Nfld. & Labrador

Filibuster of Liberal budget barrels into Thursday afternoon, cancelling question period again

In what is one of the longest filibuster in Newfoundland and Labrador's history, the opposition continues into day four of a filibuster of the Liberal budget.
Progressive Conservative MHA Steve Kent reads aloud on email sent in by a woman unhappy with the Liberal budget. (House of Assembly)

The filibuster at Newfoundland and Labrador's legisature was still going strong Thursday afternoon, with the cancellation of question period 

In what is now one of the longest filibusters in Newfoundland and Labrador's history, the opposition is on its fourth day of drawing out debate on the Liberals' controversial budget.

Opposition members, often with bleary eyes, have been speaking, reading emails and providing feedback from constituents displeased with tax hikes and spending hikes in the spring budget. 

Liberal ministers and backbenchers, for their part, have fired back with speeches that criticized what they called a financial disaster they inherited from the former Tory government. 

MHA Steve Kent took the floor around 5:30 a.m., praising Advanced Education and Skills Minister Gerry Byrne for his intent listening skills. 

"I want to once again congratulate him on literally hanging on every word that the member said. I'm watching him now once again and he's reflecting on my contribution to the debate as well," said Kent.

It seemed that Byrne was sound asleep.

The filibuster is an exhausting ordeal for the members, as Thursday morning was the end of the third all-nighter session.

Kent himself tweeted Wednesday morning about stepping out for a nap.

The filibuster started around 8 p.m. Monday and went straight through Tuesday 1 p.m. — and only stopped when Government House Leader Andrew Parsons stopped debate to report progress.

Early Thursday morning, the House of Assembly live video feed showed members were still speaking, reading aloud emails and feedback from constituents.

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett took the floor to respond to some of what's been read out in those emails.

"Believe me, I have read the emails that have been provided to me and that people have sent and I understand that people of the province are angry," said Bennett.

However, she said there was serious action that needed to be taken — just so the province could afford to make payments on its debt to avoid what she said would have been a fiscal crisis.

"We spend more on debt expenses than we do on educating our children," she said.

"I don't believe any member … wants us to spend more on debt expense just servicing it, than we do on the children in our province."

The province's finances were so bad, she said, that it was nearing a point where someone else would have had to step in to manage the coffers, taking away the province's ability to make its own decisions on spending.

Premier Dwight Ball said Wednesday he had no plans to force the filibuster to end, calling it "democracy in action."