A fo­cus on eco­nom­ics

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Wade MacLauch­lan has largely stayed the course thus far in his term as pre­mier of Prince Ed­ward Is­land. His fo­cus has been on eco­nomic is­sues; and one could al­most term it as a pre-oc­cu­pa­tion. While his gov­ern­ment earned de­served crit­i­cism for var­i­ous mis­steps in other ar­eas, it war­rants praise for its suc­cesses when it comes to the pro­vin­cial econ­omy.

The gov­ern­ment brought down a bal­anced bud­get this spring – ra­zor-thin, but still bal­anced. The prov­ince’s pop­u­la­tion has in­creased – re­vers­ing an At­lantic trend – thanks to in­creased im­mi­gra­tion num­bers. Ex­ports have reached record lev­els.

The lat­est eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors are pos­i­tive. Hous­ing starts are up 20 per cent, in­ter­na­tional ex­ports rose and em­ploy­ment growth is dou­ble the na­tional rate.

Tourism in­di­ca­tors for June are stag­ger­ing. Af­ter a slow May be­cause of poor weather, June num­bers surged at the air­port, ferry ser­vice and Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge. Key pri­mary in­dus­tries such as fish­ing and agri­cul­ture are com­ing off record sea­sons and the 2017 tourism sea­son ap­pears ready to shat­ter 2016’s huge num­bers.

The pre­mier’s fo­cus on the econ­omy be­gan as soon as he took of­fice in early 2015. One of his first acts was to ap­point the Board of Eco­nomic Ad­vi­sors to the Pre­mier. The three, high-pro­file economists were to help chart the broad eco­nomic course for the Is­land. Tim O’Neill, Elizabeth Beale and Michael Hor­gan came with im­pec­ca­ble cre­den­tials. They quickly came back with key rec­om­men­da­tions on bal­anc­ing the bud­get, reducing the deficit, in­creas­ing im­mi­gra­tion and boost­ing ex­ports. The pre­mier has fol­lowed them dili­gently. The end pur­pose of the board was to en­hance the pros­per­ity of all Is­lan­ders. Who can ar­gue with that?

Pre­mier MacLauch­lan ob­vi­ously feels this is the best way to go for the long-term pros­per­ity of the prov­ince. With­out a strong econ­omy, more jobs and higher tax rev­enue, there is less money to sup­port health, ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial pro­grams and in­fra­struc­ture. With­out the former, the prov­ince will sim­ply sink deeper into deficit.

So it looks pos­i­tive that the pre­mier’s next key eco­nomic ini­tia­tive – chal­leng­ing 26 lo­cal com­mu­nity and busi­ness lead­ers to serve on four new Re­gional Eco­nomic Ad­vi­sory Coun­cils ‘to guide, de­velop, and drive com­mu­nity and eco­nomic growth across Prince Ed­ward Is­land’ – will be suc­cess­ful as well.

Based on the big-pic­ture ex­pe­ri­ence with his eco­nomic board, it seems rea­son­able that the pre­mier will act on the ad­vice from th­ese ad­vi­sory coun­cils. There will be no mag­i­cal, big vi­sion so­lu­tions, but grass­roots ideas and so­lu­tions from across the prov­ince.

Coun­cil mem­bers de­serve our thanks for agree­ing to serve the prov­ince. If they can con­trib­ute like the pre­mier’s eco­nomic board, the idea will be a suc­cess. And since when is con­sult­ing with Is­lan­ders a bad thing? Dic­tat­ing pol­icy from Charlottetown has failed in ed­u­ca­tion and health ar­eas. Con­sul­ta­tion is a pos­i­tive step.

It’s re­fresh­ing to see gov­ern­ment ac­knowl­edge that it doesn’t have all the an­swers and is will­ing to con­sult with Is­lan­ders on bet­ter ways to do things.

Let’s hope the gov­ern­ment will fol­low the eco­nomic ad­vice from th­ese four coun­cils. The idea holds much prom­ise.

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