Nfld. & Labrador

Budget backlash: Our audience's choice for the top news story of 2016

We asked our audience to rank the most compelling news stories of 2016. Find out how they voted.

Katarina Roxon’s Paralympic triumph ranks 2nd in CBC Newfoundland and Labrador survey

Posters calling for Dwight Ball's resignation appeared near Confederation Building in St. John's. (Laura Howells/CBC)

With fee hikes, a doubled gas tax, income tax increases and a lengthy list of spending cuts, the April 14 provincial budget was unquestionably harsh — but so too was the harshness of the public reaction. Union leaders immediately called it a betrayal, anger was unleashed on social media and open-line shows, and the first of numerous public rallies was staged within 48 hours.

The backlash over the budget clearly emerged as the top choice among CBC Newfoundland and Labrador audience members as the key news story of the year. Thousands of people cast votes in our annual, informal survey, with no other option garnering as many votes. 

Premier Dwight Ball was the focus of much of the wrath over the budget, in part because the decisions in the budget — which projected a whopping deficit of $1.83 billion, despite tax hikes and spending cuts — underscored two key broken election promises. Before he won a provincial election the previous November, Ball had insisted he would neither allow a HST hike nor lay off public servants.

Posters were put up on light posts around Confederation Building in St. John's over the weekend. 3:25

Posters calling for Ball's resignation lined St. John's utility poles, unions and other advocates organized rallies from one end of the province to the other, and Ball's government struggled to explain how its hands were tied because of inherited financial problems and a dramatic loss of oil-related revenue.

The consequences have lasted for months. While the provincial Liberals made up some lost ground in public opinion polls, Ball ranked second-last in a survey of popularity of the Canadian premiers.

Katarina Roxon

In just over 79 seconds, Katarina Roxon made history this September. Swimming in the 100-metre breaststroke at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Roxon won her first gold medal … and shaved more than two seconds off her personal best, to boot.

Katarina Roxon came back in the second half of the women's 100-metre breaststroke SB8 final to win gold on Wednesday in Rio. The medal is the first of her Paralympic career. 1:08

The public reaction was enormous, including a large crowd that welcomed her at St. John's International Airport.  "I'm just in awe right now," said Roxon. "This is actually amazing. This has never been done for me before." On the same day, she learned Route 490, near her home community of Kippens, was being renamed Roxon Way.

Quinn Butt

It was a tragedy that shook not just a neighbourhood but the very province to the core. In April, firefighters pulled the body of Quinn Butt, 5, from the wreckage of her family home in Carbonear. The story quickly took an even darker turn, when police charged her father, Trent Butt, with first-degree murder and arson.

The death of Quinn Butt, 5, caused shock far beyond her neighbourhood in Carbonear. (Submitted)

The community responded with immense empathy for Quinn's memory and for her family, mourning her at a massive vigil, remembering her at fundraising events, and building a playground that now carries her name.

Fort McMurray wildfires

For several days in May, our screens were filled with sometimes surreal images from Fort McMurray, where raging wildfires threatened and ultimately destroyed part of the oil-producing community. With a large population originally from Newfoundland and Labrador - not to mention thousands who commute to work in the region - the disaster touched countless families thousands of miles away.

Beaumont-Hamel 100

One hundred years to the day, on July 1, tens of thousands of people stood in solemn ceremony to mark one of the darkest chapters in local history: the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel. As part of the bloody opening of the Battle of the Somme in the First World War, Beaumont-Hamel meant the devastation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, not to mention the small dominion that insisted it would build its own force to fight what no one thought would be a complicated war. You can see CBC's five-hour live special on the ceremonies in the player above.

Ed Martin

Something seemed amiss when Ed Martin stepped down as Nalcor Energy's chief executive officer in April.

Ed Martin stepped down as Nalcor Energy's chief executive officer while under heavy political pressure this spring. (Rob Antle/CBC)

After all, the Liberal government had only just days before fired a broadside against Nalcor's leadership over how the Muskrat Falls megaproject has been managed. It emerged that Martin and the Nalcor board felt he was being dismissed on the government's behest, and that he was therefore eligible for a package of severance and retirement payouts worth about $6 million.

Boondoggle

Stan Marshall, who replaced Ed Martin at the helm of Crown-owned Nalcor Energy, didn't hestitate when asked early this summer whether Muskrat Falls could now be called a boondoggle. Yes, replied Marshall, who noted that costs of the project had grown by more than $4 billion above and beyond the original $7.4 billion projection of 2012.

Make Muskrat Right

Cost concerns were not the only thing to dog Muskrat Falls this year. A community-led campaign called Make Muskrat Right took aim at the potential threat of methylmercury in the waters of what will be Muskrat's flooded reservoir.

Don Dunphy

Fulfilling an election promise, the Liberals called a judicial inquiry into the fatal shooting of Mitchells Brook resident Don Dunphy in his house on Easter Sunday in 2015. Testimony will open in the New Year, while the commission — headed by Supreme Court Justice Leo Barry — released key reports in the late fall. They included an external RCMP investigation that determined RNC officer Joe Smyth used appropriate force when he shot Dunphy after seeing Dunphy raise a rifle.

Economy slump

Oil prices began a steep decline in 2014, but the impact of what has been a prolonged trough has been felt deeply in Newfoundland and Labrador's economy. The provincial government is managing with significantly less royalty revenue, companies in and far beyond the oilpatch have had to scale back, and the unemployment rate this winter hit 16.8 per cent.

The next 15 

The following news stories ranked 11 through 25 in our annual audience survey: 

11. Bay de Verde, Norman's Cove fish plants burn in spectacular fires just three months apart

12. Deficit reduction levy introduced in spring budget, scaled back just weeks later for lower-income residents

13. Steven Miller homicide: Four men charged after Miller's body is found at end of driveway in a quiet Conception Bay South neighbourhood in July

14. Come From Away: Broadway-bound musical previews in Gander, as actors meet real-life inspirations

15. Library closures emerge as hot-button issue as provincial government scales back rural service to save money

16. Cape Spear rocked by tragedy when four men die at sea in September

17. MHA pensions: Rookie politicians quietly grandfathered into more lucrative plan during December vote

18. Mustard pickles: Discontinuation of popular Zest and Habitant condiment becomes water-cooler story of the year

19. Spaniard's Bay fire department thrown into disarray amid allegations of sexism, playing of porn video in training exercise

20. Malcolm Rowe becomes first judge from Newfoundland and Labrador to be appointed to Supreme Court of Canada

21. Mental health: Death of Hailey Baker, who made a dramatic suicide attempt on Signal Hill months earlier, brings attention to services and treatment

22. Mistaken Point named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its impressive array of fossils

23. Five-year sentence prompts outrage in case of Christopher Butt, who raped an 11-year-old girl

24. Exit Realty on the Rock collapses; owner Anne Squires charged in late fall with fraud and other charges

25. Retailers face shaky times; several Water Street businesses, including 150-year-old Templeton's, close within weeks

About the Author

John Gushue

CBC News

John Gushue is the digital senior producer with CBC News in St. John's.