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

Kelowna Memorial Cup committee visits 2019 tournament in Halifax

The committee wants to get a first-hand look at how the tournament is organzied

Boil water notice in effect for Lake Country

A broken water main leads to boil water notice in the District of Lake Country

Popular Peachland park reopens

Hardy Falls Regional Park has been closed from flood damage since 2017

UPDATE: Water main break floods Lake Country roads

Glenmore Road and Highway 97 are affected by the water main break

BrainTrust launches annual helmet program in Kelowna

Three students received free helmets at the May 22 launch at Belgo Elementary School

Federal tourism minister announces new national strategy in Armstrong

Mélanie Joly announced funding available for rural communities and other parts of the new strategy

Okangan MP welcomes plan to fight human trafficking

Mel Arnold applauds Conservative plan for A Safer Canada

B.C. woman left ‘black and blue’ after being pushed off 40-foot cliff at lake

West Shore RCMP looking for witnesses as investigation continues

VIDEO: Suspected arson sends five to Abbotsford hospital with smoke inhalation

Man seen throwing flammable substance in van, lighting it on fire next to home

Okanagan elementary schools help Chinook salmon

Kingfisher is hosting a series of field trips to release the school-raised salmon

Summerlanders urged to travel by bike

Bike to Work Week and Bike to School Week run May 27 to June 2

Update: South Okanagan dangerous offender to redo court process

Administrative error results in do-over for trial against Ronald Arthur Teneycke

Summerland Giant’s Head Run features Retro ’80s theme

Event will be held Saturday, June 1 at 6 p.m.

Music and comedy event benefit Okanagan woman’s cancer battle

Fundraiser for Sue Folliott Sunday, May 26 at The Kal

Most Read