Jordan: If Canada’s government is going to change hands on October 21st. We will get the first sign of it on Election night in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yes part of that is because the polls out east close earlier than anywhere else in the country, but it’s not the only reason this province as a whole is often pretty red and stop me if you’ve heard this before in 2015, it was completely red. Trudeau and the Liberals currently own all seven seats and as much as Newfoundlanders may be disappointed by some of the things the Liberals have or more accurately. Done in their Province a repeat of the last election is not out of the question. So what can the other parties say to flip a few of those seats and send a sign of things are changing what have liberals failed to deliver that their opponents can capitalize on what do Newfoundlanders need that they aren’t getting and which riding in this province is the most likely to be a harbinger of what’s to come on Election night. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings, and this is the big story David Marr is the legislative reporter for the st. John’s Telegram in Newfoundland where we head for our latest in our lay of the land series the st. John’s telegram is part of the salt wire Network. Hi David.
David Maher: Hey, how’s it going?
Jordan: It is going very well. Thank you for joining us from the East Coast. How is the grand experiment of democracy going out?
David Maher: Well, things are I mean, you know changes changes the norm I think is you know, quite frequently in Newfoundland Labrador specifically we just came out of a provincial election, which is back on back on May 16th, where there was this massive liberal majority where they had 31 seats in the provincial legislature and that has been cut down to 20 which gives them a one-seat edge over the court, you know over the opposition parties went and whatnot. So that was a. That was a big moment. Obviously, you know for us out here, you know to see that amount of seats being cut down, you know in Atlantic Canada. Generally, I mean it has been hard. It’s been it’s only Nova Scotia that hasn’t gone to gone to the polls a fairly recent. They went back. Yeah. I compose the 2016, you know, but but we’re seeing the greens obviously making some some interesting in roads and whatnot in PEI and New Brunswick, you know, they didn’t quite form government, but my god, did they come. So, you know being close to the water being close to you know, relying so much on natural resources. I think is it starting over starting to rear its head just a little bit out here on the East Coast. What are the chances that your provincial election earlier this year is a microcosm of what will happen to the federal liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador which were a complete sweep last time. Yeah. Well and that’s always the question. You know, how much can we really read into provincial politics, you know to Federal politics, you know. It’s not a one-to-one kind of ratio there. So we’ll see see how that plays out. But I wrote a story about this about, you know, we could have a gross Atlanta talking to polls or Don Mills who started CRA or whatnot and the way that he phrased in terms of whether or not the Liberals can sweep across Atlantic Canada with all 32 seats. He said that there is a zero percent chance. That happened on October. Okay over 20, so couldn’t really be more definitive than that, you know there and you know in Newfoundland Labrador everyone is kind of pointing at st. John’s East as really kind of the main Battleground perhaps even the only Battleground, you know, I think the Liberals will still see some success here in Newfoundland Labrador because. We have never in our history sent sent know liberals. There’s always been at least one liberal that’s been sent from Newfoundland Labrador to you know up to Ottawa but we’ve sent all seven. Literally, you know NPS here as liberals twice in our history. So there might only be one opportunity Lucy and you know, and the interesting thing about about Saint John sees is that it’s a direct rematch from the 2015 election. Jack Harris. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a wonder One Nick whale and it is the incumbent. And in 2015, he beat Jack Harris who was a Checkers was first elected as an MP in like 1987. Then he lost real quick in the you know in the election after that and then he was years for the as the NDP leader in the province and then became the MP. Once again, I believe in 2008. He was first elected and now they’re just having another crack at it, you know in its agencies. I remember Canada conventional wisdom at the time which I guess didn’t turn out to be completely. I was saying that St John’s was the most safe seat in the country for the new Democrats on the federal scale and then you know, so yeah. Yeah, there was another really tight race at the time in 2015, right Ryan Cleary was. Was the incumbent for the NDP going up against the Seamus O’Regan whose name? We all didn’t know much more in the federal federal seeing these days. So the NDP kind of went all in on Ryan Cleary and maybe kind of forgot about Jack Harris just a little bit but this time around it does not look like they were forget about Jack Harris You Know Jack meeting was here before the election was even called so they really seem to be kind of investing there. So, you know in this province if any district is going. Not be liberal by the time October 21st. It’s probably seen John’s East but you know, Nick well is not gonna go down without a fight. No question about that.
Jordan: So what makes Newfoundland and Labrador because we’re doing this with all of the province’s what makes Newfoundland Labrador different from the other Atlantic provinces first of all, but from from voters in the rest of the country.
