Steady course, new restraint

James McLeod
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Premier warns against high expectations

Monday afternoon’s speech from the throne celebrated the government’s accomplishments, and signalled people can expect more of the same.

The speech contained no big surprises. Premier Kathy Dunderdale made it clear people shouldn’t expect too much in the way of large scale spending.

On the one hand, she said the economy is “white hot,” but at the same time, with a forecast deficit, no one should expect big new spending from the government. Loss of Atlantic Accord transfer payments and oil production shutdowns have punched a temporary shortfall in the budget of close to $500 million.

“It’s time to rein in our spending on infrastructure particularly,” Dunderdale told reporters. “We’re going to maintain good service delivery. We’re going to meet the needs of the people of the province, but we don’t want expectations to be very high on new initiatives in the budget.”

Throughout the Monday afternoon throne speech, read in the House of Assembly by Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, the government focused on fiscal prudence and economic management.

The government committed to doing a comprehensive review of operations in order to find savings.

“Each department will undertake a structured review of departmental functions to identify opportunities to do things better,” Crosbie read. “These reviews will be complemented by cross-departmental studies and ongoing reviews of the province’s regional health authorities.”

The government also laid out a few key areas necessary to support economic growth.

Steps coming to clear bottleneck in trades accreditation

First, the throne speech made it clear one of the governments’ top priorities is apprentices in the skilled trades.

A bottleneck in the training system in the province has left thousands of apprentices without the on-the-job experience to progress to journeyman certification.

“In this year’s budget, my government is introducing and expanding programs to help apprentices progress through to journeyperson status,” Crosbie read. “We are increasing employer participation and employment opportunities for apprentices.”

Second, the government talked about the need to diversify the economy, especially “the blue economy” — the ocean sciences sector, aquaculture and the fishery.

The government said it is working with members of the fishing industry on seafood sales consortia for “better market intelligence, export development and targeted promotion.”

Thirdly, the government devoted a lengthy section of the speech to the Muskrat Falls project, trumpeting the benefits of the $6.2-billion hydroelectric project.

One small surprise in the speech was the promise of a new funding formula for municipalities — likely not this year, but coming soon.

“We need to develop a new municipal operating grant structure with municipalities, and it’s turned out to be a more complex piece of work than we anticipated, so you know, we won’t be announcing that this year,” Dunderdale said. “We’re well advanced in the work, we’re consulting with municipalities. So there's a piece of work that will become clearer in the budget as we move forward, and hopefully when we get to this point next year we’ll have a new system of municipal operating grants in place.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Geographic location: Atlantic Accord

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Recent comments

  • Jordan
    March 06, 2012 - 13:07

    Dunderdale seemed to continue with Danny's big spending last year and now that's she's got her own mandate she's ready to reign in spending like she said during the campaign.

  • Townie
    March 06, 2012 - 07:58

    "New Restraint" what new restraint? It is the same old pattern. Get elected than save up money to spend for the two yeears before the next election. People this is not "Rocket Science"!!

    • Concerned Citizen
      March 06, 2012 - 09:53

      Time for Restraint - What the hell does that mean when it comes from the mouth of the useless permier - THUNDERDALE. It's like TOWNIE said, no spending for the first couple years and then out with it when they are looking get re-elected. This government is nothing but a JOKE and a disgrace to the people of this province who voted them in. As far as I am concerned their is NO government anyways. And THUNDERDALE, my 17 month old daughter has more sence than what she has !

  • Eli
    March 06, 2012 - 07:56

    "Time for restraint" wasn't on her mind buying the election with fire trucks and a yaffle of frivolous spending.

    • Fiscal Responcibility
      March 06, 2012 - 10:08

      There is absolutely "No Restraint" being shown here! They are estimating a $500 millon budget deficit this year adding to the current provincial debt of close to $8 billion dollars. Add the unfunded pension liability of the public service pension that Minister Marshall says is equal to 66% of the provincial debt. "We're paying down our direct debt, but the unfunded pension liability is going up like $500-$600 million every year," Marshall said. We have a situation that needs to be dealt with now. This government needs more than just a review by departments to try and find some efficiencies.