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Newfoundland and Labrador's finance minister says province’s spending is still unsustainable

Finance Minister Tom Osborne addressed the business community in Corner Brook at a pre-budget presentation hosted by the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Thursday.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne addressed the business community in Corner Brook at a pre-budget presentation hosted by the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Thursday. - Diane Crocker

While the financial situation is still critical Finance Minister Tom Osborne said Thursday that the province has come a long way since December 2016.

Back then it came close to not being able to pay its workers.

Since then it has worked to improve the situation and to realize savings through finding efficiencies and decreasing the public sector through attrition.

Still it will be at least five years before it will be at or near a balanced budget.

“Our situation is still unsustainable, our spending is unsustainable,” said Osborne as he addressed about 45 members of the Corner Brook business community in a pre-budget presentation at the Greenwood Inn and Suites.

He said the province needs to make choices and find efficiencies in order to change that, and it has to take a balanced approach to doing so.

And he asked those gathered to provide their input as the province carries out pre-budget consultations.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“In our mid-year update we showed that we were 99 per cent on-target for reaching the revenues we had projected despite the challenging economic conditions and volatile oil prices.”

“I’ve talked about, from my very first day as finance minister, the fact we need a balanced approach in order to manage the province’s fiscal resources. Delivering a more efficient way of providing programs and services that are most important to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

Spending

“At mid-year we had calculated that government departments were spending $22 million less than was forecasted in Budget 2017.”

“On the other hand in our agencies, boards and commissions, as of mid-year, they were spending $18 million more than what was forecast.”

“So if we’re going to get ahead we need the co-operation and we need to find the efficiencies within agencies, boards and commissions as well.”

Public sector

“We reduced 600 jobs and we did it without much pain. Most people didn’t realize that we’ve achieved that number because we did it through attrition.”

“We don’t need mass layoffs, we can achieve this through attrition.”

“There is room for continued years of attrition. And if we continue it’s a slower process, it’s a more gradual process, it’s a more humane process, I would argue, but it protects the economy.”

“We didn’t get into the mess overnight, the 20 per cent increase in the public service didn’t happen overnight and we can’t take it out overnight.”

A balanced approach

“In this budget, upcoming, it’s going to be an important step in how we build the future in the province. Our work to date has positioned our province for success and to realizing our potential.”

Top three areas where government spends

Health

Debt and financial expenses

Education

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