Candidate calls to suspend N.L. Liberal leadership election due to COVID-19

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball poses for a picture in his office at the Confederation Building in St. John's on Tuesday, February 18, 2020. The Canadian Press/Paul Daly

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The race to replace Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal premier will continue despite the global COVID-19 pandemic and disagreement between the candidates over whether to suspend it.

The Liberal party says the in-person convention scheduled for May 8 and 9 in St. John’s will be cancelled, but the campaign and convention, including all voting, will happen online and by phone.

The May vote is set to determine who will be the next leader of the provincial Liberals and the province after Premier Dwight Ball announced his resignation last month.

Ball has said he would step down once a new party leader is chosen.

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John Abbott, one of the two candidates in the race, said it was in the public interest to place both campaigns on hold while people are focused on their safety and financial well-being.

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“The election of a new leader is important, but not as important as the public health and economic issues facing us today,” Abbott said in a statement.

Andrew Furey, Abbott’s opponent, supported cancelling the convention and public events with the candidates, but suggested the vote continue by phone and online.

“My commitment to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is to lead our province through even our most challenging of times,” Furey said in a statement, adding that his proposal would allow for “democracy at home.”

Click to play video: 'N.L. premier denies reports Liberal party pushed him out'
N.L. premier denies reports Liberal party pushed him out

Liberal party election committee members said the decision announced Wednesday came after meetings with both candidates to hear their positions.

The party said the situation is being monitored and the campaign could be suspended at some point if necessary.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2020.

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