Capital budget short on new spending

The government of P.E.I. released its capital budget Wednesday – a financial plan that included no new announcements, but instead focused on getting the fiscal house in order.

Stimulus spending shaved to $84 million in 2013

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan says he'll present a balanced budget in 2014-15. (CBC)

The government of P.E.I. released its capital budget Wednesday – a financial plan that included no new announcements, but instead focused on getting the fiscal house in order.

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan said the days of spending huge amounts of government money to stimulate the economy are over.

"We are not here to continue to spend money and put the province into further debt," said Sheridan. "The stimulus project was very, very active and intentional move to stimulate the economy to ensure that we would create jobs during the downturn."

In the peak of stimulus spending in 2010-11, government budgeted $133 million. Next year, that number will shrink to $84 million, or 37 per cent less.

There were no additions to the new budget, but instead a subtraction.

Last year, $1.3 million was penciled in for renovations to the Tracadie Youth Centre. In a news release at the time, government said that money was going to "to further enhance residential services to children and youth in the legal care of Child Protection Services."

Wednesday, Sheridan said that's off the table.

"The school that was going to be used out there was found not to be suitable. They don't want to put good money after bad and they're going to look at what else they should do in that locale instead of refurbishing that building."

Debt climbs

The province's net consolidated debt has climbed from just over $1 billion to $2 billion since 2007. Sheridan said this budget puts him on track to balance the books in 2014 – 15.

Opposition Finance Critic Steven Myers isn't buying the Liberal's message.

"It's obvious that the banks are in control of this province," he said. "Because it was the banks that told them to stop spending their capital, and it was the banks that told them bring in HST so they're doing both of these things. It's all about their bond rating now and it shows what trouble this province is probably in."

Infrastructure money down

This year, health takes a hit on the capital renovation or construction side. That budget has been cut almost in half – from $32 million to $18 million.

Steven Myers believes the province's finances are in worse shape than the Liberals are letting on. (CBC)

"Infrastructure here on Prince Edward Island was eroding terribly," said Sheridan. "This gave us an opportunity to one, stimulate the economy and two, to replace this aging infrastructure and we're very proud of what we've been able to do on that side."

There was a positive development. Sheridan said the price of school buses has dropped because Maritime provinces are working together. The dip on price means P.E.I. can afford more new buses than expected next year.

Other projects highlighted Wednesday had already been announced including renovations at several schools, a $500,000 investment in technology in classrooms and $35.5 million for road work.