The falling price of oil has had an obvious and immediate impact on the economies of Canada’s western provinces, but one Atlantic province is also feeling a serious pinch.
In an interview with The West Block’s Tom Clark this weekend, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says there is no way to sugarcoat it: his province is hurting, and it has probably not yet hit rock bottom.
“It’s actually getting worse, not quite sure we’re at rock bottom yet. I would anticipate and say and suggest that we are not,” the premier said.
The offshore oil that has brought billions in royalty revenues to “The Rock” isn’t the cash cow it once was, with oil hovering around $30 a barrel. But Newfoundlanders are also returning home in droves after losing their jobs in Alberta’s oil patch, Ball said, which means their hard-earned dollars are no longer being pumped back into the local economy.
So, what to do about Newfoundland and Labrador’s $2-billion-plus budget shortfall? Ball said it will require some creative action to climb out of the fiscal hole, and the province has started by talking to its residents using an online tool and consultation meetings.
“The province and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have come together like never before and it’s just absolutely fascinating when you see the amount of people that we are having, turning out, coming with ideas,” Ball said.
“So revenue is about controlling expenses, and how we borrow, and we are doing that now in preparation for this year’s budget.”
Ball said he is also banking on help from the federal government in the form of infrastructure investment and sustainability funds similar to the cash-infusion announced last week for Alberta.
Overall, the premier said, he is optimistic that his province can pull through as it has done in the past.
“In the long term, the future looks good, but we’ve got to work away through this,” he said. “And we know that Ottawa is willing to help us through this, and we know that the people in Newfoundland and Labrador are there to support us as well.”