Newfoundland and Labrador Political Pot Pourri

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jerrym
Newfoundland and Labrador Political Pot Pourri

The Liberal Ball minority government nor the loyal opposition Progressive Conservatives do not look good at the public inquiry looking at their handling of the Muskrat Falls debacle that has left Newfoundlanders facing a future of skyrocketing electricity rates and enormous environmental damage. That's probably one of the major reasons Ball called the 2019 election early in order to avoid his own public inquiry testimony creating large political re-election problems for him. Despite his attempts to avoid scrutiny before the election, all he could do was win a minority government. Ball admitted that Muskrat Falls was  “the greatest fiscal mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history” in the public inquiry today.

Liberal Premier Dwight Ball took the stand Thursday at the public inquiry into cost and schedule overruns that have plagued the controversial dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River.

The 824-megawatt dam has essentially doubled in costs to more than $12.7 billion since it was sanctioned by a former Progressive Conservative government in 2012.

Ball, who called the inquiry under intense public pressure, has called Muskrat Falls “the greatest fiscal mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.”

Though the project is nearly complete, the looming threat of skyrocketing electricity rates to pay for cost overruns has become a pressing issue for Ball’s government.

Ball said Muskrat Falls should never have been sanctioned, but defended his 2016 decision to carry on despite its ballooning costs, saying abandoning the project would still have been very costly and would not have solved the problems already in motion. ...

The inquiry has already heard from a parade of past and present government officials, bureaucrats and energy executives, some of whom have suggested project risks had been intentionally downplayed.

Direct questioning of the premier by inquiry counsel wrapped within two hours, significantly more quickly than other high-profile witnesses, before other lawyers questioned him....

He said he was growing concerned at former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin’s insistence that the province should pay more money to Astaldi, which was struggling to meet its targets, to prevent possible insolvency, pushing the project timeline back further and driving up costs.

Ball said he doubted any number would solve “the Astaldi problem” and did not want Martin negotiating a settlement alone.

Ball said the importance of Astaldi’s contract to Italy was made clear by then-ambassador Gian Lorenzo Cornado’s persistent requests for a meeting, including an unexpected encounter with him at a hotel lobby in Toronto that Ball described as “probably not coincidental.” ...

The premier was also asked to address testimony from last month, when senior government officials revealed that time had run out to mitigate risks from methylmercury contamination downstream from the dam when the reservoir is fully impounded later this summer.

Research has indicated that flooding the uncleared reservoir near the dam could cause a spike in methylmercury contamination in wild food sources used by local Indigenous communities. Methylmercury is formed as vegetation rots under water and can contaminate fish and other crucial wild foods.

http://digital.timescolonist.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

 

 

jerrym

Muskrat Falls also presents an enormous environmental risk to people as this May 2019 article illustrates. Unsurprisingly, indigenous people have been left to face the extremely dangerous risk of methylmercury poisoning by Liberal and Conservative governments. 

methylmercury[is] a neurotoxin so dangerous the World Health Organization ranks it among the top ten chemicals of public health concern.

In the next year, when the Muskrat Falls hydro dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River floods an area twice the size of the city of Victoria, methylmercury will immediately start to contaminate the food chain as microbes feed on inorganic carbon stored in flooded soils and vegetation, setting off a sequence of events. ...

“It’s widely known that hydroelectric development has a methylmercury impact,” said Ryan Calder, a Duke University postdoctoral associate and expert on the methylmercury impacts of hydroelectric development. “That is beyond question at this point.”

When large hydro dams flood river valleys and forests, microbes convert inorganic mercury — found in soils worldwide in greatly increased levels due to coal-fired power plants and other industrial activities — into methylmercury, the type of mercury of greatest concern for human health. 

Most human exposure to methylmercury comes from eating fish, although marine mammals like seals and other traditional foods can also carry high levels. ...

Mercury impacts extend far beyond area considered in environmental assessment: Harvard study

Lake Melville, a brackish subarctic estuary downstream from the Muskrat Falls dam, was not included in an environmental assessment conducted by Nalcor, the province’s publicly owned energy corporation. 

Nalcor said it did not study Lake Melville — designated an “ecologically and biologically significant area” by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat — because it predicted that the Muskrat Falls dam would have no measurable impacts on the estuary, a traditional Inuit hunting and fishing ground.  ...

Ryan Calder, was a civil engineer and PhD student at Harvard University’s School of Public Health at the time, was one of a half-dozen American and Canadian scientists who worked on the peer-reviewed research project, led by Harvard.

There was no reason for Nalcor to cut off the Muskrat Falls dam environmental assessment study area at the boundary of Lake Melville, Calder told The Narwhal.

“There’s no scientific basis to say that there’s no impacts. There’s all kinds of data from Quebec and Brazil that show that in many cases downstream impacts are greater than from reservoirs … the methylmercury comes from the bottom of the reservoir and what comes out of the dam is disproportionately the methylmercury-rich bottom waters. A lot of data from Quebec over the past 40 years has shown very clearly that when you dam a river over the next few years the mercury levels in the fish increase.” ...

The Muskrat Falls study experimentally flooded soils from the future reservoir area, showing a spike in methylmercury concentrations within 72 hours, and a 14-fold increase in methylmercury concentrations within 120 hours, with elevated levels expected to last decades. ...

The study found that human exposure to methylmercury could increase by up to 1,500 per cent because of the Muskrat Falls dam. Locally caught wildlife represents a large fraction of food consumed by Inuit living around Lake Melville, constituting 70 per cent of their future exposure to mercury, according to the study, which noted that country foods are at the heart of Inuit health, well-being and culture.

Those country foods carry significant nutritional benefits, according to researchers. On days that country food is consumed Inuit diets have significantly less fat, carbohydrates and sugar and more protein and essential micronutrients such as vitamins, riboflavin and iron.

https://thenarwhal.ca/mercury-rising-muskrat-falls-dam-threatens-inuit-w...

 

kropotkin1951

Here is a good look into the level of racism that operates throughout much of Canadian politics. I have recieved some funny voicemails when people haven't hung up but this one is not very funny even though the two people were joking all the way through it.

https://twitter.com/ntesinan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0ZK96a_5pk

 

jerrym

The NDP have gained 16% in the provincial polls to 23% overall under Alison Coffin's leadership in three months according to a September poll by Narrative Research (the new name for CRA). The Liberals are down 4% to 42% while the Cons have dropped 10% to 32%. 

It's bad news for the Progressive Conservatives and good news for the New Democrats, as a poll released Tuesday finds that support for each party has changed notably  in opposite directions  since the May provincial election, even as more than a quarter of voters remain undecided.

The telephone survey by Narrative Research found that support among decided voters was at 32 per cent for the Tories, down 10 points from May 2019 and at the lowest levels seen since February 2018, when the party polled at 33 per cent.

In the other direction, NDP support was also a level not seen since it was 24 per cent in February of last year, with 23 per cent of decided voters polled telling Narrative they backed the Alison Coffin-led party provincially. That's up 16 points over the last three months, compared with the support of just seven per cent of voters in May polling.

Meanwhile, the governing Liberals' support largely held steady, with 42 per cent of decided voters in the poll saying they support the party, down slightly from 46 per cent in May 2019 and 45 per cent in February 2019.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 27 per cent of voters are undecided, five per cent don't plan to vote in the next provincial election, and three per cent would not reveal their party support, according to the results, which are based on a sample of 800 adult residents of the province polled between July 31 and Aug. 25. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/poll-narrative-rese...

jerrym

Narrative Research December poll shows all three major parties staying in a statistical tie with the company's September polls. The NDP's 24% statisically ties its 23% in the September poll but is up from the 7% they got in the May election, when they only ran 14 candidates. Coffin is the preferred choice of 19% of voters for premier. 

In terms of decided voter intentions, results are fairly consistent since August, with the Liberal Party maintaining 42% of the vote, with the Progressive Conservative Party standing at 33% (compared with 32% in August). Support for the New Democratic Party stands at 24%, compared with 23% in August, at which time there had been a jump in support following the May election, when levels were at 7%.

On the question of leadership, Ball remains the preferred choice of premier among 36% of voters. Less than one-quarter (23%) voiced preference for Ches Crosbie of the PC party, while two in ten named Alison Coffin of NDP as the preference choice for premier (19%).

https://narrativeresearch.ca/nl-provincial-government-satisfaction-reach...

jerrym

Premier Dwight Ball will resign as soon as a new Liberal Premier is selected.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier has announced he is stepping down after more than four years leading the province.

Dwight Ball said in a video released Monday that he has asked the president of the provincial Liberal party to convene a leadership process to choose a successor “at the earliest opportunity.”

Ball, who was re-elected with a minority government last spring, said he is resigning to live a “more private life” with friends and family in Deer Lake.

Ball, 63, said he will stay on as premier until a new leader is chosen and will continue to represent the Humber-Gros Morne district in the legislature until the next provincial election.

He said he decided to start the leadership process now given his government’s minority status and the unpredictability of the next election date.

The premier said he will continue overseeing budget preparations and will prioritize protecting ratepayers from the cost overruns of the Muskrat Falls hydro dam.

His announcement Monday comes one week after a joint announcement with Ottawa that the two governments would rewrite the financial structure of the beleaguered megaproject on Labrador’s Lower Churchill River.

Currently priced at $12.7 billion, the dam has come to represent one-third of the province’s net debt since it was sanctioned in 2012.

The dam is set to produce more power than the province can sell, and its existing financial structure would have left electricity ratepayers on the hook to make up the difference starting in 2021.

Though last week’s announcement was light on specifics of the new model that will redirect benefits of the project to ratepayers, Ball vowed again on Monday that rates would not rise above current levels. ...

Ball came to power in 2015 after serving as leader of the official Opposition since 2012, and he has presided over difficult economic times in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The province entered 2020 facing a bleak financial forecast. Auditor general Julia Mullaley reported late last year that the province’s net debt is higher than it’s ever been and cautioned that the government “is not living within its means.”

https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/newsalert-n-l-premier-dwight-ball-t...

jerrym

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball remains unwilling to answer questions about government scandals after announcing his intention to resign yesterday. 

The day after his abrupt resignation as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dwight Ball is taking questions — but the answers echo Monday's pre-recorded video statement in which he announced he's stepping down.

Ball stuck to outlining his government's accomplishments throughout Tuesday's interview with CBC News, refusing to address recent scandals that insiders say left his caucus and cabinet splintered, turning members of his own party against him. ...

He would also not single out any decision he felt he could have handled better.

"I'm not going to go back and say these are things I would change or do differently.… The outcomes are more important to me," he said. ...

In the hours since Monday's announcement, MHAs across the province have been trying to process what happened while calculating their next moves.

"I think it's a bright, shining light for the Liberal Party, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is an opportunity to refresh the Liberal Party, to refresh it with new leadership, with new ideas," Independent MHA Eddie Joyce told CBC Tuesday morning.

Ball ousted Joyce from the Liberal caucus in April 2018, after a lengthy investigation into allegations of bullying. Joyce was mostly cleared of those, and returned to the House as an Independent in last year's election. ...

With a looming budget, his unfinished rate mitigation plan, and mounting pressure from the public over a string of recent hiring scandals, Liberal cabinet minister Lisa Dempster said she thinks Ball was worn out, like many politicians who spend years in elected office.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/mha-ball-departure-...

jerrym

The downfall of Dwight Ball has been building for a while. Under Newfoundland law, an election has to occur within a year of a new Premier being chosen.

Dwight Ball couldn't seem to stop scoring on his own goal. Throughout last fall he had to defend moving former senior Liberal staffer Carla Foote into a position at The Rooms, the provincial museum and archives, sans competition.  ...

Instead of a fresh start in the new year, he faced a new controversy: a fat contract for a deputy minister-turned-oil and gas consultant.

Behind the scenes, multiple sources say cabinet and caucus members were frustrated with the premier's performance and his inability to handle scandals of his own making.

"Every leader has an expiration date. Dwight Ball just reached his," one cabinet minister told CBC News after Ball announced Monday evening that he was stepping down as premier.

Just last week, when Ball made his big announcement on keeping electricity rates low, there was another sign of waning support: only a few cabinet ministers showed up, with some of the heavy hitters — Transportation Minister Steve Crocker, Health Minister John Haggie, Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Bernard Davis, and Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Derek Bragg — all absent. ... 

Rumours of Ball's resignation aren't new; they started early in his tenure as premier. He underestimated the backlash from his first budget that hiked taxes and fees and cut libraries. Some in the public would never forgive him.

Multiple sources inside his own caucus say Ball never really regained the public trust. Less than a year ago the public returned him to power, but with his wings clipped atop a minority government. After that, he kept stumbling from scandal to scandal.

