This is where members of the Green Party of PEI elected caucus share their thoughts about contemporary issues on Prince Edward Island.

Failure to ignite

The Ignition Fund, launched in 2014 and delivered via Innovation PEI, is a competitive annual program providing up to $25k to start or expand a business in PEI. The fund is unique in PEI as it does not require matching funds and is non-repayable. There are up to 10 grants funded every year. To be eligible, products or services must be innovative and have the potential to be sold outside of the province. 

I’ve been working in and with the small business and startup community in PEI and across Canada since 2014. I can tell you that starting a business is hard.Fifty per cent of new startups will fail in their first few years of operation. One of the many barriers to startup launch and success  is access to capital (cash). This is why this fund is so welcome to the entrepreneur community in PEI. 

What isn’t welcome at the Ignition Fund, it seems, are women-owned companies.

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The season of hot air

This looks like a winter season where we will be spending more time than usual cozying up inside. My recommendation is to find ways to get outside and be safe - take a walk on a beach or anywhere where there is nature and few people. We are lucky to be on PEI where such places are easy to find.

When you come home, you may even have a wood stove that you can cozy up to. That is why I like winter: The opportunity to get cold and refreshed outside and then warmed again inside, preferable next to some kind of wood fire.

Being around a wood fire is an essential part of being human, and if you have access to even an acre of woods or two, there will be plenty of dead wood to burn. While burning wood does create CO2, leaving a piece of deadfall on the forest floor eventually releases the same amount of CO2 through composting. Therefore burning wood is considered sustainable, and if you return the ashes to the woods, nature’s cycle is complete.

This does not mean that all burning of wood is a good thing or sustainable.   

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Tourism needs long-term vision and immediate action

This has been a very difficult year for PEI’s tourism and cultural industries. It looks like 2021 may not be much better, as both businesses and visitors typically make vacation plans well in advance. This advance planning is almost impossible when restrictions can change with little notice. Even if the coming COVID vaccine is rolled out this spring, the summer of 2021 will still be a difficult season for tourism.

Our tourism industry is three times larger per capita when compared to other provinces. 1 out of 10 jobs on PEI are a part of this sector. Some businesses have had to close for the season, and even the ones staying open have seen, at best, 50% of normal activity.

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Island Youth are showing the leadership we need to create a brighter, fairer PEI

Something extraordinary happened last week in our little province. A group of ordinary Islanders showed us all how we can be both responsible and compassionate towards each other. Early in the week, young people heeded government’s call and showed up in droves to be tested for COVID. Then they turned right around and joined forces in perhaps the most gentle and generous protest ever, to raise over $13,000 in one day for the soup kitchen in Charlottetown.

Raising money for worthwhile causes is an Island tradition. I remember when the late, great Stuart MacLean was here a few years ago, and he answered his own rhetorical question, “What do Islanders do?” with the answer – “They do fundraisers!” But this was different.

It was different in a number of important and inspiring ways. Firstly, it happened largely within a community where you don’t expect to find stashes of excess cash – young people. Secondly, I described it above as a protest. It happened almost spontaneously in response to what this community saw as cynical virtue signalling from another group; a group they accuse of actually contributing to a hardship many in this age group are experiencing – ridiculously expensive housing on PEI. Thirdly, at a time when so many aspects of Christmas and other religious festivals are being co-opted by consumerism, this activity rang true as a genuine expression of loving thy neighbour.

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A year unlike any other

Looking back to my childhood, this is the time of the year when our family developed enduring and unique traditions. Some of those have stayed with me into adulthood as Ann and I developed customs with our own growing family. In the midst of all the seasonal celebrating, taking the opportunity to look back at the year is one thing that I have always liked to do. During the course of a year a lot of living happens. Getting out the calendar reminds us of the range of experiences that have made up the last twelve months and provides an opportunity to give thanks for things that may have been forgotten along the way.

At the end of this legislative session, I want to do the same sort of thing. Looking back to a year ago, the contrast is stark. At the end of the fall sitting in 2019, there was the usual flurry of seasonal events, visits from distant family members to look forward to, community concerts, parties, dropping in to friends’ houses, and planning your way around the levees that were only a few weeks away. This year my empty calendar is a reminder of the year that COVID stole. 

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Children are living in poverty all around us

What does living in poverty look like? It can look like a lot of things. It can look quite normal on the outside. It can look like a mom walking her kids to school. It can look like a teen learning algebra in class. It can look like a baby being rocked to sleep under the light of a Christmas tree.

Hiding in plain sight

Poverty doesn’t always look like what we see on TV. Poverty can hide in plain sight. This is what’s happening on PEI. One in five children are living in poverty. And unfortunately, that number is growing. 

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Sealing culverts is not a safe solution to P.E.I.'s drug use, homelessness problems

This year, it’s hard to know what kind of news story we are going to wake up to. There has been so much heartache and loss during 2020 that sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Some days it feels like the year has been going on for decades and other days it feels like it is flashing before my eyes and I can’t keep up. The critical role our government plays in ensuring our most vulnerable have access to programs and services that provide health, safety and dignity has become even more clear.

I have spent countless hours researching addictions and talking to advocates on P.E.I. I have stood in the legislature and advocated on their behalf for better services. But never have I felt what I felt when I saw the picture of a dark culvert, filled with mattresses, clothing and other personal belongings. It was a glimpse into the life of a homeless drug user on P.E.I. I felt my stomach sink.

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PEI's Power Struggle

Most people don’t spend their days thinking about energy rate structures. We have so much else to deal with in our lives that thinking about how to make these structures more fair just doesn’t top the list for many people. But with my background in energy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it.

I feel strongly that those who use less energy, should pay less. They should not have to pay more. The proposal I put forward at last year's rate hearing with IRAC had a lower cost first block and a higher cost second block. This proposal would lower energy rates for the vast majority of Islanders. This would be so very helpful, especially now when so many are finding it harder and harder to pay the bills.

This is also the reason why I introduced a bill in the legislature to amend our current approach. As it stands right now, the first "block" of power we all pay is the most expensive which means for the majority of Islanders, they are stuck with a higher cost for electricity. The cost only gets cheaper after you use more energy than a typical user would.

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Hammers and Nails

There is a saying that goes “when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The initiative announced by government this week to recruit Islanders in the fight against impaired driving seems to fit this analogy.

Prince Edward Island has a problem with impaired driving. Nearly every community on the Island has been impacted by the deadly results of driving drunk. We all have a responsibility to do our part to stop this scourge. However, it’s not enough to simply punish impaired driving, we must also do everything we can to prevent it.

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Patronage could come at a high price for Charlottetown

On Friday, the King government announced the appointment of a new board for the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC). This announcement has been long overdue; more than a year ago Premier King promised to reinstate the board. So with this week’s announcement I was looking forward to seeing a reinvigorated independent board. I was both shocked and disappointed that Premier King and his cabinet instead decided to use this as an opportunity to practice old-fashioned patronage politics.

Of the seven positions that the provincial government appointed, two were filled by former PC candidates and a third was filled by the spouse of a former PC party leader. I want to be perfectly clear that all three are engaged members of the Charlottetown community and can bring valuable experience to any table, but I am also very concerned about how Executive Council evaluated the candidates. I find it simply astounding that 42% of the most qualified people to serve should have such deep roots in the governing party. What are the odds of that? The whole thing reeks of offering rewards to partisan loyalists.

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