Short fall sitting of P.E.I.'s minority legislature comes to an end
Leaders cite ‘efficient’ debate that saw bills speed through the house as has ‘never been seen'
The fall sitting of the P.E.I. legislature came to an end Thursday.
Including just 11 days of debate, it was the shortest sitting since the fall of 2014.
But MLAs covered a lot of territory in that time, with government passing more than 20 bills — the Official Opposition passing three of their own and backbench PC MLA Cory Deagle passing legislation to raise the age for vaping and tobacco products to 21, the highest age restriction in the country.
On Thursday, Dennis King's minority government of Dennis King also faced its latest confidence motion, easily winning the support of the assembly for its capital budget.
Two Liberals and four Green MLAs voted against the bill.
'Smooth and efficient'
Debate over legislation during the sitting proceeded at a brisk pace, largely because MLAs from all parties worked together behind the scenes providing copies of each other's bills, in some cases incorporating requested changes before the bills were printed, tabled and brought up for debate.
In other cases, opposition members were prepared with amendments in hand when seeking to make changes to legislation during debate.
"The smooth and efficient way by which we're passing legislation in this House is something that's truly remarkable and has never been seen before," commented Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker one day during question period.
"I think that what we have undertaken here as a 27-member legislature has really been, if not innovative, certainly collaborative and I think the results that we are delivering for Islanders are many," responded Premier King.
The overall tone of debate was less acrimonious than in the past, with King and Bevan-Baker in particular going out of their way at times to be cordial and complimentary to one another.
'Glimmers' of collaboration, says Liberal
Some members of the third party Liberals seemed less inclined, at times, to collaborate with the other parties.
On Wednesday, O'Leary-Inverness MLA Robert Henderson refused to provide his consent to allow government to speed up the passage of its spending bills, forcing the house to sit another day. At the time he said it was because he wasn't getting "reasonable answers" to questions on issues like government's plan to build rural healthcare hubs.
In debate Thursday, after much of the information he was asking for was finally provided, he said government, "in great, boastful ways ... talks about how collaborative it is, how it's open and transparent ... there are glimmers of that."
"I wasn't getting those questions and answers back. Now all of a sudden today there's maps thrown at me, there's e-mails coming," Henderson said. "That's great. That's how this legislature is supposed to work."
More than 20 bills passed
All three parties in the house were in agreement on one of the more significant bills to come before the house: legislation to create an independent child advocate for P.E.I.
There was also unanimous support for Deagle's bill to raise the age for smoking and vaping.
Other bills passed during the sitting include:
- Legislation to open P.E.I.'s adoption records, but allowing a veto for birth parents or adoptees to keep their identities secret for adoptions that took place before Jan. 31, 2020.
- A bill to ban conversion therapy in the province.
- Legislation to broaden the provision of disability support services to include Islanders with "physical, intellectual, sensory, neurological or mental impairment."
- A bill put forward by the Green Party seeking data-sharing agreements with websites that co-ordinate short-term rentals in the province.
- Two bills were passed to provide more transparency around land and corporate ownership, with government promising more changes after a series of public consultations in the new year.