Re­ward­ing fall sit­ting

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

As MLAs said their good­byes and ex­tended hol­i­day greet­ings fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day’s clo­sure of the P.E.I. leg­is­la­ture, mem­bers must have won­dered if they would ever see their col­leagues again in that cham­ber. With a pro­vin­cial elec­tion widely ex­pected next spring, there is a good chance MLAs won’t re­turn to the house be­fore then. The jokes and good­na­tured jabs about, “see you next spring – maybe,” sug­gested an elec­tion will de­lay the spring sit­ting. There was a de­gree of wist­ful­ness among mem­bers as they closed down the fall sit­ting. Four MLAs have an­nounced they won’t re-of­fer and oth­ers may not win their seat. There are al­ways up­sets or sur­prises at the bal­lot box and most dis­tricts have new elec­toral bound­aries and names. Changes are in­evitable. Speaker Fran­cis (Buck) Watts, who isn’t seek­ing re-elec­tion, suc­cinctly summed up the fall sit­ting: “It was prob­a­bly the best ses­sion I’ve seen as speaker.” The three par­ties in the leg­is­la­ture were largely on their best be­hav­iour, wary of gaffes or mis­takes head­ing into an elec­tion. There was a his­toric de­gree of col­lab­o­ra­tion and all par­ties scored wins. The Greens made his­tory by hav­ing their first bill pass in the house. The PCs had two im­por­tant pieces of leg­is­la­tion win ap­proval, while the govern­ing Lib­er­als had a busy ses­sion with more than 20 bills get­ting royal as­sent over the rel­a­tively short three and a half week’s sit­ting. The ses­sion saw a greater de­gree of co-op­er­a­tion and a re­duc­tion in par­ti­san­ship. It showed that all par­ties can work to­gether for the ben­e­fit of Is­lan­ders, even as the Op­po­si­tion held the gov­ern­ment to ac­count with ag­gres­sive scru­tiny dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod. Premier Wade MacLauch­lan stepped back from the lime­light and pre­ferred to present a team ap­proach in the leg­is­la­ture. Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Minister Chris Palmer took much of the heat from Op­po­si­tion ques­tions on the prob­lem­atic PNP pro­gram. The PCs were de­ter­mined to re­mind Is­lan­ders that the Lib­er­als are still wear­ing that file, while the premier was equally de­ter­mined to dis­tance him­self from PNP, a dis­taste­ful car­ry­over from a pre­vi­ous Liberal gov­ern­ment. The other Liberal MLA on the hot seat was Trans­porta­tion Minister Paula Big­gar who paid dearly for a curt so­cial me­dia re­sponse to a Fran­co­phone con­stituent. The minister fi­nally did the right thing and for­mally apol­o­gized to end that brouhaha. The Lib­er­als were able to bask in the good news of a $75-mil­lion sur­plus from the past fis­cal year and de­liv­ered a mas­sive $154-mil­lion cap­i­tal bud­get – the largest in his­tory. There was a seem­ingly end­less stream of good news an­nounce­ments as the gov­ern­ment was able to de­liver in health, ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial wel­fare be­cause of the strong eco­nomic state of the prov­ince. The gov­ern­ment hopes to reap some size­able ben­e­fits in the next quar­terly Cor­po­rate Re­search As­so­ciates (CRA) poll ex­pected next week. The re­sults of that poll could re­sult in a wide fall­out -- from the tim­ing of the next pro­vin­cial elec­tion; to the lead­er­ship and po­lit­i­cal fu­ture of Premier MacLauch­lan. An­a­lyt­ics seem to carry a lot of weight these days.

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