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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - As the fall sitting of the P.E.I. legislature concluded Wednesday, Opposition and government MLAs noted the session had been marked by a rare quality in politics: co-operation.
Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry arrived at the Coles Building at 5 p.m. to officially close the session, capping off a sitting that lasted just over three weeks.
The session is closing days before new polling numbers are due to be released by Corporate Research Associates. Recent polling by the company has shown numbers for the governing Liberal party dropping, while support for the Green party continues to rise.
Seemingly undeterred, Premier Wade MacLauchlan emphasized the achievements of his government on Wednesday night, but also drew attention to the instances of collaboration across the aisle.
MacLauchlan pointed to the passing of the Island’s largest ever capital budget in November. The $154 million capital budget including funding for a new high school in Stratford, as well as new investments in mental health and infrastructure. The budget comes at a time of significant economic growth on the Island.
MacLauchlan also emphasized his government’s efforts to reduce costs for Islanders. He noted the increases to the basic personal income tax exemption and cuts to small business taxes.
"Our province is doing well and we're in a position to take substantive initiatives and invest for Islanders to continue doing well," MacLauchlan said.
MacLauchlan also cited the passing of two bills, the Climate Leadership Act and an amendment to the Gasoline Tax Act, which will put in place the Island’s carbon pricing regime. The bills will see a net one cent rise in gasoline taxes in 2019 and another cent rise in 2020.
Opposition Leader James Aylward viewed the closing of the session as bittersweet. The session will be Aylward’s last as leader of the opposition, as the PC party is in the midst of a leadership race.
A leadership convention is scheduled for Feb. 9.
“I feel it’s going to be an extremely busy winter,” Aylward said.
Aylward said he was proud of the passage of two private members’ bills introduced by PC members during the session. One bill, introduced by Borden-Kinkora MLA Jamie Fox, will require incoming judges to receive sexual assault training, while another, introduced by Morell-Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen, will see the creation of an autism secretariat to help coordinate autism-related programming on the Island.
The Green party also had successes during the session. Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker said the party managed to pass its first ever private members bill, which would officially recognize arts and culture organizations and clean tech companies as being under the mandate of Innovation P.E.I.
The party also passed amendments to a government bill that will require post-secondary institutions to pass sexual violence policies, and introduced a motion, which was passed unanimously, condemning the practice of conversion therapy.
"In terms of our legislative achievements, it was a good session for us," Bevan-Baker said.
Echoing the sentiment from Opposition and government MLAs, Speaker Buck Watts also noted the co-operative tone of the session in his closing remarks.
“It was probably the best session I’ve seen as speaker,” Watts said.