Nfld. & Labrador

Spending announcements unfair use of tax dollars, say Liberals

With a provincial election just months away, CBC News looked at the numbers of government spending announcements so far this summer.

Steve Kent says spending announcements this summer are standard fare for government

Government has made fewer announcements this summer than the same time period last year, but the amount of money is higher. (CBC)

A provincial election is just months away in Newfoundland and Labrador and government spending announcements have caught the attention of the Liberals.

On Thursday, government announced $1.3 million to fix long-term care centres in the St. John's area.

According to Liberal MHA Tom Osborne, it's an announcement government didn't need to make.

Osborne said news of that money was originally announced in the budget this spring.
Liberal MHA Tom Osborne says government is announcing things that have already been announced because it's an election year. (CBC)

"There's an election in a couple of months from now, so things are getting reannounced and reannounced and every opportunity there is to make a reannouncement of something that we already know they're taking advantage of it," said Osborne.

"I guess that's politics."

According to Osborne, these spending announcements are giving the Tories an unfair advantage leading up to the election.

Since the House of Assembly closed in late June, government has made dozens of announcements — from fire trucks to health care.

The number of announcements is actually slightly less than the same time last year, but the amount of money handed out is more.

Government has highlighted more than $100-million in spending through about 50 announcements, up from about $60 million for the same period last year.

'Business as usual'

Some of those announcements are for large ticket items, including $21 million for a new school in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, $15 million for the loans to grants decision, and $11.5 million for the development of affordable housing.

According to Osborne, the difference is due to the election on Nov. 30.

"It seems the government's new strategy is to make announcement after announcement of things that people are already aware of," he said.
Health Minister and Deputy Premier Steve Kent says while it would be nice to have organ harvesting available in all of the province's health regions, it's not reasonable given current regulations. (CBC)

"They're using taxpayer money to make these announcements. It's a little unfair, if government were responsible they wouldn't be using taxpayers money to travel to make these announcements."

However, Health Minister Steve Kent said there's nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to the number of announcements this summer.

"I've made several announcements already, I'll be in central Newfoundland later this week, I plan to go to Labrador next week. That's the normal course of business for a health minister in the summer months, just like it was last year, just like it was the year before," said Kent.

"This is business as usual, from that perspective."

Premier Paul Davis has been attending a number of events and festivals, and he's attended most of these as premier with the taxpayer picking up the cost.

The Liberals have been doing their own touring, but a spokesperson said Dwight Ball's travel costs are being picked up by the party, not the taxpayers.

With files from Peter Cowan

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