Why is Nalcor exempt from budget pain?

Published on April 25, 2016

Letters to the editor

I sat in the House of Assembly on budget day for the first time since I retired from politics over 10 years ago. I fully expected to hear an austerity budget being presented, since it is obvious that the previous Progressive Conservative administration had repeatedly overspent and left the province in a dire financial circumstance.

It was not surprising that the new Liberal government of Premier Dwight Ball would break some election promises. It would be foolhardy, in my opinion, to proceed with things like refusing to raise the HST when the province is so desperately strapped for cash.

 

When faced with a circumstance not seen since the 1930s, which led to the abandonment of democracy and the onset of a government by appointed commissioner, there was every reason to break commitments and take extreme measures.

 

My disappointment rests with one huge overbearing commitment that wasn’t broken, namely the $1.3 billion that we as taxpayers are giving to Nalcor in this upcoming budget year. Finance Minister Cathy Bennett stated, “due to prior year commitments by the former administration” we have no choice but to give Nalcor $1.3 billion this year. This adds to the $2.25 billion we have already given them previously for a total payment by the taxpayers of our province of $3.55 billion.

 

In my humble opinion, the government did have a choice and still has a choice. If Nalcor is such a great company with assets over $12 billion and led by “world class experts,” tell them right now that the people of the province can’t afford the $1.3 billion that the previous administration committed to them and order them to go back to the drawing board and decide what they will proceed with and/or what they will defer and/or cancel as a result or the owners (you and me) not having the $1.3 billion to give to them.

 

Hospital work is being deferred or cancelled, school construction is being deferred or cancelled, courthouses are being closed despite commitments and promises by the previous administration, but Nalcor must get its money. Why treat them any differently? Let them earn their keep and deal with some adversity just like everyone else in the province.

 

If Nalcor can explain to each of us, as their owners, why they must absolutely have the $1.3 billion and can’t possibly function without it, then have them publicly give that explanation to us rather than the Premier and government ministers defending them.

 

I hope it is not too late for this new government to take action with respect to Nalcor and let them know once and for all that “we, the people” own Nalcor, not the other way around.

 

Roger Grimes, former premier

 

St. John’s