Focus will be economic growth, health, schools - Ghiz
© Guardian photo
Speech From the Throne in April this year.
Premier Robert Ghiz says his focus for the next year will be on growing the economy while also improving health care and education.
Provincial politicians will head back to Province House next week when the fall legislative session opens.
This session will be kicked off with a Speech from the Throne. It will detail government’s priorities for the province over the next year.
“It is a time still of fiscal restraint and, out of government, we’re trying to grow the private sector and we’ll be concentrating on that during this session,” Ghiz said in an interview.
“(The Throne Speech) will be about continuing on where we were and what we’ve done and the improvements we’re going continue to make in the education system; will talk about the changing delivery of health care in Prince Edward Island and talk about some of the challenges that we have to face in the province.”
This session will be a heavy one for legislation with approximately 25 bills coming forward.
One of the key pieces to be introduced will be the much-anticipated HST legislation. After holding province-wide public meetings to explain the new tax this summer, government will now move forward with putting in place the tax law to allow for HST to be implemented as planned next April.
Opposition Leader Olive Crane says her Tory caucus will be voting against the HST.
“This is the government that said they’d never bring HST, this is the government that added (millions) in new fees and services so it’s really up to government to clearly show how they’re going to help ordinary Islanders with all these extra expenses,” Crane said.
“We will have lots of debate on the floor over the bill that they bring in. Opposition cannot support this bill.”
Also coming during this session will be government’s capital budget. This budget will outline the Ghiz government’s five-year plan for infrastructure expenditures across P.E.I.
Ghiz warned that since federal stimulus funding has dried up, the multitude of infrastructure projects seen a few years ago will not be quite so plentiful.
“We’ll be returning back to original spending levels in our infrastructure… back into the traditional $65- to $70-million spend,” Ghiz said.
An update of the province’s finances will also be released sometime during this session.
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan has warned that financial pressures in health care and agriculture will affect the province’s spending targets for the year.
That could have implications on the province’s deficit target for the year, which currently sits at $74.9 million.
Ghiz admitted this deficit projection will likely be adjusted. But he does not expect it will be a drastic difference.
“We’re probably off by a little bit right now. There’s a couple of unexpected expenditures in health care,” he said.
“It’s not going to be off by $100-million, but it should be close and within, I’m guessing, 10 or 15 per cent.”
The province’s finances will be a key issue of focus for Crane and her Opposition MLAs.
She said she believes the Ghiz government has pushed forward with its own agenda that is “out of touch” with the needs of Islanders.
“Whether that’s the Plan B highway, spending $4 million on a failed lottery while at the same time they leave out the needs of a whole lot of Islanders,” Crane said.
The legislature will open Tuesday with the Speech from the Throne, read by Lt. Governor Frank Lewis at 2 p.m. at Province House. All proceedings of the House are open to the public.