'Drops in bucket' to tackle deficit so far, premier says more ahead
Dwight Ball says tackling spending problem started with management
Premier Dwight Ball says measures taken so far to rein in an "unprecedented" $1.58 billion deficit "are drops in the bucket."
He told the St. John's Morning Show in a wide ranging interview on Thursday that more needs to be done.
"It's really a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Newfoundland and Labrador has led the country nine out of 10 years in revenue per capita," Ball said.
The premier said cuts have already been made at the management level of government, reducing the number of deputy and assistant deputy ministers and communications staff.
"There's no point in saying that you're going to cut spending in every other area if you're not willing to start within your own offices yourself. We've been able to do that."
His government has pledged to reduce the deficit and return to a surplus by the year 2022-23, which would require cutting spending by $275 million every year for the next five years.
At the table with unions
While the Liberal government has outlined priorities for pulling the province out of debt in The Way Forward document, Ball has not detailed where further cuts will be made.
But with several public service bargaining units heading into contract negotiations in 2017, those talks are expected to be bumpy.
"We are really into a negotiating process with our unions right now, and we're looking forward to this discussion because they have made commitments that they see some opportunities to help us with this situation as well."
Ball noted the province spends $3.8 billion a year on salaries and benefits, making up about 45 per cent of the budget.
People have no tolerance for waste.- Dwight Ball
Following a "fair negotiating process" he said "we will see where we are and what our spending situation will be at that time."
"We know that we have to create efficient, cost-effective services for people in our province. People have no tolerance for waste," said Ball.
"Not dealing with this [the deficit], it's around $54,000 for every man, woman and child in this province. An astounding figure."
With files from the St. John's Morning Show