PEI

New P.E.I. government finds lots of money for 1st budget

P.E.I. Finance Minister Darlene Compton is projecting plenty of revenue for the P.E.I. government in the coming year, and has outlined plans to spend pretty much all of it.

$1.8M surplus projected

Darlene Compton delivers the PC minority government's first budget Tuesday. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

P.E.I. Finance Minister Darlene Compton is projecting plenty of revenue for the P.E.I. government in the coming year, and has outlined plans to spend pretty much all of it.

The budget, tabled in the legislature Tuesday afternoon, projects an extra $156 million in revenue over 2018-19, a 7.6 per cent increase. Virtually all of that will go to new program spending. The government projects a third surplus budget in a row for the province, coming in at $1.8 million.

About two thirds of the increased revenues — $94.2 million — is coming from federal transfers.

History-making

This is the first P.E.I. budget to be delivered by a minority government.

Compton said the budget was put together in collaboration with the Opposition Green Party and the third-party Liberals.

"History-making, I would say," she said of the budget process in the media lockup, "collaborating with both Opposition and third parties to make sure all Islanders are heard.

"None of us has gotten everything we want. That's just the nature of the beast."

But Compton expressed confidence that the budget would pass with the support of all three parties.

More teachers

The throne speech, delivered earlier this month, was thin on details on new investments for K-12, focusing instead on a new pre-K program and lifelong learning.

But the budget makes a start on a Progressive Conservative campaign promise to add 110 front-line education staff over the course of the first mandate. It promises 32 new teacher positions and 42 educational assistants to start this fall.

In total the budget contains an extra $15.2 million for education and lifelong learning.

In addition to the extra teaching positions, the new spending includes pilot projects for new school food programs.

A pre-school program for four-year-olds, a foundation of the Tory education platform, gets funding for assessment and public discussion of what it might look like.

Post-secondary institutions receive a two per cent increase in their grants, which the government hopes will keep down tuition increases.

Roads and bridges and water

The largest increase in spending comes in infrastructure, much of which is flowthrough from federal funding.

Ottawa is adding $88.6 million to its infrastructure programs in the province, for a total of more than $130 million.

Infrastructure spending breaks down into three main areas.

  • Roads and bridges: $56M
  • Water and wastewater: $13.8M
  • High-speed internet initiative: $17.4M

The government is also looking to spend on active transportation corridors, providing safer routes for cyclists and walkers, but does not specify how much it intends to spend.

Housing support

The throne speech promised to "accelerate the development of affordable housing supply, provide more rental supports."

The budget has delivered $4.4 million to support the building of affordable housing units in partnership with communities and developers, and another $2.2 million for rent supplements.

The net increase in the Social Development and Housing budget is up $4.4 million, as some seniors housing projects were completed last year.

A secure income pilot promised in the throne speech will remain in the development phase, with $225,000 set aside.

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About the Author

Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. You can reach him at kevin.yarr@cbc.ca.

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