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Update: New school for Sherwood included in $134-M P.E.I. capital budget

Coles Building
Coles Building

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Sherwood Elementary School will be replaced, additions will be made to four other schools and replacement plans for Hillsborough Hospital have been expanded as part of the MacLauchlan government’s $134-million capital budget for 2018-19.

The budget, which outlines government’s infrastructure spending plans for the next five years, was tabled Friday in the P.E.I. legislature.

The five-year plan, which totals over $494 million, is P.E.I.’s biggest capital budget since the 2008 stimulus package that aimed to ward off the effects of the global recession of the day.

This makes it the second-biggest capital budget in the province’s history, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said Friday.

“It’s an opportunity to invest where Islanders have been saying they have great needs,” he said.

“It’s a good time to invest, it’s a good time when the economy is doing well, when there are federal programs… to have a co-investment in needed infrastructure, and these are all things that are needed.”

The coming 2018-19 year construction year will see the biggest spending total, with one of the biggest ticket items being a new Sherwood Elementary School. This $19.2 million project will break ground in 2019.

Opposition education critic Steven Myers was quick to tie this announcement to the ongoing District 11 byelection.

“They’re kicking it into high gear, they’re trying to buy the election.”

But MacLauchlan says the school is being replaced based on one of the recommendations of the board of directors of the Public Schools Branch.

“It is very (clear) that Sherwood is of an age and of a capacity that will be of great benefit to that community and to all of our province, to invest now.”

Poll: What do you think the motive is for replacing Sherwood  Elementary? 

Four other schools are also getting expansions, beginning in 2018-19, including: Stratford Elementary at $6.2 million, L.M. Montgomery at $4.9 million, École-sur-Mer at $5 million. West Royalty Elementary will see additional classroom space added in 2019-2020, to the tune of $4.9 million.

Health facilities are also benefitting from an infusion of infrastructure cash, with plans to build a $60 million mental health campus to replace the aging psychiatric Hillsborough Hospital. This will include a mental health housing component, with accommodations for residential patients and an adult day treatment program. A forensic psychiatric facility will also be included as part of this campus.

The master plan for this work will begin this year for $450,000, and $277,000 will go to transitional housing and $854,000 into a temporary forensic unit at the existing Hillsborough Hospital until the full campus is constructed.

As usual, highways, roads and bridges will get the lion’s share of the capital spending, with $15 million budgeted every year for national and collector highways for the next five years.

This year, work will continue on the Cornwall bypass to the tune of $14 million and a roundabout will be added to the intersection at Mason and Georgetown Roads in Stratford. A total of 124 kilometres of road will be resurfaced and reconstructed.

The major fibre network, announced in the throne speech earlier this week, will cost $30 million over three years, but it is not included within the capital estimates. This is because it will be managed within a Crown corporation, likely the P.E.I. Energy Corporation.

The overall ramp-up in infrastructure spending will increase the province’s net debt by about $64 million this year. But MacLauchlan says the net debt-to-GDP ratio will decrease, which means the province’s economy can sustain the growth in spending.

“This is for the long term. This is for people to make their choices to do well, and we’re doing it in health, education and essential strategic infrastructure.”

But Opposition finance critic Darlene Compton says she is concerned about how this will affect the province’s overall debt load.

“We all should be concerned,” she said.

 

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