Nfld. & Labrador

Doom and gloom hang over throne speech, as Liberals promise growth

The Queen's representative in Newfoundland and Labrador uttered ominous words from the House of Assembly Thursday, outlining an era the lieutenant governor framed as both an impending disaster and an opportunity.

Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote opens 50th general assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador

Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote reads the speech from the throne at the House of Assembly on Thursday. (House of Assembly)

The Queen's representative in Newfoundland and Labrador uttered ominous words from the House of Assembly Thursday, outlining an era the Liberal government frames as both an impending disaster and an opportunity.

"The road before us starts with fully coming to terms with the extensive economic crisis facing this province," said Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, reading the speech from the throne before the legislature. 

"It was a long slide to get to this point, and there is no overnight solution. The recovery will require bigger, bolder steps."

Foote opened the 50th general assembly with nods to both the province's crushing $16-billion debt and global pandemic constraints, offering remedies for each while laying out the Liberal government's agenda for 2021.

"Responsible" debt management was at the top of her list, followed quickly by mention of investment in "growth industries."

Foote said those industries will eventually replace the ailing oil and gas sector, repeating the government's goal of cutting carbon emissions entirely by 2050. "This green transition will drive the economy with clean growth," Foote said, detailing a plan to export the province's innovations and resources to international buyers.

"Newfoundland and Labrador will bring its surplus energy — clean energy — solutions to help its partners across the federation meet their global climate objectives."

The 50th general assembly of the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature will start conducting regular business on Monday. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Foote's speech echoes elements of the Liberal Party platform and comments from Moya Greene, chair of the premier's economic recovery team. A report from Greene is expected later this year with non-binding recommendations for economic overhaul.

Various groups have expressed concern over cuts and austerity measures they believe may follow the report, worries that Foote hinted at on Thursday. "My government will ensure that the cure is not worse than the disease," she said.

In a scrum with reporters, Premier Andrew Furey said he's seen the "broad strokes" of that report. An interim copy was slated for release in February; however, Greene pushed back that date, saying the team needed more time.

"I have not seen the final plan. I think she's still putting the final touches on it, to be honest," Furey said, emphasizing distance between his office and the report.

"To put restrictions on it at the outset? That was not the purpose. If it was, I could have written the report myself."

Premier Andrew Furey answers media questions outside the House of Assembly on April 15. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Interim Opposition leader David Brazil of the Progressive Conservatives said his party would be willing to co-operate with the agenda, if it finds the specifics agreeable.

"The devil's in the details," Brazil said, adding the party will keep a close eye on projects such as the Atlantic Loop to ensure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don't end up with a bad deal.

"We do expect, when we ask a question for clarification, that we get the accurate information that's needed."

The PCs face a leadership bid down the line, a date for which is yet to be set. But Brazil said it's something that doesn't have to be rushed and the party is looking ahead to rebuilding ahead of the 2025 general election. 

House expected to build 'bright future'

In other hot-button topics, Foote noted a desire to complete the Atlantic Loop electricity link and lower power rates for residents, while addressing population decline by tripling immigration targets. The government also plans to call on Ottawa to help balance the books.

She also announced the launch of "InvestNL," billed optimistically as a "one-stop online portal [to] highlight the province's priority sectors and showcase Newfoundland and Labrador, both as a prime location for business expansion and a hotbed for investment in innovative high growth companies."

Foote noted the pandemic's role in dissolving borders through technology, and said Newfoundland and Labrador will use those lessons "to expand its presence in the world."

"Yes, our economic situation is difficult, but it is up to everyone in this room to build our bright future," Foote said. 

"That is the expectation for each and every honourable member of the House of Assembly here today."

The House of Assembly will conduct its regular business starting Monday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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