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Stronger tomorrow?


This editorial could have been written months in advance. The Liberal sweep of the province was a foregone conclusion even before the campaign got underway. And the final pre-election polls had Dwight Ball and his party at shutout levels.

So let's forgo the formalities and get down to brass tacks, because that's what the new government will have to do very quickly.
Over the next few months, the Liberals will evaluate the province's ledger. And Ball will inevitably follow the standard narrative: the numbers are worse than we thought, so we’ll have to shift gears a bit and dig deep into government services.
That’s what happened to Danny Williams in 2003.
The difference was Williams' austerity measures were short-lived.
With oil revenues rolling in, core public-sector employment grew significantly under Williams, from a total of 6,800 employees in 2004 to 8,226 last year.
It peaked in 2011 at 9,090, the year after Williams stepped down.
Kathy Dunderdale’s austerity budget of 2012 wiped out hundreds of government positions, including many lost through attrition.
These are all provincial government statistics. But they don’t deal with the total number of people on the public payroll.
Statistics Canada figures for all Newfoundland and Labrador workers on federal and provincial payrolls, for example, show that Newfoundland has actually dropped to pre-2003 numbers. Much of that is due to federal job reductions, but the statistics are surprising nonetheless.
And there are other factors to consider.
Newfoundland’s ratio of public- vs. private-sector jobs is pretty well tied with P.E.I. as the highest in the country. It’s a ratio that roughly correlates with population.
But according to the Fraser Institute, citing Statistics Canada, Newfoundland was the only province in which that ratio actually dropped between 2003 and 2013, from 33.5 per cent to 32 per cent. Most of that likely happened after 2011.
Here’s one last thing to consider.
Dwight Ball promised no job losses early in the election campaign. But he changed his tune in the final week, saying that while he doesn’t plan any layoffs, he is open to job losses through attrition.
That changes the equation on what was initially an untenable Liberal projection of saving $383 million by cutting “government waste.” The figure seemed fantastical without job losses.
Now, ironically, it dovetails with his predecessors’ projection of public-sector attrition unveiled in the 2015 budget. To wit:
“Through Budget 2015, the provincial government will begin a five-year attrition plan that will see a total of 1,420 positions removed from the public service by 2019-20, resulting in a total savings of approximately $300 million.”
So, a “stronger tomorrow” under Premier Dwight Ball?
Perhaps, but not so much a stronger civil service.

So let's forgo the formalities and get down to brass tacks, because that's what the new government will have to do very quickly.
Over the next few months, the Liberals will evaluate the province's ledger. And Ball will inevitably follow the standard narrative: the numbers are worse than we thought, so we’ll have to shift gears a bit and dig deep into government services.
That’s what happened to Danny Williams in 2003.
The difference was Williams' austerity measures were short-lived.
With oil revenues rolling in, core public-sector employment grew significantly under Williams, from a total of 6,800 employees in 2004 to 8,226 last year.
It peaked in 2011 at 9,090, the year after Williams stepped down.
Kathy Dunderdale’s austerity budget of 2012 wiped out hundreds of government positions, including many lost through attrition.
These are all provincial government statistics. But they don’t deal with the total number of people on the public payroll.
Statistics Canada figures for all Newfoundland and Labrador workers on federal and provincial payrolls, for example, show that Newfoundland has actually dropped to pre-2003 numbers. Much of that is due to federal job reductions, but the statistics are surprising nonetheless.
And there are other factors to consider.
Newfoundland’s ratio of public- vs. private-sector jobs is pretty well tied with P.E.I. as the highest in the country. It’s a ratio that roughly correlates with population.
But according to the Fraser Institute, citing Statistics Canada, Newfoundland was the only province in which that ratio actually dropped between 2003 and 2013, from 33.5 per cent to 32 per cent. Most of that likely happened after 2011.
Here’s one last thing to consider.
Dwight Ball promised no job losses early in the election campaign. But he changed his tune in the final week, saying that while he doesn’t plan any layoffs, he is open to job losses through attrition.
That changes the equation on what was initially an untenable Liberal projection of saving $383 million by cutting “government waste.” The figure seemed fantastical without job losses.
Now, ironically, it dovetails with his predecessors’ projection of public-sector attrition unveiled in the 2015 budget. To wit:
“Through Budget 2015, the provincial government will begin a five-year attrition plan that will see a total of 1,420 positions removed from the public service by 2019-20, resulting in a total savings of approximately $300 million.”
So, a “stronger tomorrow” under Premier Dwight Ball?
Perhaps, but not so much a stronger civil service.

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