«2012 Speech from the Throne The First Session of the Forty-Seventh General Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador March 5, 2012 ...»
Just as a multi-year approach enabled us to bridge a short-term dip in private sector activity, it can also enable us to bridge the short-term dip in public sector revenue we are facing in the next two years. My Government has prepared Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to expect revenues to dip in 2012 and 2013 as federal payments under the Atlantic Accord end, two offshore platforms are taken offline for refits and the volume of oil production is reduced. To achieve balanced budgets in those two years, the province would need to reduce expenditures so precipitously that critical services could be compromised. Rather than take such a rigid, shortsighted approach, My Government has opted once again to take a longterm, multi-year approach to fiscal management. It is determined to achieve efficiencies and to maximize the value of every public dollar spent; but to ensure vital programs are not compromised when revenues swing due to circumstances beyond its control, My Government has established a longer-term debt reduction target. Already, it has reduced the province’s burden of debt by more than a third from a high of $12 billion to an estimated $7.7 billion at March 31, 2012, diverting hundreds of millions from interest payments to high-priority initiatives and tax relief.
Health Care Advances
In moving forward with a long-term, multi-year approach, My Government remains committed to the delivery of health care services, a critical area of provincial responsibility. In fact, My Government has been improving health care delivery to such an extent that Newfoundland and Labrador, once a laggard, is now a leader in cardiac care. We know that having access to the best tools to diagnose and treat cardiac disease is crucial in our province, and our investments reflect our commitment. The redevelopment of two of our cardiac catheterization laboratories in Eastern Health and the addition of a third cath lab is enabling us to treat more cardiac patients from throughout the province. We have also invested in the latest in new technologies when it comes to cardiac care, which is key to recruiting cardiologists. Health care professionals are travelling to this province to learn best practices in cardiac surgery. Imagine that!
My Government is taking the lead to ensure Newfoundland and Labrador becomes a centre of excellence in other health disciplines as well and raises the bar nationally in the delivery of health care services. Every health care dollar must be spent as effectively as possible, particularly in light of changes the Federal Government is imposing on future health transfers which will constrain growth in our share. Our Premier, with her colleagues at the Council of the Federation meeting in January, established a national Health Care Innovation Working Group to drive collaboration and innovation to provide better care for seniors and all Canadians. Our Minister of Health and Community Services just fulfilled two election
commitments by announcing strategies to reduce wait times for emergency departments and hip and knee joint replacement surgeries.
My Government will also be making strategic investments in the Long-Term Care and Community Supports Services sector to address the significant growth in the home support program and ensure existing and new clients receive the care required. As promised in the Blue Book, policy improvements are being developed that, firstly, will realign patient care funding so it is based on a patient’s assessed need and, secondly, will create options for receiving that care from family members. My Government will introduce legislation to ensure that clients of our drug programs pay less for generic drugs. At the same time, we are in dialogue with the Pharmacy Association to mitigate the impact of reduced revenues to pharmacies, especially small pharmacies in rural areas. In these and other ways, My Government will build in the year ahead on the major advances it has made in health care delivery in the past eight years.
Another critical area of provincial responsibility is child protection, which My Government has strengthened through the creation three years ago of the new Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. The Department will complete the transfer of all staff from the Regional Health Authorities this month and is moving toward full implementation of improved service delivery. With the new Children and Youth Care and Protection Act now proclaimed, My Government will better serve the varied and complex needs of children and youth. A key component of this plan involves fundamental changes to our foster care system, providing greater supports for foster parents in recognition of the vital role they play in caring for children most at risk. In addition, the child protection program will provide services and supports to families to address children at risk and help them remain in their own homes.
For those who cannot be returned to their families, My Government will make it easier for these children to be adopted into permanent homes. These improvements to our child
protection system illustrate the advances we can achieve throughout the public service by focusing more clearly on priorities. Complementing these initiatives will be ongoing efforts to combat bullying and child exploitation.
The second objective My Government will focus on this year is to make it easier for employers to attract the skilled workers they require while making it easier for individuals to find the skilled careers they need. Through an unprecedented series of investments in public post-secondary education, My Government has already given Newfoundland and Labrador students the best student aid program and among the lowest tuition fees in the country. Over the course of the four-year term ahead, My Government will continue to hold the line on tuition fee increases at Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic and shift the balance from student loans to grants.
In the skilled trades, graduates require on-the-job experience and professional certification.
In this year’s Budget, My Government is introducing and expanding programs to help apprentices progress through to journeyperson status. We are increasing employer participation and employment opportunities for apprentices. We are increasing employment opportunities within government; we are increasing opportunities for seasoned workers to become certified, for training and advanced training for under-represented groups; and we are increasing awareness of the benefits of hiring apprentices. We are also providing additional supports and plans to address barriers for apprentices and journeypersons.
