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St. John’s chapter protests provincial austerity budget

The St. John’s chapter was at yesterday’s anti-austerity protest.


The Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter protested against austerity at a ‘SOS NL: Take Back the Rock!’ protest yesterday.


The Independent provides the context that, “On Thursday [April 14] the provincial government introduced an austerity budget that critics say will disproportionately impact marginalized groups and the most vulnerable people in the province, while failing to make strides toward developing a healthy, sustainable and more equitable economy. …The budget eliminates support programs such as the Home Heating Rebate and provincial HST tax credit—replacing them with a new Newfoundland and Labrador Income Supplement—and cuts significant funding from a range of public services and agencies. Post-secondary students are hit through a combination of cuts to the university and cuts to student financial aid, while youth and the cultural sector are also facing significant reductions in government support.”


Just some of the specific budget measures include:


  • cutting hundreds of civil service jobs (eliminating at least 450 full-time equivalent jobs across public agencies, board and commissions, as well as 200 government positions)

  • raising the harmonized sales tax from 13 per cent to 15 per cent

  • cutting $14 million in funding to Memorial University (prompting concerns about tuition fee increases)

  • a $300 levy for those earning $25,000 a year (that tops out at $900 for anyone making more than $202,500 a year)

  • the average household in Newfoundland and Labrador paying nearly $3,000 more in taxes and fees per year.

In addition, The Independent has noted, “St. John’s Status of Women Council Executive Director Jenny Wright called the budget ‘disheartening’ and ‘awful’, saying the provincial government placed ‘absolutely no gender lens’ on their budgetary decisions. …Specifically, Wright lamented the looming closure of four rural courthouses, which she said are crucial for women trying to escape domestic violence.”


The chapter reports, “Hundreds of angry people showed up at lunch time [on April 21] to voice their concern about a budget that is an ‘out-and-out attack by the rich against the poorest in our society’. There is a grassroots movement coming together to stop this budget and make our voices heard, and our Council of Canadians chapter is showing solidarity and offering support wherever we can.”


The chapter also participated in an anti-austerity protest on April 16, just two days after the provincial budget was tabled. They noted, “The St. John’s chapter took part in a rally and march through downtown St. John’s, protesting the austerity budget. It will disproportionately affect working class and vulnerable people. It introduced a number of taxes and fees, including a ‘deficit levy’ that burdens lower-income earners by percentage of taxable income more than any other. Someone earning over $200,000 a year is capped at $900 but someone earning $25,000 has to pay $300.”


The day before that protest, St. John’s-based Council of Canadians Board member Andrea Furlong had a letter to the editor published in The Telegram.


In that letter, she wrote, “There are many ways that one could enter into a critical analysis of public spending of the taxpayer dollars, but The Telegram’s recent publication of a ‘sunshine list’ does not contribute to a constructive discussion. In fact, the listing of public employees, their job title and corresponding income for 2015 doesn’t add to the discourse at all. Posting a person’s income for one year without knowledge of what comprises that income is utterly useless. There could be overtime, severance, a job change, pension, annual leave payout or any number of ways a person’s income could be higher in any given year.”


CBC reports, “[The province’s finance minister] said further actions will be announced in a supplemental budget this fall.”


The Council of Canadians will be highlighting many of these issues at our annual conference in St. John’s this coming October 14-16.