PEI

Balanced P.E.I. budget pushed back to 2016

The P.E.I. Liberal government might not be able to balance its budget until 2016, a year later than Finance Minister Wes Sheridan laid out in his plans late last spring.
The Prince Edward Island legislature in Charlottetown. On Monday Premier Robert Ghiz presented his state of the province address and gave the first hint that the budget projection changed. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The P.E.I. Liberal government might not be able to balance its budget until 2016, a year later than Finance Minister Wes Sheridan laid out in his plans late last spring.

On Monday, Premier Robert Ghiz presented his state of the province address, offering the first hint that the budget projections changed.

"Right now our government is on track to balance the budget over the next three years," he told the crowd.

But Sheridan had promised to bring the $80 million dollar budget deficit down and balance the budget by 2015.

Now he says revenues are not living up to projections.

In his pre-budget consultations, Sheridan said he'll ask Islanders whether they think pushing back the date is a good idea.

"Do we want to go forward and make the expected cuts that will make up for the loss in revenues? That's what we are going to do in the pre-budget. I'll talk to Islanders about that. Is it something that we should consider?" asked Sheridan.

Both the Progressive-Conservative Party and the NDP said they are worried about the overall state of the province's finances.

"Last year, it was going to be in three years and he told us the year before it was going to be in three years, so it seems like a trend with this guy," said Progressive-Conservative MLA Steven Myers.

"It's not a believable statement at this point," said NDP Leader Mike Redmond.

The latest official figures show the province's total liabilities as of March 31, 2012 were $2.67 billion, an increase of $247 million over the previous year.

Net debt was $1.85 billion at of the end of March 2012, an increase of $143 million.

"They have a wild spending habit," said Myers.

Sheridan was granted cabinet approval to borrow another $ 200 million over 40 years, but he said he's not worried about the Island's finances.

"This is not Prince Edward Island mismanaging in any way. This is Prince Edward Island leading the way," said Sheridan.

The consultations will be held in a number of communities across the Island next month, starting in Summerside on Feb. 1. About 70 people made presentations during the roundtable discussions last year.

The finance minister will reveal his budget in March.

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