The Liberal record

Teresa Wright
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Mixed results for Liberals on election promises

Promises, promises

Promises. Many were made during the 2007 election.  

The Liberals mounted a massive campaign four years ago and made a long list of election promises to sway voters to their side.

The party used then-Opposition Leader Robert Ghiz’s image and the slogan ‘Islanders First For A Change’ in every Liberal publication, advertisement and election sign.

With their energetic young leader, they wanted to impart the idea that a new Liberal government would change the state of the province into one focused on new initiatives that would benefit all Islanders.

It worked.

The Liberals swept to power in the fall of 2007 and have spent the past four years in a majority government, able to pass laws and put forward initiatives uncontested.

But with another election now in full throttle, all those promises are now being scrutinized by Islanders and political pundits looking for some measure of how well the Liberals kept their word to voters, and whether Robert Ghiz deserves another term as premier.

A doctor for every Islander

During the last election, Ghiz’s team rolled out a comprehensive platform, broken down into 10 different categories: health care, education, post-secondary education, agriculture, fisheries, communities, environment, water quality, tax fairness and government accountability.

Attached to each of those was dozens of promises. Some were big and expensive, others smaller and more targeted.

There was, however, one that stood out as the biggest and most memorable — a doctor for every Islander.

A huge promise, with no exceptions, provisos or stipulations attached.

“Every Islander deserves access to a family physician, and we will achieve that goal within the time frame of the initial mandate of a new Liberal government,” Ghiz said when he unveiled this promise on May 7, 2007.

“I want you to write this one down, because I expect to be held accountable for that commitment,” he added. “A new Liberal government will ensure that every Islander has access to a family doctor. Period.”

But this promise has proved an elusive goal.

As of Aug. 31, there were 4,480 Islanders still without a family physician, waiting on the province’s patient registry.

That is an improvement from just a month before when almost 6,000 Islanders were listed on the registry, and government did tell The Guardian that two new doctors — Dr. Chris King and Dr. Kiley O’Neill — were scheduled to begin practicing Tuesday at the Boardwalk Professional Center in Charlottetown.

But that still leaves thousands of Islanders waiting on the registry with no doctor.

 Golf courses

Another previous election promise that remains unfulfilled is one in which Ghiz pledged to sell the four provincially-owned golf courses.

Under the former administration led by Pat Binns’ Progressive Conservatives, these golf courses were losing $1 million a year in operating costs.

At the time, Ghiz and his fellow four-member Liberal Opposition criticized these losses repeatedly on the floor of the legislature. Then, during the 2007 election campaign, Ghiz pledged to rid taxpayers from this financial liability. He said the private sector should not have to compete with the public sector for golf business.

“Too many Island dollars have been spent on golf,” Ghiz said during in an election speech on May 25, 2007.

“They are wonderful facilities, and we believe it is entirely appropriate to begin a request for proposals process as soon as possible.”

But just one year after taking office, the ‘for sale’ signs were taken off the four provincial courses.

Then-Tourism Minister Valerie Docherty said selling them was a more complicated issue due to multiple contracts and partnerships involved. She also cited the troubled economy at the time as a major factor in taking the courses off the market.

The province still owns and operates the golf courses.

In fact, during the most recent sitting of the legislature, Opposition Leader Olive Crane questioned Tourism Minister Robert Vessey on whether his government’s previous pledge to sell the courses was something it was still planning to pursue.

Vessey responded by saying it “wasn’t a good time.”

“I guess it’s not in the forefront right now, it’d be safe to say,” Vessey said.

Gas tax

Not all of Ghiz’s 2007 election promises went unfulfilled. Many of them were indeed kept in full or in part over the past four years.

One of the first promises kept was one that gave an immediate and tangible benefit to almost all Islanders. Just days after winning the election, Ghiz cut the provincial tax on gasoline by 4.4 cents per litre.

This was one of several promises he made to “improve the tax burden on families and individuals.”

Ghiz also pledged, during a campaign news conference on May 1, 2007, to keep it capped at this new, lower rate “regardless of what happens to the price of fuel elsewhere in the world.”

He delivered this promise immediately after taking office and has not changed the gas tax since, despite four years of volatile oil markets and world price fluctuations.

George Coles Bursary

Another 2007 election promise kept by the Ghiz administration was one made to Island students.

The Liberals promised a one-time $2,000 grant to any full-time P.E.I. student entering the UPEI and a comparable grant for those attending Holland College.

In April 2008, the George Coles Bursary program was unveiled. It offers full-time first-year students from P.E.I. $2,000 toward their tuition at UPEI, and Island students registered in a two-year program at Holland College a bursary of varying amounts depending on the rate of tuition.

