August 3, 2017
For Immediate Release

Bond Rating Agencies and Business Community Need Clear Signal from New Finance Minister

Keith Hutchings, Finance Critic for the Official Opposition, said, “Public sector unions, financial markets, the business community and the people of the province need a clear signal from the new Finance Minister about the current fiscal policy of the province and any changes forthcoming.”

“Was the departure of the former Minister of Finance a result of a growing difference in fiscal policy between the Liberal Cabinet and caucus? We are left to speculate whether the former Minister’s fiscal policy continued to have the support of the Premier and Cabinet. Is there a new fiscal plan and or direction that rests with the new Finance Minister? Does any new fiscal direction fit with the heralded ‘Way Forward’ document?” said Hutchings.

“Just days ago, the credit-rating agencies released their latest assessments. The Premier at that time seemed pleased with the ‘stable assessment’ of our financial situation. The former Minister responded by saying that the agencies supported her determination to do more belt-tightening. Is the Ball government now ‎signaling a shift away from that? The financial markets will need to know, as their assessment status was in recognition of further reductions in expenditure,” he said.

“Unlike the other members of the Ball government caucus, Minister Osborne – as the Speaker since 2015 – neither voted on nor debated government policy, so the financial markets would not have information from the new Minister on the fiscal approach taken over the past two years. Not all members of the government caucus were enthusiastic about the government’s approach when they spoke, and we are left to speculate about how Minister Osborne has felt about it.”

“Did the Premier tell his new Finance Minister to continue his predecessor’s ‎agenda or take another course? Did the new Minister tell the Premier the course he intends to take? Surely before he was offered the job, it was discussed,” said Hutchings.

“The Ball government ‎has taken a direction that conflicts with the approaches and recommendations of the PC Party. We called for taking a long-range focus including expenditure reductions while still maintaining a positive environment for investment and business growth, while the Liberals’ plan from day one has been ad-hoc with no real commitment to any direction. High taxation, cancelled reductions and cancelled mini-budgets have created confusion and a lack of confidence in our economy. We called for a clear attrition plan that was already started to soften the reduction in the public service and a goal-oriented restructuring related to the delivery of public service, while the Liberals have kept people in a perpetual state of uncertainty about more cuts to come. We called for tax relief to stimulate growth, while the Liberals have raised more than 300 taxes and fees that have strangled the economy. We fueled growth in business investment and jobs, while the Liberals have made us the only shrinking economy in Canada.”

“Something needs to change – not the verbal commitment to living within our means, but the approach. We need a clear and early signal from the new Minister of whether things will change and, if so, how. It would be wise to make such a statement well in advance of a fall fiscal update, because there’s been too much uncertainty already,” said Hutchings.

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Media Contact:
Heather MacLean, Director of Operations and Communications
Office of the Official Opposition
(709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca