By Mark Squibb/December 21, 2022
Avalon MP Ken McDonald said the affordability of goods and services is perhaps the single biggest challenges facing the province, and Canada, heading into the New Year.
“I think the biggest fallout from COVID is the affordability issue,” said McDonald. “And that affects everybody, whether you’re a low-income earner, or a senior, or someone who has a high paying job. I don’t do the grocery shopping in the house, I do very little shopping. But last week I went out to Costco with my wife Trudy, and she was looking at the roast beefs and the steaks, and I couldn’t believe the prices. There was a roast there that was $275. It was a bigger than normal roast… how can a family afford to go buy a $275 roast? I was flabbergasted, I couldn’t believe it. Other times Trudy will come home, and I’ll say, ‘Where’s the rest of it? There’s no way you paid all of that for them two little bags.’ And so, people are finding it very hard. Seniors are still living on a very limited, fixed income, and I don’t know how they do it, I really don’t.”
McDonald said it is difficult to combat inflation, as there are multiple factors contributing to rising prices such as the ongoing invasion by Russia into Ukraine.
“Lots of supplies came from there, like grain for example,” said McDonald. “And people don’t know it yet, but we’re in for a big shock when it comes to the price of food.”
The Liberal MP said his concerns about affordability fueled his decision this past October to vote with the Conservatives on a motion to exempt home heating fuel from the federal carbon tax.
“I thought it was the right time to do it, with the affordability crisis on the go, not just in Newfoundland and Labrador, but across the country,” said McDonald. “I can only imagine what some people are going through. It’s a difficult time, and I didn’t think it was the right time to put an extra 20 cents, on top of HST, on every litre of home heating fuel.”
McDonald was the only Liberal to support the Conservative motion and said he informed his colleagues ahead of time of the decision.
“There haven’t been any repercussions, but there’s been some slights, I’ll call it,” said McDonald. “For example, there was an announcement scheduled to be done in my riding in Ferryland. And that announcement was cancelled. It was province-wide, it didn’t just involve communities in the riding, it involved communities across the island. And it hasn’t taken place yet. That I think was a sort of slight against me.”
But others, he said, including strangers, have stopped and thanked him for voting in favour of the exemption.
“I think they appreciated that someone actually stood up and tried to make a difference and speak for them, rather than tow the party line,” said McDonald.
The motion was put forward by new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.
“Some days I think he’s doing a good job, like when he highlights things government should or shouldn’t be doing, and other days I think he stretches things a bit too far,” said McDonald. “During Question Period, he’ll always raise the affordability issue, which I think will help him, because that affects everyone across the country… Cost of living is top of mind for everybody from one end of the country to the other. So, if he keeps highlighting that and putting forward plans that him or his party think would help solve the problem, or help people through the affordability crisis, he may gain traction with that.”
As for Poilievre “stretching things,” McDonald said Poilievre sometimes zeros in on issues, such as a recent breach of ethics by International Trade Minister Mary Ng, and makes them appear larger than they are.
Poilievre visited the province last week, making stops at the St. John’s Rod and Gun Club and White Rose project site, carefully avoiding any association with his party’s looming loss in a byelection in Ontario.
“I think he’ll gain support in the province, if he keeps paying attention to Newfoundland and Labrador,” said McDonald. “Every party and every leader has a best before date. And when that time comes, you can do everything you want to try and stay in power, but when people are ready for change, you’re out the door.”
McDonald, now 63 and serving his seventh year in office, says it’s too early to say whether he’ll run again. If he does, he’ll see some changes to the boundaries of the riding according to recommendations from a federal commission. Next election, all of Paradise, instead of just part of it, will fall outside Avalon. Paradise will find a home in the newly minted Cape Spear district, which also includes Mount Pearl and Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.
“If this goes ahead, and they stick to what they say, I lose a good part of the riding that has been very good to me,” said McDonald. “I don’t like losing that part of Paradise. I’ve done well in Paradise, and I would have liked to keep it.”
McDonald would also lose a portion of Placentia, which he would be sad to see go, but would gain Bay Bulls, Witless Bay, Goulds, and Petty Harbour Maddox Cove, along with Southlands and, over in CBN, Salmon Cove.
Looking back over the year that was, McDonald said he is most proud of all the Liberal government has done to help people, especially with affordability.
“Government is still there to support people, regardless of what level of government it is,” said the member, pointing to such Liberal policies as the rent subsidies and Children Dental Health Program.
He also boasted of the work done by ACOA.
“There’s no better organization in government I think than ACOA when it comes to providing funding to certain entities,” said McDonald. “They’re on the ground, they work with certain organizations to see what works. I had a couple (applications) approved this week, and I’m just waiting for the recipients to be notified that they’re getting it. But these are projects that communities would never get done if government didn’t put money towards them.”
McDonald said he was also proud to play a part in increasing fishing boat length limits for Newfoundland’s inshore fishery to better align with the rest of Atlantic Canada. That legislation saw boat size requirements increase to 49’11 from 39’11.
As for COVID-19, McDonald said it’s still a threat to people.
“I had COVID back in June, but it wasn’t really serious,” said McDonald. “I had one miserable night, but after that I was fine. But if we’re not careful, it will flair up again. We have to keep it at bay to see if it will disappear. But we may be dealing with this for years to come. Listening to various doctors across the country, they all say that we’re going to have to learn to live with this.”
McDonald caught COVID in Ottawa. He was also in Ottawa this past February when anti-vaxxers and people opposed to government health measures laid siege to the nation’s capital for several weeks.
McDonald said he walked the streets and not one protester said ‘Boo’ to him. All the same, he supported the use of the Emergency Act to dispel the protesters, who closed downtown Ottawa for almost a month shuttering businesses and making life miserable for thousands of citizens who live downtown.