Bennett says public-sector layoffs ‘on the table’

James McLeod
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

overnment looking for proposals to slash 30 per cent spending in every department

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett says the government must look at the possibility of public-sector layoffs to get the budget deficit under control.

Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board Cathy Bennett disusses the Government Renewal Initiative with the media at Confederation Building Wednesday.

The new Liberal government is looking for all government departments, agencies, boards and commissions to submit proposals for slashing 30 per cent of spending over the next three years.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Bennett was at pains to say no decisions are made, but “everything is on the table” — including layoffs.

If the Liberals go down that road, it will mean they’re breaking a promise Premier Dwight Ball made loudly and repeatedly during the November election campaign, when he said public-sector job cuts would not happen under a Liberal administration.

During the election campaign, Ball posted a message on Twitter saying, “Cutting jobs is not part of our plan. Under a new Liberal Government, public sector jobs are safe,” and he reiterated the same message again and again in speeches and interviews.

Now Bennett is delivering a very different message.

“Our position is that this is a very difficult fiscal situation that we’re faced with as a province,” Bennett said. “It is important for us to identify through the Government Renewal Initiative any and all options that are on the table.”

Around lunchtime Wednesday, an internal government document was leaked to several media outlets, including The Telegram, showing that the Liberals are looking for proposals to slash spending by 30 per cent.

“The Government Renewal Initiative is requesting departments and ABCs to identify savings totalling thirty per cent of their 2015-16 expenditures over the next three fiscal years,” the document said. “A specific target has not been set for each year, but departments and ABCs should be prepared to implement accepted proposals as early as possible.”

The Government Renewal Initiative is the Executive Council body overseen by the Premier’s Office which is mapping out the upcoming budget.

With oil trading below $28 per barrel, the government is running a deficit of about $2 billion, and the Liberals say drastic action must be taken to get the situation under control.

Bennett said the 30 per cent number is just a “blue sky” target which will force all corners of government to come up with “bold and innovative ideas” and leave no stone unturned.

She said the government isn’t necessarily going to implement all the proposals, but it wants to hear every single possible idea.

Progressive Conservative Leader Paul Davis and NDP Leader Earle McCurdy were quick to point out this is a direct contradiction of what the Liberals said during the election campaign.

“To cut 30 per cent in three years is going to be a huge task. It’s going to mean cutting programs and services,” Davis said. “There’s no way they can cut 30 per cent without slashing jobs. No way at all.”

McCurdy also said making the sorts of huge cuts the Liberals are talking about would do more harm than good to the province.

“Anything even close to that number in an economy that’s in recession would really compound the problem,” McCurdy said. “Those are extreme numbers.”

Organizations: The Telegram, Executive Council

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Santo
    January 21, 2016 - 13:25

    I'd rather pay an extra 2% HST than loose my job. Mass lay offs won't hurt the economy at all will it!? Even a 1% increase won't hurt, but will help.

  • Bob
    January 21, 2016 - 13:00

    The PC Party would not update financial information to the Liberals during the election campaign so the true fiscal picture was not available to Mr. Ball. The situation has become much more dire in the past 6 months. So I do not have anything against possible layoffs. I have heard many stories of bloated departments that are less productive than their leaner predecessors. The HST hike would have hurt everyone including the already unemployed, single parents and those on fixed pension incomes. It would have also affected tourism revenue and may even sway potential visitors to look elsewhere. Don't forget we have a few hundred million dollars in outstanding fines that could be collected. Take a deep breath everyone and prepare for some very difficult decisions and a couple of challenging years. The people of this province have overcome adversity for centuries and we will overcome this one as well. Hopefully we will learn not to over spend and keep all of our eggs in the one basket moving forward.

  • Eric Parsons
    January 21, 2016 - 11:30

    A public sector acquaintance of mine rarely shows up both Monday & Friday, but gets full pay.... complains frequently about how much he hates his job... says the main reason is boredom... & that most people in the office have nothing to do. I hate to say it, but a broken campaign promise is well worth the termination of this insanity!