We are continuing to improve the participation rates of women in non-traditional skilled trades. Having established the Office of Women Apprenticeship, My Government will work
to finalize Gender Equity Plans for the Hebron project, Hibernia South, the St. Lawrence fluorspar mine reactivation project and the proposed Alderon project, among others. We will also continue review and compliance monitoring for approved Gender Equity Plans including Vale Inco’s Long Harbour operation, the Rambler Mines project, and the Labrador Iron Mines and Tata Steel Minerals Canada operations in Labrador. All future resource development projects in the province will require such provisions.
There are tremendous opportunities in our province for women, not only in the skilled trades, but also in business. To help support women entrepreneurs and encourage young women to pursue future careers in business, My Government will build on its partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) to advance the Business Connections program. Together, they will link women-led businesses with specific opportunities on the local, national and international stage. Some of these opportunities will relate to the major industrial projects on our horizon.
Some industrial employers will face challenges finding local workers. My Government will move forward this year to create a Workforce Development Secretariat to link industrial development and employment opportunities with people who are ready to do the work.
While we will work vigorously to ensure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians benefit first and fully from these employment opportunities, other workers will also be required. As people move here from outside the province to meet labour market needs, we will welcome them with open arms, encouraging them to sink down deep roots and make Newfoundland and Labrador home. We have finally started to turn the corner toward population growth, and we look forward to building on those gains.
Recognizing that the foundations for personal achievement are established in childhood, My Government will build on the unprecedented investments of the past eight years to further advance the quality and breadth of our province’s K-12 education system.
Two additional initiatives will help people to capitalize on new opportunities in our province.
My Government will be moving forward with a Provincial Strategy for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador. It will also be releasing a new poverty reduction action plan. Both strategies will include measures to assist people who wish to make the transition to employment.
Power to Grow Strength Through Diversification
The third objective My Government will focus on this year is to fuel sustainable economic growth. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians understand the importance of diversification for growth. Ours was once an economy grounded exclusively on the export of fish. As recently as the nineteen nineties, we learned how devastating a sharp decline in that one sector could be for hundreds of our communities and tens of thousands of our people. Today, because of diversification, some regions are buffered against the consequences of sharp downward spikes in the demand or supply of specific export commodities. With a broad base plus provincial support, both Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor were able to weather the loss of their pulp and paper industries. When communities experience losses of employment in major industries, My Government remains determined to work with the people of these communities to minimize the impacts. This Government has a record of standing steadfastly beside towns facing struggles, rolling up its sleeves and finding solutions.
But My Government’s principal strategy is to be proactive, fortifying our regions against such downturns by broadening and diversifying the economic foundations to enhance our regions’ long-term stability. There are several approaches we can take. Innovation is one of the most powerful.
The “Blue” Economy BMO Capital Markets, in its Blue Book for February 2012, reported, “The mood among our customers in Newfoundland & Labrador is definitely more optimistic than it was just six months ago”. The report went on to give one of the reasons for this optimism, stating that: “The province is also becoming a key centre for innovation. As the host for the Ocean Sciences Centre at Memorial University and a growing expertise on oil & gas, deep water drilling and deep water exploration, Newfoundland & Labrador now boasts some of the best ocean science expertise in the world.” My Government is implementing a five-year, $28 million ocean technology strategy to collaborate with our local cluster in support of its goal to increase the value of our “blue” economy to a billion dollars by 2015. Ocean technology products, services and expertise are being marketed, not just nationally, but around the world, and Newfoundland and Labrador is establishing itself as an epicentre of ocean technology. Through sustained partnerships with educational and research institutions and industry, the province will support innovators from the idea phase through initial business startup to commercialization. A partnership with Memorial University’s Genesis Centre has already helped with the development of five new ocean technology companies. Our significant investment in C-CORE will enhance our capacity to engage in northern resource development projects, leveraging our unique location and established strength in developing solutions for harsh environments. We look forward to continued collaboration with Memorial University, its Marine Institute and OceansAdvance to further enhance the research and industrial capacity of our vibrant sector.
In other leading-edge sectors, such as life sciences and green technologies, knowledgedriven advances are turning heads toward Newfoundland and Labrador. Investments in Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the Fisheries and 2012 Speech from the Throne 14 MARCH 5, 2012 NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR Marine Institute will position Newfoundland and Labrador for innovation and growth. The province’s Research & Development Corporation will continue to foster partnerships with industry and academia and drive for success in priority areas such as ocean technology, energy and mining. My Government is also encouraging the private sector to invest in innovation to enhance the competitiveness of local enterprises, large and small. Expanded incentives under My Government’s Innovation Strategy are driving growth, not only in larger centres but in rural communities as well.