Province fac­ing ‘sig­nif­i­cant deficits’

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy starts pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tions in Car­bon­ear

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE COM­PASS

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy held court at Fong’s Restau­rant in Car­bon­ear for pre­bud­get con­sul­ta­tions with the gen­eral pub­lic on Feb. 15.

Thir­teen speak­ers pre­sented on a va­ri­ety of topics that in­cluded is­sues sur­round­ing se­niors, the work­force, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and care for ad­dicts.

Kennedy ad­dressed each speaker in kind, took note of his or her con­cerns and said he would bring the is­sues back to his col­leagues in government.

“I wish there was a way to give ev­ery­one ev­ery­thing that they needed be­cause I know the great work that peo­ple do out there,” he said.

The event in Car­bon­ear came just a day af­ter the pro­vin­cial government an­nounced its fi­nan­cial forecast for the next cou­ple of years.

The forecast an­tic­i­pates the province will have a $3.2 bil­lion short­fall by April of 2015.

With fore­casted deficits of $1.6 bil­lion next year and the year af­ter, it would al­most dou­ble the $726 mil­lion short­fall star­ing at the government this year.

Com­par­a­tively, all prov­inces with the ex­cep­tion of Saskatchewan ran a deficit in 2012. Saskatchewan had a sur­plus of ap­prox­i­mately $56 mil­lion.

“What’s hap­pened as a government is that we have less money coming in,” said Kennedy. “Over the last num­ber of years, we’ve in­creased spend­ing and our rev­enues have de­creased.

“If we do not in­crease rev­enues or re­duce ex­pen­di­tures then we’re look­ing at sig­nif­i­cant deficits for the next two years.”

The re­duced rev­enues come in the form of lower taxes and At­lantic Ac­cord fund­ing.

Kennedy said taxes have de­creased by $500 mil­lion since 2007, and 2012 saw the fi­nal At­lantic Ac­cord pay­ment, which was an­other $500 mil­lion-plus in the pock­ets of government.

I wish there was a way to give ev­ery­one ev­ery­thing that they needed be­cause I know the great work that

peo­ple do out there.

In 2004, some 22 per cent of New­found­land’s rev­enue came from equal­iza­tion pay­ments from the fed­eral government.

“We get zero to­day,” said Kennedy. “It’s a very sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in rev­enue.”

Kennedy also counts a de­crease in rev­enue gen­er­ated from oil as a rea­son that con­trib­utes to the deficit.

Also, in 2012 there was 20 mil­lion less bar­rels of oil pro­duced.

“At $100 a bar­rel, that’s a lot of money,” said Kennedy.

Spend­ing-wise, Kennedy said that in the 10-year span be­tween 2003 and 2013 spend­ing in­creased from $3.8 bil­lion to $6.7 bil­lion. That is a 80 per cent in­crease.

In 2012, the pro­vin­cial government spent $2.9 bil­lion on health and $1.2 bil­lion on ed­u­ca­tion.

“A big chunk of our bud­get went to health and ed­u­ca­tion,” said Kennedy.

The fi­nance min­is­ter also high­lighted an in­creased ded­i­ca­tion to im­prov­ing the in­fra­struc­ture in New­found­land and Labrador.

“We’ve re­built the province, to a cer­tain ex­tent,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy said he ex­pects to hear the same kind of con­cerns in the rest of the pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tions around the province, which pick up again in Stephenville and Cor­ner Brook on Feb. 18.

“I am not sur­prised that peo­ple are coming for­ward and putting for­ward your re­quests, it’s the pas­sion that you bring into this that makes this province such a good place to live,” he said.

nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Bac­calieu Trail Se­niors Outreach Of­fice project co­or­di­na­tor Marie Ryan (left) and ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee chair­per­son Cathy Klein­wort present to Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy dur­ing a pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing at Fong’s Restau­rant in Car­bon­ear on Feb. 14.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy ad­dresses the crowd at a pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing at Fong’s Restau­rant in Car­bon­ear on Feb. 14.

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