Shar­ing the prov­ince’s wealth


Spe­cial in­ter­est groups present wish lists to fi­nance min­is­ter at pre-bud­get hear­ings in Carbonear

The prov­ince’s fi­nance min­is­ter wishes he had more money to hand out to groups and busi­nesses, but doesn’t. There­fore he has to be thrifty with what his gov­ern­ment does have to share.

“ There’s only so much money to go around and as a gov­ern­ment we have to make sure we spend it wisely and where it is most needed,” said Tom Mar­shall dur­ing a Feb. 8 prebud­get con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing at Fong’s Mo­tel in Carbonear.” It’s true a lot of money has been com­ing into New­found­land and Labrador, but a lot of money also goes out. It gets spent to im­prove ser­vices and pro­grams in the prov­ince.”

Mar­shall pro­vided an up­date on the prov­ince’s cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, which in­cludes a deficit of $443 mil­lion.

“How­ever, that’s a huge im­prove­ment of $307 mil­lion as com­pared to a $750 mil­lion deficit fore­cast in Bud­get 2009,” he pointed out. “Nev­er­the­less New­found­land and Labrador has not been im­mune to the im­pacts of the global re­ces­sion. In­dus­tries, such as min­ing, fish­ing and forestry, have all been af­fected. The gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) is ex­pected to de­cline 8.5 per cent this year, due to lower min­eral, newsprint and fish pro­duc­tion, as well as nat­u­ral de­clines in oil pro­duc­tion. But based on what ex­perts tell us re­ten­tion in the econ­omy should come back; how­ever gov­ern­ment must be pru­dent in where it chooses to spend.”

Mar­shall said gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to take a re­spon­si­ble and cau­tious ap­proach to fu­ture in­vest­ments and plan­ning.

“ We had un­prece­dented sur­pluses in the past that helped us be­come more self-re­liant. How­ever, the cur­rent global eco­nomic un­cer­tainty dic­tates that we moderate our ex­pec­ta­tions to en­sure our spending of pub­lic money is sus­tain­able into the fu­ture,” he said.

While some feel the pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tions are a mere for­mal­ity or a ges­ture to ap­pease the pub­lic, Mar­shall says noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth.

“ Th­ese ses­sions give peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to say how they want gov­ern­ment to spend their money,” he said. “ We get to hear all about the lo­cal is­sues many peo­ple and or­ga­ni­za­tions are fac­ing and what they would like to see for the fu­ture of this prov­ince.”

More sub­sti­tute time

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from eight groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions showed up at the pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing in Carbonear to make their 2010 bud­get pitch for fund­ing to the min­is­ter.

Lily Cole, pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (NLTA) was the first to present her con­cerns. Cole cited the need for ad­di­tional funds for the sub­sti­tute teacher bud­get and the num­ber of leave days for the pur­pose of fam­ily leave sep­a­rate from dis­cre­tionary leave, as part of her pre­sen­ta­tion.

“ There’s a se­ri­ous un­der fund­ing of the sub­sti­tute teacher bud­get for dis­cre­tionary leave and it causes dif­fi­cul­ties for teach­ers and school dis­tricts,” said Cole. The NLTA pres­i­dent also en­cour­aged gov­ern­ment to al­lo­cate more re­sources to sup­port very small ru­ral schools and pro­vide ad­di­tional teach­ing units for stu­dents with spe­cial needs, Grades 10-12, French Im­mer­sion, Kinder­garten and spe­cial­ist teach­ers.

“ Gov­ern­ment is to be com­mended for the im­proved al­lo­ca­tion of spe­cial­ist teach­ers for Grades 7-9 and the ap­pli­ca­tion of the class size max­i­mums at Grades 5 and 8, how­ever there are still sev­eral ar­eas of the new model which re­quire ad­di­tional re­sources,” said Cole. “ We urge gov­ern­ment to pro­vide ad­di­tional teach­ing units to ad­dress those crit­i­cal ar­eas which still need at­ten­tion.”

Cole also pointed out the need for gov­ern­ment to pro­vide the fi­nan­cial and hu­man re­sources to en­sure the rec­om­men­da­tions made in a re­port by the ISSP/ Path­ways Com­mis­sion are im­ple­mented thor­oughly and ex­pe­di­tiously.

“ The area of spe­cial needs and in­clu­sion con­tin­ues to be the most crit­i­cal area where con­cerns are ex­pressed by teach­ers over their abil­ity to pro­vide the nec­es­sary ser­vices with the cur­rent level of re­sources and sup­ports,” said Cole.

Early child­hood learn­ing

Wayne Lu­cas, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees (CUPE) New­found­land and Labrador, com­mended gov­ern­ment on a num­ber of ini­tia­tives and en­cour­aged them to stay the course, but feels more is needed.

“ We want you to con­tinue to fight for fair­ness and eq­uity in our deal­ings with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and we want you to con­tinue to en­sure the re­sources of this prov­ince are used for our ben­e­fit,” Lu­cas told the min­is­ter.

While the CUPE pres­i­dent had nu­mer­ous sug­ges­tions for po­lices re­lat­ing to hous­ing, lit­er­acy, post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion, recre­ation, com­mu­nity sup­ports and the en­vi­ron­ment, he fo­cused his pre­sen­ta­tion on en­ergy and power, early learn­ing and child­care, pen­sions and green jobs and re­cy­cling.

Lu­cas listed out nu­mer­ous im­prove­ments gov­ern­ment has made in early learn­ing and child- care, en­cour­ag­ing them to adopt a strate­gic plan that would be man­aged and mostly op­er­ated by lo­cal gov­ern­ments and ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties.

