Liberal Leader Dwight Ball rolls out plan for building a stronger, smarter economy

For Immediate Release
November 13, 2015

(St. John’s) Today Liberal Leader Dwight Ball rolled out the third of five platform planks from the Liberal 5-Point Plan: Building a stronger, smarter economy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

While highlighting key elements of the plan to the more than 400 attendees at the St. John’s Board of Trade luncheon, Ball focused on energy, diversification and improving the business environment.

Plan highlights included: reversing government’s proposed HST hike; establishing a cabinet committee to start planning for the return of the Upper Churchill resource; developing a long-term vision for our oil and gas industry; creating a centre of excellence for deepwater oil and gas development; creating a fisheries advisory council and a seafood marketing council; supporting growth in traditional industries; diversifying the economy through innovation including a young entrepreneur retention program and increased business incubation; and population growth.

“Our Liberal team is strong and motivated, bringing the kind of depth and breadth of business experience that is unmatched by any other party,” said Ball. “Over the past four years, we’ve been traveling the province and meeting with our more than 500,000 advisors to talk face-to-face about not just the issues, but also solutions Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can be a part of.”

“Liberals know the answer to building a stronger, smarter economy is through diversification, job creation, and growth.”

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Media Contact:

Nancy O’Connor
709.725.7070

BUILDING A STRONGER, SMARTER ECONOMY

Newfoundland and Labrador is rich in potential given our natural resources, the beauty of our landscapes and the uniqueness of our communities. Our businesses are innovative and diverse. Our people are hardworking and adaptable. With all this potential, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know our provincial economy should be performing better.

The PC Government’s fiscal record includes mismanaging $25 billion in offshore oil revenue, and failing to diversify the economy. As a result, almost every important provincial economic indicator is moving in the wrong direction. 

Liberals strongly believe that the answer to building a stronger, smarter economy is through diversification, job creation, and growth. A New Liberal Government will implement the following policies to support a smarter, stronger economy that captures the full potential of our province’s many riches.

REVERSE THE HST INCREASE

In the 2015 budget, the Davis Government announced a two point increase in the HST. An increase in the HST will leave the people of the province to pay for the PC Government’s fiscal mismanagement. Liberals understand that this increase will hurt consumer confidence and hurt business. It will also negatively affect people on fixed incomes, including seniors, who cannot afford price increases for everyday goods and services. An increase in the HST will be felt by everyone throughout our economy, and will slow economic growth.

A New Liberal Government will immediately reverse the HST increase.

SIMPLIFY THE TAX SYSTEM

A New Liberal Government will complete a comprehensive independent review of the tax system, including tax expenditures. The review will identify ways to simplify the tax system and reduce costs for both government and taxpayers. This type of fiscal due diligence is long overdue.

The objective is to ensure the tax system is competitive and fair. Liberals understand it is critical for our province to remain competitive if we are to position Newfoundland and Labrador as an attractive place to live and work. A more competitive and less cumbersome tax system will attract investment and provide an incentive for young families and businesses to put down roots in Newfoundland and Labrador. Liberals will ensure the tax system is fair to all residents of the province, including seniors and people living on fixed incomes.

CAPITALIZE ON OUR ENERGY RESOURCES

Electricity Generation & Energy Security

Newfoundland and Labrador’s tremendous hydro resources mean the province has an enormous capacity for electrical generation. This potential ranges in scale from megaprojects to community hydro developments and home-based systems. A New Liberal Government will capitalize on this potential to ensure energy security and reliability in Newfoundland and Labrador for generations to come.

Sell Surplus Power to Reduce Energy Bills

Liberals believe that, as the primary stakeholders, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians must be the primary beneficiaries of the Muskrat Falls Project. A New Liberal Government will work to mitigate potential increases in electricity rates. Revenue generated from the sale of surplus power will be used to offset power rates for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Open the Books on Muskrat Falls

Liberals recognize that completion of the Muskrat Falls Project is now at a pivotal point in our province’s future. This project is costing far more than Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were told when the PC Government sanctioned it. With billions of dollars already spent and committed to the project, Liberals are committed to minimizing its burden on ratepayers and taxpayers and ensuring the best use of its power.

