Premier Wade MacLauchlan had a chance to transform a positive, good-news speech into a great, P.E.I.-defining moment Monday night. He failed during in his annual state of the province address to Rotary Clubs of P.E.I.
He should have cut the good news monologue and the charts and graphs by half; and use the final 20 minutes of his remarks to challenge Islanders to continue “on a tear,” summon Islanders to build on this period of economic good news and excite Islanders with the promise that even better times are ahead.
Times are good. But they can be better. And better times would offer the opportunity to solve nagging social problems, instead of just helping out with stopgap measures. A province confident in its buoyant, economic future could do so much better.
Better times could continue if Islanders work together - if businesses and entrepreneurs continue their efforts to expand, develop and create jobs; if tourism, farming and fishing work even harder to support our thriving primary industries; and if bio-science and aerospace industries continue to innovate and expand.
The province has so much potential. This is what Islanders hoped to hear Monday night: They wanted the premier to connect the economic dots and tell them where we are going and how we are going to get there; they wanted to be challenged; to avoid complacency; and to always keep moving forward.
Instead, Premier MacLauchlan took them to the edge of great expectations and left them at the brink - disappointed.
It was fine to hear the good news about our economy, growth in population, balanced budget, job creation and lowering unemployment. But we’ve heard all this before in recent months. Where is the message of what it all means and where it can take us?
For the first time in 50 years, the age of our population is getting slightly younger. What does it mean for families, communities, for our education system; what problems does it pose or opportunities does it present?
As the premier said, “There’s a lot going on.” That much is obvious. But is this growth sustainable and how do we ensure it is? He did reference some investments Island business sectors have made to ensure continued growth, such as more cold storage capacity, but he didn’t go far enough.
Are we educating and training workers and young people for the opportunities that exist and those that lie ahead? Simply telling our success stories doesn’t ensure continued growth and doesn’t offer a plan for the future.
The premier is right: The key to continued economic success for P.E.I. is through a diversified, integrated and sustainable economy. But, much of the success enjoyed by the province is the result of Islanders’ ingenuity, entrepreneurship, innovation, hard work and risk. The government certainly can’t take the credit.
Islanders were ready to be challenged Monday night; to be shown that dreams are possible. They were not. Islanders want to know, Mr. Premier, what you are going to do with this economy on a tear?