Is the MacLauchlan government trying to manipulate the results of the byelection through budget leaks, big-ticket announcements and attempts to avoid public criticism?
This was Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker line of questioning to the premier in the legislature Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Speaker Buck Watts admonished government for leaking details of Friday’s capital budget to the Liberal party of P.E.I. and others before it was properly tabled in the legislature.
Bevan-Baker seized upon this in question period, noting also that the capital budget address prominently featured a promised $30-million fibre network for the Island – a project Finance Minister Allen Roach later admitted is not actually part of the capital budget.
“Given the speaker’s impassioned plea this afternoon for improved, and I quote, ‘dignity and respect for this place,’ are you concerned that these issues and similar announcements might create the perception that government is trying to manipulate the results of the District 11 by-election?” Bevan-Baker asked the premier.
He also pointed out so far only government members have had the opportunity to provide comment in the house on the throne speech, which was tabled last week.
“Some might interpret this as an attempt by government to avoid legitimate critique and muzzle the voices of opposition members during a byelection,” Bevan-Baker said.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan sidestepped the questions, focusing instead on the importance of letting the public know the details of government’s spending plans.
But the Green leader noted there are strict rules for advertising during general provincial election and also rules preventing government from making big spending announcements during a general provincial election to ensure government doesn’t “use public funds to manipulate result.”
He called on government to implement a similar rule for byelections in P.E.I.
MacLauchlan did not appear supportive.
“A byelection is, of course, different from a general election. The affairs of the province must go on,” he said.
“We are going forward with the needs of the people, with the opportunities to move this province forward. What we said in our throne speech, people, prosperity, progress – that’s what we’re here for, and I believe that’s what they’ll vote on, on Monday.”