Leaving now saves Ball from facing a June leadership review — one he knew would be tough. Caucus and cabinet members were not-so-quietly expressing their desire for him to leave. Liberal executive members loyal to Ball tried to get the party to delay the vote, to give Ball more time, but they failed. Ball had a choice: fight a battle or leave on his own terms. He chose the latter. ...

Who's next?

The Liberal party is expected to lay out the process today, but the unofficial race has already started.

Some inside the cabinet have already ruled it out, with Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady and Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne insisting they won't run.

One name is already seen as a front-runner: Andrew Furey, an orthopedic surgeon better known for his philanthropy. He founded Team Broken Earth, which helps provide medical care to developing countries. Furey has never held elected office but comes from a political family. His father, George Furey, is currently speaker of the Senate.

Insiders say he also has the backing of former premier Brian Tobin, who was helping him get ready for a run even before Monday's resignation. Furey told CBC news on Tuesday morning he is interested in throwing his hat in the ring, but would not speak further to the matter, adding he needed to discuss the issue with family and colleagues. 

From inside the party, Minister of Justice and Public Safety Andrew Parsons is well-liked, but is dealing with serious family health issues that sidelined him from the House of Assembly last fall and will keep him from running for the top job. ...

The now outgoing premier wants his replacement to be chosen soon.

In his address, he said he wants a new leader to put a stamp on a spring budget, due out in only two months.

That will mean a quick race or a delayed budget.

Under a law brought in by the PC government under Danny Williams, an election will have to happen within a year of a new premier taking office.

Even if the budget passes this spring — not a guarantee for a minority government — an election is coming.

Ken Burch

So...is the Newfoundland NDP in any better state of readiness for an election within the next year than they were for the last election, which was...er...last year?

I'd strongly encourage them to get candidates nominated for every riding as soon as possible. They pulled off a miracle doing what they did with fewer candidates last time, but they won't be able to do THAT twice in a row.

Newfoundlander_...

There is now talk that the NDP are interested in forming a coalition government with the PCs and install Ches Crosbie as premier.  

northwestern_lad

Big news out of Newfoundland & Labrador tonight... Might the NDP be going into a big coalition government with the PC's, some Liberals and an Independent? This could be an historic government and a fascinating case study for future potential coalitions... Big stuff to watch for sure https://magpiebrule.ca/2020/02/20/an-historic-coalition-in-the-making/

jerrym

Coalitions don't usually work out well for the junior partner, in this case the NDP if it were to join one, as the larger party tends to get the credit if things go well and if things go badly, all coaltion parties take the hit. I think it would be better if the NDP became the Official Opposition to a Liberal-Conservative government, so that when its support wears thin, they have a chance to win.

jerrym

Jumping into a coalition when Newfoundland faces the vast array of problems outlined below would probably mean the end of any hopes of forming a Newfoundland government in the future. 

With a shrinking population, staggering debt and government spending far outstripping revenue, Newfoundland and Labrador is facing one of the biggest fiscal challenges it has seen since joining Confederation. Whoever tries to tackle that problem head-on as its next premier also stands to be a very unpopular person.

The sudden resignation of Liberal Premier Dwight Ball this week has created an opening for what may be the most difficult political job in Canada. So far, few people are stepping forward to take on the task.

“This is not a good job right now. It’s the kind of job where you’re going to be making enemies left, right and centre,” said Dr. Amanda Bittner, a professor of political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “You’re going to be making some tough choices that nobody is going to be happy with, and it’s probably going to be miserable. It will not be easy.”

Melissa Royle, a lawyer and host of a politics talk show in St. John’s, says the challenges facing the province are daunting, and are likely discouraging a lot of good candidates who would otherwise enter the race to replace Mr. Ball.

“Maybe that’s part of the reason we aren’t seeing a lot of people throw their hats in the ring yet,” she said. “Newfoundland and Labrador has significant demographics problems. We have an aging, declining population. We have an insurmountable debt. And our economy hasn’t really recovered since the price of oil collapsed.”

In short, the province’s books are a mess, and that could be why no member of the Liberal caucus has publicly expressed an interest in the leadership. So far, the only potential candidates who appear interested are Andrew Furey, an orthopedic surgeon who has never held elected office, and businessman Paul Antle. ...

The Premier says his successor faces an overwhelming challenge to get the province’s $14-billion debt under control, something he wasn’t able to do. Newfoundland spends more than 13 per cent of its provincial budget just on loan interest, far more than any other province, and there’s a very real concern that banks will stop lending it money....

Newfoundland’s political leaders argue that the province’s growing debt crisis will soon become Canada’s problem, too. Mr. Ball is calling for a new deal with Ottawa, arguing that equalization payments from the federal government need to be increased to better reflect the cost of delivering services such as health care in his province. ...

His rival, official Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie, says federal equalization payments alone aren’t enough to dig Newfoundland out of the financial hole. It also needs a bigger share of offshore oil revenues, or else Ottawa risks having a province default on its debts, he said. ...

Demographic pressures and collapsing oil prices have hammered the economy of a province that was celebrating an energy boom just a few years ago. While the rest of Atlantic Canada is growing, Newfoundland’s population continues to decline by about 4,000 or 5,000 people a year. As it shrinks, losing younger, working-age people to other provinces, it’s getting tens of millions less in transfer funds from the federal government each year.

The minority Liberal government’s attempts to reduce spending as revenues shrink have been met with angry protests in St. John’s and around the province. With a provincial deficit that reached nearly $2-billion in 2016, Mr. Ball’s first budget as premier hiked taxes, trimmed public-sector jobs and cut libraries, prompting calls for his resignation that never went away.

One economist says the next premier will need to push further on unpopular downsizing – including cutting the public service to a sustainable level, and reducing services to Newfoundland’s network of sparsely populated remote communities spread out across the province.

“It has to start with somebody who doesn’t care about getting re-elected,” said Scott Lynch, an associate professor of economics at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “It’s going to be a nasty situation. These cuts will be extremely painful … the problem has been when things get good, they spend, and when things get bad, they still spend."

The Premier’s waning popularity was not helped by a series of patronage scandals and the ongoing saga of Muskrat Falls, the hydroelectric megaproject that’s billions of dollars overbudget and threatening to trigger a spike in electricity rates. Mr. Ball says a new rate-mitigation plan, which is still being negotiated with Ottawa, will keep those hydro bills down, and is one of his proudest achievements. ...

Mr. Crosbie, who hopes to replace Mr. Ball with a Progressive Conservative government, warns that unpopular decisions will be necessary to place the province on more stable footing. His late father, John Crosbie, was Canada’s fisheries minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney when the northern cod fishery was closed in 1992.

That decision seriously damaged Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, starting a pronounced migration out of the province that continues to this day. Its population is about 15 per cent less than it was when the cod moratorium began, while the rest of Canada has grown by about a third.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-newfoundlands-next-leader...

Aristotleded24

Is there any further news on this coalition development?

I agree that this would be a bad idea. For one, remember Crosbie's speech on election night? No congratulations, no promises to work together to hold the Liberal government account, just anger and sour grapes for losing. That's not an attitude of someone you want to go into coalition government with. Furthermore, this thing would be very unstable, and probably collapse within one year, given the different factions involved. Then we're off to the polls, and what will the people want? Stable government, and that election would likely result in a majority. The NDP would be safe in their St. John's seats, but would be nowhere near able to make an argument about being ready to govern, regardless of how prepared they were for an actual election.

Rather than coalition, I think that it would be better to prepare for an election and pull the plug. If the Liberals are having a leadership crisis and the PCs cannot form a stable coalition, let's vote so we can start fresh.

jerrym

The Liberal government is having problems in another area with the resignation of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) over the failure to protect designated areas. 

Cape St. Mary’s is one of the protected areas contributing to the province’s 6.9 per cent of protected lands and inland waters. Under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the province had committed to protecting at least 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by this year. -CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY BILL MONTEVECCHI

Cape St. Mary’s is one of the protected areas contributing to the province’s 6.9 per cent of protected lands and inland waters. Under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the province had committed to protecting at least 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by this year.

Protected areas plan stalled for 25 years

They say they will no longer be complicit in what they call the provincial government’s continued delay in protecting natural areas.

That’s why two members of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) have resigned.

The council formed in 1980 to advise government on the establishment and management [the rest of the article is behind a paywall].

https://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/expert-advisers-to-newfoundland-a...

jerrym

The Liberal party will pick a new leader on May 9th. 

 

The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador will select its new leader on May 9.

Party president John Allan says the call for nominations for leadership candidates, which opened Monday, will remain open until March 6 at noon.

The leadership convention is set for May 8-9 in St. John's. It will follow the same preferential ballot system used in 2013 wherein each registered voter shall be asked to rank the candidates in order of preference, from their first choice to their last choice. 

Each candidate will be required to pay a $25,000 nomination fee, starting with a $15,000 payment due when the nomination form is being submitted.

Only a few people have publicly — but not officially — declared an interest in taking over for Premier Dwight Ball, who announced his resignation last week. Among them are businessman and former Liberal leadership candidate Paul Antle, Dr. Andrew Furey and businessman Dean MacDonald.

https://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/newfoundland-and-labrador-liberal...

jerrym

Below is an update on the Newfoundland Liberal Party leadership race: 

Surgeon Andrew Furey and former deputy minister John Abbott are the two candidates vying to become the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The Liberal party confirmed Friday that Furey and Abbott are the two contenders in the race, having signed nomination papers and paid the $15,000 upfront portion of the $25,000 entrance fee to be a candidate in the leadership race. 

“I want to congratulate both candidates on successfully entering the 2020 leadership race. This is an exciting time for Liberals and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Liberal party president John Allan stated in a news release. ...

Voting will take place in May, with online voting, telephone voting and in-person voting options available. 

The Liberal leadership convention will take place May 8-9 at the St. John's Convention Centre.

https://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/furey-abbott-confirmed-as-liberal...

jerrym

There is no surprise in the latest Narrative Research (formerly CRA) poll showing Liberal support dropping 5% to 37%. Furthermore, dissatisfaction with the Liberal government has risen from 42% in November to 55% today while satisfaction is down 12% to 40% leaving the Liberals overall at -15%. The PC's and NDP are both up 2% to 35% and 26% respectively, while the Greens received 2%. The NDP's Coffin at 22% (up from 12% just before the May 2019 election) is now only 8% behind Premier Ball in best premier and 5% behind the PC's Crosbie. 

A majority of Newfoundland and Labrador residents now express dissatisfaction with the performance of the provincial government led by Premier Dwight Ball, according to a recent survey conducted by Narrative Research. In fact, more than one-half of residents (55%) express dissatisfaction, up notably from 42% in November 2019. Only 40% (down 12% since November) are satisfied with the government’s performance, reflecting the lowest satisfaction level since the last election. (Note nearly all data collected by Narrative Research was collected prior to Ball’s resignation announcement.)

In terms of decided voter intentions, the Liberals hold 37% of the vote (down from 42% in November), closely followed by the PCs, who are at 35% (compared with 33% in November). The New Democratic Party is at 26% (compared with 24% in November). The relatively new Green Party holds 2% of decided voters.

One-quarter of eligible NL voters are undecided (26%), while 1% do not plan to vote in the next provincial election, and 3% refuse to state which party they support.

On the question of leadership, Ball remains the preferred choice as premier (30%), closely followed by Ches Crosbie (27%). The gap between the two was 13 points in November 2019, but has now narrowed to just three points. Alison Coffin is preferred by 22%. Ten percent of voters voice no preference for premier, while 11% prefer none of the party leaders.

https://narrativeresearch.ca/satisfaction-with-premier-balls-government-...

jerrym

The Newfoundland Liberal Party has suspended its leadership race during the pandemic. Since provincial law requires an election must be called within a year of the selection of a new premier, this could delay when the next Newfoundland election occurs.

The contest to replace Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal premier is being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just days after the party declared it would continue online. ...

The party says the suspension will be in effect until at least May 1, after which it will be determined whether the situation has improved enough to set a new date for the vote, to be conducted online and by phone. ...

Premier Dwight Ball announced his plan to step down last month, and the party was set to choose a new leader to replace him at a convention in May.

Under party rules announced today, the two candidates, Andrew Furey and John Abbott, are prohibited from accepting donations and campaigning, including interviews and social media posts about the race.

https://globalnews.ca/news/6723526/n-l-liberal-party-suspends-leadership...

NorthReport

Liberal Sherry Gambin-Walsh removed from cabinet after RCMP executes search warrant

http://ntv.ca/sherry-gambin-walsh-removed-from-cabinet-after-search-warrant/

jerrym

I posted this elsewhere but it is very relevant to Newfoundland.

