P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan reflects on 'busy, uplifting' first year in power

Premier Wade MacLauchlan has been in power for just under a year now, and says the first 52 weeks have been busy and uplifting.

"It's absolutely mission critical we're taking all the steps we can to prosper," says MacLauchlan

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan talks with CBC Compass host Bruce Rainnie. (CBC )

Premier Wade MacLauchlan has been in power for just under a year now, and says the first 52 weeks have been full and satisfying. 

The former UPEI president was confirmed as leader of the P.E.I. Liberal Party and premier-designate at a leadership convention Feb. 21, 2015, after Robert Ghiz announced in the fall of 2014 he was stepping down. 

MacLauchlan sat down with CBC News: Compass host Bruce Rainnie to talk about his first 365 days in office. 

1. If you would fill in the blank: the last year has been for you ___?

Busy. Uplifting. I think those two together pretty well capture it, and I'll say, I'm enjoying it. 

2. Uplifting how?

A chance to be involved with the people, with the issues that face us as a province. Just a quick snapshot: today I was involved in the march for family violence prevention. From there, a meeting with the Aboriginal Women's Association. Several days this week working on budget preparation. Tonight I'll be at The Eastern PEI Chamber of Commerce awards night.

So, you get around ... it's always uplifting to know what people are doing in the province. 

3. After a year, where would you say that P.E.I. is trending well? 

Comparatively, we're doing well on our economy. That's to say relative to the region or the country. We led Canada last year in our export growth, we've seen the largest weekly growth in wage earnings, so those are a couple of indicators. 

 I frankly don't understand people arguing that the premier should be gagged on any issue ... I think they should be interested to know what the premier thinks.— Premier Wade MacLauchlan

To put it in the broader context, we have to do well if we're going to catch up with the rest of the country. And when you look at the Canadian economy, the world economy, it's absolutely mission critical we're taking all the steps we can to prosper. And then a particular subset of that is the whole demographic question.

4. Where could P.E.I. be doing better, if you could choose a topic other than the economy? 

Well, the subset of the economy is directly on demographics. For example I'm going to speak this evening in Georgetown about the group that's gotten out ahead of the opportunity to have ... an influx of Amish immigrants to come and settle in that area. There are now 14 families that have arrived or have farms in Kings County and there could be many more. So there's a great example.

5.  I want to ask you a bit about our year-end interview we did here a couple of months back. The people who support proportional representation on P.E.I. were upset that you showed disdain for this model and they said the premier should not be influencing people ahead of what might be a vote on electoral reform. What do you say to that? 

My whole approach to being in public life, Bruce, has been openness and transparency. I frankly don't understand people arguing that the premier should be gagged on any issue. This is one that's of great importance to the province to our democratic renewal ... I think they should be interested to know what the premier thinks.

I started this whole process by unveiling a white paper in June of last year where I put these issues right there in 30 pages, roughly, of the white paper. That said, I want the committee that's at work — and has been doing good work in engaging the public — to continue with that work and to bring forward a question in May to the legislature which will then be voted on in November. 

But I'll be very clear — once that question has been determined, I intend for people to know my views on what I think is the best way forward. 

6. Two more doctors for the Eastern Kings/Souris area. They've been very vocal about that recently. Where are we going with that? 

We've got an active program of physician recruitment and have had. The Souris area is a priority and has been as we've said over the months and continues to be. In fact we've added — if you go back roughly a decade — about 50 physicians to the roster in the province. 

I would encourage anyone who doesn't have a family physician to ensure that they are on the registry. It's my understanding that there are about 500 people in the Souris area who are on the registry who are looking for a doctor. 

And it's also my commitment and our commitment to continue actively with all of the efforts that are being made, and any other efforts that can be made with recruitment. And if there's anybody out there who knows a physician we should be approaching, then I totally encourage them to let us know.

7. On January 5, there was a lawsuit filed against the province seeking abortion services here on P.E.I. I guess you have two options: to fight the status quo or to change how we do things here.  Where do we stand there? 

That was a notice of litigation, and there's a 90-day period for the province to respond. The lawyers in government are looking at this and assessing the various points that have been made ... what the precedents may be or what the jurisprudence might be elsewhere.

We haven't taken that through to a definitive view yet, but that's underway. 

8. As a final one tonight, there is a huge segment of this P.E.I. population that believes that a move on HST — 14 to 15 per cent —  is inevitable. What do you say?

I think people can wait until there is a budget. There are a lot of factors that go into that and considerations. We've made a commitment to live within our means, so that means we are continuing to work on the expenditure side of things, and there are a lot of forces there. Especially expectations in health and education. 

And we also have to look at the revenue side of things, and that's something the Finance Minister has been working on and consultations are just completing this week. And I think that's something we can see come forward after the legislature opens in April. 

Editor's note: This interview was edited for length. 

With files from Bruce Rainnie


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