P.E.I. Speaker scolds Legislative Assembly over budget leaks
'It could also be that the Liberal Party of P.E.I., and many others had access to budget details'
Speaker Buck Watts chastised the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly Wednesday regarding leaked confidential budget information which ended up in tweets from the governing Liberal party and in a newspaper ad for the party's candidate in the District 11 byelection.
Watts said while no rules were broken, "the lack of due process and disrespect to this House is troubling."
- Liberals breaking rules to swing byelection, Opposition charges
- Liberal government 'addicted to unsustainable spending,' charges Green leader
The Opposition had asked the speaker for rulings on two issues related to the release of the budget, alleging the Liberal party was tweeting confidential budget details while the finance minister was delivering his budget address — before the budget had been tabled in the House.
Government has been repeatedly reminded of it yet, almost every session of the Legislature, there is an example of this disrespect, and it is troubling.— Speaker Buck Watts
The PCs also pointed to a newspaper ad for Liberal candidate Bob Doiron in Saturday's Guardian which included details from the budget released Friday.
To meet the advertising deadline, the Tories said information would had to have gone to the advertising company before the budget was released.
Watts said these were not breaches of parliamentary privilege, but that he was "not at all pleased" with the events surrounding the introduction of the capital estimates last Friday.
"It appears clear. Capital budget details were released to others outside of the membership of this House before the actual document was tabled in the legislature," he said.
Watts said he even saw individuals other than MLAs with copies of the budget before it was tabled.
"It could also be that the Liberal Party of P.E.I., and many others had access to budget details," he added.
In a third complaint, the Tories said the government announced its new culture strategy at a coffee shop, and not in front of the Legislative Assembly.
With regard to that issue, Watts said he had observed a "disturbing trend" of the current government not observing the custom of making major announcements in the House while it is in session.
"Government has been repeatedly reminded of it yet, almost every session of the legislature, there is an example of this disrespect, and it is troubling."
PCs call on finance minister
Watts said a number of matters must be reviewed by government "to ensure that dignity and respect for this place during the budget process is maintained."
He called on government to review its budget release policies and communications protocols, noting that only the advance copies of the budget delivered to opposition parties included a letter advising of the strict confidentiality of the document.
- Sherwood Elementary principal ecstatic about new school
- Housing, carbon emissions, poverty targeted in P.E.I. throne speech
Copies sent to government offices did not include the notice.
The PCs said now that the Speaker has confirmed budget details were leaked, Finance Minister Allen Roach should provide a list of everyone who was given access to leaked copies of the budget.
A spokesperson for the premier's office would only say that government respects the ruling of the Speaker.
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | P.E.I. musician selling wedding dress to help finance new album
- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Drawing up their dreams: Grade 2 students reimagine their school