A $1-million report commissioned by the provincial government to look at economic diversification will not be made public until after the provincial budget.
The report was commissioned by the Department of Finance in late September, with a focus on deep water oil development and the ocean and aerospace sectors.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne says the department received the final report in late February, after a two-month extension, but no cost increases.
He says the government will use the document to help produce the coming provincial budget, but the report will not be released publicly prior to the budget’s release.
“Departmental officials need time to review the report. Cabinet hasn’t yet seen the report. At our next meeting of cabinet, I intend to present it there,” said Osborne.
“It’s reasonable to allow government an opportunity to analyze the report to find out what in the report we agree with. Maybe there are things we don’t agree with.”
Osborne says the government wants to be able to answer the questions sure to arise from the report.
Tory finance critic Keith Hutchings says there’s nothing wrong with a public debate about the report in advance of the budget.
“Why not release it to the folks involved in budget consultations and see how that would influence the budget moving forward,” Hutchings asked.
“Why don’t we all ask questions together with the report in front of us?”
Osborne did not give a firm time for the release of the provincial budget, only to say it’s expected in the coming weeks.
Cannabis subsidy possible
Osborne says he has directed the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) to look at ways to make stand-alone cannabis retailers more viable in the province.
In late January, Puff Puff Pass in Clarenville closed its doors, citing cannabis supply issues as part of the reason for the closure.
“I have given direction to the NLC to look at possible mitigation for the tier ones, the independent retailers who put a considerable investment into their stores,” said Osborne.
“Supply has been an issue for all jurisdictions around the country. We want to ensure we look at the tier one independents and see if there’s something the NLC can do to help.”
Osborne says the options are being reviewed by the board of directors of the NLC, so it’s hard to say what any potential help could look like. But he says one of the questions he wants answered is whether the current cut of cannabis sales going to the retailer is enough to keep the business afloat.
Currently, a retailer gets eight per cent of the pre-tax price of cannabis. Increasing the cut is an option, Osborne said, but it will be up to the NLC to determine what, if any, changes will come to assist stand-alone cannabis retailers in the province.
Osborne says he expects an announcement soon regarding the mitigation options.