pe-mi-education-debate

The leaders prepare to take the podium before the education debate. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

All five party leaders in P.E.I.'s provincial election pledged to maintain the number of teachers in the province's education system at a debate on Monday night.

About 30 people attended the debate on education, held at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown. It was the seventh leaders debate of the campaign.

The leaders were asked directly if they would retain the number of teaching positions.

"We can see where the enrolment numbers are leading," said Liberal Leader Robert Ghiz.

"If I had a guess, at some point we may need a few more teachers in our system if the enrollment patterns that I'm seeing turn out to be true."

NDP Leader James Rodd didn't feel a need to wait for enrolment numbers to go up.

"We would favour steps to increase the numbers," he said.

Ghiz said while he expected enrolment to go up in the short term, in the long term declining birth rates would likely lead to enrolment falling. He suggested Islanders needed to be encouraged to have more babies, but confessed he wasn't sure how to encourage that.

Progressive Conservative Leader Olive Crane said even if enrolments do fall, teacher positions don't need to be cut.

"I think it's a tremendous opportunity to keep the amount of teachers in the system even if the numbers go down," she said.

Rodd suggested in addition to encouraging a higher birth rate the province needed more immigration, and needed to keep those immigrants in the province. A good education system, he said, was a key part of that.

Short on details

Greg Campbell, vice principal of Stonepark Intermediate, was in the audience for the debate. He said he would have liked more details from the leaders on their plans.

"They never really came out an made any statements saying what they were going to give to schools and what kind of money they were going to throw at schools in order to help, in the resource area especially," said Campbell.

"I think they went around a lot of questions that they really didn't answer."

Prince Edward Islanders go to the polls Oct. 3.