11/12/2013 03:18 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:56 EST

Pension reforms, small business help highlight P.E.I. throne speech

CHARLOTTETOWN - The Prince Edward Island government says it will forge ahead with changes to its public sector pension plans and look to bolster the province's economy through enterprise and small business development.

The commitments are included in the Liberal government's throne speech delivered Tuesday as the fall session of the legislature got underway in Charlottetown.

The government says pension changes are needed because of a growing gap between how much retirees take out of their pensions and contributions to those plans, adding that millions of dollars in special payments can't offset increasing costs.

The changes — initially announced last month — include calculating pensions earned by current employees using an average of their indexed annual earnings, and annual cost-of-living adjustments would be contingent on the fund's ability to pay.

The government is also proposing to raise the age at which employees can draw a non-reduced pension from 60 to 62.

The government says it will also expand its entrepreneur loan program by raising the maximum loan from $50,000 to $100,000 in order to increase the capital available to small- and medium-sized businesses.

The government is also committing to a new food innovation strategy aimed at developing new products from traditional Island sectors such as agriculture and seafood.

The province says it will also work with Ottawa and the family of Stompin' Tom Connors to honour and commemorate the life and music of the late singer-songwriter by establishing a memorial.