PE: Throne speech targets economic challenges

Teresa Wright
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The Journal Pioneer

Although no details were offered about how government plans to follow through on a promise to create more jobs in the private sector, there were strong suggestions the HST could be the answer.

Premier Robert Ghiz

[CHARLOTTETOWN, PE] — The Ghiz government released its throne speech Wednesday, outlining a new focus on increasing private sector jobs and balancing the provincial budget to achieve economic growth for the province.

And although no details were offered about just how government hopes to create jobs in the private sector, there were strong suggestions the HST could be the answer.

There were several mentions of new fiscal management measures that will have to be undertaken to achieve government’s goal of returning to balanced budgets by 2014.

The speech also pointed out P.E.I. has the lowest fiscal capacity of any province in Canada which forces it to maintain the country’s highest taxation levels to provide services to Islanders.

“Prince Edward Island’s immediate fiscal challenges will require government to develop and implement new revenue and expenditure approaches in moving towards its goal of a balanced budget,” the speech said.

When asked whether this means the HST is coming to the province, Premier Robert Ghiz did not outright deny it, as he has consistently done even as recently as two weeks ago when he said he was ‘still saying no’ to HST.

“I’ve said all along I don’t want to bring in any taxes or any new taxes or reduce down taxes that are going to hurt Islanders of all income, so we’re going to overcome that,” Ghiz told reporters Wednesday.

“We don’t have (a plan) yet, we’ll find out on budget day.”

Finance Minister Wes Sheridan echoed Ghiz’s statements about the HST, adding he’s long been in favour of bringing it to P.E.I. if it will not hurt low-income Islanders.

“As I’ve said many times in the past, myself and the premier, that it’s very, very important to us that, if it’s possible, that we can bring forward harmonization, because you know that I am a big supporter of that for stimulation of the economy that we level the playing field for all business on Prince Edward Island,” Sheridan said.

“But we will not do it on the backs of low-income Islanders. And we will have a solution for that if we are able to bring it forward.”

The speech from the throne outlines government’s focus for its next four years in office and marked the opening of the spring sitting of the legislature. This throne speech included mainly broad plans to improve P.E.I.’s economy by growing the private sector and returning to balanced budgets.

Notably missing from the speech was any talk of public sector job losses with cuts expected in the upcoming budget as well any details of government’s plans to “continue to transform the health care system,” as stated in the speech.

Targets were placed, however, on government’s economic development goals — to raise the province’s gross domestic product from $5.3 million to $6 million by 2016 and to grow employment from 72,000 jobs to 75,000.

Growing private sector jobs and success is the key to turning the economy around, the speech says.

But Opposition Leader Olive Crane doesn’t believe Ghiz’s economic growth plans for the province will work.

“With the Ghiz government’s dismal record of job creation with zero growth. If you remember the throne speech that promised a Biocommons with 500 jobs and delivered about 15 — they are quite hypocritical about how they are going to create jobs,” Crane said.

She was also highly critical of the lack of detail in the throne speech about plans for health care transformation and about hints made regarding HST.

“People wanted to see real meat in this throne speech and again, it’s just simply not there,” she said.

 

 

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada

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