It’s a wrap

Fall ses­sion of leg­is­la­ture high­lighted by pass­ing of car­bon tax leg­is­la­tion, cap­i­tal bud­get, pri­vate mem­bers’ bills

Journal Pioneer - - ISLAND - BY STU NEATBY news­[email protected]­nal­pi­oneer.com

As the fall sit­ting of the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture con­cluded Wed­nes­day, Op­po­si­tion and gov­ern­ment MLAs noted the ses­sion had been marked by a rare qual­ity in pol­i­tics: co-op­er­a­tion.

Lt.-Gov. An­toinette Perry ar­rived at the Coles Build­ing at 5 p.m. to of­fi­cially close the ses­sion, cap­ping off a sit­ting that lasted just over three weeks.

The ses­sion is clos­ing days be­fore new polling num­bers are due to be re­leased by Cor­po­rate Re­search As­so­ciates. Re­cent polling by the com­pany has shown num­bers for the gov­ern­ing Lib­eral party drop­ping, while sup­port for the Green party con­tin­ues to rise. Seem­ingly un­de­terred, Premier Wade MacLauch­lan em­pha­sized the achieve­ments of his gov­ern­ment Wed­nes­day night, but also drew at­ten­tion to the in­stances of col­lab­o­ra­tion across the aisle. MacLauch­lan pointed to the pass­ing of the Is­land’s largest ever cap­i­tal bud­get in Novem­ber. The $154-mil­lion cap­i­tal bud­get in­clud­ing fund­ing for a new high school in Strat­ford, as well as new in­vest­ments in men­tal health and in­fra­struc­ture. The bud­get comes at a time of sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic growth on the Is­land. MacLauch­lan also em­pha­sized his gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to re­duce costs for Is­lan­ders. He noted the in­creases to the ba­sic per­sonal in­come tax ex­emp­tion and cuts to small busi­ness taxes.

“Our prov­ince is do­ing well and we’re in a po­si­tion to take sub­stan­tive ini­tia­tives and in­vest for Is­lan­ders to con­tinue do­ing well,” MacLauch­lan said. MacLauch­lan also cited the pass­ing of two bills, the Cli­mate Lead­er­ship Act and an amend­ment to the Gaso­line Tax Act, which will put in place the Is­land’s car­bon pric­ing regime.

The bills will see a net one cent rise in gaso­line taxes in 2019 and an­other cent rise in 2020. Op­po­si­tion Leader James Ayl­ward viewed the clos­ing of the ses­sion as bit­ter­sweet. The ses­sion will be Ayl­ward’s last as leader of the op­po­si­tion, as the PC party is in the midst of a lead­er­ship race. A lead­er­ship con­ven­tion is sched­uled for Feb. 9.

“I feel it’s go­ing to be an ex­tremely busy win­ter,” Ayl­ward said. Ayl­ward said he was proud of the pas­sage of two pri­vate mem­bers’ bills in­tro­duced by PC mem­bers dur­ing the ses­sion.

One bill, in­tro­duced by Bor­denKinkora MLA Jamie Fox, will re­quire in­com­ing judges to re­ceive sex­ual as­sault train­ing, while an­other, in­tro­duced by Morel­lMer­maid MLA Sid­ney MacEwen, will see the cre­ation of an autism sec­re­tariat to help co-or­di­nate autism-re­lated pro­gram­ming on the Is­land.

The Green party also had suc­cesses dur­ing the ses­sion. Party leader Peter Be­van-Baker said the party man­aged to pass its first ever pri­vate mem­bers bill, which would of­fi­cially rec­og­nize arts and cul­ture or­ga­ni­za­tions and clean tech com­pa­nies as be­ing un­der the man­date of In­no­va­tion P.E.I.

The party also passed amend­ments to a gov­ern­ment bill that will re­quire post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions to pass sex­ual vi­o­lence poli­cies, and in­tro­duced a mo­tion, which was passed unan­i­mously, con­demn­ing the prac­tice of con­ver­sion ther­apy.

“In terms of our leg­isla­tive achieve­ments, it was a good ses­sion for us,” Be­van-Baker said. Echo­ing the sen­ti­ment from Op­po­si­tion and gov­ern­ment MLAs, Speaker Buck Watts also noted the co-op­er­a­tive tone of the ses­sion in his clos­ing re­marks.

“It was prob­a­bly the best ses­sion I’ve seen as speaker,” Watts said.

MITCH MAC­DON­ALD/SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Green Leader Peter Be­van-Baker, left, and Premier Wade MacLauch­lan share a laugh and sea­sons greet­ings fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the third ses­sion of the 65th Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Wed­nes­day.

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