Changes to provincial fiscal update 'quite scary', says head of employers' council
Richard Alexander says current spending is unsustainable
Following the change in message regarding the fall fiscal update from Premier Dwight Ball on Tuesday, the head of the province's employer's council is concerned with what Richard Alexander calls government's lack of action.
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"It was disappointing and it was actually quite scary," said Alexander, executive director of Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council.
Alexander said both the premier and finance minister have acknowledged that the province is in a "fiscal crisis" and he feels that these sorts of crises require immediate action.
Public sector workers have been anticipating a rough secondary budget this fall, but Ball said this week it would only be a fiscal update.
"It looks like they're more than willing to push this crisis off and not do anything about it, and that's not in the best interest of this province or our government," he said.
We are still spending $1.8 billion more than what we're taking in in revenue as a province, that's unsustainable.- Richard Alexander
Alexander said it's important to update the province's fiscal status, as taxes have increased and made personal tax burdens the highest in the country, while spending has also increased.
"Organizations like [the Newfoundland and Labrador Employer's Council] — and I believe the people of the province — believe that it's unfair that government looks to the taxpayer to find savings in their own budget while government is unwilling to look for cost savings in its own operating budgets," he said.
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Something has to give when it comes to the province's spending, according to Alexander, or the province's fiscal troubles will only get worse.
"We are still spending $1.8 billion more than what we're taking in [for] revenue as a province, that's unsustainable," he said.
"If they don't get a hold of this spending issue that they have, we will be back here in March at the next budget talking about more tax increases."
Alexander said people want a balance between cutting and spending, and the province is now paying a heavy price just to service its debt.
"We're sending more than $500 million out of this province just in interest on the province's credit card," he said.
"That's more than we spend on education. Is that balance? I don't think so."
'A measured approach'
NAPE President Jerry Earle doesn't share Alexander's concern, however.
Earle said that he, and many others, are relieved that government will have the opportunity to measure the effects of the spring budget before moving forward.
"We recognize that there's a problem. It has to be a measured approach, we're not going to solve the situation that we're in now in a short time frame by throwing thousands of people out of work," Earle said.
"I think a guarded approach to it is a desirable one to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."
With files from the St. John's Morning Show