Winner of Newfoundland and Labrador's pandemic-delayed election to be known today
Published Saturday, March 27, 2021 10:57AM ADT
Liberal Leader Andrew Furey, left to right, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and NDP Leader Alison Coffin pose for a photo following their televised debate from the floor of the House of Assembly in St. John's N.L. on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Results are expected today in the pandemic-delayed Newfoundland and Labrador election -- more than 10 weeks after the vote was called.
The province's elections authority says the results of a vote conducted mostly by mail-in ballot will be announced at noon local time.
Liberal Leader Andrew Furey called the election on Jan. 15, a day on which provincial health officials reported just one new COVID-19 infection.
The province had enjoyed single-digit daily case numbers for the previous nine months, and there was no indication that would change as Furey launched his campaign in front of a small group of socially distanced reporters.
But on the night of Feb. 12, less than 12 hours before polls were set to open, a COVID-19 outbreak in St. John's prompted officials to put the province in lockdown, cancel in-person voting and shift to mail-in ballots.
It was uncharted territory for the province, and the election turned into a series of postponed deadlines to submit mail-in ballots as other issues were pushed aside.
The deadline for ballots to be received was Thursday, but a number of residents have come forward to say their mail-in ballots didn't arrive in time for them to cast a vote. And the NDP raised concerns that an "unprecedented" number of mail-in ballots were being rejected without just cause.
Furey's main opponent was Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie, who took every opportunity during the campaign to make Furey justify his decision to call a vote during a global pandemic.
The province is facing staggering financial challenges, though they largely took a back seat to the drama of the spiralling, prolonged election.
With a $16.4-billion net debt, Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the country. The province spends more on debt servicing than on any government service other than health care.
But even before the election was thrown off course, Furey steered his campaign's message away from the dire financial outlook. Instead, he released a series of low-stakes promises that began with a pledge to increase community garden grants to $750 from $500.
Crosbie, on the other hand, was unabashed about bringing up the province's flirtation with bankruptcy. During a leaders' debate on Feb. 3, Furey accused Crosbie of being defeatist by even using the term, and said the Tory leader was "campaigning to be the last premier of Newfoundland and Labrador."
Crosbie responded by stating he was a straight shooter and that talking of potential bankruptcy bore into the heart of the matter.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the fourth province to hold an election during the COVID-19 pandemic, following New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver this month called a territorial election for April 12.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2021.