The opposition Liberals attacked the NDP for the second day in a row yesterday, accusing them of wasting millions of dollars just to make themselves look better than the Tories.

The NDP replied by saying the Liberals are misrepresenting the facts and doing “back of the napkin math.”

The governing Tories last year made the decision to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in university funding a year early.

The NDP are keeping that going, putting $340 million of next year’s university spending on this year’s budget. But the Liberals say because the province is in deficit, the NDP will have to borrow that money and pay interest.

The Liberals say paying the bill early makes this “Tory year” look worse while the NDP budget next year will look better. But they say the trick will cost taxpayers $10 million in debt payments.

“What this government is attempting to do is pay it in advance, which means they have to borrow the money,” Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said.

“It’s not free. We know that. How can it be free? There’s no free money.”

Finance Minister Graham Steele said the Liberal math doesn’t add up.

“All the Liberals are doing is back of the napkin math. That’s just not the way it works,” he said.

“We have explained to them more than once how this works. They either don’t understand or they’re not interested.”

Steele said the payment wouldn’t be made until March 31, the last day of this fiscal year. Normally it would be made in 10 payments throughout next year, and Steele said that does lead to a slightly increased cost of $425,000.

But he said because of the time value of money, they can pay a slightly lower lump sum early —$425,000 lower, to be exact — and it will work out as a wash for both the government and universities.

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