Nfld. & Labrador

In a single week, just under $339M worth of Liberal pre-election announcements

It's raining promises, and spending.

Big-ticket promises come just weeks (days?) before an election is expected to be called

Premier Dwight Ball has insisted, as recently as a few days ago, that he still doesn't know when he will call an election. (Katie Breen/CBC)

You don't need an insider to leak some of what will be in Budget 2019, which will be tabled Tuesday in the House of Assembly.

The Liberals have been showing people the money all week. 

Within the timeframe of 100 hours or so, hardly a sector was left untouted, unboosted or unfunded. 

Of course, most years a budget is just that — a budget, a financial blueprint subject to days of debate by politicians. 

But some years a budget is more than just a budget.

Like now, when an election call is imminent. (Signs for Tom Osborne sprang up earlier this week, which the finance minister chalked up to enthusiastic volunteers)

Premier Dwight Ball has steadfastly refused to rule out that he would wait until said budget is passed before calling the election. That's a big "what if" to leave hanging in the air if you don't have to. 

Who gets the green?

The spending kicked off Monday with $2.5 million for fish plant workers in the event there's a downturn in processing work. 

Tuesday saw a splashy $129 million announced for municipal infrastructure. Things like water and wastewater pipes, roads and community buildings. The same day, two dozen initiatives related to the Immigration Action Plan were announced, to the tune of $1 million. 

Wednesday saw cash on the big and small scale. First, an announcement for $2.5 million for the Provincial Agrifoods Assistance Program, including $100,000 for grants to grow and create new community gardens across the province.

 A few hours later, it was announced that — after years and years and promises and promises by governments across the political spectrum — the 160-year-old Her Majesty's Penitentiary will be replaced. Or, at least, there is a promise to replace it. 

First spending marked for 'planning purposes'

The new facility has a price tag of $200 million. Shovels won't go in the ground for three more years — and that's just the start of construction — but the spending for that starts now. Specifically, there is $600,000 set aside in the 2019 budget for "planning purposes" related to the promise. 

The father of Chris Sutton, who took his life while incarcerated at HMP, didn't mince words after the announcement. 

"That's the first thing I was thinking, that it's more like an election plea," Neil Burry told CBC News.

The Liberals are promising a replacement for Her Majesty's Penitentiary. Construction is three years away. (CBC)

Other announcements didn't get the brand specific "Budget 2019" designation, but the cash is still flowing regardless. The Holyrood Marine Base is getting bigger and will offer new space and technology to test ocean technology products, thanks to $3.5 million out of provincial coffers. Two dozen initiatives related to attracting and retaining more immigrants were announced, at a cost of about $1 million. 

Prominent artists push for ArtsNL funding

From the sea to the arts: the Princess Sheila NaGeira Theatre in Carbonear is getting $200,000 from the provincial government to help with its renovations.

That announcement follows weeks of artists urging government to commit to $5 million for Arts NL — a non-profit Crown corporation that distributes the money to artists. The campaign has attracted some star power, with Rick Mercer and Petrina Bromley taking to social media to voice why funding for the arts is important.

But while the provincial government is eager to show off its spending in some areas, Christopher Mitchelmore, the minister responsible for arts and culture, wasn't in a sharing mood on Thursday, telling people they would just have to hold their horses. 

"We understand there's increasing demand that's taking place, but any decision that will be made on investment in the Arts Council of Newfoundland and Labrador would be a budgetary decision, and that budget would be coming down on Tuesday," he said. 

Tourism, Culture Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore told reporters Thursday that artists will have to wait until the budget is released to learn if grants will increase. (CBC)

Other announcements happened in the last five weeks, but without dollar figures attached. Construction on long-term care homes in central Newfoundland will start this summer. Another mammoth project — replacing the Waterford Hospital in St. John's — is inching forward. The provincial government said it helped broker a deal of sorts that will see more offshore shrimp processed in Newfoundland and Labrador instead of being shipped overseas.

Lots of dollar figures and projects. Can't keep track? Don't worry, you'll hear about them again on Tuesday. And then many more times on the campaign trail. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Ryan Cooke and Katie Breen

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