• Liberal Caucus

The Virtue of Collaboration

Over the past number of weeks, there has been a great deal of discussion about the virtue of “collaboration” in the political debate of Prince Edward Island.

In my opinion, collaboration is nothing new – and over the years, politicians of all partisan stripes have freely exchanged ideas, constructive criticisms and helpful advice.

But we cannot allow the word “collaboration” to serve as an excuse to avoid commitments and neglect promises.

Certainly, the noisy volume of debate in the Legislature has dropped. And that’s a positive. However, the occasional exchange of pleasant compliments and a reduction in heckling isn’t really enough to promote a healthy debate about our Island government – and our democracy.

As the House worked through its deliberations this summer, I began to become a little concerned that “collaboration” may become an excuse to do very little in pursuit of better services for Islanders.

Yes, we have a minority government.

And yes, it is the first minority government on Prince Edward Island in living memory.

But a minority government is not an excuse to avoid promises and duck requirements to act.

In fact, minority governments can often achieve a great deal. The minority federal Liberal government in the 1960s introduced medicare – and despite controversy, gave us our national flag. In both cases, these were large and significant achievements.

In the case of our current provincial government, a series of commitments were made during the recent election.

These included:

· Immediate work on a new mental health hospital

· A free vaccine for seniors to prevent shingles

· Increases to financial assistance provided to post-secondary students

· A reduction to small business taxes

· And an immediate program to provide assistance to tenants.

Remember, this was the program upon which the current government was elected. Unfortunately, none of these short-term commitments were kept.

Now, I know that a degree of patience is both warranted and required.

However, I also know that the money is available to fund these promises.

In fact, government revenues are up about $156 million over last year. Additionally, government budgeted about $18 million in a “contingency” fund.

And, when asked about keeping these specific commitments, Islanders were repeatedly told that a minority government makes that impossible.

At the risk of sounding non-collaborative, that’s nonsense.

If the current government wants to fulfil the promises listed above, they will enjoy the support of the Liberals in the House; they will undoubtedly be supported by the Opposition Greens – and they will probably be commended by the Islanders who voted for them on the basis of those commitments.

So, let’s embrace collaboration as a tool to build better decorum and a more refined debate.

But we cannot allow the word “collaboration” to serve as an excuse to avoid commitments and neglect promises.

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