PERT and the Ghost of NL Budget 2016

It is not difficult to hear echoes of 2016 in the recent recommendations from the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (PERT).

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Back in 2016 there was an uprising in Newfoundland and Labrador.

At the time Dwight Ball and Cathy Bennett cooked up a plan to address what they characterized as an economic crisis facing the province.

They had recently won a majority government in the general election of November 2015. The scale of calamity of Muskrat Falls and the province’s finances was becoming clear. There were dire prognostications, and the new government held ineffective public consultations.

In the end, Ball and Bennett released Budget 2016 in April of that year. It had an array of cuts and tax increases and even a special “deficit reduction levy.” 

Predictable Reaction

Within days of the budget’s release, protests erupted across the province.

A broad-based protest movement started in the grassroots. Regular people organized meetings and demonstrations in their towns. Small groups and individuals disrupted the functioning of government.

Then the students at MUN and CNA got involved. Even before Budget 2016 there had been protests on campus against cuts and possible tuition increases.

Then the unions got involved and things snowballed.

It all culminated in a monster demonstration at Confederation Building in early May 2016.

The protest movement became known as NL Rising. It caused the government to roll back much of its Budget 2016 agenda. It caused MHAs to quit government (Paul Lane for the second time). It led Cathy Bennett to resign as Finance Minister and later to leave politics altogether.

After NL Rising Dwight Ball’s government was never the same and never dared to attempt anything like Budget 2016 again.

A Familiar Tune

It is not difficult to hear echoes of 2016 in the recent recommendations from the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team (PERT). Actually, it’s more than echoes. It sounds like the exact same song with the volume turned up.

A government that has just won a majority. Dire prognostications and the supposed need to make difficult decisions. A public relations exercise to soften the blow of an upcoming budget that promises hardship for all.

And the conditions of life and the household economics in the province have not changed, or at least not for the better.

The people of the province could not afford it then. They cannot afford it now.

History Repeats Itself

What does this current government expect is going to happen? Can they honestly believe that doing the exact same things all over again will have a different outcome?

Have they even considered how people may respond?

All signs point to the upcoming budget being an amped up version of Budget 2016. If recent history is anything to go by, it won’t take long after releasing Budget 2021 to know if there will be another rendition of NL Rising as well.

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