Jamie Fox Nov 24 2015

Opposition Leader Jamie Fox has pleaded with government to delay the cuts. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly)

A motion from the Official Opposition calling on government to defer cuts to potato disinfection services was defeated Tuesday night, although three Liberal MLAs voted in favour of the motion.

Opposition Leader Jamie Fox pleaded with government to delay the cuts while working with industry to try to find a collaborative solution that would allow the service to continue.

"We're simply asking government to take a pause," Fox told the House. "Let's completely think about what we're doing, to what I say is the most valuable industry in the province of Prince Edward Island."

Government said it will save $375,000 a year by eliminating the disinfection service for trucks carrying potatoes on Dec. 31.

The service was meant to prevent the spread of bacterial ring rot, a potato disease which Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Alan McIsaac said has been "functionally eradicated" on P.E.I. Government said no other province provides the service.

The provincial government has said it wanted to increase the fee producers pay for the service, but couldn't come to an agreement with the industry, which has spoken out against the cut.

In debate, Fox said the province doesn't know what other diseases might also be eliminated through disinfection, and suggested getting rid of the service could pose a risk to the industry.

Earlier in the day, Fox asked Premier Wade MacLauchlan during question period to allow a free vote on the Opposition motion.

MacLauchlan didn't say whether he would allow that, but Liberal MLAs Robert Henderson, Bush Dumville and Pat Murphy voted in favour of the motion, as did the seven members of the Official Opposition present for the vote.