CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Prince Edward Island’s economy is “on a tear,” Premier Wade MacLauchlan boasted during his state of the province address at the Rotary Clubs of P.E.I. annual premier’s dinner Monday evening.
MacLauchlan has become fond of using this quote from Fred Bergman of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, even including it in his speech from the throne in November.
On Monday, he had it in big, bold lettering in printed handouts sitting at each dinner guests’ place at the Rotary dinner as well as on a large screen at the front of the room.
He also included a number of charts and graphs highlighting the growth of the P.E.I. economy, including how the province has led the country in population growth since 2010 at 1.7 per cent and has led the region in nominal GDP growth in Atlantic Canada at 18 per cent.
This is a reflection of successes Island businesses and communities are experiencing, MacLauchlan said.
“There’s a lot going on,” he said.
“Our economy is growing, outpacing the Atlantic provinces and in key areas of the nation… this growth and this sustainable growth is occurring throughout our province.”
He pointed to investments Island business sectors have made to ensure this growth can continue, such as building more cold storage capacity for seafood and agriculture products, so that export of Island products can continue even during the off-season.
This well-performing economy has allowed the province to make investments in social programs, MacLauchlan continued, citing a campaign-style list of government spending initiatives, such as the $2 million spent on the generic drug program.
He ensured big-ticket items from his tenure as premier were duly highlighted, such as the $142.5-million underwater cable project, and that big-ticket promises of projects to come were mentioned, like the $55-million mental health campus and the $30-million high speed internet backbone.
But, he also pointed to two areas where the province will face “strains.”
While it’s good news that companies are hiring more Islanders than last year, the province has to ensure it is encouraging Islanders to train for the opportunities that exist in P.E.I., he said.
“We have 2,000 here in Prince Edward Island turning 65, and that doesn’t mean they stop work, but it does indicate there’s going to be an opportunity for replacement or transitions for new people,” he said.
“We have to be sure we’re encouraging our own people to be able, to have the skills… (and) to continue to tell our young people that there are opportunities.”
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Housing is also an area where the province is facing challenges in keeping up with demand. A housing supply task force has been created to tackle this challenge, he noted.
“The projection we can see is that 2018 will be a year where we will see a very significant undertaking in various parts of the province to build multi-unit housing to respond to the various needs while at the same time there continues to be a fully active construction sector responding to single-family or dual-family housing.”
Overall, MacLauchlan says he believes one of the best things the province can do to ensure continued growth and success is to simply highlight the positives by “telling our stories.”
He showed a map of P.E.I. with dots showing all the places he has travelled to talk to Islanders about their businesses and initiatives.
“In telling our stories to each other, we will, in turn, ensure the rest of the world understands that we are the ‘mighty Island’ that we are doing well and there’s no reason why we can’t continue to do well in all parts of Prince Edward Island with our diversified, integrated and sustainable economy.”