While Canadians are focused on COVID-19, the Trudeau Liberal government is accelerating the process of developing Newfoundlands offshore oil by carrying out a public consultation to eliminate the required environmental assessments for Newfounland offshore drilling. This involves rougly 100 drilling holes according to the following article from Le Devoir. I used Google Translate to convert the article to English. 

The reason for doing this: "According to the government, the report produced by the "committee" that conducted the regional assessment "concludes that the effects of exploratory drilling for oil and gas offshore are well known, cause minor, localized and temporary disturbances, and are not likely to 'be important if standardized mitigation measures are put in place'."

The goal: to produce 650,000 more barrels of oil a day by 2030 from the Newfoundland offshore. So much for Trudeau's greenhouse emission reduction targets.

Proposed exploratory oil well drilling off Newfoundland

As Canada is hit by a health crisis that is hogging media attention, the Trudeau government continues to take steps to accelerate oil drilling in the marine environment, Le Devoir noted.

It is currently conducting a public consultation to eliminate the environmental assessments required for exploratory drilling in eastern Newfoundland. At least 100 of these holes are planned by 2030. The ongoing process goes completely unnoticed as Canadians face the coronavirus crisis, but it is nonetheless crucial to foster the development of the petroleum industry in eastern Canada over the next few years.

The Trudeau government is conducting a 30-day online public consultation on a draft regulation that will “exclude” oil and gas exploration drilling from an environmental assessment conducted under the rules currently in force under the Act respecting impact assessment. "The draft ministerial regulation aims to improve the efficiency of the assessment processes for exploratory oil and gas offshore drilling while maintaining high environmental protection standards for these projects," said the consultation document, which ends on April 3. Is the consultation continuing as planned, despite the COVID-19 crisis? "The Canadian Impact Assessment Agency has not changed the deadline for this consultation period at this time. The Agency will consider extending the deadline in light of the circumstances related to COVID-19, "Le Devoir was told.

The Trudeau government is therefore continuing to take steps to ease environmental regulations targeting the petroleum industry. Until now, an oil company that wanted to conduct a first drilling project on an exploration license located in the waters east of Newfoundland and Labrador had to file a project notice and produce an impact study . A review was then conducted by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which produced a report for the Minister of the Environment. The latter then decided to authorize or not the project.

Things should change soon, however. The Trudeau government indeed commissioned in 2019 a "regional assessment" which covers a maritime territory of more than 735,000 km2 located in the Atlantic. This large area, which cuts across the large commercial fishing sector of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, has many major ecological zones and is home to several endangered species. The region also includes most of the exploration permits held by oil companies in the marine environment in the east of the country. ...

Minister Wilkinson released draft regulations on March 4. It provides that all exploration wells drilled in the 735,000 km2 area will be exempt from the review of the Impact Assessment Act. It should be noted that this rule even applies to drilling projects carried out in "marine refuges" set up by the federal government to protect the marine environment. ...

A specialist in marine mammals and ecosystems, Lyne Morissette deplores the ways of the Trudeau government. "This region does not belong to the oil industry, nor does it belong to the fishing industry. I therefore do not understand the interest of conducting such a consultation “in secret”, at this time, when the impacts concern several stakeholders who must be consulted. " ...

She also stressed the importance of protecting the maritime region off the coast of Newfoundland. "It is a sector of very high biological productivity, which is the basis of all biodiversity. It is an ecosystem that is rich and there is an increasing interest in these areas, for example when we see species moving more to the north, as is the case for the right whale. These are regions that will be critical in the coming years, particularly for species at risk. " For biologist Sylvain Archambault, the draft regulation is "worrying". "Their goal is to speed up the approval of drilling projects," he said. Fishermen's associations also fear these drilling projects. “These are marine environments that are extremely productive fishing sites. After all, this is the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, "said Archambault. Newfoundland and Labrador wants at least 100 exploration wells to be drilled by 2030 to increase oil production in the coming years. The goal would be to produce more than 650,000 barrels a day.

https://www.ledevoir.com/societe/environnement/575559/le-gouvernement-tr...

 

jerrym

Liberal Andrew Furey is the new Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, doubling the vote obtained by John Abbott.

Orthopedic surgeon Andrew Furey is premier-designate of Newfoundland and Labrador, after winning the provincial Liberal leadership race on Monday evening. Furey was the frontrunner from the beginning, with the backing of outgoing Premier Dwight Ball's entire cabinet. In voting results announced Monday evening in St. John's, Furey doubled the only other candidate, longtime civil servant John Abbott, with about twice as many points.

In his victory speech, Furey promised to be "frank and transparent," and called on all MHAs to work together to address the dire problems staring down at the province. "Together we can emerge from this crisis as a stronger, more caring, more passionate and more diverse Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.

Furey, who has never run in a political race before, said he hasn't given any thought to asking anyone to vacate their seat, but said he will run for the first seat that becomes available.

About 21,000 votes were cast in the leadership race, despite the fact that more than 34,000 people had registered. The final tally of votes cast is less than the 2013 Liberal leadership campaign, even though more people registered to vote in 2020.

Furey has never held office before, and doesn't have a seat in the provincial legislature. Furey, though, is politically connected. He is the son of Senate Speaker George Furey, a longtime Liberal organizer, and the nephew of former provincial cabinet minister Chuck Furey. ...

The leadership race started in February with Premier Dwight Ball dropping a bombshell announcement during the evening news of his intention to resign. ...

Ball's decision to resign came amid growing scandals within his caucus such as former Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Perry Trimper's inadvertent "very racist" voicemail to Innu Nation staffer Dominic Rich, the hiring of Carla Foote — without competition — to a top job at The Rooms and subsequent investigation into then-Tourism Minister Christopher Mitchelmore'sinvolvement, the hiring of Gordon McIntosh to a $350,000 contract with Nalcor Energy — also without competition — and the saga of a harassment claim set forth by then cabinet minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh which saw the removal of then-Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce and cabinet minister Dale Kirby. ...

Furey will also inherit other problems, such as the province's troubling financial situation, which has since worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing push to bring the overbudget Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project online. ...

Over the course of the race, Abbott remained on the attack, twice raising concerns about how Furey formed his contact list, a list that resulted in a convicted murderer getting an invitation to Furey's campaign launch. The two men also went to battle over health care, with Furey accusing Abbott of not doing enough to fix the system while he held his senior position in government.

Before the final tally was announced, Abbott said he wanted an independent review of the voting process. He said many of the voters his team tried to contact had died before the leadership race began, or were wondering how they even ended up on the voting list at all. ...

Abbott told reporters he intends to run for the Liberals in the next election, and said he is willing to meet with Furey about his future. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/abbott-furey-libera...

jerrym

When Dwight Ball announced in mid February that he would resign as Premier when a new leader was chosen, Covid-19 was barely on most Canadians view, but the Liberals had already fallen  from their 44% victory in the May 2019 election to 37%, while the PCs were at 35% and the NDP at 26%. Like all Canadian governments Covid-19 helped increasing the government's support, pushing the Liberals up to 60% support in May with the PCs falling to 26% and the NDP to 13%. Since then the Liberals have slipped to 48%, the PCs are back at 35% and the NDP is at 12%, according to a June poll. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/51st_Newfoundland_and_Labrador_general_ele...)

With all the problems and scandals mentioned in the last post that the Liberal government faced during the last year, I expect the Furey government to call an election soon while the Liberals are still somewhat popular before the problems, which show no sign of disappearing, and the same or new scandals remind voters of the situation under Ball. Having an election quickly would also allow Furey to avoid running in a byelection to win a seat and then running in a general election. 

Hopefully the NDP will be better prepared than in the 2019 election when they were only able to run 14 candidates in the province's 40 ridings, and yet defied expectations by winning three seats. 

 

jerrym

Further increasing the chance of an early election is the follwing Newfoundland law: "Newfoundland and Labrador, unique amongst the nine provinces and two territories which have adopted fixed-date election laws, requires that new premier appointed to office before the close of the third year in the life of a House of Assembly advise the Lieutenant Governor to call an early general election within 12 months."  (https://parliamentum.org/2020/02/18/newfoundland-labrador-must-by-law-ho...)

IMO this puts further pressure on the Newfoundland Liberals to go this fall before being trapped into an election as the one-year deadline nears next year. 

jerrym

The Newfoundland Liberal party did away with leadership reviews unless he loses power today, thereby redefining democracy under the new Andrew Furey regime.  

Premier-elect Andrew Furey will not face a review of his leadership by his party, as long as he can hold on to government.

At Monday’s Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador annual general meeting, before Furey was named the premier-to-be, a motion came forward to amend the party bylaws.

https://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/liberals-abolish-leadership-revie...

jerrym

Once again the Trudeau government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth as it changes offshore drilling rules in Newfoundland in order to make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to meet them and then proclaiming that the industry must live up to those standards while environmental organizations complain about the changes.  The Liberal government has also excluded new drilling from environmental assessment there. This has become even more important with the announcement of the discovery of oil in two new places in the Newfoundland offshore. 

Canada’s environment minister defended government regulations Wednesday related to the impacts of oil drilling off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told the House of Commons environment committee that “all drilling projects must respect high environmental standards” after a Bloc Québécois MP raised questions about a government rule change meant to help industry.

Monique Pauzé asked Wilkinson about the Liberal government’s announcement in June that it was excluding individual exploratory offshore drilling projects from having to undergo a federal impact assessment. 

That change was touted by the government at the time as lending a helping hand to Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry, which has been battered by the pandemic’s economic toll as well as low global oil prices. Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said it was the “number 1” request that “business and investors” had been asking for. ...

Last week, energy company Equinor said it had discovered oil in two locations east of St. John’sfollowing an exploration drilling campaign. Newfoundland and Labrador's oil and gas industry group called the discoveries, which Equinor made with partner BP Canada, an “encouraging” sign for business “at a time when encouraging news is needed.”

Environmental groups have raised concerns about the government’s exploratory drilling exemption. WWF-Canada, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Ecology Action Centre have said a larger regional assessment of the impacts of exploratory oil drilling off the province’s coast was “flawed” and so cannot be used as a basis for allowing individual exemptions.

One of Canada’s marine refuges, the Northeast Newfoundland Slope is also east of St. John’s. The 55,000-square-kilometre section of the ocean is important for biodiversity since it contains fragile corals and sponges that help out other marine life by acting as spawning grounds or nurseries, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“In your documents, you talk about biodiversity of oceans,” Pauzé asked Wilkinson in French. “You excluded important offshore drilling projects from environmental assessments ... is there not a contradiction in terms of what the government’s saying?” ...

Equinor's two discoveries appear to have been made to the southeast of the marine refuge's southern tip based on location data sourced from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the fisheries department.

https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/11/05/news/environment-minister-de...

jerrym

New Liberal Premier Andrew Furey has been buoyed up by how the government has successfully responded to the pandemic. By law provincial law, the government must call an election no later than one year after the selection of a new leader, so expect an election in the spring as the clock runs out in August. The NDP sits at 15%, a slight increase over their the 13% of 3 months ago but down significantly from the 26% they had in early March before Covid became the dominant issue that has driven up government support in all the Atlantic provinces. 

Satisfaction with the overall performance of the Liberal government in Newfoundland and Labrador led by Premier Andrew Furey remains strong and continues to reflect a solid majority level of satisfaction, well above pre-pandemic levels. Two-thirds of Newfoundland and Labrador residents (67%, compared with 69% in August 2020) are satisfied with the overall performance of the provincial government this quarter, according to the latest survey by Narrative Research.

Decided voter support for the Liberals has also remained steady at 58% this quarter (compared with 61% in August 2020). Voter support for the Progressive Conservatives stands at 26% (compared with 21% in August 2020). Support for the New Democratic Party remains consistent at 13% (vs 15% in August 2020), while Green Party support remains unchanged at 2%. One-quarter (25%) of residents in the province are unsure who they would vote for if an election were held today. Two percent do not plan to vote, and two percent refuse to state their choice.

“This continued level of support for the Liberal Party and its leadership reflects a high level of confidence in the government’s actions throughout the pandemic,” said Margaret Brigley, Narrative Research’s CEO.  “It’s apparent that residents feel Dwight Ball has left the party in good hands with Premier Andrew Furey.”

When considering leadership preference, new Liberal leader Andrew Furey has established a strong lead (52% compared with 46% in August 2020). Ches Crosbie is preferred by 19% of residents (compared with 17% in August 2020), while Alison Coffin holds at 10% (compared with 12% in August 2020).

https://narrativeresearch.ca/nl-liberals-maintain-decided-voter-support-...

jerrym

Liberal Premier Dwight Ball  called the 2019 election early in order to avoid his own public inquiry testimony creating large political re-election problems for him. Neither Ball's government nor the loyal opposition Progressive Conservatives  looked good at the public inquiry looking at their handling of the Muskrat Falls debacle that has left Newfoundlanders facing a future of skyrocketing electricity rates and enormous environmental damage. Calling the election early helped him stay in power with a reduced number of MLAs and aminority government but did not remove the Muskrat Falls albatross. In the end he resigned. 

