The Newfoundland and Labrador authorities is refusing to reveal COVID-19 modelling that Liberal Leader Andrew Furey stated helped justify his choice to name an election amid a pandemic.
On Feb. 9, as new instances of COVID-19 started to soar within the St. John’s space — an outbreak that led three days later to the last-minute cancellation of in-person voting in all 40 districts — Furey stated “probabilistic modelling” led to his choice to name an election earlier than most voters can be vaccinated.
“You look at the evidence available to you and you try to look for it as best you can,” Furey stated in the course of the COVID-19 briefing that day. “The numbers were low. The probabilistic modelling looked like we may have a spike more towards the end of March. And so we thought the time was now.”
In January, Furey was assured as he known as an election for Feb. 13. However, the election marketing campaign — now in its ninth week — remains to be unresolved, and mail-in ballots should now be acquired by March 25. Elections NL has not but indicated when the vote depend can be accomplished and the outcomes made public.
CBC Radio-Canada requested a duplicate of that modelling by way of access-to-information laws. Last Wednesday, that request was denied by the Department of Health and Community Services as a result of the information is taken into account cupboard data.
Furey was not out there for an interview. But in a press release, he stated: “As I have said repeatedly, the election was called January 15 after consistently low prevalence of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, outbreaks in three communities quickly contained, and getting through the holiday season without an outbreak.
“No one might have predicted the outbreak that occurred.”
Opposition also requested modelling — to no avail
CBC News is not alone in requesting the modelling. The leaders of both opposition parties said they also requested access to Furey’s forecasting data during a mid-February meeting of the all-party committee on COVID-19.
In an interview Thursday, NDP Leader Alison Coffin said Furey was asked several questions about the health data behind the election call.
“I stated very particularly, ‘Where did these fashions come from and may I see them?'” Coffin said. She said Furey told her the models did not come from Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province’s chief medical officer of health. Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie, who also participated in the meeting, confirmed he was told the same thing.
“I by no means did get to see what that modelling was,” Coffin said.
“To hold it secret after which use it to find out when the election was going to occur, that is very problematic and raises plenty of issues.”
In an email, Liberal Party spokesperson Meghan McCabe said that during his Feb. 9 press conference, Furey “referred to probabilistic modelling which got here from knowledge from totally different jurisdictions.”
Crosbie said Thursday he doubts the modelling exists at all. But the response from the Department of Health and Community Services to CBC Radio-Canada’s access-to-information request indicates “entry to those data has been refused,” suggesting some documents are, indeed, being withheld.
“I do not suppose the paperwork exist but when they did exist, [Furey] ought to waive any declare of cupboard confidentiality,” Crosbie said. “If he needs to persuade the general public that he had sound grounds and causes primarily based in public security to name the election when he did, then he ought to present to the general public that he had that.”
‘A BS excuse’
Crosbie also questioned the decision to withhold modelling information by the Department of Health and Community Services. In a letter, the department said documents were withheld on the grounds the data are “cupboard data,” meaning “recommendation, suggestions or coverage concerns submitted or ready for submission to the cupboard.”
“It’s a BS excuse as a result of Mr. Furey has stated that an election name is his, and his alone, to make,” Crosbie said. “A cupboard doesn’t make that decision, so these cannot be cupboard paperwork.”
McCabe, the Liberal spokesperson, noted that experts such as Dr. Proton Rahman, the specialist who created COVID-19 modelling for the provincial government last year, have said no one could have predicted that an outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus would occur days before voting day.
In his statement, Furey reiterated his reasons for calling an election in January: “Three different provinces and the U.S. have been all capable of efficiently maintain elections in the course of the pandemic, Elections NL had publicly stated it might safely run an election, opposition events publicly stated they may safely take part in an election, and an election needed to be known as this yr as a result of province’s laws.”