Fearsome financial outlook

James
James McLeod
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Ball announces budget consultations amid grim fiscal picture

Premier Dwight Ball launched the province’s pre-budget consultations Tuesday with a grim tone and an expansive message.

Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Premier Dwight Ball is flanked by Siobhan Coady (left), minister responsible for the Office of Public Engagement, and Cathy Bennett, minister of Finance and president of the Treasury Board, at a news conference at Confederation Building Tuesday to announce prebudget consultations.

“It’s very different. It’s much more intense,” Ball said. “It’s not just a budget consultation process at all. It’s about how we reshape the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Budget consultations happen every winter, and every year government politicians insist they really want to hear public input before presenting a financial blueprint in the spring.

In recent years, the consultations amount to a parade of special-interest groups asking the government for money, but this year, that probably won’t fly.

The government is running a deficit of nearly $2 billion, as oil prices have plummeted to $30 per barrel, and Ball is talking about the need for the government to fundamentally alter course to avoid drowning in debt.

Ball came to Tuesday’s news conference with three questions for voters:

• Thinking of all the things government spends your money on to provide residents of the province with services, what are three things you think the government should stop doing to save money?

• Given the financial challenges facing our province, what three things do you think the government could do to raise money or increase revenue?

• How can the government do things differently to provide quality service, at a lower cost?

The premier will personally conduct the first pre-budget consultation meeting in Rocky Harbour in two weeks, followed by other meetings in St. John’s, Corner Brook, Port aux Basques and elsewhere in the coming weeks.

Neither the Opposition Tories nor the NDP thought too much of Ball’s news conference.

“There’s nothing new here,” Tory MHA Keith Hutchings said.

“Apparently we’re going to wait for a few more months to find out what direction there is, and what things they’re going to think about in terms of dealing with the situation we’re in now.”

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy was also impatient to actually hear what the new Liberal government stands for.

“At some point they’re going to have to govern,” he said. “I think (the consultations will) just punt the tough decisions down the road a couple months.”

Organizations: NDP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Rocky Harbour, Corner Brook Port aux Basques

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Recent comments

  • Charles Murphy
    January 14, 2016 - 06:39

    Good morning Kevin Tobin, I see you took my comment and put it into " Cartoon" form. Great job.

  • brad
    January 13, 2016 - 16:29

    Mr. Ball.....please take a look at the top heavy management in Confederation building. There's like one manager/director/adm's salary for every 2 or 3 staff. The PC's topped them up for their buddies.

  • clueless
    January 13, 2016 - 15:47

    Yeah, I'm' clueless as to exactly what to do, so I leave it up to the new government to make their assessments and after that act accordingly. However, many commenters here must believe that they are accounting genius's and have all of the answers , not only for the province, but everything else as well. But, in reality, you're clueless, too. Oh dear, I do hope that revelation is not too hard for you to bear.

  • roy206
    January 13, 2016 - 14:31

    Good to see Earle back in politics. I laugh at the NDP policies but appreciate EM humor and common sense. He'd make an interesting columnist if he'd stay away from the NDP rhetoric.

  • Forced Labour for Jimmy
    January 13, 2016 - 13:34

    If you're so keen on people being made to work for welfare rates, why not fire you, replace you with a welfare slave and when you apply for benefits you can have your old job back at less-than-minimum wage?

  • bucyk
    January 13, 2016 - 11:53

    Cathy Bennett toured the province asking people what they wanted in a government . Did she take notes ? The Liberals should govern . Every decision will be met with criticism , just like this decision to consult the people of Newfoundland and Labrador , AGAIN !

  • Let me be Frank
    January 13, 2016 - 11:41

    One very easy way to help improve the economy is to abolish all Temporary Foreign Worker permits. Not only the fast food crowd but all the professional TFW's that work offshore and onshore in the oil industry. These multi-millions in incomes go to other countries but could easily stay here and support local taxes and businesses.

