MHAs return to house amid budget chill
Members of Newfoundland and Labrador's legislature were returning to their seats Thursday, in advance of a budget that is expected to cut spending dramatically.
A date for the budget has not yet been set, although Government House Leader Darin King says plans to curb spending will not necessarily set the tone for the spring session at the house of assembly.
"I don't think I'd count on lots of gloom," said King, who is also the minister of justice in the provincial government.
"We're using this as an opportunity to right-size government. We have some fiscal challenges ahead that we have to address."
The governing Tories have been warning for months that spending cuts, layoffs and reductions in some services will be made during the budget, and have already pushed forward with some staff cuts.
On Wednesday, about two dozen people learned their positions were being cut. The decisions were made in the departments of finance, environment and conservation, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
Nine of the jobs were union positions.
The cuts bring to almost 60 the number of layoffs that have been made in recent days in the public service.
The government put a hiring freeze into effect in February, and MHAs have already put a freeze on their wages that will last until after the election in 2015.
NDP critic Dale Kirby said the forthcoming budget will include cuts that will hurt people.
"I think we're in a really difficult period here," he said. "Some of the most vulnerable people in Newfoundland and Labrador are going to be hurt by the decisions that will come down in the next few weeks."
King, though, said the Opposition has been trying to inflame things.
"I don't like the fear-mongering. I don't like those kinds of political tactics," he said.