Run it like a business

Rudy Norman
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PC Party Leader and Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador hopeful, Bill Barry, was in Springdale last week speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Springdale and Area Chamber of Commerce.

"This is my prop," Barry said, reaching for a wooden stool and setting it in front of his audience. It was reminiscent of when he announced his leadership bid in Corner Brook a few weeks ago, as he would alternate between standing, sitting, pacing, and occasionally drifting over to a nearby table for a drink of water.


Barry spoke without notes, talking from memory when reciting numbers relating to offshore oil production, the province's finances and Muskrat Falls.

At the beginning of his speech, Barry talked about his recent experience in Norway - a place he likens to Newfoundland and Labrador, and which he says is an example of good wealth management after their discovery of oil.

Barry said, in a lot of ways, this province can look at Norway and discover some of the things we're doing wrong.

"Our sedimentary based offshore is about 800,000 square kilometres," he said. "Norway's is about 600,000, and Britain is about 500,000. We've drilled offshore 240 to 250 wells. They've drilled close to 6,000."

He referred to Newfoundland and Labrador as "Newfoundland Inc." on a couple of occasions during his speech, and said, if he gets to be Premier, he intends to run the province like a business.

"People say don't say that, but I just think in those terms in terms of Newfoundland and Labrador as a business - if you owned it, and you flew all around the world and you picked a piece of real estate that said this is the best piece of real estate to generate wealth for its citizens, then we've got it. However you have to be really, really careful," he said

Barry added he's concerned the province's revenues and economy are too reliant of non-renewable offshore oil, and criticized the government for, in his opinion, appearing not to have alternative plans.

"Our offshore oil resources, we identified, over the last number of years, let's just say about three billion barrels. (Of oil) we got about 1.2 billion barrels left. When you're running an oil economy and our fiscal base goes from $4 billion a year to $8 billion a year, and every dollar of decline in the price of crude oil costs our treasury $25 or $26 million lost. We're on the declining slope of that oil revenue."

Barry said that past governments rode the wave of wealthy times thanks to oil money, but he feels those days are in the past.

"Governments have been real popular for the last dozen years. It's really easy to be popular when you have lots of cash. What happens when the money isn't there?" he asked the crowd. "My father always used to say, 'you hope for the best, but you always prepare for the worst.' You always have a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C. My concern, and one of the reasons why I'm running for this job, is I don't know if there's any Plan C, I don't know if there's any Plan B. When I look at our budgeting, I think we're hoping for the best, and we might not get the best result"

The Corner Brook businessman, who made his money in fish processing as owner of the Barry Group - a consortium of companies that includes fish processing and aquaculture operations in various locations across the province, spoke much about the world economy and how it affects Newfoundland and Labrador - with everything from decline in oil prices to the announcement the Wabush Mines will be idle.

"The consequences of pressure towards global deflation means a lot of pressure on commodity prices," he said. "The choices we make are extremely important, or we'll end up with no money."

He also took on his critics, including former Premier Danny Williams just this week, who have spoken out against his style and message.

"In 1992 when the moratorium happened, there were 582,000 of us. We went down to a low of 508,000. We're supposed to be around 525,000 now. The Conference Board of Canada says that we're going to 480,000 by 2035. Some people would say that's BS, but I don't think it is."

He was referring to comments earlier last week when Williams called the same report Barry referred to a similar obscenity, and then criticized Barry on a number of fronts.

"(Danny Williams) doesn't like me, and I'm OK with that," he said.

At the end of his talk, Barry opened the floor for questions. One gentleman suggested that he'd spent much of his time explaining to the audience what was wrong with what the current PC government is doing and has done in the past.

"You've told us what's wrong, now tell us how you're going to fix it," the man said. Barry's response was simple.

"Elect me and find out."


Organizations: Barry Group, Conference Board of Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Norway, Britain Corner Brook

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