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Premier Dwight Ball says he hopes history remembers him as someone who never backed down.
Ball announced his resignation from politics on Monday, effective when the next provincial election hits. Ball will remain premier until a new Liberal leader is chosen.
Ball says his legacy is as someone who faced challenges head on.
“Someone who didn’t back down. Someone that took on and embraced the challenges we had to face within the province. That’s who I was, that’s kind of the fabric of the person that I’ve been,” he said.
“Someone who put in place strong partnerships and relationships around Newfoundland and Labrador, around the country, and with our national government. I’ve always been kind of a bridge builder. Never really walked away from a table.”
Full interview below
After winning a majority government in his first term, Ball says the transition to a minority government played a large role in his decision to step aside.
“Over Christmas it was the first time that I’d been home for two weeks in almost ten years. I had a lot of time to be spending around family and friends, my own family.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. Having the opportunity to be around for over two weeks was part of it. Getting alone and just thinking about things, reflecting on life, and also thinking about the future of the party, that was important to me. I wanted to make sure we passed the party on in good shape, pass the government on in much better shape than we took it in 2015 – making sure that we get rate mitigation.”
The most difficult moment in Ball’s time as premier was the 2016 provincial budget. More than 250 tax and fee increases abruptly ended the honeymoon period for the premier – taking a pre-budget approval rating of 60 per cent down to 16 per cent thereafter. While Ball’s approval rating in polls improved since then, he says it remains a moment he looks back on with difficulty.
The plan set in place in 2016 is now up in the air. The plan started in 2016 had a stated goal of getting the province back to surplus by 2022-23. Auditor general Julia Mullaley recently called the target “overly optimistic,” with Finance Minister Tom Osborne loosening the commitment to surplus in the original timeframe.
But don’t expect another 2016 budget document, Ball said.
Full interview below
“We don’t need another 2016 budget. Right now, it’s more about balancing, trying to find what the correct balance is in keeping the province moving forward. 2016, no question, you can imagine sitting in this chair and going over the things that needed to be done in the 2016 budget to secure a future,” he said.
“When you’re looking at a deficit of nearly $3 billion at the time – wrestling that to the ground was very difficult. We all knew at the time, people who were around that cabinet table, that it would be difficult. I also knew that the focal person of that budget would be me. Making unpopular decisions as a new premier is not easy.”
Whoever becomes the fourteenth premier of the province has an enormous task ahead.
The population of Newfoundland and Labrador continues to shrink and age faster than anywhere else in the country. The $15.4-billion net debt continues to grow – and will grow further as long as there are deficits. And the specter of the Muskrat Falls project continues to cast a shadow over the future of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ball says he doesn’t believe his resignation will affect the agreement between the provincial and federal governments on restructuring the financial arrangements of Muskrat Falls.
“This is a big piece of work that would need to be done. It’s going to take time. We said that it needed to be done and the federal government said that this was work that needed to be done before commissioning of Muskrat Falls,” he said.
“We’re going to mitigate those rates. I’m very confident in that. It’s a personal priority that I’ve taken on, that I’ve made to people of this province. I’m not going anywhere. This is not someone making an announcement them bolting for the door.”
When Ball does exit the premier’s office for the final time, he says, he will continue to contribute to the province – maybe with his circa 2011 moustache in place.
“I’ve no plan to regrow my moustache or make any changes, but you just never know,” he said.
“I just want to get more active again. I’m healthy, people have asked me, lots of people reached out and said is there anything wrong – my health is good. It’s just, right now, I want to be in a different position. For sure, I’ll be always contributing to the fabric of this province. I’m not going anywhere, from that aspect.”