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Greens press P.E.I. government on budget surplus numbers

Premier Dennis King acknowledged there was a discrepancy between the projected and actual surplus from the previous fiscal year. The fall legislative session kicked off on Tuesday.
Premier Dennis King acknowledged there was a discrepancy between the projected and actual surplus from the previous fiscal year. The fall legislative session kicked off on Tuesday. - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

The first question period of the fall sitting of the legislature kicked off with a back-and-forth over P.E.I.’s recently announced $57-million surplus.

Green Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker suggested the surprise surplus was an indication of inaccurate revenue projections on the part of the Department of Finance.

During the tenure of the previous Liberal government, the province had projected the surplus would be $1.5 million for the 2018/19 fiscal year. Actual tax revenue was higher than projected and accounted for the majority of the $57 million surplus.

Last year, Health MacDonald, the finance minister of the previous Liberal government, announced a $75-million budget surplus for the 2017/18 fiscal year after projecting a surplus of $600,000. 

"Any private business that was so wildly inaccurate in its financial budgeting would have to answer some pretty uncomfortable and serious questions," Bevan-Baker said.

"Question to the premier: What is your administration doing to ensure that we have a much better handle on the day-to-day financial situation of the Prince Edward Island government?"

In response, Premier Dennis King acknowledged the discrepancy between the projected surplus and the actual surplus. He also credited the previous Liberal government for the large surpluses.

"That gives a government some flexibility to increase some spending in needed areas," King said.

"I would like to think that we are on a track, Mr. Speaker, to make sure we remain a fiscally responsible province while at the same time being able to be fair to taxpayers."

But King also pledged to provide second-quarter update on the projections for the current fiscal year. The first budget of Compton has projected a surplus of $1.8 million.

King suggested actual revenues currently correspond to projections and said the current surplus is tracking at between $600,000 and $700,000.

"Audited financial statements were missing for seven agencies, boards and/or crown corporations. What actions have you taken to ensure that all audited financial statements are submitted in accordance with the Financial Administration Act?"
-Green finance critic Michele Beaton

Green finance critic Michele Beaton asked why several crown corporations did not include their financial statements in the public accounting documents released by the province in October. - Stu Neatby
Green finance critic Michele Beaton asked why several crown corporations did not include their financial statements in the public accounting documents released by the province in October. - Stu Neatby

Compton faced another question from Green finance critic Michele Beaton about financial statements from crown corporations that were not publicly released with public accounts documents late last month.

"Audited financial statements were missing for seven agencies, boards and/or crown corporations," Beaton said.

"What actions have you taken to ensure that all audited financial statements are submitted in accordance with the Financial Administration Act?"

In response, Compton said the financial statements would be released.

"It was made (clear) to me that there (are) some of the crown corporations that did not have their financial statements ready for printing when we put out the blue books. But I assure (you) that they will be available shortly," Compton said.

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