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  Main > Indepth Features > Keeping their word
Voting Day September 29, 2003  
Indepth  Features

Keeping their word
Mitch Cormier | CBC Online News | Sept. 17

Premier BinnsThe Tories say this election campaign is all about continuing to build. On Sept. 2, the night Binns called this election race, he took time to highlight the Tories’ record in office. The Conservative leader had been delivering the message all summer long.

In June, while the party faithful ate strawberry shortcake, Binns talked about accomplishments in job creation, education and health care.

In August, while the party faithful ate corn on the cob, Binns continued to hammer home the point, talking about improvements in health care, job creation, and education.

If this is an election about the Tory record, it only stands to reason that a review of past promises is in order.

Balanced budgets

The Binns government has never moved to legislate balanced budgets, but it did promise to take better care of the public purse if handed a second mandate.

Since then there have been three consecutive deficit budgets. Each year since 2000 Treasurer Pat Mella has stood before Islanders and delivered budgets blaming unforeseen pressures.

  • 2002-2003: $11.4-million deficit
  • 2001-2002: $14.5-million deficit
  • 2000-2001: $35-million deficit

PotatoesBinns reasons that everything from the discovery of potato wart in a single potato field in central P.E.I., to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to severe acute respiratory syndrome has caused the deficits.

"I think when we have issues like that we have to respond in a general way," Binns says. "The important part at the end of the day is that our expenditures have remained about on target from where we expected they would be."

Binns says his government has tried to run a tight ship during the mandate.

During the first two weeks of the campaign there has been little talk about the deficits, or keeping balanced budgets. The Conservative campaign has continued to talk about investing more money in most sectors of the Island economy.

Liberal Leader Robert Ghiz has topped every Tory promise, pledging to spend more and do it quicker.

Health Care

The health-care promises were at the top of the Binns campaign platform three years ago. In the days after this election campaign was announced, the Tories had a flyer delivered to each home outlining some of the promises that the Conservative government has made and kept.

A new MRI machine is open and operating at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. And the new cancer treatment centre is also open, saving Islanders from having to travel off Island for treatment.

The areas of doctor and nurse recruitment are a bit more hazy, and have been a subject of debate during the campaign.

"In the last year and a half we have about 17 additional doctors working on P.E.I.," Binns says. "Those are not replacement doctors; those are additional doctors on top of the complement we had a year and a half ago."

health careThe medical society says that statement needs to be tempered with the fact that while new doctors have come to the province, others have left. There are also questions about why some physicians are working in part-time positions while there are full-time jobs open.

The Tories are promising to bring more doctors to the Island. During this election campaign, they are pledging to hire 20 more.

Binns is also quick to point out that 60 new nurses have been hired since he started his second mandate.

"We've added over 60 full-time equivalent nursing positions to the system on P.E.I. That means more full-time workers on the frontline of the health-care system. Those are facts. And it does support the fact that we're doing more in terms of health care," he says.

And there's a promise this time around to hire another 80.

The nurses union became involved in this debate last week, saying Binns did not keep his promise and that both his new promise and the Liberal's pledge to hire 200 more nurses are simply cases of political wishful thinking.

Margaret Duffy-MurphyMargaret Duffy-Murphy says part-time nurses who were working on the Island filled most of the positions that were created. There are also a number of the positions that have not been filled.

She says a government can promise to create thousands of nursing positions but there are just not enough graduates to fill the jobs. There is competition from all over North America for the nurses that are entering the profession.

While both parties may promise to create new positions, the union would like to see a promise to fill them.


Keeping all schools open was a promise Binns made in 1996, and again in 2000. A promise kept.

The Binns government also spent $8.3 million on new funding for Holland College and UPEI.

It also brought in a new math curriculum.

However, the teachers union saysthe government Educationstill has to address the technology gap. It says the $3 million for technology upgrades and teacher training has not been enough to keep up with the changes in the computer industry.


Pat Binns promised to make some changes to environmental policies during the 2000 election campaign.

Spraying potatoesDuring the most recent term, the government restricted the use of some farm chemicals, and placed restrictions on where others can be used.

It also made a number of changes to land use laws including the introduction of buffer zone legislation and three-year crop rotation. These new rules are tough compared to moves made by past governments to control land use, and they have not been without some opposition.

The province is still discussing ways to compensate farmers who had to give up some of their land in the name of the new rules.

As promised, a new drinking water strategy has been developed, along with a $12-million investment in soil and water conservation.

LandfillThe government also closed a number of landfill sites when the Waste Watch program was put in place. These have not been without controversy, a group of people in Hazelbrook is still fighting the decision to open a construction and demolition dump in their area, and have made it an election issue with anti-PC signs popping up along the road.

Waste Watch is in now in place across the Island. However, there are still a number of concerns about the $155-a-year fee being charged to homeowners and the pickup schedules for blue bags and carts.

Community Development

The Binns government did make good on its promise to bring in a provincial 911 emergency system.

It missed the mark on a promise to explore mass transit for the province. The only move in this direction was by the City of Charlottetown, an initiative independent of the provincial government.




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