  • Errol
    January 13, 2016 - 11:12

    My advice to Premier Ball. 1. Mothball Muskrat Falls until the prices and markets can support such an ill timed foolhardy venture, and the economies of scale can be realized from building Gull Island as well. 2. Recognize the huge cost of Government depts. and Healthcare doing everything 'in house'. The health authorities have 'Directors of laundry services' for God's sake. The showdown with unions needs to happen sometime...no better time than when we have a virtually bankrupt treasury after years of unwise spending of our huge oil bounty. 3. Focus on the most valuable resource we have...the fishery. Develop the relationships in Ottawa needed to prosecute this to the fullest. We need to focus on building more successful fishing enterprises...not selling out to places like Greenland. 4. Chang the strange culture of thinking that the only road to success is a near useless degree from MUN and the exit from the Province to obtain employment. 5. Never again fall prey to the boom and bust cycle, and put all our eggs in one basket, and fail to manage it. That's enough to start.

    • Christopher Chafe
      January 13, 2016 - 13:32

      Sorry but our GREATEST RESOURCE is our YOUNG PEOPLE. Having a province of uneducated hicks like it was in the early days is what got this province in the mess today.

    • Errol
      January 13, 2016 - 17:57

      Christopher, you can have as many educated young people as you want... But without jobs it does not do anything. In NL it is particularly odious to publicly fund a large University in a Province with a 14.4% unemployment rate, and a population of only 500k. Your description of a Province of 'uneducated hicks' is a big part of the culture problem that we have. Many fish harvesters make six figure incomes, and enterprise owners more. Who is more valuable to our society...the productive, trained and knowledgable fish harvester, or the poor lost kid with an undergraduate degree living in mom's basement? Get your elitist head out of the sand!

  • david
    January 13, 2016 - 11:02

    If NLers were smarter, panic would have set in months ago. Of course, if NLers were smarter, Williams would never have gotten elected and a decent chunk of that oil money might have gone somewhere sensible...instead of the truckloads of nothing that it bought.

  • bucyk
    January 13, 2016 - 10:58

    Cathy Bennett toured the province asking people what they wanted in a government . Did she take notes ? The Liberals should govern . Every decision will be met with criticism , just like this decision to consult the people of Newfoundland and Labrador , AGAIN !

  • Jimmy
    January 13, 2016 - 10:33

    While I don't know the actual cost I do know that almost 10% of the population is on welfare. The percentage of those of able body and sound mind should be placed on workfare. MASSIVE savings there.

    • The real Calvin
      January 13, 2016 - 12:45

      Could we see some numbers/verified statistics to back up your claim Jim? Here, let me help. It is your assertion that there are almost 53000 people in Newfoundland on social assistance, when in fact the total number of recipients in 2015 was a little under 33000. At the max social assistance income rate of a little less than $1400 a month, that is $45 million per year. Again, that is the MAX the Newfoundland government will pay out, supposing everyone is a single parent with kids living in Labrador. We all know that is not the case, so we'll settle on social assistance costs of a little under $40 mil per year. That is 0.02% of our provincial deficit. Yeah, MASSIVE SAVINGS.....

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 13, 2016 - 09:59

    Savings? Muskrat's debt servicing and operating costs alone (from Nalcor's 2011 media briefing) amounts to $14.5 BILLION over 50 years --- most of which is in the first 25 years). Also 75% of that is due to the dams, generation facility, North Spur, etc. Only 25% of the debt/operating costs are for the transmission lines. SO stop/delay the dams/generation plant until we need/can afford it.

  • James
    January 13, 2016 - 09:09

    The new Premier and his senior soldiers have been less than impressive. We put these people in to manage our province but it is obvious they appear scared. Ball, Bennett and Coady looed terrible in their press release. Their release lacked substance and the NL Liberal Party lacked direction. Now we have to wait four more years before we can review their performances. Terrible !

  • Another businessman
    January 13, 2016 - 08:48

    My advice is to slash the public service, abolish funding to arts and culture centers, force the outports to close, cut welfare to four months, sell off public housing and provincial lands, privatize water, highways and anything else where we can replace union workers, and cut taxes on businesses so that we can invest again.

