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Latest throne speech looks backward, not forward

His Honour Lt.-Gov. Frank F. Fagan reads the Speech From The Throne to open the Second Session of the 48th General Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador at the Confederation Building’s House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon.
His Honour Lt.-Gov. Frank F. Fagan reads the Speech From The Throne to open the Second Session of the 48th General Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador at the Confederation Building’s House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon.

Updated: Tuesday’s throne speech was summed up on the final page, when the government declared, “We look back so we can look forward.”

The unusually long document read by Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan in the House of Assembly didn’t make any significant new announcements, or give any fresh insight into how the government will operate in the future.

Instead, the speech authored by the Liberal government talked about the 18 months since the 2015 provincial election, and focused especially hard on “The Way Forward.”

In fact, the phrase “Way Forward” was mentioned 20 times in the 10,800-word speech.

The Way Forward has become the government’s catch-all policy strategy, laying out specific goals on everything from management structure and labour market development to tourism.

Just one day earlier, on Monday morning, Premier Dwight Ball unveiled the latest iteration of The Way Forward.

Government watchers will have to wait for the budget, scheduled to be delivered next Thursday, for a clear sense of what the government will do in the next year.

Right near the beginning, after celebrating the Team Gushue Brier win and acknowledging the 100th anniversary of Monchy-le-Preux, the throne speech went into some significant detail about why the Muskrat Falls megaproject is unstoppable.

“If we cancelled the project, we would still owe billions of dollars. If we cancelled the project, we would have to somehow provide the power promised to Nova Scotia, or financial compensation in lieu,” Fagan read. “We are in too deep. Cancelling the project is not feasible.”

If there was any hint at all about what the budget next week would look like, it came in the form of yet another dire warning about the deficit of the province.

“We formed government at a fiscal breaking point,” Fagan read in the speech. “We are determined to embrace what some may deem a crisis as an opportunity to do better with less. We are working with our partners at all levels of government to achieve better outcomes.”

It didn’t take long for the reviews to start rolling in on Twitter.

“Nothing new. No solutions. Just more of the same today from the Ball Liberals,” Tory MHA Steve Kent posted.

Notably, a throne speech is often a day of pomp and ceremony in the legislature, with lots of invited dignitaries. There were a few familiar faces on hand Tuesday, including former premier Beaton Tulk and former Liberal leader Kevin Aylward, but during the speech there were about 90 empty seats in the visitors’ galleries.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy said he found the throne speech to be rather empty.

“If you could make a buck on empty platitudes and meaningless targets, we’d balance the budget in no time,” he told reporters.

When reporters put their questions to Ball about the throne speech, and the vision for the future, he demurred, saying more details will come in the budget.

Asked whether the throne speech line about “doing more with less” means big cuts in the budget, he didn’t offer any details.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that. It means spending money wisely,” Ball said.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com


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Throne speech looks backward, not forward

Tuesday’s throne speech was summed up on the final page, when the government declared, “We look back so we can look forward.”

The unusually long document read by Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan in the House of Assembly didn’t make any significant new announcements, or give any fresh insight into how the government will operate in the future.

Instead, the speech authored by the Liberal government talked about the past 18 months since the provincial election, and focused especially hard on “The Way Forward.”

In fact, the phrase “Way Forward” was mentioned many times in the speech.

The Way Forward has become the government’s catch-all policy strategy, laying out specific goals on everything from management structure and labour market development to tourism policy.

It was just one day earlier, Monday morning, that Premier Dwight Ball unveiled the latest iteration of the Way Forward.

Government watchers will now have to wait for the budget, scheduled to be delivered next Thursday, for a clear sense of what the government will be doing in the next year.

Right near the beginning, after celebrating the Team Gushue Brier win and acknowledging the 100th anniversary of Monchy-le-Preux, the throne speech went into some significant detail about why the Muskrat Falls megaproject is unstoppable.

“If we cancelled the project, we would still owe billions of dollars. If we cancelled the project, we would have to somehow provide the power promised to Nova Scotia, or financial compensation in lieu,” Fagan read. “We are in too deep. Cancelling the project is not feasible.”

If there was any hint at all about what the budget next week would look like, it came in the form of yet another dire warning about the deficit of the province.

“We formed government at a fiscal breaking point,” Fagan read in the speech. “We are determined to embrace what some may deem a crisis as an opportunity to do better with less. We are working with our partners at all levels of government to achieve better outcomes.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

 

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