PHOTO CAPTION: Premier Kathy Dunderdale and St. John's Centre incumbent Shawn Skinner speak to reporters today in St. John’s. — Photo by Barb Sweet/ The Telegram
St. John’s Centre NDP candidate Gerry Rogers says Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s visit to the district today is an “act of desperation” by the Progressive Conservatives.
Rogers, who started going door-to-door well before the election started, said in a phone interview she’s hearing continuously that people want a change.
“People feel totally abandoned and neglected by this government,” said the businesswoman and filmmaker.
Dunderdale took time out of preparing for tonight’s leaders’ debate to visit Buckmaster’s Circle community centre with incumbent Conservative MHA Shawn Skinner this morning. The centre is in the middle of a large Newfoundland and Labrador Housing complex.
While there, Dunderdale made jewelry with a toddler and chatted with a group gathered at a craft session.
Dunderdale chuckled when asked by The Telegram if she is worried about the district changing hands.
“I am going to move through all 48 districts. I have to be in St. John’s today because the debate is going to take place this evening,” said Dunderdale, who appointed Skinner to her old portfolio, Natural Resources, before moving to the eighth floor of Confederation Building.
“That department meant a great deal to me … It didn’t take long to decide Shawn Skinner is the person I wanted to be there,” Dunderdale said.
Skinner said people in the district are telling him they are happy with the Progressive Conservative government.
“I am certainly not worried,” Skinner said, adding he has the utmost respect for Rogers and Liberal candidate Carly Bigelow, but he feels confident in his and his government's record.
Skinner said the province has shared the wealth that prosperity has brought.
But Rogers, in a telephone interview, said Newfoundland and Labrador is a “have province” with “have-not people.”
“(Liberal) Joey (Smallwood) gave it all away. (Tory) Danny Williams brought it home and now it’s up to the NDP to put it in the hands of the people,” Rogers said.
She said she’s told continuously at the door about exorbitant child-care costs and people scrambling to find affordable housing.
“People are finding it very hard to make a living,” Rogers said.
She also said seniors are worried about making ends meet, students are drowning in debt and the province needs to make it affordable for young families to stay.
“If we can’t afford it now... when in God’s name can we?” Rogers asked.
Skinner did say that there are only two parties vying for the St. John’s Centre seat — the Tories and the NDP, especially after Liberal Danny Dumaresque’s comments at the St. John’s Board of Trade debate Tuesday night.
Dumaresque said the PC government has given enough money to St. John’s and should look after rural areas.
“Mr. Dumaresque’s comments last night show they are trying to do the urban-rural divide and I think that’s an awful card they would be playing,” Skinner said.
“I don’t think the Liberals want this seat.”
The Telegram attempted to contact Bigelow for comment.