The speech from the throne delivered by Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan on Tuesday described a province that is “an ideal place to live,” but currently — to no surprise for provincial residents — faced with financial challenges.
In the midst of difficult-but-necessary choices, the Liberal government has committed to more primary health care teams, a replacement of the Waterford Hospital and follow-through on existing task force recommendations to improve the K-12 education system and mental health and addictions services.
The full budget will come down March 27, with further details on government priorities.
But Opposition Progressive Conservatives say the Liberals are not doing enough to address public concern about the economy and to stem outmigration.
In the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon, PC Leader Paul Davis gave no credit for the recently announced provincial tech sector plan, or promises of a new mineral strategy for the province, and other announcements and actions.
“The most significant story in our province right now is a story of loss — lost income from the crushing burden of taxes imposed by the Liberal government, loss of jobs, a loss of homes and businesses in an economy that’s shrinking, a loss of opportunities gone to other jurisdictions,” Davis said.
He said the government is not standing up for a “fair share” in the Canadian federation.
Davis also highlighted new leadership coming for the PCs and the NDP this spring, with the 2019 election on the horizon.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said young people are leaving, and slammed what she described as a “weak, defeatist attitude.”
She highlighted a portion of the throne speech in which the province is encouraged to “continue to do better with less.” The Liberal government, Michael said in response, is not being ambitious enough, providing a clear, big picture of a possible prosperous future and taking the steps to make it a reality.
“I have to say from the outset, I really wasn’t expecting riveting speeches from the opposition and they certainly delivered on that,” Premier Dwight Ball said in response.
He chastised the opposition for their “doom and gloom approach to the future of the province,” something he suggests gets paired with requests for public spending that simply can’t be sustained.
“This is a group, Mr. Speaker, that nearly bankrupted this province,” he said, directing comments to the PCs, highlighting multiple budget deficits under the former government.
He also tagged “the Tory tax on electricity” — impending power rate hikes expected from the over-budget Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
Yet, Ball said, the province has significant untapped potential.
“We have a lot of work to do … but we have made decisions to put in place a firm foundation to rebuild this province.”
The speech has committed the provincial government to:
• Offer its own apology to residential school survivors.
• Amend the Family Violence Protection Act to include psychological, emotional or financial abuse.
• Review the provincial environmental assessment process, with follow-up legislation.
• Renew the existing cultural plan by January 2019.
• Get new streams running under the Provincial Nominee Program.
• Develop a mineral strategy to “guide future growth.”
• Introduce legislation related to public health and safety, ahead of the legalization of recreational cannabis.
• Host an Inclusion Symposium.
• Propose a new Public Health Act.
• Replace the Waterford Hospital.
• Add more primary health care teams.
• Implement the home-first approach to seniors’ care.
• Release an Education Action Plan, responding to the premier’s task force on educational outcomes.