Nfld. & Labrador

Deepening financial crisis means once-forbidden options on table: Cathy Bennett

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett is making no apologies that the Liberal government is now considering options it firmly ruled out in last fall's Newfoundland and Labrador election campaign.
Finance Minister Cathy Bennett says that the government has no choice but to consider options they had previously dismissed during last year's election campaign. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett is making no apologies that the Liberal government is now considering options it firmly ruled out in last fall's Newfoundland and Labrador election campaign.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday following a speech to the St. John's Board of Trade, Bennett was pressed hard on why the Liberals are now considering private-public partnerships to deliver government services.

The party rejected the concept just three months ago. 

"The situation is unprecedented ... We have to have a frank and open discussion about the many possibilities that we have to consider," she said. 

Bennett said the Liberals inherited a rapidly worsening financial problem when it won the Nov. 30 election. 

"The erosion of the situation in the last six months of last year into the first quarter of this year has exacerbated a problem that the former administration had been band-aiding for a number of years," she said. 

The Liberals notably cancelled a planned two-point hike to the harmonized sales tax immediately after winning the election, but now acknowledge that tax increases may be part of the budget that will be unveiled after the House of Assembly opens March 8. 

The government has already asked all its departments and agencies to look for ways to save 30 per cent of their funding.

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