George Murphy Question Period (04.25.2012)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY:Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. I could not let you off with it sir. The government has decided there will not be a new municipal funding formula until we get rid of the deficit, and that may be by 2014. This is patently unfair, Mr. Speaker, to those municipalities that are really trying to make things better for the people who they serve. Mr. Speaker, we are seeing a delay in negotiating better terms with municipalities, but their problems are not going away, no matter if the Province is in the red or in the black.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Why is he not working on a new fiscal arrangement now rather than later, to ensure that municipalities can provide Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with the most basic of services?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O’BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, the first thing I have to say to the hon. member is he is into the pricing of gas all over the Province and I see he is having a decrease in the next day or so, as predicted by VOCM or whatever it may be. As well, this provincial government is trying to do what they can for the people who they serve. Not only do municipalities serve the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; so do the provincial government and the people who sit in this House of Assembly and that is exactly what we do.

In regards to a fiscal arrangement, we have to have something that is accountable, something that is transparent, something that is affordable, and something that is sustainable long into the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. I, as the Minister of Municipal Affairs, have no intention of bringing in a formula or even entertaining a formula that is not sustainable and affordable to the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s East with time for a very short question.

MR. MURPHY: Mr. Speaker, municipalities are in urgent need of a new fiscal arrangement now to meet the service needs. They cannot wait any longer.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Why did his government decide not to enter into a new fiscal arrangement with the municipalities this year but chose to wait until 2014? That is a simple question.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Municipal Affairs with time for a very short answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. O’BRIEN: Mr. Speaker, I cannot guarantee you a short answer today. I can guarantee you that when I get wound up, even if the light goes off.

I will tell what we did do. We extended the $4.6 million that we put on top of Municipal Operating Grants in this particular Budget to support our municipalities in Newfoundland and Labrador. We will continue to do that –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The time for Question Period has expired.

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