Housing, carbon emissions, poverty targeted in P.E.I. throne speech

The P.E.I. government announced a number of new strategic initiatives in the throne speech opening the fall session of the legislature Thursday.

New high-speed fibre network to be part of capital budget

New Lieutenant-Governor Antoinette Perry reads her first speech from the throne. (Government of P.E.I.)

The P.E.I. government announced new strategic initiatives in the throne speech opening the fall session of the legislature Thursday.

  • Poverty reduction strategy.
  • Carbon mitigation strategy.
  • P.E.I. housing strategy.
  • High-speed internet strategy.

The housing strategy is linked to a previous commitment to grow the population to 160,000 by 2022.

P.E.I. was the fastest-growing province in the country last year, and that growth has in turn led to pressure on the housing market.

"The state of housing supply has been challenging in some parts of our province. Access to appropriate and affordable housing can be limited," the speech says.

"We will establish a Housing Supply Task Force to look at the best approaches in all part of the province."

The speech also promises a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, starting with the creation of a poverty reduction advisory council.

"Drawn from communities across the province, we will look at all aspects of poverty, including housing, food, education, employment and health," the speech says.

It promises a report in 2018.

The government intends to present a carbon mitigation strategy and a climate change adaptation plan in early 2018.

This is in response to a federal government deadline, which will impose a carbon tax on provinces that don't have their own plans next year.

New spending

The capital budget will also be tabled during this sitting.

The government said the newly balanced budget puts it in a strong position to invest in infrastructure.

In particular, the speech promises a high-speed fibre network running from tip to tip of the province.

"We believe that Prince Edward Island can be ... the first province in our country to have tip-to-tip or province-wide high-speed coverage," said Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

One of the things PC leader James Aylward says he wanted to see in the Throne speech was a detailed plan for how government will improve access to long-term care beds on P.E.I. (Rick Gibbs/CBC News)

The premier made a similar statement in the legislature in November 2016, saying P.E.I. would have the "most complete" internet coverage in the country by the end of 2017. That was referencing work undertaken by the company Xplornet, which won a federal contract to provide high-speed wireless internet service in the province.

MacLauchlan said that work is proceeding as scheduled, but "what we're talking about now will be at a faster speed, both uploading and downloading."

Opposition: we've heard it before

Internet service providers will be able to connect to the fibre network, making it easier for them to provide high-speed service to businesses and home across the province.

For both opposition parties in the House, the internet announcement was just another example of a throne speech commitment they felt they'd heard before.

"We've been talking about high-speed internet since essentially 2008," said PC Leader James Aylward. "We've been talking about poverty reduction since 2011. These issues just continue to come up and government keeps making announcements, essentially regurgitates the promises over and over again."

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker expressed the same thought this way: "If I was to give the throne speech a title, it would be, 'We're gonna try again and this time we might even get it right.'"