May 19, 2015

Residence fee hike will hit students from rural NL hard: Michael

The NDP critic for Advanced Education and Skills says that while a great deal of attention has deservedly been paid to impending tuition hikes at Memorial University because of a cut in government funding, people should also be concerned about the proposed increase in university residence fees. MHA Lorraine Michael (Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi) asked about the residence increases today in the House of Assembly.

“Last week I attended a town hall at Memorial where student after student – it was a full house – said government’s decision to cut $20 million from MUN’s budget, resulting in a government-directed hike in tuition for international and graduate students and a $1,000 hike in residence fees will result in their having to quit their studies here,” Michael said during Question Period.

“I ask the Premier does he know that 40 per cent of the students in residence are from rural Newfoundland and Labrador?”

Michael says a residence fee increase of $1000 a year amounts to a 36 per cent hike for students living in the least expensive room option.

“Does the Premier have any idea of the impact on rural students and their families his government’s decision will have?” she asked.

Michael says that the unexpected spike in fees is likely to result in students leaving Memorial for other universities, and that this would seem to undermine all the work MUN has done in diversifying its student base.

“I ask the Premier, what analysis does he have showing that the 30 per cent tuition hike will not result in a loss of students at MUN?”

April 30, 2015

Budget targets middle-class, fixed-income earners, says McCurdy

Budget 2015 forces lower- and middle-income people in the province to shoulder an unfair amount of the weight of government’s bad financial decisions, says NDP Leader Earle McCurdy. The budget increases the sales tax charged on most purchases, raises fees for numerous government services, and eliminates the HST rebate on home heating prices, adding 10 per cent to the cost of electricity and heating fuel alone.

McCurdy says when the province’s finances were doing better in 2010, government reduced taxes for corporations and higher-income individuals. Now in leaner times, the Conservatives are expecting everyone in the province to pay for their bad planning.

“There’s a whole group of people being hit from an increased tax that got very little benefit from the earlier cuts,” said McCurdy. “The breaks brought in in 2010 took a lot of money out of government’s pockets, were heavily weighted to the top 10 per cent of income earners, and left very little flexibility for situations like now.”

It adds insult to injury, he says, that in July 2015 people start paying provincial sales tax on electricity and heating oil, the HST increases January 1 2016, but people who qualify for HST rebates won’t see that benefit until October of next year.

“I recognize that some kind of tax increase was inevitable. It would be irresponsible for anyone to suggest otherwise,” said McCurdy.

“If you look only at the 2015 budget, you might think the richer earners are paying more, but if you look at the past five years, you’ll see the increases at the high end this year still don’t take them back to where they were prior to the 2010 cuts.”

Mar. 7, 2015

NL NDP elects Earle McCurdy as leader

Members of the Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party have elected Earle McCurdy as their leader.

The party’s leadership convention was held today at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s.

McCurdy was declared winner with 889 votes out of 1298 cast. Mike Goosney received 299 votes and Chris Bruce 110.

Of the party’s 1619 members, 1217 voted in advance by either telephone or online.

The three candidates joined hands on stage in solidarity and vowed to start working towards the next election.

“I am humbled and very much looking forward to the challenge,” said McCurdy.

Jan. 23, 2015

NDP Leader outraged at subversion of democracy

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael (MHA, Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi) says that while she was concerned when the premier announced his government’s attention to rush through legislation that reduces the number of districts in the province, she was appalled at the way Bill 42 actually proceeded through the House. “We in the NDP caucus had said in advance we were willing to filibuster to delay this outrageous bill’s passage,” she said today after almost 19 hours of the House being in session. “As it turned out, by the end of the Second Reading stage of debate it looked like government was filibustering its own bill.” The three NDP MHAs all spoke, according to schedule, on Thursday afternoon. After an hour-and-a-half-long dinner break, MHAs took their seats and sat in the House of Assembly until well after 4:00 a.m. as first alternating Liberal and PC MHAs, and then just PC MHAs took 20 minutes each to speak to second reading of the bill. The amendments to the bill were presented jointly by the Official Opposition Liberals and the governing Conservatives. “The very rare occurrence of almost every MHA using the 20 minutes they are allowed to speak to second reading was explained by reports that the amendments were being written in the hallways of the Confederation Building,” Michael said. “The legislation is flawed. The process was flawed. And despite the two major parties succumbing to pressure and adding back Labrador’s four seats, we were still completely unable and unwilling to support the bill that has been condemned by most of the province’s eminent political scientists and other experts, including Democracy Watch Canada.”

Jan. 19, 2015

NDP Caucus remains opposed to proposed electoral district changes

Today in the House of Assembly, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael (MHA, Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi) spoke out against government’s plan for massive changes in the province’s electoral boundaries. Immediately following the premier’s surprise announcement last week, Michael said the changes were “flying in the face of democracy” and announced her willingness to filibuster in order to delay passage of Bill 42 for as long as possible. One of Michael’s concerns is that the Electoral Boundaries Commission is being told the number of seats it should define. “The Premier has told the people of this province that he is going to reduce the number of electoral districts to 38 from the current 48,” she said in the House today. “Coming up with a new number of districts is a complex process that takes a lot of time. “I ask the Premier who did they consult with in order to come up with this very specific number? Or did they just pluck it out of mid-air?” Michael believes there should have been extensive public consultations before the number, or even a range of numbers as the Liberal leader is proposing, was given to the Boundaries Commission. A key concern about Bill 42 is representation for Labrador. The current legislation dictates four seats for the region. On Thursday, both the premier and the Opposition Leader said they would leave it up to the commission to decide. While the Opposition Leader has now reversed his stance on the matter, the NDP says it is important that those four distinct districts remain in the legislation. “The Premier has said he will let the Electoral Boundaries Commission decide if Labrador will keep four districts. Labradorians already feel marginalized and not fairly represented,” said Michael. “I ask the Premier, will he commit to protecting these four districts so Labradorians can be fairly represented and their voices heard?”