Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial government delivered its annual budget to a half-empty legislature Thursday, as opposition politicians boycotted the speech and protesters stared down riot police outside.

Finance Minister Siobhan Coady slept at the Confederation Building in St. John's on Wednesday night, in order to guarantee she could start reading the budget speech on time on Thursday.

Protesting fish harvesters had been blocking access to the building throughout Wednesday morning. They clashed with police officers from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary who, at one point, tried to push into the crowd with horses from their mounted unit.

Demonstrators who returned to the Confederation Building for a second straight day of protests on Thursday were met by police wearing riot gear, like shields, batons and helmets.

"I've just never seen this in my little province," said Jimmylee Foss, a fish harvester from the rural community of La Scie, who drove into St. John's for the protest. "You've caught nothing here this morning for aggression, nothing like that. And we’re dealing with this."

On Thursday, opposition politicians from both the NDP and the Progressive Conservative parties visited protesters and told them they wouldn't be participating in the budget proceedings, as a show of solidarity to the protests.

"The Premier and his Minister of Fisheries led people to conclude that they heard us and they’re actually going to do something, and we find out that nothing was done," said Tony Wakeham, the leader of the opposition Progressive Conservative party.

Jason Sullivan, an outspoken fish harvester from Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, said it was cowardly for politicians to avoid speaking to the demonstrators outside.

"They had a little campout, I guess. This is the fanciest campground in Canada," he said.

The provincial budget was supposed to be introduced on Wednesday, but the intense protest outside the legislature forced a delay.

Fish harvesters have been protesting in St. John’s for days, arguing their movement and businesses are too tightly controlled by the fish plants where they are must sell their catch. They are calling for changes to regulations in the fishery that would allow them more choice in where they sell their products.

The protests Wednesday saw one fish harvester injured with what organizers called a broken hip -- demonstrators said it was a result of an encounter with a police officer.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said another one of its officers was hospitalized with injuries Wednesday.

With files from The Canadian Press