Speaking about the province’s economic outlook for 2018, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said what stands out is the young, smart Islanders who believe their future is on P.E.I.
“We need succession stories. We need reinvestments. We need ways of seeing how growth can and will continue,” said MacLauchlan before a crowd of about 500 people at this year’s Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Prince Edward.
The AGM was the 131st in the organization’s history.
A main item on the agenda was introducing the new president for its board of directors. That honour belongs to Jennifer Evans, general manager of Ocean 100/Hot 105.5, who has been involved with the chamber for 25 years. Last year, she served as first vice-president on the board. Evans is the chamber’s 113th president, taking over for Rory Francis.
Evans said some of the chamber’s priorities this year including continuing to advocate for a competitive tax structure for small businesses and to encourage improvements to the province’s K-12 education system. With the small-business tax rate, she noted that the province reduced it by 0.5 per cent in this year’s budget, and she wants to see reductions continue.
Evans said that what stood out over the past year was the chamber’s leadership and advocacy role in the debate over the proposed federal business tax changes.
“We really saw the chamber take a strong advocacy role and we saw our members come out in big numbers to really voice their concerns about those proposed changes,” she said. “That was a great example of how the power of the chamber and the power in numbers can influence change in the province and across the country.”
In addition to the province getting younger last year, MacLauchlan also highlighted P.E.I.’s growth in the construction, manufacturing and retail industries as well as population growth. In terms of this year’s provincial budget, MacLauchlan discussed the initiatives to help small businesses, such as the 0.5 per cent tax reduction and the business investment grant program, as well as P.E.I. student loan debt reduction program and free tuition program.
He also noted that the province has presented a balanced budget for the third year.
“We’re confident about that. There’s nothing that is kind of a one-time thing. This is structural,” he said.
Robert K. Irving, president of Cavendish Farms and co-CEO of J.D. Irving Limited, delivered the luncheon address. He talked about Cavendish Farm’s growth since forming 38 years ago, expansion in Western Canada and the U.S. and challenges facing the industry. One challenge he noted was the province’s deep well moratorium and the need for supplemental irrigation during dry spells to help potato farmers.