© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan and House Speaker Carolyn Bertram in the provincial legislature. Guardian file photo.
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan did not commit a breach of privilege in his accounting of the $25-million HST transition payment from Ottawa, House Speaker Carolyn Bertram has ruled.
Bertram delivered her ruling today before question period in the P.E.I. legislature.
She said she carefully examined all materials and arguments, noting matters of privilege are very serious.
“The point of privilege directed to me for a ruling by the Leader of the Opposition does not fulfill the requirements for a prima facie case privilege,” Bertram said.
“For that reason… I cannot allow the motion proposed by the Opposition to proceed.”
The issue centres around a $25-million payment the province received from the federal government in the 2012-13 fiscal year. The payment was the first instalment of a total $39 million in transitional funding to help the province roll out the HST.
Although the province received $25 million of that HST transitional money in 2012-13, Sheridan said the auditor general advised him all $39 million should be accounted for in the year the HST was implemented — the current fiscal year.
On the opening day of the legislature this spring, Opposition Leader Steven Myers charged that Sheridan committed a breach of privilege and contempt of the house, accusing him of intentionally misleading the House in his accounting of the $25 million HST payment.
Myers has repeatedly claimed Sheridan knew all along the money should have been accounted for as revenue in the 2013-14 budget, but put it instead in the previous year’s books to make his deficit look better.
He wanted the matter to go to the committee on rules, privileges and private bills, where the details will be reviewed and witnesses called.
Bertram’s ruling today means that will not happen.
“It is what it is, it’s her decision and we respect that,” Myers said in response to the ruling.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m disappointed, we’ll just carry on. We have lots of other issues to bring to the House.”
Myers added he plans to bring the issue up again when the auditor general appears before the public accounts committee this summer.