The Way Forward: The 2016 Speech From the Throne

Earlier this week, the latest session of NL’s House of Assembly (HOA) officially got down to business with the 2016 Speech From the Throne. Should you care?           Absolutely! 

The Speech From the Throne requires government to outline its agenda for the upcoming session of the HOA. And while these speeches are notoriously short on details, they do identify government’s broad goals and the key initiatives it will undertake to accomplish them. In the context of our current unprecedented fiscal crisis, the Speech From the Throne offers the first hints of government’s spending priorities and through omission, what might end up on the chopping block. Here’s the shakedown as it relates to the heritage sector:

With the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel just months away, it’s no surprise that the Province’s Honor 100 program got a nod. Specifically, the Province confirmed its commitment to the Trail of the Caribou Pilgrimage and the Ambassador Program, which will see students and veterans travel to Beaumont Hamel for the 100th anniversary.

Government will continue to seek the repatriation of the remains of Demasduit (also known as Mary March) and her husband Nonosabasut from the National Museum of Scotland.  

Government will finalize the transfer of 10,700 square kilometres necessary for the creation of the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve in Labrador

Government will establish a non-partisan Independent Appointments Commission to take the politics out of government appointments. Additionally, the Public Service Commission will launch a website detailing membership requirements for all government agencies, boards, and commissions and identifying upcoming vacancies. Although the Commission’s work will focus on appointments to Tier 1 agencies, boards and commissions, it may eventually bring changes to the way appointments are made to other government boards, including the Rooms and the Heritage Foundation of NL. 

Government will undertake a new visitor exit survey to update information on non-resident visitors to NL. (FYI, according to Minister Mitchelmore’s Briefing Notes, this work will cost $472,987). 

In support of efforts to increase tourism and expand our province’s tourism sector, government will enhance marketing of NL’s natural and cultural heritage. Interestingly, in contrast to last year’s Throne Speech, there’s no specific mention of continued support for the actual heritage they’ll be marketing. However, Finance Minister Cathy Bennett’s recent announcement of a one year freeze on operating grants to non-profit organizations suggests CEDP operating grants may be spared the chopping block ... at least in the short term.

In cooperation with the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador,government will support the identification and development of new product opportunities. 

In consultation with the not-for-profit sector, government will lead the development of a social enterprise strategy. This initiative is intended to “enhance the benefits of the sector for the economy.” I have to admit, this one sends a little shiver down my spine. I can envision the promotion of social enterprise as the cure for every challenge currently facing our sector. Financial woes? Start a business! Here’s hoping the Community Sector Council and other knowledgable folks within the nonprofit sector are able to keep expectations at a realistic level. 

The province promises to work with the Federal Government on the development of “innovative and responsive labour market arrangements to support employment programs and skills training for our residents”. Does this mean we may finally see much needed changes to JCP?