Liberals freeze community grants, cut discretionary spending

James McLeod
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Money talk dominated the first regular sitting day of the House of Assembly spring session, with Finance Minister Cathy Bennett front and centre.

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett speaks to reporters outside the House of Assembly Wednesday. Bennett announced the government is freezing the grants to community non-profit groups for one year, while a review is done on the long-term status of the funding.

Bennett started off by announcing the government would not cut the $70 million in operating grants the government provides as core funding to community groups.

Frozen funding might not sound like a win for those non-profit groups that rely on the government for money, but when Bennett is looking for ways to slash up to 30 per cent of government spending in all provincial departments and agencies, stable funding means a reprieve.

Bennett said that over the next year, the government will review all the operating grants, and will “work together with our community organizations and bring clarity to their current funding arrangements.”

While the Tories applauded the move, the NDP said the community groups had already had their funding frozen for years, and what they really need is an increase.

A little later in the day, during question period, the Tories asked about the government’s attempts to reduce costs by paring back discretionary spending.

“I believe the number is somewhere in the vicinity of about $100 million,” Bennett said, “which is substantially more than the former administration's discretionary spending freeze that took place over the course of a much longer period.”

But it turns out the government hasn’t been able to save anywhere close to $100 million yet.

When Bennett spoke to reporters later in the day, she acknowledged the $100-million savings were “annualized.”

Since the government has only been in power for about three months, that means it has actually reduced spending by only about $25 million, and it is multiplying by four to extrapolate for the rest of the year.

“But certainly, the discretionary spending freeze that our government implemented was more comprehensive than the former administration, and I look forward to tabling that information in the House,” Bennett said.

All of this is taking place as the government draws together its budget, going through departmental spending line-by-line and figuring out how to tackle a $2-billion deficit.

Premier Dwight Ball has refused to put a firm date on it, but hinted the budget will be delivered in late April or early May.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP

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Recent comments

  • Dale
    March 10, 2016 - 21:39

    Cathy, stop pussy-footing around. If you are going to cut 30%, then just do it. And that includes the grants to communities.

  • Buffy
    March 10, 2016 - 19:25

    In politics power less six months. Already this Bennett finance minister starting stretch truth a little. Give her two yrs in power. Look out. Funny in opposition she tried come off holier than thou. Now not so much. Caught truth stretching. Already. Year .5

  • N
    March 10, 2016 - 13:12

    Provincial Government in fiscal trouble so they stop non essential spending and review every way to find savings in operations. Wonder if Doc O'Keefe is reading this in Miami!!!!

  • Kevin
    March 10, 2016 - 09:13

    How about cutting MHA and senior management wages ? That's an easy one even for Liberals

  • Darryl
    March 10, 2016 - 08:45

    What about the money they cost us so far from the HST reversal?

  • roy206
    March 10, 2016 - 07:32

    Open and Transparent.... may as well add " Indecisive and placating" or maybe " Ill prepared with No plan or maybe "inept" with no hope of improvement The bond rating agencies will not be impressed....This is like watching a slow motion of some guy getting hit in the balls by a child with a hockey stick....

    • John Smith
      March 10, 2016 - 09:05

      ...well said...

  • Randy
    March 10, 2016 - 05:57

    If the finance minister cuts out the double-dipping by the two NDP MHAs she can save a lot of money. It's time for these NDP MHAs to stop using taxpayers money as their personal piggy bank

    • roy206
      March 10, 2016 - 09:00

      Nice.......but in LM shouldn't that be Triple Dipping.... Also...most of the MHA are already retired as are their various assistants and office advisors etc....Retired teachers abound. Perhaps send those people home first before letting a younger person go.

    • The real Calvin
      March 10, 2016 - 09:22

      Randy I hope government has someone a little more experienced than you in place to help construct a plan to battle the deficit. Your "double dipping NDP MHA's" are two of many MHA's who are receiving pension payments in addition to their pay roll. These 2 MHA's make what, a couple hundred grand between them? With top ups for house positions, lets call it $300K. That is 0.015% of our total deficit. Great plan, deficit problem solved. What do you propose government take from these MHA's by the way? Pension payments, in Lorraine Michael's case, that she paid into for 30 years as a teacher? Yeah, start stripping people of their hard earned pensions, that is what Canada is all about...

    • Huh
      March 10, 2016 - 11:16

      Actually, teacher pensions in Newfoundland are pretty terrible. If you have ANY other income, your teacher pension gets clawed back. They worked for the pensions and the pensions were promised to them. You can't take that away anymore than you can take away CPP from someone who is 80. What those folks are paid is tiny compared to the real expenses in the province. Pick any remote community and add the cost of generating electricity, fueling that generator, providing services, healthcare, transporting people for healthcare, and maintaining one of the largest and most complex highways systems in the world.

    • Please explain
      March 10, 2016 - 21:32

      The real Calvin, you may not think 300 is a lot, but it is. There is also the moral side. The NDP has 2 members and they get paid extra to watch other. It's not much but add the perks of other members and the rich pension plan and it does make a difference. Michael can keep her teacher's pension as she worked for it but check on her MHA pension. They get paid way too much for what they do. Why do you think they run for politics??

  • Please explain
    March 09, 2016 - 21:57

    If you save $25M over 3 months but save no more over the next 9 months, doesn't that mean you save $25M over 12 months. To "annualize" sounds like BS to me. Any time I hear they are saving money tells me it should not have been spent in the first place.

    • Thatguy
      March 10, 2016 - 12:15

      They have saved $25M over the first three months they've been there. That leaves 9 months left in the year. If you save $25M every three months for the remaining 9 months of the year ($25M x 3 = $75M) Add in the $25M they've already claimed to have saved over the first 3 months ($25M + $75M = $100M). They're assuming that they will save at least $25M every 3 months for the entire year which works out to $100M annually.

    • roy206
      March 10, 2016 - 12:51

      Exactly....Saved..past tense...But you understand....The finance minister is trying to make a mountain from a mole hill...... The drowning man will grasp at any straw..

    • Please explain
      March 10, 2016 - 14:01

      To Thatguy ... I can do math. It's the BS I can't handle. They assume they will save 25M every 3 months. Do you believe that?