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Newfoundland’s Money-Saving Strategy Stops Just Short of Burning Books for Fuel

Last one off the Rock, please turn out the lights. Thanks.

by Drew Brown
Apr 28 2016, 1:34pm

Hello to all my Mainland friends. You may have heard that Canada's Happy Province is in dire straits lately.

I would like to clear up this misconception. We are not hitting a rough patch: everything has already gone off the goddamn rails. Newfoundland and Labrador is a complete fucking trainwreck right now.

Having found themselves in the unenviable position of cleaning up a decade's worth of financial mismanagement by the provincial Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals are making a fierce play for the title of Newfoundland's most unpopular government. Which is no mean feat—there are some very strong contenders on that list. But they're doing their damnedest.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here. Image courtesy of 97.5 K-rock

Admittedly the bar was pretty low. Most people knew that the central planks of Dwight Ball's campaign (no increase in the "job killing" sales tax, no public sector job cuts) oscillated somewhere between tragic naiveté and cynical lying. But I think most of us banked on a group of garden-variety political fuckups doing their best in a bad situation.

Instead, we got a governing party that genuinely seems to have no Jesus clue what it's doing. Fun!

Who needs books really? Photo via Flickr user LearningLark

No one expected the 2016 spring budget to be pleasant (we have no fucking money), but the Liberals have really gone above and beyond in their effort to piss everybody off for no reason. They held province-wide consultations and solicited ideas from that endless well of wisdom called the internet and apparently the best they could come up with was a "temporary deficit reduction levy" that disproportionately downloads the tax burden onto the poor and also seems to have been literally copied and pasted from the Ontario Health Premium. Because paying somebody to take an hour out of their lives to come up with a new, less regressive cost scheme is a luxury we can't afford in these hard times, I guess.

And now, in their quest to find new things to tax and new services to cut, they have settled on taxing books and closing 54 of the province's 95 libraries—despite the province having the highest illiteracy rates in Canada. Because who the fuck needs books! Or free internet, or social programs, or community centres where kids have stuff to do. Who needs any of this nerd shit when a life of crippling rural alienation can suffice? If I didn't know any better, I'd say this was the opening salvo of the province's laziest ever resettlement program.

Literally the Liberal policy on public literacy

We also have the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the country, but obviously a soda tax is off the goddamn table, because reasons. There is a compelling argument that a sugar tax would also disproportionately impact the poor, but we already know progressive taxes are not the premier's concern. Finance Minister Cathy Bennett's expertise in running a series of McDonald's franchises is clearly paying off. Actually, maybe McD's free wifi will take care of this whole "no libraries" problem. Well played, Bennett.

People are, understandably, pretty pissed off. The first round of post-budget polls show an astonishing 74 percent disapproval rating for Dwight Ball's leadership, which must be a new record for a guy who hasn't even been there for six months. But it's not hard to understand why, given that the response he and his ministers have thrown back after two weeks of generalized outrage and criticism has been that people are only mad because they're too stupid to understand the tough choices that need to be made. You know, like slashing the stickers and snacks given to sick kids at the Janeway or gutting the province's only university.

Nothing edifies the electorate like burning all our sites of learning to the ground. I have no idea which patronage appointments they tapped for their comms people, but they're really scraping the bottom of the barrel on this one.

Not that the alternatives are any better. Question Period in Newfoundland is where the mind goes to die. None of the provincial Tories seem to have realized that they're the ones who got us into this mess in the first place, because apparently the only prerequisite you need to sit in the House of Assembly is to check your self-awareness at the door. And the NDP, God love 'em, have two members in the House and are still picking up the pieces from their own self-immolation almost three years ago.

Ouch.

The strongest opposition so far is coming from the unions and from people on the street. Which is great, if they can keep it going. And survive the next budget.

That's the best part: there is another budget coming in the Fall. The real hammer comes down later, after a year of pressuring every department in the public service to cut spending 30 percent across the board. And if the current situation is any indication, then what comes next will be just as confused and obnoxious and terminally short-sighted as this one. The only silver lining to any of this is that the backlash might be bad enough for Ball to fail the mandatory annual leadership review set out in the Liberal constitution, removing him from a premier's office he appears deeply unqualified to occupy.

Basically, everyone who can read is mad about this garbage government. And the Liberals seem fully aware of this, because soon half the province won't have a fucking library.

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