ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Muskrat Falls: Last year, the Progressive Conservative government announced a tentative deal to develop the $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador. The government staked its political capital on the project, saying it would provide a secure, clean and cheap source of energy as offshore oil production wanes, and create 2,700 jobs at peak employment in 2013. The government also hopes to sell excess energy to Nova Scotia and eventually other markets in the northeastern United States.
The Opposition Liberals fear the deal would increase the province's debt and double electricity costs for residents while subsidizing them for people in Nova Scotia. The party has accused the government of trying to rush the project without proper scrutiny and has promised to stop spending on the development while conducting an analysis on options to meet future energy demands. The NDP has expressed similar concerns.
Economy: Despite a stream of revenue from the province's offshore oil industry, the province of 508,000 remains saddled with a net debt of $8.7 billion — more than $17,000 for every man, woman and child. It also has an unemployment rate of 13.7 per cent, the highest in the country.
Some believe the financial benefits of the offshore haven't been seen outside St. John's, where sprawling suburbs have sprung up in recent years. The Liberals and NDP say the urban-rural divide should be better addressed and the province's wealth better distributed. The Conservatives say they have done that by increasing spending on roads, schools and health care in small and large communities.
Leadership: Nearly a year after he quit public life, Danny Williams continues to cast a shadow over the political scene. That has sometimes caused unexpected headaches for his successor, Kathy Dunderdale, and a rift between the two has occasionally flared up.
Kevin Aylward has been the Liberal leader for just over a month after Yvonne Jones suddenly stepped down to focus on her breast cancer recovery. But Aylward is no novice with 18 years of provincial political experience — some of it as a cabinet minister.
The NDP's Lorraine Michael has the least political experience of the three, but she is the only one who has previously waged an election campaign as leader.
Fisheries: Almost 20 years after the collapse of the cod, the fisheries remains a defining way of life in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. But past efforts at fixing the centuries-old industry have failed, forcing younger generations to leave the province's outports in search of work elsewhere.
The Liberals have promised a number of measures aimed at revitalizing the fisheries, including a judicial inquiry to investigate management, science and conservation. The NDP are calling for the reopening of the Ocean Choice International fish plant in Marystown on the province's south coast. The Tories have not yet released their platform on the issue.
Health care: The province is faced with an aging population that's putting an increased strain on hospitals and senior care facilities. The Conservatives have boosted spending on health care, pointing to the unprecedented $2.9 billion they have set aside for health services this fiscal year.
But the NDP say the government hasn't done enough to recruit and retain doctors, and needs to provide more community living options for the elderly. The Liberals say they would review the availability of long-term care beds and deliver a home care strategy.