Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. voters could head to the polls before budget approved

Even when pressed repeatedly, Premier Dwight Ball isn't ruling it out.

People will have 'a clear description' of financial situation before election, says premier

Premier Dwight Ball insists he still doesn't know when he will call an election. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Premier Dwight Ball won't say whether he will send voters to the polls before a budget is passed.

The budget will be tabled April 16. Typically, budgets require just over three days of debate in the House of Assembly, and Ball has previously said a provincial election would be held before the end of June.

Under the Elections Act, the election must be held at least 28 days after the writ is dropped, but not more than 35.

On Monday — just over a week before the financial blueprint will be unveiled by the finance minister — Ball wouldn't budge, or bite, when pressed by reporters about whether he would drop the election writ before the budget is approved.

"The budget will be dropped and we will give people, the commitment that we've made, is to give people a clear, a clear description of where the financial situation is in our province," Ball told reporters following question period.

Ball said people won't be in the dark about the province's finances, in part because the PCs did exactly that in 2015, despite requests for updates, Ball said.

"They never did answer that question, so it was a concern for us [back then].… We brought in amendments" to ensure there was a financial status report of sorts before an election, Ball said. 

For a situation that is — right now — a hypothetical one, Ball then went on to elaborate and explain why there shouldn't be concerns if a budget wasn't a done deal before the parties hit the campaign trail.

"People need not worry about having money to actually pay for services, payroll, and those sorts of things that people rightfully deserve. These are not the things that would be jeopardized at all. We have made provisions by some recent amendments that we have brought in 2016 or 2017," he said. 

"I'm not going to jeopardize the financial structure of this province. We have not determined when an election date is."

'No chance to debate it'

PC Leader Ches Crosbie said calling an election before a budget would be passed is the opposite of transparency.

"That means there would be no chance to debate it, to question it, ask annoying questions of the government. There are a lot of places where there are loopholes and money being spent that shouldn't be spent," he told reporters on Monday.

"It would not be honest leadership."

Ches Crosbie, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, says it would not be a show of 'honest leadership' if Ball calls an election before the budget is passed. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

NDP Leader Alison Coffin is also sounding the alarm on the potential situation. 

"If we don't have an opportunity to have good solid debate on what's actually contained in the budget and actually go through the estimates process, we can easily miss an awful lot of things and that's not the proper way to run government," Coffin said.

"What if we have a minority government? Maybe we might have a budget that's going to be hamstrung for awhile, that could create a whole other set of problems."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Katie Breen

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