Speech from the Throne
March 25, 2013
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I would like to begin by welcoming Newfoundland and Labrador's 13th Lieutenant Governor and thanking him for his address today. As I said after his swearing-in ceremony, I believe His Honour to be a man of great humility who, along with Her Honour, will reach out to the people of our province.
On behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, I would also like to thank Their Honours, Mr. John Crosbie and Mrs. Jane Furneaux-Crosbie, for their service over the past five years and their dedication to Newfoundland and Labrador.
It is truly an honour to rise in this House to have an opportunity to speak to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, those who are visiting us today in the gallery and those watching at home, and speak to you of the tremendous progress our government has made to bring this province to where it is today and where we need to lead our province for the future.
More people are working in our province now than at any other time in our history. There are tens of thousands of more jobs on the horizon thanks to the vision and leadership of this government who ensured important projects like Muskrat Falls, Hebron, the Hibernia South extension and the White Rose proceed.
Unlike others in the House, we know the importance of these projects to secure a future for our children and our grandchildren and we will continue to develop our resources so that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians all over this province share the benefits of development.
Ten years ago, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians where facing a much
different reality. A reality that included high taxes, the highest
per-capita net debt in the country, deteriorating capital infrastructure,
our people were moving away, and perhaps most concerning, the sense that we
were poor cousins to the other provinces in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, we are not going back there. We are going to build and secure our province’s future so that the next generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will have the opportunities that we have now.
But make no mistake, we are facing a critical juncture in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We have an important decision to make, to go backward or to continue to move forward. My government will operate with sound fiscal management, executing our plan to ensure the province continues to thrive and prosper. We will not slip back into the tax and spend ways of our past.
My government has a plan to get us past the challenges that face us on the horizon and sustain us into the future.
To do nothing is not an option. Our people expect more.
To be clear, when you start a process that looks at providing services more efficiently and reduces redundancy, you have to make difficult decisions. These decisions impact the public service, but are necessary to protect the core services that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have told us they want.
Sustainable spending is critical to maintaining the high quality of services and programs our citizens depend on. We have heard from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and we know they expect us to protect our services in health care and education.
Put plainly, our public sector spending is larger than we can sustain. This province’s public sector spending per capita is the highest of any province in Canada. We knew that in order to sustain our investments and continue to provide critical programs and services to the people of this province, we needed to bring our public sector spending in line.
We did this through a measured and comprehensive process that included a Core Mandate Review of each department. Ministers did a thorough analysis of what was being spent and how we could do that more efficiently through innovation and streamlining, with a view to improving that service.
Another challenge that faces us is that our primary source of new revenue is oil. Oil is non-renewable and experts have difficulty predicting price fluctuations on the world market. We cannot continue to rely solely on this unpredictable resource. That is why this government developed a comprehensive energy plan.
A pillar of that plan is developing the renewable energy resources at Muskrat Falls. Muskrat Falls will diversify and stimulate our economy, creating new jobs and economic security for our children.
I am disappointed that some in the House continue to insist we have nothing to be proud of — that they continue to be unsupportive of job-creating projects that will benefit our people for years to come. We have much to take pride in.
We are making extraordinary investments in communities and families so that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are benefiting from the economic progress our government has made.
People are paying less in taxes, public debt has been reduced by 28 per cent, consumer spending is up, housing starts are up and we are no longer reliant on equalization payments from Ottawa.
But we also have much to protect and secure for Newfoundland and Labrador families.
It might be difficult for some to understand why we can boast a vibrant economy while at the same time speak of balancing our budget. Our revenues are not high enough to sustain our increased expenditure levels indefinitely. Simply put, we are not living within our means.
You know yourself if you run a household, if you spend more than you take in each month it will not be long before things start to deteriorate and you are borrowing money to keep your head above water. That is not what we want for our people. You expect better from us and we expect better from ourselves.
We are taking a responsible approach, protecting the progress we have made to date, providing for the present and building on our unprecedented decade of progress for future generations.
We are listening to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and will continue to focus on priority areas that are important to our province.
We will continue to invest in our education system. We are building a plan for the future and providing a solid education to our children and training for the skilled labour our province needs going forward.
We are investing in health care to ensure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have access to quality health care services.
Our commitment to this is clear – investments in health care have increased from $1.3 billion in 2001 to $2.9 billion last year.
Last week it was my pleasure to announce more than a half billion dollars for the construction of the Corner Brook hospital.
This project is important to the people of Corner Brook and it will provide quality services for people of western Newfoundland for years to come.
As a part of our ongoing investments in our communities and our families, we have taken decisive action to help ensure our children are protected.
To that end, last week I announced $1 million to establish a new Task Force on Child Exploitation and Drugs. The team will be a joint effort between the RCMP and the RNC and will strengthen the fight against child exploitation, illegal drugs and organized crime.
Our government recognizes what is important and continues to invest in priority areas accordingly.
As we enter this important crossroads in our province’s history we must also ensure we have a plan in place that addresses sustainability and a vision for the future.
In the coming days, my government will outline a budget and a plan that will secure our future through investments in our families, in our people and in our economy. This plan will provide long-term sustainability. That is what we have heard from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and that is what we will deliver.
We have a vision for this province. A vision that acknowledges just how far we have come and sets out a clear and defined course for our future. I am so proud of our journey to this point and am excited for the road that lies ahead.