Com­mit­ted

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

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.

Fis­cal po­si­tion

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.

Have prov­ince

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.”

Bill Bow­man/The Com­pass

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.

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