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

There is no easy path to renewal for small and medium sized businesses

The challenges for our local businesses have never been more complex. As sectors begin to come back online with easing of COVID-19 restrictions, it’s critical for government to add a business owner’s lens to its decision making. However, this does not always appear to be happening. Though you can be sure business owners and employees have spent a lot of time in the last few weeks thinking through what changes will be necessary to operate in our new reality. They have valuable insight into the unique challenges they will face.

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Wicked Problems

One of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in politics is to work with others to address the “wicked problems.”  These “wicked problems” are the big, complex issues that cannot be left to the private sector, the community sector, or individuals.  These problems require significant collective action and can only be addressed by government.  Climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous nations, or mobilizing a coordinated response to a pandemic are all examples of “wicked problems”.

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Are announced farm supports helping Island farmers - or processors?

It has been said there is no room for politics during a pandemic. I agree. However, there is always a place for public oversight and accountability, even during a crisis. Since COVID-19, the government has rolled out program after program with information on when it will be available, how to get help,  and who is eligible to receive the support.

The $4.7M questions

Last week, Minister of Agriculture, Bloyce Thompson, announced $4.7 million of funding to the PEI Potato Board. This announcement of this funding was done differently. When it was announced, only a vague nondescript purpose with no follow-up information was provided. This is leaving Islanders with a lot of questions.

Did this funding go directly to the farmers or did it go to the potato processors? If it went to the processors, why? Did they have to make commitments to guarantee the viability of their contract farmers? Were farmers consulted as to what they thought the funding  should be used for? I believe Minister Thompson needs to answer these questions.

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Without a Child and Youth Advocate, Island children remain at risk

Last evening, I read a CBC news article that said the Kids Help Line has seen a 70% increase in calls from Prince Edward Island during the COVID-19 pandemic. The top issues of these calls were sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, emotional abuse, and self-harming. This speaks to the increased vulnerability of our children and youth during a pandemic. It also highlights the need for a Child and Youth Advocate (CYA).

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Is government considering all factors for safely opening our fisheries?

In a CBC article last week, Premier King rightly criticized the federal government for a lack of action and direction on the opening of PEI fisheries. He identified that fishers were being unfairly asked to weigh ‘loss of income on one side and uncertain health risks on the other’, without any certainty from the federal government that they would be compensated if seasons did not progress as scheduled.

As fishers waited for a decision to be made by the federal government, temporary foreign workers (TFWs) who rely on work in the fishery to support themselves and their families were also left in limbo, not knowing when/if they will be able to enter Canada for work. 

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Thriving in Balance

We’ve profoundly shifted gears these last few weeks. Things that would have been thought impossible, or entirely too complex, are being done with increasing regularity. In unprecedented times, we do unprecedented things. Politicians of all political stripes are focused on finding the people whose needs are not being met, and new programs are spinning up accordingly. Political will can change everything. 

Swift action in response to need during a crisis is inspiring to see. But, a moment is coming in the months ahead, where we will face an awkward choice. At some point, should politicians stop creating policies based on the premise that everyone’s needs deserve to be met? Or should we use this rebuilding time to build something better? This is a question being asked in many places and I’m following the discussion with great interest. You may be surprised to learn, in some places, that discussion is centering around doughnuts.

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Small Business Survival

The number one risk for small business survival is cash flow. The pandemic has abruptly cut off business as usual, and though customers still want and need products and services, businesses are challenged from every direction to keep their businesses alive. Some businesses have laid off staff and taken advantage of government programs for wage subsidies. However, commercial rent, utilities, suppliers, and core staff still need to be paid. These bills are due even if businesses have not had any sales. Loan programs are a tough choice for small businesses who may not be able to take on the risk of additional debt, or may not qualify. Deferred payments of rent, fees, and taxes will still be due at some point later on. 

The new program to support small businesses via ACOA will hopefully address some of these challenges, especially for those that may not qualify for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) or EDC loan. This could include seasonal businesses that are not covered under the PEI Tourism Industry Support program; micro-businesses (3 employees or less); and new startups. Details are expected soon; existing ACOA clients should contact their project officer for more information. 

In the meantime, cash flow is critical. Small businesses must adapt how they do business and how customers can connect with them to keep the cash moving and the business afloat. 

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Rural Islanders need fair and equitable access to supports

In today’s day and age it can be easier than ever for some to stay connected while staying apart. The internet and programs such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Classroom allow us to work, communicate, and collaborate across the province and around the world.

We are even providing some essential services online, such as access to healthcare professionals and education. Assuming you have the necessary tools such as computers, phones, tablets, and – of course – reliable high speed internet, the possibilities are almost endless.

Supporting Islanders and providing services during this crisis is not simply checking a box once initial steps are put into place. As the situation progresses, it is essential to consider who is being left out. Who are facing barriers to access these services? What can be done to remove those barriers?

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Can a Basic Income Guarantee help close gaps in social support structures?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, support programs for those facing economic hardship are rolling out both federally and provincially. However, there continue to be gaps as governments struggling to reach everyone in need within the current social support structures. One thing is for certain, if we had a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) in place with a mechanism for people to report an unexpected loss of income, the process of getting money in the hands of those who need it most at this time would be much easier. There would also be far fewer cracks in the system to fall through.

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Homeschooling in a Pandemic

Hi everyone. I hope your families are doing well. Some of you may already know this, but I have two little boys, and for a few years, I homeschooled them. As such, I’ve had a number of families ask me about this now that all of our kids are home. As we try to navigate this new space, I’ve been asked for my advice a few times and there are some things I’d like to say to all of you who suddenly find yourself with school aged kids at home.

Schooling is different for everyone now

First of all, this is not homeschooling. Homeschool parents have spent months researching curriculum and making a plan. They have support groups, a stack of resources and a community. They had time to get prepared, and they found themselves in that situation by choice. It’s vastly different than finding yourself having to manage schooling during a crisis. The most important thing is not to put undue pressure on yourself. Your kids may not remember everything they read or learned during this time, but they will remember how they felt.

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