Wednesday was day 17 in the general election campaign leading to polling day on March 26. See below what happened on the campaign trail throughout the day.
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What happened today on the campaign trail
8.40pm. This live blog will end here. We'll be back tomorrow for more updates from the 2022 general election campaign.
Here’s a summary of the day’s most salient events:
- Labour Deputy leader Daniel Micallef says a new Labour government will hold a public discussion on voluntary euthanasia while continuing to strengthen palliative services.
- Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne stands in for Robert Abela at Labour's evening public event, promising clinics for Long Covid and more free medicines.
- The first electoral campaign debate hosted by the Broadcasting Authority is held on TVM.
- Bernard Grech hits out at Labour 'lies' and spin, accusing the PL of becoming the negative party.
- There is outcry on social media after Labour Party candidate Ray Abela distributes virtual reality headsets to a primary school in his district.
- The Nationalist Party promises to create three new free trade zones.
- The Labour Party accuses the Nationalist Party of planning to slash tax rates for the wealthy while stopping tax refund cheques for average workers. The PN denies the claims.
Labour promises public discussion on voluntary euthanasia
8.19pm - Labour deputy leader Daniel Micallef says in Siġġiewi that while a new Labour government will continue to invest in palliative care, it will start a discussion on voluntary euthanasia for those who are terminally ill.
He had spoken on the subject before, telling Times of Malta in January last year that his father’s death confirmed his support for euthanasia.
Fearne: Long Covid clinics to be set up
7.53pm Chris Fearne, standing in for Robert Abela in Siġġiewi, once a Nationalist stronghold but now more finely balanced, says the government plans to set up specialised clinics to treat people suffering from Long Covid. He also promises that more medicines would be handed out for free by the health service.
The government will be offering HPV medicines anti-cancer jabs for boys from April 1.
Grech says 'Labour is the negative party'
6.54pm Bernard Grech, speaking in Senglea, hits out at 'Labour lies', denying that a PN government would stop tax refund cheques or withdraw aid to people living in leased properties. Turning the tables on Labour, he says it is the PL which is the negative party, resorting to lies and spin after having failed to put together an electoral programme.
He also reiterates the PN's commitment to help women seeking IVF treatment, including financial help when they seek treatment abroad, and payment for medicines.
Where are the leaders tonight?
6.20pm Bernard Grech is heading to the inner harbour region, to speak at a PN event in Senglea (start:6.30pm).
Chris Fearne will deputise for Robert Abela. He will be speaking at a Labour Party event in Siġġiewi that is scheduled to begin at 6.30pm.
ADPD candidate to boycott University debate
6.11pm It's not just Volt Malta that's unhappy with the way tomorrow's debate at University has been structured.
ADPD candidate Anthony Buttigieg (districts 1 and 10) is angry that representatives of smaller parties will be allowed to speak for half the time that PL and PN ones will.
"You would have thought that the temple of free and forward thinking in Malta would have given equal weight to all sides of the argument," he writes, saying he is skipping the event in protest.
More about the issue here.
Adrian Delia gets a Birkirkara FC boost
5.55pm Birkirkara FC has been granted a concession on the land title of its Infetti training grounds, and former club president Adrian Delia is front and centre of the announcement.
In a statement announcing the decision, the football club thanked Sports Minister Clifton Grima and two politicians in the district 8 locality, Delia and Labour’s Edward Zammit Lewis.
The PN elected three candidates from the district last time round – David Agius, Beppe Fenech Adami and Therese Comodini Cachia. The latter is bowing out of politics, and Delia will be hoping to capture that seat while also outgunning his party rival Fenech Adami in the race for votes.
Candidate uses children as electoral props
4.35pm Ray Abela will be on the ballot paper as a Labour candidate in districts 1 and 3. The latter includes his hometown, Żejtun.
Earlier today, he thought it would be a good idea to hand out virtual reality headsets to children in his hometown. The headsets are all plastered with his name on them.
Any further comment would be superfluous.
Read more about it here.
Volt accuses KSU of being undemocratic
4.20pm Volt Malta is livid: they say they’re being frozen out of tomorrow’s university debate due to a “technicality”.
"We've been kept out of the ring by KSU - Kunsill Studenti Universitarji and MUDU - The Malta University Debating Union in tomorrow's debate. Perhaps we expected too much from a governing body within the University of Malta to meet actual standards of democratic representation,” the party writes.
The KSU-organised debate, which begins tomorrow at 12pm, is expected to feature leaders of the various political parties contesting the upcoming election. But KSU has been sketchy on the details so far.
Volt is fielding two candidates in the upcoming general election – Alexia De Bono (districts 8 and 9) and Thomas ‘Kass’ Mallia (districts 10 and 11).
Bernard Grech the GOAT?
4.11pm Politicians are usually adept at dribbling past uncomfortable questions. Bernard Grech, it appears, is also pretty nifty at doing his dribbling on the football pitch.
The PN leader showed off his skills during a visit to MCAST earlier today. And he now has this video, comparing him to Lionel Messi, to prove it.
It seems Grech is quite enjoying his kickabouts while meeting with students, having indulged in his free kick skills during a visit to Junior College last week.
