The fall session of the P.E.I. legislature opened Tuesday with a speech from the throne that highlighted new details about the harmonized sales tax, public sector pension reform and changes to the way emergency medicine is delivered.
This fall, Islanders will see all the details behind the 14 per cent HST that comes into effect April 1.
Tuesday's throne speech delivers good news for book buyers and sellers. Books will be exempt from the provincial portion of the HST, meaning a 5 per cent tax will be charged on books, not 14 per cent.
Book sellers lobbied hard for this, worried without the exemption, they would be at a competitive disadvantage to other provinces.
Government estimates the book exemption will work out to $1.4-million a year in lost revenue. Premier Robert Ghiz also expects the HST will be a hot topic, as legislation surrounding the new tax will also be debated.
Ghiz said home heating oil will also be on the list of exemptions, but Islanders should not expect other forms of home heat to appear on that list.
"It's something we'd like to do, without a doubt. Can we do it? No we can't. So, you know, it's about making choices. And I'll admit it would be great to move in that direction, but unfortunately, we do not have the wiggle room to be able to do that," he said.
Financial planning focus
The throne speech also revealed the climbing costs of public service pension plans will be tackled this fall. Legislation will come forward that will allow government to increase how much employees pay into their pensions. No word on how much more.
The throne speech also hints there are changes on the horizon in how emergency medicine is delivered. Government will explore something called collaborative emergency centres, which will involve a team approach to seeing patients.
The main focus of the fall session will be financial planning, said Ghiz. He wants to have a balanced budget by 2015.
The capital budget will be released within the first two weeks.
"This is a time of getting our finances in order, the reduction in our capital spending. So that will be a big change with regards to the amount of capital projects we do across the province. So I would not anticipate any new major programs," said Ghiz
"It's about maintaining the programs that we've announced before — early childhood development, stroke units, new ambulatory care. We want to be able to protect those investments."
The session will likely last close to six weeks, finishing in December, said Ghiz.
Last year's fall session only lasted six days because it immediately followed the provincial election.