According to the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning, more than $11.3 million has been awarded to P.E.I. students through these programs since 2007.

These are just a few of dozens of promises made to Island voters by Ghiz and his Liberal team during the last election. Some were kept and some were broken. Some were partially acted upon, others ignored or perhaps forgotten.

But UPEI political scientist Peter McKenna doesn’t believe Ghiz’s record on keeping or breaking his promises will have a lasting affect on his results this time around. That’s because voters have become disillusioned by broken promises of elections past, he said.

“I think people have become a little bit cynical about governments and politicians and about the promises they make during the cut and thrust of a campaign,” he said.

“I think they accept that’s going to be part of the game but I don’t think they expect that those are going to be implemented to a tee. “

McKenna said he always believed Ghiz’s big promise — a doctor for every Islander — was “highly unlikely” to materialize and that both Ghiz and PC Leader Oliver Crane should be careful about making those kinds of promises this time around.

“The Liberals haven’t been able to deliver a doctor for every Islander, and I don’t think any government could deliver that without breaking the bank in doing it,” he said.

“I think parties have to be pretty careful about spending the taxpayers’ money and making promises this time around, given the fiscal realities of the situation today.”

In the end, it will be up to Islanders to decide whether the Liberals’ record at keeping — or breaking — promises will be enough to influence their voting decision.

Click on PAGE 2 for more promises

Organizations: Holland College, Islanders First For A Change, Boardwalk Professional Center Progressive Conservatives Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning

Geographic location: Iceland, P.E.I., Charlottetown.But

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • VOTE VOTE VOTE
    September 08, 2011 - 16:52

    @ You have my vote..........just because you got high speed internet your going to vote for them.....OMG what in the hell are you doing?

  • VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE
    September 08, 2011 - 16:38

    The reason why most of this island votes Liberal is because most of them are promised a job or know someone who can get them a job!! Patronage lives with this party!!!! They ALL have there hand in the cookie jar...MONEY GREED GOES HAND IN HAND with the LIBERAL GOVERNMENT

  • Robert
    September 08, 2011 - 13:22

    A promise made is a debt unpaid...And the trail has its own stern code.

  • Ivor Sargent
    September 08, 2011 - 09:44

    My dealings with government officials during the past five years have been frustrating, to say the least. There are serious conflicts in governing legislation that create enormous problems for citizens who are caught in the middle of Departmental jurisdictions. Inter-Departmental communication is virtually non-existent. When complaints arise, the buck is either passed to another Department or stonewalled. When complaints reach the Ministerial level there is no political will to solve them. Incompetence is rampant from the lowest levels of bureaucracy to the Premier’s office. Provincial regulations that are applied in one case do not apply in others. Cabinet Ministers themselves are apparently immune from having to comply with existing governing regulations, and there is no political will to revise defective legislation that involves extensive administrative changes to the status quo. Citizens of this province are in desperate need of an Ombudsman. Mr. Ghiz tapped into this need by promising to appoint one prior to the last election. After the votes were counted, Mr. Ghiz broke his promise. The fact is that this government prefers to ignore complex problems rather than deal with them and an Ombudsman would be a constant pain in the butt to them. One thing is certain: the number of people queuing up for the help of the Ombudsman would create a traffic jam, and a huge staff would be required to service complaints.

  • We live the dream
    September 08, 2011 - 09:36

    So in order to make the Ghiz dream possible for as many Islanders to achieve, consumerism had to be created under the Ghiz government. Therefore Ghiz started with the PNP dream.. The point of consumerism is to get people to spend more by going into debt. The logic is that higher spending produces wealth for some people. The problem is that there is a limitation on how far people can go into debt. Eventually our local economy becomes a 'house of cards' because it is unable to create 'jobs of value,'(based on producing, creating and manufacturing). Instead more and more jobs are in the government or the service industry, catering to our insatiable need to consume. Eventually this type of faulty economy will result in financial chaos where institutions, banks and even government.

