Newfoundland & Labrador: Reject Austerity, Fight for a People’s Alternative

Excerpts from a statement from the Communist Party of Canada – Sally and Chuck Davis Club, St. John’s on ongoing austerity.

Newfoundland and Labrador is facing a deep economic crisis. But this crisis was not created by the people, and we should not have to pay for it. The austerity measures taken by the Ball Liberal government have justly incurred public anger and resistance. The Communist Party of Canada actively supports this growing protest movement and we enthusiastically declare our solidarity with those thousands of people who have already taken to the streets. Organized, united and powerful public opposition is the only way to stop this austerity attack. The Ball-Bennett Liberal budget must be rescinded immediately, and a new election called.

After years of federal and provincial Tory rule, Newfoundland and Labrador has already seen public services and infrastructure slashed-back and privatized, while large corporations have made billions in profits, paying little in taxes and royalties.

Historically, big business and their governments have encouraged dependency on resource extraction in our province. This is because leaving working people’s livelihoods at the mercy of fluctuating global markets has been more profitable than diverse economic development.

Today, with the crash in oil prices and the growing bill from the hydroelectric mega-project at Muskrat Falls in Labrador, the government faces a $2 billion per year deficit.

Upset with the Tories, in October voters across Newfoundland and Labrador threw out the federal Conservatives in favor of Trudeau Liberals, who promised limited infrastructure spending. In November, voters again tossed the Tories provincially and elected Dwight Ball’s Liberals, thinking they were getting a similar agenda. But the Ball Liberals immediately used the deficit as a pretext to impost harsh austerity measures. Their April 14th budget includes: hiking the regressive HST to 15%; doubling the gas tax of 16.5 cents per litre; a regressive “deficit reduction levy” between $300 and $900; income tax raised 1-3% depending on income bracket; additional fees or taxes on licenses, permits, vehicle registration, insurance premiums, and a host of other items; hundreds of public sector jobs lost and services cut back; closing several public schools; delaying the west coast’s new Corner Brook hospital and closing several medical units in rural areas; shutting 54 public libraries; reducing funding for road construction and maintenance.

Such austerity measures (by) governments around the world, have proved disastrous for working people, Indigenous communities, women, students, seniors, the unemployed, the poor, and also rural communities — while helping the corporations make even bigger profits and the rich to get even richer.

For example, the budget guarantees mega-profits for big business at Muskrat Falls, while working people are left paying the bill and nature is destroyed. The government is proceeding with the project in a racist and colonial rejection of the rights to sovereignty and self-determination of the Innu and Inuit, whose lands it will clearly harm, and in callous disregard for all Labradorians who oppose expanding the dam.

… The Ball Liberals are giving even more loans and subsidies to their big corporate friends. Corporate tax, raised by just 1%, remains extremely low. The Ball government’s hypocrisy is further revealed by the millions being set aside for Nalcor executives. Nalcor is the crown corporation responsible for … overseeing the project at Muskrat Falls. Former CEO Ed Martin is getting a severance of $1.4 million plus a $4.7 million pension, announced at the same time the Ball government is trying to justify closing libraries to save a buck. Martin’s replacement, Stan Marshall, is himself a wealthy man having been the CEO of Fortis for many years and will be paid Martin’s regular salary of $685,000. If the Ball government were truly concerned about saving a million here and there, they might have started with slashing high salaries for men who are already wealthy.

 

Build the Fightback

… Now that the budget is passed, we need to keep up the fight. Working people in Newfoundland and Labrador cannot afford to wait four more years, nor will the change we need come from the balance of forces in the current House. We need to build a strong alliance of progressive forces that will advance the interests of working people through every avenue of struggle which brings more people into the fightback.

Dwight Ball has no mandate for this budget as it runs counter to the platform his party was elected on. A new election must be called immediately.

Importantly, labour unions, social justice groups, students, women’s organizations and many other concerned individuals and groups have rallied thousands of people at demonstrations denouncing the budget. This resistance is inspiring and must continue to grow. The formation of the Common Front NL and their We Are NL campaign is welcome development which deserves full suppor. The widespread disgust with the two traditional governing parties has also left many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians understandably seeking alternatives to the big business parties.

The provincial New Democratic Party has been strongly critical of the Liberal budget, which is welcome. Unfortunately, the party offers few real alternatives to the big business agenda that would curb corporate power. In Nova Scotia the NDP imposed austerity measures of its own in 2011. In Alberta the NDP has only implemented reforms that are limited in scope and not changed energy royalty rates. Federally, the NDP campaigned under the neo-liberal mantra of “balanced budgets” in the last election. Labour and people’s movements in Newfoundland are not well-served by “contracting-out” their struggle to the NDP.

People’s needs not corporate greed!

The Communist Party calls for a broad People’s Coalition fighting for immediate and far-reaching demands, starting by rescinding the Liberal budget: raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour; a Jobs First” strategy, making the creation of full-time, good union jobs a priority; build thousands of green homes through quality low-cost and social housing; expand value-added manufacturing and secondary industry like ship-building; repeal corporate tax cuts and double the corporate tax rate; raise royalties on natural resources to at least average world rates; introduce wealth and inheritance taxes on incomes over $750,000; and much more.

A People’s Coalition, with labour at the core, should be based on the streets and workplaces, as well as run in elections to form a genuine people’s government, dedicated to comprehensive measures to democratize society; to bring natural resources, energy, communication, and transportation under public ownership and democratic control; to diversify the economy through the public sector; and to limit the power of big business.

The struggle against the Ball Liberals must continue as we prepare for more harsh cuts in the fall session of the Provincial Legislature. The fightback against the anti-people, sexist, racist and pro-corporate Liberal Ball budget has set the stage for more united action and is already part of the broader struggle for social progress, ecological sustainability, and fundamental social change.

The renewed movement of popular resistance against the budget raises the question of “the 1% and the 99%,” the anti-democratic nature of the capitalist system and the need for an alternative – socialism, based on working class power. Since our founding 95 years ago, the Communist Party of Canada has always been part of that struggle, fighting for fundamental change and a socialist future. If you agree with this perspective, get involved, help build the struggle, and join us!

Down with austerity! Down with Dwight Ball and the Liberal Party! Stand up, fight back to win a People’s Alternative!


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