For the third straight year, the Progressive Conservative government is breaking an election promise in the lead-up to the spring budget.
Charlene Johnson. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Finance Minister Charlene Johnson refused to speak to The Telegram about a promise made during the 2011 election campaign, but an emailed statement confirmed that the government isn’t sticking to its commitment to restrict government spending.
In the 2011 PC party campaign platform, the Tories promised: “Each year, in choosing budget initiatives, we will establish a ceiling for new spending growth and make our choices accordingly.”
But in the two years since then, the government has not publicly announced a ceiling for new spending ahead of the budget, and this year, as Johnson finalizes the budget, the government is once again failing to place a limit on new spending.
A spokeswoman for Johnson issued a statement on the minister’s behalf, saying that the government hasn’t publicly placed a hard ceiling on new spending.
“While no spending ceiling is announced in advance of budget, throughout the budget process the provincial government makes every attempt to keep new spending as low as possible,” the statement said. “While spending requests for new programs and services can be controlled, other items are costs that government must absorb (i.e. – salary increases, program growth, inflation). The provincial government will announce its new spending growth on budget day.”
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said the government has always taken a laissez-faire attitude to budgeting.
“It just goes to show that this government does a poor job of planning, especially when it comes to making budget decisions,” he said. “If you’re talking about changing a program or introducing a program, the financing to support that program has to be sustainable. This is where they let us down as a province.”
Ball pointed to the government’s adult dental program, which faced major cutbacks just one year after it was introduced because the program spiralled wildly over-budget.
New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael said the broken election promise is further evidence that the Tories don’t take responsibility for what they say.
“I think it just shows that this government continues to consider it not necessary to be accountable to the people for what they’re doing,” she said.
“If you put something in your platform, you then need to be accountable for its being there.”
Over a decade in government, the Progressive Conservatives hugely increased government spending — from around $4.2 billion back in 2004 to $7.8 billion in last year’s budget.
Michael said that’s the hallmark of the government’s attitude towards spending.
“This government has never presented a plan that shows us what the priorities are for their spending,” she said. “For me, a plan means setting your goals, setting timelines and showing the money that’s going to be spent. And we certainly have never seen a plan from them.”
The 2014 budget is expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly some time in late March or April.
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