David Maher: The biggest thing for us is that you know, most of the people who live in Newfoundland Labrador live on the island, you know of Newfoundland and most of us who live in Newfoundland live on kind of the Northeast Avalon, which is you know, I’m speaking to you from from st. John’s right now, which is really about. Like it if you got to look at what the geography tells you it’s as though everyone or you know on the island Newfoundland was like gathered as far away from Mainland Canada as humanly possible, which is a great step in there,
Jordan: Which is a metaphor for something. But yeah,
David Maher: Which is you know, we’ll we’ll get there. We’ll unpack that one. But the fact that we are such a big island really doesn’t you know, make us unique like yes, you know PEI is obviously an island. It’s in the it’s in the name, but we you know, we really are just a massive expansion. Land with a relatively small population goes by five hundred twenty-five thousand people according in the 2016 census counted counted here and one particular thing that makes us unique across the country is that that population is going down the demographics in you know in Newfoundland Labrador. We are getting older faster than anybody else. I believe that the the average population or sorry the average age of a, Newfoundland. Right now is like 46 years old and by 2040 that’s going to be that’s going to go up to above above 50. Wow. Yeah, it’s you know, so we’re getting older but you know, and the fertility rate is is downward. We’re dying faster than we are being born for one thing and then on top of that the oil downturn in say 20, 2014-2015 really really this province hard. We in the last provincial budget and 2018. We made a billion dollars. Is off oil and gas and you know, that’s what that that’s oil and gas your interest into the royalties one up for the government, you know, and that’s on a pretty average price of oil, you know back in 24th year like 2012 2014 or something like that. We was you know, we’re looking at over $100 for a barrel of oil so so my God, we had money and now we don’t need you know, so we have people who are you know, literally dying and not being replaced and people are leaving. So the demographic challenges for Newfoundland Labrador are really. What’s what’s top of mind? I think it is at this point.
Jordan: How does that impact? What voters want from their government? What are they looking for right now that other younger more prosperous provinces might.
David Maher: Well, this is a maybe a little bit of– But I think the main thing that we’re looking for think right now is its support, you know from the federal government when it comes to muskrat Falls because that’s the other thing that makes this particular unique in the country, you know, you know when we talk about large hydroelectric dams, you know, you might have heard of sightsee and whatnot. But Muskrat Falls was started by the provincial government. Into it or it was sanctioned in 2010. And at the time that that was sanctioned to the population or the the number that was put out there for the cost of 6.2 billion dollars not you know, not a small chunk of change at the time for a profit of 500,000 people now, it’s twelve point seven billion dollars. First and there’s a real risk that electricity bills in this province are going to double as a result of that and you know, the provincial government people were trying to work in trying to figure out how to how to prevent that from happening and one of the direct ask that I think. Little while ago the Finance Minister just made a direct call just it was just for the election actually the Finance Minister Tom Osborne made a direct call to all Party leaders saying we need money. We need about 200 million dollars a year from the federal government, you know a direct Federal. City to Newfoundland Labrador has power bills in addition to about another half billion dollars. Annually that the The Province going to have to come up with you know on its own accord to try to try to keep electricity rates down. But you know, we need a commitment of two hundred million dollars from the federal government and so far. None of the federal leaders have kind of explicitly committed to that outside of saying, you know, we commit to working with Newfoundland Labrador, you know on this particular issue, so. That I think is kind of the biggest Barrel that were staring down. So to speak right now that we need the federal government to help out on
Jordan: What about the things that the Liberals promised would help Newfoundland and Labrador back in 2015. You mentioned that maybe only one of the seven seats there is really in danger of flipping do Newfoundlanders feel that. Have they delivered in any sense on on what you were hoping for?