  • We live the dream
    September 08, 2011 - 09:09

    The Ghiz dream is the promise to have it all and enjoy it all. It's been glorified and sentimentalized as a one Island community goal not just by the media and government stars, but also by businesses and politicians, including famous Richard Brown. But in reality, many Islanders believe that their odds of winning the lottery are better than attaining the Ghiz dream. Because jobs were scarce at the time Ghiz was elected, the greatest aspiration for most Islanders was securing steady employment and owning their own home. As a result, work ethic and integrity were very strong. The focus was on a wholesome values system, family and community, all of which created pride, real prosperity and real joy. However, over time the same prosperity which resulted from being an Island of producers, also created an Island of consumers, driven not by need but rather by the desire to 'keep up with the Jones's.' Today, the Ghiz dream is more of a marketing concept, whereby University Avenue and government alike, have convinced people that they have to have a certain standard of living (and other 'toys') in order to be happy and fulfilled. In other words, we've been brainwashed to believe that, 'He with the most toys lives,' rather than 'He with the most joys lives.' By taking on even higher amounts of personal debt, Islanders are more stressed out and less optimistic and fulfilled then ever before despite their high standard of living. That's because 'toys' (material goods), without purpose and a wholesome values system, only produce an artificial joy that is as fleeting as it is cruel. The Ghiz ream as we know it, is no longer something that is born out of need and lack but rather out of greed and desire. Therefore, it does not represent the true spirit of Islanders, which was based on perspiration, innovation, risk and reward with the focus on a wholesome values system, integrity, family, community and a strong work ethic.

  • Santa
    September 08, 2011 - 08:54

    From a corporate welfare economy and huge government deficits, to our failing educational system and the break down of the family system (where kids are left home alone to grow up with their peers, innocent gangs and TV), practically every facet of our lives is negatively effected by the pursuit of materialism, which is a by-product of the Ghiz promises. In a materialistic-driven society where there is an obsession with fame and fortune and winning at all costs, the prevailing wisdom is to do what's politically correct, rather than doing what's in the best interest of the community. We should be grateful that we can vote, vote in the best interest of our Island.

  • Michael Nesbitt
    September 08, 2011 - 08:39

    High-speed internet, the voting issue? Incredible, especially when it comes from those - and I make a guess here due to the general availabiltiy - who live in the geographic outlands by choice or heritage. Things will change, folks, but magic is not reality. Gas is cheap, though we do like to complain about it. Compare it to the cost per unit volume of many other goods, considering the process it goes through to get to you (I'll choose carbonated sugar water - soda pop - as an example: on sale, about half the cost of gasoline or heating oil per litre. "Regular" price, about the same as fuel cost... and don't even get me started on convenience store pricing!) The proof that gas is cheap is the number of 5-8 passenger vehicles travelling around carrying only one person, or simply the frequency with which we drive our vehicles when walking or cycling would suffice. Many homes are still leaky seives and rely solely on oil to keep them at a Florida temperature in the worst of seasons. I'll have to profess ignorance on the tax on fuel, because although the Liberals reduced it by cents per litre my impression is that it is applied by % and therefore rises and falls with the price of oil. It is just another hand-out to the oil companies throught the citizens, much as tuition-applications are another hand out to the universities through students. If students had better-paying jobs they could cover their own costs. McKenna supposes that "have become a little bit cynical about governments and politicians and about the promises they make". A LITTE cynical? The Liberals mainly got elected because we fickle voters got tired of what we had in hand, and we are not alone. Opposition parties, everywhere, use the same "time for change" slogan to get their turn at the trough. Our provincial Prograssive Conservatives used it, with the added benefit of Callbeck's 7.5% unethical rollback, to get 11 years of favouritism. Personally, I think if it is time for a change then that change should come in the form of representation that has always been outside of the trough, either NDP, or Green or Independent as is most usual in our provincial scene. Stay with the same-old "choices" and we get the same-old results.

  • mceachern
    September 08, 2011 - 06:34

    Ask not what did they for you. Look at your community, what did they do for your community. We are all brothers and sisters, remember? Way to much debt and way to many entitled self enriched with zero accountability. Thank You

  • You have my vote
    September 07, 2011 - 21:21

    You promised me high speed internet and now i got it. One vote for you Alan in China Point.

    • Martin Burge
      September 08, 2011 - 07:31

      Some people may have lucked out but I am still waiting, and waiting and waiting for high speed internet. No sign of it where I live. The Liberals don't get my vote..sorry.

  • Senior
    September 07, 2011 - 21:06

    Is proff.Mckenna the only expert on political matters at UPEI.IF he is I will essure that none of my grandchildren attend that university.Disgusted with his continuous Liberal rant.

  • paul
    September 07, 2011 - 21:00

    a promise is either kept or not .If a promise is only part done , it is not kept I have a hard time with this one . Where was the all the developnment outside of the city's . No wait I will close a shop in Milton area and move it to Tignish.Ya that makes sense. I am all for developnment outside of the city's but don't rob Peter to pay Paul. Not only that but instead of having this central , it is a one end of the island , Even Ronnie should be able to do the math on this one . As we all know gas is not cheap . Another waste of OUR money .WOW.