© Cory Hurley
Finance Minister Charlene Johnson, centre, listens to PC Leadership candidate Bill Barry following her address to the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade Monday, April 14, 2014.
Finance Minister Charlene Johnson says post-budget reaction has been that government really listened to the people.
Johnson used that phrase a couple of times while discussing Budget 2014 at the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade address Monday evening.
She said she has heard positive feedback throughout her own district and while campaigning with Danny Breen in the run-up to last week's byelection in Virgina Waters.
“People felt it was really rewarding that they came to pre-budget consultations, and we listened to what they said,” she said after her speech Monday.
Johnson provided another extensive overview of the aspects of the budget, highlighting various investments — and adding small bits of relevance to some issues that impacted this particular area of the province.
The minister said she is confident in the projections the province has made with respect to oil and gas revenues on which the budget is based.
They used the same method to establish the $105 per barrel for next year and $102 per barrel in 2016-2017 that has been successful, she said.
Immediately, as Finance minister, she said the focus starts shifting to next year’s budget, but there are various union negotiations to settle and a municipal fiscal framework to resolve.
Johnson has meetings on pension reform today.
“I think unions are willing to exchange ideas and tackle an issue, not only for union members, but for taxpayers throughout the province,” she said.
With a new premier to be decided for the province, she said it does not change negotiations — even if the next leader of the party may have different views.
Johnson is confident in the process that has been put in place in establishing a new fiscal framework for municipalities. It coincides with the increased infrastructure in the budget, and what has been allocated for capital in future years.
Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Bill Barry attended the post-budget speech Monday evening, along with a large group of his supporters, family and friends.
He said the budget is based on best guesses, and spending is based largely on an estimate of revenues.
In this province, he said, that includes projections based on the volatile oil and gas industry.
For the most part, nobody will argue with the merits of investments made by a province, said Barry. Spending is largely done in areas which need it, and for important and relevant causes.
“Giving benefits to our people, the 525,000, is a great thing,” he said.
The issue, said Barry, is what if projections are wrong? With the factors being production, price of oil and the exchange rate, he said either could negatively impact the province’s coffers by millions and millions of dollars. He would prefer an approach to spending taxpayers’ money more on the cautious side of oil and gas revenues.
“I have a real concern that the global economy is suffering from disinflation,” he said.
“I have a real concern, as do other people in the world ... if we were at $75 per barrel of oil, we would be a billion dollars more in the hole, just like that.”
The leadership candidate says the cost of running the province has increased drastically — up to $8 billion annually.
“No taxpayer should ever be surprised that, if a politician has money to spend, they will find somewhere to spend it,” he said, clarifying that a lot has been spent wisely.
Barry said he hopes his “best guesses” are wrong.