Liberals have always insisted that details surrounding a project of such importance, funded through taxpayers’ dollars, must be made fully available to the public.

A New Liberal Government will open the books on the Muskrat Falls Project and make public the details of how taxpayers’ money has been spent.

Establish a Cabinet Committee on 2041

In 2041, control of Churchill Falls will return to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. While that date is decades into the future, a New Liberal Government will establish a cabinet committee to begin planning on how best to incorporate this critical asset into a long-term vision for the province.

Encourage Distributed Energy Generation

In order to expand into more diverse sources of energy generation, a New Liberal Government will seek out opportunities to develop wind farms and small-scale hydro. As part of these efforts, a New Liberal Government will prioritize communities that are isolated from the primary power grid, including coastal regions of Labrador, for wind and small-scale hydro developments.

Implement Net Metering Programs

Net metering allows individuals and businesses to generate their own electricity through small-scale renewable sources of energy, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal. Any surplus power is fed back into the distribution system, and customers are able to use it to offset the cost of electricity they draw from the system.

The PC Government first committed to net metering in 2007, and a policy framework was finally announced in 2015. However, there are several remaining steps before net metering programs are implemented. New regulations must be drafted, and utilities must develop and submit net metering programs for review and approval.

A New Liberal Government will work with utilities to set timelines to develop and implement net metering programs within the province. We will keep the public informed as we advance towards the implementation of net metering.

Make Effective Use of Energy

To improve the use of energy and generate savings, a New Liberal Government will:

  • Develop Pay-as-You-Save programs for residential, commercial, and industrial energy retrofits that generate net benefits. These programs will include performance testing before and after a retrofit is undertaken. Liberals will also explore new opportunities to partner with municipalities and other stakeholders to retrofit subsidized housing; and
  • Increase the energy efficiency and environmental performance of government-owned buildings by pursuing BOMA BEST certification, the Canadian standard for commercial building environmental performance.

Harness Our Energy for Domestic Use and Export

Newfoundland and Labrador’s vast energy resources provide a competitive advantage in attracting industrial development, and a valuable commodity to capitalizing on export markets through energy marketing. A New Liberal Government will act to maximize the net benefits from in-province use of energy and energy export by:

  • – Intensively marketing cost-competitive electricity generated by wind and hydro to regional, national, and international markets;
  • – Encouraging investment and innovation in electrical power generation projects; and
  • Seeking opportunities to develop the Gull Island hydro project, which will include identifying potential markets and scouting potential access routes.

 

The Oil & Gas Industry

Develop a Long-Term Vision for the Industry

A New Liberal Government will create an Oil and Gas Industry Development Council, housed in the Department of Natural Resources. The Council will consist of government officials and industry stakeholders for the purpose of determining the long-term vision for the province’s future in the oil and gas sector. The Council will be mandated to create a transparent energy policy with a focus on developing a more sustainable and competitive industry. We will ensure that project benefits agreements align with those long-term vision and goals.

Develop Local Skills and Expertise for Long-Term Sustainability

One key to ensuring a more competitive and sustainable local oil and gas industry is building expertise and skills within Newfoundland and Labrador.

A New Liberal Government will conduct and publish a labour market analysis to address the skills mismatch. We will identify employment opportunities and the associated skills, qualifications, and training required by industry. We will collaborate with industry and labour organizations to develop and implement local participation provisions that ensure meaningful involvement for workers and businesses in oil and gas projects. Leveraging participation in the offshore industry is vital to expanding industrial capacity within this important sector.

Ensure Effective Monitoring and Oversight

A New Liberal Government will apply their commitment to openness and transparency by ensuring effective cooperation and communication between its departments and agencies, regulatory bodies, and industry stakeholders. A New Liberal Government will negotiate strong benefits agreements, and ensure that the regulatory bodies have the resources they need to enforce these agreements.

