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Throne speech chronicles Tory past, but leaves the future hazy


There were no grand, sweeping announcements or major changes in course announced in Tuesday’s throne speech, the first authored by Premier Paul Davis’s government.

Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan delivers the speech from the throne to open the Fourth Session of the Forty-Seventh General Assembly of the province of Newfoundland in the House of Assembly Tuesday.

Instead, the House of Assembly sitting offered a hint of what people can expect in the upcoming election campaign, with the Tories claiming a successful legacy of governing accomplishments, and the Liberals accusing them of steering the government towards financial ruin.

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As far as new policy goes, reading the text written by the Premier’s Office, Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan announced the government will reinstate the family violence intervention court and there will be a broad review of the province’s K-12 curriculum.

There was also a wide array of strategies and action plans the government says are in various stages of development — a population growth strategy, a mental health and addictions strategy, a renewed poverty reduction strategy, an inclusion action plan which is supposed to build on the already announced strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities, and many more.

To some extent, Davis’s hands are tied by the fiscal reality the province faces. The price of oil has dropped precipitously since last summer, robbing the provincial treasury of hundreds of millions of dollars.

As of the most recent update, the government is running a deficit of nearly $1 billion.

The talk from Finance Minister Ross Wiseman suggests the provincial budget, expected to be delivered next week, will focus on tax increases and spending cuts, as opposed to big new government programs, or enhanced services.

But the province’s fiscal situation was relegated to one short paragraph on Page 17 of the 19-page throne speech.

“Responsible governance demands fiscal prudence,” the speech said. “In this year’s budget, our finance minister will present a plan to return Newfoundland and Labrador to a balanced budget in 2020-21.”

Responding to the throne speech, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was only too happy to pick up the slack and talk at length about the province’s finances.

“No matter how much the Tories scramble to try and undo this fiscal mess that they’ve created, the damage is done,” Ball said. “Now, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and future generations must carry the weight of that burden on their shoulders.”

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy didn’t have a lot to say about the throne speech, because he said there wasn’t a whole lot in it.

“It was really long on platitudes and short on policies and specifics,” McCurdy said. “It makes you wonder why they bothered. There wasn’t much to it other than to say here’s what we’ve done in the past few years.”

McCurdy gave Davis credit for reinstating the family violence intervention court — something the New Democrats have lobbied for — and for putting a greater emphasis on mental health issues.

Davis got the last word in the House of Assembly Tuesday, and he used his time to accuse the Liberals of being hypocritical and directionless.

Like the throne speech itself, Davis spent a good deal of his time talking about the perceived accomplishments of the Tories over their time in government, as opposed to talking about what he plans to do in the future.

“After a decade of PC governments, the truth is the sick are better cared for, our children are better educated, families are better off, businesses are thriving, opportunities are greater than they’ve ever been before,” he said. “We’re not done yet. We’ve got more work to do.”

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