Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said the word “election” seven times in the space of a three minute media scrum while he was reacting to the provincial budget Thursday afternoon.
Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party Leader Dwight Ball speaks with reporters in the lobby of the Confederation Building on Thursday afternoon after the budget was presented in House of Assembly by Finance Minister Charlene Johnson. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
“It’s an election budget. It’s quite clear to me. Any time you’re willing to take out your kids’ credit card and put a billion dollars on it, it’s an election. It clearly says to me that this is all about an election budget for this government.”
Ever since Kathy Dunderdale resigned as premier in late January, the clock has been ticking, and people of the province will go to the polls in July of 2015 at the absolute latest.
Once the Tories pick a new leader on July 5th, that man will have one year at the most to call an election.
Within political circles, there’s plenty of speculation about the new premier calling an election as soon as this fall.
Ball said that the government’s decision to run a $537-million deficit to deliver budgetary goodies like full-day kindergarten and grants to replace student loans for post-secondary education smacks of political posturing.
Ball likes the goodies — he called full-day kindergarten “the right thing to do” — but he said the larger balance sheet picture is a huge problem.
“They have done nothing to diversify the economy; they are strictly about oil revenues right now, and we know you can only spend that money once,” Ball said.
“They’re more concerned about their own jobs than they are about the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
But in a way, Ball had a hand in writing this budget.
Looking down the list of new spending announcements, a lot of the government’s budget priorities were exactly the same as the issues that the Liberals and NDP raised in the House of Assembly.
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Full-day kindergarten is something both parties have advocated for. The Tories cut to small business taxes was a plank in the NDP platform back in the 2011 election.
The Liberals have been calling for more to be done on smoking cessation, and lo and behold, the government came up for $712,000 for that too.
Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien didn’t make too much of the striking similarities between the opposition’s demands and the government’s priorities this year.
“If you weren’t going to do something that was asked in question period, well, you wouldn’t do anything at all,” he said.
It was all so good for NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, that she issued a news release late Thursday declaring multiple victories for her party.
“We’ve been pushing for it, and I’m glad they’re listening,” Michael said.
She also said she believes that this is a budget the Tories could go to the hustings on.
“They certainly have a budget that they can run a campaign on. There’s no doubt about that,” she said. “Are they going to do that? We don’t know.”