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It’s a matter of optics — and sometimes, that’s the biggest part of politics. Fresh from months of talking about the need to tighten belts and cut costs, the provincial government announced that it and the federal government will spend a combined total $85 million paving and widening the Trans-Labrador Highway from Labrador City to Red Bay.

Here’s Transportation and Works Minister Paul Davis, from a Monday news release: “This is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the province and a key component of our government’s unwavering commitment to the people of Labrador.”

This, on the heels of the government’s sanctioning of Muskrat Falls, a multi-billion-dollar project larger than anything undertaken by former provincial governments in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the sanctioning of the Hebron project, which, in its construction phase, will suck up hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars.

Everything big, big, big, bigger — everything richer and richer, too.

The government may well be cash-poor, but it sure isn’t behaving like it is.

This isn’t to say that the highway shouldn’t be widened and paved — it also isn’t to say that the project shouldn’t proceed while the federal government is at the table with its cash, too. (Neither the federal nor the provincial news releases explain what the federal/provincial split is on the construction costs.)

But it’s hard to expect a population to believe cutbacks are necessary when the government is still stuck in the mould of trumpeting huge spending announcements.

What it suggests is less that the government is short of money, and more that it is draining the pool that funds public services to finance its big-project dreams.

Perhaps that’s why NAPE’s current TV advertising campaign is so persuasive. The union, deadlocked in talks with the provincial government, has been running ads asking just why it is that the government can both claim the province to be running a “white-hot” economy, while also pointing to a single year’s debt of three-quarters of a billion dollars and impending cutbacks. (Cutbacks, by the way, are something that almost no one left on the Tory side of the House of Assembly has the least bit of experience in delivering.)

Here’s the thing: people have a hard time believing that you’re broke when you keep buying the biggest car and the biggest house on the block. And when Monday brings $85 million in new government spending and “one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the province,” it’s hard to accept that Thursday — or next Thursday, or a Thursday in April — will bring a whole range of belt-tightening.

Perhaps the government could shift its message, because right now the message doesn’t look like “we don’t have enough money.”

It looks like “we don’t have enough money left for the things you think are important.”

Organizations: Trans-Labrador Highway

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Red Bay, Hebron

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Recent comments

  • dan
    March 24, 2013 - 10:31

    why is it when the government makes any sort of announcement that may be harmful to the union worker, the nurses union and CUPE are on it within hours, but our union leader is layed back and days later will tell the members to basically accept it or even we will cross that bridge when we come to it

  • r
    February 27, 2013 - 18:16

    People often see public workers as almost lay abouts.No one sees the guy out in a snow storm trying to get a snow plow back on the road to keep it safe for the public. They dont see the time put into keeping these machines safe on our roads. If you dont work for the public service, ask yourself what services you currently take for granted will the government cut in the hidden details of the upcoming budget that will hurt everyone. What fees fwill increase that will hit everyone? Gigarettes and liquor will increase, license fees, stickers for your car,etc, and so on just to pay a higher electric bill somewhere down the road while many decide between "heat" and "eat"

  • gary
    February 14, 2013 - 11:34

    Nape. get of your rears.and start doing something. Instead of just collecting dues.

  • Pierre Neary
    January 30, 2013 - 15:06

    NAPE's advertising campaign certainly made me take notice. Hard to dispute.

    • RJ
      January 30, 2013 - 18:51

      NAPE wasted money to whine ..would you like some cheese with that!

  • david
    January 30, 2013 - 09:35

    Politicians and their flunkies "have'.... Ummmm, what was the rest of your question?