Having been returned to government with a larger majority in April, the Progressive Conservative government, led by Premier Dennis King, unveiled its 2023-24 budget, with newly-elected MLA Jill Burridge as Finance Minister.
The budget projects a deficit of $97.6 million, with a 16.2% increase in overall spending. In particular, there is a 14% increase in healthcare spending. Of the $3 billion overall operating, one-third of this is health-related. In particular, $21.9 million is allotted for the establishment of the new Faculty of Medicine at the University of Prince Edward Island.
Housing issues featured prominently and two key initiatives are being undertaken. The Housing Challenge Fund, with funding of $50 million, will provide private developers with two percent financing for projects that are construction ready to spur immediate development. Secondly, an infrastructure fund of $25 million is earmarked to enable work with communities outside the capital area to develop construction-ready lots.
On the taxation side, the basic personal amount (BPA) will increase to reach $13,500 by 2024, the income threshold for the low-income tax reduction will rise by $750 in both 2023 and 2024, and a five-bracket income tax system will be implemented in 2024.
Key Minister Notes
The Minister made note of certain key metrics benefiting the province, which include:
PEI’s population continues to grow, reaching 173,954 this past January, up by 7,096 or 4.2% since the same time last year;
Employment had grown to an all-time high of 84,200 in 2022, and shown continued growth to 89,500 by April 2023; and
The island saw the strongest economic growth east of Ontario, in 2022.
An overview of budget highlights can be found below:
$8.9M – To add 100 front line positions and establish new medical homes across PEI
$1.1M – To launch a Rent-to-Own program with financing options for first-time homeowners to rent a property with the intent to purchase and to create a Closing Cost Housing Support program to provide first-time home buyers with closing costs for purchasing their first home
$1M – To create opportunities for tiny home communities in rural PEI where Islanders can purchase and build equity instead of paying rent
Housing Challenge Fund
$50M – To provide private developers with two percent financing for projects that are construction ready to spur immediate development
$25M – To work with communities outside the capital area to develop construction ready lots for Islanders
$250,000 – Funds added to the PEI Home Renovation Program to launch a low-income home repair grant to keep up with repairs and maintenance
Heat Pumps, Hot Water Heater and Insulation Programs
$20.1M – Continue to provide free heat pumps to households to help Islanders save on home heating costs, while also making homes comfortable and environmentally friendly
Property Tax Subsidy
$6M – Continue freezing property tax for the 2023 tax year and introduce legislation to reset assessment rates to levels equivalent to 2020 to prevent a sharp rise in property taxes in 2024
Public Transit Investment
$950,000 – A further investment in the Island-wide transit system to add more routes and continue to keep fares low for Islanders
Reducing Childcare Fees
$4M – To expedite the reduction of childcare fees to $10 a day for all children enrolled in designated centres before the end of 2023
Tax System Changes
$14M – Basic personal amount will increase to reach $13,500 by 2024, the income threshold for the low-income tax reduction will rise by $750 in both 2023 and 2024, and a five bracket income tax system will be implemented in 2024
Crop Diversification and Exploring Controlled Environment Farming
$350,000 – To support diversification of crops to prepare for climate change and support the agriculture sector by exploring controlled-environment farming and indoor farming through state-of-the-art greenhouses, tunnels, hydroponics and enhanced storage and refrigeration
Bioscience and Clean Tech
$18M – To continue investing in the bioscience sector, establish the BioAccelerator and develop the clean tech sector
$825,000 – To grow the Island into a four-season tourism destination and create new interactive tourism products in rural PEI
Workplace Adaptation Fund
$2M – To encourage employers to retrofit workplaces to make them more accessible for those who have physical and intellectual disabilities to participate in the workforce
Arts and Culture
$750,000 – Supports for the arts and culture community, which will include the establishment of a Portable Health Benefits program, as well as supports to grow Island talent and Charlottetown as a Music City destination
$6M – To add 100 new positions to our education system by increasing teachers, educational assistants, youth service workers, counsellors, and mental health support workers
George Coles Bursary Enhancement
$1.25M – To increase the non-repayable bursary for Island students to $3,000 for expenses like tuition, books, administrative fees and living expenses
School Food and Breakfast Program
$2.2M – To continue funding the pay-what-you-can Island-wide school food lunch program, increase funding to the school breakfast program and to explore the creation of a universal breakfast program with both English and French language school boards
Childcare Infrastructure Fund
$4.2M – Work with Federal Government to establish a $20 Million Infrastructure Fund to provide grants to Early Learning Centres to expand and create more spaces
Primary Caregiver Grant
$5.2M – To provide support for families who choose to keep their loved ones at home
Supports for Seniors
$2.2M – To expand the Seniors Independence Initiative, increase the Seniors Safe at Home and Seniors Home Repair program and double the Seniors Hearing Aid Rebate program
Wes McLean is a Senior Consultant with the Capital Hill Group, who spent 18 years advising conservative governments in Ottawa, New Brunswick and Manitoba. He most recently served as deputy chief of staff to Premier Blaine Higgs.