When Atlantic Business Magazine was unable to schedule an in-person interview with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Premier Dwight Ball before our press date, we asked if he could respond to three questions via email. The following is an excerpt from his responses.
Question 1: What are the top five priorities for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (can be challenges or opportunities)?
Premier Ball: Newfoundland and Labrador is a province that abounds with opportunity and potential. It is a place that is recognized globally for its welcoming nature, big personalities, immense natural resources, and its unforgettable tourism, culinary, and cultural experiences.
Our top priority as a government is to remind people of these defining qualities of our province, and show how they will be harnessed to see us through immediate challenges, and onwards toward greater prosperity.
The next four priorities follow naturally from the first, and are the foundation of The Way Forward, our vision for sustainability and growth in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are: strengthening the province’s economic foundation, achieving greater efficiency, enhancing services, and improving outcomes.
Question 2: What is your government doing to advance those priority areas?
Premier Ball: Our government has been working in collaboration with the provincial business community, region by region, sector by sector, business by business, to pursue untapped potential and create a strong environment that fosters new development.
Examples of this collaboration are readily seen in our partnerships with players in the oil and gas and mining industries. For example, we have established an Oil and Gas Industry Development Council with players in our offshore to ensure our province is a global leader in sustainable practices and regulatory policy. In a recent global survey of petroleum-sector executives released by the Fraser Institute, Newfoundland and Labrador was ranked the most attractive province in Canada for oil and gas investment, and the fourth most attractive jurisdiction worldwide. Our council will build on that momentum through their work, and at the same time, our government will continue to engage our federal counterparts to ensure regulatory oversight is timely and robust, but not administered in a manner that might delay or inhibit new exploration.
…We are also partnering with the mining industry to attract global interest and promote new development. Part of that work involves engaging in core digitization (making core sample data available in electronic formats and broadly sharing it with companies worldwide). This is similar to what we do when we share seismic data with oil and gas companies…
As part of building upon our reputation as a “must see” destination, we have also partnered with tourism operators to develop and launch a tourism product development plan. With this multi-year plan, we are confident we will achieve our mutual goal of doubling resident and non-resident visitor spending by 2020.
We are also finding ways to develop industries with untapped potential. For example, in September our government launched 28 actions to respond to our aquaculture industry’s human resource, infrastructure, and promotional needs. The ultimate goal is to grow production activity so that the number of year-round jobs supported by aquaculture more than doubles—from 1,000 to 2,100.
In October, we launched 43 actions in partnership with the provincial agriculture sector to double the province’s food self-sufficiency, and double the number of people directly employed in agriculture.
In the New Year, we will launch more actions with leaders in the provincial technology sector that are specifically designed to grow that industry.
…In pursuing partnerships like these with our business sector, we are creating new employment opportunities that young people and newcomers to Canada can build their futures upon.
…(We) also need to find greater efficiency in our operations, and deliver better services and outcomes if we are to make Newfoundland and Labrador an attractive place to live, work, and do business. In this past year, our government reduced approximately 300 senior management positions and significantly reorganized departments to achieve greater efficiency. We also reduced the provincial government’s leased space footprint by tens of thousands of square feet, and we continue to find efficiencies. With each action, we delivered on our goal to achieve savings while still delivering quality programs and services for the people of the province.
With respect to delivering better services and achieving better outcomes, we are finding smarter ways to meet the expectations of residents. I am proud to note that Newfoundland and Labrador became the first jurisdiction in Canada to offer advance online appointment booking and SMS text alerts as part of the service experience provided at our province’s busiest Motor Registration Division office. Earlier this year our government participated in a joint Request for Proposals with the other Atlantic provinces to secure a new driver’s licence delivery system that will improve the security of personal information and enhance service delivery. The end result was a better product for residents with the potential to also achieve savings through cooperation. We are also partnering with our fellow Atlantic provinces and the federal government to promote economic development through the Atlantic Growth Strategy.
Question 3: What timelines or benchmarks are in place to measure progress?
Premier Ball: All actions outlined within The Way Forward are evidence-based, measurable and concrete. Our government has committed to delivering periodic report cards on our progress, and we delivered the first of these in March of 2017.
…We also publicly committed that all our initiatives aimed at growing industries with untapped potential must be fully implemented within 24 months from the time of launch.
Even with Premier Ball’s achieved efficiencies, the Province’s 2017 deficit grew from a forecasted $777.6 million to $852.4 million, due to lower than expected revenue (November 2017 fiscal update). Net debt is projected at $14.7 billion
For more details on N.L.’s fiscal status, go to: www.fin.gov.nl.ca/fin/budget/fall_updates.html