Tip-to-tip fi­bre

Throne speech prom­ises ex­ten­sive new in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing, in­clud­ing a high-speed fi­bre net­work

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERESA WRIGHT

The P.E.I. gov­ern­ment will build a high-speed fi­bre net­work that reaches across the province as part of “ex­ten­sive” new in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture. The province will also re­visit prom­ises from pre­vi­ous throne speeches, in­clud­ing a vote on elec­toral re­form and strate­gies to en­hance cul­ture and re­duce poverty.

These were some of the com­mit­ments made in the 2017 speech from the throne de­liv­ered Tues­day at the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture by Lt.-Gov. An­toinette Perry.

The speech lays out the roadmap for gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy agenda over the next year.

Premier Wade MacLauch­lan said Tues­day the province’s cur­rent eco­nomic suc­cesses now al­low gov­ern­ment to in­vest in new projects and ini­tia­tives to im­prove the lives of Is­lan­ders.

“We’re look­ing at a pe­riod when we can make premium in­vest­ments, when we can take steps that have been in course for some time and when we can con­tinue to make progress,” he told re­porters.

The tip-to-tip high-speed fi­bre net­work an­nounced Tues­day will be a sig­nif­i­cant in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject for the Is­land, aimed at “es­ca­lat­ing” gov­ern­ment’s plans to en­hance high­speed in­ter­net ser­vice.

MacLauch­lan says this will be a “back­bone” for in­ter­net ser­vice providers to con­nect to in or­der of­fer more ex­panded in­ter­net ser­vices to Is­land house­holds and busi­nesses.

But just who will own this net­work re­mains un­clear.

“That re­mains to be seen, but gov­ern­ment will be tak­ing the lead on this,” MacLauch­lan said.

“It will be on terms that will be com­pet­i­tive and will en­able the pri­vate sec­tor to par­tic­i­pate and of­fer the ser­vice to the cus­tomer.”

The throne speech also an­nounced a num­ber of ad­di­tional new gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives.

In ed­u­ca­tion, a re­view will be done of stu­dent as­sess­ments “to stay cur­rent with best prac­tices and re­flec­tive of the overall needs” of stu­dents.

In health, a sui­cide preven­tion strat­egy is be­ing de­vel­oped, led by the Cana­dian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion.

As part of an up­com­ing se­niors strat­egy, a new pro­gram will be de­vel­oped to fund prac­ti­cal ser­vices, such as light house­keep­ing or snow re­moval, to make it eas­ier for Is­land se­niors to re­main in their homes.

The speech also prom­ises a new “cre­ative in­dus­try mar­ket de­vel­op­ment pro­gram” to work with artists, en­ter­prises and in­dus­try to grow the cre­ative busi­ness sec­tor, as part of an up­com­ing five-year cul­ture strat­egy.

Elec­toral re­form is ad­dressed, with a prom­ise to ta­ble ref­er­en­dum leg­is­la­tion in 2018 for a sec­ond, bind­ing vote on demo­cratic re­form to be held at the same time as the next provin­cial elec­tion. This leg­is­la­tion will in­clude “a clear ref­er­en­dum ques­tion as well as the rules re­quired for a fair and trans­par­ent process.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, gov­ern­ment says it will re­quest the cre­ation of a map to show how the mixed-mem­ber pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion sys­tem that was the win­ning choice in the 2016 plebiscite would ap­pear ge­o­graph­i­cally.

But both Op­po­si­tion Leader James Ayl­ward and Green Leader Peter Be­van-Baker noted the speech in­cluded a num­ber of re-an­nounced com­mit­ments made in throne speeches from 2016 and 2015, in­clud­ing a long­promised Wa­ter Act, a re­view of the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act, a new open data plat­form, a poverty re­duc­tion strat­egy and a hous­ing strat­egy.

“We’ve been talk­ing about high-speed in­ter­net since es­sen­tially 2008, we’ve been talk­ing about poverty re­duc­tion since 2011,” Ayl­ward said.

“These is­sues just con­tinue to come up and the gov­ern­ment just keeps mak­ing an­nounce­ments, es­sen­tially re­gur­gi­tat­ing the prom­ises over and over again.”

Be­van-Baker agreed, say­ing he felt the speech lacks vi­sion.

“If I was to give the throne speech a ti­tle, it would be, ‘We’re go­ing to try again, and this time we might even get it right,’ ” he said.

“That’s the sort of vibe I got from the throne speech.”

A pre­vi­ous throne speech com­mit­ment thought to be scrapped has also re-emerged.

Last year, MacLauch­lan an­nounced he would elim­i­nate po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions from cor­po­ra­tions, busi­nesses and unions en­tirely and place a cap only on do­na­tions from in­di­vid­u­als of $1,500 a year. Six months later, he back­tracked, say­ing he would con­tinue to al­low cor­po­rate do­na­tions and, in­stead, im­pose a cap of $3,000 for po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions.

The new throne speech says gov­ern­ment will now re­lease a “dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment on cam­paign fi­nance re­form.”

Im­mi­nent fed­eral dead­lines for car­bon pric­ing and cannabis le­gal­iza­tion were ad­dressed broadly in the speech, with de­tails promised even­tu­ally on a car­bon tax and leg­is­la­tion in the spring for le­gal cannabis.

Those de­tails and more par­tic­u­lars about how all the ini­tia­tives and projects in the throne speech are to be de­vel­oped will be re­vealed in the full­ness of time, MacLauch­lan said.

“The na­ture of a throne speech is to be sure that the peo­ple, and the me­dia, see what it is that’s in the works.”

MITCH MACDON­ALD

P.E.I. Lt.-Gov. An­toinette Perry gives the speech from the throne in the leg­is­la­ture on Tues­day.

MITCH MACDON­ALD

P.E.I. Lt.-Gov. An­toinette Perry in­spects the guard prior to the open­ing of the fall ses­sion of the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture on Tues­day.

watch it

The fall ses­sion of the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture opened Tues­day. Check out some of the high­lights at: www.the­guardian.pe.ca

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