Newfoundland politicians head back to work facing major deficit
Published Thursday, March 7, 2013 7:22AM EST
Newfoundland and Labrador politicians head back to the legislature today facing tough choices as deficits of almost $4 billion are projected over the next three years.
The majority Progressive Conservative government has already moved to freeze members' wages and start trimming public jobs and programs.
It's a stunning about-face in this newly "have" province.
Six of the last seven budgets have racked up surpluses on the strength of international oil and commodity prices.
But a global economic slowdown has cut oil and mineral earnings.
The government says it must bring spending in line with reduced revenues despite a still hot economy in St. John's.
Government house leader Darin King says every effort will be made to minimize unpopular but necessary spending cuts.
The province is trying to find those savings as it enters contract talks with its civil service. Bargaining is underway with several groups, ranging from health professionals to highway maintenance staff.
Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, says the union has the biggest strike fund ever. But she says the union wants to reach a deal and avoid labour disruption.
Opposition Liberal and NDP members accuse the government of fiscal mismanagement and say its oil price forecasts were too high.