David Maher: Well they have and they haven’t the funny thing about, you know, covering Federal elections in Newfoundland Labrador is that you know, we’re we’ve only been in Canada for 70 years more so, you know, we only have seven seats. We only have half a million people. So, you know come federal election time. We don’t tend to hear a lot of really kind of detailed promises that are specific to Newfoundland, you know and Labrador here one of the things that the Liberals did come through on. There was a search and rescue center here in st. John’s that was closed down under the Harper government and shortly after the Liberals came in they went ahead and reopen that one. So, you know with the province as large and enormous as Newfoundland Labrador is and Lord knows how cold the North Atlantic is out there. That was a you know search and rescue is a big deal here because we still have a lot of people on the water that was a commitment that I that they did follow through on I went there but one thing that they did not follow through on that spot. Out at this moment is it has to do with Municipal Wastewater? There’s the Riverhead Wastewater facility. I won’t get too down in the Weeds on this one. But basically just you know in 2012 there were some rules that were brought in to say that you need to bring waste water standards up to a certain amount, you know, and that means there’s going to be upgrade. So Justin Trudeau came down here in 2015 and said hey, look at that thing. We’re going to give you two hundred million dollars that number just keeps popping up, huh? Something about 200 million dollars really really popular, but he committed that. Yeah, that was going to come here. And when he was here, you know about two weeks ago. He committed that money again because it’s not done and it’s not just st. John’s this year’s his concerns with the municipal Wastewater. One of those places all across the province who are facing the same same issue of like raw sewage just being dumped into lakes. It happens here here in and a surprising number of municipalities because the municipalities don’t have the, you know, the money themselves to do these expensive upgrades and the federal government hasn’t put in hasn’t put in their share. At this point quite frankly. So, you know in terms of what promises haven’t have that happened. Well, there’s two and we’re still going to wait and see what happens with with yet another Province on Wastewater that we got from Trudeau. So it’s you know, there’s a there’s a lot of reasons that I think that the federal elections take a little bit of a backseat. Here in Newfoundland Labrador because we’re quite frankly not as engaged in it by the you know by the the parties who are running their, you know, largely due to how how far away we are how small we are. So, you know, we don’t really get a lot of attention is what it comes down to.
Jordan: Well that was going to be my next question. Anyway is a lot of this election so far has been defined by Scandal first by snc level and obviously Men by the Liberals bringing out some opposition research. About multiple conservative candidates and then of course Trudeau’s Brown face and black face Scandal and from where we sit in Toronto, it can feel that that dominates so I’m always interested in in more remote provinces that have more specific needs if that’s a deciding issue for people or are we kind of in a media bubble.
David Maher: I mean, I think it matters to people, you know, we’re seeing some of the national polls one at that don’t seem to show much of a tick here and there for Trudeau, you know, you know, he’s he’s seen a dip it was the infected kind of response are on the national scale. It’s been written about and talked about plenty, you know here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but but the thing that about Newfoundland Labrador and an Atlantic Canada in general is that we are really really white like, I think it’s 90 the most diverse. I’ve taken from the 2011 census or recognize this isn’t the most up-to-date number here. But according to the to the 2011 census the most diverse province in Atlantic Canada was Nova Scotia at at 91% white or Caucasian, you know, and I mean. Canada is you know we’re primarily there there. So a lot of people you know that I spoke to locally or suggesting that you know asking why is this a big deal, you know there and it’s it’s because we don’t have a lot of people living in this part of the world that have you know an. With black faced with racism and understanding why that is such a you know, such a problem, you know, and as such a races action there, so in that particular scandal in terms of in terms of how much it matters, you know, it’s definitely going to take you know, take some. Well, I mean, I don’t know and yeah, I can’t really say anything definitively. But you know, but I mean II can’t imagine that it’s not going to move the needle but how much is it going to move the needle, you know for people who maybe aren’t super duper engaged in federal politics to begin with who don’t have a similar lived experience to the people who you know who might have been directly, you know affected and offended by this. You know and then to some of the people, you know who have spoken to from, you know from from from Refugee and immigrant, you know, organizations and whatnot here and you know in the province they’re saying forget about that. Let’s talk about you know, you know about about Transportation infrastructure, you know about about jobs, you know, those are the things that are going to matter to Ram, you know new covers and what on here so obviously it’s complicated. Obviously, there’s a whole lot. It but it is Jack here is going to win St. John’s. He’s because you know, Justin Trudeau made some really really really really really bad decisions back in the day. Probably not. Yeah fuck, you know, but job to say whether you know elsewhere
Jordan: well, what could have him winning st. John’s East if there was I mean you’ve mentioned money for Wastewater. But if there were other issues that conservatives if Andrew Shear is coming to Newfoundland before the election and he’s promising things that would actually move the needle for newfoundlanders. What’s he saying?
David Maher: It should be something about muskrat falls. You know, once again, I’m you know about about Federal support their it, you know, it’s a provincially LED project, but it was but there was about 2.9 billion dollars in loan guarantees that were guaranteed by the federal government. So the federal government has their finger in that, you know has a role to play there, you know, if he were to come down and say. Do not worry about your electricity rates. We got us, you know, and that’s not even specific to Shear. That’s that’s that’s for everybody. Right? You know any party leader if there were going to say that you don’t worry we will bail you out is really what it comes.
