Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer isn’t saying no to federal intervention on increasing electricity costs in Newfoundland and Labrador — but he’s not saying yes, either.
“I believe that would be incumbent upon the provincial government to make the ask to determine what it is that they might be looking for and to make the case,” said Sheer in a sit-down interview with The Telegram on Thursday.
“I would have an open ear to what the province may or may not be looking for.”
The federal government, under both former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has supplied two loan guarantees to the province to help keep borrowing costs down — but there has been no discussion on whether federal intervention will be sought to help keep electricity rates down.
Scheer was in St. John’s on Wednesday and Thursday for meetings with provincial Conservative leaders, including a meeting with the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council on Thursday afternoon.
Some national pundits have pegged Scheer as a reiteration of Stephen Harper, who won just four seats in Newfoundland and Labrador during his tenure as prime minister.
Scheer says he wants to hit the reset button on the federal Conservative party’s record in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Almost immediately after winning the leadership I decided I wanted to get to Atlantic Canada. We were shut out of the region, and I need to understand why,” said Scheer.
Perhaps Scheer’s most important ally in the province — N.L. PC Leader Ches Crosbie — is one high profile example of a rift between the Federal and provincial conservatives. In the lead up to the 2015 federal election, Crosbie tried to put himself forward as the federal candidate in the Avalon riding. After video surfaced of Crosbie making a joke at Stephen Harper’s expense at a fundraiser for a local theatre group, Crosbie was canned by the Conservatives.
Scheer says he’s confident he and Crosbie will have a good relationship, despite a rocky road in the past.
“This is a perfect example of what happened in the past staying in the past. I wasn’t around the table when some of those decisions were made, I can’t speak to them,” he said.
“He will be developing his platform and some of those will link to federal government decisions and programs, so we’ve had some early discussions on that level.”
The notion of matching parties on the federal and provincial level was a talking point of the 2015 elections, with Premier Dwight Ball touting the importance of a strong relationship with the federal Liberals throughout the election campaign.
Scheer says he’s not sure how well that’s worked out.
“I’ve heard the term ‘silent seven’ used, especially when it comes to the surf clam issue, which to me is a huge ethical lapse. We’ll see what the ethics commissioner says on that,” he said.
“The idea that the quota was unilaterally given away to a firm with deep personal ties to the Liberals has angered a lot of people.”
Though Scheer also isn’t convinced the provincial-federal relationship factors heavily on voter’s minds as they mark their X.
“I honestly don’t know how much though voters give to that when they go into a provincial ballot box. Are they thinking about what the dynamic may be with the federal government or are they just voting on provincial issues?” he said.
“Obviously, we have a lot of common ground with PC governments and PC parties provincially … so that can mean more areas of common ground to work on.”
An Abacus Data poll released on July 31 suggests a neck-and-neck race between the Liberals and Conservatives heading into the next federal election.
The poll says the Liberals have 36 per cent of the vote, with the Conservatives at 34 per cent and the New Democratic Party at 19 per cent support.
The Conservatives already have one candidate in place in Newfoundland and Labrador — Mike Windsor will run in Bonavista-Burin-Trinity, a riding currently held by Liberal Churence Rogers.