Nov. 30, 2017 marked the second anniversary of Dwight Ball leading the Liberal party to electoral victory, forming government and becoming premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Prior to that election day two years ago, at the last televised leadership debate, Ball made an interesting comment to the people of this province. As a refresher: the televised debate, hosted by the CBC at The Rooms and moderated by David Cochrane, began with debate among all three party leaders on the provincial economy. Ball, when asked by Cochrane what his goal of an unemployment rate for this province would be at the end of this current term in power, replied single-digit unemployment.
Let’s park that aside for a moment and revisit Telegram reporter James McLeod’s Oct. 25, 2017 article on the state of this province’s finances. McLeod was reporting on the latest annual report from auditor general Terry Paddon. The article noted that “employment is forecast to drop by 16,800 people in the next four years.”
With a current N.L. unemployment rate of 14.5 per cent (October’s statistic) it will be nothing short of a miracle for Ball to deliver on single-digit unemployment in time for the next election. (As an aside, Ball, during the election campaign, chided PC Leader Paul Davis, shaking his head in rebuke quoting our then 13.5 per cent unemployment rate.)
Ball campaigned with “A Stronger Tomorrow” slogan. Quoting the Liberal party platform from page three of its 2015 brochure: “The answer to building a stronger, smarter economy is through diversification, job creation and growth.” Since job creation is a very weak supportive pillar in that three- pronged approach, the stronger economy and “A Stronger Tomorrow” (shades of Brian Tobin’s “A Better Tomorrow”) is on very weak footing at best.
A 14.5 per cent unemployment rate, a rate 2.3 times the national average, is a galaxy away from Ball’s single-digit unemployment. And at the speed we are travelling, we won’t reach that galaxy in two years.
I should note that on Nov. 7, 2017, I emailed Ball to ask him how we will reach single-digit unemployment in two years.
Nothing but crickets.