Nfld. & Labrador

Dwight Ball says no worries about N.L. making payroll, after grim letter warned of cash crunch

Premier Dwight Ball says Newfoundland and Labrador’s borrowing situation has improved since a March 20 warning that the province had “run out of time” to find money to fund government operations.

Premier says layoffs not planned right now for province’s civil service

Premier Dwight Ball answers questions from reporters Wednesday afternoon about a letter he wrote to the prime minister on March 20. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/YouTube)

Premier Dwight Ball says Newfoundland and Labrador's borrowing situation has improved and he is "not worried at all about payroll," less than two weeks after he wrote the prime minister warning that the province had "run out of time" to find money to fund government operations.

Ball told reporters the province has decided at this point not to lay off teachers and others on the provincial payroll.

"We want to support our public-sector workers, they do valuable work," Ball said during a COVID-19 update in St. John's on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, CBC News revealed that Ball sent a grim letter to Justin Trudeau on March 20 about the province's precarious financial situation.

"I must bring to your attention the immediate and urgent financial crisis that Newfoundland and Labrador is facing," Ball wrote.

"To put it bluntly, our recent attempts to finalize our borrowing program, both short term and long term, have been unsuccessful. We have no other recourse to raise the necessary funds to maintain the operations of government, including our health-care system, especially at this critical time."

In the wake of the CBC story, the premier's office publicly released the letter.

"Our province has run out of time," it concluded. "Your attention is urgently required."

Bank of Canada program has helped

Ball said Wednesday the situation has improved in the 12 days since then. 

The Bank of Canada stepped in with a program to help all provinces with their short-term borrowing needs, and the premier said Newfoundland and Labrador had "some success" in the markets this week.

And Ball said Newfoundland and Labrador is not following the lead of another resource-dependent province that is also facing a fiscal crunch. 

Around 25,000 education system workers in Alberta could temporarily be put out of work, after the government there cut education funding.

Asked if there could be similar layoffs in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ball said that's not the plan, at this point.

"For us right now, we want to continue to work with teachers.… There's some work left to do with the K to 12 program, for the remainder of this year," the premier said.

"So right now, we've taken the position not to lay off our teachers, not to lay off our public-sector workers."

He added that many civil servants are working from home, as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

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