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

A rare opportunity to make a healthy change

COVID-19 has made the world seem smaller for many of us. Our daily commute is often to the back yard or a wellness walk around the block. We are driving a great deal less than we were, and we still have all the same road infrastructure. It’s just not being used as much. Maybe this is an opportunity for us to rethink how we can better utilize it in this time of changed behaviours.

A time for courageous creativity

We could take advantage of the underutilized streets around PEI and set in place additional active transportation lanes. We could encourage and support healthy activities like biking and walking by turning some streets into safer and more easily accessible active transportation routes. Some roads could be blocked off to vehicular traffic, while others could be turned into one-way streets thereby freeing up safe and fun lanes for alternative, active transportation.

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Our economic recovery council should not be a secret affair

The Premier’s Economic Recovery Council could well be a very helpful tool. According to a government press release on March 30th, the council was established with the expressed intent of engaging the business community to advise the Premier on the road to recovery, and on the challenges they face as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Of course, this prompts the questions: which parts of the business community are we engaging? And who’s missing from the table?

First rule: don’t talk about the economic recovery council

Since the announcement, the Official Opposition and the media have been endeavoring to get these details, but to no avail. It seems the first rule of the economic council is “Don’t talk about the economic council”. But that is not helpful! So, why do details of this economic council matter in the first place? The questions you ask at the onset have a profound impact on the answers you wind up with at the end.

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Addressing gender bias in public programs and supports

It is often difficult to start a conversation about why things are harder for women, or how some things affect women more or differently. In my experience, some people want to jump in with “what about the men in those situations?” Valid point, however, when we are talking about the experiences of one group, we need to value it and give that conversation space. It is in truly hearing and understanding people’s stories that change happens.

As we move into the phases of the plan to “Renew PEI Together”, I am concerned a Gender Based Analysis lens has not been used to ensure the safety of women from COVID-19 and from unnecessary stress and burden. Using this analysis you are able to assess the different experiences of women, men and non-binary people to policies, programs and initiatives. This assessment ensures equitable support is offered to everyone affected. 

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Why is Lennon House only receiving pilot-level funding?

The opening of Lennon House is wonderful news and a long time coming. Led by Dianne Young, who tragically lost her own son to addiction, Lennon House has been a grassroots initiative. Community members have come together to fill an identified gap in service for those in recovery and in need of housing and treatment supports.

During the current COVID-19 crisis, Lennon House has received pilot-level funding from government to open in limited capacity for a 6-month period. However, the long-term status of Lennon House, and other mental health and addictions services in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, remains uncertain. 

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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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