It’s a case of déjà vu at the House of Assembly, as the 2019 provincial budget was presented to the province, again.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne says the pre-election budget presented in April is identical to the budget tabled in the House of Assembly on Tuesday. Osborne says the government committed to presenting the same budget pre- and post-budget day, and that’s what’s happening.
“It’s the same budget,” said Osborne.
Promises made on the campaign trail won’t be reflected in the 2019 budget, but will appear in future documents, Osborne said.
The question is whether the budget will pass without amendment from other parties.
“I believe it will. I’ve had discussions with other members of the legislature. I believe that the spirit of collaboration and working in future budgets on things that can benefit the people of the province has to be balanced with maintaining fiscal stability,” he said.
Osborne says he’s not concerned with appearing to resist collaboration on the 2019 budget, as the 2020 budget is fast approaching.
“When this budget was brought down in April, we were criticized for having an election budget, trying to buy people with their own money was one of the quotes I heard,” said Osborne.
“This is the budget we brought forward. There’s literally months of work that goes into preparing a budget and putting in place the line-by-line items.”
Osborne says the eight recommendations from Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie are good ideas to explore, but it’s unlikely there will be moves to include them in the existing budget.
Crosbie says he hears an opportunity in Osborne’s words.
“There’s an opening there for discussion, it sounds like. We agree with the government that it’s imperative, it’s an overriding objective, paramount, to balance the books and run a surplus by 2022-23. Within that requirement there should be scope for negotiations over whether we can accommodate the priorities that we heard going door to door,” said Crosbie.
“If Mr. Osborne is leaving the door open for that, then I say good, let’s get to work on it.”
New Democratic Party Leader Alison Coffin says she’s going to wait for the estimates process to get going before deciding whether she will support the 2019 budget as is. She says she’s hopeful there are chances for changes.
“I think there’s a growing recognition of the importance of collaboration, but also a growing recognition that if we really want to get these good things done, it’s about doing things for people,” said Coffin.
“Jim Dinn has mentioned a number of things within the education portfolio that has possibilities.”
Debate on the 2019 budget got underway on Tuesday. There are 75 hours of debate mandated before a vote can be held.
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