Business leaders stand by province's economic recovery team

·2 min read
Bruce Tilley/CBC
Bruce Tilley/CBC

Some business leaders remain all in on the provincial government's economic recovery team, despite union leaders taking a stand against it.

On Tuesday, Mary Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, stepped down from her role on Premier Andrew Furey's task force, which was assembled to bring an outside perspective that could generate ideas to help the province's financial woes.

Shortall called the team "window dressing" without collaboration or transparency.

Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees president Jerry Earle echoed Shortall's concerns, adding his meeting with the team lead by Moya Greene — former CEO of the U.K.'s Royal Mail and a past head of Canada Post — was "one of the worst or most difficult" meetings he's experienced in his time as the head of NAPE.

But Richard Alexander, executive director of the N.L. Employers Council, sees things differently.

"This committee's work is very, very important. It's going to give us a bright future," Alexander told CBC News.

Bruce Tilley/CBC
Bruce Tilley/CBC

It was a tough week for the task force, however. There were accusations of over the top secrecy, and according to Shortall, a rushed timeline, lack of real collaboration and a feeling that not all perspectives were being considered.

Still, AnnMarie Boudreau of the St. John's Board of Trade says the task force's work is critical to the province's future, and tough decisions are needed.

"We were encouraged by what we heard. We were encouraged by how the conversation went," Boudreau said.

"To have a conversation, to come up with solutions and recommendations for the financial future of Newfoundland and Labrador, is paramount right now."

Dealing with our own problems

Without action right now, Alexander said decisions could ultimately be made from banks outside of the province.

He said the province has to deal with its own problems for a better future.

"We don't want a banker on the mainland making decisions about Newfoundland and Labrador's future. We want to take that under our own control and make those decisions ourselves," Alexander said.

He also said it's time to modernize and "reimagine" government services, and while he said he does not foresee mass layoffs, he expects many will still be affected or risk falling off what he calls a "fiscal cliff."

Meanwhile, calls to delay what many believe will be a winter election until after the task force's report is released is nothing more than political posturing, Alexander said.

Boudreau said all residents of the province need to see the report as soon as possible.

But Alexander said the process shouldn't be rushed.

"I think this is beyond politics now. This province is facing a crisis."

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