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Newfoundland and Labrador budget consultations will inform decisions: Osborne

Tom Osborne.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne. - The Telegram

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Tony Wakeham challenges process

Finance Minister Tom Osborne said he values the province’s existing pre-budget consultation process, in direct opposition to the position of Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Tony Wakeham.

The minister was asked about the Wakeham campaign’s posts on social media calling the province’s pre-budget consultations a “worn-out political ploy.”

It was stated in a short video, using dramatic music and slides with primary backgrounds. “Government claims they want your opinion on their upcoming budget, but departments, agencies, boards and commissions already submitted their budgets back in October,” it states.

The video goes on to call for “real, meaningful engagement.”

The Telegram contacted Wakeham on Monday, reaching him by phone in St. George’s. He said he does not want to get rid of budget consultations, but wants a process where input from the public comes before departments, agencies, boards and commissions file proposed budgets to the government.

“You’re asking people to offer input on a budget process for the most part that’s already completed,” he said.

Wakeham cited his years of experience with government in his comments, saying he couldn’t recall having ever seen a significant change in a department budget based on the type of consultation process used by not just Osborne, but past Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments.

Wakeham is a former CEO of the Labrador-Grenfell Health Authority, among other positions.

“The budget process is very secretive,” he said. “In a lot of cases, the people impacted in communities have no say.”

The Finance department provided a response to the video, noting the latest round of pre-budget consultations began in December. It is the earliest such consultations have come in the last decade.

“While budget submissions from departments and agencies, boards and commissions were submitted to Finance in October 2017, we are just starting the Treasury Board process, where we review these submissions and begin to make decisions that will impact the budget,” Osborne stated in the response.

“The pre-budget consultations are taking place alongside these Treasury Board meetings. The feedback we receive during this process will help inform our decisions.”

Osborne said the Liberals welcome feedback from Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

The minister is scheduled to attend a public meeting as part of the pre-budget consultations in St. John’s on Thursday, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Capital Hotel (208 Kenmount Rd.).

Five other meetings have been scheduled so far, in addition to the government accepting online submissions. More information is available online at engagenl.ca.

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