Lorraine Michael Question Period (04.25.2012)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we were told by officials from the Department of Finance that we could get information on departmental salaries if we asked for it. Today we were told by members of that same department when we called to get the information that they could not give us the information. If we wanted it, we were going to have to go to individual departments.

I am asking the minister: Which is it? Are we going to have to go to every single department to get this information or is he going to direct his officials to give us the information?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: I do not see why it is so difficult to go to departments and seek information. You have the resources to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I said to the Leader of the Opposition, if they want the salary listings, we would be very happy to supply that information. Just ask for it and in due time we will get it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The point I am making is we asked for it today and we were told we could not get it, so the minister better look to it.

Mr. Speaker, government has over $2 billion in cash assets, which it has accrued over time and which have not been allocated to any program or expense since 2004.

I ask the Premier: What is her government’s plan for that money, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, we come forward with a Budget every year that lays out the financial plan of the government every year. The Budget was laid out yesterday and the information will be in the planning.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The minister knows, as I do, Mr. Speaker, that when you look at the consolidated funds, that is where you find the cash assets, and it is up to over $2 billion. This money is not accruing much interest while government tries to figure out what to do with it. It is not prudent fiscal management, so I ask the Premier: Why hasn’t this money been invested?- and that will not be found in the Budget documents, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the Leader of the Third Party, the money, of course, is invested but we have – in 2011-2012 we had a surplus of $776 million. Now we used that surplus to pay for infrastructure, so we built about $415 million of infrastructure, new builds, without having to go and borrow for it. That is what we did with that money. This year, Mr. Speaker, we are going to finance our deficit and we are going to build another lot of new builds, new infrastructure, and we will do that without borrowing money as well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Once again I did not get a clear answer from the minister.

Mr. Speaker, the unfunded pension liability in this Province is growing at an alarming rate. Government did put $258 million into the fund this year but it had grown by $700 million, Mr. Speaker. I ask the Premier: Does she have a plan to stem this growing liability and will she tell us what it is?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: If the Leader of the Third Party wants to stem the liability, the growth in the pension plan, that means you have to cut pensions, you have to cut benefits. Are you prepared to do that? Is that something that your party wants to do? I do not think that is right without proper investigation and consideration, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The minister put forward one option; obviously that is not an option we want, so what are the other options? I am asking the Premier, Mr. Speaker, what are the other options to take care of this liability?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, since this government came in, in 2003, we have put over $3 billion into our pension plans.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, the pension plans, because of the way they are structured. have a great deal of people who rely on them for their income, Mr. Speaker. They also are, even though they are very well managed, we have been through a very critical time in our economy and they have a taken a battering as a result. We are very glad that we made the $3 billion investment. because if we had not they would likely be bankrupt now, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, we have $2 billion cash on hand. We used it to fund our deficit. We used it to fund new hospitals, new schools, road construction, so we do not have to borrow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The cash on hand keeps growing, Mr. Speaker, so they are not spending. It keeps growing, it goes up every year.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, in November of last year government announced an unexpected surplus of $756 million. At that time, the minister said it would be paid directly on the debt. That was his press release: it would be paid directly on the debt. Yet government only paid one-third of that surplus on the debt even though the unfunded liability continues to push us further into debt.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why did government not live up to its own commitment, to put all of the surplus on the debt?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, debt is structured in a number of different ways. When you have that kind of a surplus and it goes back, Mr. Speaker, a significant amount of it goes on debt; over $300 million of it went into the pension plan. I am happy to say, and the people of the Province saw in our Budget yesterday, that we continue to plan to reduce our debt. As I have said many times, Mr. Speaker, we have reduced our debt from $12 billion almost down to –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: - to less than $8 billion, $7.8 billion.

Mr. Speaker, there are not countries in the world that can make that kind of a boast, let alone provinces in this wonderful Country of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, we have a plan, a ten-year plan, to reduce our debt down into reasonable levels.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Associated Caucus Members: 
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