Murphy debates Budget 2013

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

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I appreciate the nice round of applause for standing up here and having a few words.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: There you go. Mr. Speaker, just to address a few things that the hon. Member for Port au Port just talked about, I want to –
AN HON. MEMBER: St. George – Stephenville East.

MR. MURPHY: Sorry, St. Georges – Stephenville East, my apologies.
I wanted to address a few things she said. First of all she addressed Muskrat Falls and talked about the federal loan guarantee. Mr. Speaker, we are pleased that the NDP supported the whole idea of a loan guarantee for this project –
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: – saving the people of Newfoundland and Labrador approximately $1 billion. We freely admit that. Why? Because that was the federal NDP’s responsibility and their job to press for issues concerning Newfoundland and Labrador.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: As far as I am concerned Jack Harris and Ryan Cleary did their job and they did it well I say to the hon. member.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: What their responsibility was not was the responsibility that the Newfoundland and Labrador NDP had to do. That was to make sure that number one, this project was going to be economically viable; number two, that it was going to be environmentally sound, Mr. Speaker; and, number three, to make sure that we were still going to be able to sustain the social programs of this Province.
Mr. Speaker, Muskrat Falls failed on all three counts and this Budget is evidence of the fact – evidence of the fact.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY:This Province is running a deficit right now because Muskrat Falls Project has proceeded. This government had the blinkers on to show that they did not have the revenue to pay for it, and possibly will not in the future, Mr. Speaker.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The Speaker is having trouble hearing the speaker.
The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY: Let the next Progressive Conservative member of this government stand up in the House next time – and I challenge him now, stand up the next time and show us how you are going to sustain all these programs, the social programs in Newfoundland and Labrador, the programs that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are asking for because it has not been done. They have a right to all of this they pay for it with their taxes.

How about seniors? How is this government getting ready for seniors, Mr. Speaker? I am going to start off on that point right off the bat. How are they going to address the problems of seniors? The CLC are saying right now that we are going to have major problems when it comes to the growth in the numbers of seniors that we are seeing, right now it is somewhere around 87,000 and I quoted it last year in the Budget Speech, this date is a year old. In the year 2030 they are talking about the possibility of having an extra 100,000 more people, where is their plan for the future when it comes to addressing the needs of seniors? We have not seen it yet and some of us here sitting in the House now are probably going to end up being party to whatever plan is put in place in 2030.

I will say about the cuts to EAS and ABE funding particularly in the next couple of minutes that the hon. Member for St. George’s – Stephenville East is dealing with right now. This is one cut, if you want to hear about an argument, a good argument to bring back a review of some of these programs this is it because the hon. Member for St. George’s – Stephenville East talked about the Poverty Reduction Strategy and she knows and all the members on the government side know as well as on the Opposition side that the gateway to getting out of poverty is through education and what are we doing, we are hauling out one of the very tools underneath somebody’s feet that could be in a remote area of the Province that needs it the most when it comes to Adult Basic Education.

I am sure that the Member for Mount Pearl South is going to go and he is going to recruit a small company that has profit in mind to go out in some other area of the Province and try to make a profit in a smaller community say where there might be two or three people that could be needing that program. We have a social responsibility to make sure that that need is going to be there for the people when they need it most. With cuts to CONA and ABE programming is it not going to be there, Mr. Speaker, it is not.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MURPHY: That is the reason why you will not see me support this Budget; it is not going to happen, Mr. Speaker.
EAS people, that were working in my own district I can count twenty-one people right off the bat, places like the Brother TI Murphy Centre and the Association for New Canadians, the Northeast Avalon YMCA is another good one. All these people were pretty much doing the work as well as what social workers would do, they were taking people in off the street. They were giving them a shot at life. They were giving them a shot at a decent education to be able to carry on. Where is that chance gone to now, Mr. Speaker, to a private corporation that maybe will be able to teach them in the classroom if they make it there? The EAS workers were the people, they were the go-betweens, they would find the people out there on the street, they would find the people that needed the service and they would get them there to wherever the service was to. There is a gap that is missing here. Strike two on that.

Where is the Poverty Reduction Strategy? While government was probably making pretty good progress on the Poverty Reduction Strategy in the first place, now they pull the rug out from their very own team. That, Mr. Speaker, is a shame.

I will leave it there for now but I just wanted to address those particular facts.

Now, let’s talk about what is happening with the Budget itself, let’s talk about the Budget document, let’s go to page ix and I will give the viewers and the listeners out there a chance to turn over to page ix in Roman numerals if they want to scroll down on their computers and they will find a section there that is called Where The Money Comes From. I am going to tell you where the focus has been on this government because it certainly has been on people in one particular way, because the people are getting nailed for this, it is not corporations. It is not corporations of what government is projecting to make over the next year and where the money is going to come from.

