With the release of the 2015 budget, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has officially entered an age of austerity.
The deficit is a staggering $1.1 billion. Tax hikes, funding cuts, fee increases, job losses, recession. Provincial debt is over $11 billion. It is certain that in the coming years even more draconian measures will be taken to attempt to balance the books. Make no mistake, every sector of society will be affected. And it’s going to get ugly.
There is plenty of blame to go around, though the NL Progressive Conservative Party deserves the lion’s share. They squandered the greatest economic boon the province has ever experienced, foisted the albatross of Muskrat Falls on our shoulders, and enabled business and industry to loot the cookie jar.
For their incompetence, for their breach of public trust, the government must fall.
If they do not immediately drop the writ and set in motion an election, it is incumbent on us, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to bring them down. And this brings me to my next point…
Sharing the blame
Do we even know any longer how to bring them down?
Yes, it is true that some are more culpable than others for the economic catastrophe facing the province, but opposition parties, unions, civil society organizations, academics, media, all the institutions and “estates” of our society have witnessed the slow evolution of this disaster.
The people of the province have been deceived, lulled into a sense of complacency by narratives of the “have” province, by what looked like financial stability and a bright future, all of which makes the reality of the situation even more devastating and difficult to face. And this complacency has been accompanied by a general breakdown of social values, an overturning of ideals which were a given only a generation ago: solidarity, empathy, a sense of social justice.
I realize that I am painting with a broad brush (and I truly hope to be proven wrong), but who can honestly say that political opposition or civil society is in any position to mobilize against a brazen, rogue government? Who can honestly say that unions are in any position to fight back against cuts?
What are you going to do about it?
Beyond all the organizations and institutions, there is also blame to be shared amongst us, the everyday people of the province. We have allowed ourselves to be deceived and to be lulled to sleep by what looked like prosperity. We have given away our autonomy and our power to “leaders” who said they knew better. We are, all of us, responsible.
So now we need to get organized. We need to get together with our families and friends and communities and make a stand. We need to remind government that they work for us. We need to remind them of the consequences of their incompetence and corruption. Because if we don’t, government will just be emboldened to carry on with business as usual while society crumbles under austerity.
And finally – beyond “we” – it really comes down to you. What are you going to do about it?