Nfld. budget cuts projects, 4,000 jobs

Newfoundland and Labrador will cut 4,000 public sector jobs and carry an $839.6-million deficit into the next year.

As thousands of government workers in Newfoundland and Labrador prepare to go on strike, the Progressive Conservatives tabled their first budget on Tuesday, calling for the elimination of 4,000 public sector jobs.

"It's not 4,000 job reductions. It's 4,000 less positions over a period of four years," Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan told reporters prior to tabling his budget in the House of Assembly.

Sullivan said very few people will actually lose their jobs, adding most of the positions will be cut as people retire.

About 700 jobs will be eliminated this year.

The announcement came as 20,000 government workers, whose contracts expire at midnight on Wednesday, prepare to go on strike.

The government said it will carry forward a deficit of $840 million for next year. But Sullivan said the Conservatives were able to reduce it from $958 million last year.

Blaming the Liberals for the "financial crisis," Sullivan vowed his government would balance the budget by the end of its mandate.

He also said a number of projects would be cancelled, including three health care facilities and a school. Municipalities, too, will take a hit as their operating grants are cut by $5 million over three years.

Low-income earners will receive a modest tax cut. There were no personal or corporate tax increases.

But taxes on tobacco products will increase slightly along with most government fees and fines.

The budget in Newfoundland and Labrador was one of four to be tabled on Wednesday. New Brunswick, Quebec and Prince Edward Island were also announcing their spending plans.