During the last question period before some Charlottetown voters head to the polls in a byelection, the Opposition once again accused government of using the announcement of a new school to try to swing the election.
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PC MLA Brad Trivers pointed to shifting timelines put forward for construction and completion of a new Sherwood Elementary in the week since the announcement was made in the capital budget address on Friday, Nov. 17:
- In his budget speech, Finance Minister Allen Roach said construction would begin in 2019;
- In debate on the budget Thursday evening, Education Minister Jordan Brown said construction would start in the 2021 or 2022 school years;
- In question period the next day, Brown said construction would most likely begin in 2019, with students in the new school in 2021.
"The premier and indeed this whole Liberal government is trying to buy votes in a District 11 Charlottetown-Parkdale byelection by announcing a project that won't start for three years," Trivers said.
"And won't be completed for at least five years."
'That's exactly what the five-year budget' is for
"Honourable member, I don't think that I led you astray last night, but if I did, my apologies for that," Brown said Friday in question period when confronted with the shifting dates.
'I think that all Islanders can see through this announcement and what it was really about.' —James Aylward
It takes time, Brown continued, "to get the construction underway and to complete the construction."
"That's exactly what the five-year budget planning process is for, is to make that commitment so that those students and the community around Sherwood school understands our commitment to them and to education in that area."
PC leader James Aylward took aim at another government announcement on education funding made during the byelection: a commitment of $2.8 million to hire 41 new educators in the current school year.
'It was made in haste,' Aylward charges
Over and over, Aylward asked whether the funding would be permanent.
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"What I'm asking, very clearly, these positions that you announced: are they going to be permanent positions, embedded in our school system, or is this just a one-off for this year?"
Brown explained how teachers are allocated to schools based on enrolments from the previous school year.
He said the new funding "allowed for a flexible mechanism here to address an issue that has resulted from a very successful growth strategy, and we feel that it's a great way to address frontline teaching issues."
"I think that all Islanders can see through this announcement and what it was really about," Aylward responded. "It was made in haste during a byelection in District 11."
Aylward urged government to review its instructional staffing model to put more educators into the school system.
"Temporary top-ups to staff and complement in these schools are not a viable long-term solution."
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