Opposition Leader Olive Crane says she is working on a plan to tackle the province’s debt — an issue she says is of such grave concern it could force the province into Maritime union.
Speaking to about 500 people at the Progressive Conservatives annual leader’s dinner Wednesday night, Crane said the province’s economy is struggling with a massive net debt, which currently stands at almost $2 billion.
At the same time, she said Islanders must also face the reality the province’s economy is changing.
“We are at a serious fork in the road. We have to make the right choices because our future survival as a province depends upon these choices,” she said.
“The debt train this government has all of us on will ultimately lead us to bankruptcy or Maritime union.”
The notion of Maritime union garnered national headlines just one day ago when Conservative Senator Mike Duffy said publicly he and other senators believe union would be the best way to ease the economic difficulties facing all three Maritime provinces.
Crane said Wednesday she does not want to see that happen.
“I want to be very clear with everyone in this room which side of the Maritime union debate I am on. I am going to work and ensure this beautiful province that we all love remains a province,” she said.
That’s why work is underway within the PC party to develop a plan to tackle the provincial debt, Crane announced to the crowd.
She spoke at length about the province’s economy and suggested government must develop policies that foster better private-sector economic growth.
Only private-sector growth will raise the revenues P.E.I. needs to fund progress, she said.
Newly minted party president Blake Doyle echoed those sentiments in his address to the crowd.
He said going forward as president, he hopes to reinforce the idea the party must “focus on (its) core principles of economic growth, less government and job creation.”
Crane charged the Ghiz administration has not done enough to create a climate of private-sector growth in P.E.I.
She said there is to a need for job-training initiatives that are too costly
for many to help them achieve better career opportunities.
She pointed to a need for more affordable energy options in P.E.I. and the major opportunity she says is not being explored in a proposed eastern oil pipeline from Alberta.
She said a declining population facing the future of the province reveals the need for more family-centred policies.
In an election-style pitch, Crane told the room she believes Islanders are looking for change and hope for the future.
“Hope is what Islanders crave for their future and as leaders we must take that hope and turn it into action,” she said.
“If we want change, we have to work toward it with honesty and openness.”