics, who will become the new justice minister. Furey said Thursday Hogan's first assignment is to conduct a deep re-evaluation of the province's Elections Act in order to avoid the kinds of problems that came up during the prolonged campaign.
A COVID-19 outbreak in February prompted officials to suspend in-person voting and switch to mail-in ballots. What followed was a series of deadline extensions granted by the province's chief electoral officer and controversies surrounding his management of the upended vote.
Furey is the 14th premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Before his run at politics, he was an orthopedic surgeon and founder of Team Broken Earth, a charity providing international medical aid.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.