P.E.I. Legislature opens today

Dave Stewart
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Premier Robert Ghiz

The first item of business in the spring sitting of the legislature is going to be the state of Province House, says Premier Robert Ghiz.

The house is back in session Wednesday with the provincial budget set for next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Ghiz said government will be introducing a non-partisan motion on the first day, calling on the federal government to “live up to their responsibility’’ in terms of fixing up the historic building.

“We know that it’s probably going to be $30-40 million and it will equate to a three- to five-year closedown of Province House,’’ the premier said Tuesday.

The building has been closed for several weeks after a chunk of plaster about the size of a pool table fell from the ceiling near one of the entrances. It was the latest in a string of problems at the historic building where emergency repairs were required on one of the exterior walls.

An engineering report Parks Canada commissioned determined extensive repairs and restoration work is needed to protect the building and address numerous issues, including a leaking roof and structural problems.

“Obviously it needs repairs; it needs updating,’’ the premier said.

Ghiz said while MLAs will sit in Province House for this session, Charles MacKay, clerk of the legislative assembly, is working on contingency plans that will likely see the legislature move to the Coles Building for the three-to-five-year rebuild.

The spring session, however, typically focuses on the budget, which will be brought down next week. The premier said it will emphasize deficit reduction while focusing on social programs such as health care and education, with a sprinkling of some new programs.

Approximately 20 pieces of legislation will be tabled, including changes to the Election Act and the Health Information Act. Proposed changes to the Lands Protection Act will be accompanied by actions to implement the first phase of the Carvers report.

In terms of the Election Act, Ghiz said government wants to make sure that the next provincial election, legislated to take place in the fall of 2015, doesn’t run up against the next federal vote.

“In the event that the federal election falls in the same time frame then our provincial election will be moved six months later to the spring of 2016 but that only happens if the federal election happens at the same time as ours.’’

Another item to keep an eye on is transportation spending, already $3 to $4 million over budget on snow clearing. That figure could climb considering P.E.I. has already been slammed with twice as much snow this winter as it usually gets.

“As a government we can’t just turn off the snowplows and keep them in the warehouse . . . so you can expect to see some cost overruns on our transportation budget this year.’’

Ghiz said the province is “tight in a lot of other areas and likely you’ll see some additional borrowing’’.

Opposition Leader Steven Myers said fiscal accountability is at the top of his agenda.

“We’re going to be hitting them hard on on how we’re going to balance the books in this province or if they plan on balancing the books,’’ Myers said.

The opposition also plans to hit issues such as addictions and the state of the education system.

Myers said he’s not surprised to see Ghiz talking about possibly borrowing money to deal with snow clearing cost overruns.

“It’s par for the course for this government. We’ve seen this numerous, numerous times and that’s why they’ve racked up a billion dollars worth of debt in seven years. When you borrow money you’re really kicking the can down the road so, in essence, what this government is doing is taking money from future generations.’’

Independent Progressive Conservative MLA Olive Crane said there needs to be new spending in the budget for Islanders who desperately need help.

“Many Islanders were not able to heat their homes this winter because of the increased costs of heating products, with most of these essential products like propane and electricity having the added costs of HST. Simply put, just too many islanders continue to struggle financially,” she said.

Crane also expects to see the “better tax solutions” promised by the finance minister who has told Islanders in the past that he has solutions to put more money in low-income Islander's pockets.

Crane said it’s time to rein in spending and get the fiscal house in order. It is also time to make smart decisions with new spending, protect the most vulnerable in society, and take action to protect our water, land and environment, she said.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: Province House, Parks Canada, Coles Building

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Recent comments

  • Craig
    April 02, 2014 - 18:48

    With all the problems on pei with the finances it's hard to believe that anyone with common sense would consider spending 30-50 million which you know will end up being over budget before it is done ! Pei needs doctors , better education, roads repaired, things that effect every islander every day !When the island is debt free government can fix this building! Just because it's Feds money still means our tax dollars are paying for it!

  • Siobhan from Stratford
    April 02, 2014 - 16:25

    ....."“We know that it’s probably going to be $30-40 million and it will equate to a three- to five-year closedown of Province House,’’ the premier said Tuesday."....... Given the other needs on PEI for $30 - $40 million in Ottawa tax dollars other that an Legislature building, I suggest that the 26 MLA's meet in other government buildings or high schools on a rotating basis....if Ottawa tax payers still wish to make a charitable donation to PEI of this money, it should be accepted graciously and spent on something more useful. Adults know that the government is run from the fifth floor and all else is theatrics in Government House. At most its a tourist attraction not a functioning parliament.

  • Islander
    April 02, 2014 - 15:17

    This is the worst Government in history. Take the PC Candidates as well. What a waste of money. They (both parties) bare face lie and argue and who is paying for all this BS, we the taxpayer. Wake up PEI. There should be a revolt and a massive march on the legislative assembly while in session and put the run to them all. Disgraceful. In other countries they would storm the government and toss the phonies out.

  • voter
    April 02, 2014 - 13:44

    do we really need such a place to harbour such shady behaviour maybe a smoky back street in an old movie style pool hall with lots of bookmakers and moon shine and armed gangsters would be a more appropriate setting --- don't forget the friend & family favours and tax free money and pnps and 5 yr. no pay back loans --HST HELPS (or hurts)THE HELPLESS !!!

  • What A Bunch
    April 02, 2014 - 08:43

    What a bunch of BS in this article . It' sicking to hear these crooks say what they will do when all they will do is steal more from our grandchildren . Shame on us letting them away with it

    • don
      April 02, 2014 - 09:22

      well a lot of DUMB islanders voted them in 2 times and will do a 3rd time. i still say ghiz wants all young people off the island and just have seniors better for him to control.

    • Fully agree!
      April 02, 2014 - 14:13

      I fully agree with the two comments above!! It will also be filled with BS from Ghiz and Wes on how he is still striving for a balanced budget for next year! This in spite of getting 79 million dollars from the Feds for implementing the dreaded HST; and his modifying it to exempt oil, but to include electricity, used by all Islanders, and all of the other forms of energy used on PEI. And; as stated, the majority of Islanders will vote for them again!!!!