Election Round-up: One week to go

TheIndependent.ca counts down the weeks to the provincial election with a quick’n’dirty roundup of what’s happening on the campaign trails…

Another week, another roundup of election action. And, of course, another poll. The September 30 MQO Research poll shows, as the CBC put it, “Liberal support in freefall”. They’ve plummeted to 13% (down from 18% ten days earlier). The PC’s have pulled up one point to 54% (from 53%), and the NDP continue their steady rise to 33% (from 29% previously).

As for the party action…

Liberal leader Kevin Aylward faced media challenges this week over his role in previous Liberal provincial governments that tried to bar the auditor general from reviewing House of Assembly finances (the eventual audit would result in spending scandals and jail time for some politicians). He parried that all parties had, at the time, been united in opposing the auditor general (still, he was one of the few in an actual position to affect matters). Meanwhile, the Liberals also drew embarrassing attention to their internal divisions in response to the City of St. John’s request to restructure the city’s tax relationship with the province: a proposal through which it estimates it would bring in up to $20 million in additional revenue. Prominent Liberal candidate Danny Dumaresque made comments that seemed to denounce the plan, while other Liberals publicly disagreed with his comments. While the Liberals argued over their position – eventually putting out a press release suggesting their own terribly vague municipal restructuring plan – the NDP simply announced they support the proposed St. John’s tax plan, which they point out would apply to all municipalities across the province and not just St. John’s.

The Liberals did manage to make it through their bad week with a few good ideas, however. They issued a commitment to re-open the School For The Deaf, a facility which was scandalously closed by the provincial government last year, amid considerable opposition. Aylward also took time to attack NAFO fishery management measures as inadequate, which indeed they are.

The NDP have committed to providing full presumptive cancer coverage for firefighters, in the wake of firefighters’ widely publicized campaign to highlight this province as the only one which currently does not. As well, the NDP have been highlighting their detailed commitment to more transparent government, promising whistle-blower protection for civil servants who leak news of government wrongdoing. They’ve also promised to require the House of Assembly to meet for at least 60 days of the year.

The PC’s came up against an embarrassing protest from St. Anthony residents complaining about the PC decision to move one of the province’s two air ambulances from St. Anthony to Happy Valley Goose Bay. In other news, the PC’s seem to be focusing on showing off their human side. Their chief athlete Kathy Dunderdale participated in the CIBC Run For The Cure, and party press releases continue to highlight her new career on Facebook, YouTube AND Twitter. Meanwhile one of PC candidate Shawn Skinner’s supporters wrote a song about him, which you can check out live on the PC website.

What if they had a war debate about the economy and no one only the NDP showed up

Well, that’s stretching it, but only sorta. The theme of this week has been debates (or forums, which appears to be what we call debates that aren’t broadcast live on TV). A “fiscal debate” held by the Board of Trade featured only one party leader – NDP leader Lorraine Michael. A “health care forum” organized by the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses’ Union featured two party leaders – NDP Lorraine Michael and Liberal Kevin Aylward.

Now it makes some logical sense for the PC’s to send their health and finance minister to each of these debates, but not perhaps strategic sense. Lorraine Michael – as the leader who’s leading her party to the strongest rise in the polls – gets to continue to shine, as well as highlight by her very presence the importance of each of these areas to her party’s platform. And the energy of a leader who can personally appear in debate after forum after debate after forum puts her in good stead to challenge even the marathon-running Dunderdale. But what’s impressive is that not only are the NDP sending their big guns to each of the forums and debates, but they’re also organizing their own: rising star NDP candidate Keith Dunne organized and hosted a forum on affordable housing on Sunday night.

And don’t forget to check out the Election Forum on Youth Issues and Post-Secondary Education, organized by the Canadian Federation of Students and happening tonight – Monday October 3 – at 7pm at Memorial University’s Reid Theatre. Here’s the event notice.

Of course, needless to say the “official” party leaders’ debate happened this week as well. We won’t review it here, but recommend you check it out yourself.

Perhaps the most notable event of that debate, however, was the fact that the Liberals lost one of their candidates by the time it was over. Of course, they’d only gotten the candidate earlier that day, after he announced his availability as a candidate over Twitter. Possibly the first candidate to announce his candidacy in 140 characters (including the phrase “LOL”), his was probably also this election’s shortest lived candidacy. CBC captured the entire story in brilliantly subdued hilarity. Don’t let it be said this election didn’t have any humour.

Humour, but sadness as well: the NDP lost one of their most active organizers, and Newfoundland and Labrador lost one of its strongest advocates and sources of social conscience. Nancy Riche, a long-time labour activist and NDP supporter, died on the weekend, leaving an entire province grieving and tributes pouring in from prominent members of all three parties. Here’s a piece theindependent.ca ran on her earlier this year. She left her mark on political activists of all stripes, and will not be forgotten.

One more full and active week of campaigning till the big day. Get out there to Monday night’s forum, talk to your candidates, follow them online (but be careful what you say on Twitter or you might accidentally wind up as a Liberal candidate). But whatever you do – get engaged!

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