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BUDGET 2019: Opposing views on energy, taxes for Newfoundland and Labrador

Finance Minister Tom Osborne (left) and Premier Dwight Ball greet each other in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, budget day.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne (left) and Premier Dwight Ball greet each other in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, budget day. - Joe Gibbons

Ches Crosbie says province needs more oil and gas development, Alison Coffin says not so fast

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

We now know what the Liberals see as their vision for the province for the coming fiscal year, but what about their opponents?

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says his party’s rate-mitigation plan and other policies can give an idea of where his party would have gone with the budget, but it’s a big ask of an opposition party to prepare a competing budget.

Ches Crosbie.
Ches Crosbie.

But, speaking in more broad terms, Crosbie says there are three ways to address the fiscal problems facing the province.

“One is restraining expenditures. The other is borrowing more money, and that’s not satisfactory. The other is money from outside the system, from sources like the federal government or Quebec,” said Crosbie.

“I’ve talked before about taxing the power exported to Québec-Hydro. I’m serious about that. I’m not necessarily serious about doing that, I’m serious about letting them know that we know we can do that, then approaching them for negotiations from a position of strength.”

When Crosbie previously raised this point, Premier Dwight Ball hinted the issue of taxing power flowing into Quebec is currently before the courts, so he was unable to fully comment on the issue.

Beyond that, Crosbie says the government needs to put even more emphasis on the province’s offshore oil and gas development.

“That’s where our treasure trove is. We have to get the federal government out of the action there. We have to keep them from over regulating it and slowing it down,” said Crosbie.

The McKinsey and Company report, released on Monday, noted that the government’s current approach to offshore development is approaching overly ambitious as it stands.

Alison Coffin.
Alison Coffin.

New Democratic Party Leader Alison Coffin says her party has much different priorities than the Tories or the Grits.

“We’d certainly focus more on the environment. We’d do more in terms of rent subsidies. We’d look more at expanding a pharmacare program. We’d move towards a $15 minimum wage. We want to strengthen up the most vulnerable parts of our economy,” said Coffin.

“We have to do that by working and providing subsidies to help people get out of poverty and help build good, strong lives for themselves.”

While Crosbie says even more emphasis is needed on offshore development, Coffin says that’s not where she would take the province.

“I’d certainly like to shift the focus away from oil and more into environmentally sustainable industries. We need a longer-term plan to restructure our economy,” said Coffin.

“If you look at all the numbers in the provincial outlook, you see a little spike this year. GDP is going up, income is going up and labour markets are going up. But immediately after, that all flattens out. That tells me government has not diversified our economy.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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