    • JJT
      January 13, 2016 - 09:50

      How about we stop giving taxpayer money to prop up private industry as well? Sink or swim, I say. Of course, the "businessman" wants lower business taxes, lower wages for all but himself, and control of everything the government now provides so he can set his own price while lowering the average worker's salaries and benefits.

  • salt beef junkie
    January 13, 2016 - 08:36

    when ou have a premier that has no experience and a finance minister that needs someone else's business matrix to be successful and a natural resources minister that voted against her own province when she was an MP what do you expect? this trio and the supporting cast has no governing ability. they are lost...they live in a fantasy world of "magical" economic policies. the people fell for their smoke and mirrors and now the province has the government they wanted.... it is easy to be in opposition and point fingers, it is a whole new story to actually make decisions that benefit the province.....Moodys, our bankers are looking at this and shaking their heads I am sure...... we are up the creek with three useless paddles ........

  • edwartt
    January 13, 2016 - 08:28

    Time is stop beating around the bush and get down to business with this problem. The clock is time and debt running up.

  • Henry
    January 13, 2016 - 08:22

    Ok now that we're done blaming everyone, let's try and work this out. For Dwights 3 questions: 1) Unfortunately layoffs have to happen within gov't. Stop mailing out paper; you can do everything through apps and websites.. Stop unnecessary funding for rural communities of 10 people; Amalgamate.Bonus: do we really need a ferry(s) to Bell Island? Put your egos aside and move to the land. 2) Raise taxes to 15% - its not a big deal and actually helps round numbers to either end in 0 or 5 (easier on the books). Start calling for those who owe money to pay (ie Fines/Tickets). Stop wasting money on travel. I see gov't officials riding shot gun on flights all the time... Bonus: New solutions to generate new income - legalizing and distributing marijuana (see also Colorado and Washington's financial gains). Bonus 2: People taking advantage of welfare should have to work for the city by doing small jobs here and there or go halves with private sector companies like McDonalds (eh Cathy?). Everyone wins. 3) bring in young progressive thinkers. All the older generation figured they could do it but did HAVE absolutely no idea whats going on. Time to change the guard. Tough times don't last Tough People do.

    • Thomas
      January 13, 2016 - 09:26

      You spin some very terrifying truths here. We are a small population spread out over a vast area. Where people live the services are required. The public service staff and the infrastructure that goes with it. Be it a ferry system, school, medical clinic, road upkeep, snow clearing and all the staffing costs associated with same. Population sometimes 200 people, other times less than 40. Many retirement communities with little to no industry. This should be a significant focus, tough political decisions where massive savings can be found. This is where one can also address the bloated public service.

    • Sandra
      January 13, 2016 - 11:13

      What is your evidence the public service is bloated? Henry, if MacDonald's and whoever else gets cheap (read: slave) labour, what incentive is there to hire real employees? If they need workers, let them pay a decent wage. Unemployment is a necessary part of the capitalist system. Don't blame the victims.

    • Christopher Chafe
      January 13, 2016 - 13:30

      Sandra: There was a report done a cpl years ago we have the highest ratio of Government Workers per capita in Canada.

    • Henry
      January 13, 2016 - 13:31

      Thomas, Unfortunately, yes. It's a very logical but very sensitive issue. However, we're entering a very serious situation here and maybe it's time to take action instead of asking those communities or having a vote. Sandra, There are some people who need EI but there are those who do not and there can be an effective system for sniffing these people out (ie. Drug Tests, Interviews, etc). The people who are able to work and contribute to society should do just that. Like I said, clean up the roads, trails (Fluvarium), etc. They're already getting paid anyways. As for McDonalds et al: go halves with the province when hiring those who are able to work. Don't know if you noticed lately, but these businesses are on the hunt for full and part time employees, not to mention several Tim Hortons have brought workers in from other countries... As I agree unemployment is an unfortunate result of Capitalism, when have Capitalists ever been in favor of giving away money for nothing in return?

