Nfld. & Labrador

Tempers flare over Budget 2016 in House of Assembly

Monday's question period saw fiery attacks on the Liberals' budget and insults about bologna.
Premier Dwight Ball speaks with reporters after question period on Monday. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Opposition parties in the House of Assembly fired numerous, pointed attacks at the Liberals and its 2016 budget as tempers flared during a raucous question period Monday.

PC leader Paul Davis kicked off question period by repeatedly asking for an explanation of how what he called the province's "cover charge" — the budget's deficit reduction levy a $300 to $900 fee most wage earners in the province will now pay annually — was determined.

Premier Dwight Ball did not clarify the math behind the levy, but stated that Ontario used a similar measure in its health premium, a fee charged on a sliding scale to its citizens who earn more than $20,000, and that Quebec and British Columbia demand similar fees.

He also disputed Davis' "cover charge" claim.

"Yes, we are covering something. We are covering the mess that this group across the way here, that they left this province in," retorted Ball, amid yelling of other House of Assembly members.

To that, Davis fired back that he and the Progressive Conservatives had no hand in creating the 2016 budget.

"[It's] your choices, your decisions, and your plan that impact the people of the province today," Davis said.

Bologna, seen here on a plate, as opposed to in tapestry form.

'Tapestry of bologna'

Tensions continued to rise throughout question period, as Davis grilled Finance Minister Cathy Bennett on layoffs associated with the cost cutting measures for the province's health authorities announced Monday.

Davis then asked about 2,500 public sector jobs possibly being cut in September's budget update, a question Bennett answered with a processed meat metaphor.

"I understand the member opposite's enthusiasm to weave a tapestry of bologna," said Bennett, a jab that was greeted with outcry from opposition members and created a temporary disruption in the house.

Bennett clarified that the 2,500 positions in question are temporary positions, extended from March until the fall. 

"Mr. Speaker, I tell you I've heard it all now, when she refers to public servants losing their jobs as bologna," said Davis. 

Also on Monday, the province's largest union, NAPE, launched an ad campaign pushing back against the budget and its associated layoffs.

No free vote 

The PCs also asked if individual MHAs within the Liberal party would be given the opportunity to vote as they choose on the budget, as opposed to following party lines.

"We know the pressure is on every member opposite to vote for their people, or for their party," said Davis.

"It's probably the most frequently asked question I received over the weekend." 

Neither Ball nor Bennett answered that during question period, but Ball confirmed to reporters afterwards that there will be no free vote.

With files from Peter Cowan