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Big focus on mental health, schools, housing for P.E.I. in Tory capital budget

Finance Minister Darlene Compton speaks about the capital budget during a media briefing on Friday. The PC government released its $156 million capital budget Friday morning.
Finance Minister Darlene Compton speaks about the capital budget during a media briefing on Friday. The PC government released its $156 million capital budget Friday morning. - Stu Neatby

$156 million capital budget includes increased spending for Hillsborough Hospital, planning for three new schools, housing construction


The first capital budget of Progressive Conservative Finance Minister Darlene Compton leans heavily on the replacement of the Hillsborough Hospital as well as school construction and renovations.

The $156 million capital budget includes an additional $47 million allocated to mental health facilities over the next five years, with the planned construction of the new Hillsborough Hospital being the key new facility.

The budget also includes an additional $15 million for school construction and renovations over the next five years. School capital projects will include an additional allocation of $3.3 million for a new Sherwood School, and $20 million over five years for renovations for three schools, including Evangeline School.

The budget for the construction of the new Sherwood School will add up to $22.4 million.

In addition, $1.2 million in new funding will be used for purchasing new gas-powered school buses and one electric bus.

The new budget maintains the $38 million in funding for the construction of a new high school in Stratford.

The budget also includes funding for $23.5 million over the next two years for the construction of new housing, the bulk of which will be largely provincially-funded. Prior to last year’s capital budget, a line item for “housing construction” did not appear.

"We recognize we are fortunate to have commenced our mandate with a healthy economy and it's our job to continue to support its growth," Compton said.

The capital budget maintains the same spending - $156 million - for the 2020-2021 year as the last Liberal capital budget for 2019-2020. However, the five-year budget has been increased by close to $75 million to $684.7million.

"We are increasing our spending in capital budget over what was projected before but yet keeping it within good fiscal management so that we remain with a good bond rating," Compton said.

"The needs are there and it's a balance between what we can afford and what those needs are."

In their election platform, the PC’s had pledged to “immediately” replace the aging Hillsborough Hospital. The capital budget includes a total of $147.8 million for mental health facilities, up from $100 million pledged in the last capital budget under the Liberals.

The biggest increases to funding for Hillsborough Hospital appear in the 2021-2022 year. During this year, $38.2 million is allocated, a $23 million increase from the previous Liberal capital budget.

The budget allocated to the facility will decrease slightly in 2020-2021 by about $3 million from the previous capital budget. The current capital budget allocates $12 million to the new hospital in 2020-2021.

Compton confirmed construction work for the new facility is set to begin in 2020-2021.

"It's still in the planning stages," Compton said.

Hillsborough Hospital
Hillsborough Hospital

The budget also includes $8 million for the implementation of a new Electronic Medial Record system and $4 million for the implementation of the digital health ACCESS system. The system will allow electronic prescribing from doctors to pharmacy offices.

The budget also includes a $5 million allocation for rural healthcare hubs in West Prince and Kings County.

In terms of school construction, the budget allocates $20 million to planning for renovations to Evangeline school, Eliot River School and Montague Consolidated. Compton confirmed that $8.8 million of this will be allocated to significant planning and renovations for the Evangeline School.

Parents have complained about leaking roofs at the French-language school, with some suggesting an entirely new school is needed.

In terms of roads, $42 million is allocated over the next year for roadway and bridge repairs.

The province has allocated $750,000 to electric car charging stations but the investment is drawn out over a five-year period at $150,000 per year. The previous Liberal capital budget had allocated $730,000 to electric charging stations, with all the investment taking place in 2019-2020.

"We want to ensure that the charging stations we're putting in are current and the most bang for your buck and also what the uptake is for those charging stations over the next five years," Compton said.

In terms of Justice and Public safety, the capital budget maintains plans for the $12.3 million construction of a women’s unit in the Provincial Correctional Facility in Milton Station, $8.5 million of which will be spent this year. Currently women are housed in men’s cells.

“We want to ensure those inmates feel safe in that facility,” Compton said.

Finally, the budget also allocates $600,000 for the development of a new electronic record system for the court system. In addition, $1.8 million is allocated for the federally-mandated completion of a new land use inventory over the next two-year.

Highlights include:

  • $47.5 million in additional investment for a new total of $148 million that will transform how mental health is delivered in PEI;
  • $17.5 million for 100 new government-owned affordable housing units to help address the housing need across the province;
  • Over $100 million to modernize our schools through new construction, capital improvements and new technology to support a growing student population and ensure safety learning environments;
  • $5 million for the creation of two new Rural Health Care Hubs, to meet the needs of Islanders, and to provide robust community-based health services;
  • $42 million planned investments for next year to pave existing roadways and repair vital bridge infrastructure that connect communities and supports economic growth, with an overall five-year planned investment of $200 million;
  • $34.5 million for state-of-the-art health care equipment, to ensure proper and continued care of Islanders;
  • $8 million for the implementation of an Electronic Medical Record system in family physician and primary care offices to support the delivery of more responsive and efficient patient care across the Province;
  • $750,000 in additional new spending for a total of $1.65 million to establish a comprehensive network of electric vehicle charging stations across the Island;
  • $5.4 million in planned spending to continue with the installation of biomass heat for government facilities to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • $1.8 million starting next year to complete a land use inventory

RELATED: P.E.I. PCs pledge ‘immediate’ replacement of Hillsborough Hospital

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