Get ready for 'revolution between the ears': Marshall
End of getting equalization will be psychologically profound, minister says
Newfoundland and Labrador's finance minister says the province should be off equalization in 2009, and better lose the reputation that has dogged it for almost six decades.
"We were always the poor cousin of Confederation," Tom Marshall told a media briefing before bringing down a record-busting budget in St. John's on Tuesday.
Marshall said many people in Newfoundland and Labrador have become used to criticism from the rest of the country for "being on welfare" and dependent on others.
"Those days are over. We're going to be an economic driver of this country," Marshall said.
"This will commence a revolution between the ears."
For the coming fiscal year, Newfoundland and Labrador is expecting to receive only $17.9 million in equalization and other federal transfers, or just 0.3 per cent of its overall revenues.
Marshall said it is possible that Newfoundland and Labrador could move off equalization — a federally funded program that helps maintain a standard level of public services across the country — during the current fiscal year.
However, he said many factors, including the economic performance of other provinces, need to be taken into account first.
Marshall said that becoming a "have" province will mean a mighty shift in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in its efforts to lure new industry to the province.
Tuesday's budget forecasts the fourth surplus in a row, and includes a series of tax cuts. When a one-per-cent cut in personal income tax rates takes effect in July, he said, Newfoundland and Labrador will have the fourth-lowest tax regime in the country.
Anticipating a move off equalization has been a goal of Newfoundland and Labrador politicians since Hibernia, the province's first offshore field to go into production, was discovered. Former premier Brian Peckford, for instance, made a campaign pledge — "Some day the sun will shine, and 'have not' will be no more "— a line that became a household phrase in the province.
This year, offshore oil royalties are expected to amount to $1.7 billion.