Premier Dwight Ball says he definitely has no plans to quit, and he will run for re-election in 2019.
And as Ball approaches the midpoint in his government’s first term, he said The Telegram isn’t the first media outlet to ask him about his plans.
“I get asked this quite a bit. But yeah, I am (running),” Ball said.
“Whenever my political life is over, I will look back at this as the most important contribution I’ve made to this province, and probably the most rewarding job I’ve done in my life.”
It’s been a rough two years for Ball.
The Liberals won the 2015 election with a suite of promises based on the government’s published budget numbers, even though everyone — including the Liberals — was skeptical about the underlying information.
Almost immediately, Ball broke some of his most high-profile election promises, laying off civil servants and raising the HST.
Ball still very much blames former premier Paul Davis for refusing to publish the real information on the province’s fiscal state. He also said that in hindsight, the Liberals didn’t do a great job of communicating the controversial 2016 budget.
“I think I’m a better premier today than I was in December 2015,” he said. “Experience does that.”
Two years later, a trip down memory lane reading the Liberal platform reveals quite a few completed promises, but many more are either broken or there’s been no meaningful progress.
There’s been no talk of a cabinet committee to deal with the 2041 expiration of the Churchill Falls contract, and there’s been no biennial conference on the status of women. The government hasn’t realized $78 million in extra revenue from economic diversification this year, and Ball acknowledged it hasn’t been able to sell $50 million in unused government assets, as it promised.
“I could get stubborn in this chair and say OK, I’m going to sell $50 million because the clock is ticking here, and I need to check off a box,” Ball said. “But would that actually bring value to the people of the province? Probably wouldn’t. It would satisfy a stubborn premier, but it’s not going to be best for the people.”
Similarly, on the biennial conference on women’s issues, Ball indicated the specific promise has been broken, but the spirit of it lives on.
“Look, we’ll have to see where that goes,” Ball said. “I see where it’s important, but I think the information that comes out of the existing work that’s being done is equally important. The key thing here is, how do we improve outcomes?”
The perceived broken promises and feckless management have taken their toll. In recent polls, the Liberal party is the most popular choice for voters, but Ball is disliked.
When MQO Research asked people to rate Ball’s performance from 1-10, 66 per cent gave him a five or less.
Ball said he’s proud of what the government has been able to accomplish, especially when it comes to full-day kindergarten, education reforms and laying the groundwork for better mental-health services.
He said the government is forging ahead with the election promise to replace the Waterford Hospital.
“We’re going to deal with that. I can guarantee you in the spring of 2018 people will get a sense of what the facility will look like — the bricks and mortar — but you’ll also get a better sense of the plan we announced in June,” he said.
Ball said that in the lead-up to 2019, he hopes he’ll be judged on whether the province is a better place.
“The province will be in better shape, and better prepared to actually face the challenges that a province like Newfoundland and Labrador will always have.”