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N.L. Throne Speech features changes to Public Health Act, new Waterford Hospital

Newfoundland and Labrador Lieutenant Governor Frank Fagan is introduced before reading the speech from the throne in the House of Assembly in St. John’s on Tuesday. — Keith Gosse/The Canadian Press
Newfoundland and Labrador Lieutenant Governor Frank Fagan is introduced before reading the speech from the throne in the House of Assembly in St. John’s on Tuesday. — Keith Gosse/The Canadian Press - Keith Gosse

Message on finances: ‘do better with less’

The throne speech by Lt.-Gov. Frank Fagan at the House of Assembly Tuesday points to a difficult budget ahead for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Quite simply, we must continue to do better with less and build on the work that we have undertaken over the past two years,” Fagan said.

The budget is set to come down March 27.

The throne speech did point to upcoming legislative reviews, amendments and priorities — including in health care.

The province will have a new Healthy Living Action Plan, a push to improve overall public health.

A new Public Health Act will be introduced, “to drive improvements in population health.”

And mental health and addictions was specifically addressed.

“In the near future, we will announce plans to redesign the mental health and addictions services system across the province beginning with the replacement of the Waterford Hospital and initiation of best practices in community support services to allow people to be supported closer to home,” Fagan said.

The provincial government is planning for more primary health teams, and a home-first approach to seniors’ care, but the speech did not provide any more detail on either.

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The speech highlighted other items expected to pass through the legislature in the upcoming session.

Bill 1 will be amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act, for example.

The speech commits to the province undertaking its own apology to survivors of the former residential school system, continuing to pursue an inquiry with the Innu Nation into Innu children in care and includes plans for a second Indigenous Roundtable.

There will be a collection of legislative reviews using a gender lens, focused on gender equality and addressing violence against women.

A review of the provincial environmental assessment process is promised.

A new mineral strategy to encourage the mining sector, atop the previously announced intention to up oil and gas spending in the province.

The speech applauded a collection of recent artistic and sporting achievements, from work in the province, inspired by it, or by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The speech noted a fresh provincial cultural plan will be in place by January 2019.

The speech included a section on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, generally supporting the ongoing work of the inquiry into how the project has gone so beyond budget and behind schedule.

ashley.fitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

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