Sum­mer break

MLAs in P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture pass 19 bills dur­ing spring sit­ting that lasted al­most 10 weeks

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY RYAN ROSS Twit­ter.com/ryan­r­ross With files from Stu Neatby

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.

MITCH MAC­DON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

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.

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