It was just hours before members of P.E.I.'s Legislative Assembly were supposed to get down to business for the fall sitting of the legislature last year, that former premier Robert Ghiz announced he was stepping down.That fall sitting was mostly a write-off, lasting just 10 days. Most of the legislation tabled was not passed — left for a future administration to deal with.
'What we'll see next week is really a continuation within our commitment to live within our means.' — P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan
Since then P.E.I. has had two provincial leadership conventions (the Liberal one uncontested), a provincial election, even a change of venue for the legislature, which moved next door to the Coles Building to allow for repairs at Province House, its home for the past 168 years. (For those keep score at home, there was also a federal election and a change of government in Ottawa, which has fairly immediate implications for the province.)
- P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz announces resignation
- Liberals win majority in P.E.I. election
- Jamie Fox named Progressive Conservative interim leader
When the legislature gets back to work this Thursday, there will be one more change before all the moving pieces over the past year can settle into place: a new leader of the Official Opposition.
Fox takes over as Opposition leader
Jamie Fox was selected by the Progressive Conservative Party as its interim leader after Rob Lantz stepped down. Lantz won the leadership of the party back in February but failed to win his seat in the May 4 election. During the previous sitting of the legislature, Lantz led the party from the outside while Steven Myers continued to serve as Opposition leader inside the House, a role he held since Olive Crane stepped down as leader in 2013.
"With me what you see is what you get," said the new leader. "I'm more of a direct-approach individual. … You're going to see very direct questions and in some cases impulsive questions. If something hits my mind quick then the question's going to come out."
With eight members, the Tories have the largest opposition caucus PEI has seen in almost 20 years, and Fox said he'll use the numbers to his advantage.
"I believe highly in team playing and we've engaged more of the members of the caucus and the office staff into more of a team approach going forward."
Fox said the opposition has laid out a plan to question government over health care, education, municipal amalgamation and e-gaming. He also says members of the Opposition are prepared to table two private member's bills this fall.
Federal infrastructure plan may allow for more "robust" capital budget: Premier
Premier Wade MacLauchlan wasn't providing many specifics regarding his government's plan for the fall, except to say government is prepared to table 20 bills over a sitting that should last at least five weeks.
"They'll be in areas as diverse as energy, education, the environment, there'll be some material to do with transportation safety and there'll be bills dealing with health," he said.
Government will also table legislation to allow for the elimination of the English Language School Board from the education system, and a bill dealing with loan write-offs and cancellations from government agencies, an issue identified by the auditor general in her report in the spring.
The fall will also see the tabling of a new capital budget outlining the province's plan for infrastructure spending over the next five years.
"What we'll see next week is really a continuation within our commitment to live within our means," said MacLauchlan. However, the capital budget could be re-worked once details on the federal government's new infrastructure spending program are announced.
"When we know more about those plans we may be in a position to do something more, I'll say robust."
P.E.I. is waiting to hear on the priorities of the Trudeau government's new program, and what the requirements are for matching funds. MacLauchlan says under the infrastructure programs of the previous federal government, P.E.I. didn't access most of the funding available because it couldn't provide matching funds.
Green leader "better prepared" for fall sitting
Green party leader Peter Bevan-Baker said he had hoped to ease into his first sitting in the legislature back in the spring, but politics made that impossible.
"Considering it was our first session in the legislature and I was at many times quite literally alone, I think we coped rather well," said Bevan-Baker on the ramp-up for the Green Party's first-ever MLA on P.E.I.
"I'm going into this (sitting) quite different in that we have had time to prepare. I have a couple of pieces of legislation I'm going to bring forward, and I think I'll be more comfortable in that very strange environment which is our legislative assembly. And I've developed some relationships with the other MLAs which weren't there before."