Opposition criticizes $80M in additional spending

The issue of the province of P.E.I.'s finances was at the forefront of the legislature Wednesday.

The issue of the province of P.E.I.'s finances was at the forefront of the legislature Wednesday.

The Opposition said spending is out of control and that the province spent an additional $80 million over the past two years through special warrants.

Special warrants do not have to be reported right away by the government because it is spending approved by cabinet outside the legislature.

Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry accused the government of spending the unbudgeted money on purpose, to make the deficit seem smaller than it actually is, as the election approached.

"It shows this government's financial record is a train wreck," Perry told CBC News, "They don't know how to budget. They don't know how to foresee expenses coming out and I think a lot of this over last year - especially, was special warrants taken out - was because it was an election year and to make their deficit look much smaller than it actually was."

Perry questioned Finance Minister Wes Sheridan as to why the government, in his view, has a problem budgeting.

"Minister, these are tax payers' dollars that are not budgeted for and are not accountable to the public through the legislative process. Despite the fact that many of them – like the RCMP contract, the school upkeep and the general expenses – are known years in advance," Perry said, "Minister why are you unable to budget properly?"

Sheridan said the government does not have a problem budgeting.

"For four years running, we had the lowest number of special warrants in the last 30 years of our history," he said.

Tourism critic and Stratford-Kinlock MLA James Aylward focused on $4 million in special warrants spent on tourism during Wednesday's Question Period.

"I think what this is, this government continues to tout themselves as transparent and honest and moving forward - but at the same time we work with them on the budgets, we work with them on the estimates but they're continually overspending their budgets," Aylward said.

"They don’t know how to budget properly."

Sheridan said the conservative critics numbers are wrong, he said the government has the special warrants covered by money coming from Ottawa.

Sheridan said the special warrants did not amount to $80 million but more like $50 million and said he doesn't think that is out of control spending.

"Everything is very well supported here," Sheridan said.

The Opposition disagreed, saying the Governor General's report supports their $80 million figure and that Sheridan uses other numbers from supplementary appropriations approved by the legislature.

Sheridan said he thinks the provincial government's spending is on target.

"It's tough, but anytime a budget of $1.6 billion can come within one per cent of being on target, I think that’s a pretty good estimate."

Perry disagrees.

"You know, $75-$80 million in the last two years is a huge number for unforeseen expenditures," Perry said.