Island New Democrats are promising $100 million for farmers, fibre internet for rural Islanders, a new medical facility at UPEI and a family doctor for every Islander within 18 months.
The NDP rolled out the first of its election platforms at a news conference in Charlottetown on Thursday.
The promises also include a new Western P.E.I. addictions treatment facility, doubling medical residencies immediately, more provincial manor capacity, 2,000 new affordable housing units, an all-electric provincial vehicle fleet, a new provincial pension plan that covers all Islanders, 16 doctors each for West Prince and Kings County and 40 new doctors and specialists.
It’s a platform that would certainly cost a lot of money.
The first question from the media to Joe Byrne, leader of the Island New Democrats, was how the party plans to pay for it all.
“There’s money in the system, and the question we’ve been asking for a long time as New Democrats is, why do we spend money?’’ Byrne said, adding that they will attach an actual dollar figure to their plan in the weeks ahead.
He used the Cornwall bypass as an example, $58 million that could have been spent elsewhere.
“What we’re saying is that we need to make a series of different choices. When we invest in farms and farm families, this is money we will get back. When farmers can produce this is how we sell cars; this is money in the economy.’’
Health hub pilot
- The NDP intends to create a hub program, one in Charlottetown and one in North Rustico
- The North Rustico plan would consist of a new sports, recreation and wellness facility
- It would include medical, dental, mental, psychological, education and financial services
Byrne also argued that it’s time to stop government stalling on fibre broadband for rural Islanders. It was promised in 2007 and it was in the throne speech in 2017.
As for the doctor shortage that government after government has tried to solve, the NDP wants to build a medical faculty at UPEI, similar to the Atlantic Veterinary College. Since the Island doesn’t have enough doctors, the NDP will see to it that the province educates its own.
“We have some short targets to attract some new physicians into the system and that is why the residencies gives us the most immediate effect.’’
The NDP says it will double the number of residency positions on P.E.I. this year and triple them by 2020, allowing hospitals to have more professionals on site to speed up health care and reduce the stress on existing medical professionals.
Byrne believes supplying fibre internet for the rural part of the province would go a long way to helping entice physicians to stay.
“We’ve heard time and again where physicians come here, they like living here (and) some physicians leave here because they don’t have access to fibre broadband in rural areas and they have to think of their children and their families.’’
The NDP is the first part party to release an election platform. Byrne said they were generating ideas and it was time to start the discussion.
A provincial election is widely expected to take place sometime this spring.