The province’s minister of Intergovernmental Affairs tells a Carbonear audience his government is committed to regional economic development in regions like Trinity Conception.
Since it was first elected in 2003, the provincial government has been a strong supporter of regional economic development at the community level, Dave Denine said in Carbonear Oct. 28.
Speaking at the annual general meeting of Mariner Resource Opportunities Network ( MRON), the minister of Intergovernmental Affairs said, “as a government we are committed to the role regional economic development boards ( like MRON) play in the province.”
Denine, who is also responsible for the volunteer and non-profit sector said M-RON contributes to the overall prosperity of the 68 communities, which make up the Trinity Conception region.
Looking around at the approximately 50 people who turned out at Fong’s banquet room for MRON’s a.g.m., the Mount Pearl MHA said, “the 42,000 people who call this area home have you to thank for the sustainability of their communities.”
Turning to some of the economic initiatives his own government has undertaken, Denine said the province’s economy has grown considerably over the last decade and there is significant momentum...
While the global recession has affected several industries, there are a lot of positive things happening in the economy, the minister said.
‘Major resource projects’
“In addition to the significant money the provincial government is investing in infrastructure this year and beyond, we have major resource projects that are coming with significant private sector investment.
“Provincial infrastructure projects totalling $1.6 billion will be tendered this fiscal year, creating an estimated 15,000 jobs. This is a level of infrastructure investment never seen before in the province’s history and ensures our province is well equipped to forge ahead as masters of our own destiny.”
From 2003 to ‘08 real GDP ( gross domestic product) has increased by 13 per cent, led by rapid growth in the oil and mining industries.
Employment increased by 3.8 per cent between 2003 and 2008 with gains concentrated in fulltime well paying jobs. Last year the employment rate reached a 30-year low.
For the first time in 16 years, the province’s population increased by 0.3 per cent in 2008, Denine pointed out.
The minister said aquaculture production has grown by more than 400 per cent in the last decade with value having grown six fold, and is expected to grow by another 25 per cent next year.
The province is expected to lead the country in investment growth in 2009 and 2010 as a result of development activity related to the Long Harbour nickel processing facility and increased government infrastructure spending, he said.
Until recently this province ran deficits for virtually all the years since Confederation in 1949.
“ When our government assumed office in late 2003, Denine said, “ the province was faced with large unsustainable deficits. A period of fiscal restraint was necessary to bring the province’s financial house in order.”
For the fiscal year that ended in March of this year, “ our government is forecasting our fourth consecutive surplus, a new record of $ 2.4 billion. Since 2005-06, the province has recorded four successive surpluses totalling in excess of $2.4 billion.
While Newfoundland and Labrador is expecting a deficit for 2009-10, resulting from the global economic downturn, the province is poised to return to surplus in 2011-12.
Personal income tax has been eliminated for low-income individuals, and reduced by 20 to 30 per cent for most others. The province has gone from the highest personal income tax in the country to one of the lowest, the minister noted.
Reminding his audience that last year Newfoundland and Labrador became a “ have” province, Denine explained that means “ our ability to generate revenue is above a national average as determined by the federal government and we don’t receive equalization.”
However he was quick to add: “ It does not mean we have an abundance of money to meet all the demands, expectations, or needs of the people or our employees. It is not dependent on whether or not the province records a surplus next year.”
While this province has contributed significantly to the federation, particularly from rich natural resources, as well as outstanding cultural contribution, “we have never been recognized for these contributions,” Denine lamented.
But finally, “ Newfoundland and Labrador is being recognized for our tremendous contribution to this country and we are standing proud as a strong and self-reliant partner in Canada.”
Four years ago the province’s net debt was approaching $ 12 billion. At March 31 of this year, we predicted net debt will be $7.9 billion. Our government has reduced our net debt by $ 4 billion since taking office.
“As you can see, there are a lot of great things happening in this province,” Denine said, concluding, “ M-RON and other regional economic development boards are major contributors to our success.”
Dave Denine chats with Karen Davis during M-RON’s annual general meeting Oct. 28 at Fong’s in Carbonear. The minister of Intergovernmental Affairs was guest speaker at the a.g.m. M-RON’s board has appointed Karen Davis interim chief executive officer, to succeed George Parsons, who is retiring at the end of this year after serving 13 years in that post.