Liberals accused of ‘overreaching’ on spending bill as House of Assembly reopens

The provincial legislature reopens Monday afternoon, as the Liberals —with a new premier in the wings — look to repeat recent history, and get another bill passed to fund government operations in the short term in the absence of a budget.

Neither opposition party has much appetite for the Liberals’ proposal of a three-month interim supply bill to keep the wheels of public service turning, as it prepares to unveil a budget on Sept. 30.

The Liberals, as a minority government, will likely need some opposition support to pass any budget measures through the house.

Budgets are usually announced in the spring, but the pandemic disrupted that financial schedule, and in March the opposition supported a six-month $4.6 billion interim supply bill.

On Monday morning, the leaders of both the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democratic Party indicated they were cool to the idea of another extension, but neither would definitely say they would vote down the measure. 

Both said they disliked the length of the new bill, feeling it was too long a time frame.

“I have some reservations, absolutely,” said Allison Coffin, the leader of the NDP, citing financial transparency as a top concern.

“We don’t know what government has been spending their money on, we don’t have a plan for the future.”

“The issue is they’re overreaching and asking for too much elbow room here,” said PC Leader Ches Crosbie, calling the bill an “extravagant request.”

Both Crosbie and Coffin said their parties have been collaborating with the ruling Liberals throughout the pandemic-caused upheaval, with little appetite to call an election in the last few months.

Provincial NDP Leader Alison Coffin and Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie both want more financial transparency from the Liberals. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

But both said their patience is waning, and the September budget could prove a breaking point, depending on what it entails.

“I think we’ve been as accommodating as the people of the province might have wanted us to be,” said Crosbie, who wants to see a firm plan for job creation in the budget.

“My caucus and I have done yeoman’s service to trying to craft a relationship with the Liberals to see a minority government work for four years,” Coffin told CBC Radio’s St. John’s Morning Show.

“Our efforts have been thwarted at every turn.”

In or out of caucus?

The Liberals have been in a minority government since the election of May 2019 under former premier Dwight Ball. With Andrew Furey now in the premier’s position, every seat continues to matter, and the fate of one Liberal MHA is uncertain. 

The premier met with Sherry Gambin-Walsh, the former Service NL minister, on Sunday at Confederation Building. The meeting came after Gambin-Walsh was cleared of RCMP charges relating to leaking information from the cabinet table. 

A police investigation found that Gambin-Walsh leaked information, but as no one benefited from the leak, no charges were laid.

There is no word yet on the results of Sunday’s meeting.

Sherry Gambin-Walsh met with Premier Andrew Furey Sunday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Furey faces a challenge to gain his own seat in the House of Assembly. Furey has filed his nomination papers for the Oct. 6 byelection in Humber-Gros Morne, Ball’s old seat. 

Deer Lake Deputy Mayor Mike Goosney is set to run against him for the PCs, and NL Alliance Leader Graydon Pelley is also running in his home district. 

On Monday morning, the NDP said Graham Downey-Sutton, a Corner Brook developmental support worker, will be the party’s candidate in the byelection. 

The deadline to file nominations is Tuesday at 2 p.m. NT. 

Due to public health restrictions, the House of Assembly’s public gallery will remain closed. All proceedings will be stream online.

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Liberals accused of ‘overreaching’ on spending bill as House of Assembly reopens

Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

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