Premier says province can’t take any more responsibilities from feds
Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to members of the media following question period Wednesday afternoon. —Photo by Keith Gosse/ The Telegram
Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Wednesday she has no inside information on what will be in the federal budget today, but she knows what she doesn’t want to see.
Dunderdale said there’s simply no room for the federal government to download responsibilities on the province.
Moreover, she said if the government is in the business of making budget cuts, it had better not be heavier in Newfoundland and Labrador than the rest of the country.
“As a provincial leader the first thing I’m looking for in this budget is fairness and balance,” Dunderdale said.
“We want to be treated equitably as our sister provinces across the country.”
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will deliver his budget in the House of Commons this afternoon.
Faced with a multibillion-dollar deficit, all signs point to widespread cuts in today’s budget.
In the past, spending reductions from Ottawa have sometimes meant the province has picked up the slack.
Currently, the government is spending millions annually on fisheries research — traditionally a federal responsibility — and when the Conservative government announced the closure of the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s, Dunderdale offered up money to try to keep it open.
This time around, though, Dunderdale said even if they wanted to, they’re not in a position to put up with any downloading from Ottawa.
“As I’ve told the people of the province in the lead-up to our own budget, we’re going to have a deficit this year and we’re going to have a deficit next year,” she said. “I do not have the resources to be able to allow the federal government to back away completely from their obligations and responsibilities to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and for us to take it on.”
In the past week, Dunderdale has taken a lot of political heat for decisions from the Conservatives in Ottawa, but she said she doesn’t regret endorsing Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last election.
“I don’t mind supporting Stephen Harper any more than the people of the province don’t regret not voting for him,” she said. “If you’re outside on the front steps screaming and ranting and roaring, you’re not sure who’s listening to you on the inside — if anybody is listening — I have to ensure in my job as premier that the prime minister has heard what we have to say.”