Position the Province as a Global Centre of Excellence for Deepwater Oil & Gas Development

Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique location in the North Atlantic presents an opportunity for the local industry to develop techniques and technologies to become a global leader in deepwater exploration and development. The province is an ideal setting for research and development on Arctic technology, including exploration and development in cold, harsh, corrosive, and ice-prone environments.

A New Liberal Government will encourage and fund research and design efforts in areas such as subsea resource extraction, ice management and operating in extreme weather, corrosion mitigation, enhanced oil recovery, logistics and maritime transportation, and other fields that foster the innovation needed to overcome the challenges of oil and gas extraction in similar locations.

Create Conditions for Increased Offshore Exploration and Development

Regulatory certainty and maintaining an attractive and stable business environment for operators and investors is critical to the long-term success of the industry. A New Liberal Government will:

  • – Streamline all processes for regulatory approval and certification;
  • – Establish a generic royalty regime, after extensive consultation with stakeholders, that applies to all future developments. This will provide greater certainty around fiscal terms associated with developments in our jurisdiction and provide much-needed stability to operators; and
  • – Pursue options for the exploration and development of our offshore reserves of natural gas.

Create a Legacy Fund for Long-Term Prosperity

Newfoundland and Labrador has large untapped resources of offshore oil and gas, but they are finite. We have a responsibility to use our resources to not only benefit the present generation, but future generations as well.

A New Liberal Government will bring fiscal balance to our province, and when the financial situation improves, we will establish a Legacy Fund. At that time, a proportion of total oil revenues will be invested in a diversified wealth fund with the goal of compounding our oil wealth for the future. The Legacy Fund will be bound by strict investment and operational rules, with a view to disciplined and prudent financial management for long-term stability. 

PROMOTE GROWTH IN MINING

Despite challenges associated with fluctuating commodity markets, the mining industry remains a valuable contributor to the provincial economy with strong potential for recovery and growth in the coming years. Liberals believe in continued development through industry partnerships and innovation, while also ensuring that benefits are maximized for local economic regions where mining operations take place.

To promote growth in this important sector of the economy, a New Liberal Government will:

  • – Encourage the expansion of mining operations in both Labrador and on the Island by increasing the annual investment in the Junior Exploration Assistance Program to $1.5 million;
  • – Hold steady on funding for prospector grants throughout Newfoundland and Labrador;
  • – In consultation with industry, consider creating a new Venture Capital Fund for Mineral Exploration and Development. This could be done using existing funding sources and programs; and
  • – Review the current mining tax regime to ensure that it is competitive.

FOCUS ON FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE

Liberals view the province’s fishery as a fundamental pillar of the economy – a crucial renewable resource, a vital source of rural economic development, and a sustainable engine of wealth generation for our province with enormous potential for growth.

Implement Strong Fisheries Policy

  • – A New Liberal Government will establish a Fisheries Advisory Council consisting of representatives from all sectors of the industry, including harvesters, processors, research experts, and the general public, to inform and influence provincial fisheries policy on an ongoing basis, including the creation of sustainable small-scale fisheries. The Fisheries Advisory Council will be immediately asked to create a strategic action plan on cod revitalization, focusing on biomass security, harvesting, processing, quality, innovation and marketing;
  • – In partnership with industry players, a New Liberal Government will establish a Seafood Marketing Council, whose mission will be to promote the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing industry globally, and to secure and expand market opportunities worldwide; and
  • – A New Liberal Government will work in cooperation with operators in the aquaculture industry to support research and development opportunities in this growing field, including waste management issues and interaction with traditional industries.

