Nfld. & Labrador

Budget forces taxpayers to take on N.L's deficit burden, says employers' council

The province's employers' council says the current Liberal government didn't create the economic problem it's facing but it has decided to try to solve it by reaching into taxpayers' wallets.
Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council executive director Richard Alexander reacts to the 2016 provincial budget. (CBC)

The province's employers' council says the current Liberal government didn't create the economic problem it's facing but it is trying to solve it by reaching into taxpayers' wallets.

"I think [the government] is accurate in saying that this is a problem that they inherited," said Richard Alexander, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council. "Unfortunately for them, they are the ones in place to fix it and they have chosen to fix it by passing the burden for the fiscal situation on to the taxpayers."

"The tax increases today, I think, are historically high. It's going to be a tough sell for the public when they see they are having 4000 to 6000 dollars extra taken out of their wallets every year."

Public sector cuts not deep enough

The budget includes measures to reduce the civil service by 650 full-time equivalent positions. The employers council was calling for deeper public sector cuts.

"I think we would have liked to have heard a lot more than that," said Alexander.

He said there are aspects of the government's approach that the employers council does like.

One of them is a pledge that the government will announce more measures to address the deficit next fall.

"The fact that they are taking time to do this correctly, to restructure, they have talked about partnerships with the private sector, they've talked about consolidation of services — all the things that we have been asking for," he said.

You can't punish the business sector into growing the economy.- Richard Alexander

He disagrees that taxes targeting corporations should be part of the solution.

"Corporate profits are at a fifteen-year low in this province. Businesses are closing up. People are losing jobs. You can't punish the business sector into growing the economy," Alexander said.

"The fear is now the government has created this very large revenue stream and that is going to take the pressure off for them to look for and find more savings."