اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الجمعة 26 مايو 2023 09:26 مساءً
The P.E.I. government has tabled a budget that tops $3 billion in spending, including substantial investments in housing and health care.
Investments in housing include $6 million to offset property tax increases for homeowners and $1 million for a new rent-to-own program for first-time homebuyers.
It's a step in the right direction, said Cory Pater of the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing.
"It's a serious amount of money being spent on housing and it's really good to see that," he said.
"Ultimately this amount of money, while it's a lot, it's not enough to alleviate the issue."
He said the rent-to-own program only benefits those who have the means to eventually own a home — Islanders with the time and money required for upkeep.
"That does sting. We would like to see more investment in rental units that become available to people because a substantial amount of Islanders are tenants," he said.
"We need to see more resources put into rental accommodation and social housing."
For the first time, spending in the province's operating budget will top $3 billion, with a projected deficit this fiscal year of $97.5 million and a plan to continue deficit spending for at least the next three years.
"It will not surprise anyone in this chamber that the budget I present today has three key areas of focus: health care, housing and affordability," Finance Minister Jill Burridge said Thursday.
"The investments in this budget are purposely interconnected with the ultimate goal of making lives better for all Islanders. The budget I present to you is our plan. It's a plan that is balanced and responsible."
'A good starting place'
The budget also included $25 million to develop new lots for development, and a plan to expand a program offering low-interest loans to developers.
Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I., said it's difficult to say at this point what the impact will be.
"It's a good starting place for sure, it's great to see the investment in helping rural communities become better prepared and more efficient," he said.
"We need more housing, and the availability to expedite permits and the ability to think outside the box .. is absolutely huge."
But Sanderson said the industry is still stretched to capacity, and that doesn't seem to be improving any time soon.
"We're still getting calls every day for Fiona repairs and things like that, so we are behind the eight ball there, and our workforce is not increasing rapidly and the demand continues to increase so you don't have to be a mathematician to figure that out," he said.
"They've been working beyond capacity now since 2021."
'Great news to hear'
Investments in health care include $22 million for the new medical school at UPEI this year and $1.3 million to make tuition free for paramedics and licensed practical nurses starting this fall.
Bill Hawkes, a first first year paramedic student at Holland College, welcomed the news.
"It was definitely great news to hear. I'm paying for school through loans so that's going to make it a lot easier coming out of school at the end," he said.
"It was definitely a great weight lifted off the shoulders and hopefully it'll attract more people who weren't able to come to school at all because of the high cost of tuition."
Hawkes is completing a practicum out of province, but plans to return to finish his education this fall — and has no intention of leaving the Island once he's graduated.
"The free tuition's definitely going to keep me there."
More budget highlights
$6 million to create 100 new positions in the education system.
$4 million to bring child-care rates down to $10 a day by the end of this year.
$1 million to increase the bursary for Island students who go to post-secondary school on the Island to $3,000 per student.
$3 million to change the fees for medication to $5 and add new drugs to the provincial formulary.
$9 million to hire new health-care staff.
$2.7 million for teams to support mental health.
$250,000 toward making birth control free for all Islanders
$2 million dollars to help workspaces become more accessible.
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