A sense of what’s to come

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

The fact so many an­swers over­lapped from one meet­ing to the next as the con­sul­ta­tion process on New­found­land and Labrador’s fis­cal sit­u­a­tion reached this re­gion last week is il­lu­mi­nat­ing.

Granted, you’re talk­ing about a small sam­ple size with only 60-odd peo­ple will­ing to take time to sit down with oth­ers and dis­cuss what govern­ment should or shouldn’t be spend­ing money on. But there were com­mon ideas — re­gion­al­iza­tion, cuts at ad­min­is­tra­tive lev­els of govern­ment, travel cut­backs for politi­cians and civil ser­vants and the ex­plo­ration of pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships were among them.

Th­ese peo­ple gen­er­ally un­der­stand the re­al­ity of New­found­land and Labrador’s sit­u­a­tion. The dwin­dling price of oil leaves govern­ment with no choice but to con­sider mak­ing dra­matic changes. One needs to look no fur­ther than New Brunswick to get a sense of what’s in store for us.

Its deficit is fore­cast to hit $347 mil­lion in the new fis­cal year — less than 20 per cent of what New­found­land and Labrador is faced with. The mea­sures their govern­ment in­tro­duced ear­lier this month are far reach­ing. There’s a HST in­crease, high­way tolls, in­creased taxes, court­house clo­sures and a plan to elim­i­nate 4,500 jobs over three years.

Again, this is all hap­pen­ing in a prov­ince that’s not in near as bad a pickle as New­found­land and Labrador is. Th­ese cuts are bound to im­pact pub­lic ser­vices and the pock­et­books of res­i­dents.

If in­creased taxes be­come a re­al­ity here too, that will force peo­ple here to ad­just their bud­gets ac­cord­ingly. The Lib­er­als have con­firmed pub­lic sec­tor cuts are on the ta­ble. Those peo­ple will be forced to find work else­where, and maybe even out­side the prov­ince, lead­ing to a brain drain of sorts.

What if New­found­land and Labrador fol­lows New Brunswick’s lead and closes court­houses? Lo­gis­ti­cally, there’s a lot of land for the jus­tice sys­tem to cover. The proper court­house in Har­bour Grace is al­ready closed and in need of re­pairs that are in all like­li­hood quite costly. How else would it be for a build­ing that’s over 180 years old?

The govern­ment is now rent­ing space in the Babb Build­ing for court pro­ceed­ings. If it de­cided to move all cases heard in Har­bour Grace to St. John’s, that would place a con­sid­er­able strain on peo­ple in­volved in court mat­ters. Not ev­ery­one has the means to make it to St. John’s for an ap­pear­ance. Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion RCMP would also be in a tough spot al­lo­cat­ing the re­sources to get sus­pects out to the city. The law so­ci­ety in New Brunswick is al­ready la­bel­ing that prov­ince’s move to close court­houses ir­re­spon­si­ble.

If New Brunswick sees it fit to elim­i­nate 4,500 jobs, you fig­ure this prov­ince is look­ing at least that many cuts to the pub­lic sec­tor — as­sum­ing that wouldn’t prove too costly to pro­vid­ing ser­vices we rely on.

Dwight Ball has a lot to think about in the weeks ahead. Govern­ment has some tough de­ci­sions to make. Chances are, so will the gen­eral pub­lic once the next bud­get is in.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.