Quick action on poverty, Water Act, promised in throne speech
Consultations on Water Act and land bank will begin within months
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King's new government delivered its first throne speech Friday morning.
The lengthy speech, running 16 pages, included an ambitious agenda of short- and long-term goals.
The government promised to complete some key objectives within the first six months of its mandate.
- Consult on a land bank that would help keep land for agricultural use within six months.
- Act upon key recommendations of the P.E.I. Poverty Reduction Strategy. That will include initiating a P.E.I.-specific secure income program pilot.
- Convene a panel of citizens and MLAs to consider reforms to the legislature, with the goal of changing the way public input is gathered, and information is released to the public.
- Complete and release Water Act regulations.
The Water Act regulations will include the commissioning of local science on the condition of the Island's groundwater resource that would be "free of all government or industry pressure."
The speech said a new mental health campus, announced by the previous Liberal government, will be the government's top infrastructure priority.
"A modern, state-of-the-art facility will be constructed and operational as quickly as can be achieved."
Also on the health front, the speech promises a revamped health professional recruitment strategy, one that will use doctors and nurses to help in recruitment.
Doctors will also be called upon to provide mentorship for early-career physicians.
A Tory promise to create a universal, pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds made it into the speech, along with the expansion of a long-term provincial school food program.
The speech sets a long-term goal of creating a carbon-neutral society for P.E.I.
Following the election, King had floated the idea of renegotiating the provincial carbon tax with Ottawa.
There is no talk of carbon tax in the speech, but of working with agriculture and trucking industries to accelerate innovations that lower emissions.
The speech made specific reference to the minority government situation the Tories find themselves in, and promised to work collaboratively to create a stable government.
It singled out areas where the Green Party Opposition and third party Liberals had made contributions to the government's plans.
"For the Official Opposition, these include housing, poverty elimination and climate change. Third party priorities conveyed include health care and education," the speech said.
"These priorities, shared by my government, will be included in the immediate focus of our collective work. This level of practical collaboration is what Islanders have called us to and what we will work to provide them."
On the housing front, the government acknowledged record-low vacancy rates as a historic challenge.
"We will accelerate the development of affordable housing supply, provide more rental supports, address short-term rental questions, and provide more regular and reasonable support for all tenants."
The speech also promised specialized housing supports for seniors to ensure they are safe in their communities.