    • Friend of a friend
      January 21, 2016 - 12:51

      I work in the public service and this is 100% true. You have covered Mondays so to avoid redundancy: Tuesdays our department takes off for golfing, plus we are allowed to drive there and back in a government vehicle. Wednesday's are our retreat at Government House, we drag race the RNC horses then jump on the LG's bed until we fall asleep under quilts handmade by the private sector. Our department believes in a relaxed working environment so Thursdays we call open bar day courtesy of the NLC. And, as you say, we just don't show up on Fridays. You call it insanity I call it LOVING LIFE!

    • Maderighthere
      January 21, 2016 - 13:10

      Well I have a better one than that ..... there are many public servants that do not work a full day and then some get paid overtime to finish the work missed that day. I know I work next to them. There are a lot of slack workers. Very slack managers too; not to mention to many of them. One department has 5 managers for 9 staff...politics and political appointments...shocking, govt wastes so much money. I have lots more of those stories too as I am sure other hard working people do too.

    • santo
      January 21, 2016 - 13:22

      Bet your friend is either a manager or supervisor..... I'm in the public sector, only a manager or supervisor could get away with not showing up Monday or Friday, I need a note.

    • reality check
      January 22, 2016 - 09:06

      if this is even true, what is the sample size? you see one person abusing the system so that means its rampant?

    • Observer
      January 23, 2016 - 18:46

      To :"santo" To correct you..a GS worker in the bargaining unit can take a compressed day off as it is called on a Monday or Friday. To others: One of the biggest losses to the public service is allowing workers to bank their overtime rather than have to take it on your cheque. This means they can use it for time off work . This leave bosses with a nightmare of never getting enough crew to get out and do work. Most tasks can only be done during daylight and by the time the tailgate safety meetings, hazard assessments, traffic control plans and signs get done it's time for a break, lunch another break then head back.

  • Fred
    January 21, 2016 - 10:54

    Do what you have to do. I will leave NL if I have to.

  • Evan
    January 21, 2016 - 10:35

    Ok, so cancelling the HST that would bring in $200M is bad, but laying off/spending cuts to make up for that $200M is good? And a "legacy fund" is good, but paying down debt and not borrowing to pay for capital projects and pay with cash the past 10 years is bad? Worst finance minister ever!

    • Maderighthere
      January 21, 2016 - 11:14

      What do you expect from someone who only operated a well know establish restaurant.

  • Job Slashing
    January 21, 2016 - 07:35

    Want to slash Public Sector Jobs? Try starting at the top with all the management! Managers for mangers, supervisors for supervisors.....etc. Lots of money going out the window there! Leave the every day working person alone, who already has to complete job duties that were designed for more than one - two people to complete because of previous job cuts! No darn wonder sick leave is so high and so many work related injuries! For some reason, the public is under the impression that Public Sector Workers are uneducated, overpaid employees. The majority of us hold post secondary education, whether through university or college. We are underpaid as it is. It only seems to be the people who do not know what out jobs entail, on a daily basis, that judge us so harshly!

    • Patrick
      January 21, 2016 - 10:49

      You hit the nail on the head. Check out the Seniors department and you will find that there is that many management staff that they can't be moved to the proper floor cause there isn't enough rooms with doors (which is perk for management). Empty cubicles everywhere.

    • JJT
      January 21, 2016 - 10:52

      All union agreements and pay scales are public knowledge in this province, so anyone can look them up. They might surprise some people who assume that all provincial Public Sector workers make megabucks. Then, if you still think provincial government employees are overpaid, look at the pay scales for the City of St. John's. Holy poo.

