P.E.I. legislature closes after weeks of debate over austerity measures

Teresa Wright
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Weeks of debates over lobster prices, social services cuts and the effects of an austerity budget came to a close Wednesday when the P.E.I. legislature closed for the summer.

The 23-day session offered no big spending initiatives, no new programs or tax initiatives.

Premier Robert Ghiz said the main focus was passing his $1.6 billion operating budget – a budget with a $40-million deficit and a freeze on spending for the third consecutive year.

It’s all in the name of balancing the books by 2016.

“There’s not a lot of new spending announcements, as we know. We’re in a deficit-reduction mode right now,” he said.

The debates centred mainly on the ways in which government’s belt-tightening measures have affected provincial programs and services.

Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty was forced to explain why her social assistance budget was cut by $2 million this year while she also left $2.3 million unspent last year at a time when many Islanders, especially seniors, had difficulty struggled to pay for furnace oil over the harsh winter.

The Opposition Tories also pointed to what they deemed frivolous expenditures by cabinet ministers – hotel room movies and upgrades – while low-income Islanders were left struggling to make ends meet.

Gaps and extended waiting times for treatment of those seeking help with mental health and addictions issues also once again featured prominently this spring, not only on the floor or the legislature but also on the steps of Province House.

A group led by a grieving mother who lost her 29-year-old son to drug addiction staged a protest to push for better access to services and more treatment options.

Ghiz said P.E.I. is not alone in trying to balance fiscal austerity with keeping up a good level of government services.

All jurisdictions except Saskatchewan are being forced to make tough decisions while they try to balance their budgets, including the federal government, Ghiz said.

“What we’re going to try to do is reduce down our deficit and get things under control,” he said.

“While that plan is being implemented, I’ve said all along that our goal has to be to maintain the programs and services that government provides to the citizens of P.E.I.”

But Opposition Leader Steven Myers accused the Ghiz government is balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable Islanders.

“It’s really disappointing to see the minister of social services leave so much money on the table that could have helped people in need… the minister of health left money on the table that could have helped with addictions and mental health on Prince Edward Island,” Myers said.

“We’re disappointed the government is trying to balance the books on the backs of people who are the least fortunate in our province and probably need the most help from government.”

Another year of low lobster prices was also a consistent topic of debate during question period, with Opposition fisheries critic Colin LaVie - who is a lobster fisherman - raising concerns over a lack of government action taken to help improve prices.

Meanwhile a total of 22 pieces of legislation were passed. Most of the bills were housekeeping in nature, but some notable legislation included new, tougher drunk driving laws, enhancements to the roles of pharmacists and changes to the Lands Protection Act to help farmers.

Government also passed the so-called 'Heather Moyse bill,' which made small changes to the way in which provincial advisory committee can nominate individuals for the Order of P.E.I. The law was brought in to smooth the controversy Ghiz stirred when he named Moyse a recipient of the award during a pep rally earlier this year - well before nominations were even closed.

The house will remain adjourned until November.

Organizations: Province House

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan

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Recent comments

  • Effective Opposition
    May 15, 2014 - 14:05

    Impressed with the work of Steven Myers and the Opposition this session. They seemed in tune with what Islanders are going through. Keep the heat on government!

  • Another Waste Of Money
    May 15, 2014 - 12:02

    Keeping province house open & repairing it is a total waste of money . Just look at what it is costing to provide these MLA's a place to star for the TV . Cripes , a cheap empty hall would do just as well for the little time they spend there for their high salary . Let it fall into the ground or use it for something useful .

  • Cricket, cricket, cricket . . .
    May 15, 2014 - 08:46

    This post is next to usless; remind you of anything?

  • Quiet Observer
    May 15, 2014 - 07:21

    Austerity to recover from their irresponsible overspending. They said they needed to spend to fight off a recession. reality is they didn't. The PEI economy is not a manufacturing based economy and we did not experience the kinds of layoffs and problems that manufacturing regions like Toronto did. Our resource based sectors were relatively unaffected, except perhaps lobster prices which that over spending was not aimed at helping anyway. Now, low income Islanders are stuck paying for Ghiz/Sheridan financial mismanagement and suffering with the lowest standard of living we have had in decades. The saddest part is that at election time, Islanders will re-elect the Liberals.

  • Jimmy Buffet
    May 15, 2014 - 02:29

    Thought they would have set a minimum price on live lobster .It worked in Nfld ,more money stays in the province via taxes from fishers . $ 5 a lb seems reasonable, people expect to pay that .But that was Danny Williams , he will be a hard act to follow .First nice thing I ever said about a Conservative ! Too late to help fishers this season .LACK LUSTRE AT BEST !

  • Seriously
    May 14, 2014 - 18:56

    Austerity measures. Got to love that. This spend spend spend & loan money to cronies Ghiz govt now wants taxpayers to under go austerity measures. ROTFLMAO Do you Liberals honestly believe taxpayers are so stupid we do not know you are ruining this island.

    • don
      May 14, 2014 - 21:25

      Liberals honestly believe taxpayers are so stupid. yes they do and the reason is islanders will vote them back in and will do so till we die because we have no pc party. the pc's are run by brain dead power hungry bullies and the members are to scared to stand up to the back room bullies so they will NEVER be in power till the bullies are VOTED OUT. but then ghiz was a bully in school as a child and still is a child. and till some one takes him down and i know ho can but the people must do something.

    • Yes Don
      May 15, 2014 - 11:54

      Yes Don you are correct taxpayers are so stupid . That's a fact . Reality is we've taken over from the NFLD's in The Joey Smallwood day's . They have seen the light & now think for themselves . We are the mindless ones now that the jokes are told about & well deserved .

  • Slippy
    May 14, 2014 - 18:54

    So, they talked about a bunch of important stuff, accomplished little, now they are packing up for the summer. Where do I sign up?