Red ink

The Pilot - - Editorial - (Ret) Capt. Wil­fred Bartlett Green Bay South wil­f­bartlett@ hot­mail. com printed by re­quest)

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has spent most of its ten­ure telling us about the big hole the for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment dragged us into by build­ing a false econ­omy on one rev­enue source — oil.

Yes­ter­day, that same Lib­eral gov­ern­ment fell squarely into the same hole, and played the same tired magic trick the Tories used. Oil’s well, it seems, that ends well.

The ex­pected deficit for last year fell from $1.83 bil­lion to $1.08 bil­lion — but trim­ming ex­penses only ac­counted for $81 mil­lion of that to­tal.

The real changes? Get­ting $460 mil­lion more in oil rev­enues than the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment ex­pected, and $136.3 mil­lion in in­come from Nal­cor be­ing counted on the pro­vin­cial books.

In other words, sun­nier days through bet­ter oil num­bers.

But what’s re­ally sur­pris­ing is what isn’t in the bud­get.

There are still clearly some sur­prises to come. Some­how (it’s not spec­i­fied where), the gov­ern­ment still ex­pects to come up with more than a quar­ter of a bil­lion dol­lars in sav­ings — $283 mil­lion, in fact.

Man­age­ment and non-union staff are fac­ing a wage freeze after man­age­ment al­ready faced lay­offs, so it’s not hard to imag­ine what’s be­ing dis­cussed at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

But if you look at the bud­get’s state­ment for salaries and ex­penses, you’ll see that the re­vised salary num­bers for last year come in at $3.7 bil­lion. For next year, that num­ber is mag­i­cally low­ered to $3.3 bil­lion.

Some­where, some­how, the gov­ern­ment is ex­pect­ing its salaries and ben­e­fits tab to drop by $416 mil­lion in the up­com­ing year — yet isn’t talk­ing sig­nif­i­cant lay­offs. Whether that’s money and po­si­tions be­ing moved or changed, one-time pen­sion pay­ments or even, in part, one less paype­r­iod in the cal­en­dar year, isn’t clear. It does end up mak­ing the books look that much bet­ter.

The best anal­y­sis is that there are many pen­nies left to drop, es­pe­cially if you are a union­ized pro­vin­cial em­ployee who was ex­pect­ing some clar­ity on the prov­ince’s in­ten­tions where per­son­nel are con­cerned.

One cru­cial thing that hasn’t changed, and prob­a­bly will not change for a long, long time?

We still owe bil­lions of dol­lars in debt, and we’ll spend $778 mil­lion more this year than we are ex­pected to take in, in­creas­ing that longterm debt again.

The prov­ince’s net debt is go­ing to reach $15.2 bil­lion, and to­tal debt will come in at a hair un­der $21 bil­lion. Debt charges and fi­nan­cial ex­penses this year alone are ex­pected to be over $1 bil­lion — the sec­ond-largest ex­pense on the prov­ince’s books, larger even that the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor, and smaller only than health care.

That’s money head­ing out of our pock­ets and away, sig­nif­i­cant when you con­sider the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is only bud­get­ing off­shore roy­al­ties of $902 mil­lion.

The harsh re­al­ity is that all of the roy­al­ties for a one-time non-re­new­able re­source are be­ing pumped right into debt pay­ments.

Stay tuned.

This is in re­sponse to Sh­eryl Fink’s, di­rec­tor with the In­ter­na­tional Fund for An­i­mal Wel­fare, let­ter to the edi­tor ti­tled “Seal Herds Re­prieve is an An­nual Oc­cur­rence (not ex­actly true).

I am a de­scen­dant of Euro­peans who came to this Prov­ince many years ago, it hasn’t been an easy life try­ing to eke a liv­ing from the ocean. Ever since we have been here the seals has helped us to sur­vive by pro­vid­ing meat at a time of the year when food was scarce, pro­vid­ing oil and skins for boots, mitts, and leather for snow­shoes. I started very young hunt­ing seals with my grand­fa­ther, as soon as I was big enough to han­dle a set of pad­dles.

The hunt­ing of seals is just as im­por­tant to­day as it was in my grand­fa­ther’s day, it was part of how we sur­vived.

The ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties around our coast­lines are at a point of no re­turn be­cause of what is hap­pen­ing in our oceans.

As the late Alex Hick­man, a great New­found­lan­der and Labrado­rian said “the ocean is the back­bone of our ex­is­tence.”

We have up­set the bal­ance of na­ture in the ocean by fish­ing most ev­ery­thing to the break­ing point as we found out with the mora­to­rium on the North­ern cod 25 years ago.

In the ‘80s we were in­vaded by the anti-seal­ing groups who saw a great way to spread their pro­pa­ganda with the pic­ture of the baby seal, a great fund raiser and were able to de­stroy the mar­ket for seal prod­ucts at a time when our fish­eries were at an all-time low.

The seals have ex­ploded four­fold and is hav­ing a dra­matic ef­fect on what is left in the ocean and if this is not re­versed our fu­ture is doomed.

For years the anti-seal­ing groups have crit­i­cized us be­cause we were only sell­ing part of the an­i­mal but there is noth­ing we can do to ap­pease them as is proven this year. A small plant in Fleur de Lys has a mar­ket for the ma­ture seals and can sell all of the an­i­mal, this should be ap­plauded not crit­i­cized as was done in the let­ter of March 31.

In Canada his­tor­i­cally the com­mer­cial hunt­ing sea­son was Novem­ber 15 to May 15.

White coats are born late Fe­bru­ary and has a 12-day nurs­ery pe­riod, after that they are aban­doned and left on their own. Hunt­ing white coats has been banned since 1987 in this prov­ince and the hunt has usu­ally been closed from the late part of March un­til be­tween the 10-14 of April, each year could vary.

This was done with the co­op­er­a­tion and re­quest of the in­dus­try both hunters and pro­ces­sors be­cause the mar­ket has been for first year seals, and this could be the time seals would be in their prime, there­fore a greater re­turn from the mar­kets.

This year the com­pany from Fleur de Lys had a mar­ket partly filled with the older seal when DFO (Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans) shut down the hunt (in my mind with­out think­ing) or maybe they weren’t aware of this mar­ket.

I ap­plaud them for re­vers­ing that de­ci­sion al­though they were late and put the seal­ers into ter­ri­ble weather and very rough ice con­di­tions, the worst in many years. Seal­ing is a very hard and dan­ger­ous oc­cu­pa­tion as our his­tory has shown.

The hunters who were per­mit­ted to con­tinue were un­der strict reg­u­la­tions to stay away from the whelp­ing patch, as seals don’t breed un­til five years or later and do not be around the area when the older ones are breed­ing. There are plenty of seals out there that can be har­vested with­out in­ter­fer­ing as you stated dur­ing the crit­i­cal breed­ing and nurs­ing pe­riod.

We have been har­vest­ing seals for 500 years and has never put these an­i­mals in danger of ex­tinct, nor do we in­tend to, they are part of our ecosys­tem and very im­por­tant to the sur­vival of ru­ral New­found­land & Labrador.

It’s ironic as I’m writ­ing this let­ter I’m watch­ing a Land & Sea pro­gram about mak­ing seal skin prod­ucts on Change Is­lands.

The seal­ing in­dus­try is the most reg­u­lated hunt on the planet.

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