Bennett deflects questions on $97-M ‘savings’

James
James McLeod
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“We are going to be extremely open and transparent when we release our budget,” Finance Mnister Cathy Bennett told reporters Tuesday.

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett speaks to reporters outside the House of Assembly Tuesday. Bennett has said she won’t provide specific details about money the government has saved through discretionary spending reductions until the budget is released later this year.

Bennett would not give any sort of comprehensive breakdown of the the $97 million she says she has saved the government since December, and she spent a big chunk of question period in the House of Assembly fielding questions on the topic from both the Tories and the NDP.

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When Opposition Leader Paul Davis asked Bennett for itemized details of the $97 million in cost cutting, she told him that he was asking the wrong questions.

“I am happy to continue to stand on my feet in this House and answer all the questions that the member opposite wants to ask about the $100 million,” she said. “I believe the people of the province, though, want to hear questions about the important situation that we're in. Quite frankly, I would remind the member opposite that when they made decisions to increase the debt that the people of this province are carrying to the tune of 69 per cent since 2003 — I would argue that those are the questions that people at home and people in our districts throughout our province are asking.”

Bennett never did actually answer the question about the itemized list of spending reductions.

Only a week ago, Bennett stood in the House of Assembly and excitedly said the government had saved roughly $100 million through cuts to discretionary spending.

At the time, she said, “I'd be happy to provide the leader of the Opposition with the exact details, and also be happy to provide that to the media.”

The following day, those “exact details” amounted to a single sheet of paper with three numbers on it:

• Savings identified in Fiscal Update $118,054,100;

• Revised Savings Projected as of March 9/16 $215,616,900;

• Additional Spending Savings Identified 97,562,800.

Bennett has indicated some of the savings have come from cutting political staff; under the Tories, some ministers had more than one executive assistant, whereas the Liberals have one EA per minister, and the staff in the premier’s office is smaller.

But last week, Bennett also indicated the numbers were “annualized,” meaning the actual budget savings would be much lower than $97 million.

But if people want to know all the details, they’ll have to wait for the budget, and the Liberals won’t even say when the budget will be brought down.

NDP MHA Lorraine Michael tried asking about the issue, too.

“The minister of finance tabled three numbers on a piece of paper on Thursday,” Michael said. “She has had a long weekend, so I ask the premier: have they been able yet to come up with more substantive numbers in detail during that time?”

Bennett’s reply didn’t offer any new substantive detail on the numbers.

“Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for noting the length of my weekend,” Bennett replied. “I can assure you that our officials in the Department of Finance, those that work in Treasury Board and myself were working all weekend to make sure that we are ready for a budget coming in the next couple of weeks.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP, Department of Finance, Treasury Board

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Recent comments

  • Charles Murphy
    March 17, 2016 - 13:31

    Cathy, this is your opportunity to prove to the people they didn't make a mistake when they voted for the provincial Liberals. now the ball is in your court. you can either stimulate our economy or put the final nail in our coffin. ask yourself this question if we can ship it in. we surely can manufacturer those items here putting our people to work. question is, which would you rather do send our province into a recession? or start building for tomorrow? so please take the time and put a little thought into it you would be amazed at the results.

  • The Premier
    March 16, 2016 - 11:46

    $100M savings on a $2,000,000,000 budget is not enough.

    • Clar
      March 17, 2016 - 10:55

      it's a 2 billion dollar deficit (2.4 billion actually) in a total budget of around 7.5 billion. You are correct, her projections are laughingly inadequate to the taks.

  • Greg Mallard
    March 16, 2016 - 10:56

    The broader issues here are the new Liberal government's inability to take control and start doing its work. There are no changes to the ranks of the senior public service that was full of Progressive Conservative appointees (many of whom are unqualified) without any competition. All the Liberals have done is promised an appointments commission that will have nothing to do with vetting the senior public service. In absolute effect, the Liberals have done nothing to change the machinery and the resulting direction of their government. You have got to get qualified people that can work with policy direction or the exercise is doomed to failure.

  • roy206
    March 16, 2016 - 08:48

    I am giving Round 1 to Minister Bennett. She answered the question . Move on..It was a good answer, ...not your regular Gerry Byrne BS type answer...

    • The real Calvin
      March 16, 2016 - 09:59

      I have to wonder if you even know how to read roy. The answer she gave was actually EXACTLY like a Gerry Byrne BS type answer. Do they offer a Politicians 101 course at the Confederation Building for new ministers? Because the answer she gave is political dodge ball at it's finest, and she hasn't been around that long.

