Questions By Members, 30 June 2015
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

Teaching cuts and fiscal balance

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I’d like to start by acknowledging that a lot has happened, a lot has changed, in the last 24 hours and that I’m grateful that this government appears to have finally listened to opposition members and concerned Islanders and is reviewing some of its recent decisions.

I recognize that governing is not easy. While I have spoken strongly against any cuts to teaching positions, if even some of these positions are retained, the cost will have to be compensated for elsewhere in the Budget unless we want to further increase the deficit.

A question to the Minister of Finance. In the drive towards fiscal balance – which I absolutely support, by the way – will the minister find compensatory savings in order that we don’t further delay fiscal balance?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Finance.

Mr. Roach: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

As these meetings progress and we are able to see what takes place, I’ll certainly have to take a look at our budget, depending on the outcome of those. We will remain, as much as possible, on balance to move towards a balanced budget in 2016-2017.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party for his first supplementary question.

Budget three-year plan

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If we are indeed going to move towards fiscal balance by 2016-2017, we are going to depend largely on federal transfers. Contained in the Budget right at the very end is a summary of a three year plan. In that plan are estimates for revenue in the form of federal transfers.

Can the minister tell this House if those projections are based on firm commitments or are they contingent upon further negotiations with the federal government?

Mr. Aylward: (Indistinct) a crystal ball.

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Finance.

Mr. Roach: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

We take a look at what those are now, of what those transfers are now, and we look forward to, again, having conversation with the federal government. We look towards increasing our own exports and increasing our line at the end of the day as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party for his second supplementary question.

Economic growth rate

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So they’re just projections.

We’re all aware of the current fiscal crisis in Greece and although, of course, our debt to GDP (Indistinct) ratio is much better than theirs, PEI continues to borrow money to pay for borrowed money. It’s clear that this has to change and it will have to change soon.

In the Budget there are also projections for substantially increased provincial tax revenues. Since the historic rate of growth in the PEI economy over the last 10 years is somewhere between 1 and 2%, can the minister explain, especially in these turbulent economic times, why his three-year projections are based on average growth rates of 3%?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Finance.

Mr. Roach: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think that if we look at the number of jobs that have been created, particularly over the past eight years, look at the types of jobs that were created, those are much better paying jobs than we had previously seen. We’ve seen tremendous growth in aerospace, in information technology and communications, and when we look at the growth that we’ve seen in the marine trade industries, certainly in the eastern end of the Island and the number of jobs that are there, these are very well-paying jobs.

We can go up to the area of Borden-Carleton. We see the companies that have expanded up there. These are much better-paying jobs –

Mr. LaVie: Fired 300 at Ocean Choice.

Mr. Roach: – than we’ve traditionally seen. We only look to –

Mr. LaVie: (Indistinct) fish plant (Indistinct).

Mr. Roach: – the announcement last week at Vector Aerospace, and the indications there that further jobs are being created there as well, and these are extremely well-paying jobs.

We look at a company in the heart of Downtown Charlottetown, Invesco, very well-paying jobs, and they’ve essentially doubled the size of that building.

As we see this great growth and we see our immigration and our population numbers growing –

Mr. LaVie: You’re avoiding the question.

Mr. Roach: – I think that’s a good estimate to look forward to and I think that’s where we’ll see an increase in tax revenues.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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