PEI

Stop secrecy on HST, says Opposition

The P.E.I. government needs to be more open about its negotiations with Ottawa over the harmonized sales tax, says the Progressive Conservative Opposition.

The P.E.I. government needs to be more open about its negotiations with Ottawa over the harmonized sales tax, says the Progressive Conservative Opposition.

Any tax changes will not hurt low-income Islanders, says Robert Ghiz. (CBC)

There was no mention of HST in Wednesday's throne speech, but Premier Robert Ghiz said he is still in talks with Ottawa.

"I've said all along I don't want to bring in any new taxes or reduce down taxes that are going to hurt Islanders on low income," said Ghiz.

"We don't have [a plan] yet. We'll find out on budget day."

That budget is scheduled for April 17, though that could change.

But finance critic Stephen Myers thinks Islanders should not have to wait for the budget to hear more about what is being discussed.

"I'd like to know what they're negotiating, wouldn't you?" said Myers.

"Right now it's secret negotiations going on. We don't know what they're talking about as far as percentages. We don't know what they're talking about as far as exemptions, so I'd really like to see, and I think a lot of Islanders would like to see, what they're talking about at this point. Come clean, put it on the table and let them decide. Why the secret?"

Surprising stand on school boards

The most surprising item in the throne speech was a decision to merge the province's two English school boards.

The Robert Ghiz government has a record of not listening, says Olive Crane. (CBC)

The merger is coming despite a recommendation from the Education Governance Commission earlier this week that the province keep two English boards.  The commission found a merger would cost, not save, money.

"Well, we disagree," said Ghiz.

"If you read through their document there are varied opinions when it comes to how many school boards to have. When we looked at all the information we decided to go with the one school board."

Ghiz said he'll bring his own evidence to the legislature to show one English school board for P.E.I. would be more cost-effective.

Opposition leader Olive Crane refused to take a position on the matter.   "Today was the first we heard about that. Usually what we'll do with that is take that back to our own caucus. We'll have discussion," said Crane.

"My initial thoughts, whether it's the governance report, or Judge Thompson did the land report, this government pays for people to do work, and then often they don't listen or implement them."

In addition to higher costs, the Education Governance Commission was concerned a single school board would be too large and remote from many communities.