Every program under review, throne speech reveals
Tories say new formula will be developed for municipal spending
Newfoundland and Labrador announced Monday it will put every program and service it operates under scrutiny, as it deals with a tightening fiscal situation.
In a speech from the throne read by Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie, the Progressive Conservative government embraced a program of cautious spending and "sharpening the focus of the public service." [MORE: Read the full text of the speech from the throne here.]
The review, which will involve every department as well as the regional health authorities, is one of three priorities identified in the speech.
The second priority involves helping people, especially apprentices in the skilled trades, get work in their chosen fields.
"The third is to improve the conditions that give businesses and communities the power to grow," the speech said. The speech said it would help create "a healthy climate" for private investment, but did not divulge many details.
The spending review follows recent comments from Premier Kathy Dunderdale that have signalled a tighter control on spending in the years ahead.
The speech noted that revenues are expected to drop in the next two years because of the end of federal payments under the Atlantic Accord and maintenance-related downtime at two offshore oil fields.
However, the Tories said that drastic cuts are not in the wings.
"To achieve balanced budgets in those two years, the province would need to reduce expenditures so precipitously that critical services could be compromised," the speech said.
Dunderdale instead emphasized a longer-term fiscal plan, which will see all government programs come under review to see if they are needed, and are being delivered appropriately.
Meanwhile, the government indicated that appeals from St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe and others for a new tax regime may be heard, although the speech did not outline many details of what government has in mind.
"My government is developing a new formula for municipal support which recognizes the contemporary nature of municipal governance and is equitable and transparent," Crosbie told the house of assembly.
The throne speech emphasized various government priorities such as the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject and Dunderdale's aspirations to tackle overcapacity in the fishery.
"The fishery has been studied for decades," the speech said. "To effect change, we need the collective will to come together for a common purpose, to set aside old agendas and work together to address the core problems. My government is there."