PEI

P.E.I. government hasn't applied for federal funding for school improvements, says MP

Questions are being raised about an announcement this week on expansions and improvements at thee P.E.I. schools. Charlottetown's MP says there's been no application for the federal money to do the jobs.

'If this doesn't get approved, we'll build it anyway. We are committed,' says provincial minister

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says an application for federal funding has not been made or approved for improvement and expansions at Eliot River Elementary. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Earlier this week, the province announced that with the help of federal money, expansions and improvements would be coming for three P.E.I. schools. But now Charlottetown's MP says there's been no application for the federal funding to do the jobs. 

On Tuesday the province issued a news release that said work on Montague Consolidated, Eliot River Elementary and West Royalty Elementary would start right away with a completion deadline of 2021. 

The release said the projects were "made possible" under the federal COVID-19 Resilience Stream infrastructure funding.

But according to Infrastructure Canada, no application has been received or approved from the province for those schools. 

"As of right now, there is no application," said Charlottetown MP Sean Casey. 

"There is no agreement."

'I hope there's an application that goes forward. I hope that the application fits under the criteria of the program and I hope that it's approved,' says Sean Casey. 'I'll do everything I can for that to happen.' (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

According to Casey, announcing federal funding without a formal agreement could also put the project at risk.

"The expansion of the school in West Royalty and probably the others is something that is desperately needed," said Casey. 

"I hope that the project hasn't been jeopardized by this."

'Cynical about the timing'

As the District 10 byelection nears — where many students that go to West Royalty live — other parties are questioning the nature and timing of the announcement. 

"We've had repeated administrations now use the byelection as a backdrop to make a promise to fix a school, a school that we know needed to be fixed a very long time ago," said Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker.  

"So one can certainly be cynical about the timing of this."

'We've had repeated administrations now use the byelection as a backdrop to make a promise to fix a school, a school that we know needed to be fixed a very long time ago,' says Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker.   (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

 Zac Murphy, the Liberal candidate in the upcoming byelection, also said "the timing does seem a little suspect." 

"First and foremost, we hope that this government isn't making these announcements to try to influence the election one way or the other," said Murphy.

"But at the end of the day, what we're most concerned with is making sure that this expansion actually does go ahead."

'This is political banter'

As for the province, it maintains the announcement had nothing to do with the byelection and said the application is just a matter of paperwork.

"Let's make no confusion here. There's no confusion. This is political banter," said Steven Myers, P.E.I.'s minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy. 

"This is politicians being politicians and nitpicking on things that they're trying to make an issue that don't matter to the average Islander."

'Are we doing it or not? We're doing it,' says Steven Myers. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Myers said he is also confident the announcement on Tuesday won't impact the province's ability to secure the funding. 

"In the past, we have announced things without them being approved and they've later been approved," he said.

"If this doesn't get approved, we'll build it anyway. We are committed." 

In an email to CBC News, Infrastructure Canada said projects need to be submitted then the department conducts a due diligence review of the application.

More from CBC P.E.I. 

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