Top News

LETTER: Way Forward seems to be taking us backward

Premier Dwight Ball was on hand at the Village Shopping Centre Thursday to announce combined provincial-federal funding of $1.725 million for the new S&P Data call centre that will be housed on the top floor of the mall.
Premier Dwight Ball. — Telegram file photo

A recent mid-year update by Finance Minister Tom Osborne gives specific insight into the Ball government’s seven-year fiscal plan.

Here are some facts for consideration of the Ball Liberal record since 2015 and returning to surplus by 2021-22.

Budget 2016 raised more than 300 taxes and fees, and almost all of those burdens on people and employers are still in place today, when the economy needs consumer spending to assist with a slowdown in our economy.

Government spending is up. Budget 2016 promised a path to rein in spending, but consecutive budgets have seen program budgets continue to rise.

Budget 2016 promised to rein in the spending of agencies, boards and commissions by 30 per cent. The finance minister reiterated this direction in the 2018 Budget, but again, there is no sign of results. Agencies, boards and commissions account for more than 60 per cent of government expenditures.

Moody’s bond-rating agency said this year the government would need to decrease spending every year by 1.4 per cent to get back to balance, but the Ball government’s spending is on the rise despite higher taxes and poor economic performance.

The auditor general expressed concern in 2017 that the level of spending is not sustainable. The indication was that there was no consideration or accounting for normal inflationary increases.

The auditor general also pointed to the government’s reliance on oil — which is ironic under a Liberal leader who once said oil revenue is not a policy.

Moody’s bond-rating agency said this year the government would need to decrease spending every year by 1.4 per cent to get back to balance, but the Ball government’s spending is on the rise despite higher taxes and poor economic performance.

The latest fiscal update showed a $136-million improvement on the annual deficit — but $130 million of that is due to oil, not due to any economic policy results of the current administration.

Our economy is not surging ahead despite LEAP, The Way Forward or cabinet committees on jobs. Economic indicators do not show improvement over the last three years.

In fact, no new revenue generation was identified in the fiscal update from the Liberals’ economic plan or any of their initiatives of the past three years.

Equalization is not there to help us, even though it ought to be. Improvements should be kicking in to help us deliver comparable services at comparable rates of taxation as defined the national program.

But the federal Liberals recently renewed the old formula until the year 2024 — without any advocacy from the Ball Liberals.

Quebec is getting $12 billion of the $18-billion equalization pot this year, and using the money to run surpluses, improve services and cut taxes. Other Atlantic provinces’ equalization payments from Ottawa of close to $2 billion allow them to bring in balanced budgets.

Instead of fairness, balance and some help from a national program called equalization, our people were given a levy, increased insurance tax, gas tax, sales tax, income tax and carbon tax — all disincentives to driving the economy and investment.

If we were receiving equalization equivalent to Nova Scotia’s, we would be running a $500-million surplus this year.

We need a clear and realistic fiscal plan that balances initiatives to leave funds in the economy, moderate and competitive taxation and a commitment to a modern service-delivery model aligned with attrition programs and other programs. We are rich in natural and human resources, and we do have a future here in this province, but we need the plan and leadership to meet our full potential.

Keith Hutchings, MHA Ferryland

Opposition finance critic

Recent Stories