1st P.E.I. PC leaders debate pretty tame

There wasn't much the two men competing to lead the P.E.I. PC Party didn't agree on in the first of four debates, which was held in Summerside Tuesday night.

James Aylward and Brad Trivers keep their friendship intact

Brad Trivers, left, and James Aylward agreed on most issues at Tuesday night's PC debate. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

There wasn't much the two men competing to lead the P.E.I. PC Party didn't agree on in the first of four debates, which was held in Summerside Tuesday night. 

In his opening remarks, James Aylward commented on how well he and Brad Trivers get along. 

"I don't want to seem like this is a love in tonight," he said while the crowd giggled. 

"But at the same time, Brad and I are extremely good friends. We're seatmates in the legislative assembly. Brad actually worked on my leadership campaign back in 2015 — thank you very much for that Brad — and I know you're pushing hard for me this time, but anyway." he joked.

Brad Trivers (left) and James Aylward agreed on most issues. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

He went on to say that they both have great ideas. 

And it was those ideas that were talked about as the two faced questions on a variety of topics, from  climate change to amalgamation to if liquor should be allowed in retail outlets. They both agreed it should.

Internet differences

There was only a couple of points where their thoughts differed, one having to do with how to get high-speed internet service to the entire province. Trivers thought it's time for government to step in.

"We need the government to take the lead and go community by community to issue an RFP to the internet service providers, get back the gap in cost that it's going to take for them to put that internet access in, and then we need the provincial and federal governments to step up and fill the gap."

Government needs to get out of the way on internet service, says James Aylward. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

But Aylward said government needs to move over. 

"I have to disagree with putting RFPs out there," he said.

"Again, I'm in support of embracing small business, competitive edge and I'm also in support of government get out of the way so that the entrepreneurs and the small business can actually do what they do and work create jobs and provide a service. So to me if we're providing an RFP process it's just simply government getting in the way again of small business trying to do what they can do best."

Budget plans 

Aylward and Trivers saw eye to eye on the issue of government debt, saying it needs to be cut on P.E.I.

On the question of where to cut first, they diverged. 

"Within health care we seem to have a surplus of administration, in many cases we're talking nurses and doctors who are in administrative positions I think we should put them back in the front line to improve services without spending anymore money. " said Trivers

"The same thing with teaching, there's a whole group of 20-30 people that look after provincial common assesments, we should take several of them and put them back on the front line and we can improve services without spending additional money."

Government needs to take charge on internet service, says Trivers. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

But Aylward thinks there are bigger fish to fry. 

"What we really need to do is drill down to what our priorities are, we need to look at the excessive loan write-offs that this government is exercising on any given week. We need to stop the bleed of your tax dollars going to the government's friends," he said, adding,

"We need to get serious and look at the size of government because that's one of the biggest expenses on P.E.I."

And again Trivers agreed with him on that point, saying that the private sector needs to grow to make jobs there more attractive, instead of government jobs.

There are three more debates scheduled before the big vote:

  • Sept. 19, 7 p.m. at the Bloomfield Legion in Bloomfield.
  • Sept. 26, 7 p.m. at the Florence Simmons Hall at Holland College in Charlottetown.
  • Oct. 4, 7 p.m. at the Rodd Hotel in Brudenell.

The leadership will be decided on Oct. 20.