    • james
      March 16, 2016 - 10:21

      Naive are we

  • Wade
    March 16, 2016 - 08:46

    She "projected" the "approximately" $25 million not spent in the last quarter and multiplied it by four. Not too smart as projections are rarely dependable (look at the the projections for the price of oil and the mess we are in now). Let's ask a serious question: what qualifies her as an authority in high finance? Answer: she made a boatload of money as a franchisee of McDonald's where the company provides you with all the products and advertising and you run the retail outlet to move it. Another question: when was the last time a Finance Minister did not possess a post-secondary education? 50 years at least.

    • James
      March 16, 2016 - 11:31

      I am hoping what qualifies her in the position is that she has surrounded herself with the best people that the public purse can buy to run the Dept of Finance and Treasury Board and unlike the previous party listens to their advice.

    • Al
      March 16, 2016 - 11:31

      @Wade: you do not need a post-secondary degree to understand and manage a department that employs those actually doing the work. Ministers of the govt are NOT experts in their respective portfolios - they rely on advice and information they are given. As for those with post-secondary experience, I have a number of friends that are very well educated who have the common sense of a stone, and I consider myself in that group when it comes to many things.

  • maderighthere
    March 16, 2016 - 07:52

    "...I would argue that those are the questions that people at home and people in our districts throughout our province are asking.” Well I am sorry to tell you Ms. Bennett but these are the types of questions, in addition to the others, that the public would like to know. Are these in fact actual savings or potential savings (pro-rated over 12 months ....geesh)? Was the govt. wasting this money all along?

  • Stacy
    March 16, 2016 - 07:46

    The debt was actually reduced since 2003. Pretty sad when a finance minister doesn't even know that or is too concerned with playing politics than being correct. Difficult to trust anything she says already.

  • Paul
    March 16, 2016 - 07:45

    Typical political gobbly gook. Saying nothing while going around in circles. Just answer the darn question. Of course, if there were actual truths to this, she'd answer. Obviously a bunch of BS. For anyone who thought this government was going to be different...

  • Too Funny
    March 16, 2016 - 07:38

    This rookie government is making it clear, that they are going to govern just like every other government before them. Did anyone really believe they would be any different.

  • Brian
    March 16, 2016 - 07:11

    Mr.Davis has a job as opposition leader and deserves answers about spending and savings . I think that Mr. Davis should also realize that the spending and policies of his and past Tory administrations cause our present economic dilemma . Mr. Davis and his colleagues certainly have little, if anything to offer but in their job as official opposition ,they deserve answers.

    • james
      March 16, 2016 - 10:23

      you can not blame davis he was not around long enough

  • Darlene
    March 16, 2016 - 05:50

    Here in this beautiful province of ours ..here's the situation...the PCs tried to destroy us...so we voted Liberal...now the people expect the government to have all these problems fixed in a couple of months...seems your dammed if you do and dammed if you don't...remember it took years for the PCs to destroy us...I hope this government does what they say ...cut cut cut...especially in government...time to get rid of people who collect a check for doing nothing...keep it up Liberals...

    • The real Calvin
      March 16, 2016 - 10:21

      The Liberals being in power for the past decade would not have changed ANYTHING about our current situation. If they had been in for the economic boom they would have done the EXACT same thing the PC's did, which is spend money and then prance in front of the cameras insisting they were doing a good job. Our current situation is due to one thing only, the price of a barrel of oil. The princes scattered all over Saudi Arabia are more to blame for our current economic situation than any politician alive or dead in Canada.

    • The Premier
      March 16, 2016 - 11:51

      While times were good, instead of saving money, all ANYONE wanted was a handout. Provincial employees wanted raises and more co-workers, nurses wanted money, doctors wanted money, police wanted money, etc. Nobody bothered to pay off debts and keep expenditures low while times were good. The thing is, nobody would get elected on that platform. This is the fault of the people of the province and the spend heavy government approach we have. Close the most expensive outports now, adjust the civil service, pay freezes for all government workers and raise taxes.

    • Thatguy
      March 16, 2016 - 12:03

      I don't expect them to all our problems fixed in a day. What I (and every tax paying citizen of this province) do expect is the people in power to answer a straight forward question with a straight forward answer. Where did the number 97 come from? We want to see answers, as she said she would provide to the media and through them, the public. Writing three lines on a piece of paper......she might as well have written that she found $97 million in the dumpster out behind Confederation Building and that we should just take her word for it, if those are the kinds of "detailed" reports she plans on providing!

    • WOW
      March 18, 2016 - 08:49

      People are amazing for the past decade the public have been screaming for better services and to rebuild the infrastructure that had collapsed over the past 20 years. And that is what was done. If people had half a clue they would realize we are actually in a good position. We have a fantastic job done at rebuilding the province. People are panicking over a short term fluctuation in things that will pass in couple years and we will be fine again as soon as the oil prices level out again.