I went back to the 2011-2012 Budget just to get some sort of a balance, Mr. Speaker, on exactly the way the numbers have been going. It is a little bit disturbing when you go back to the budget and see how fast these numbers have been turning around as regards to our government, as percentage of revenue it is getting –
Where The Money Is Coming From, if you go to the personal percentage of revenue, the Income Tax, 2011-2012 it was 12.6 per cent or $939 million; if you go 2012-2013 it was 16 per cent, $1.076 billion, up the number goes, people listen to this one; estimated personal income tax revenue for 2013-2014, 17.4 per cent. Two things, number one it might be a good thing when it comes to personal employment, but, number two, the numbers have gone up. Is that because of better jobs? Possibly, I say to the Member of Mount Pearl South. That is possible, but listen to this one as a focus of general revenue, maybe these numbers really stayed the same and maybe it is the corporate end of things that have changed a bit. Do you think? Maybe, just maybe.

Listen to this, Mr. Speaker, when you are talking about numbers changing, corporate percentage of revenue in 2011-2012 was only 6.5 per cent, $484 million in corporate taxes collected. Then, you go to corporate percentage of revenue for 2012-2013, it shoots up to 11.5 per cent, $775 million; but what happened in this Budget, estimated corporate percentage of revenue, corporate taxes? Anybody take a guess over there on the other side of the House? $375 million, a drop of $400 million, $400 million less. Why? Corporate tax breaks, maybe? Maybe we will go ahead and collect a little bit more off the personal income tax end of things. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, but I pose the question: Is their focus on corporations or have they lost focus on people? I tend to look at this number and I would say the focus is turned over to corporations.
Personal income taxes have risen altogether. If it is jobs, we still do not know why that corporate number is falling and we really need an answer from the Finance Minister on that. Why is there a $400 million difference here, when if we had that $400 million maybe we only would have had about $160 million shortfall to deal with? It is a good question, and it is one I hope the Finance Minister will answer when his time comes to address this. Perhaps the next member from the government side will get up and explain the $400 million shortfall.

Is it because of falling oil revenues? Well, Mr. Speaker, last year in the Budget when they came out with $124 a barrel, this member here was standing up and saying you are crazy. You cannot do that. There was no justification for $124 a barrel for oil, which brings me to the next topic when it comes to the predicting of oil prices.
For last year, they came out with $124 a barrel and I looked at some of these surveys and everything that were out there as regards where people were going with the price of oil. I read it all. They took it all on a business perspective, Mr. Speaker. Do you know what? I did not find a single one out there. I think that government might have forgotten that in their own budgeting projections last year and possibly again this year. They forgot the realities of what consumers can afford.

They forgot the consumer. They forgot, probably, things like estimated population growth and economic growth, certain factors like that, inventory levels, and maybe the impact of shale oil resources and how they would go and affect the price of oil. All of these are very good questions. Government really needs to sit back and do a proper assessment.
No doubt the people who are coming out with their oil numbers probably have done it on their own basis. This year they have come out with about $105 or $107 a barrel. Government is sitting back on $105. I think, to tell you the truth, government really wanted to go down to $100 a barrel. I think that is where they should have gone because of certain varying factors that are out there.

Number one, consumers cannot afford high prices. They cannot. That is a simple, basic fact that is happening now worldwide when it comes to oil prices. We cannot afford high prices.

Look at your electricity bill. Every time Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro wants to put up rates because of higher oil prices what happens? We turn back the lights; we start to attack Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro or Newfoundland Power because of that. No doubt they have to try to recoup costs. Is it fair? Absolutely not, I do not think so; I think that is a reason when government should be stepping in to protect the consumer when it comes to volatility of oil prices. The same as what they should have done with this Budget.

They did not go with a number that might have kept them a little bit safe. If any place that you should have gone when it comes to picking out a number, when it comes to putting out the price of oil, the first place that you would have started is how much it would have cost to actually pump the oil out of the ground. Right now they are saying $55 a barrel. What would government do with that? I do not know, it depends on what they are doing with it now. So far in this Budget they have not done it right.
We are $560 million in the hole. We cannot count the number of barrels we had because about two months before that it was $1.6 billion in the hole. What happened? We do not have full control over our own finances. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have lost a say in exactly where the money is going. That, Mr. Speaker, is that.
I think that we can do a lot better when it comes to predicting of the price of oil. As I said, if you were going to start anywhere and then work your way up if you had to work up to a higher level, start with what it cost to actually put a well in the ground. Some people are saying about $55 a barrel, work up from there.

When the hon. Minister of Finance stood up and gave that wage increase as they were talking about earlier, the 4, 8, 4 and 4 on December 23, 2008, oil for that month – when he got up and did his press conference down there at the media centre – averaged $42 a barrel for Brent. It is a fact. What I am saying is that is a lot of room here for government to work with right now based on $100 a barrel if they wanted to. Let us see where they go. I will leave it at that.

