The fallout from last week’s provincial budget is continuing to show up as the exact cuts to positions find their way to the public eye. And as they do, you can begin to see the things that the government considers to be high-priority issues, and those that apparently aren’t enough of a priority to keep.
Equally worth considering is an area where there aren’t any cuts. Apparently, while the cuts are spread from the Justice Department to Health to Environment and Conservation, some areas have been spared the axe.
Like political staff, for example.
CBC reporter David Cochrane asked Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy about that issue on “On Point” over the weekend.
“I’m not aware of political staff being laid off,” Kennedy responded. “I don’t think it’s a matter of being exempt. … They’re quite busy.”
Indeed, Mr. Minister. There are media polls to be repeatedly voted on and comments to be planted, for example.
But while we’re talking about people who are busy, so are Crown prosecutors, their support staff, the 50 per cent of the province’s sheriff’s officers who lost their jobs — and the list goes on.
Other jobs that are less important than keeping political staff in place?
• The job of overseeing security at the Whitbourne youth corrections facility.
• The job of managing bird sanctuaries at Baccalieu and Witless Bay. (The puffin may be our provincial bird, but protecting it? Maybe not.)
• The job of managing one of the province’s largest tourist attractions, the bird sanctuary at Cape St. Mary’s.
• Adult basic education instructors at the College of the North Atlantic.
• Wildlife division workers who handle everything from species at risk to environmental protection on inland fisheries.
And the list goes on and on, with each one defining what counts to this government, and what does not.
Too bad those people weren’t all “quite busy,” too.
It’s impossible for a government to cut costs without cutting people, and the cash-strapped provincial government clearly had to make cuts. But where the cuts are made goes a long way towards showing what the government thinks is important.
And think about this — while the province is going from 25 Crown prosecutors to 15 in St. John’s, Premier Kathy Dunderdale was refusing to reveal just what her government intended to do with $90 million in new business funding. Here’s what she said, shortly after Kennedy said in the House of Assembly that he wasn’t aware of what the spending was for.
“Mr. Speaker, we know exactly what the $90 million is for and we will be making that announcement very shortly.” How can you even have a debate on a budget, if a chunk as big as $90 million remains a secret, especially when the government just cut 935 apparently not-very-busy jobs? Imagine this: $90 million would equal $96,256.68 for pay and benefits for every single job they said they had to cut.