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Liberals head off Avalon for final stretch of campaigning before Newfoundland and Labrador heads to the polls

Two friends, one bench and opposing votes: Ed Hartery (left) says he’s voting Liberal, while Fred Whiffen is leaning Tory.
Two friends, one bench and opposing votes: Ed Hartery (left) says he’s voting Liberal, while Fred Whiffen is leaning Tory. - David Maher

Dwight Ball highlights rural success stories on second-last day of campaigning

BONAVISTA, N.L. —

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball spent the second-last day of campaigning in the 2019 Newfoundland and Labrador general election highlighting success stories in rural Newfoundland.

Ball and Neil King, the Liberal candidate in Bonavista, toured Sexton’s Lumber in Brookfield on the first leg of the trip.

The lumber mill employs about 120 people on the Bonavista Peninsula.

Kevin Sexton, owner of Sexton’s Lumber, says his company is thriving right now, but the mill looks much different than it did 20 years ago.

“The automation is very important in our industry. It’s all about the recovery, the amount of lumber you can recover from a particular tree or log,” he said.

“We’ve come leap years from 20 years ago. Can we go as much again in the future? I don’t know. We’re using lasers now and X-ray machines. We can see right through the logs now and see what the log is going to actually produce before it’s even turned into lumber. How much farther can we go? I’m sure we’ll go farther.”

For now, Sexton’s Lumber, which donated $300 to the Liberals in 2018, is doing just fine. Aside from some hills and valleys in commodity pricing, the company is doing well, Sexton says.

As businesses innovate and take advantage of advances in technology, the worry is that more and more jobs will become automated, which could make existing jobs obsolete, especially in fields like forestry and fish processing.

Ball says working with companies in automated fields will be important. He says the government can provide job retraining to help displaced workers of the future.

“There are jobs in the future. We see even in the woods operation, in harvesting itself, that has become automated. There’s less people there, there’s heavier machinery that’s doing the work,” said Ball.

“There’s still jobs in there, but they’re different jobs. What we do is work in partnership with Kevin to make sure that those jobs have people available for them. It takes training.”

In 2015, King took the Bonavista district with 65 per cent of the vote. Tory challenger Craig Pardy, mayor of nearby George’s Brook-Milton, aims to unseat King.

Those around the town of Bonavista on Tuesday say things are booming in the roughly 3,500-person town.

Ed Hartery and Fred Whiffen, residents of Bonavista, sat near the local post office, enjoying the sun.

Whiffen says he’s a personal friend of Craig Pardy, but he’s not getting wrapped up in the election fever.

“They’re trying to suck us in to vote for them. This area, Bonavista in particular, we’re doing excellent with the town itself. Doing a great job. I think if Craig gets in he’ll do as good as what’s in there,” Whiffen said,

Hartery, meanwhile, says things are going pretty well for the province, overall. He says he doesn’t follow politics religiously, but he’s voting Liberal this time.

“Government is doing the best they can, that’s the bottom line. I’m not impressed with them,” he said.

“But Dwight Ball, he took on the problems with Muskrat Falls, he inherited that problem. What I’m impressed about him, when he put all these taxes and the fees, he had to do something. He had to do something to get the economy back on track. What I like about Dwight Ball? He didn’t cave under pressure. He stuck with it. That’s what I was impressed by. That’s why he’s getting my vote.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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