MLAs in P.E.I. legislature pass 19 bills during spring sitting that lasted almost 10 weeks
After MLAs spent 39 days in the legislature, the spring sitting of P.E.I.’s legislative assembly came to an end Tuesday evening.
During the sitting, MLAs passed 19 bills covering a wide range of issues, including a bill to deal with an upcoming referendum and legislation to cover post-secondary schools and some municipalities under P.E.I.’s freedom of information law.
After the house closed Tuesday night, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said he thought the big event of the spring was the government’s budget, which was a main part of the early days of a sitting that lasted almost 10 weeks.
“We’ve gotten a lot done,” he said.
In April, the government tabled its second balanced budget with a $1.5-million surplus for 20182019, but it wasn’t the only business that had to be dealt with during the sitting.
With the federal government set to make marijuana use legal in Canada, the P.E.I. government had to prepare the legislation necessary for its sale in the province.
The Liberals also had to deal with a referendum on electoral reform that is planned to coincide with the next provincial election.
It met stiff opposition from the Greens with leader Peter Bevan-Baker spending several hours speaking to the bill before other MLAs started to discuss it.
Eventually the bill passed after numerous amendments with the Liberals making many changes in response to criticism about parts of the bill.
MacLauchlan said when the government first introduced the legislation it made it clear
amendments should be expected and that it was a project requiring the kind of debate MLAs had in the house.
“This is work that has been done well and it’s been patient work,” he said.
MLAs also passed legislation this spring to limit political donations to $3,000 per year per person and ban corporate or union donations.
This sitting had a different dynamic with former Liberal MLA
Bush Dumville in the house as an independent after leaving the party earlier in the year.
Dumville started the sitting with questions about what he said was backroom interference in the public accounts committee and other MLA business.
He also managed to get a private members bill through the house to have the red fox named P.E.I.’s official animal emblem.
Backbench Liberal MLA Al Roach also managed to get a private
members bill passed to have plastic shopping bags banned in P.E.I.
Out of all the bills passed during the sitting, MacLauchlan said he thought modernizing legislation dealing with companies in P.E.I. will be one thing that stands out.
“That will likely be in place for many, many years and lay a foundation on which a lot of decisions are made, and Islanders are able to do their business and makes their choices about how they do business on a modern foundation,” he said.
When it comes to benefits for Islanders, MacLauchlan said changes to social assistance the government recently announced are among the things that will be on Islanders’ minds the most.
“Permitting people to earn more, to retain benefits, to see their lives get better without feeling that it’s all for naught.”
On the other side of the house, Opposition Leader James Aylward said his Progressive Conservative caucus scored significant victories during the spring sitting.
The Opposition broke new ground by getting several private members bills passed, including legislation to give victims of domestic or sexual violence paid leave.
Another Opposition bill will see members of the public appointed to the Island Investment Development Inc. board of directors.
“The opposition is typically there to oppose, but the trajectory that we like to do is not only to oppose but to actually propose as well,” Aylward said on Tuesday.
“It stems from an opposition that listens to the people of P.E.I.”
Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said his party also managed to make significant impacts during the lengthy session.
In particular, Bevan-Baker referred to the Electoral Systems Referendum Act amendments made before the bill’s adoption on Tuesday.
“I think there was a realization from government that there were certain aspects of that bill that were liable to be unconstitutional,” Bevan-Baker said.
Papers fly Tuesday evening as the spring sitting of P.E.I.’s legislative assembly comes to an end. During the 39-day sitting, MLAs passed 19 bills covering a wide range of issues.