The interim report from the Premier's Economic Recovery Team (PERT) will not be ready by the original Sunday deadline, according to Moya Greene who heads up the taskforce.
Greene called a news conference on Saturday morning to offer an update on where the PERT stood on its recommendations to help dig the province out of its fiscal dilemma. She said the team will need another five to six weeks to deliver the interim "Greene Report."
Greene pointed blame at the pandemic and most recent lockdown across the province for delaying the interim report, which was due by Feb. 28.
"With all of the necessary rearranging that all of us have had to do as a result of the pandemic, and now this new lockdown period, we are just not going to be able to work in the time that I had originally thought," she said.
"But even with that, if you look at our terms of reference, there's a lot of ground that we have been asked to cover. We want to cover it well, and so we are going to need a few extra weeks, maybe five or six extra weeks to get the report done in a way that we'll be happy with."
Greene said the decision to delay has nothing to do with the ongoing provincial election, and the interim report just isn't ready.
The report will be out there and it would be available for everybody to consider when it's done and it's not done yet. - Moya Greene
As for the Feb. 28 deadline, she said she never thought of the date as a "time is of the essence thing."
"I really thought of it as a notional date, and if all the things had gone in the way that I had hoped when we started our work, I thought that would be a reasonable period of time to prepare the interim report," she said.
"A lot has changed since we started and now, most recently with the lockdown, people are working from home and the flow of our work, just like I'm sure things that you are doing, has become more interrupted."
Greene said she is unsure if the interim report delay will have any effect on the final report, which is due by the end of April.
When asked if she could offer some insight into what recommendations are being made so far, Greene said, "the report will be out there and it would be available for everybody to consider when it's done and it's not done yet."
She said over the last 15 to 20 days, she figured the deadline would be missed as it was taking longer for work to be completed. Greene noted she told this to the clerk of the executive council at least a week ago, and everybody on the team knows they needed more time to table the report, the decision wasn't hers alone.
Premier Andrew Furey told reporters on Saturday he was made aware the report would be delayed on Friday by the clerk of the executive council, and he only found out about Greene's news conference on Saturday morning.
"I was surprised to hear that this morning as well. I talked to the clerk this morning and he said Dame Moya Greene did approach him about a potential delay, but they were working toward trying to formulate an interim report and working hard," Furey said.
"This week, it became obvious to him and to her that this was not possible, and he informed me on Friday morning."
Voters misled: Crosbie
Meanwhile, the province's opposition parties aren't buying the reasoning behind the delay.
PC Leader Ches Crosbie said the delay "confirms our worst fears" that the provincial Liberals don't want voters to see the report before casting their ballots, and continues to accuse the party of having a secret plan to make cuts to jobs and services, specifically to rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
The new fluid deadline Greene tabled on Saturday will come after the deadline for voters to have their ballots returned.
Crosbie said many of the undecided voters he had been speaking with wanted to wait until Sunday to read the interim report before making their decision.
"All those people have been badly misled," Crosbie said.
Furey said on Thursday that he hasn't spoken with Greene since Christmas, though the team's mandate is to meet with the premier on a weekly basis, a detail that has been called into question by both the provincial Tories and the NDP.
Greene said things are different now that the province is in the middle of an election, and Furey still doesn't know what is being recommended.
"It's just not appropriate for me to communicate with the premier during the time from the date at which the writ was dropped, and I never arrived back after the Christmas break until Jan. 8," Greene said.
"Before Christmas, I would mostly communicate with the premier by telephone to let him know how things were going. But he certainly doesn't know what the recommendations will be because they're not written yet."
NDP Leader Alison Coffin says a delay in the release of the report means a delay in making vital economic decisions for the future of the province. She said the Liberals are back to their "antics" and "secrecy."
She said she suspects if there was good news coming from the report the team would have tried to rush ahead to deliver it.
"I would assume that if it's bad news then perhaps they would try to delay it as long as possible," she said.
"Certainly, I'm sure, the premier would hate to have the people of Newfoundland and Labrador see the results of something that's bad before they get a chance to vote."
Elsewhere, the NL Alliance said Newfoundlanders and Labradorians "aren't as naive" as Furey thinks they are.
"The showing of Mr. Furey having a complete disregard for the well-being of the people of this province merely to save his own political interests is disgusting," Leader Graydon Pelley said in a statement.
"First, calling a pandemic election, next the debacle of democracy on full display and now his refusal to release a plan he commissioned because he knows it will hurt his chances in a pending election."