After 22 days of debate, the spring sitting of the P.E.I. legislature came to a close Friday afternoon.
The sitting saw the MacLauchlan Liberals present a budget with a modest $601,000 surplus. The last balanced budget passed on P.E.I. was in 2006, under PC premier Pat Binns.
Government passed 16 pieces of legislation. Of those, Premier Wade MacLauchlan says his government’s biggest achievement this spring was passing four bills to provide more protection and support for children at risk, particularly those at the centre of heated custody disputes.
But both opposition parties say those measures don’t go far enough. As they have in each sitting since the fall of 2015, Progressive Conservatives and the legislature’s lone Green MLA continued to press government to appoint a child advocate for the province.
Government also passed legislation which could open the door for midwives to finally be able to operate in the province.
No school closures
Hours before the spring sitting began, the premier held a media conference to announce cabinet wouldn’t allow any schools to close, despite a months-long review, and recommendations from the Public Schools Branch that three schools be closed.
The debate over that review process dominated the early days of the sitting, with a former director of the Public Schools Branch Pat Mella delivering an incendiary letter of resignation to Education Minister Doug Currie on the second day of the sitting, saying she was “thrown under the bus” by government.
Stiffer penalties for deleted emails
A bill that lays out penalties for those who contravene the province’s Archives and Records Act was also passed.
That bill was in response to the auditor general’s discovery during her e-gaming investigation that some government emails that should have been retained were deleted.
At the insistence of the Opposition, government stiffened the penalties included in the bill, passing an amendment stipulating a civil servant could be terminated, along with facing a fine of up to $10,000.
In the final week of the sitting the Opposition turned its focus once again to the province’s failed bid to become a regulator of online gambling, questioning what the current Finance Minister Allen Roach knew about the plan at the time, and calling for his resignation.
What didn’t pass
In some ways the sitting was notable for some…