Muskrat Falls continues to be an enormous finanical and environmental risk to Newfoundlanders as this May 2019 article illustrates. Unsurprisingly, indigenous people have been left to face the extremely dangerous risk of methylmercury poisoning, a neurotoxin so dangerous the World Health Organization ranks it among the top ten chemicals of public health concern, by Liberal and Conservative governments. 

When the Muskrat Falls hydro dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River floods an area twice the size of the city of Victoria, methylmercury will immediately start to contaminate the food chain as microbes feed on inorganic carbon stored in flooded soils and vegetation, setting off a sequence of events.

The pricetag for the project had doubled to $12.7 billion with another $4o0 million now being added due to Covid-19 construction days pushing the bill over $13.  This was about to lead to a doubling of Newfoundland's hydro rates and leaving Newfoundland with a crushing debt load as of December 31st,  until the Trudeau government stepped in today to waive debt payments temporarily. However, this does not solve the problem, only delays it and at best may shift some of the costs onto federal taxpayers. What a mess. 

I expect the new Liberal government to call an election in the early spring before all the still unsolved problems become apparent and while the Covid-19 halo still shines. 

The federal government is again saying it will take steps to make Newfoundland and Labrador's Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project financially stable — including waiving immediate payments due from Crown corporation Nalcor Energy — but there are few exact details on how the project will affect the province's ratepayers. ...

Debt and financing payments owed by Nalcor, which operates the Lower Churchill project in Labrador, will be delayed. Since the project isn't yet regularly producing power, Ottawa has temporarily waived the payment obligations to "help reduce immediate financial pressures on Newfoundland and Labrador," according to the release. The province would have been on the hook to pay $844 million, $780 million of which would have been due by the end of December and added to the provincial debt, Furey said. ...

A long-time critic of the project said Thursday's announcement contained little new information and was short on details of how exactly the federal government will help. "I really thought it was a nothing-burger," said Ron Penney, chair of the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition. "I thought we'd get a very big Christmas present, but instead all that we got was setting out the federal negotiating team and the objective of the exercise, but nothing really practical in terms of how the problem is going to be resolved." ...

Penney said he thinks Ottawa becoming a stakeholder in Muskrat Falls is "the only solution to this problem," referring to the potential doubling of hydro rates due to the cost of the project. 

The deferral of hundreds of millions of dollars in payments that were due this month is a "very minor step" in addressing the financial strain of the project, he said. "I'm not minimizing that, it's important for this fiscal year, but this is a 50-year problem," Penney said. He said there's no way residents can afford to pay a doubled electricity bill next year and he's worried a major financial burden will fall on generations to come. 

"I'm concerned about my children and grandchildren."

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/muskrat-falls-newse...

 

jerrym

Well that didn't take long. Liberal Premier Andrew Furey turns out to be Liberal Premier Dwight Ball redux on steroids.  Less than two months after the election where Liberal Premier Furey painted a things are okay going forward and denying that there was a hidden agenda the Big Reset was published. It was supposed to be released on February 27th after the original February 13th election date, but on the eve of its supposed release the Liberals said that it wasn't finished and would be released after the election. Nothing to worry about. How convenient the original release date was, until it was no longer convenient. And of course we now get an austerity report from Canadian business woman Moya Greene, who was the onetime CEO of Canada Post and later CEO of Royal Mail where she oversaw its privatization.

Of course how could Premier Furey have ever forseen that Greene would report things need to be reset in the Newfoundland economy, reset in a BIG RESET way? After all, "Greene was named as Financial Times Person of the Year in 2014. Judge Luke Johnson said "She did a fantastic job managing the unions, politicians and media and floating the business last year. It was an almost impossible task to reconcile demands from all the competing stakeholders – and sell a declining business such as post and parcel delivery to the stock market – but she pulled it off." And she did very well by herself although she when a minor slip "In August 2013 she repaid £250,000 in expenses she had claimed to fund buying a house, after Business Secretary Vince Cable objected to the payment". Who would have guessed the report would recommend "sweeping cuts" and a "radical reform of the public sector". (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moya_Greene)

However, not to worry, business people like Greene and their political allies like Furey, always do well personally in these situations.

Sounds like what Naomi Klein called a dose of the Shock Doctrine for Newfoundlanders though. "Klein argues that neoliberal free market policies (as advocated by the economist Milton Friedman) have risen to prominence in some developed countries because of a deliberate strategy of "shock therapy". This centers on the exploitation of national crises (disasters or upheavals) to establish controversial and questionable policies, while citizens are too distracted (emotionally and physically) to engage and develop an adequate response, and resist effectively." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shock_Doctrine)

Schools with no students. Ferry runs with no passengers. A 22-year freeze on university tuition. A population that is lower than it was 50 years ago. A bloated public service. Soaring deficits and debt loads. A devastated fishery. Tourism on its knees because of COVID. Declining oil and forestry sectors. 

There’s nothing much positive to say about the economic situation in Newfoundland and Labrador. All that was made clear last week with the publication of The Big Reset, the comprehensive report of the economic recovery team tasked by the provincial government to set a future path for the province.

Chaired by Moya Greene, the onetime CEO of Canada Post and later CEO of Royal Mail in the U.K., the task force report pulled no punches, pointing out that the province already is hanging over the precipice, teetering on the brink of a crisis that could lead to it running out of cash if interest rates rise and the province can no longer borrow to keep the lights on. 

Greene noted that the province has Canada’s oldest population, highest jobless rate, highest per-capita health spending along with the weakest health outcomes in the country.

And with a constantly rising level of debt, the generational inequities which are evident throughout Canada after deficit spending to fight the pandemic, are even more evident in Newfoundland, where the elderly are leaving a massive bill to a shrinking population of young people.

Reacting to the report Thursday in a special televised statement to the province, Premier Andrew Furey admitted that the province was spending “more than we have,” noting that the province was borrowing $1-billion a year simply to pay interest on its debt. “Our credit card debt is out of control.”  

The task force proposed a series of sweeping measures, including big cuts in spending on health and post-secondary education, a series of increases in taxes and fees, a radical reform of public sector pensions and consolidation and privatization of provincially-owned businesses. 

The report calls for the abolition of Nalcor, the provincial energy firm responsible for the disastrous Muskrat Falls hydro-electric project in Labrador, an always iffy project whose construction costs were wildly over budget, leaving the province with a debt it can’t repay and residents with looming rises in electricity costs.

Furey pointed to the need to act urgently on several proposed measures, including higher taxes, deciding on the future of Nalcor, merging health authorities and making a new arrangement with heavily-subsidized Memorial University. ...

Though it’s tempting to make comparisons with another troubled island that’s beset with bad finances, poor political leadership and demographic decline, Puerto Rico, the situation isn’t comparable. Puerto Rico was even more of a basket case but its unique relationship with the U.S. Congress could make its financial reorganization, essentially a managed default, a one off affair.

If Newfoundland were allowed to default, it could prompt lenders to look at other weak jurisdictions in the Atlantic and wonder who’s next? And in any case, Ottawa is on the hook for billions of dollars of Muskrat Falls debt, having foolishly given the province a loan guarantee during the Harper years. 

While not every recommendation in the report will be followed, Premier Furey is promising action through a collaborative approach, including public consultations.

https://ipolitics.ca/2021/05/13/newfoundland-on-the-brink-will-it-be-dif...

jerrym

ETA: And now here is the Furey agenda in all its full glory. Too bad he couldn't see it coming during the election and only realized how bad the situation was when the Greene "Big Reset" report that was delayed and delayed again when the election that Furey was in such a hurry to hold had its own Big Reset due to Covid so the people never got to vote on the austerity Furey agenda. Of course there was not planned out this way. It just happened in such a convenient way in terms of not having any detailed questions on what was coming during the election. It's strange how Furey couldn't see what was coming when, in his own words, ""This situation predates the pandemic and it has been compounded exponentially by Muskrat Falls."

And how convenient to propose all of this in a video and take no questions and give no specific details of how it will be done. A true master politician.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says the province's financial circumstances are unsustainable and the total provincial debt of $47 billion is an unbearable load for residents.

In a video released Thursday evening, Furey offered his full thoughts for the first time about the recently released, and blunt, Moya Greene report, which outlines the province's dire fiscal situation.

"Our province is spending more than we have. We are borrowing just to pay interest on what we owe. Over a billion dollars a year with nothing to show for it. Our credit card debt is out of control," Furey said.

Furey touched on a number of highlights from the report, from his appointed economic recovery team, including the need for the provincial government to quickly rein spending in to match revenue, and the fear of losing control of the province's future if nothing is done.

The premier said "urgent actions" include:

  • Raising taxes on people "who can afford it."
  • Reviewing public sector salaries and eliminating bonuses.
  • Evaluating the future of Nalcor and the province's future position in oil equity.
  • Investing in technology innovation and the green economy.
  • Amalgamating health authorities.
  • Reaching a new deal with Memorial University.
  • Examining "the purpose of a school district that continues to keep empty schools open."

The premier provided no specifics about how the provincial government would implement the actions he mentioned. Furey also didn't take questions from the media Thursday evening, but has scheduled an availability for Friday morning.   ...

Memorial University political science professor Russell Williams called Furey's statement "surprisingly vague," adding that it's not clear what Furey is specifically planning to do with the report's recommendations. "Some of those vague areas were made worse, obviously, by the fact that there was no opportunity to ask him questions about it afterwards," said Williams.

Williams also said it's not clear what Furey meant by "a new deal with Memorial University. I have no idea. There's some recommendations about that in the Greene report, but the premier hasn't really said what he means by that," said Williams.

"I think if I was to boil to one simple point, this was a huge missed opportunity for the premier to actually tell us either what he thinks about the substantive recommendations in the Greene report, or to tell us what his plan is for a process going forward as to how he's going to choose what to implement." 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/andrew-furey-pert-r...

jerrym

While the Newfoundland Furey Liberal government appears set to go ahead with massive cuts to public sector services and salaries, healthcare and education from elementary to university, including eliminating school districts, there is no mention of cutting back on oil production or shifting resources towards offshore wind energy, using the ocean's strong winds as a driving mechanism, as Britain, another island, has done.  By putting resources into this energy source "By 2018 Great Britain was building 50% of all offshore wind energy capacity in Europe." (https://blueocean.net/great-britain-leads-in-offshore-wind-energy/)

Instead Newfoundland Furey Liberals, with the assistance of the Trudeau Liberals, has poured ever more resources into its failing oil industry, even as the industry is abandoning the province. The Trudeau Liberals gave $325 million in subsidies to Furey last fall to keep the oil industry afloat and then added another $41.5 million giveaway for half the cost of building an oil refinery that Husky Oil was about to close. When they got the money the company said they would consider finishing the refinery, without making any commitment to do so. In other words, both the provincial and federal Liberals are pouring big subsidies into a failing industry at the same time the Furey Liberals proclaim they don't have the resources to maintain major current education, healthcare and other services. Its a classic case of applying austerity through the Shock Doctrine, while still subsidizing the world's most profitable industry to the hilt. 

We may well see similar austerity programs in the future, distinguished by the particular circumstances in a province or at the federal level, with the justification being that the debt load for the government has just become too too great, while saying that corporate sector needs government to build the economy.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan called a strategic investment in the oil industry. When a company cancels a 60% complete project you know its in very bad shape. A strategic plan would actually be to stop throwing good money down the drain trying to keep alive an industry in a slow death spiral. The $41.5 million investment came a few days after Cenovus bought Husky for $4 billion. Cenovus quickly said that all options were on the table and a quick shutdown of the project was possible. Cenovus even admitted that it might walk away from the project as soon as the merger is complete. 

On the other hand provincial NDP leader Coffin, facing reality, said " 'We're putting money into an industry that I don't think is sustainable at all. We're hearing time and time again that the oil industry is in decline.' — Coffin commenting on the $41.5 million in federal funds handed to Husky Energy on Dec. 3, 2020.(https://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/alison-coffin-newfoundland-and-labrador...)

The West White Rose project was about 60 per cent complete when construction was halted. (Husky Energy)

Husky Energy is getting $41.5 million from the Newfoundland and Labrador government to keep the idled West White Rose offshore oil project going, particularly to "protect the option of restarting" in the next year — although there is no guarantee that will happen. ...

O'Regan called the announcement "one heck of a Christmas surprise for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and their families." He said the announcement was not merely a government handout but instead called it a "strategic investment" in the offshore oil industry, which was thrown into turmoil this spring when the COVID-19 pandemic caused oil prices to plummet. ...

