Coverage of St. John’s Board of Trade speech
Premier Kathy Dunderdale addressed members and guests of the St. John’s Board of Trade on Tuesday, January 31, 2012. Read the Premier’s speaking notes at newenergynl.ca/news-piece/20120131-1.
CBC provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane live-blogged from the event by Twitter at twitter.com/CochraneCBCNL. The tweets progressed as follows:
- Delta ballroom absolutely packed for Premier’s speech to the Board of Trade. Bagpiper leads head table in. #cbcnl
- Dunderdale opens with “this speech was crafted very carefully for a very specific reason.” She clearly intends to send a message #cbcnl
- Dunderdale opens with data to show improvement in finances and economy. But I suspect a twist coming. #cbcnl #constraint
- Premier says govt faces 3 big challenges 1 deliver services while controlling spending 2. Reducing reliance on non-renewable energy#cbcnl
- 3rd challenge is “capturing opportunity” #cbcnl
- Premier says spending must be contained.
- Premier says spending must be contained. Expects deficits for next two years. Won’t cut to balance books. Will carry it short term #cbcnl
- Premier says goal is to reduce per capita debt levels to national average within 10 years. That’s a significant policy #cbcnl
- Dunderdale speaks of need for change in health care spending “current trends are not sustainable.” #cbcnl
- Premier outlines budget principles: election committments done as they are affordable
- Premier says size of govt cannot grow any further. Tells unions wage catchup has been achieved. Time for moderation #cbcnl
- Dunderdale also promises to root out inefficiency in govt programs. And tells municipalities to cooperate to reduce costs #cbcnl
- Premier has moved on to Muskrat Falls. I will let you know if she says anything new (don’t bet on it)#cbcnl
- Dunderdale compares Muskrat to a hospital or a road. Fear of cost overruns isn’t reason to stop. “Fear must not cloud our vision.” #cbcnl
- This is the most significant speech Dunderdale has given to date in my view #cbcnl
- Dunderdale speaks of looming need for skilled labour and fierce competition for workers from western Canada. #cbcnl
- Premier says govt has spent big on educating young people to expand pool of skilled workers (I sense a ‘but’ coming) #cbcnl
- Here it is: Premier says labour unions need to remove impediments for new tradespeople to get into the workforce and get jobs #cbcnl
- Dunderdale on Hebron module maybe leaving. Says NL yards will still work to capacity. Project has grown since 08 deal. More work #cbcnl
- Dunderdale gave tonnes of detail in speech and gave a clear sense of how she plans to run government. Some big statements #cbcnl
- This just happened #cbcnl http://yfrog.com/mmsyxxsj
The Telegram also covered the event.
Headline: Time to stop relying on oil: Dunderdale
Published on January 31, 2012
Dunderdale said that one of the big challenges for the province is to stop relying so heavily on oil, and get government spending under control.
She made special mention of the health-care budget, which is a particularly large portion of government spending.
Dunderdale also talked about “prudent fiscal management” and the need to reign in other areas, including municipalities and public sector unions.
She added that many of these issues will come into focus after the House of Assembly opens on March 5.
“And boy, am I looking forward to that,” she said.
More coverage in Wednesday’s print edition.
Headline: WATCH: Dunderdale ambushed by Marg Delahunty, Warrior Princess
Published on January 31, 2012
Premier Kathy Dunderdale received a standing ovation at the St. John’s Board of Trade, but the next moment she was attacked by a warrior — Marg Delahunty, Warrior Princess.
Marg, a character played by comedian Mary Walsh, grabbed Dunderdale, and took her to task for not opening the House of Assembly, refusing to give files to the province’s Auditor General, and getting too skinny.
Marg said that the premier has lost a lot of weight, and looks great, but she’s started acting like a model.
“You know those skinny models, they’re so beautiful, like yourself, but you can’t question them at all,” she said.
Marg’s advice to Dunderdale: Open the House, give the Auditor General whatever files he wants and eat something.
CLICK HERE to view video
Headline: Dunderdale lays out a new, conservative course
Subhead: Speech to the Board of Trade focuses on restraint, debt reduction
Telegram article by James McLeod, Published on February 1, 2012
Premier Kathy Dunderdale made it clear Tuesday that the big-spending days are over.
In a major speech to the St. John’s Board of Trade, Dunderdale laid out her vision for the government over the next several years.
The years of big government spending increases fuelled by oil revenue are over, Dunderdale said.
“Our growth in spending, while absolutely necessary, must now be contained,” Dunderdale told the packed ballroom at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s. “The question we all must consider is how do we achieve the careful balancing act between economic growth, a high quality of life and affordable public finances?”
The government is forecasting a deficit this year of nearly $500 million, and a smaller one next year, due to temporary oil production shutdowns and the loss of Atlantic Accord payments from Ottawa.
Despite that, Dunderdale said her goal in the next decade is to radically bring down the province’s debt.
“It is our goal to improve our debt position over 10 years to achieve the same per capita debt as the Canadian average,” she said. “We can get there through discipline in spending, and allocation of surpluses to debt reduction, while allowing for periodic deficits.”
As the government draws together its budget for the coming year, Dunderdale said there will be virtually no new spending and departments will look to trim whatever fat they can find.
“Whether or not we can have any level of new spending is something that’s under vigorous discussion and study at the moment,” she told reporters following her speech.
“The clear message went out some time ago to all departments: don’t come in with a wish list — you know, come in with what absolutely has to get done.”
Two specific areas that are top of mind as the government looks to restrain are health care and public sector salaries.
The government is going into contract negotiations; last time around, it negotiated a deal which gave public sector workers a 20 per cent raise over four years.
While Dunderdale acknowledged the raise was needed to bring workers in line with other parts of the country, she stressed this time around, those kind of agreements won’t be on.
“During our last contract negotiations, the valued skills and contributions of our public service were recognized with a substantial wage increase, and it was long overdue,” she said. “A more moderate approach is now required in light of our fiscal forecasts.”
The health care budget takes up nearly 40 per cent of the total budget. On that front, though, she said the province will need more money from Ottawa, as part of a new health care accord negotiated by provinces.
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was in the audience and, by and large, he said he approved of the course Dunderdale was charting.
“I’m not here to say that we don’t have to get our debt at a manageable level — I believe we do,” he said. “Obviously, she wants to get a handle on this debt.”
Steve Power, chairman of the Board of Trade, was beaming about what he heard in the speech.
“I think it’s a very exciting event for us today,” he said. “They’re certainly themes that we believe strongly in.”
Beyond spending restraint, Dunderdale also talked about a need to transition the economy away from non-renewable resources, towards renewables.
On this front, she said that the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is a cornerstone.
Finally, she talked about the need for the province’s as a whole to “fully capture” the opportunities of the future.
Government spending cannot drive the economy.
“Government cannot and should not do it alone. We need your contributions and collaboration,” she said. “We need young people hungry for lucrative careers to take up the challenge. We need business owners hungry for lucrative contracts to take up the challenge.”
One concrete example of fostering a growing industry she gave was in the ocean sciences field. Dunderdale said it’s the government’s goal to grow that sector to become a billion dollar industry by 2015.
“We are drawing students and investors from around the world by establishing a reputation for excellence, leadership and teamwork in the “blue” economy – and this is but one of the leading-edge sectors in which Newfoundland and Labrador is capturing new opportunities through innovation and partnership.”