Cheers: to the provincial budget by the numbers. Number of words in this year’s budget speech: 9,472. Number of times government members interrupted the speech to cheer, as indicated in Hansard, the official record of the House of Assembly, by the words “hear! hear!”: 63 times.
Size of the budget deficit forecast for this year: $537.9 million. Amount of cash transferred to Nalcor Energy in the budget: $552.7 million. Percentage of this year’s provincial revenues that are expected to come from non-renewable offshore oil revenues: 36.5 per cent, or more than one out of every three dollars. Number of budget news releases issued: 27. Number of news releases issued on budget day to announce that government ministers would be re-announcing budget initiatives on the day following budget day: four. Locations for those announcements: Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook, St. John’s and Portugal Cove South.
Cheers: to open government. Here’s a question from Opposition Leader Dwight Ball: “Newfoundland Power’s report on DarkNL identifies that the availability of backup power generation is a long-term issue. As we know, once Muskrat Falls comes online, there will be very limited backup power available on the Avalon peninsula; however, Newfoundland Power has said that the eastern part of our province, as we all know, has the largest and the fastest-growing power demand needs. I ask the premier: what is your plan for backup power on the Avalon if the lines on the isthmus go down?” The answer from Premier Tom Marshall? “Mr. Speaker, hydroelectric systems are very large and very complex. One of the concerns that have been expressed right across the country is the lack of capital investment that has gone into them. One of the things we have done as a government since 2007 is ensure that the profits being earned by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro remain in that company so they can in turn make capital investments. I know the government opposite, when they were in power, extracted those funds, extracted those profits as dividends, and therefore did not allow enough capital investment, and that exacerbates any problems that we are having today.” Yep — that’s why it’s not called “Answer Period.”
Jeers: to not quite leading by example. Last year, when the provincial government delivered its bad-news budget and laid off scores of public employees, the premier’s office actually increased the amount it planned to spend from $1,837,400 the year before to $1,865,000. Turns out that budget line was actually a bit of science fiction. The actual spending by the premier’s office? It was $2,278,100, meaning the office overshot its own financial planning by a whopping 22 per cent. No worries, though — there’s always more money somewhere. This year, the office is budgeted to cost taxpayers $2,078,300. But the premier’s office was far from alone. Here’s a list of the government departments where ministers failed to stay within their own ministerial office budgets — oh, wait. Of all existing departments, only Fisheries and Aquaculture came in under budget, spending $303,500 of an available $309,300. The finance minister, who’s supposed to know about budgeting, came in at 18 per cent over budget. The wildest of the bunch? Innovation, Business and Rural Development. Running the office was supposed to cost $325,200 — but $454,900 ended up being spent. That’s only 40 per cent over budget …