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Having a say


Newfoundland and Labrador is facing a mounting debt, and the new government is hoping to take action by launching a multi-year Government Renewal Initiative to find a combination of measures to stop the deficit.

Placentia West MHA Mark Brown and Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway set the stage for consultations held at the Clarenville Inn last Tuesday as part of the province’s Government Renewal Initiative.

The tour stopped at The Clarenville Inn in Clarenville last week with more than 40 people showing up to give their take on the province’s financial situation.

Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway and Placentia West MHA Mark Browne were on hand to hear the chatter as each table was asked to focus on three questions and given 20 minutes for each topic.

“There has been a little bit of confusion about us going out an engaging people over an 18 month period,” Holloway told the crowd.

“This session is about getting some great ideas on how we can deliver on things more effectively and efficiently. It’s about assessing the role of government in providing valuable public services. It’s also about establishing multi-year fiscal targets,” said Holloway.

Thinking of all the things government spends your money on to provide residents of the province with services, what are three things that could be stopped in order to save money?

Given the financial challenges facing our province, what three things do you think government could do to raise money (increase revenue)?

How can government be more innovative or efficient to provide quality services at lower cost?

At the night’s end each table selected a representative to speak on their behalf to give an overview of their suggestions.

Clarenville Coun. Paul Tilley spoke on behalf of his table. He said his group discussed how the province has a geographical problem being a province with a population of 500,000 over a huge area.

“People are expecting services to be delivered at the same level as St. John’s across the province. That comes with a terrible cost and we don’t know if we can afford that,” said Tilley.

He said as long as we have municipalities shouldering most of the burden in our region and others living in LSDs who don’t pay as much, it’s going to create inequity.

Tilley said his group also recommends regionalization.

“We can’t have every community having a fire truck, water treatment plant, school and stadium,” said Tilley.

Brian Smith spoke on behalf of his group and said his group was fired up about the 38 per cent of the budget being spent on health care.

“As the population gets older that’s only going to increase. We need to get our health-care costs under control,” said Smith.

He said government shouldn’t be afraid to increase fees or taxes and said those who contribute the most probably won’t mind.

“It’s the people who are naysayers who are the ones that … moan the most. But if you ask the majority of us here tonight, no one minds paying extra. We all know the state we’re in,” said Smith.

Kathryn Small spoke on behalf of her table and said she wanted the new government to remember fiscal responsibility.

“Why was the provincial government allowed to run these deficits? We need accountability for both elected officials and ordinary citizens. It was the citizens who voted who put us where we are. We need to have that recognition and we need to move forward with great courage,” said Small.

 

 

A sample of economy boosting suggestions given to mediators:

 

-       Bringing in user fees for things like licences and MCP cards

-       Bringing taxation across the board to Atlantic Canada

-       Marketing Ocean Services Institute outside of Newfoundland

-       One 10 per cent increase for fees at the college (Memorial University)

-       Not increasing residents fees which are unfair to rural students not living in St. John’s

-       Selling off government assets not being used like closed schools and abandoned buildings

-       Raising taxes on sins such as alcohol, cigarettes etc.

-       A sliding tax that keeps gasoline at a certain minimum. Keep gas at as gas goes over a dollar the tax decreases

-       Put HST back on the table

-       Allow public servants to take a leave of absence whenever they want. Make leaves of absence less restrictive

-       Implement a luxury tax

-       Consider why we are pumping so much money in Memorial University

-       Tollbooths on roads

-       Sell off government assets

-       Put annual registration fees on all ATVs and Snowmobiles

-       Increase the quality of pavement and less repair costs would be required

-       Better education and more incentives to get off social services

-       Make people work for their money, people are falling through the cracks and could pay taxes if given supports

-       Study Costs in education system. Why have costs exploded in the way they have

-       Reduction of Boards

-       K-12 education should have physical education be mandatory to help with health care costs in the long term

-       Tax on junk food

-       Start marketing Bull Arm now. Repair work could be done and storage could be used

-       Pay for good ideas, public workers and civil servants should be given a reward if their idea saves money. Ditto for health care workers

-       Town’s should be allowed to have an entrepreneurial fund that gives rewards for good ideas brought forward

 

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