PN proposes three new free trade zones
3.32pm The Nationalist Party intends to create three new free trade zones if elected into government, party members said on Wednesday.
The party says it will be making use of the Malta Free Zone act, which enables EU member states to designate parts of the customs territory as ‘free zones’ where goods imported from outside the EU are not subject to import duty and other charges.
But when asked where these zones would be located or what services they would provide, PN spokesperson Peter Agius said that more details had not been included as these were subject to industry consultation.
Labour targets PN's tax cuts for the top 4%
3.14pm The PL is claiming that the PN will stop issuing tax refund cheques while also slashing tax rates for the wealthy.
Labour candidates Clyde Caruana and Andy Ellul held a press conference this afternoon, with the sole purpose of hammering this point home.
The PN has said that it will reduce the income tax rate for income over €60,000 to 25% (from 35%). It has also glossed over the issue of tax refunds, which Labour has made a key component of its electoral strategy.
Caruana and Ellul said that 96% of workers earned less than €60,000 a year, meaning only the top 4% will benefit from the PN’s tax cuts.
For what it’s worth, PN candidate Jason Azzopardi was asked (by a Labour reporter) about the PN’s tax refund stance during a press conference earlier today.
He said the Labour claim was “fake news” and referred to page 162 of the party’s manifesto. But page 162 makes no reference to tax refunds, so we're not sure what to make of that.
More about the PL claims here.
PN holds press conference
2.33pm PN spokesperson Peter Agius is leading a PN press conference.
Watch it in the video below.
An Infrastructure Malta denial
2.30pm Earlier, we reported that Arnold Cassola has accused Infrastructure Malta of plotting a "mini Central Link" in Burmarrad.
The agency has now responded, saying Cassola is mistaken and basing his allegations on a 1988 proposal that never got off the ground.
Labour Party holds press conference
2.07pm Labour Party candidate Andy Ellul is leading a Labour Party press conference this afternoon. Watch it in the video below.
Cassola warns of a mini Central Link in Burmarrad
1.13pm Arnold Cassola has accused Infrastructure Malta of quietly plotting a “miniature Central Link” project in Burmarrad.
The independent candidate (districts 10 and 11) said that the roads agency wants to build a new road running from the roundabout leading to the St Paul’s Bay bypass, cutting behind the Kiabi complex and ending next to Piscopo Gardens.
“Basically, this is another Central Link screw up in miniature,” he said.
Vegan-focused NGOs unveil their ideas
12.23pm What if you needed a licence to own a pet and meat and dairy came with additional taxes?
That’s an idea pitched by two vegan-focused organisations, which believe that Malta needs to do a lot more to encourage plant-based diets.
Veggy Malta and Animal Liberation Malta have teamed up to present what they are calling a list of “ethical recommendations for political parties based on the four pillars of veganism”.
Apart from the aforementioned proposals, the two NGOs also want:
- Plant-based milks to be made VAT-free
- More focus on plant-based food at state institutions such as hospitals and homes for the elderly
- A freeze on new animal factory farms
- Research incentives for lab-based meat alternatives
- A ban on fur farming
- No new zoo licences
- Horse carriages to be phased out over 5 years
- 50% of Malta’s seas to be designated fishing-free zones
How long will government cushion energy prices?
11.52am Robert Abela was asked about his pledge to keep utility prices stable (even as international gas prices are hitting record highs). He said the government would cushion prices "whatever it takes".
But nothing in life lasts forever. For how long can the government keep it up? Abela has not quite said.
Ministers bask in reflected glory
10.14am An Indian multinational pharmaceutical firm, Torrent Pharma, is investing €22 million into its Malta-based operations.
Robert Abela is on hand to announce it, of course. But so too are ministers Miriam Dalli and Silvio Schembri and parliamentary secretary Deo Debattista. Quite the entourage.
Watch the announcement in the video below.
Labour and PN battle it out on TVM
9.55am Expect another political debate on the national broadcaster this evening.
Julie Zahra and Ivan J. Bartolo will be representing the PN, with Labour sending Byron Camilleri and Jonathan Attard.
TVM reporter Liam Carter will moderate the event, which will be aired at 8.45pm.
Another PN push for the young vote
9.47am Bernard Grech made very public visits to Junior College and the University campus last week.
He's now following it up with a visit to the MCAST campus in Paola this morning, scheduled for 10.30am.
What happened yesterday?
8.46am A brief reminder of yesterday's key points and claims:
- Labour pledged to make contraceptives and the morning-after pill free. The PN and Volt Malta have also made this pledge. The PL also pledged to start screening women for breast cancer at 45, rather than 50.
- The PN promised hunters it would fight for spring hunting and work to "simplify" hunting regulations.
- The entertainment sector was up in arms after Julia Farrugia Portelli mocked PN candidate Julie Zahra by telling her “we’re not singing on a stage here”. Zahra is also a singer.
- Labour and the PN crossed swords over proposals for pensions and ESG-compliant businesses.
8.40am Good morning and welcome to today's live blog.
It's a slow start to the day, election-wise.
Prime Minister Robert Abela will be announcing an investment by an Indian pharmaceutical company, Torrent Pharma, at 10am. There's no word on Bernard Grech's morning plans just yet.