A tall light brown building with blue windows is flanked by shorter buildings of the same shades.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government is projecting a budget deficit of $152 million for the coming year. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal government has delivered a deficit budget in a document the finance minister says is fiscally responsible but grappling with increased expenditures.

There are no new taxes, tax increases or fee increases for 2024-25, although the government acknowledged that the deficit for the current fiscal year is significantly higher than it expected just a year ago. 

The provincial government is also retaining many previous cost-of-living relief measures, including an 8.05-cent per litre reduction on gas and diesel, a 50 per cent reduction in the cost of passenger vehicles and taxi registration. The home heating supplement for furnace and stove oil is also staying. 

“This budget is one our forebears hoped we could one day present when they envisioned a stronger, smarter, self-sufficient and sustainable Newfoundland and Labrador,” Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said in her speech delivering the budget Thursday afternoon.

“We stand on their shoulders as we enter the spring for Newfoundland and Labrador — a time of rejuvenation and hope. A time of renewal and optimism.”

The budget was delayed a day due to protests at Confederation Building that saw hundreds of protesting fishermen and supporters denying people entry to the provincial legislature, demanding changes to fishery regulations.

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Newfoundland and Labrador’s PC and NDP leaders say the 2024-25 provincial budget doesn’t do enough to address the cost of living and other key issues. The NDP’s Jim Dinn, who called the budget “ho-hum,” said infrastructure spending is no replacement for hiring the people needed for key sectors.

Despite Coady’s optimistic presentation, budget figures show a worsening financial picture. For the coming year, the provincial government is forecasting a deficit of $152 million on projected revenue of $10.3 billion.

And while the provincial government forecast a deficit of $160 million for the fiscal year coming to a close at the end of March, Thursday’s budget reveals a much worse shortfall than predicted, coming in at $433 million.

The finance minister pointed to decreased offshore royalties, a drop in corporate income tax revenue and higher than expected health-care expenses and inflationary pressures.

Spending on housing, health care and more

The sweeping budget announced spending on housing, health care, people’s well-being, infrastructure and the arts, among other sectors.

Like past budgets, the province is spending heavily on health care, totalling $4.1 billion for 2024-25, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the budget.

There is $30 million earmarked to hire health-care workers for 19 family care teams and create new teams in places like Baie Verte, Springdale, Lewisporte, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s and downtown St. John’s.

There is also $10 million going to recruit and retain health-care professionals.

To increase Memorial University’s medical school seats for local residents, the province is kicking in $2 million.

The budget includes $10 million for a new seniors’ well-being plan, which will go toward grants for low-income seniors living at home for services like snow clearing and grocery delivery, home repair, and benefits to caregivers.

Communities are getting $50 million delivered over five years for water and wastewater projects.

There is also $400,000 for municipal fire departments to help them respond to calls outside their boundaries, as well as $400,000 for municipal training.

Infrastructure spending will include arts and recreation facilities. A new mid-sized theatre in St. John’s is getting $8 million, and The Rooms will receive $5 million over five years for upgrades.

Money for more prison guards

The Marble Mountain ski resort, outside Corner Brook, is getting $1 million for upgrades.

To address staffing at correctional facilities, $2 million is going toward hiring 22 new full-time correctional officer positions at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary and the Labrador Correctional Centre.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is also getting $2 million for new officers and civilian staff.

Newfoundland and Labrador Housing will be integrated into core government, which Coady said will streamline the housing process and ensure seamless progress, especially as there is now a cabinet minister responsible solely for that issue.

New Housing Minister Fred Hutton said there will be no job losses or reductions as a result of the integration.

The budget also made motions to address the housing crisis, spending $50 million in a rental housing development loan program.

There will be more than $36 million spent over four years to build more than 100 new provincial housing homes in Corner Brook, central Newfoundland and Labrador West.

In addition, $12 million is also going to work on provincial housing units in Nain, Hopedale and Makkovik. An additional $8 million is being allocated for repair work, maintenance and renovations for provincial housing units.

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