    • Yo mama
      January 14, 2016 - 08:34

      Henry for Prime Minister!!!

  • The real Calvin
    January 13, 2016 - 08:04

    I have a great way for government to save money. Take a pay cut and cut off the unfair, publicly funded pensions. No?! Didn't think so. This is our future for the next decade until the oil recovers folks, get used to it.

    • Ev
      January 13, 2016 - 08:44

      People paid into that pension fund, for years Joey spent the money on roads, bridges and hospitals, this fund would be self sustaining except for that. The government should hire some efficiency experts to go through all government departments, I am sure they can save millions of dollars every year in waste.

    • James
      January 13, 2016 - 10:27

      A reminder to you Calvin that the worker's funded this pension. Any it was off the backs of the workers where previous governments pillaged the pension fund to float programs where the treasury did not have two cents to rub together - and they are still paying it back.

  • Christopher Chafe
    January 13, 2016 - 07:53

    I actually agree with Cardigan Earl on this one. Do not ask the people how to fix this mess as we are part of the blame to begin with. Mr. Ball the people of NL gave you a majority so that you and the Liberal party can fix this mess that the previous administrations allowed to happen. If you have half a brain you and your party KNOWS what has to be done. Will it be pretty absolutely not BUT it has to be done!

  • roy206
    January 13, 2016 - 07:40

    In a recent letter to the Telegram, Minister Bennett boasted about Ball's ability to anticipate the unexpected. It seems like the Liberal are just now learning about our financial mess, and seem content to continue with the political game rather than make the decisions. A continuation of the dodge ball election debate.

  • Peanuts
    January 13, 2016 - 06:47

    OMG!..... Lead and govern for god sake ...oops..I mean NL sake and stop delaying .....you had public consultations before you were elected.... hummmmm ...this is the govt. of planning to plan a plan all the time...Good Greif ...sorry I just watched the Charlie Brown movie ....lots of similarities ....

  • John Smith
    January 13, 2016 - 06:26

    ...no need to worry...Larry, Curly and Moe are on the job...LOL

  • mike
    January 13, 2016 - 06:17

    the pcs delayed all this the past 12 years or so another 2 or 3 months won'nt make no big difference

  • Charles Murphy
    January 13, 2016 - 05:02

    Dwight, you wanted to be skipper of the ship in the North Atlantic, you got your wish. Now your standing on the bridge of this ship along with your first and second mate. On the deck of this ship is Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Looking toward the wheel house for guidance from you. Because this ship come with a very large hole and its heading for the reef, So tell us, are you planning on singing out abandoned ship, In other words layoff - cuts in programs - or higher taxes? Or are you planning on stimulating our economy? Dwight here my question to you. If we can ship in " Nearly " billion dollars per year in products to our province, why can't we manufacture those products here at home putting our people to work?

    • dave
      January 13, 2016 - 12:15

      I challenge you again to tell us what those billion dollars per year in products can we produce? You've keep making that same claim and keep ducking the questions. You must have some crystal ball to know where there's opportunity to make a killing that people in the business do not know. Oh that's right, you'll only say if we elect you first. No thanks.

  • Shrinking from leadership
    January 12, 2016 - 23:55

    Mr Ball has been 'consulting the people' on the economy for so long now - and will continue that for next 3 months - that you have to wonder if he is simply just afraid to take a position or make a decision.

    • Tom
      January 13, 2016 - 10:30

      Doubt if he is afraid. He is consulting with the "people" before he lowers the boom. That way the "people" can't come back at him to cry fowl on not consulting with them first.

  • Squuze IT
    January 12, 2016 - 21:07

    One thing should be done higher taxes on all companies Tax the wealthy more aggressively Stop bringing in refugees and employ our own people Downsize spending on Muskrat Falls each year Thats a start

    • Big Papi
      January 13, 2016 - 15:21

      It looks like Premier Dwight Ball is doing da wong ting. He was elected to make the tough decisions but now he appears to be running scared and wants to hide behind the guise of "consulting with the people" in order to buy some time and avoid making the tough decisions. Get on with it!