Change of tone: Dwight Ball refuses to use term 'supplemental budget'
Premier says there will not be big cuts in anticipated fall fiscal update, but changes are coming
The terms "mini-budget" or "supplemental budget" appear to have fallen out of favour within the provincial government, with Premier Dwight Ball's refusal to use either during a scrum with reporters Tuesday suggesting a change in message.
The premier is now referring to the much-anticipated next phase of the government's so-called renewal initiative as the fall fiscal update, the same language used by previous governments.
"What you will not get this fall will be something in the House of Assembly that opens up this large budget discussion that we would normally see around a budget time. This is not what this is," Ball said while addressing reporters at Memorial University in St. John's.
'Not only about cuts'
The government also announced late Tuesday afternoon that the update will come in late October, with an official date to be announced in the coming weeks.
It's a change of tone for a government trying to grapple with an unprecedented fiscal situation, including a projected $1.8-billion deficit this year.
So what does this mean?
Is there no longer a need for the same kind of "decisive actions" we saw in the spring budget?
Ball refused to lay out any specifics, but seemed to allay concerns that an axe is about to fall on public sector workers, saying "big cuts" are not in the offing.
However, he said his government must be fiscally responsible.
"We have a responsibility … to make sure that we offer services … in the most cost-effective way. These are not only about cuts. These are about how we change delivery, how we deliver services."
Finance minister promised 'decisive actions'
When Finance Minister Cathy Bennett brought down the painful 2016 budget this past April, it included a wide range of tax and fee increases and job cuts.
In her speech, Bennett said the budget would be followed by more actions in a "supplemental budget," in conjunction with the traditional fall fiscal update.
It appears that supplemental budget is now being shelved, though Ball wouldn't say that outright.
He said the update will include measures related to the delivery of government services, and what he promised would be "fair and meaningful" discussions with public sector unions as new collective agreements are negotiated.
He said the update will include more details than we've seen from previous governments, though he still can't say exactly when it will be.
"What we will be doing this fall is updating Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on the progress that we have made, and of course this will lead into next year's budget. So this is really an update of the progress that we've made, both on the budget in April and where we are with the economic indicators on a go-forward basis."