The P.E.I. government intends to merge the province's two English school boards, it was announced in the throne speech Wednesday.

The announcement comes just two days after the release of a report by the Education Governance Commission that recommended the boards not be merged. The merger would leave one English school board and one French school board.

"My Government also believes that there is an opportunity to redesign educational governance in such a way that the needs of the student consistently drive the system," read Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis.

"Government believes this requires streamlining."

In commenting on his commission's report Tuesday, co-chair Bill Whelan said merging school boards increased costs in the examples researched. Whelan also expressed concern that it would be more difficult to get people involved and interested in a larger school board.

Education was the major area of focus for the throne speech. Coming initiatives include:

  • A new common provincial assessment for all grade 12 students.
  • Expansion of the Best Start program for pre-school age children.
  • Passing more operational responsibility from Department of Education to school boards.

Some current employees of the Education Department will find themselves transferred to school boards.

Concern over pensions

The government is concerned that the number of retirees covered by public service pension plans has almost tripled in the last 22 years, growing from 1,500 to 4,400.

'Every jurisdiction is dealing with this issue.' — Speech from the Throne

As a consequence the ratio of people contributing to the plan has fallen from about 3:1 to 2:1.

"It is anticipated that this ratio will continue to narrow as baby boomers exit the system," read Lewis.

"Every jurisdiction is dealing with this issue, and my Government is no exception."

There were no details in the speech regarding how the province might deal with the issue, but the speech did say there would be a full consultative process.

Job growth

The early part of the speech focused on economic growth, population growth and jobs.

The speech notes the number of jobs on the Island reached historic highs in 2011. Over the last few months the numbers have hovered above 72,000. The workforce has also grown, however, and the unemployment rate was above 11 per cent for all of 2011.

The speech did not address the unemployment rate, but set a goal of 75,000 jobs by 2016 with a renewed focus on private sector jobs.

Combined with a target of growing the population of the Island to 150,000 people by 2022, CBC News calculates that should lower the unemployment rate below 10 per cent in 2016.

Two items were conspicuously absent from the speech.

There was no mention of a reduction in the number of public sector jobs, or of introducing the Harmonized Sales Tax.

Job projections

Jobs Workforce Population Unemployment rate
2012 72,000 82,000 146,000 11.2%
2016 75,000 82,900 147,600 9.5%
2022     150,000

Legend

  • Actual numbers
  • Government projections
  • CBC projections from government projections