  • Charles Murphy
    January 21, 2016 - 04:03

    Cathay your second in command on the bridge of his ship now it's up to you to keep us of the reef. But what you are talking about is adding more suffering and pain to our economy. Jobs cuts isn't the way to go, when we can take a different approach. Just think

    January 20, 2016 - 23:46

    McCurdy's comments underscore the reason the electorate did not see fit to give his NDP party responsibility for governing the province. Ball is facing an almost insurmountable fiscal hurdle precisely because the PC government used the same spendthrift logic McCurdy is now endorsing. It's sad that things have come to this; Williams/Dunderdale/Marshall/Davis and their cabinet colleagues have much to answer for. They exposed this province to financial risks and ramifications no prudent government should countenance. Dunderdale, in particular, will be remembered for her comment that Newfoundland and Labrador didn't need a rainy day fund. Consider that Alberta's heritage fund has reached $17 billion and Norway's is worth a whopping $1 trillion. Those savings will soften the blow of the downturn in those jurisdictions. Where and how Ball finds the savings and makes the cuts to bring our debt under control is clearly up for discussion - but do it he must. Adding $2 billion a year every year to our debt indefinitely is courting economic catastrophe. McCurdy's argument that making such cuts will only hurt the economy - which incidentally was the same excuse offered today by Mayor O'Keefe - is just plain wrong. Yes, selective infrastructure investments undertaken with significant federal funding should be considered for their stimulative value. But turning a blind eye to a public service that has surged well beyond what our province can afford is simply bad management. Yes it does mean Ball will have to renege on some of his campaign promises, but in his defence the outgoing government had deliberately hidden from him and the general public the true magnitude of the fiscal mess they had created. Ball has no choice but to act on these disturbing new numbers; to do otherwise would be grossly irresponsible.

  • dave
    January 20, 2016 - 20:20

    Looks like the honeymoon is over. This government is the same as all the ones that came before it. Make campaign promises to get elected and then start breaking them after they're elected. Next they'll say that the layoff of thousands will have no effect on services. Fool me once....

  • RC
    January 20, 2016 - 20:14

    oh the joys of working in the public sector. sure, the pay and benefits are not bad at all, but every few years you have to worry about loosing your job and fighting to hang on to what you, as the government of the day tries to balance the books. this is just one more trip to the woodshed.

    • DC
      January 21, 2016 - 09:40

      Never understood why public employees think they should be protected from the real world. Almost 50% of govt revenues goes to wages. In the real world an industry will cut as necessary to survive. Time to wake up...we are in survival mode.

    • RC
      January 21, 2016 - 20:28

      DC= I understand your point, and I tell myself that to get some perspective but I am cynical. the public service is stomped on to balance budgets usually based on political manouvering, not real market issues. when they over spend to serve their political agendas, they reach into the public sector to find their safings. that said, this time around seems to be an honest mess that can't be helped. I just hope to hang on to what we have and not be the cut to save a politicians plans.

  • Bluffy
    January 20, 2016 - 18:51

    Gee. Dwiteball said increasing HST 2 measly percent JOB killer. Ruin confidence in NL economy What dragon minister fiance do today Just ruined consumer spending next three years maybe longer Stronger tomorrow Liberal style Errrr no FIBeral more like it Dwight said his plans no public sector job CUTS. Not even thru attrition. What a bold face bunch a lyers

    • James
      January 21, 2016 - 08:16

      Exactly - We saved up for 6 years to pay for a renno job on our home. Without confidence in job security we are putting this on hold indefinitely. This impacts the trades we would hire and the bottom line of the mom and pop building supply company in the community. We are not alone. There is no confidence - people stop spending and the problem worsens. They are looking at 30% across the board? Political will - 50% of any departments budget is staffing. 30% cannot occur unless jobs are lost. The savings can only come from a resettlement program for the sparse population spread out over a large area where services are required today. As an example St. Brendan's - new ferry (millions), maintain it (millions), school, clinic, power plant (millions and millions) for approx. 150 people? That is where the problem is. Places like this is where the savings must occur.

    • JJT
      January 21, 2016 - 10:55

      I'd love to know why resettlement is taboo.