P.E.I. Greens question role of PC MLA, business group in forming economic plan
'I don't see where the problem is whatsoever,' says Premier Dennis King
P.E.I. Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is questioning the role of government House leader Sidney MacEwen, and his work with the Partnership for Growth, a recently-formed alliance of Island businesses and organizations.
Premier Dennis King assigned MacEwen to a commission to work with the partnership and other groups to develop economic growth strategies.
For several days, Bevan-Baker has been questioning government's work with the group. In his latest line of questioning, Bevan-Baker raised concerns in question period on Tuesday about MacEwen's role, since he is not in cabinet.
"The whole purpose of question period is that private members can ask questions that hold government to account, openly and in public," Bevan-Baker said.
"But because the member is not part of government, I cannot ask him questions directly."
'I don't see where the problem is'
In a question to King, Bevan-Baker suggested having a backbench MLA in this leadership role is both unfair to MacEwen, and also "undermines our ability to hold your government to account."
In response, King said he saw no issue with MacEwen's role.
"I don't see where the problem is whatsoever," King said.
"He's got no legislative authority to implement anything here. He's listening, he's encouraging, he's working with, in partnership with. Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Isn't that what collaboration is?"
Several days of questions
Bevan-Baker's questions Tuesday come after two other series of questions last week.
In question period on Thursday, Bevan-Baker asked the minister of economic development and tourism why he is "handing off the development of our province's economic plan to business lobbyists."
On Friday, he asked government to include other groups in consultations, such as labour groups and the non-profit sector.
MacEwen said working with the Partnership for Growth does not exclude other groups from meeting with government. But he said he believes the group will be able to provide useful advice, as it represents a "significant portion of P.E.I."
"This is what we've been trying to do for years, is get all these groups together so that we don't have 200 different little groups all trying to meet with government. When they take this upon themselves, I think we should be there to support them," MacEwen told CBC.
MacEwen said that while P.E.I. is doing well economically, there are issues that need to be looked at, such as labour shortages and building permit delays.
He believes the Partnership for Growth will be able to provide useful advice, which government can act on.
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With files from Kerry Campbell