Stay the course budget to be released Tuesday in P.E.I legislature

Teresa Wright
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Finance Minister Wes Sheridan, left, and David Currie, repair a pair of shoes as Sheridan prepares for today’s provincial budget.

P.E.I. Finance Minister Wes Sheridan will present his provincial operating budget today, a document widely expected to be a ‘stay the course’ plan toward getting the province’s books back in the black.

Sheridan has been trying to get the province out of deficit ever since the 2008 recession caused millions in pension fund losses and triggered the need for stimulus spending.

Two years ago, he began a three-year plan to return to balance, which he had to then re-start last year due to lower than expected provincial revenues. He plans to balance the budget in 2016.

Department spending has been frozen in every department but health, with small increases in education and social services.

Last year, Sheridan projected a deficit of $34.5 million for this year.

He has faced a barrage of criticism from the Opposition Tories since the legislature reopened last week over his management of the provincial finances.

But Sheridan stands by his decisions, even though they have led to a string of deficits.

“It was very important that we provided the stimulus that we did over the past five years, this was the greatest recession since 1929, every other jurisdiction did exactly what we did, we were the first ones in,” he said. “We stand by it.”

But Opposition Leader Steven Myers pointed out these deficits have led to millions being added to the provincial debt.

P.E.I.’s net debt has ballooned to over $2 billion.

“It works out to be about $4.63 a second since these guys have been in power that they’ve whacked away in debt,” Myers said.

He is concerned there is not a plan in place to pay it down. He believes the finance minister is simply leaving it for future governments and generations to deal with.

“It was very important that we provided the stimulus that we did over the past five years, this was the greatest recession since 1929, every other jurisdiction did exactly what we did." Finance Minister Wes Sheridan

“His goal now is to balance the budget in a year’s time, which I don’t think he can do anyway, but his real goal should be trying to pay off all this debt he’s wracked up… all he wants to do is kick the can down the road,” Myers said.

Independent MLA Olive Crane took a less aggressive tone in her pre-budget comments, saying she hopes to see a new tax rebate for low-income Islanders that would see HST removed from home heating products like propane and electricity.

She said she would also like to see increases for food allowances for families on social assistance, as well as some manner of financial help for Islanders referred out-of-province for health services who cannot afford travel and accommodations costs.

She pointed to the $39 million in HST transitional funding the province received from the federal government.

“I expect them to put some revenue along with the extra tax dollars they are collecting against the deficit, but I also expect them to give some of this money back to Islanders in programs that helpIslanders,” Crane said.

“The finance minister cannot continue to raise taxes and fees without giving something back to those he continues to tax.”

The budget will be tabled in the provincial legislature Tuesday afternoon, after question period.

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

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  • Quiet Observer
    April 08, 2014 - 09:21

    I keep reading about the stimulus spending as being so critical. In reality, PEI did not need massive amounts of stimulus spending when the recession hit. Our economy is not driven by manufacturing or sectors, other than tourism, that are impacted that much. We are a natural resources/food based economy that does not feel the major impact of a manufacturing based recession. We are more affected by a drop in potato or lobster prices. The stimulus spending this government did was all in the construction sector and created far less NEW jobs for Islanders than they lay claim to. Who did the major construction jobs? Mostly off-island contractors. Ghiz and Sheridan jumped on a band wagon to try to look like heroes and wasted 100s of millions of dollars on stimulus spending that was not needed. And now they want to be heroes for doing it? wake up!

  • Proud Islander
    April 08, 2014 - 08:37

    The last Tories government, led by Pat Binns is the one to be thanked for "sinking" P.E.I. into the deficit that the current Liberal government has been trying for the last number of years to get us out of. The Binns government had 9 years of glorious spending our Islanders tax dollars, and since the Ghiz government has taken the rap for this deficit. I'm sure there will be lots of criticism to my comment, but before you criticize go back and take a look at the facts...it's all there in black and white!

    • To a die-hard Liberal:
      April 08, 2014 - 11:42

      You have to be kidding !!!!

  • Seriously?
    April 08, 2014 - 07:51

    A stay the course budget means staying the course in sinking PEI even more than this govt has already.

  • Liar Liar
    April 08, 2014 - 07:15

    This dude should have his face covered if it's him reading the budget,his skeeming is finally catching up to him,and our small island is 2.4 Billion in debt,imagine 2.4 Billion,time to dump some MLAs get rid of the over spending such as vehicles cellphones and gas cards,that might cut the debt into half,enough is enough of this hooligans going on in our government.

  • sammy
    April 08, 2014 - 03:35

    These guys are cute but not cute enough to hide everything from everyone. They wonder why the Federal Govt jerked their LMDA money for programs like SkillsPEI (being replace by Canada Job Grant and run by the feds). This is the only province where the kids receiving Skills money are issued a t4s and forced to claim that skills money as income. The Province then 'claws back' roughly 1/3 in taxes of what they gave them to get those skills. Ontario for example lets them claim it on line 105 of their return and pay nothing. Cute but the feds got your number. Unfortunately because of mismanagement like this ppl who need the money will no longer have access to it (or it will be much harder to get). Wonder where they will get the money to pay all of the ppl they hired in Skills when that well goes dry shortly??

  • Lloyd Kerry
    April 07, 2014 - 22:12

    How about sticking to your word, just for once, while you still can?? From the PEI government’s full-page ad in The Guardian April 21, 2012: “Gasoline/Diesel and tobacco prices will be adjusted through changes to the Provincial Excise Tax, in order to maintain our competitive position with neighbouring provinces.”