April 12, 2017
Budget discussion cut short for Easter vacation
Yesterday, the House of Assembly closed two days earlier than scheduled for Easter break. This has added to concerns that there are details in the budget (released last Thursday) that government would rather not discuss in a truly public forum.
The budget speech this year talked about “realizing potential” and “achieving fiscal targets,” says NDP Leader Earle McCurdy, but the real budget news is contained in documents that government did not highlight, or even mention, in the budget speech. The cost of living and the unemployment rate are expected to go up in each of the next five years in the province, while household income, housing starts, retail sales and GDP will plummet; meanwhile all but one of the 300 plus taxes and fees imposed in Budget 2016 remain.
Repeated questioning in the House of Assembly designed to force the Finance Minister to acknowledge the negative outlooks drew only evasive responses, says McCurdy. Government then closed the House two days before the date indicated in the brand new Parliamentary Calendar it adopted this year.
“The $65 million allegedly saved through ‘Zero Based Budgeting’ is just one example of vague numbers,” said NDP Leader Earle McCurdy. “There’s more than $100 million in salaries and benefits savings that they’ve refused to elaborate on, for example.
“The Finance Minister keeps talking about Estimates as a place to get details, but that’s patently absurd. Very few people in the province can come to the House of Assembly to sit in the galleries and listen to the hours of budget estimates questions.”
The House of Assembly closed on Tuesday after just two days of budget discussion.
“Are they hoping that the people of the province will forget about the budget over the lengthened Easter Break?” asked McCurdy. “They keep saying ‘full visibility’ is coming; I can guarantee we’ll keep demanding it.”