The government’s throne speech didn’t do much to arouse anyone’s ire, but it didn’t provoke any dramatic support either.
Both labour and business groups reacted by saying they would wait to see how the vague statements translate into specific actions.
“The devil is in the details,” Canadian Federation of Independent Business spokesman Bradley George said.
Lana Payne, president of the N.L. Federation of Labour, was unfazed by a message of restraint and fiscal prudence.
Negotiations coming up
With public-sector unions heading into negotiations with the government later this year, Payne instead chose to focus on the fact Premier Kathy Dunderdale called the province’s economy “white hot.”
“I think what we have is a province that has, yes, a hot economy. Those were the words that were used in the throne speech,” Payne said.
“What does that mean for working people? I would suggest to you that working people believe that they should be participating and benefiting from the prosperity.”
The Dunderdale government did earn votes of confidence from municipal leaders — encouraged by the promise of a new funding formula for municipalities — and university president Gary Kachanoski said he appreciates the “tremendous” support for the university.
Opposition leaders were more upset with what they didn’t hear from Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie Monday.
Spending priorities wrong
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said he couldn’t fault the government on its emphasis on fiscal prudence and paying down the province’s debt, but he said its spending priorities are all wrong.
Ball said he would have liked to see something on affordable housing, especially more of a specific vision for the future.
“I felt it was pretty lacking on detail,” Ball said. “A lot dealt with, I felt, things that happened in the past — spoke a lot about past events and not a whole lot about the future.”
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael was also upset the speech failed to make mention of housing issues around the province.
“I can’t believe that in the situation we are in right now with regard to housing, that there is nothing in it about housing. We are really in a crisis when it comes to housing that’s affordable to middle- and low-income people in this province,” she said. “We have major housing problems right around the province and it makes no mention of housing at all.”
Michael also said she would have liked to hear something about child care, and Ball said he would have liked to hear more about seniors’ issues.
Michael also took issue with the final section of the throne speech, in which the government called on people to “park divisive agendas and come together to partner in growth.” The throne speech also talked about the need to “forego the negativity and to focus on people so no one is left behind.”
“It really bothers me because the government keeps painting anybody who is bringing forward ideas different to theirs as being against them, as being partisan,” Michael said. “They seem to think it’s their way or no way, and that really bothers me.”
Dunderdale was quick to dismiss that. She said the government welcomes opposition questions, but the tone in the past has been critical beyond what regular people are feeling.
“If you were to listen to the Opposition and the third party, in Newfoundland and Labrador the sky is falling, everything is in disrepair and falling apart,” she said. “The experience of everybody else in this province and for people who look at it from the outside and come in, that is not the case.”