Nfld. & Labrador

Humber-Bay of Islands Liberal association president quits in disgust over budget

The head of a district Liberal association in western Newfoundland has quit because of last week's budget, saying it destroyed any hope the people of the province had left.

Budget destroyed any hope people had left, says Barry Wheeler

Barry Wheeler has stepped down from the Liberal Association in Humber-Bay of Islands because he strongly disagrees with the provincial budget. (Submitted photo)

The head of a district Liberal association in western Newfoundland has quit because of last week's budget, saying it destroyed any hope the people of the province had left.

Barry Wheeler, president of the Humber-Bay of Islands Liberal Association, has written MHAs slamming the budget's tax and fee hikes, calling it a "horrible and disgusting" document.

"I'm really struggling with this... I'm contemplating just stepping back from the political scene just for a little bit," Wheeler told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"I just don't think, really, that this budget addresses the underlying issues that the province faces right now … What this budget actually does is increase spending, drive us further into debt and I don't think it truly does anything to stimulate the economy."

Destroyed hope 

Wheeler said he campaigned hard to get the Liberals re-elected, putting his "reputation on the line when knocking on doors, staking signs and getting the vote out." 

Now, he said, this government has "broken the backs of the average Newfoundlander & Labradorian."

'I want to see people have hope, to feel better about what's going on and I don't see that here.'      - Barry Wheeler

In his letter, Wheeler said the budget "killed whatever chance that our fragile economy had to recover" by taxing the "poor, working poor and middle class."

Everything government has done "flies in the face of sound economic practice, sound financial practice and proper governance in the wake of the financial crisis," he wrote.

"The day after the budget was released, what really hit home to me was … I had a senior within our community actually come up to me and say that they're going to have to make tough choices whether it's eat this winter coming, to have food, or to pay for government's mismanagement," he said.

"I mean this gentlemen, he simply teared up in his eyes and it just really hit home to me how bad that things were actually in this province.

Band-aid solution

Wheeler said he's presently studying political economics and did some budget math of his own using several scenarios involving average families and was shocked by the numbers.

'I'm just not sure if this is the thing to do, if they're trying to simply do the quick fix and pull the band-aid off all in one shot so that we get over the pain.' - Barry Wheeler

He has a real problem with how much tax is actually going to come out of people's pockets. 

"I do question why we were taxed and so heavily and why things were applied so heavily to ... the people who actually drive the economy and we weren't looking for more ways to cut spending," he said.

"Why did we have to increase spending by 12 per cent when it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that we've had a spending problem — and we've had a spending problem for the last 10 years?" 

"I've taken it on the chin and I know I'm gonna lose friends and I'm going to be criticized … I'm just not sure if this is the thing to do, if they're trying to simply do the quick fix and pull the band-aid off all in one shot so that we get over the pain in the first year or the first two years," he said.

"I'm probably a very fiscally conservative Liberal ... I promote social programs, I promote social well-being, I want to see people have hope, to feel better about what's going on and I don't see that here and I'm lost as to why this approach is taken."

Bay of Islands MHA responds

The Liberal MHA for Bay of Islands Eddie Joyce responded to Wheeler's comments at the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

"I know Barry very well, I know his family very well, he's been a personal friend of mine for 35, 40 years."

"Barry has his opinion on the way things should be done, I respect that opinion," said Joyce.

He said the government could have done a better job of explaining the budget to the general public. 

"There's information that we got to get out there about this budget that hasn't been put out there."

Joyce said the senior that voiced his concerns about the budget would actually qualify for quarterly cheques and rebates.

Regardless of their disagreement, Joyce said he and Wheeler would still stay friends. 

"I'll still go to his house drinking tea. We're going to lunch this Friday."

"I will never ask anyone to stifle what they feel, how they think, because of my friendship or political connections."

With files from St. John's Morning Show