© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Lt. Gov. Frank lewis reads the Speech from the Throne to open the new session of the legislature.
The fall session of the P.E.I. legislature closed this morning – a session that will now go down in the history books as the one that paved the way for the HST.
Premier Robert Ghiz said he realizes the harmonized sales tax is not a popular measure among all Islanders, but he maintains his belief that it is ‘good public policy.’
“While it is somewhat controversial, we believe it is a step in the right direction and hopefully it will help our province grow into the future.”
Government eventually passed their HST bill, the Retail Sales Act, after a brief delay by the Opposition Tories.
They filibustered the bill for a few days in protest against the fact their questions about how this new tax will affect Islanders were not being answered or acknowledged by government.
Opposition Leader Olive Crane reiterated her censure of the Ghiz government over their bringing in the HST after saying before the 2011 election they would not. She believes Islanders should have had the opportunity to vote on this tax.
“This is the government that promised there was going to be exemptions on electricity and home heating costs, that was never the case,” she told reporters.
“The bottom line is, the HST is here because the Liberal MLAs chose not to vote with their conscience.”
This 16-day sitting of the legislature saw a total of 25 bills passed, including the HST legislation, as well as the premier’s Speech from the Throne.
The 2013-2014 capital budget was also passed this session, which totals $83.9 million to be spent in infrastructure expenditures this year.
This budget was a smaller one than capital budgets of recent years and included no projects that had not already been announced.
Sheridan’s five-year capital plan shows the province plans to return to what he calls ‘traditional levels’ of infrastructure spending. The budget document shows a gradual reduction year by year, ending at $51 million net expenditure in 2017.
But the HST was the main focus of attention and debate this session.
The legislature will resume for an unscheduled sitting in March to bring in the last piece of legislation to make way for the HST roll out on April 1, 2013.
This legislation will dictate how gasoline and tobacco taxes will be impacted by the HST.
Ghiz said today gas prices will likely increase about eight cents when the HST is introduced in the spring.
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says this will bring P.E.I. up to the Maritime average in gasoline prices.
Check back to The Guardian website later for more details on the fall sitting of the legislature. Full details will be in Saturday’s print edition of The Guardian.