'What do you have to say to the people who have nowhere to sleep tonight?' Opposition asks

·3 min read

The P.E.I. government's spending priorities were put under the microscope Tuesday with both opposition parties focusing on the millions of dollars that were not spent in last year's capital budget.

Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said the province underspent on mental health and public housing while spending millions of dollars more on paving.

"Only about a quarter of the funds that were designated for housing actually got spent, but let's look at all the shiny new asphalt. It's not just this year, premier, it's last year as well," Bevan-Baker said from the floor of the provincial legislature.

"To the premier, what do you have to say to the people who have nowhere to sleep tonight, the 750 people who are currently on the government housing wait list. What about the people who are in crisis tonight struggling to access the mental health services that they so desperately need? How will paving help them?"

'Record investments'

According to capital budget, the province planned to spend $17.5-million on housing. It spent $9.5 million

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

The province had planned to spend $12-million on the mental health campus. It spent $2.7-million.

Premier Dennis King defended his government's record on both the mental health and public housing files.

"I believe that we've been making record investments in these areas, when you look at housing, the incredible rate in which construction is taking place, and if there is an underspend in that area, it's simply because the province doesn't have the ability to do any more," said King.

"That's not the government of Prince Edward Island, that's the industry in general. The construction industry is humming at a level, it's overheated… Our money is there. If fixing these important issues were just about money, I'd have them fixed this morning."

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

Opposition MLA Hannah Bell said the province needs to build 10 times more public housing units than what is planned.

That would be 1,000 units over the next five years. The province plans to open 100 public housing units over the next year.

The province has already awarded the design work for 10 units in Morell and 10 units in Georgetown. It is planning another 48 public housing units in the Charlottetown area and 32 in the Summerside area.

'Do appreciate the concern'

Bell said at the rate the province is going, the province will build less than half of what they are promising.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

"Given that there are 750 Islanders on the wait list for public housing, why are you planning for around 50 additional units?" Bell asked during question period.

Social Development and Housing Minister Ernie Hudson said he had hoped the province would have more public housing built by now. He said the global pandemic and the Island's red hot housing markets delayed the province's plans to build more housing.

"I certainly do appreciate the concern that the Opposition has stated with regards to the 100 builds that were announced in last year's capital budget," said Hudson.

"I'll be honest, a year ago I would have anticipated that we would have been further along with these."

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