“ This plan will pro­vide the kind of ad­van­tage en­joyed by chil­dren in the world’s most pro­gres­sive ju­ris­dic­tions,” he said.

Quot­ing re­search on child poverty Lu­cas said, “One of the best ways to pre­vent poverty and en­sure all chil­dren de­velop to their full po­ten­tial is to in­vest in the early years. Con­di­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences af­fect­ing chil­dren up to the age of six have a pow­er­ful im­pact on longterm de­vel­op­ment, health and eco­nomic sta­tus,” he said. “Chil­dren liv­ing in poverty of­ten do not have the same ac­cess to de­vel­op­men­tal op­por­tu­ni­ties as do other chil­dren, par­tic­u­larly in the early years. This is of­ten linked to low ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment, un­em­ploy­ment and poor phys­i­cal and men­tal health as adults.”

Lu­cas out­lined CUPEs vi­sion for early learn­ing and child­care and asked Mar­shall to con­sider redi­rect­ing the fund­ing for the prov­ince’s Poverty Re­duc­tion Strat­egy into the cre­ation of a pub­lic sys­tem, rather than into a patch­work of pro­grams.

“If all the pub­lic money was con­sol­i­dated and di­rected to­wards the cre­ation of a pub­lic early learn­ing and child care pro­gram, us­ing the ex­ist­ing pub­licly owned re­sources of the prov­ince, for ex­am­ple schools, we could ac­tu­ally build a sys­tem our fam­i­lies could count on,” said Lu­cas. “ This pub­lic sys­tem, would also ad­dress pre-natal and post-natal care, par­ent­ing sup­port pro­grams, fam­ily re­source and early in­ter­ven­tion pro­grams. We could be­gin to come close to the vi­sion set by gov­ern­ment in the March 2009 Throne Speech.”

Pen­sion Plans

Lu­cas also talked about the need to im­prove pen­sion plans al­low­ing se­niors to re­tire with dig­nity.

He urged the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to work with other prov­inces and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to en­sure the Canada/Que­bec Pen­sion Plan re­place­ment rate moves from 25 per cent of the av­er­age in­dus­trial wage to 50 per cent.

“ The yearly max­i­mum pen­sion­able earn­ings should be in­creased from the cur­rent $46,300 and the Old Age Se­cu­rity and Guar­an­teed In­come Sup­ple­ment (GIS) should be in­creased by 15 per cent to al­low all se­niors to live above the low in­come cut as es­tab­lished by Statis­tics Canada,” Lu­cas said.

The CUPE pres­i­dent con­cluded his pre­sen­ta­tion by en­cour­ag­ing the fi­nance min­is­ter to co­or­di­nate a pro­vin­cial re­cy­cling pro­gram with con­sis­tent stan­dards through­out the prov­ince. ment. More fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tional and em­ploy­ment re­sources is needed to help th­ese women get back on their feet,” she said.

Wal­ters also wants gov­ern­ment to look at in­creas­ing ser­vices and sup­ports to se­niors and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

“I’d like to see more fi­nan­cial sup­port given to home care providers, in­creased sub­si­dies for med­i­cal ex­penses and for costs as­so­ci­ated with se­niors res­i­den­tial fa­cil­i­ties and nurs­ing homes,” said Wal­ters.

“In­creased fi­nan­cial sup­port to or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing ser­vices to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in this area is greatly needed as well. Gov­ern­ment should also pro­vide fund­ing for a cri­sis re­sponse team to re­spond to in­di­vid­u­als with com­plex needs.”

Fully ac­ces­si­ble

Mark Lane, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor the Coali­tion of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (COD), urged gov­ern­ment to re­mem­ber those who al­ready face a sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tage when com­pil­ing the 2010-11 pro­vin­cial bud­get.

“ New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans with dis­abil­i­ties strug­gle when times are good to have their needs met. When times are bad, sadly, we are of­ten the first to feel the ef­fects of cut­backs in ser­vices and sup­ports or loss of em­ploy­ment,” he said.

CODs wish list to gov­ern­ment in­cluded en­sur­ing all in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments are fully ac­ces­si­ble, reg­u­lat­ing and re­mind­ing in­dus­try about the im­por­tance of full in­clu­sion of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, es­tab­lish­ing new ini­tia­tives to train peo­ple for new in­dus­tries with a fo­cus and al­lo­ca­tion for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties within the Labour Mar­ket Agree­ment, and pro­vid­ing fund­ing to in­stall wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble wash­rooms of a uni­ver­sal de­sign in all the prov­ince’s acute car fa­cil­i­ties.

“ Gov­ern­ment must also ad­dress the need for more af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble hous­ing, in­vest in the de­vel­op­ment of a dis­abil­ity aware­ness re­source train­ing pro­gram, al­le­vi­ate the dis­pro­por­tion­ate poverty ex­pe­ri­enced by peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, and in­crease the labour mar­ket par­tic­i­pa­tion of per­son with dis­abil­i­ties in the civil ser­vice,” added Lane.

“ We recog­nise this gov­ern­ment has a de­sire to pro­mote in­clu­sion in all as­pects of so­ci­ety, but we can do bet­ter.”

GATH­ER­ING IN­FOR­MA­TION - Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tom Mar­shall, left, and deputy min­is­ter Robert Con­stan­tine out­line gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal sit­u­a­tion prior to lis­ten­ing to sug­ges­tions on the 2010 bud­get in Carbonear Feb. 8. Denise Pike/The Com­pass

Denise Pike/The Com­pass

RECCOMENDATIONS - Wayne Lu­cas, left, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ployee (CUPE) New­found­land and Labrador and Mark Lane, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Coali­tion of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties give Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tom Mar­shall a wish list for fund­ing dur­ing a pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tion at Fong’s Mo­tel in Carbonear.

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