House ad­journs

Gov­ern­ment passes 19 pieces of leg­is­la­tion in a rare late spring ses­sion that saw big de­bate on power ca­ble and teach­ers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE STEWART

A rare spring-into-sum­mer sit­ting of the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture of­fi­cially came to an end on Fri­day.

Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis was on hand to give royal as­sent to 19 pieces of leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing the An­i­mal Wel­fare Act and an act to amend the Elec­toral Bound­aries Act, the lat­ter of which will see a bi­par­ti­san com­mit­tee en­gage Is­lan­ders on whether the province’s cur­rent first-past-the-post vot­ing sys­tem should change.

The house also strength­ened fines for us­ing cell­phones while driv­ing, in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to ban the sale of flavoured to­bacco and launched public con­sul­ta­tion on a Wa­ter Act.

Since the ses­sion be­gan June 3, two of the hotly de­bated is­sues were the $100 mil­lion un­der­wa­ter power ca­bles and a pro­posal to cut 28 teach­ing po­si­tions across the Is­land.

The power ca­bles came in $50 mil­lion cheaper than ex­pected (orig­i­nal es­ti­mate was $150 mil­lion). The Op­po­si­tion would like to see the province ex­plore at­tach­ing it to the Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge but Premier Wade MacLauch­lan says Ot­tawa isn’t keen on the idea due to li­a­bil­ity con­cerns so it will go un­der­wa­ter.

As for the teach­ers, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hal Perry found him­self on the hot seat this past month over the pro­posed cuts. The province is cur­rently re­view­ing the is­sue but the premier said Fri­day it’s not about back­ing down.

“That’s what it is to have a leg­is­la­ture,’’ MacLauch­lan said. “If we didn’t lis­ten and learn there would be no point of hav­ing a leg­is­la­ture. What we’ve said is there will be a re­view of that sit­u­a­tion. I be­lieve all the sig­nif­i­cant play­ers are look­ing at what we can do bet­ter.’’

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Party Leader Rob Lantz said ed­u­ca­tion was a big part of their plan head­ing in.

“It took up a lot of time in the ses­sion de­bat­ing cuts to ed­u­ca­tion,’’ Lantz said.

“I think we were ef­fec­tive and played a big part of hav­ing this re­view come about.’’

The is­sue led to a protest out­side the leg­is­la­ture on June 29, one which was down­graded some­what when Gilles Arse­nault, out­go­ing pres­i­dent of the P.E.I. Teach­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion, called it off af­ter gov­ern­ment agreed to re­view the mat­ter.

MacLauch­lan said Fri­day that re­view will be com­pleted this month. Green Party of P.E.I. Leader Peter Be­vanBaker said one of his goals was to bring some ci­vil­ity to the nor­mally par­ti­san process.

“As the days went by I felt more at home. As I leave the first ses­sion I feel I made a con­tri­bu­tion in de­bates but also, hope­fully, the tenor of the house,’’ Be­van-Baker said. “I think it be­came less par­ti­san. I know that will never com­pletely dis­ap­pear. I’m not naïve to the dy­nam­ics of the house but I think the gen­eral tone of de­bate did be­come more civil as the ses­sion went on.’’

It was a ses­sion Lantz found hard to watch at times be­cause, due to his elec­tion loss, he wasn’t a part of the de­bate. He also re­minded the media that he isn’t the first PC leader to sit out­side the rail. Pat Mella spent three years there, 1993-96, be­fore the Pat Binns ad­min­is­tra­tion took of­fice.

“Ab­so­lutely dif­fi­cult be­cause I’m there par­tic­i­pat­ing in (cau­cus meet­ings) and, oc­ca­sion­ally, I feel like shout­ing out some­thing one of the mem­bers for­got to men­tion. I’d ab­so­lutely love to be in there.’’

As for what’s ahead, Be­van- Baker says he in­tends to pro­pose bills dur­ing the fall sit­ting, Lantz will tour the province pro­mot­ing the party while the premier hinted there will be more el­e­ments of his gov­ern­ment’s cam­paign prom­ises to come in the fall.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

Op­po­si­tion House Leader Steven My­ers, left, and Premier Wade MacLauch­lan shake hands at the close of the spring sit­ting of the leg­is­la­ture Fri­day as Lib­eral MLA Bush Dumville looks on.

GUARDIAN PHOTO

MLAS are shown on the fi­nal day Fri­day of the rare leg­is­la­ture sit­ting ex­tend­ing into the sum­mer.

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