Opposition calls for more equitable approach to P.E.I. road projects

The leader of P.E.I.'s Official Opposition is asking government for a more equitable approach when it comes to Island road projects.

Opposition leader points to significant differences in road work spending between districts

Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker says while he applauds government's commitment to maintaining the Island's existing roadways — that maintenance isn't happening fairly. (Shutterstock)

The leader of P.E.I.'s Official Opposition is asking government for a more equitable approach when it comes to Island road projects.

Peter Bevan-Baker said while he applauds government's commitment to maintaining the Island's existing roadways — that maintenance isn't happening fairly. 

Bevan-Baker raised the issue during question period in the legislature Wednesday, specifically pointing to government spending on paving projects over the last two years. 

He said in 2019 and 2020, former minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy Steven Myers spent more than $8 million on provincial paving projects in his own district, Georgetown-Pownal.

Bevan-Baker said some other rural districts saw spending of around $200,000 and asked Premier Dennis King to explain why there was such a difference. 

"The premier says we paved across Prince Edward Island but we did not pave equitably across Prince Edward Island. To the premier, is this an example of the broad and equitable access that you said was a hallmark of good government?" Bevan-Baker said.

'265 kilometres of pavement'

King said within that time, government paved 265 kilometres of road across the Island. More than $100 million is budgeted to be spent on highway improvements this year, a cost that will be shared between the federal and provincial government.

"I think if you look across 265 kilometres of pavement it's pretty extensive across P.E.I.," King said.

"I really do think anybody in this legislature who outlines some of their needs within their communities that this government and those before it and those to come after it, Mr. Speaker, will always be there to try to accommodate as best we can." 

Bevan-Baker asked King how he would address spending on paving projects to ensure all Islanders benefit.

"What are you going to do to ensure that all Islanders, regardless of whether you live in a blue, a green or a red district will receive equitable funding to maintain the roads on which we work and live?" 

King said he wants to work with every MLA in the legislature to pave as many roads as possible within the budget, regardless of political colours. 

"A big part of being here is trying to be as consistent and fair as possible," King said. "We will work with every MLA, or any individual group, community or otherwise who wants to move this Island forward." 

Work in Kings County overdue

Myers, now minister of environment, told CBC News that the department did do a lot of paving in his district during that time.

He said his district is large and contains a lot of high traffic roadways, including a section of the Trans-Canada Highway, Route 3, Route 4 and the 48 road.

"There's some big long stretches of road that are primary roads for people to travel, for goods to get to market," Myers said.

He said many of the roads were in very bad shape and many of the projects were long overdue.

"The road supervisors and engineering staff on the Island have lists as long as my arm of things that need to be done in any given year," Myers said.

"Whoever is sitting in the department tries to say here's what the priorities will be this year and that's all that happened last year. It certainly wasn't me just sitting there marking things off. It was a whole bunch of people came together with a whole bunch of wants and needs and we tried to address them."

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