By Patrick Newhook/January 13, 2022
As Avalon representative Ken McDonald embarks on his sixth year as a federal Member of Parliament he is hoping to do more for seniors, the homeless and people who are being hit hardest because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That was one of the views he expressed in a year-end interview before Christmas.
“It’s been a different year because of the simple fact, of course, COVID brought in a lot of restrictions on a lot of things that you’d normally do,” said McDonald.
McDonald said the government has done the best it could over the last year to help.
“I think they did quite well with handling it,” he said “There was no playbook for anyone to read on a pandemic like this. We’ve never seen the likes of this before and I think it was the government’s job to get money out as quickly as possible to make sure that people were still able to buy groceries, still able to pay their utility bills, still able to put gas in their vehicle if they had to go anywhere and that continues.”
Meanwhile, the regular issues aside from Covid, continue to be important, he said.
The riding stretches across the Avalon Peninsula, from Paradise to St. Brides.
“I think one of the biggest issues in my riding is the fishery,” said McDonald. “The fishery still plays a major role in the economics of this province and indeed the economy of many communities. I tell ministers if it wasn’t for the activity on the wharf of a specific community of my riding there’d be no economic activity.”
With COVID-19, there’s been increased pressure from municipalities across Newfoundland for funding. McDonald believes the federal government has done a good job with that.
“Every community is looking for something in the way of funding,” said the Liberal member. “Over the last six years since I’ve been an MP, we’ve had a lot of money dedicated towards infrastructure, dedicated towards the New Horizons for seniors program, dedicated towards ACOA to support small businesses and communities and town councils as well in trying to develop economic activities in their communities. So, I think they’ve done quite well over the last six years.”
Despite the challenges of representing the riding in Ottawa while also being present in it, there’s a lot McDonald is proud of.
“I’m proud of the representation that I bring to Ottawa each and every day. I’m proud of our government for the funding that it’s provided,” he said.
The 2021 federal election was a controversial one. The early election saw similar results to the 2019 election. The Liberals won, but fell short of the majority they were aiming for. Afterwards, it was questioned whether the election was necessary.
“It depends which way you look at it,” said McDonald. “If you look at the record of the voting that went on leading up to the call of the election before the House reset last June, there were parties that voted against every non-confidence motion that came before the House. So, parliament could fall at any given time and no doubt it would (have). Most people have bet that usually a minority government will get from anywhere between 18 to 24 months. It did kind of give the same result, but it gave people an opportunity to say who they wanted to be in charge and they left the Liberal government in power even though it was with a minority again.”
McDonald is also glad that two Newfoundland MP’s are now cabinet ministers, arguing that can be significant for the province.
Meanwhile, despite the similar results, McDonald said there are some differences between the two parliaments.
“I think there’s a little bit more willingness to work together and I see that in the House and I see it in the hallways,” he said. “I hear it in discussions, so hopefully everyone will work together.”
As for how long the federal government can keep up the borrowing and spending in response to the pandemic before trying to get back to a balanced budget, McDonald is unsure.
“That’s going to be the million dollar question – how do we get back to a balanced budget?” he admitted. “If we can keep the economy going and keep building and building and building, I think that’ll help get where we want to get for balancing the budget and getting some of this debt paid down.”