That Oil and Gas Industry Recovery Fund was announced Sept. 25, with the federal government allocating $320 million for the N.L. government to support direct and indirect employment. 

The announcement is the latest development in a saga that started in April, when Husky announced it was stopping construction on the project, as the global pandemic battered oil markets. Hundreds of workers were laid off. At the time, the project was nearly 60 per cent complete. ...

That news came just days after Cenovus Energy announced it would buy Husky Energy in a deal worth nearly $4 billion. In a statement, Cenovus said regarding Husky's operations in the province "the WWR [West White Rose] project is key to extending the life of the White Rose field. As we have said before, all options are on the table and accelerating abandonment remains a possibility." 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/west-white-rose-1.5...

jerrym

The following article discusses how Premier Furey set in motion his austerity plan. The article notes "If such a deep austerity plan can be implemented in Newfoundland and Labrador, it will be attempted in other provinces in the years to come."

The pandemic has thrown the budgets of governments across Canada into the red as they increased spending to protect their populations from COVID-19 and expand the social safety net, while the economy slowed and revenues declined. But not every province was in the same situation heading into the pandemic, and for Newfoundland and Labrador, despite successfully managing the spread of COVID-19 for much of the past year, it appears the time of reckoning has arrived.

Last October, just two months after taking over the leadership of the governing Liberal Party, Andrew Furey appointed the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (PERT), chaired by Moya Greene, and tasked it with crafting a plan to “respond to the Province’s immediate fiscal challenges and plot a new course forward.” 

On May 6, the PERT delivered its report, and recommended a harsh austerity plan that includes deep cuts to provincial spending and the handing of more power to the private sector. If implemented, Greene’s plan will forever alter life in the province. It draws from long-discredited ideas about public spending and the role of government that make it feel like it belongs in the ’80s or ’90s. There is no positive future if Furey chooses to go down this path. ...

In 2014, oil prices collapsed, leaving a massive hole in the provincial budget right as construction was starting at Muskrat Falls. In the following years, the project that was once hailed as key to the province’s economic future brought it to the edge of bankruptcy after the cost soared from an estimated $6.2 billion in 2010 to more than $13 billion in 2021. 

A public inquiry’s report released in 2020 found that while elected officials made bad decisions, executives at Nalcor, the provincial energy company created to oversee the project, had held back details about cost increases and was plagued by bad management, among a range of other issues.

On Mar. 20, 2020, as the country was in lockdown, Furey’s predecessor, Dwight Ball, sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laying out the state of the province’s finances. Ball wrote, “We have no other recourse to raise the necessary funds to maintain the operations of government, including our health-care system, especially at this critical time.” 

It was in that context that Furey tasked Moya Greene, and a panel dominated by local businesspeople, to develop a technocratic plan for the province’s future.

https://readpassage.com/the-big-reset-proposes-deep-austerity-for-newfou...

jerrym

The history of Moya Greene, the person Premier Furey appointed to head the task force to examine the province and government's economic situation, predicted the kind of report she would write and of course Furey knew this: a deep austerity program based on orthodox neoliberal economics. Her career path from PC PM Mulroney assistant deputy minister at Transport Canada to helping drive PM Chretien's neoliberal agenda in the department, including deregulation of the airline industry, to mangaging director at TD securities, to Bombardier, to CEO of Canada Post where she “modernized” the postal service by "by cutting costs, bolstering automation and attacking labour", to overseer of the privatization of the British Royal Mail, made it clear where her report would go. In my next post I will give a detailed examination of her "Big Reset" austerity report for Furey.

Moya Greene, or Dame Moya Greene, as the provincial government insists on calling her, will likely be unknown to most Canadians, and is even a mystery to many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Yet, she has been at the centre of implementing neoliberal policy in Canada and the United Kingdom for decades.

Greene is from St. John’s and grew up in the province before moving to Toronto for law school in the ’70s. In 1991, Greene became assistant deputy minister at Transport Canada and was part of the team that fundamentally altered Canada’s transport networks during Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s neoliberal transformation. In that role, Greene was involved in the deregulation of the airline industry, the commercialization of Canadian ports and the privatization of CN Rail, which involved mass layoffs and abandoning rail lines to prepare it for sale.

After leaving Transport Canada in 1996, Greene joined TD Securities as a managing director focusing on infrastructure finance and public-private partnerships. P3s, as they’re known in Canada, were gaining popularity at the time as a means to save governments money in the short-term by availing of private finance, but it has become clear that many of those projects ended up costing far more over time as private financiers extracted ongoing revenue from public assets.

After a stint at Bombardier, Greene became CEO of Canada Post in 2005 and set out to “modernize” the postal service. While she pushed for privatization, not even Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper would endorse it. 

Instead, Greene increased the company’s profits by cutting costs, bolstering automation and attacking labour. In her last year in the job, the head of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers said, “If you compare the four years before Greene with the four years under Greene’s management the numbers show that injuries have gone up 15.4 per cent and grievances have gone up 59.3 per cent.”

Having taken on Canada Post, she was hired by the Conservative-led British government in 2010 to oversee the privatization of the Royal Mail, which was floated on the stock market in 2013. Greene laid off workers, cut costs and increased automation ahead of the sale, while taking a massive pay package that amounted to £1.9 million in 2017 alone.

She was at the centre of a scandal where postmasters were charged and even jailed for allegedly stealing money, but it was later found to be the result of a faulty IT system. Even after company directors were told the computer system could be to blame, Greene continued prosecuting them. The postmasters’ names were finally cleared this April.

Meanwhile, more jobs have been lost since privatization, delivery centres have been closed, prices have increased and rural mail delivery has gotten worse. The company has also been selling off its valuable land for shareholder benefit, even as 69 per cent of the public want it to be renationalized. The outcomes of these policies should be considered before Newfoundland and Labrador rushes into any kind of similar plan.

https://readpassage.com/the-big-reset-proposes-deep-austerity-for-newfou...

jerrym

 Here is just a sample of the recommendations in Moya Greene's 338 page Big Reset austerity report to Premier Furey, giving him exactly what he was looking for. 

The Provincial Government should:

  •   Bundle and sell all or a majority interest or create a long term concession in its motor vehicle and registry of deeds system;

  •   Revise legislation to require that all unregistered land be registered within eight years. After this period, all unregistered land would revert to the Crown;

  •   Sell all or a majority interest in the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation, and review how the Provincial Government taxes alcohol; and

  •   Sell Marble Mountain ski resort and related assets.

The Provincial Government should:

  •   Reduce its core expenditures by five per cent, with no expenditure growth for six- years;

  •   Reduce its operating grants to Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic by five per cent per year over six years, for a total reduction of 30 per cent;

  •   Reduce its operating grants to the Regional Health Authorities by 4.15 per cent per year over six years, for a total reduction of 25 per cent;

  •   Reduce administrative costs for the K-12 system and allocate these additional funds to classrooms, to support the teaching of math, technology, science, computer science, and the promotion of entrepreneurship;

  •   Reduce operating grants to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Legal Aid bytwo per cent; 

  •   Reduce operating grants to other government agencies by 20 per cent.

The Provincial Government, working with public sector unions, should develop a new compensation package. Key elements should include:

  •   Pensions to be converted to a collective defined contribution plan in three years3;

  •   Measures to reduce the payroll base, such as a four-day work week for certain

    positions and creating seasonal positions targeted at peak demand periods;

  •   Wage freeze;

  •   Alternative service delivery models; and

  •   Development and promotion of work-from-home policies.

    In the event that a negotiated settlement is not possible, the Provincial Government should use legislation that will be effective. ...

The Provincial Government should redefine its role in the economy, the services it offers and how these services are delivered, with a focus on accelerating new technology adoption. The private and not-for-profit sectors should deliver services where appropriate. ...

Government must look critically at its current approach to determine which services it should continue to provide, which services it can discontinue, and which services, existing or future, could be offered by the private or not-for profit sectors. Many services offered by government can be delivered in a different way; some may be more responsive if customized for local needs. ...

Many Provincial Government services could be offered by private and not-for-profit sector enterprises more effectively and at lower cost. Moving some services to the private and not-for-profit sectors could create new businesses. ...

This expertise can then be exported to other parts of Canada and the world and help build a larger market base for local businesses. ...

  • Raise capital through the following measures:

o Offer transmission and distribution assets to the private sector to either own or operate;
o Offer the sale of island generation assets to the private sector;
o Sell the Provincial Government’s oil and gas equity interests when oil prices increase; and
o Sell the Bull Arm Fabrication Site, currently owned by the Oil and Gas Corporation; ...

  • Apply any monies raised from electrical and oil and gas assets to rate mitigation, the provincial debt, and the Future Fund; ...

The Provincial Government should:

  •   Review its petroleum royalty and local benefits structures in 2021-22 to ensure they encourage exploration and development of new activity in the offshore, with net-zero targets wherever possible;

  •   Request the Federal Government reinstate the Atlantic Investment Tax Credit for offshore petroleum projects and for green mining projects; ...

The slow and laborious government processes faced by businesses are often referredto as “red tape.” No one is suggesting that governments should make decisions that are unsafe for people or the environment, but governments need to make quick decisions.The Provincial Government’s decision making is not competitive with other parts of theworld that develop oil and gas assets. The Province must remove the red tape associated with development in all sectors.  ...

The regulatory framework for oil and gas has slowed progress, and the Province has not always been a good partner. ...

To ensure that Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador have a regulatory approach competitive with the rest of the world, the Provincial Government should work with the Federal Government to:

  •   Streamline regulatory processes to improve timelines and adjust regulatory approaches that make Newfoundland and Labrador uncompetitive; and

  •   Give direction to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) that the development of the offshore area is a priority function and offshore management must be consistent with the principles underpinning the Atlantic Accord.

To ensure that Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador have a regulatory approach competitive with the rest of the world, the Provincial Government should work with the Federal Government to:

  •   Streamline regulatory processes to improve timelines and adjust regulatory approaches that make Newfoundland and Labrador uncompetitive; and

  •   Give direction to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) that the development of the offshore area is a priority function and offshore management must be consistent with the principles underpinning the Atlantic Accord.

The Provincial Government should encourage mining exploration through:

  •   Expansion of airborne geoscience surveys in priority areas of Newfoundland and Labrador;

  •   Increased funding for the Junior Exploration Assistance Program;

  •   Commencement of work related to geotechnical information with Québec, as provided for in the 2018 bilateral agreement with Québec; and

  •   Implementation of a five per cent provincial flow through shares mechanism to attract new investment.

The Provincial Government should: streamline the regulatory decision-making processes for aquaculture licences and site approvals; ...

  1. The Provincial Government should:

    •   Promote investment opportunities globally and with local entrepreneurs to increase lumber production, value-added manufacturing, and alternative heating technologies, such as biofuels, wood chips, and wood pellets;

    •   Review the forest royalty and fee regime to maximize access to forestry resources; ...

  1. The Provincial Government should:

    •   Streamline the administrative structure by eliminating the two school districts with a goal to spend less on administration and reinvest that money directly at the school level;

    •   Place program administration within the Department of Education and adopt a shared services model for HR, IT, payroll, maintenance, etc.;

    •   Ensure principals, vice principals, and other supervisory staff are not members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association (NLTA);

    •   Dissolve volunteer school boards and replace with one volunteer Provincial School Advisory Council. This Provincial Council will be connected to existing School Advisory Councils to link parents, families, and communities more strongly to the school system to enhance collaboration and greater accountability;

  •   Change school opening and closing hours to an eight hour day for teachers so that they can use some non-teaching time during the work day for professional upgrading and collaboration; ...

The province provides a high level of subsidy to Memorial University and CNA andkeeps tuition rates low. Given the province’s fiscal situation, the cost of the post- secondary education (PSE) system must be addressed. ... 

Newfoundland and Labrador’s current level of investment in its PSE institutions is not sustainable. As an example, immediate efficiencies could begained by consolidating the province’s three nursing schools into one. The Provincial Government should create one nursing school for the province.

Being known as the “cheapest” university in Canada carries the implication of it beingthe lowest quality. Nothing could be further from the truth. Memorial University could deliver the same or better outcomes if PSE funding came from other sources. ...

The Provincial Government should institute a moratorium on building new long-term Care facilities; ...

The Provincial Government should: review the current structure and consolidate the four Regional Health Authorities into one; ...

The Provincial Government should: modify programs to eliminate disincentives for individuals to take-up employment opportunities when they become available; and revise funding programs based upon analysis, with a focus on partnering with community-based organizations to ensure responsive program and service delivery that is efficiently and effectively customized for real and changing needs and has measurable outcomes. ...

