© Guardian photo
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and Premier Robert Ghiz before the first question period of the fall sitting of the P.E.I. legislature Wednesday.
Opposition Leader Olive Crane zeroed in on the provincial deficit and debt today, accusing the government of overspending and mismanaging the province's finances.
In the first question period of the fall session of the legislature, Crane used her time to grill government on its books.
She says the province is overspending by $1.5 million a week.
“Premier why are you so out of touch and continue to overspend what you’re actually taking in?” Crane asked.
Premier Robert Ghiz pulled out statistics from recent bond ratings agencies, saying P.E.I.’s financial standing is stable and even faring better than some other jurisdictions.
He said he is not willing to “cut and slash” at the deficit, a move he says would hurt Islanders.
That’s why he says he is approaching the deficit with a more tempered approach at bringing it back to balance.
“Conservative governments like to cut, they believe in less government, they believe in less intervention in society. Our government, a Liberal government, believes in the balance in providing government programs,” Ghiz said.
But Crane said the province’s deep deficit is due to poor spending decisions, and accused Ghiz of being arrogant and out of touch with Islanders.
“We have a huge problem with deficit in this province because of this government’s overspending.”
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan pointed out the worldwide recession of 2008 meant the province had to engage in stimulus spending to protect the Island’s economy from long term losses. This is a major reason the deficit has grown to $79 million.
“This was very proactive work on our behalf and, we make no bones about it, our capital budget doubled for a three-year spend,” Sheridan said.
This allowed much of P.E.I.’s infrastructure to be updated and improved, he added.
“We’re very proud of what was invested in. We stand by that investment, and now, as the premier said, we’re on a path of balance – ensure that we provide for Islanders but we’ll do it in a very balanced fashion.”