Nfld. & Labrador

Roger Grimes criticizes Liberal budget, wants 'Muskrat Falls levy' eliminated

Former Liberal Premier Roger Grimes is criticizing some of the choices made by the Liberal Party in this year’s budget.

Former Liberal Premier not impressed with provincial budget

Roger Grimes says the Liberal government could have done a better job managing expectations ahead of this year's budget. (CBC )

Former Liberal premier Roger Grimes is criticizing some of the choices made by the Liberals in this year's budget.

Grimes told CBC News he believes the budget's deficit reduction levy is akin to asking the public to pay for the mess at Muskrat Falls.

"In my circles people talk about it as the Muskrat Falls levy," he said.

Grimes took issue with Finance Minister Cathy Bennett's comments that the province had no choice but to give this money directly to Nalcor.

He said the province should reconsider the levy before the budget is passed.

"They can still get their revenue measures, just switch it from a levy to a little more income tax," he said.

"If they really need the money, people want them to do it in the fairest possible way, and they see the levy as the worst possible way."

Grimes also believes the province could have done a better job of managing expectations ahead of the budget.

He believes much of the backlash against it has come about because people didn't expect to be asked to pay so much, so quickly.

"I think right now the current government with Premier Ball still needs to focus on reminding people of the dire circumstance we're in," he said.

According to Grimes, the negative response to the budget will only make it more difficult to gain public support when the province has to make spending cuts down the road.

"They chose in this budget to raise revenue over curtailing spending. What they've done is spent a lot of political capital very early disenfranchising the people who were supposedly going to help support them in the fall [when they make cuts]."

Optimistic about new Nalcor CEO 

Grimes was more optimistic about Stan Marshall's appointment as Nalcor's new CEO.

He said he expects a strong performance from Marshall.

"I'm expecting Stan Marshall to perform at Nalcor just like he did at Fortis," said Grimes. 

"His reputation was that he was straightforward, direct, and brutally honest."

The former premier believes Marshall will bring a nice change of perspective from past leadership at Nalcor.

"I believe with him everything is on the table. He'll take a fresh look."

Grimes also expects Marshall to be more open than past Nalcor executives.

"This new government was supposed to be more open and more transparent and we've had just as much difficulty getting information."

"I believe that will change with Stan Marshall, and the people of the province will be given the facts and he will really examine whether or not there are options other than plowing full speed ahead with Muskrat Falls."

With files from Debbie Cooper

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