Finance minister promises budget before end of September
PCs, NDP won’t support another round of interim supply
Finance Minister Tom Osborne says he'll present a provincial budget before the end of September.
The province hasn't presented a budget yet, which normally happens sometime in April, because the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the province's financial planning, severely slashing oil and tax revenues coming into the province.
"Baring a second wave or barring something unforeseen, I can absolutely tell you that the people of the province will see the budget in this province before the end of September," Osborne said in the House of Assembly on Thursday afternoon.
Osborne promised a budget when NDP Leader Alison Coffin told the House her party would not support another interim supply bill.
In March, the House passed an interim supply bill worth $4.6 billion — enough money for six months of operations — to hold them over until the minority government could pass a budget.
"I am letting the Liberals know that they will force an election if they do not drop a budget before September," Coffin said outside the House of Assembly.
Interim supply is a confidence bill, meaning if it fails to pass the House, convention dictates the legislature will dissolve and an election will be called.
Coffin said she won't support another interim supply bill when the first one runs out because the government's already been given $4 billion, without accountability on how the money is being spent.
"I do not think that the Liberal government ought to have another $4 billion to do with what they will, without a plan, without any accountability," said Coffin.
"I think that is highly inappropriate."
Coffin said she wants to see a budget in case the province is planning to make cuts.
"If we are going to drop a budget, we need an appropriate time to examine that budget and examine the plan government has for getting us out of this economic recession we're in now," said Coffin, adding it takes about a month to pass a budget.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie agreed with Coffin, saying his party will also not support another round of interim supply.
"This is one issue on which we stand together with the NDP," said Crosbie.
No federal budget yet, either
Both the finance minister and the premier say it's hard for the province to present a budget without seeing the federal government's budget first.
Ball said he's anticipating a fiscal stabilization plan for the province.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was expected to deliver his budget March 30, but that was also put on hold due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Premier Dwight Ball is planning an update of his own.
"My intention before I leave as premier is to give an update on the financial affairs of the province as best we can," said Ball.
Coffin says she doesn't think that update will be adequate enough to replace a budget but Crosbie is encouraged by the fact the premier said he would give an update before he leaves office.
"But the discouraging part is, he doesn't seem to want to do it while we're in the House where we can debate it, and he can be asked questions about it," said Crosbie.
With files from Anthony Germain