Online P.E.I. budget consultation aims to involve more people

·2 min read

P.E.I.'s finance minister says virtual town hall meetings have helped her hear from a broader range of Islanders as she prepares the upcoming provincial budget.

Twenty-eight people took part in Tuesday afternoon's budget consultation in a two-hour public video conference.

Finance Minister Darlene Compton hosted the online event, part of an effort because of the pandemic, and also to include a broader range of people who may not have been able to go to an in-person meeting.

"It's winter," said Compton. "To do it from your office or from your home does make it definitely easier.

"So I guess we're keeping with the times and also taking into consideration COVID."

A live event Thursday at 7 p.m. on Facebook will give Islanders another chance to have their say. There's also an online tool on the province's website, where Islanders can provide written submissions, and even upload documents.

The online tool has been open to the public for weeks. The Facebook event will have captioning in American Sign Language. These innovations, and others, are aimed at increasing the diversity of voices that are heard, according to the province.

"It gives people the opportunity to consult and have their input," said Compton.

Five of the seven people who registered to make formal presentations at Tuesday's virtual town hall were women.

Student loans, heat pump funding raised

UPEI Student Union vice-president Malak Nassar called on the province to extend the suspension of student loan payments. Darcie Lanthier, a Green Party member and advocate of renewable energy, proposed changes to how heat pump energy rebates are administered, to reduce upfront expenses for low-income participants.

Montague resident Brooks Roche presented economic arguments for extending government support for insulin pumps for people with Type 1 diabetes.

Compton agreed with one observer's comment, that the online format seemed to speed things up.

"People, I think, tend to maybe be a little more succinct when they're online and they're on video," said Compton.

More than 40 people have made online written submissions, and the online tool will remain open until Jan. 22.

Results of the public consultations will be included in a report when the budget is tabled in the legislature later this year.

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