N.L. to pay out $852K to cut civil service, Dwight Ball says

Premier Dwight Ball says the administration of the former Progressive Conservative government could accommodate a province the size of Ontario — and that's why he cut the top jobs in the civil service by 19 per cent.

Reorganisation also puts Liberals into civil service positions

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says the province should not bank on a financial bailout from Ottawa, noting "we've got to do this on our own." (CBC)

Premier Dwight Ball has appointed three former Liberal candidates to top jobs in the civil service as part of a reorganization.

The appointments come despite election promises to take patronage out of the process.

Lynn Sullivan ran for the Liberals in St. John's Centre in last year's election and lost. She's now an assistant deputy minister in Natural Resources and was previously deputy director of Legal Aid.

George Joyce ran for the party in 2011 and is related to cabinet minister Eddie Joyce. He's now a deputy minister in the Human Resources Secretariat.

"They both bring experience, and they certainly bring the knowledge to do those jobs," Ball told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show on Thursday.

Ball also appointed veteran RNC officer Paula Walsh as an assistant deputy minister in the Department of Justice and Public Safety. She ran for the Liberals in 1999, as Paula Buckle.

Premier Dwight Ball has appointed former Liberal candidates Lynn Sullivan, George Joyce and Paula Walsh to top civil service jobs.

"This would not be seen primarily as political patronage and all; this is putting people in that have the experience and the knowledge to do what needs to be done," Ball said.

During the election the Liberals promised to remove patronage from the appointment process. The government has put in place an independent appointments commission to oversee the top jobs at agencies, boards and commissions but it doesn't cover these core civil service appointments.

Changes part of cost cutting

Ball says the former Progressive Conservative government egregiously grew its administration to one that could accommodate a province the size of Ontario — and that's why he shrank the top jobs in the civil service by 19 per cent this week.

"Speaking to many of my colleagues and premiers in other provinces … we quickly found out that we could do this smaller," Ball said.

He announced Wednesday that five deputy ministers were let go and some government agencies have been rolled into departments. Ball said his government is taking cues from smaller provinces like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. 

It's been a hard few months for Ball, who's been the target of resignation posters shared all over St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"[Newfoundlanders and Labradorians] would rather see their money go towards front-line services than they would see it at the executive level," he said.

"And they would much rather see it go to front-line services than they would to debt servicing."

According to Ball, the cuts are effective immediately and government will pay out $852,000 to civil servants in lieu of notices.

Government is still calculating what it will pay out in severance and saved vacation days, but Ball estimates all money will be recouped within a year.

"It's not enough. We still face a $1.8 billion deficit in our province. These are challenges like we've never seen before," he said.

"The challenge for me is that we not waste tax payer's money."

This comes after Ball made extensive changes to his own office, replacing many senior political staff last week.

John Abbott returns

When questioned about the appointment of John Abbott, who was deputy minister prior to the Cameron Inquiry, Ball defended the new deputy minister of health and community services.

John Abbott has been appointed the new deputy minister of health and community services.

Ball said zero of the 60 recommendations made following the Inquiry called for Abbott to step down.

"Well, you know, it's a small province in some ways … Mr. Abbott, I think, is a great fit for that department right now and I look forward to working with him."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.