Charlene Johnson sees debt as key priority as budget looms
Newly minted finance minister Charlene Johnson will be closely watching pre-budget consultations that begin Friday and continue through a series of meetings into mid-February.
Johnson, whom Premier Tom Marshall selected to succeed him in the finance portfolio during a shuffle on Wednesday, said she is looking forward to what people have to say, but emphasizes that the province needs to keep its spending in line.
"We need to be fiscally responsible," she said.
"We need to spend within our means and when you look at our net debt it is a little over $8 billion. So we need to look at that as well and do what is right for future generations to come."
The pre-budget hearings start in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor. Sessions that had been planned earlier this week were postponed, and are being rescheduled. Johnson will chair some of the consultations, while other cabinet ministers will lead others.
Internal work on the budget started last fall.
No date has been set for the next budget, which Marshall has earlier said will involve a deficit. The governing Tories are aiming to have a balanced budget by 2015.
Johnson said she will be busy preparing the budget.
"I try and take things day by day, hour by hour, and really get down and focus. So, there's a lot of information to come forward and I'm looking forward to hear from stakeholders," she said.