Hard, hard times again — sort of: Why a lot of N.L.’s fiscal problems are self-inflicted – Newfoundland & Labrador

Dwight Ball, the affable pharmacist who has been Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier for the last 15 months, said something remarkable Wednesday while swinging an axe through several hundred government jobs.

“We’re human, too. This impacts us,” said Ball, who clearly has shown no relish for the more brutal parts of dealing with an oil-dependent economy during a collapse in petroleum prices.

Then he added, “I wish we had had better information going into the election campaign last year.”

That’s an eyebrow-raising statement, and not because the election campaign was actually in 2015.

More to the point, Ball — or anyone who was following the news even somewhat closely in the last five years — ought to have known the provincial government had not only become too reliant on oil but had become accustomed, if not addicted, to sky-high prices in an industry that is notoriously cyclical.

Middle management latest target of cuts

Ball’s job on Wednesday was to announce that about 300 jobs were being eliminated.

The cuts were expected, as government over the last six months had eliminated top executive jobs. This week’s target was middle management.

Richard Alexander of the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council says N.L. has no choice but to curb its spending dramatically. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Next is the rank and file, which could be the toughest cut of all.

But Richard Alexander, who heads the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, says the province has no alternative.

“Government has to stop spending money it doesn’t have,” Alexander told CBC. “It’s as simple as that.”

Except that it’s not simple at all to hit the brakes on an entire government. Last April’s budget focused largely on raising revenue, pushing through a wildly unpopular series of fee and tax hikes that sparked instant outrage, and also gave N.L. the highest rate of inflation in the country.

Since then, the focus has been on cutting…

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