© Guardian photo
Finance Minister Wes Sheridan, left, and David Currie, repair a pair of shoes as Sheridan prepares for today’s provincial budget.
Few surprises or good news expected when Sheridan unveils fiscal document
Most observers expect a prudent fiscal document when Finance Minister Wes Sheridan rises in the legislature this afternoon to present the provincial budget. Mr. Sheridan will try and portray himself as a careful manager of the public purse by holding the line on spending in these tough economic times. After all, there are still two more budgets to go before the expected next election call. The government has long promised to present a balanced budget before then and it cannot unveil too much good news just yet.
The Official Opposition must feel there is some relief in sight, considering the intense attacks against Mr. Sheridan from Opposition Leader Stephen Myers. The strategy from the Opposition appears to be to throw enough dirt at the finance minister in the hope that something might stick. Once the public has formulated an image, then no matter what good news he might announce today, people will remain skeptical. It could be described as throwing the budget baby out with the political bathwater.
Mr. Myers might want to reconsider his strategy lest it backfire as no one has yet come forward to argue in support of his interpretation of the accounting history of the $25-million federal HST balloon payment.
There have been hints of some good news in today’s budget, such as an insulin pump program to help Island diabetics and widening the HST tax exemption on energy costs, such as electricity. Such an announcement at least offers some relief for Islanders pummeled by crippling energy costs over this past harsh winter and would reward residents for their belt-tightening in the face of numerous fee increases.
Mr. Sheridan has been widely criticized for not increasing the basic personal tax exemption, suggesting instead there are better ways to put more money in the pockets of Islanders. So far we have not seen those materialize.
Last seek, Premier Robert Ghiz mused aloud about P.E.I. entering into a pilot program with Ottawa about a basic guaranteed income for Islanders. Such as idea has long been supported by independent MLA Olive Crane, NDP Leader Mike Redmond, individuals and various social action and anti-poverty groups and coalitions around the province. But it was the first time the premier suggested the government is seriously thinking about it. It would be an historic initiative.
City recovers from hangover
The streets of Charlottetown were eerily quiet Monday. The city was recovering from a massive hangover after an endless string of non-stop East Coast Music Awards week parties which reached a climax with a gala celebration Sunday night. For five days, the city was awash in music — with showcases, special stages and spotlights which saw the city’s bars, nightclubs and restaurants jammed with musicians, delegates, guests and fans. Anyone following social media such as Twitter or Facebook had to be convinced there was nothing else going on in the province last week.
Islanders got caught up in the excitement. There were lineups at most locations. Restaurants and hotels were packed. Extra standing room tickets were released for the award gala wrap-up. Loud and appreciative audiences crammed crooks and crannies all week.
It was a chance to party and thousands took advantage the past five days. The ECMAs won’t be coming our way again for another five years and it was a great display of 150th anniversary party fever in this Cradle of Confederation.