It’s all about the money in the House

James McLeod
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Cutting government waste the focus of question period

Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks with reporters Tuesday following question period in the House of Assembly. The fiscal restraint and the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project were main topics of Tuesday’s debate. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Premier Kathy Dunderdale is looking to find around $100 million in government waste, but critics are skeptical she can do it.

The province’s fiscal situation dominated the first question period of the House of Assembly Tuesday since the October election.

The government is asking all of its departments to find three per cent budget cuts, but during question period, Dunderdale revealed that certain things would be off limits.

“Front-line health and education services will be exempted. Policing services will be exempted. Child, Youth and Family Services will be exempted. Income support will be exempted,” Dunderdale said in response to a question in the House.

“There are all kinds of areas where one can look for savings, Mr. Speaker. We do it all of the time. We are doing a very focused look right now.”

Three per cent of the province’s overall budget would amount to around $250 million in cuts, but Dunderdale said overall they’re looking to save less than that — more like $100 million.

“We can still look at travel. We can look at administration and wherever it makes sense to have an examination of where savings can be found. We need to do it,” Dunderdale told reporters.

“It’s something that we should be doing on a regular basis anyway because it’s just good fiscal management.”

The government is forecasting a nearly $500-million deficit this year, due to issues with oil production and the loss of Atlantic Accord transfer payments from the federal government.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said the $100 million in savings should be pretty easy for the government to do, but he questioned the government’s long-term fiscal planning.

“We haven’t seen a plan to spend money, and now we don’t see a plan on how to save money,” Ball said. “Without looking at the budget details of it, I think that $100 million of a $7 billion budget shouldn’t be that hard to find.”

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael wasn’t so quick to accept the notion of budget cuts, though.

“I guess I’m still wondering what it is that she’s expecting to find,” Michael said. “Is it that they’ve identified that there are problems in some areas that spending is going on that shouldn’t be happening? If not, why are they doing this?”

She said she’d be opposed to the government trying to use technology to replace people for government services, and generally, she said she’s skeptical of the idea to shrink the size of the public service.

However, that’s definitely something that’s on Dunderdale’s mind. She said she won’t entertain the idea of layoffs, but if they can reduce the number of public employees through attrition, that’s something they’ll want to consider.

“The public service is growing and has been growing steadily over the last eight years,” Dunderdale said. “So we’re certainly not going to be laying people off but we’re going to look at attrition to see if we can manage growth.”

The idea of cuts to the public service didn’t sit well with Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees.

“Some front-line public services will be affected by this and if they’re not going to fill the jobs that are created through attrition, then we’re going to have vacancies which means that public services are going to be cut,” Furlong said.

She said the government shouldn’t be looking at permanent job cuts as a means to solve a temporary budget shortfall.

“For the life of me, I don’t understand what it’s about,” Furlong said. “I don’t see any need to reduce the services to the people of the province.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Youth and Family Services, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees

Geographic location: Atlantic Accord

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Recent comments

  • Charles
    March 07, 2012 - 12:07

    Ball what are you talking about...Before you open your mouth...think first...That got to be one of the SILLY statement...Give us the LIBERAL PLAN...on how to save money and spend money...This should be fun

  • The wild and irrational behaviour
    March 07, 2012 - 11:07

    The wild and irrational behaviour towards Lorraine Michael in the House of Assembly yesterday just for asking the premier of NfLd why she censored debate in the House on the Muskrat hydro proposal; was really something else. Wow. Struck a nerve or what? One of the ministers sitting behind Dunderdale was even baring her teeth! What an ungodly spectacle. It should have a warning label that some people may find it offensive during the evening news when the kids are still up. Too bad about the copy-write. Bet it would get a lot of hits on YouTube.

  • port union plant worker
    March 07, 2012 - 10:37

    What a pathetic excuse for a premier this one is..Just last year she waltzed around ,throwing money everywhere. now we'er told ,tighten ya belt bys.If past governments hadn't negotiated oil deals,we'd be on a level with somalia.She crows about reduceing the debt with about 15 billion that came from oil,,big deal dunderdale

  • M
    March 07, 2012 - 09:51

    Laorraine Michaels Not in favour of using technology to replace workers???!!!! We should go back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and have people screw the tops on the tubes of toothpaste?? I am actually happy that the NDP have elected a few members so we can all see once and for all what a joke they are. Whenever I hear Ryan Cleary or Lorraine Michael speak I smile knowing that if you give them enough rope they will hang themselves.

  • Stephen
    March 07, 2012 - 08:25

    The government and the people need to take a hard and realistic look at the debt. Burying heads in the sand and calling savings heartless and savage is what Greece did.

  • Bennett
    March 07, 2012 - 08:05

    The Headline should read: The People will pay for PC Dunderdale's Election promises. How naive are people, really? When the election was rolling along the PC's were making promise after promise and spending like you wouldn't believe. Then the Finance minister finds that we have an unexpected surplus due to the price of oil. No accountability for such outrageously poor projections. Now we hear of shuts downs which will affect oil revenues. Didn't we know of that when they were spending all that money on election promises? They are all a joke. Sad part is nobody is laughing. 4 years of incompetence is what I see.

  • Pam
    March 07, 2012 - 07:41

    Nothing wrong with having a look at the way some departments do things, and i am sure they can do things a little differently, and cheaper! And i am with Don...thank god the NDP and the Unions are not at the helm here. Lorraine and her crew need to live in reality instead of the dream world they are living in. Oh...and someone tell Gerry Rogers she is not in the theatre. My god she was pitiful.

  • MBC
    March 07, 2012 - 06:58

    The TELEGRAM should research the total expenditures paid for conferences and conventions by Ministers , Deputy Ministers and ADMs for the fiscal year 2010-11.

  • Don
    March 07, 2012 - 06:50

    Thank God Lorraine and the Unions are not running the province. What a bunch of idiots.

    • Concerned citizen
      March 07, 2012 - 09:01

      Maybe we should of left the oil under our ocean floor. THUNDERDALES responce is"We have lost our of our Atlantic Accord transfer payment and isssues with oil production" Listen princess, YOU CAN'T HAVE IT ALL". So if she does this every year, cutting 3% from each departemnt, eventually I guess there will be NO JOBS????? Is that what she's saying???..............You are a disgrace, as I have always said, for a SO CALLED PREMIER THUNDERALE!!!!!!!!!!