Work with Federal Counterparts

A New Liberal Government will advocate strongly on the province’s behalf to the federal government on issues pertaining to fisheries. We will:

  • – Pursue joint fisheries management with the federal government;
  • – Finalize an agreement with the federal government on the CETA Fisheries Fund;
  • – Advocate for a new, fair arrangement for Northern shrimp quotas;
  • – Call for full annual scientific assessments of Northern shrimp resources and a plan to study the impact of climate change on the species and its ecosystem;
  • – Work with the federal government to re-establish the Marine Rescue Sub-Centre in Newfoundland and Labrador; and
  • – Call for an expanded recreational food fishery.

SUPPORT GROWTH IN AGRICULTURE

Despite the availability of funding programs by the federal and provincial governments over the last decade, several factors have seriously impeded the capacity of agriculture to reach its full economic potential. Liberals understand the value of this industry and recognize its potential.

A New Liberal Government will promote economic growth in this sector by:

  • – Conducting an updated economic analysis of the agriculture and agrifoods sectors to better understand the full economic potential of this industry;
  • – Working with local producers and the new federal government to develop a food security and agriculture growth strategy that sets benchmarks within established timeframes, including increases to local food production and improved provincial food security;
  • – Working with farmers to make more Crown land available for agriculture uses. Measures to achieve this include implementing a land registry, reviewing options to put idle land into farm production, and simplifying application processes for Crown land, especially in areas that have been zoned for agriculture;
  • – Working with the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture, a New Liberal Government will provide support for a funding coordinator position to maximize opportunities for development. – Liberals are aware that capacity issues in human resources have been a barrier for growth in the agriculture sector, particularly when it comes to funding applications. The mandate for this position will be to facilitate funding applications to ensure that the provincial agriculture sector takes full advantage of federal and provincial programs; and
  • – Exploring new opportunities for partnerships with the federal government to leverage funds for agriculture development.

REVITALIZE THE FORESTRY SECTOR

It’s clear that forestry has not been a priority for the PC Government for many years. Under their watch, two pulp and paper mills have closed, sawmills have downsized, and vast timber resources remain underutilized.

To allow the industry to grow and modernize, a New Liberal Government will:

  • – Implement the Sustainable Forest Management Strategy (2014-2024), with particular emphasis on environmental protection, sustainability and community involvement;
  • – Invest in research and development to support diversification of the forest industry in the areas of bioenergy, biorefining, and engineered wood products; and
  • – Work with researchers at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic to explore innovation in fibre allocation and transportation.

 

MAXIMIZE OUR TOURISM POTENTIAL

Liberals know tourism is a vital component of the economy, with linkages to many other sectors. Particularly in rural areas, the importance of tourism in supporting jobs and businesses is clear.

To encourage tourism growth, A New Liberal Government will:

  • – Focus tourism marketing on the province’s natural and cultural heritage. Liberals believe our tourism marketing should focus on what makes our province special to visitors: our culture, our environment, and our people.
  • – Strengthen connections between tourism and other sectors. Working with the outfitting industry, Liberals will ensure that regulatory red tape does not impede growth in fishing-based and hunting-based tourism. We will also seek opportunities to develop agritourism and fisheries tourism.
  • – Work with industry stakeholders to develop a highway signage solution that is sensible and consumer friendly. The PC Government’s stalled implementation of Tourist-Oriented Directional Signage (TODS) has led to confusion for tourism operators and visitors.
  • – Conduct a new visitor exit survey to gather up-to-date traveler data on visitor perceptions and preferences. The last visitor exit survey was conducted in 2011, and much has changed since that time.
  • – Study the economic impact of important recreation activities for tourism. For example, we will work with the Newfoundland and Labrador Snowmobile Federation and other snowmobile associations to conduct an economic impact study of snowmobiling in our province.
  • – Work to ensure that transportation infrastructure is in place to support the tourism industry. Liberals recognize that consistent, reliable transportation infrastructure is critical to the success of the industry.
  • – Provide focused support to promote regional and community events to offer improved tourism products to visitors. Working with the tourism industry, we will enhance the availability of tourism attractions throughout the year, including winter tourism and shoulder seasons.

ARTS AND CULTURE

Artists are essential to the preservation and progression of our cultural identity as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The role of artists in expressing and reflecting on culture is often overlooked and undervalued. Their role in creative economic development is underestimated and underutilized.

