Kennedy crows over latest bank scorecard on economy

Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy uses a glowing report from the Bank of Montreal as proof that the government's economic plan is working.

Minister's summary of BMO report fails to impress Opposition

Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy, seen outside the house of assembly in April, embraced the findings of a new BMO economic report. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's finance minister on Thursday used a glowing report from the Bank of Montreal as proof that the government's economic plan is working.

Jerome Kennedy told the house of assembly that a BMO report this week found "in referencing our economy, that 'the recurring theme for Newfoundland and Labrador is consistent strength.'"

Kennedy, who has been defending a tough, job-cutting budget at the legislature, said the report noted that consumer confidence remains strong in Newfoundland and Labrador, as does confidence among business owners.

He said the report also "demonstrates how prudent fiscal management by the provincial government and investments in equity shares in projects such as Muskrat Falls and Hebron are benefiting residents of our province now and into the future."

Kennedy reminded the legislature that the BMO report underscored that capital investment will remain strong in the coming year, and that most other economic indicators are positive.

"The report also highlighted that the jobless rate sits near a record low, and that average weekly earnings growth is also strong, supporting personal incomes and consumer spending," Kennedy said.

'Spin, spin, spin'

Opposition leaders, though, were not impressed by Kennedy's summation.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said that Kennedy's budget in March dealt a tough blow to the economy.

"I am afraid all I have to say, Mr. Speaker, is spin, spin, spin," said Michael, who discounted Kennedy's claim that there has never been a better time to live, work or raise a family in the province.

"That may be true, unless you have been fired from your job by this government, unless you are a student trying to get into an [adult basic education] course to improve your employment chances, unless you are hoping to piece your life back together through the Family Violence Intervention Court, or unless any other of the tens of thousands hurt by government’s brutal budget includes you," she said.

Michael also said while the BMO report did mention Hebron and Muskrat Falls, it did not highlight the equity stake that the government holds in each.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said while outside investment in natural resources remains strong, secondary processing is lagging, and that the "final chapter on Muskrat Falls, of course, has yet to be told" because of potential cost overruns.

"There are also many social issues you have to deal with," Ball told the house.

"No matter where you go in this province now…many people living here are experiencing many of the social problems with affordable housing and we are seeing drug use on the rise. We must continue to be vigilant about our social programs and make sure we put the proper programs in place to deal with those social issues," said Ball.