The Provincial Government should:

  •   Increase all personal income tax rates by one percentage point and introduce tax credits for the lowest income group to offset the increase;

  •   Increase the corporate income tax rate by two percentage points;

  •   Increase the HST by one percentage point and consider expanding the base;

  •   Increase the gasoline tax by 1.5 cents per litre;

  •   Increase the payroll tax by 0.5 of a percentage point;

  •   Increase the tobacco tax by 5.5 cents per cigarette; and

  •   Increase fees and fines by 15 per cent;

https://thebigresetnl.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/PERT-FullReport.pdf

jerrym

Insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting a different result. But that is exactly what Liberal and Conservative governments have been doing in Newfoundland during the last decade. Now Liberal Premier Furey, using the Big Rest report by Moya Greene that is outlined in the last post, plans to do austerity and Newfoundlanders to a much greater extent. Professor Lori Lee Oates from Memorial University in Newfoundland describes the history of previous Newfoundland austerity programs, why they will fail again and what is needed instead in the article below.

Don't be surprised to see Furey's model copied elsewhere in Canada by first grooming citizens with a dose of the Shock Doctrine with a we have to get the debt piled up by Covid under control strategy. This centers on the exploitation of national crises (disasters or upheavals) to establish controversial and questionable policies, while citizens are too distracted (emotionally and physically) to engage and develop an adequate response, and resist effectively.

Austerity can be defined as a series of policy initiatives that seek to reduce deficits through tax increases and spending cuts.

Certainly since 2015, much political economy analysis has come to the conclusion that austerity does not work. It generally hurts the working class the most, even though it is the elite political class that creates our financial problems.

It is a neoliberal idea. Even the International Monetary Fund has said for some time it does not work.

Austerity takes away the spending power of people who need to go out and buy if there is going to be an economic recovery. It imposes fees and consumption taxes on those who can least afford to pay them.

In times of economic distress, governments need to put disposable income into the hands of working-and-middle-class people. Note that our provincial government has cut welfare payments to those receiving CERB, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. ...

Because Newfoundland and Labrador has not developed into the global service economy, most of the jobs in this province are in government sectors, be it provincial, federal, municipal, health care, or education.

In 2013, the Dunderdale government cut 1,200 public service jobs. In 2015, the Davis government delivered what was called "one of the most austere budgets in recent times." It included $1.1 billion in deficit spending, a plan to shrink 1,400 government jobs, and tax increases for those in the highest brackets.

Everyone remembers the provincial budget of 2016 with its fee increases and consumption taxes. It was one of the least popular budgets in the province's history. Some of its impacts have been reversed but it was followed by job cuts, mostly at the management level of the public service. ...

The Ball government has also realigned government departments. The province used to have separate departments of Business; Tourism, Culture, and Recreation; Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. Those are now the single Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry, and Innovation. Who needs rural development in a mostly rural province? There used to be the Department of Municipal Affairs, and the Department of Environment and Conservation. They are now the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment. Who needs a conservation branch when there is a global climate crisis coming over the next 10 years? It is hardly a wonder that our leaders have been so bad at preparing for it.

If you think public service jobs are bad for the economy, wait until you see what natural disasters, record levels of climate refugees, and a crashing oil industry does to the province. There are very real costs to cutting investment in public policy. There are few things that are more costly than years of bad planning.

We must acknowledge that with so few options to achieve professional level employment in this province, people who are cut from the public service almost inevitably leave the province for other jurisdictions.

Cuts to public services lead to lower quality of life, which is another motivation for leaving. This in turn leads to cuts in federal transfer money that are based on population.

Austerity is a very dangerous downward spiral. We have been caught in that spiral for some time.

The province has long failed to invest in technology, cultural industries, renewable energy and development of our tourism product. Instead, we have continued to rely largely on natural resource sectors, while service sectors have been the dominant sectors for growth globally.

As we move closer to a climate crisis, it is becoming increasingly clear that natural resources sectors will have to change and even disappear. ...

Our province has not developed sectors to replace royalty revenue. Depending on natural resources for economic development has had mixed results at best. We have known about the "resource curse" since at least the 1990s.

What our province needs most, as we manoeuvre through this financial crisis, is leadership that understands the need to put money into the hands of the working and middle classes. ...

Economists have argued that the COVID-19 recovery, in particular, will require funded daycarebecause women have been very hard hit by this crisis.

Our economic recovery must be grounded in the well-being of citizens and our natural environment. We need to look to the Wellbeing Economy Alliance for guidance on how to pursue more sustainable public policies.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/austerity-nl-oates-...

jerrym

 Here's more on Furey's austerity program as outlined in the Big Reset report by Moya Greene he comissioned: classic austerity with a touch of green added to it.

Greene, who is best known for privatizing the British postal service, has proposed an austerity program that combines political and social reforms with a far-reaching economic restructuring plan premised on slashing state expenditures, across-the-board fee and tax increases, privatizing public assets, and breaking public sector unions.

“The Big Reset,” according to the report, proposes “a transformational plan for Newfoundland and Labrador that attempts to tie all aspects of the economy and society together to meet some of the biggest challenges and opportunities ever faced by the province.” ...

The six-year plan is anchored in a proposed shift to a green economy based on offshore oil, hydropower, mining, technology, and hydrogen within 20 years. It also proposes restructuring the education system to encourage jobs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors, modernizing governance of both Memorial University (MUN) and College of the North Atlantic (CNA) while reducing operating grants, and amalgamating all four Regional Health Authorities into a single entity and reducing their operating grants by 25 percent. ...

“Spending is out of control,” Greene writes. “The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is facing an unsustainable fiscal situation that requires immediate action.” Her refrains are familiar: “[T]he fiscal challenges are entirely of the province’s own doing,” the report says, and “expectations placed on government have to be more realistic.” ...

Including both the gross debt of the Province itself alongside its Crown corporations—Nalcor Energy, the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation, and Atlantic Lottery Corporation—the Greene Report pegs provincial gross debt at roughly $44.5 billion. (This does not include the nearly $3 billion in new borrowing for 2020-21.) ...

Reflecting on the experience of the 2016 Budget—when protests across the province erupted following the introduction of an austerity budget—the Greene Report notes that “the election cycle hampers mapping long-term visions and the decision-making to support them.” 

A number of remedies are proposed for this. One major recommendation is mandatory balanced budget legislation for all departments, public institutions, agencies, boards, and commissions—with a percentage of ministers’, deputy ministers’, and assistant deputy ministers’ compensation withheld to ensure that departments and other entities meet established targets. This would also include “an external advisory group of experts established to review annual budgets.”

Significantly, the Greene Report proposes that the provincial government must renegotiate compensation packages with public sector unions. The “key elements” it demands are converting pensions “to a collective defined contribution plan in three years” on the model of the United Kingdom; “measures to reduce the payroll base, such as a four-day work week for certain positions… a wage freeze; alternative service delivery models; and development and promotion of work-from-home policies.” 

Greene writes that “in the event that a negotiated settlement is not possible, the Provincial Government should use legislation that will be effective.” ...

The report itself acknowledges that “The Big Reset” will rest on the shoulders of the upcoming generation. 

“It is unreasonable to expect the next generation to fund the current system,” Greene writes. “Newfoundland and Labrador’s systems must change in order to address the poor outcomes and high spending across so many areas.”

In a plan to provide more ‘efficient’ healthcare, the report recommends merging the four regional health authorities and expanding the use of telehealth and distance medicine. It also recommends reducing operating grants to health authorities by roughly 4 percent per year as part of the six-year plan. 

The proposed operating grant reductions to MUN and CNA would include the provincial government creating a single nursing school for the province, and having CNA develop technology upgrade programs. Included is the suggestion that the post-secondary institutions establish a joint “Centre of Excellence in Green Technology,” which would be financed in part by the province’s Future Fund.

These grant reductions should total $103.9 million over the next six years, with MUN shouldering most of the cuts, the report says. The projected loss to MUN would be $82.3 million by 2027. “A reduction in funding will likely result in higher tuition,” Greene writes. ...

According to the report, immigration retention is one of the key factors in the province’s plan to lean towards STEM employment (and industry), and future immigration programs could be tailored to target high-skilled individuals in this area. 

“The Provincial Government needs to act and demonstrate that it is focused on its finances,” Greene writes. “With a thoughtful, balanced, and well-developed implementation plan this province should be successful in the global competition that is underway for the billions of private sector dollars of capital redirected to green projects, technologies, and creating a forum of expertise.”

The report proposes a 2:1 ratio of expenditure reduction to revenue increases. Despite proposing to sell public assets, slash expenditures, and raise taxes and fees across the board, Greene was emphatic that “this is not an austerity program.”

Some of the “modest” tax raises recommended are increases to the tobacco, gasoline, and payroll tax, as well as an increase to the HST of one percentage point. All personal income tax rates would be increased one percentage point, with an introduction of tax credits for the lowest income group to “offset the increase.” Fees and fines would be increased by 15 percent. The corporate income tax rate would increase by two percentage points. 

Wealth taxes are also proposed, with an annual tax of one percent on “wealth exceeding $10 million or an agreed upon threshold.” The report also recommends implementing a minimum property tax on all residences outside of incorporated municipalities, and a separate tax on second residences (outside of the primary residence) valued at $100,000 or more. A tax on luxury vehicles was proposed too, with exemptions for electric vehicles. ...

It proposes reducing operating grants to MUN and CNA by 30 percent over six years; reducing operating grants to the Regional Health Authorities by 25 percent over six years; “[reducing] administrative costs for the K-12 system and [allocating] these additional funds to classrooms to support the teaching of math, technology, science, computer science, and the promotion of entrepreneurship;” reducing operating grants to Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Legal Aid by two percent; and reducing operating grants to other government agencies by 20 percent.

“The Big Reset” also recommends the province privatize a number of its other assets in whole or in part. It suggests bundling, and either selling or creating, other long-term concessions in its motor vehicle and registry of deeds systems; selling all or a majority interest in the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation (as well as reviewing how the province taxes alcohol); and selling the Marble Mountain ski resort and all related assets.

https://theindependent.ca/news/politics/pert-pushes-big-reset-for-nl/

jerrym

Premier Furey's Liberal government brought down its 2021 budget in the wake of the Big Reset report described above that proposed austerity, extensive privatization of government services, and the threat of government imposed contracts on unionized workers in the public sector. In the other words, the full austerity program driven home with the Shock Doctrine, which is "exploitation of national (or provincial) crises (disasters or upheavals) to establish controversial and questionable policies, while citizens are too distracted (emotionally and physically) to engage and develop an adequate response, and resist effectively." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shock_Doctrine)

The good news first: in an analysis by the Independent, a reader financed blog, "a better than expected price of oil has generated more revenue and that has decreased the size of the deficit." However, even this projected more than $1 billion increase in government revenue from oil resources leaves the province tied to this highly volatile commidty price, in a world starting to move away from fossil fuels (more about that in later posts). It would have been hard to go full austerity after this unexpected revenue windfall, but the promise of achieving a balanced budget within five years helps lay the groundwork for more austerity in order to achieve this goal. 

The bad news: there are already major austerity measures in this first budget of the new elected Liberal government with more to come. This reminds me of the Chretien Liberal government which started out with relatively mild austerity measures in its first budget, then spent a year grooming the public for ever worse austerity measures, thereby getting many voters to aceept them. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador budget delivered Monday, May 31, reads like a first gentle step on a hike that will gradually get harder as the journey moves forward over fiscal craters, hoping for fair economic growth weather along the way, and gradually dropping the weight of yearly deficits to end with a longed-for view of a revenue surplus expected in 2026-27. The budget documents indicate the province’s net debt is anticipated to reach $17.2 billion in 2021-22. ...

But the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (PERT), led by Dame Moya Greene, calculated the province’s net debt as gross debt minus financial assets to be $47.3 billion. Greene said the net debt also does not include all of the other financial exposures of the provincial government, nor its entities, including Nalcor Energy, the liquor corporation, and Atlantic Lottery Corporation. ...

Some good news in the budget is that a better than expected price of oil has generated more revenue and that has decreased the size of the deficit. “Revenue projections for 2021-22 are $8.5 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion over 2020-21,” the budget states. “This increase in revenue is primarily attributed to increased oil royalties and additional federal government-related revenues.” Projected borrowing for 2021-22 is $1.7 billion. ...

Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said the budget sets the course to achieve fiscal stability by ensuring the government spends within its means. To enforce that, the province will introduce balanced-budget legislation to ensure current and future governments are held to that requirement. “It reins in and tightens control of the public purse,” she said in her budget speech. ...

Coady said the first intention of the budget is to streamline government services and curb spending before additional tax measures such as increases to the HST would be considered. But she’s not expectinging layoffs. ...

