When was the fi­nance min­is­ter go­ing to tell us?

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Keith Hutch­ings, MHA Fer­ry­land Op­po­si­tion Fi­nance Critic

It is in­ter­est­ing that Fi­nance Min­is­ter Cathy Ben­nett launched pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tions while not re­veal­ing to the peo­ple of the prov­ince what she knew about $140 mil­lion in HST over­pay­ments that Ot­tawa was plan­ning to claw back from New­found­land and Labrador.

In fact, even af­ter oth­ers broke the news, the min­is­ter has still not given the full im­pact of the claw­back on this year’s bot­tom line.

Ben­nett has said she al­ready bud­geted for a claw­back of $89 mil­lion this year? When was she made aware of this need? Has she amended this fis­cal year’s bud­get or is she re­fer­ring to the pro­jected bud­get for next fis­cal year?

Was she aware of this at the fall fis­cal up­date?

Ben­nett has said she didn’t ex­pect the ac­tual amount to be higher than $89 mil­lion? When did she learn the ac­tual amount, and why didn’t she dis­close it at the time?

How much will the prov­ince have clawed back in the com­ing year? Why hasn’t Min­is­ter Ben­nett dis­closed this crit­i­cal piece of in­for­ma­tion?

What is the prov­ince do­ing to have that claw­back de­ferred, drawn out, re­duced or com­pletely for­given?

Af­ter all, the other At­lantic prov­inces are re­ceiv­ing a to­tal of $3.8 bil­lion in equal­iza­tion in 2017 while we get noth­ing, even though our own rev­enues are sharply down just as other prov­inces’ rev­enues are.

But the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment would rather dou­ble gas tax, tax in­sur­ance, levy res­i­dents to live here, in­crease in­come tax and a whole lot more, rather than ask their fed­eral cousins to re­visit an equal­iza­tion for­mula which needs to be amended. And by the way, the 338 mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (seven Lib­er­als from New­found­land and Labrador) do have the abil­ity to amend leg­is­la­tion for those who say it can­not be changed un­til 2019.

Why is the min­is­ter keep­ing our peo­ple in the dark about these crit­i­cal de­tails while the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment claims to be con­sult­ing on The Way For­ward?

The fi­nance min­is­ter and her col­leagues ap­pear to be re­peat­ing the mis­takes they made last year, when they crushed our econ­omy with ex­or­bi­tant tax in­creases, de­lay­ing needed ac­tion, dis­cour­ag­ing pri­vate in­vest­ment and no bal­anced ap­proach to gov­ern­ing.

By not dis­clos­ing all the facts, the min­is­ter is again feed­ing the un­cer­tainty of a cred­i­ble fi­nan­cial plan for our prov­ince and shak­ing con­fi­dence in our econ­omy and busi­ness lead­ers.

This is not the way to drive growth. It is a recipe we saw in Bud­get 2016 and has not proved suc­cess­ful.

The HST over­pay­ment is a sign that our econ­omy is suf­fer­ing and un­der­per­form­ing — that is ex­actly what we pre­dicted would fol­low Bud­get 2016 which was full of tax and fee in­creases and no plan to re­duce ex­pen­di­tures.

The Ball Lib­er­als have failed dis­mally to cre­ate a cli­mate for pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment to drive eco­nomic and em­ploy­ment growth. The growth plan they promised from their “cap­tains of in­dus­try” has never ma­te­ri­al­ized.

This Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is ac­tu­ally hold­ing the pri­vate sec­tor back by lurch­ing from cri­sis to cri­sis with­out any strat­egy to lead our econ­omy for­ward.

Af­ter more than a year of “con­sult­ing,” the gov­ern­ment has still not ar­rived at a mean­ing­ful plan of ac­tion.

That’s not sur­pris­ing when the gov­ern­ment’s “con­sul­ta­tions” do not in­volve telling peo­ple the ex­tent of the chal­lenges, such as a $140-mil­lion claw­back from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

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