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Tax watchdog says P.E.I. residents will pay down the road for increased spending

Paige MacPherson, Atlantic director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
Paige MacPherson, Atlantic director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation - SaltWire File Photo

Islanders should be concerned about the increased deficit announced in the budget, says the area’s representative with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).

Paige MacPherson, Atlantic director of the CTF, described the deficit as bad news for future generations of taxpayers because it will ultimately lead to tax hikes down the road to cover the increasing debt.

“P.E.I. is a high-taxed province, so when you’re talking about taxes that will for sure go up in the future, that’s going to hit Islanders harder than other provinces … they don’t have as much wiggle room in their budget,” said MacPherson.

The deficit increase was not due to revenue decline but rather increased spending, with Tuesday’s budget including $22.8 billion in new initiatives. MacPherson described those as empty promises since they are not currently funded.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the 2015 election campaign to run short-term deficits and to balance the public books by the end of his first term.

MacPherson said that broken promise will result in the national debt rising by an additional $100 billion beyond what the government promised it would be by 2024. She said the federal debt is projected to be at $761 billion by 2024, while interest will jump from $26 billion annually this year to $33 billion by 2024.

“That’s a very expensive broken promise. That’s a big chunk of change. You think about what that (interest) could be paying for, how much tax relief that could deliver and what that would mean for quality health-care services for Islanders.”

- Paige MacPherson

“That’s a very expensive broken promise,” she said. “That’s a big chunk of change. You think about what that (interest) could be paying for, how much tax relief that could deliver and what that would mean for quality health-care services for Islanders.”

The Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce also raised concerns of the projected $19.8 billion budget deficit.

“While the chamber recognizes the federal debt to GDP ratio is among the lowest in the G7 countries, deficit budgets limit government’s ability to prepare for a possible downturn in the economy,” said chamber CEO Penny Walsh-McGuire. “We believe that in preparation for such times, government should look for ways to lower debt.”

The chamber noted several business issues that were also not addressed in the budget, including commitments to more competitive tax systems, reduced regulations and support for businesses to find new export opportunities.

However, the chamber welcomed the budget’s focus on skills development while also stating more information around the benefit is still needed and asking that businesses be consulted on the specific program details.

MacPherson also described some budget items as sounding good, including a commitment to removing barriers for interprovincial trade, removing HST on certain health-care services and cracking down on tax evasion.

However, more information is still needed.

“Some of those things, we don’t really know what they mean yet, but they sound positive,” said MacPherson.

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