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Opening of P.E.I. legislature, provincial byelection keep leaders on their toes

Progressive Conservative Leader James Aylward, said that he plans "to find as much time as I can to be out on doorsteps with PC candidate Melissa Hilton."
Progressive Conservative Leader James Aylward

It's a busy time in provincial politics in P.E.I.

The fall session of the legislature is set to begin Tuesday with a new throne speech, soon to be followed by what Premier Wade MacLauchlan is calling a "big" capital budget and 20 pieces of legislation.

Meanwhile, all four political parties are also duking it out on the doorsteps of District 11 Charlottetown-Parkdale in the upcoming byelection of Nov. 27.

MacLauchlan says he has been actively involved in the campaign, spending time in seniors' homes and visiting businesses in the riding.

But his focus will be on the legislature when the house resumes for the fall sitting this week.

"We're pretty well committed full-time while we're in the house, and we're very confident in the case of the Liberal candidate, Bob Doiron, that he's got a strong team around him at the local level," MacLauchlan said.

But the other party leaders in the legislature say they will definitely remain involved in the byelection, even as the house reconvenes for the fall session.

"I'll be honest, I'm going to still try to find as much time as I can to be out on doorsteps with (PC candidate Melissa Hilton)," said Progressive Conservative Leader James Aylward.

Despite this, he does not believe the byelection will be a distraction from the legislature, but he does say it is a key focus for him as the new party leader.

"Without a doubt it's one of my main goals right now."

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker admits he has been "a little distracted" by the byelection campaign, spending time canvassing with Green candidate Hannah Bell during time he normally would have dedicated solely to house prep.

But he says he is confident he is ready for the legislature, with a private member's bill ready to table proposing to enact whistleblower protection legislation for the private sector.

"I'm putting in my work now because once the legislature sits, my opportunity to get out in the district will be very limited," Bevan-Baker said.

"It's been a little bit of a tsunami of big stuff coming across my desk simultaneously."

This sitting will mark the first with Aylward as Opposition leader, and he says he hopes to use his time in the house to differentiate himself from the premier.

"I'm going to show that I'm different, that I'm not a micro-manager... and I'm going to show Islanders again that I have true life experience, I have been where many Islanders are," Aylward said, noting that he has worked minimum wage jobs and travelled to Western Canada for work to support his family.

The Opposition Tories plan to table up to seven private members bills, including one that proposes to amend the Worker's Compensation Act to include benefits for first responders suffering from post-traumatic-stress-disorder.

Bevan-Baker meanwhile says he will be looking forward to the government's Water Act and the province's plans for carbon pricing during this legislative session.

As for what work the government will bring to the house, MacLauchlan says there will be 20 bills, including the long-awaited Water Act as well as the return of whistleblower protection legislation and lobby registry act that died on the order paper when the house was prorogued.

"We see this session, starting with the speech from the throne, as a pivot point, or a point where we can assess how far we are in substantially achieving our mandate at just past the 30-month mark and then to project what can be done in this further period to build on the economic prosperity that we've seen," he said.

"(The sitting) will have quite a bit of legislation and the capital budget will be the high point, the most substantial piece of work that we do as a legislature."

MacLauchlan says he is looking forward to the to-and-fro of the house, but expects a lot of substantial work to also be done over the coming weeks.

The fall sitting of the legislature kicks off Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. with the speech from the throne.

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