Dwight Ball warns of 'economic crisis' looming after COVID-19 emergency
N.L. premier says federal ‘co-operation and collaboration’ will be required
As Newfoundland and Labrador continues to grapple with the health challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, stark comments by Premier Dwight Ball have highlighted the gravity of another challenge ahead — a financial one.
"Coming out of this, there is going to be an economic crisis, and the provinces and the country will be indeed economically sick as well, as we deal with this current COVID-19 crisis," Ball said at a joint press conference with both opposition party leaders late Thursday.
"Rebuilding the economy of Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador, there's going to be a significant amount of work that will need to be done, and a significant amount of co-operation and collaboration, both at the federal and the provincial level, will be required."
The premier made the comments after an emergency session of the House of Assembly, which saw five bills passed over the span of just a few hours, in an effort to respond to the spiralling COVID-19 emergency.
That included a $2-billion authorization to borrow cash. The government already has a record level of debt.
Ball lauded a Bank of Canada decision to support provinces, by purchasing up to 40 per cent of short-term, provincially issued money market securities.
"Right across our country right now, provinces are finding difficulty with borrowing and so on — it's not just Newfoundland and Labrador, but it's primarily provinces that have been attached to the natural resources industry," the premier said.
"With the support of the Bank of Canada and their announcements [earlier this week], this will help provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador go and get the levels of borrowing that it will need to get through this time."
At a press briefing earlier in the day, Ball was asked how urgent the $2 billion in borrowing is, and whether the province could cover payroll without it.
"There's no question the province is in a very difficult situation, but we'll be covering payroll," the premier replied.
"We'll be providing for essential services within Newfoundland and Labrador."
'Every single key industry' having trouble
The resource-dependent province has been hit by cratering oil prices and uncertain times ahead for other major economic drivers, such as tourism and the fishery.
"I think every single industry — every single key industry that's driving this economy right now — is having difficulty," Ball told reporters late Thursday afternoon, after the legislature adjourned.
"The federal government will have to be there to help provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador."
Ball said the provincial government does not actually have the financial capacity to even participate in some federal programs that could potentially be rolled out.
"You cannot compare Newfoundland and Labrador to other provinces," Ball said.
"We are unique."
Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie echoed Ball's comments about the enormity of the situation.
"As we move through the immediate public health crisis there will be, more and more obvious, a fiscal and economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression," Crosbie said.