A New Liberal Government will work with stakeholders to develop a Status of the Artist Act. We will collaborate with the arts community to review funding mechanisms and identify innovative models here and abroad to help improve the social and economic status of professional artists in our province.

SUPPORT GROWTH IN THE MANUFACTURING SECTOR

The manufacturing sector in Newfoundland and Labrador generates $6.2 billion in annual sales, accounts for 30 per cent of our exports and employs 14,000 people. While companies in the manufacturing sector also belong to other industries, pooled together, they have common challenges for growth. A New Liberal Government is intent on helping the sector grow its manufacturing output and value-added exports.

A New Liberal Government will work with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters to revamp government support programs for the recruitment and retention of employees.

IMPROVE THE PUBLIC TENDER ACT

The Public Tender Act sets the procurement guidelines and procedures for the Government Purchasing Agency. The current Act was drafted in 1990, with the last amendments being undertaken in 2009.

A New Liberal Government will review the Act to examine barriers to Newfoundland and Labrador businesses bidding on public works, with a goal of removing obstacles and strengthening local opportunities. In consultation with industry, we will look for ways to improve the overall system and ensure an open and competitive bidding process for all procurement.

DIVERSIFY THE ECONOMY THROUGH INNOVATION

Liberals recognize that growing a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation presents tremendous economic potential for Newfoundland and Labrador. Economic diversification is the outcome of actions we, as a province, take to drive innovation, develop knowledge-based industries, and transform, generate and capitalize on knowledge in existing industries.

To encourage innovation and diversification, a New Liberal Government will:

  • – Develop a new provincial innovation strategy in collaboration with industry and innovation partners to drive growth. A critical requirement will be to ensure timely, effective and flexible government funding and support, underpinned by transparency and accountability;
  • – Expand business incubation in affiliation with Memorial University. Entrepreneurial success depends on the ability to hire top talent, secure startup funding, and create strong networks of connections in the industry. Too often, great ideas are encumbered by these challenges, but those challenges can be overcome with the right assistance.
  • – Expanding business incubation will provide prospective entrepreneurs with increased access to investors, advisors, space, and networking services, with the end goal of seeding new businesses;
  • – Establish a Young Entrepreneur Retention Program. This program will encourage innovation in our youth and provide an incentive for them to stay at home, invest here, and build businesses and stable careers;
  • – Encourage a culture of innovation in Newfoundland and Labrador’s schools by increasing options for co-operative education. We will also consider introducing entrepreneurship into the K-12 school curriculum earlier by reviewing the success of similar initiatives in other jurisdictions;
  • – Work with post-secondary institutions to assist with the development of an intellectual property policy that allows for more flexibility, and results in more innovation and interaction with the private sector;
  • – Create an attractive business environment by cutting red tape. A New Liberal Government will undertake a thorough regulatory review to ensure the regulatory burden to business is minimized to increase productivity and enhance economic growth. Liberals will also support business by providing labour-based tax incentives for emerging industries; and
  • – Foster social enterprise to support innovation and diversification in the not-for-profit sector. Social enterprises combine business innovation with social, cultural, and environmental outcomes. A New Liberal Government will consult with stakeholders in the not-for-profit sector to develop a social enterprise strategy with the aim of enhancing the benefits of this valuable sector for the provincial economy.

SECURE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH IN OUR ECONOMY

Engaging with Newfoundland and Labrador youth and supporting their growth and development is vital for the province to thrive in the long term. As part of a broader focus on instilling a spirit of innovation in the next generation, a New Liberal Government will work with Newfoundland and Labrador youth by:

  • – Conducting and publishing a labour market analysis to forecast job opportunities and coordinate with post-secondary institutions to ensure appropriate skills training programs are available;
  • – Supporting young entrepreneurs through a mentorship program with industry leaders
  • – Holding competitions at the grade school and post-secondary levels that reward new ideas. Rewards would include scholarships and startup funding; and
  • – Developing the next generation of industry leaders by consulting with youth and employers to ensure that young people have access to the proper training and education they need to assume this role.

