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.
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.