By Richard Alexander,
NL Employers’ Council Executive Director
Like most of you, I was shocked when the provincial government decided to deal with our deficit predominantly through tax and fee increases in Budget 2016. I recognized the province’s finances were bad, and expected a tough budget, but nothing could have prepared me for the magnitude of what actually transpired.
In a year with a deficit of $1.8 billion, government created an additional $882 million in new tax and fee revenues and, at the same time, increased spending by 3%, or $223 million. These tax increases have raised the personal tax burden in Newfoundland & Labrador to be one of the largest tax burdens in the country. Government did promise to make cost reductions in an upcoming fall “mini-budget.” But, over the last few months I have received many calls and emails from members and non-members concerned that our elected representatives will lose their political will to make meaningful reforms.
The fact that public sector unions have launched campaigns designed to discredit the premier and the Liberals and promote this as a “cuts” budget is contributing to the concern. The union ads fail to mention the fact that spending actually increased in this budget and that these tax increases make it easier for the public sector to remain the largest in Canada. It is clear that the goal of their well-funded public awareness campaigns is to sap the will of government to make itself less expensive for tax payers.
The truth is, the everyday taxpayer’s voice has not had an opportunity to really be heard. The people of our province shouldn’t have to bear the burden of higher taxes when there are other solutions. Government should have looked at itself first and reduced spending before taking more out of the paycheques of hardworking Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. From regionalization of services, to partnerships with the private and not-for-profit sectors, to finding efficiencies, and eliminating unnecessary or underperforming programs and services there are better ways to address the problems we’re facing.
To make it easier for taxpayers to have a voice, the NL Employers’ Council created “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for Big Government” — a grass roots advocacy campaign centered on a fictitious organization committed to higher taxes and bigger government. Yesterday we launched a digital advertising, social media, and radio campaign “promoting” larger government and driving traffic to BigGovNL.ca. Our hope is that the satirical nature of the campaign will help call attention to just how ridiculous the situation in Newfoundland and Labrador has become and perhaps give people a break from all the negativity out there with a small chuckle. We are trying to change the conversation and recommend solutions other than higher taxes. With just a few clicks on the BigGovNL website you are able to send a letter to your MHA and the Minister of Finance and/or post to social media about the need to reduce spending and taxes in the fall mini-budget.
Our government is elected to protect its citizens and create the conditions for prosperity so that each of us, in our own way, can make the most of our lives. Taxpayers, like you and I, are working hard to be able to save for our children’s educations, put money away for retirement, or even take a family vacation. Creating one of the highest personal tax burdens in Canada is simply the wrong approach. It’s time we told our government to look at its own budget and find cost savings just as they have asked us to do.
Visit and take action: www.BigGovNL.ca