Coady said government is embarking on a process to maintain and improve service delivery through joint solutions, in partnership with business, social enterprises or other organizations.

One item listed is the provincial ferry system. “Ferries in the province are heavily subsidized, some as much as 95 per cent, and costing the people of the province more than $80 million annually,” Coady said. “Clearly improvements are required. Therefore, we will invite joint solutions for a more effective way to maintain and improve the delivery of ferry service, taking into consideration the perspectives of the people who use it.”

Coady said provincial investments in real estate, offshore oil and gas projects, Marble Mountain, and in the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation will be reviewed. “These assets are for the benefit of us all,” Coady said. “Considering our financial challenges, we will now start a process to review these assets. The analysis will guide our decisions as to how best to proceed.”

https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/news/newfoundland-and-labrador-...

jerrym

As I noted in the last post, what is happening in Newfoundland with their grooming the population for more severe austerity measures reminds me of the Chretien and Martin Liberal governments. Part of how they could implement austerity measures far more severe than those of the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives was in part of the public that if the Liberals, as opposed to the Conservatives, are doing this the situation must be really bad. 

 A Newfoundland and Labrador Furey Liberal government implementing austerity must be mean the situation is horrendous. After all, these guys are Liberals, just like Chretien and Martin. The Trudeau Liberals wouldn't do this after the next election, even with the record deficits thanks to Covid. They couldn't possibly be going to do it again, could they, just like Chretien and Martin led a whole Red Book of promises and then implemented austerity.  

This 2015 article tells us how the Liberals under Chretien and Martin implemented austerity. 

How exceptional is Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his crop of Canadian conservatives? For not just large- and small-l liberals, but also some leftists, the last decade has been an aberration — particularly compared to the alleged synthesis between responsible government and economic expansion that occurred during the 1990s. Yet while both public and elite consensus has shifted even further to the right since the ’90s, too often Harper and the current Conservatives are portrayed as an anomaly rather than a continuation.

The ultimate irony of the last two decades of austerity may be that Harper’s Conservatives have been able to rest comfortably on their laurels because of previous attacks on working-class power and livelihoods, even temporarily increasing public spending to save a system in crisis.

While the 1980s had laid some of the groundwork in Canada, the Right’s counterrevolution was not as successful as it had been under Ronald Reagan in the US or Margaret Thatcher in the UK. It was up to Canada’s Liberal Party, the centrist, “natural governing party,” to cement it.

In his 1994 budget speech, Paul Martin — then the finance minister, later the prime minister — encapsulated the Liberal message:

It is now time for government to get its fiscal house in order. For years, governments have been promising more than they can deliver, and delivering more than they can afford. That has to end. We are ending it . . . Over the next three years, for every one dollar raised in new revenues we will cut five dollars in government expenditures.

The subsequent austerity drive was one of the most severe in the Global North, and remains the foundation for the Right’s strategy of death by a thousand cuts. ...

As the 1993 election approached, Canada was just starting to exit its longest recession since the Great Depression, and elites faced the prospect of both populist right-wing upstarts in the West and separatists in Quebec gaining popularity. The mass media stepped in and set a centrist tone, asserting the need for a new “responsible” government. As the Wall Street Journalwarned Canada would soon become a “banana republic,” more than a million Canadians watched a panicky episode of the investigative news program “W5” about New Zealand’s debt.

With the disintegration of the ruling Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals, led by Jean Chrétien, won a resounding electoral victory.

The economic environment the Liberals inherited was a product of the tight monetary policy carried out in the late ’80s. Modeled after Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker’s high-interest approach during the early Reagan years, it was intended not only to dramatically cut inflation, but to restore power to capital. Unemployment jumped from 7 percent to 11 percent. What’s more, the public debt accumulated during the elevated-interest-rate era, as well as during the 1990–92 recession, provided a pretext to reshape Canada’s public sector.

On issues of the economy, much in the Liberals’ 1993 campaign platform was developed with the help of private-sector experts. Billionaire Paul Desmarais Sr, on good terms with large segments of the political class, including both Chrétien and former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, was a mentor to Martin and left his imprint on economic policy of the time as well.

A consensus developed that economic and employment growth on their own would not be enough to get Canada out of the recession. On the other hand, the Liberal experts were not in favor of the restrictive zero-inflation experiments that briefly held influence in the Conservative Party. Thus, monetary policy could be loosened, but the screws would have to be put to fiscal policy in order to make Canada more “competitive” — in other words, to make labor more pliant.

The monetary loosening that followed the early ’90s recession pushed interest rates downward and spurred lagging investment and profits. Low rates also meant the Canadian dollar depreciated against its US counterpart, jumpstarting a lagging export sector. Both profits and investment rose as a percentage of GDP through the late ’90s and 2000s, all the way up to the 2008–9 crisis.

Similarly, starting in 1993 and ending only in 2008, Canada consistently exported more than it imported, accumulating a current account surplus, primarily with the US. Canada was thus further integrated into the US-led global surplus recycling mechanism that Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has called the “Global Minotaur.”

This economic pattern paralleled the integration of Canadian elites with their US counterparts. NAFTA, signed in 1992 by Mulroney and implemented in 1994 under Chrétien, was not a case of the US imposing its will on Canada, but rather of large sections of capitalist elites across the continent securing their common interests over the working class in both countries.

Free trade reconfigured coalitions within elites as well as between them and the Canadian state. Of course, some sectors were negatively impacted, but in general the agreement was a win-win for continental capital: rationalized supply chains not only cut costs but put more workers in competition with each other.

This was the context in which the Liberals began their cutbacks, initially quick and deep. A greater share of government expenditures redirected towards debt repayment created additional false scarcity of funds for direct spending. Spending on federal government programs and transfers to provinces, cities, and individuals fell by over 5 percent of GDP from 1993 to the turn of the millennium. Spending growth did not just slow: absolute expenditures decreased.

Reduced fiscal transfers to provinces put the squeeze on local governments. Since the 1990s, Canada has seen provincial governments — not just governed by Liberals and Conservatives, but also by New Democrats — impose austerity further down the line. Since provinces are responsible for many basics like health, education, and welfare benefits, shrinking transfers have further eroded the working class’s social wage. Privatizations, workfare schemes, tuition increases — all were applied (unevenly) across the country.

Overall, the sharp turn to austerity created a more punitive welfare state. While Canada’s economic growth in the mid to late ’90s fed off that in the US, the character of its reforms was also in line with the Clintonite agenda. There was a similar push to create conditions for business expansion even less encumbered by working-class demands. A major strategy was an attack on the social wage. ...

One major social program that is the responsibility of Canada’s federal government — and provides a good example of the transformations wrought by austerity — is unemployment insurance. The Liberals ate into the real value of benefits and made eligibility requirements more restrictive. While just over 80 percent of Canada’s unemployed received jobless benefits during the early 1990s, this percentage fell to about 45 percent by the early 2000s. Most unemployed workers no longer received any benefits. ...

The OECD’s measure of real unit labor costs grew at an average rate of just 0.5% per year between 1993 and 1999 and 2.1% in the first decade of the 2000s, both down from an average of 6.6% over the previous two decades.

Decreased labor costs were reflected in stagnant real wages for most workers throughout the ’90s and 2000s. The depreciating Canadian dollar further cut into wages with higher prices for imported consumption goods. Finally, the social wage provided by public programs and transfers fell under Martin’s austerity budgets.

How was austerity mitigated once the ’90s boom ran out of steam? In short, debt and housing wealth. The fall in government borrowing as a result of Liberal deficit-fighting was offset by a rise in household borrowing, reducing the public debt but increasing private debts. (Rolling back the welfare state means more people borrow to stay afloat and spend more on basic services.)

As in many parts of the world, including the US and the UK, Canada’s housing sector took off after the 2000 bust. This divided the working class. For those who owned homes, housing became a crutch, a valuable asset to borrow against or downsize, making up for the lower social wage and stagnant incomes left after the ’90s expansion. For those who did not own a home, rising prices and rents became a further source of daily struggle. ...

The 1990s in Canada are often held up as an example of “expansionary austerity” — austerity that is not only accompanied by but causes growth. If this sounds a bit nuts, it is. In fact, even economists from the International Monetary Fund have thoroughly debunked the idea: the growth that occurred during most of bouts of “expansionary austerity,” including Canada during the Liberal-led ’90s, would have happened anyway.

Indeed, crediting austerity for sparking Canada’s 1990s growth ignores several factors: first, Canada benefited from strong US expansion, especially given the strength of export growth; greater integration through NAFTA only solidified how closely Canada followed the US boom of the mid- to late ’90s. Second, fiscal austerity was accompanied by an aggressive monetary loosening that resulted in low interest rates and a depreciation of the exchange rate; alongside more flexible labor policies, these improved profits, investment, and growth. Resource booms also played a role in driving wage growth and reducing unemployment in some regions. ...

The austerity implemented by the Liberals, starting with the 1994 budget, helped shift the political consensus sharply to the right. The Conservatives, riding a wave of public resentment against the Liberals due to corruption scandals, were first elected to a minority government in 2006. After five years of governing with the tacit support of the Liberals, the Conservative Party finally gained a majority in 2011.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/04/canada-austerity-stephen-harper-conse...

jerrym

Below is a 2020 article that further updates the picture on austerity by also discussing the Covid pandemic. By making cuts in transfer payments to the provinces as their main austerity vehicle, Chretien and Martin were able to transfer much of the ire of the public over the cuts to the provinces.  Could the Trudeau Liberals do this again?

The following article also discusses how the Chretien and Martin cuts made the Covid pandemic worse by leaving our health care system underfunded, and how social housing cuts fueled our housing crisis as well as how federal health care cuts heavily impacted provincial education spending.

The history of the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien and his finance minister Paul Martin is often framed as one of rescuing the Canadian economy from a growing government debt load. It consciously forgets the reduction in unemployment insurance, the elimination of rail subsidies, and the cuts to the CBC. The deficit has remained a political and media obsession ever since Chrétien’s time in power, but that focus ignores the social costs of his and Martin’s agenda and how cutting federal spending created an escalating crisis on the provincial and municipal levels—not to mention fuelling growing levels of household debt.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Canadians to reckon with the growing social problems in our society, which are, in part, the product of an underfunded welfare state. From the lack of hospital beds and public housing units to the lack of access to unemployment insurance and other social supports, these problems are not new; they have simply been easy to ignore while the going was good for many Canadians. These programs were not adequate even before the Chrétien years and cuts had already begun under Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives, but the Chrétien-Martin austerity budgets of the mid-1990s were a significant turning point for the Canadian welfare state. ...

The Conservatives might try to claim the mantle of small government, but it was under Chrétien that, according to William Watson, federal spending was cut, “not just in real terms, after inflation is accounted for, which is rare enough, but also in nominal terms, something that had not been seen since before the Second World War.” That was achieved through significant rollbacks in social spending by the federal government, particularly through the unilateral reorganization of health and social transfers to provinces, which administer much of the Canadian welfare state. ...

Before Chrétien, the federal government would share the cost of social assistance programs administered by provincial governments, along with providing funding for provincial health care systems. However, the Liberals replaced that with a series of block grants called the Canada Health and Social Transfer. In the words of Michael J. Prince, a contributor to The Chrétien Legacy, this “delivered … sudden and deep absolute cuts in transfer payments to the provinces,” where “1993 levels of federal spending on health care were achieved again only in 2004, following Chrétien’s retirement.” In the same book, historian Gerard W. Boychuk explains that this change in how the federal government funded social programs meant that the “shortfall in cash transfers … by the time Chrétien left office was over $26 billion in 2003 dollars.” That’s money that was taken out of provincial budgets for health care and social spending to reduce the federal deficit—and it’s had real consequences for Canadians. ...

As the threat of COVID-19 became apparent, governments realized a shortage of hospital beds and ventilators could mean the difference between life or death for people infected with the virus. Since the Chrétien years, however, both the total number of hospital beds and the number of acute beds per 1,000 inhabitants has steadily fallen. It has reached the point that Canada ranks near the bottom of OECD hospital-bed rankings. Boychuk writes the cuts to health spending created “the illusion of health care as a rapidly growing fiscal burden relative to the ability of governments, as a whole, to bear this burden.” ...

Through the 1960s and 1970s, the federal government expanded the Canadian welfare state, including providing support to provincial governments for public, cooperative, and non-profit housing. However, in the 1980s Mulroney scrapped the support for cooperative housing, and Chrétien followed by withdrawing the federal government from social housing entirely in 1993, making it the responsibility of provincial and municipal governments. But given the additional financial pressures placed on the provinces by the federal government, many responded by cutting their own support for social housing, including in Ontario and Alberta. ...