COMMUNICATIONS

Broadband Internet

Liberals consider access to high-speed broadband internet to be essential infrastructure. As the world gets smaller due to the advances in instant communication, the importance of the internet for jobs, education and commerce becomes even more critical for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

A New Liberal Government is committed to working with the private sector and community-based organizations to expand broadband throughout the province through the best and most appropriate technology available.

Cell Phone Coverage

An effective and reliable communication network is critical to economic growth and public safety. Telecommunications infrastructure is deficient in many areas of our province, leaving rural businesses at a disadvantage, and limiting residents’ ability to access emergency services.

A New Liberal Government will work aggressively with the private sector and community-based organizations to provide expanded infrastructure and improved cellphone coverage throughout the province.

OPTIMIZE GOVERNMENT REAL ESTATE

Liberals see inefficient use of taxpayers’ money in the amount of vacant or unnecessary office space that is currently being paid for by this government. As of March 31, the value of all government real estate holding was $3.2 billion, of which $1.2 billion was utilized by core government departments. A New Liberal Government will undertake a comprehensive review of government’s real estate portfolio and determine how best to enhance its public value.

IMPLEMENT A PLAN TO GROW OUR POPULATION

Population growth is critical to the future of our province, and Liberals consider it a top priority. A New Liberal Government will focus on building a stronger, more diversified economy that supports business growth and job creation. Liberals will also ensure public policy is targeted at attraction and retention of qualified working-age people and their families, including Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and newcomers to our province.

In order to grow our economy, we need to grow and sustain our base of working-age people. The Liberal plan for population growth is to create economic conditions for more jobs through diversification and innovation, combined with policies to attract and retain qualified people and their families.

A New Liberal Government will develop and implement an immigration strategy to attract and retain new people and families to our province. We will also create a recruitment strategy to encourage ex-patriot Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to return home.

Population growth objectives will be reinforced by policies in a range of areas. These include economic policies such as the young entrepreneur retention program, and policies to improve employment opportunities for youth, women, and persons with disabilities. The Liberal plan for population growth will also be supported by family-friendly policies such as improving the availability and affordability of child care.

Liberals understand that population growth isn’t an issue unique to our province. Recently, Atlantic Canada’s provincial Liberal Party Leaders met to discuss population renewal from a regional perspective. Recognizing this as a priority for the region highlights an opportunity for regional cooperation focused on the attraction and retention of expatriates and newcomers.

REVIEW MINIMUM WAGE

Liberals believe everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador deserves to share in the province’s prosperity. In view of this, a New Liberal Government will consult with labour organizations and employers to establish a consistent minimum wage formula that is reflective of changes in the cost of living. This will help both employers and employees with budgeting and business planning processes.

APPRENTICESHIPS

A diverse economy depends heavily on being propelled by a skilled and educated workforce. A New Liberal Government will conduct a labour market analysis to forecast upcoming job opportunities. Working with industry, labour organizations, and post-secondary training institutions, we will strengthen apprenticeship programs to build a qualified workforce with skills to match these opportunities.

A New Liberal Government will consult with industry to assess areas of demand and offer tax incentives for employers in the skilled trades who increase the number of apprentices they take on. A greater number of apprenticeship spots throughout the province will not only give young people a role in Newfoundland and Labrador’s diverse economy, but will help stem the flow of skilled workers to other jurisdictions.

CREATE A NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR GLOBAL NETWORK

There are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on every corner of the world map. But every Newfoundlander and Labradorian, no matter where they might be, feels an unbreakable connection to our province. Liberals recognize this essential part of the Newfoundland and Labrador identity and will create a global network designed to connect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians no matter how far away they live from our shores. This network will enable Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to share and leverage their global experience, knowledge and opportunities. It will connect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living away and enable them to be advocates and champions for their home province.