MacLauchlan, Aylward, Bevan-Baker reflect on lengthy spring sitting

With the longest sitting of the 21st century coming to a close, CBC News spoke to the leaders of the Island's Liberal, Progressive Conservative and Green parties to look back at some of the spring session highlights.

'We are on a runway that started in May of 2015 and we still have work to do'

After 39 days of debate, the spring 2018 sitting of the P.E.I. legislature came to a close Tuesday night. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

What's on the minds of P.E.I.'s political leaders after such a lengthy session?

With the longest sitting of the 21st century coming to a close, CBC News spoke to the leaders of the Island's Liberal, Progressive Conservative and Green parties to look back at some of the spring session highlights.

'There's still work to do': MacLauchlan 

'I might say about the most recent session, that I'm really proud of our team and how our ministers and caucus members … performed with a very sizeable agenda,' MacLauchlan says. (CBC)

For the Liberals, some of the best of the spring session began on day two with what Premier Wade MacLauchlan calls the "best budget we've had in 40 or 50 years."

"There's always more to do and I think that's precisely the point that I would make … there's still work to do and that's the point that I made, indeed, the day we tabled the budget," MacLauchlan said.

Government's suicide prevention strategy, seniors' wellbeing initiatives and climate change action plan were among other notable spring strides MacLauchlan pointed to as big accomplishments for the Liberals.

"We are on a runway that started in May of 2015 … and I'm proud of the extent to which we've achieved what we committed to do.

"I might say about the most recent session, that I'm really proud of our team and how our ministers and caucus members … performed with a very sizeable agenda."

On another note, this particular sitting had the PCs and Greens questioning whether it would be the last before a provincial election.

Though MacLauchlan didn't confirm an official date for Islanders to go to the polls he echoed his original point regarding the budget — that government still has "work to do" — particularly regarding things like proposed housing and poverty reduction strategies.

Aylward, PCs celebrate private member's bills

'It's very significant when an Opposition party is not just opposing but actually proposing,' Aylward says. (CBC)

James Aylward, the leader of the province's Progressive Conservatives, said a "major accomplishment" of the spring session would be the number of private member's bills the PC caucus brought to the floor that were successfully passed.

"It's very significant when an Opposition party is not just opposing but actually proposing," Aylward said. "It shows that we're listening to Islanders and that we're there to support Islanders."

According to Legislative Assembly clerk assistant Emily Doiron, the fall and spring sittings combined for the most private member's bills introduced (16) and most bills to receive Royal Assent (five) since at least 1997.

Not all of those bills introduced and passed were by the PCs, however.

One of the bills introduced by the PCs that Aylward pointed to provides paid leave for survivors of domestic violence. Another of those bills would provide support through Workers Compensation to any Island worker suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The third bill he highlighted asked government to open up Crown lending agency Island Investment Development Inc. to allow all Islanders to apply for a seat on the board.

"Up until now the only people that would sit on that board were appointed by government," he said. "Now we have a bill in place where Islanders can put their name forward also to sit on that board."

Bevan-Baker, Greens ride high in the polls

'I always talk about the Green Party as in the race of the tortoise and the hare. We're the tortoise, we do things methodically and make sure that we're doing it right,' Bevan-Baker says. (CBC)

The spring session ended in a heated debate for Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, challenging referendum legislation over a period of days.

On Tuesday, the referendum bill — which will set the stage for an electoral reform referendum in conjunction with the next provincial election — passed in legislature.

"I think we went from a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation to something that may be workable," he said.

"There's that old phrase about you know you wouldn't want to see legislation being made in the same way you wouldn't want to see sausages being made.…That was a particularly large and nasty sausage."

What came out of the debate has made the bill "enormously better," he said.

Support for both the Green leader and his party were at a high as well, according to a poll by Corporate Research Associates. 

While Bevan-Baker said he's cautious about poll suggestions, he said it's a motivating note for the Greens.

"I hope that the comfort that people are clearly feeling with a third choice, which is embodied in myself and Hannah Bell at the moment, will be carried forward to the next election," he said.

"I always talk about the Green Party as in the race of the tortoise and the hare. We're the tortoise, we do things methodically and make sure that we're doing it right."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Kerry Campbell