I wanted to get up and say a few more things. Obviously one of the departments that I wanted to come to again talking about cuts, Mr. Speaker, which were wrong for government to do in this particular case, not only with EAS and ABE and putting people out to work where it really matters, where it would have been a cornerstone for the economy carrying on with education. I am not going to touch on schools yet, I am pretty sure that my cohort from St. John’s North will be tackling the school issue. I will touch on it again myself too later on when it comes to it.

No doubt I wanted to touch on Environment and Conservation, Mr. Speaker, and cuts to wildlife and what it means for this Province. The implications of giving lower corporate income tax would probably see in return probably a boom in the industrialization in this Province and to actually cut to environment and conservation now, now at this juncture of our provincial economic history and security of our environment, now they are cutting to environment. When we need it most, Mr. Speaker, they are making all these cuts. They are talking about the possibility of bringing in fracking for oil on the West Coast. We are talking about industrial development in Labrador which may or may not be a good thing in some people’s minds no doubt the treasury needs it but it is coming at a cost. Possibly at a cost to our natural heritage, Mr. Speaker, because long after industry is gone we are probably going to have to be-

MS ROGERS: Stuck with the mess.
MR. MURPHY: Stuck with the mess, exactly.
We already have a long heritage of being stuck with the mess now, for example, Abitibi. For example, the whole –
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The hon. the Member for St. John’s East.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This is still debt. This is environmental liabilities we are talking about. Somebody has to deal with the cleanup of the mess.
In the case of Abitibi it is somewhere around $110 million I think that is the number that is kicking around. We can go back to the Hope Brook Gold Mine, I think the year before last I think government had to put $25 million into the cleanup of various chemicals that were out there, speaking of fracking. We are talking about $25 million in Hope Brook Gold Mine, now no doubt that the mine is working now at $1,300 or $1,400 an ounce for gold but if it shuts down again who is going to get to cleanup the mess.

We had an environmental disaster almost an emergency happen, Mr. Speaker, out just north of the community of South Brook where a holding pond for a former mine breached. The water came down over the bank, got into the river and almost contaminated the water supply. We almost lost it. We almost lost it. It is shameful, Mr. Speaker, that we could not keep up on inspections. It is shameful that this government did not have a plan to have monies put aside by these major corporations so that we would have some form of redress in the end because we know that they are going to leave. You know they are going to leave us hanging. You know that somebody else is going to have to clean up the mess and you know that it is probably going to be in somebody’s backyard but to this government right now it is out of sight and out of mind.

Fracking is underground so it does not exist, I say to the Member for Mount Pearl South. It does not matter to him. If it is happening out in Port au Port or in the confines of a national park on the Northern Peninsula or in Sally’s Cove. It is not happening out in Mount Pearl so it does not count. Little does he know that the revenues that would come from it would probably be going to Mount Pearl South, and rightly so if we do it right.

This government has not taken the time out yet to redevelop the regulations around fracking. Right now, Mr. Speaker, they have not come out with regulations on holding ponds, they have not come out with regulations on environmental cleanup, who is going to end up cleaning it up, what those chemicals are going to be, the protection of people’s water supplies, and everything. We do not have it yet. We are a long way from it, but they are talking about doing it, pretty much yesterday rather than tomorrow when we have all the checks and balances put in place.

That is the only reason people are calling for a moratorium on it, but we cannot throw a few dollars aside that would be going into the Provincial Treasury and let it wait until we have a federal government report come out on it. No, Mr. Speaker, we need it now because we are in the hole. That will be two of them in the hole, the oil companies and the government. That is all we need, to jump in with them.

Mr. Speaker, back to Wildlife, all the positions and eleven people employed. I think it was six and five when it comes to full-time and vacant positions. They were working in Sustainable Development and Strategic Science, three in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Science, three who were working with pollution, one in pesticides whose job was repositioned, one in Waste Management, and four in Water Resources, one layoff that was doing water investigations.

Two were working with Endangered and Biodiversity. Mr. Speaker, do you know where some of those endangered species are? Right over where they are talking about smacking those drill bits into the earth. They cannot wait to get rid of the species there now that are endangered, right over on the Port au Port Peninsula anywhere around the Robinsons River and in areas that are close to Gros Morne Park. Once you lose it, it is gone and it is gone forever, the same as the oil that was sucked out of the ground – gone forever.
There were six people in Stewardship and Education, to talk about learning. I would be remiss, two important positions, one lost in Witless Bay at the Ecological Reserve and one in St. Mary’s that was lost as well. These people were educators. They were protecting our natural heritage. Government has cut too much from natural heritage. They have cut too much from Environment and Conservation.

They need to rethink the strategy. Why? There are a couple of good, compelling arguments here, Mr. Speaker. I challenge the next Tory government member to get up and find $400 million in the books as we found it here now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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