In the spring of 2011, I wrote a letter to the Editor concerning this Government’s lack of financial responsibility.
I am enclosing part of that letter and the response from the then, Minister of Finance. Tom Marshall via letter to the Editor disputing the things that I was saying.
This is part of my letter:
“The auditor’s report is out and it should be a wakeup call for the people of this fair province.
We have finally become a ‘Have’ province because off the oil off shore and we are spending money like drunken sailors all for one reason, in my opinion, to make the government popular.
While we are receiving a lot of money from the oil this is only a temporary thing. This last few years I have pleaded with the finance Minister to use some of our newfound wealth to pay down the debt, so that my children and their children will not be straddled with this debt, which is I understand the highest in Canada. My grandchildren should not have to pay for the benefits that I am enjoying now.
But alas the finance minister did not listen to me but have come up with budgets the last couple of years that would show a deficit and predicted last year would continue for the next three years to continue run a deficit.
So when are we going to get our house in order (The Government should be run the same as a household). If we can’t do it when we are rolling in money when are we going to do it? When the oil is gone what do we have to fall back on? Our two main renewable industries, forestry and fishery, is at an all-time low and very little effort in trying to revitalize them.”
Minister Marshall’s response:
“I would like to offer a few words in response to a letter from Capt. Wilfred Bartlett that recently appeared in your paper.
First, Capt. Bartlett was incorrect to state that government hasn’t lowered the province’s debt. On the contrary, we have reduced net debt, by approximately $4 billion, from a peak of almost $12 billion in 2004-05 to $8.2 billion in 2009-10.
Capt. Bartlett also incorrectly suggests that we are running multiple budget deficits. The province, in fact, recorded four consecutive surpluses from 2005-’06 to 2008-’09, totaling over $4 billion. Our latest forecast is for another surplus this fiscal year, making it the fifth budget surplus in the last six years. Newfoundland and Labrador is one of very few provinces in the country expected to post a fiscal surplus this year.”
This is only part of his letter, but the rest went on to tell about the wonderful way they are managing the province since they got in power, you have heard it all before.
Nowhere in my letter did I say they did not pay anything on the deficit. My point was if we don’t get the debt paid down now when are we going to do it?
As Mr. Marshall stated in 2009-10 our debt was $8.2 billion and as of March 2013 it’s gone up to $8.6 billion. Projected deficit for 2013-2014 budget $563.8 million and for 2014-2015 an additional $650.5 million and that’s only if the price of oil remains high.
This year we have to pay approx. $800 million interest on our debt alone which will be more next year and the next as our debt continues to climb.
Just imagine what we could do with this $800 million, our ferry woes could be over and we might have enough left over to pave the Nippers Harbour Road, which would have been paved if Danny Williams had let Tom Rideout do his job.
Only a few days ago Tom Marshall when on VOCM Open Line with Bill Rowe made the statement, we don’t do anything the people don’t want, we listen to the people. This Government doesn’t listen to anyone except themselves. An example is Bill29 and Muskrat Falls, just a couple. First we needed Muskrat Falls for the power, then when that didn’t fly; we needed it for the jobs (Danny Williams in Corner Brook) then for the mines in Labrador and last to get back at Quebec.
We are taking on a $8 to $12 billion project (no one knows the true figures) that we don’t need at a time when we cannot balance our budget and which is totally being funded by the taxpayer of this province which I understand will be financed for fifty years just imagine the interest on that loan. And at the same time closing down 70 Employment Assistance Service Offices in Rural NL at a time when we have our two main industries in this province, the forestry and the fishery in a crisis and as shown by the closures of these 70 offices the Government has no plan or doesn’t care about what happens to the rural part of our province.
Since this government took office, we have been in a fight with Ottawa and because of the ABC campaign we are being punished.
We have been in a fight with Quebec all because of a bad deal that we signed with the Churchill Falls deal and I firmly believe the Muskrat Falls deal is all about getting even with Quebec. Why else would we ship this power all the way to Soldiers Pond and then ship it across NL again and across the Gulf to Nova Scotia, when we could have a much shorter route to the markets through Quebec if only we would sit down with them and negotiate a deal.
Although the last few years has been the most prosperous for our province, our present government is still not managing our money in a prudent way and, as the auditor general said in his report in 2011, they are spending like drunken sailors. Because of that we are losing some essential services.
I am not against government making cuts, to balance the budget but do it in a manner that won’t hurt the most vulnerable.
Government is not in the business to provide employment and should only hire on staff who are needed to provide public services and if some of these services can be provided cheaper by contracting out, I am all for it, after all it is our money that is being spent.
Let’s get our house in order, get our debt paid down while our economy is strong and leave a province that our children and their children can be proud off.
(Retired) Capt. Wilfred Bartlett
Green Bay South, NL