Jordan: Hey money helps always,
David Maher: You know, yeah, sometimes you got to see the federal government open up the purse strings are open with the first things I need to say and we haven’t seen it. You know, we you know exactly I asked them directly, you know about it. So that’s the biggest issue because as it stands right now if peoples electricity rates, you know do double then people are go are literally in you know in Newfoundland Labrador in Canada in 2019. You’re going to have people who are going to be choosing between heat and food
Jordan: you mentioned off the top when talking about Atlantic Canada in general that, you know, the green party has made huge inroads in PEI and in. Atlantic Canada in general and I just wonder are they a presence in Newfoundland? And I know the NDP has previously been a presence in Newfoundland, but around the rest of the country were increasingly talking about a two-party race. And is there any chance of a third-party playing spoiler in?
David Maher: Well, the green party the funny thing about the green party here. I believe they do have seven candidates or if not, they have, you know, five or six. I’m not sure off the top of my head here, but the green party is kind of a non-starter in Newfoundland Labrador in terms of their there in terms of their popularity because they have they haven’t expressed anti seal hunt. stance in their party out that they oppose the seal hunt and obviously the seal hunt has is you know, it’s controversial, you know here and there but in this province we support it in this province is this it’s Hunters were going out, you know on the ice and taking you know, what’s there naturally, you know and maybe it with well primarily with guns that the images that you see there. You know on the screen of a little like white coats that are super duper cute and cuddly those ones aren’t the targets of the seal hunt and has been a lot of frustration over the years people, you know who are or are not recognizing, you know that at so anyway a little bit of a tangent there, but but
Jordan: That’s good context. I didn’t know that.
David Maher: Yeah, that that is the the you know, that is the number one roadblock for the green party. And and I did actually talk to Elizabeth May about this one, you know, and the basic stance is that well, here’s a funny thing about about the kind of the green party policy. There. It seems as though the green party has a policy to say that the leader will not dictate what issues, you know, the MP, you know any green MPS would send up on a when we saw that kind of bite them and bite them in the rear, you know when it comes to. Come to talk about separatism and when it comes to the you know, maybe even reopening it but you know, what abortion debate, you know, Elizabeth Mays kind of kind of kind of stance there was was you know, they can do what they want. You know, I’m not going to you know, stop them from opening up these conversations and and that policy which you know, like has burned them here and there in the media. There is also their defense mechanism against. About their anti seal hunt pitch because Lisbon they would just say well, you know a Newfoundland and Labrador green MP would have every single right. Support the green party, even if the federal green party opposes the seal hunt and wants to shut it down. So, you know, they have a they have a well-known candidate in Avalon is name is Greg Malone from Costco and wonderful Grand bench and he’s he’s run a couple times you run for city council. He’s never had success on on the on the political scale and fun fact, we talked about black face he also. Face as part of a part of one of the part of a sketch that he did. I think it was I think it was 2018 is when it hit the media here with all respect to the greens and you know, and I know that there are green party supporters, you know here in the province, but in terms of them, you know playing spoiler and st. John’s Easter really any other part of the. And I’m not going to hold my breath personally.
Jordan: So if Canadians are watching the early returns because you guys are first on Election night. They should just be looking at st. John’s East to get a sense of whether or not Trudeau is in for a good night or a bad one.
David Maher: Yeah that you know, that’s where it well that’s where it’ll literally Stark and depending on how quickly they count that might be. Even the first decided writings is Saint John sees, but but yeah that’ll you know, if Nick will and holes on there. That’s a good indication that that they’re going to do. Okay here, you know. If st. John’s is chick, you know does change hands I wouldn’t necessarily read that as kind of a an overall condemnation of you know, how they’re going to do. But if a second riding in this province were to switch switch to Liberal that would burn so it’s which away from liberal and me to say that would be pretty jaw-dropping that would tell you a lot if if they manage to lose more than one sees here in Newfoundland Labrador. That’s when I think that they’re going to be shaking in their boots up in Ottawa.
Jordan: Thanks for this David.
David Maher: Thank you so much for having me.
Jordan: David Maher is a legislative reporter at the st. John’s Telegram and that was the big story another episode in our lay of the land series. If you’d like, you can head to our website thebigstorypodcast.ca and right up there in the header. There is a section where you can get all of these special episodes listen to them all before the elections. You know, what. If you’d like to talk to us about what’s going to happen where or tell us who we should interview for these things hit us up at @thebigstoryfpn. We want the best journalists from around the country, and we might not know all of them. You can also find us everywhere you get podcast on Apple and Google and Stitcher on Spotify. Please go and hit up those five stars. Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. We’ll talk tomorrow.
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