Paul Davis shouted down at anti-Liberal budget rally
Activists take aim at Liberal budget at Confederation Building rally
They gathered to protest a new Liberal budget, but protesters found themselves shouting down PC Leader Paul Davis when he tried to speak at a rally on Thursday.
The former premier got a poor reception when he ventured into a crowd of protesters — made up of union members, students and advocacy groups — who were protesting tax hikes and other austerity measures contained in last week's budget.
I'll talk to you. I'll try.- Opposition Leader Paul Davis
Davis took to the microphone with leaders of unions and community groups, but was almost drowned out by demonstrators when he tried to criticize Liberal Premier Dwight Ball.
"If you don't want to hear what I have to say, that's fine," an exasperated Davis eventually said.
"I'll talk to you. I'll try, yes ... There's some people in the back who want to hear what I have to say."
The rally, held on the Confederation Building steps, was a double-whammy for Davis. NDP Leader Lorraine Michael accidentally called out "shame on Paul Davis!," as he stood a few feet away from her at the rally.
Michael meant to criticize current Premier Dwight Ball, who took over from Davis after last November's election. She only corrected herself after it was pointed out by a yelling Davis sympathizer.
Davis had more than a few adversaries among the crowd on Thursday.
The Liberals, particularly Finance Minister Cathy Bennett, have criticized the last Progressive Conservative administration for creating a deep fiscal mess.
Demonstrators said, though, that the current Liberal government is not helping.
"This proposed budget will make things worse," said organizer Adam Pitcher, who introduced himself as "one of the 35,000 unemployed persons in the province right now."
"It will devastate our economy, and those who can't afford to get out will be driven into perpetual poverty," he said.
Finance Minister Cathy Bennett unveiled an array of tax hikes, fee increases and other controversial measures in last Thursday's budget, while also saying that further steps — which are expected to include deeper job cuts — will come in a fall mini-budget and in next spring's budget.
- Adam Pitcher
The new tax measures are expected to raise about $800-million for the government, but the province is still expected to post an expected deficit of $1.83 billion, largely due to a collapse in oil royalties and revenues.
Crowd chanting "4 years is all you'll get Newfoundlanders won't forget" <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcnl?src=hash">#cbcnl</a> <a href="https://t.co/I1ZIzlLcNd">pic.twitter.com/I1ZIzlLcNd</a>—@CBCMarkQuinn
One of the most controversial measures has been the deficit reduction levy, an income-based tax that will affect most residents in the province.
It starts at $300 for everyone making more than $25,000, but tops out at $900 for anyone making more than $202,500 a year.
Critics have charged the levy unfairly charges the poorer residents in the province, and the levy was one of the targets at Thursday's rally.
"Stick the levy. Stick it. It's terrible," said Tina Pretty, who was gathering signatures for a petition against the levy on Thursday.
"In good times, they were pretty quick to give businesses and higher-income people a break. But it didn't go in the reverse. That's what they should have looked at first."