The Progressive Conservatives have released a platform that commits to almost $15 million in tax cuts, as part of a plan that PC Leader Dennis King says will “put money back in the hands of Islanders”.
With the tax cuts, the platform includes $51.9 million in new spending over the first year.
"What we've put forward, we believe, is fair, it is affordable and it is targeted to put money back in the hands of Islanders," King said.
"They feel that they have a significant tax burden that they've been carrying for a long time. Now that our economy is turning around, it's time to share some of that success with Islanders."
The PCs have pledged a reduction of the small business tax rate from 3.5 per cent to 1 per cent, as well as an increase of the basic personal exemption amount to $12,000. They also pledged to increase the base amount for low-income taxpayers from $17,000 to $20,000, a tax credit of up to $500 for cultural and physical activities and a 50 per cent reduction for HST paid by Island charities.
King said the tax cuts would help grow the Island’s economy.
"When Islanders have money, they are more inclined to spend it," King said.
The platform contains no mention of carbon taxation or carbon pricing, which King has said he opposes.
King said he was unsure if the current tax, an increase of just over $0.01/litre, could be adjusted, now that it has been implemented.
"What we have to do is get in there and to sort of see how this is all rolled out and see what the long-term plans are," King said.
"We want to see if we can open the conversation with Ottawa to find if we can work toward a made-in-P.E.I. solution that's a little bit more inclusive of the overall goal of reducing carbon."
On health care, the platform also commits to immediately replacing the Hillsborough Hospital and expanding the scope of practice for health professionals like nurses and pharmacists. The plan also focuses on women’s health initiatives, including establishing a $5-million fund for women’s health, hiring a fertility specialist and providing financial support for in-vitro fertilization treatments.
Absent from the platform was a commitment to reinstate regional health boards, a commitment King had made while campaigning for leadership of the PC party. King said Friday he planned to provide rural communities a voice in health care.
"The challenge we're facing is (with) the Health P.E.I. model that's currently in place, we want to find out how we add a rural component to it without adding too much more level of bureaucracy along the way.”
On education, the PCs committed to $2 million in the first year toward hiring an eventual total of 110 educational staff, including teachers, educational assistants and guidance counsellors. The party also pledged to reinstate elected school boards and increase the George Coles bursary for post-secondary students to $3,000.
The platform commits $5 million to establishing half-day preschool for four-year old children through Early Years Centres.
On housing, the PCs pledged to spend $4.9 million to establish a “mobile P.E.I. rental voucher” program that would assist seniors, families and students. The platform also includes a pledge to spend an additional $1.8 million on home renovation and repair programs for seniors, people with disabilities and families.
Finally, the platform pledges to allow private stores to sell beer and wine.