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Budget battle begins in Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly

Premier Dwight Ball speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.
Premier Dwight Ball speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly. - David Maher

Ball wants 2019 budget passed as is, but opposition has other ideas

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

“In the spirit of collaboration,” Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie wrote a letter to Premier Dwight Ball on June 5 to discuss how the 2019 election budget will look under a minority government.

After 39 members of the House of Assembly took their oath of office, and Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote read a three-page speech from the throne, the question of the 2019-20 provincial budget became front and centre for the new legislature in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tory Leader Ches Crosbie speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.
Tory Leader Ches Crosbie speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.

Last Wednesday, Crosbie wrote to Premier Dwight Ball with a list of eight recommendations to consider now that the 2019 budget document is up for debate.

The recommendations are highlights from the Tory election platform and offer some changes to the existing budget document.

“In light of all that was said during the campaign and the plurality the people have delivered, I do not believe the status quo is an acceptable option,” Crosbie wrote.

The letter proposes to eliminate the deficit reduction levy as early as possible, to introduce a $25-a-day affordable child-care program for families making less than $150,000 annually, and allow 100 per cent reimbursement to medical travel expenses, among other recommendations.

Crosbie proposes an interim supply bill to keep the government going for a few months while a revised budget is developed, to give time to work through the proposals.

In a June 6 reply to Crosbie, Ball stood his ground on the requests, saying Crosbie “proposed cutting revenues while at the same time increasing expenditures, which would increase the deficit and provincial debt.”

Ball says Crosbie needs more details on the cost of the proposals before they can be discussed.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.
NDP Leader Alison Coffin speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.

Speaking with reporters after Monday’s ceremonies, Ball didn’t change his tune.

“We don’t know the magnitude of them and he hasn’t supplied the information to us. So, we’ll do some internal work on that. If you want to work and you’re making those suggestions, the least you’d do is cost those things out,” Ball said.

Ball said his intention is to pass the budget as presented on April 16.

“There’s not a lot of room within 2019,” he said.

Crosbie says the proposals are modest.

“These are things that we heard from the public, I do believe, that they want included as priorities in the budget process,” Crosbie said.

“It’s not an ultimatum. It’s a list of things I’m asking government to consider writing into the budget.”

New Democratic Party Leader Alison Coffin has her own ideas about what could go in the 2019 budget – though she didn’t give details Monday.

“At this point, we’re looking largely at legislative changes that have low or no costs associated with it,” she said.

“We have opportunities to make changes right now. Some are legislative changes, some are budget changes. I’d like to see changes in both areas.”

Now, the debate on the budget begins. The 75 hours of budget debate will likely take past the end of June, so an interim supply bill has been tabled in the House of Assembly to extend government funding past June, just in case.

Should the budget – whatever the final version – fail to pass, it will be a non-confidence vote in the Liberal government.

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL


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