The NDP Caucus says the doubling up of ministerial portfolios is shortchanging the people of the province as urgent matters continue regarding strained labour relations and cuts to post-secondary education.
Leader Gerry Rogers (MHA, St. John’s Centre) says after Liberal caucus members publicly complained of intimidation and harassment by two cabinet ministers, the Premier removed the minsters of Education and Municipalities and Environment and doubled up these crucial portfolios. Rogers says, meanwhile, we are facing rising unemployment, a bad cannabis deal, soaring electricity bills, a crumbling Memorial University, and serious labour disputes.
Today in Question Period, Rogers said the people have lost confidence in the Premier’s ability to manage his own caucus, let alone govern the province.
“I ask the Premier what is he going to do ensure these critical ministerial portfolios are covered and the crucial work of the people is properly undertaken?” Rogers said.
Rogers says that tensions are rising on the Lab West picket line as IOC starts to use intimidation on strikers and the D-J Composites lockout in Gander drags on to 17 months. Rogers once again asked for a review of the Labour Relations Act, as well as a review of Employment Standards legislation, to strengthen both to ensure that workers can depend on these laws to protect their rights.
Education and Early Childhood Development Critic Lorraine Michael (MHA, St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi) says that government’s budget speech committed to a long-overdue independent review of the province’s public post-secondary education system. She notes that the College of the North Atlantic is halfway through its own review that won’t be finished until 2019.
“I ask the Minster of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, why would 14 permanent and six contract faculty positions be cut before these reviews are completed?” Michael said.
Michael says that cuts to Memorial University’s operating grant have put a serious financial squeeze on the institution as they attempt to meet the needs of students and a crumbling infrastructure.
“I ask the Premier, how can he expect MUN to continue to produce quality graduates under the financial pressure his government is putting on it?” Michael said.