The stare down that will likely end in a provincial election continued to escalate Wednesday.
The Progressive Conservatives want to spend more money than they’re legally allowed to. To do that they will need support from at least one opposition party to change the law. But both the Liberals and New Democrats say they won’t play ball.
Wednesday, Premier Rodney MacDonald insisted the province will have a balanced budget this year and next year, despite announcing $256 million for universities the day before.
“The 2008-09 budget will be balanced. There will be a surplus, albeit a smaller surplus,” said MacDonald.
“This is the most practical, most sensible and best approach for the province.”
In December, the government projected a $212-million surplus, but nearly all of that is spoken for. About half of it is offshore offset money that, by law, has to go toward paying down debt.
To stay out of deficit the Tories will need to change the law so they can spend that money. Even then they will need to pull out another $44 million.
If either the Liberals or NDP don’t support the government plan, an election would immediately be called. MacDonald said he hoped an election could be avoided, and if the opposition doesn’t support his party it would be hurting the province.
“Without taking measures like that you would be looking at significant cuts or significant tax increases,” said MacDonald. “I hope they’ll be supportive of what’s in the budget because otherwise they’re suggesting you’re going to have to significantly increase taxes or make significant cuts.”
Opposition parties say the Tories are fudging the books to try to hide the fact they’ve driven the province into deficit.
This will all come to a head April 30 when the legislature reconvenes.