CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, the politician heralded for his civil demeanour, was in attack mode at a leadership debate Wednesday morning.
Bevan-Baker fired critical shots at both PC leader Dennis King and Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan during a provincial leaders’ business debate hosted by the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce.
In response to a question on recruiting and retaining immigrants, he said the Liberal government has “not done a terribly good job’’ with the Provincial Nominee Program. He criticized the government for failing to keep many immigrants from “simply passing through’’ the province.
Bevan-Baker also raised concern over the fiscal responsibility of the PCs promise to raise the basic personal tax exemption to $12,000.
He said accuracy, honesty and transparency are required, noting every policy in the Green party platform has been well costed.
In his opening statement, he said some people still hold the “mistaken belief ‘’ that the Green party is weak on economics.
He said the party is strongly committed to building a vibrant and stable economy but with a balanced budget.
The at-times edgy Bevan-Baker was in stark contrast to his trio of political opponents, including NDP leader Joe Byrne, who joked that he should take the role of referee to keep the Green party leader at bay.
Bevan-Baker did give credit to the current government for its role in the province’s healthy economy but was quick to add the need to be wary of the export and trade market’s vulnerability, particularly with the volatile environment in the United States.
Byrne returned to his well-honed theme that too many Islanders are not benefiting from the province’s strong economy.
“We all need enough money to live on,’’ he said.
While King acknowledged the economy is doing well on P.E.I., he feels putting more money in Islanders’ pockets by raising the basic personal tax exemption and lowering the small business tax rate are ways to strengthen it further.
MacLauchlan said the province under his leadership has experienced a period of remarkable and sustained growth with thousands of jobs being created over the past four months.
All party leaders voiced strong support for a new alliance called the Partnership for Growth, which represents thousands of businesses across the province which embrace a shared vision to make P.E.I. a leader in Canada for sustainable growth and economic performance.
The 90-minute debate, aggressively monitored for time violations by moderator and chamber president Jennifer Evans, also dealt with carbon tax, predictable and fair wages and the future of the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation.