ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A Liberal member of the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature was swiftly ejected from his party caucus Thursday after criticizing Premier Dwight Ball's much-maligned budget, saying his constituents are in a fury over its tax hikes.
Paul Lane says he received a note tersely informing him he's out of the government elected last fall after he said he can't vote for the provincial budget if it contains the so-called deficit reduction levy.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball listens as Finance Minister Cathy Bennett presents the 2016 provincial budget at the House of Assembly in St.John's, Thursday, April 14, 2016. (Photo: Paul Daly/CP)
The proposed levy will be imposed on taxes for any resident who earns more than $20,000 of taxable income, with middle-income earners paying about $400.
"I couldn't count the number of emails, Facebook messages and phone calls from my constituents who were very upset with the budget, particularly the cumulative effect of all the taxation and fees," he said in a telephone interview.
"The lightning rod was the levy."
Lane said in a text he intends to sit as an independent member for the constituency of Mount Pearl-Southlands in St. John's for the time being, and sat by himself in the legislature on Thursday afternoon.
"There was no way in good conscience that I could support (the budget) moving forward ... because that's not what my constituents wanted."
He said he made his decision to vote against the budget after a recent caucus meeting where he advocated backing away from the levy, and found his proposals were firmly rejected.
He also questioned going forward with funding all-day kindergarten when other existing programs were facing lower budgets.
"There was no way in good conscience that I could support (the budget) moving forward ... because that's not what my constituents wanted," he said.
Lane said other members of the assembly are facing similar calls from the constituents over issues such as the closure of libraries and the increase in a variety of taxes and fees.
'I own this action'
But he didn't predict a sudden rush of other Liberals following him out of caucus.
"I can only speak for my actions. I own this action. I'll stick with it and live with any consequences," he said.
The Liberal government has said it was forced to bring forward the new taxes, fees and the levy, along with a $1.8 billion deficit, due to the province's plunging oil royalties and other falling revenues.
— By Michael Tutton in Halifax.