Hold off on relaunch of Liberal leadership campaign, candidate says

John Abbott says the Liberal leadership campaign should not resume until Newfoundland and Labrador moves to Alert Level 3. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Liberal leadership candidate John Abbott says he still has his eyes set on the premier’s office, but would like his party to wait before reviving its leadership campaign.

In a statement, Abbott — who is competing with surgeon and Team Broken Earth founder Andrew Furey for the leadership — said the party should wait until the province loosens more restrictions when it moves to a more relaxed level in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What’s the rush?” said Abbott.  “We’re asking people to make a decision that could dictate the fate of our province. We owe it to them to allow that decision to be made after getting something of their lives back.” 

The Liberal party is poised Monday to announce the next steps in a leadership campaign that was halted March 23, as Newfoundland and Labrador moved into a public health emergency — forcing many businesses and institutions to close, and leaving tens of thousands of workers either out of work or working from home.

Abbott’s statement comes as Newfoundland and Labrador moved to Alert Level 4 on Monday, the first loosening of rules since the government declared a public health emergency. The transition allows for some modest changes to daily life, such as the reopening of trails in public parks and an increase to 10 of the number of people who can attend a funeral, burial, or wedding. 

Abbott said with a “minimal loosening of restrictions,” the rules are still too tight for a leadership campaign to resume. 

“Essentially the province is in the same situation it faced when the party was forced to pause the election at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis,” Abbott said in the statement, issued late Sunday night.

Abbott would like the party to wait until Alert Level 3 is declared.

No date set for Alert Level 3

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the chief medical officer of health, has not set a date for Alert Level 3, but has said that the province could move from Level 4 to Level 3 in 28 days so long as there are no new or very few new cases of COVID-19, the highly infectious viral disease that has infected more than four million people worldwide and caused more than 284,000 deaths.

Premier Dwight Ball triggered a leadership race in February when he announced his plans to retire, as soon as the Liberal Party could select his successor.

That convention had originally been scheduled for last Saturday. The race, however, was indefinitely postponed because of concerns that campaigning would be too risky.

Some Liberal sources said last week the party would like to have the race concluded by June, without a traditional convention. Instead, party members would vote online or by telephone.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

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