In The Chrétien Legacy, University of Ottawa professor Caroline Andrew writes that the cuts to social programs by the Chrétien government, “particularly the elimination of social housing as a federal activity, has been one factor in the increased polarization within Canadian cities and the deterioration of conditions for vulnerable and marginalized groups.” For a long time, the increase in homelessness has been accepted, but as the pandemic hit Canada, it became clear to many more Canadians that having so many people living on the streets is a collective failure.

Across the country, governments have been housing more of the homeless people in their cities—but that only became a problem because they were neglected for so long. The federal government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), in part because the limits placed on Employment Insurance since the Chrétien years have made it too difficult to access for many Canadians (and low payouts would be unlikely to cover their bills). But even the CERB required Canadians to have had previous income and a job, locking out those experiencing long-term unemployment. ...

Nearly three decades after Chrétien and Martin gutted federal support for the Canadian welfare state, the pandemic has made it clearer than ever that was a mistake. A federal role in health and social programs is necessary not only to make sure they are adequately funded, but also to be certain that the quality of programs and services is maintained across the country. And while provincial and especially municipal governments face ever more revenue constraints, the federal government does not have the same limitations, as its response to the crisis has shown.

Instead of continuing to abandon the welfare state and the vulnerable Canadians who most rely on it, this must be a moment for the federal government to step back up the plate and reassert itself. To build a more equitable society, the federal government should finally expand public health coverage to include pharmacare, something Chrétien promised to do all the way back in 1997, along with dental, vision, long-term care, and other health care services. With the pressures placed on provinces, much of the funding for that expansion should come from the federal government.

https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/jean-chretiens-austerity-mad...

jerrym

Another Liberal party that often failed to get a full critical analysis of its real agenda and its implementation of austerity is the Ontario Liberal party. While the Liberals did implement some social issue reforms, there was a continuity in many ways with the Ontario Progressive Conservative regime on the fiscal side of the ledger. 

Hmm. There, looking at this series of Liberal governments, seems to be a pattern forming here. 

There is an emerging orthodoxy, rooted more in fiction that fact, that the 15-year regime of the Ontario Liberals somehow swung the ideological and policy spectrum sharply to the left. But this is a gross misinterpretation of actual history. While the Liberals did indeed implement a hodgepodge of policies that might selectively register as 'progressive', their time in power was never about a wholesale repudiation of the Common Sense Revolution but rather about deepening and extending it in ways that were more palatable to a public increasingly fed up with the uncompromising and aggressive style of their Conservative predecessors. In other words, it was continuity, not change, that defined the Liberals time in power.

Those at the centre of this historical reimagining are increasingly recasting the Liberals time in government as an extreme left interregnum inconsistent with the 'progressive' conservative values of Ontario. They point to all day kindergarten, the expansion of prescription-drug and dental benefits, the subsidization of tuition fees for some postsecondary students, proposed pension reform, modest increases to high-income earners' taxes, changes to labour legislation, and some investments in new infrastructure and social programs as key illustrations.

But these new investments barely made up for inflation and population growth, let alone a reversal of the fiscal legacy of the Harris Conservatives....

Through their first term (2003-07), modest savings were made through the privatization of services formerly covered by OHIP like chiropractic therapy, physical rehabilitation and optometry exams. The McGuinty government also spearheaded the expansion of private health care clinics, introducing a graduated health care premium that ranged from $60 to $900 per year depending on income level. But this was the calm before the storm.

The "crowing irony" for the Liberals was that after a decade in power they had succeeded in cutting the size of government down to when they had taken over from their Conservative predecessors.

As the tailwinds of the 2008 recession swept across Ontario, the Liberal government responded with a plan outlining a decade of austerity. The major policy plank of this program was the Open Ontario Plan (OOP), which called for, among other things, tax relief, the privatization of public assets and services, and wage concessions from public sector workers. To give a few examples, the general corporate income tax (CIT) rate was cut 28 per cent, the preferential small business CIT rate was cut 36 per cent, and the tax rate on the first $37,106 of personal taxable income was reduced by more than 16 per cent, while those earning up to $80,000 per year saw a tax cut of 10 per cent. Altogether, tax cuts during this time eroded some $500 million in annual revenue generation making Ontario's tax regime among the lowest across the OECD.

The omnibus Open for Business Act introduced over 100 amendments to legislation across ten ministries whose stated objective was to create a more competitive business climate. The Liberals solicited CIBC World Markets and Goldman Sachs to come up with a plan to monetize the province's $60 billion worth of public assets. The idea behind "SuperCorp" was to combine Ontario's Crown assets, including nuclear power plants, power generation facilities, 29,000 kilometres of electrical transmission and distribution lines, six-hundred plus liquor stores and gaming operations.

The Liberals also established the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Servicesheaded by former TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond. The Commission recommended cuts deeper than those of the 1990s followed by the sale of public assets and privatized service delivery. In following through on some 80 per cent of the Drummond Commission's recommendations, the Liberals eroded an additional $300 million in public revenue by 2015-16. The "crowing irony" for the Liberals was that after a decade in power they had succeeded in cutting the size of government down to when they had taken over from their Conservative predecessors. ...

Kathleen Wynne emerged as new party leader and Premier of Ontario, positioning herself as the "social justice" and "activist" premier against the old guard. In practice, however, much of the Harris-McGuinty legacy continued. Public-private-partnerships proliferated, even though the Auditor General found that Ontario could have saved up to $8 billion through traditional public procurement. Premier Wynne launched a blue-ribbon panel headed by president and former CEO of TD Bank, Ed Clark, to advise the government how to privatize public assets such as the OLG and LCBO, which together bring in more than $4.5 billion annually.

Catching her own party off guard, Kathleen Wynne kickstarted the asset sell-off with Hydro One, which was estimated to bring in close to $750 million in annual public revenue. Under Wynne's plan, the Liberal's sold-off 60 per cent ownership stake bringing in roughly $4 billion in one-off monies while maintaining a 40 per cent public ownership. The FAO found that the sale of Hydro one was roughly equivalent to five years of continued public ownership. ...

Far from progressive public policy, it has been tax cuts and austerity that has prevailed in Ontario over the last decade.Little wonder then that Ford and Co. have stoked the fires of deficit hysteria given the reluctance of the Liberals to deal with the revenue side of government expenditures. The reality is that when it comes to the provinces context matters, perhaps more than anywhere else in the world.

2018's election saw Wynne herself boasting that Ontario was now "the leanest government in Canada" when it came to per capita program spending. What wasn't mentioned though was that among the provinces, Ontario was dead last when it came to per capita public revenue, second smallest when it came to the per capita size of Ontario's public sector as measured by employees, and second-lowest in North America (after Alabama) when it came to corporate tax rates.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/carlo-fanelli/progressive-liberalism-ontar...

jerrym

The fightback against the austerity-ridden Big Reset report and the 2021 Furey Liberal government budget has begun. 

Thousands swarm Confederation Building for anti-budget protest in Newfoundland

The long-awaited report of the Provincial Economic Recovery Team (PERT) was publicly released on May 6, just weeks before Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal government revealed its budget for 2021. The PERT, chaired by Dame Moya Greene, was widely expected to make strong demands on the provincial government to make deep public spending cuts. Greene’s previous work includes privatizing and “rationalizing” large public entities in Canada and the UK in the last few decades. ...

Ostensibly this plan is to be anchored on a reorientation of the province towards a green economy in addition to creating a “solid fiscal plan.” What we can expect is made very clear by Dame Greene’s introductory words, which effectively label the provincial government and public sector as bloated, unresponsive and wasteful. She notes that people need to “expect less” from government for job creation and proposes a new social compact that prepares the youth of the province to contribute more than any previous generation.

The rationalizations and restructuring proposed by the “Big Reset” are many. Some particularly noteworthy recommendations are: balanced budget legislation that makes such budgets mandatory for all departments and public institutions; a “future fund” derived from oil and gas revenue; public education campaigns to make people aware of service costs; renegotiate public sector union contracts to move all pensions to collective defined contribution plans and reduce payroll through wage freezes and four-day work weeks. The report also calls for the province to eliminate Nalcor (the provincial energy corporation), merge its components into NL Hydro and then privatize it; implement a green transition plan that would rely on the hydro potential in Labrador and on “low-emission” oil and gas activity as well as “low-carbon” mining; promote electric vehicles through private investment and tax rebates; provide tax incentives for technology companies; and promote fisheries investment and rural area secondary processing. Greene further proposes eliminating the two school districts, ensuring school administrators are not members of the teacher’s union, enforcing an eight-hour day for teachers and merging all health authorities into one entity.

Some of the report’s comments about improving transparency and accountability and reducing bureaucracy might be considered positive at first read. However, the obvious end goal is to place limits on the ability of the public sector to play a leading role and, instead, to promote private investment, public-private partnerships and privatization.

The report naturally includes recommendations about actual funding. To avoid the “austerity” label, the PERT recommends a 1 percent increase to all personal income tax brackets, a 2 percent increase to corporate tax, a 1 percent HST increase among a number of taxed items and a wealth of tax of 1 percent over $10 million. Some items, such as the HST, are clearly regressive taxes. The corporate tax, even increased by 2 percent, is still laughably low. As for income tax, it needs to be reformed to put the burden on those best able to pay. Many of the recommended reductions are also shocking, most notably cutting operating grants to health by 25 percent and to Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic by 30 percent. The report also proposes reducing grants to NL Housing by 2 percent, despite a continued lack of affordable housing in the province.

Naturally, the report has been met with disgust from public sector unions, students and environmental and social activists. They are promoting a “People’s Recovery” report which proposes alternatives to the PERT’s large cuts. ...

Given the high stakes of the PERT report and the need to at least put on a show of public consultation, the Liberals’ May 31 budget did not entirely throw the government into fully implementing the “Big Reset.”

The budget appears to be setting the tone for further work towards the PERT recommendations: it commits to balanced budget legislation and a promises a “future fund.” The province’s longstanding tuition freeze is also being eliminated over the next five years as the government moves to make MUN in particular more “autonomous.” Some of the centralization recommendations are also being implemented, such as eliminating the English School District and merging it into the department of education. Regardless of any commitment to a “green” economy, the government is continuing to look to oil and mining to drive economic growth with additional funding being set aside to support projects in those sectors.

The “People’s Recovery” initiative shows that the people of this province are not automatically going to roll over on command. Public sector workers and their unions will also resist efforts to diminish the quality of their work and the vital services they provide daily. The debate over the PERT report creates an opportunity to build a serious public resistance to neoliberal austerity and privatization. Ultimately resistance must extend beyond simply the government de jure and towards capitalism, a system built for the exploitation of the environment and people’s labour in the name of profit. History has demonstrated that austerity does not work; the only “reset” here will be of the cyclical disaster of capitalism.

Capitalism is in decay and we know a better future, a better way is possible and necessary!

http://peoplesvoice.ca/2021/06/10/the-big-reset-newfoundland-and-labrado...

jerrym

The Unifor union has called Furey's Liberal Newfoundland government budget based on the Big Reset neoliberal agenda what it is, a set of Thatcher-like measures and laid out its own program for building a better future. 

 Newfoundland and Labrador’s ‘Change Starts Here’ budget regresses to failed old-school austerity measures, as newly-elected Premier Andrew Furey missed the opportunity to launch a progressive plan to move the province and its workers forward.  

“The change that Premier Furey is starting lays the groundwork for Thatcher-like measures outlined in the recent report by the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team,” said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director. “While jurisdictions across North America are innovating to build back better from the pandemic, Newfoundland and Labrador will be moving backwards with a fire-sale of assets, slashed services, and privatization of key services under the guise of debt reduction.”

The merging of Crown corporations, review of assets, and the exploration of “joint solutions” with private sector companies for the delivery of services outlined in the provincial budget raise concern about the implementation of recommendations contained in the recently released ‘Big Reset’ report by the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (PERT) prior to promised public consultation. Unifor maintains the Big Reset recommendations would hurt workers and impeded economic recovery if carried out.

The move towards balanced budget legislation will tie the government’s hands by taking away the ability to respond to crisis, such as a resurgence of the pandemic or an economic downturn.

“Focusing on a balanced budget forces the government to enact short term measures rather than creating a vision for the future and then developing a path to get there,” said MacNeil.

While the budget does offer some investment in oil and gas, it falls short on support for hard-hit workers. Unifor is also concerned about the substantial cut to the Atlantic Fisheries Fund.

The union welcomes tax increases for the highest income earners and government investment in infrastructure, cellular and broadband connectivity, tourism, and television and film production. However, the budget failed to help workers by raising the minimum wage or legislating employer-paid sick leave, as Unifor called for during the last provincial election campaign.

Unifor’s comprehensive recommendations to #BuildBackBetter are available in the union’s ‘Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery’.

https://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/press-room/newfoundland-and-labrador...