Newfoundland is rising against austerity

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Newfoundland is rising against austerity

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Newfoundland is Rising Against Austerity

Something very much out of the ordinary is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador. People are so angry about the recent provincial austerity budget that even long-time activists say they have never seen the likes of it.

The newly elected Liberal government, facing huge drops in oil revenues, cut public services, jobs, and grants to community groups, closed public libraries and raised taxes and fees. Even books will be taxed. There is also the so-called temporary deficit reduction levy, a regressive tax that hits low and medium income people much harder than the rich.

It’s not just the usual suspects who are upset this time. Across the island and the vast expanse of  Labrador people are making their voices heard.

Anger at both parties

“I am just a regular schmuck, and I organized one of the protests that happened here in Stephenville,” Shane Snook tells “There are totally ordinary Joe Blows like myself across the province that are making these rallies happen, getting petitions signed, you name it.”

“What gets people upset is the arrogance of the politicians,”” says Snook. “People are saying loud and clear that they don’t want this budget, and the Liberals respond saying that’s too bad, but we know better than you.”

The anger is not just directed at the Liberals. The Conservative opposition, in power until late last year and responsible for much of the mess, is not gaining much of an advantage from the protests.

“For the first time in my lifetime the general public is wise to both the Conservatives and the Liberals at the same time. For once we’re angry at both parties,” says Snook.....

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..from apr 28th

'We were just scraping by. Now we're fucked'

The government continues to defend the budget, emphasizing the impact of low oil prices and overspending by previous Progressive Conservative governments, while the contentious Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project has also weighed heavily on the province's finances.

As a result of the budget, Memorial University, provincial health authorities, school and library boards and arts organizations will have significantly reduced funding. A number of courts, schools, government offices, clinics, nursing homes, as well as programs for cancer care, dental care, mental health and home heating assistance and other facilities and services are all set to close or be eliminated. On Wednesday it was revealed that a majority of the province's libraries will close....

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Government 'union busting' with library jobs, says CUPE

The union that represents library workers in Newfoundland and Labrador has accused the government of union busting.

Dawn Lahey heads up Local 2329 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and speaks for more than 60 employees who will lose their jobs when 54 libraries close by 2017.

She responded Thursday to Education Minister Dale Kirby's announcement that he's working on finding ways to continue public access to school-based and some municipal libraries, in some cases using volunteers.

Lahey said replacing staff librarians with volunteers is an end-run around the union.

"Absolutely union busting. Absolutely. It's terrible," she said. "What a slap in the face to someone. Not only union busting, but it's a slap in the face to someone who's given their life to that library."...

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Liberals hire big guns for labour talks

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has brought in some high-profile reinforcements as it prepares for tough talks with public sector unions.

St. John's law firm McInnes Cooper has been retained to advise the government during its negotiations with unions such as NAPE, CUPE, the Registered Nurses' Union and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association. 

McInnes Cooper has in turn hired consultant Cathy Dornan, who is on contract to provide strategic communications advice. 

McInnes Cooper is one of Atlantic Canada's top law firms and a key player in labour and employment law in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Partner Denis Mahoney represented the St. John's Airport Authority during its 2013 strike by workers. Mahoney also worked for Vale during an 18-month strike by Voisey's Bay workers.

$350 an hour

The law firm has been hired on a hourly-rate contract. It will receive $350 an hour for collective bargaining support and $175 an hour for any additional services. The contract will run until the collective bargaining process is completed — a process that will undoubtedly take months.

Dornan — according to her website — offers her clients help with issues management, crisis communications and strategic counsel. Her clients include major oil companies such as Chevron and Statoil.

But Dornan also has strong Liberal connections. She was former premier Brian Tobin's director of communications from 1996 to 1998.

Her husband, Robert Dornan, was former premier Roger Grimes' chief of staff. Robert Dornan also worked on Finance Minister Cathy Bennett's Liberal leadership campaign....


“For the first time in my lifetime the general public is wise to both the Conservatives and the Liberals at the same time. For once we’re angry at both parties,” says Snook.....

...thanks for this! So the question of course is who will fill the political vacuum?

Where is the debate ongoing...certainly not with those closed in the traditionalist political forms...while there have been a few interesting discussions in these threads...too few and far between!

Surely people must get it! The bubbles are bursting...commodities, oil, now the tecks, the financials, soon real estate, as is now happening in force in in BC, I await the collapse of the lumber industry, where China and Japan reject any further need to be importing our raw long can our governments sustain their programs with diminishing tax revenue, relying on credit? .....

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Is Dwight Ball the least popular premier in Canada?

Just a few short months after being elected in a landslide, the popularity of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal government has fallen sharply. During the campaign the Liberals promised to expand many social programs and categorically ruled out public sector layoffs and an increased sales tax, but their first budget has imposed a varied range of new and increased fees, reduced services and operating grants, as well as tax hikes, many of which have been condemned as regressive.

Riding a wave of popular anger, opposition MHAs filibustered the passage of budget-related bills for 75 hours. The level of activism and public anger over the budget is unprecedented in recent provincial history. With the budget passed, the House of Assembly has now closed, perhaps giving the government some relief.

However, Paul Lane, an independent MHA who was removed from the Liberal caucus after making public his intent to vote against the budget, said that dissatisfaction remains very high.

"I believe that there's still the same amount of anger and frustration out there in the public. I think that the people have been and will continue to be constantly reminded of the impacts of the budget," Lane said in a phone interview on Tuesday, highlighting the impact of increased gas, insurance, and sales taxes, as well as park admissions and vehicle renewals....

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Newfoundland and Labrador: Still rising

Seldom has a provincial austerity budget been as decisively rejected as happened this spring in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Angry citizens took to the street in record numbers, filled townhalls across the province, wrote letters, called in to radio shows, and in true Newfoundland fashion made fun of a hapless Premier Dwight Ball. The anti-budget coalition was broad and diverse, and the protesters were very determined.

But that all happened in the spring. Did the protests run out of steam over the summer, or did people simply take a breather?

This is not going away

Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), is certain protesters will be back this fall.

“This is not going away,” Earle says. “Normally you anticipate that when bad decisions are made by government you may get a protest or two and then things quiet down. But the protests are being sustained over a long time, which speaks to the high levels of frustration among the population.”

“What was surprising was that even into July there were still protest on healthcare changes. You anticipate that when there are rallies in the summer not a whole lot of people will show up, but I traveled to (the town of) Botwood expecting 20 to 30 people at best, and in excess of 200 people actually came out,” Earle says.

Protests were spontaneous and organized by many different groups and individuals. Yet the Common Front NL, a coalition of unions, faith groups, social justice activists and students, helped maintain momentum and focus....


Great news, thanks!