Progressive Conservative Leader Paul Davis said it is the responsibility of Opposition members to hold the government to account, but it was a challenge in 2017.
In his year-end interview with The Telegram, Davis claimed the Tories received less-than-direct responses from the government to Opposition questions, atop unexpected announcements and big policy decisions backed by little detail.
There was the ending this summer of RDC— the province’s Research and Development Corp. — created under the PCs in 2009. Davis said it and the launch of the new InnovateNL went unmentioned ahead of time, even when the PCs had asked about RDC on the heels of Budget 2017.
Carbon pricing and the legalization of cannabis were big policy changes where more information is called for. While the main decisions are coming through the federal level, with provincial Liberals promising more to come on both, Davis questioned the associated timelines versus where we are to date, with so much yet to be understood.
He wants to see what the approaches will be — the breakdown on carbon tax, or how cannabis will have to be dealt with in the workplace, for example.
He gave no credit for information released at the end of 2017 on how the government plans to provide a legal supply of cannabis for the public. He challenged the announcement of a deal with Canopy Growth, assuring early supply while including a long-term deal for a new grow-op in the province. There was no public request for proposals (RFP) or call for expressions of interest before that deal was announced, he said, leaving the Opposition to wonder aloud if it was the best deal to be made.
Davis said the new offshore oil and gas royalty regime went without announcement because the Liberals didn’t want to talk about it; there was a seniors advocate appointed without the powers to compel response; and new mandatory reporting to the child and youth advocate’s office remains limited to certain departments and cases of “critical injury” versus “critical incident” — less than what was originally called for.
While the latter definition was signed off on by the current child and youth advocate, Davis said it was another example of the Liberals working to just “tick their box” on a list of promises.
Looking to 2018
Davis said he really hopes the government will find The Way Forward that Premier Dwight Ball keeps talking about.
Davis would like to see the government tackle so-called presumptive legislation for first responders, so they can change the existing requirement for paramedics and others to identify the root of their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when seeking support through WorkplaceNL.
“I don’t think we’ve understood yet the enormity and complications that are existing with first responders in our province on PTSD,” he said.
On Muskrat Falls, Davis said he hopes the inquiry into the megaproject will include more recent time under the Liberal government.
And on provincial finances, he wants to see the province address its spending.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what they do in the budget and how they’re going to deal with that,” he said. “They can’t tax people any more.”
A new leader
In October 2016, Davis announced he would not lead the party into the 2019 election.
In April 2018, the party will elect a new leader. There are two candidates at this point: lawyer Ches Crosbie and civil servant and businessman Tony Wakeham.
Davis said he wouldn’t have any issue following either. He’s not making an endorsement.
“As these campaigns roll on, I would expect we’re going to hear more on policy and platform from the two candidates and then people will decide if they like those policies and platforms and the people we have to offer,” he said.
While there is uncertainty amongst party supporters and the public at large, he expects that will change with time.
He is personally committed to seeing the new leader settled in.
“I don’t have any plans to go anywhere. The next general election is scheduled to be the fall of 2019. I have not made a decision if I’m going to run again in 2019,” he said, adding he plans to take time to consider his political future after the new leader is in.
“When I say we, my family and I, we’ll take some time to consider our future after that.”