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|Green MLA and Environment Critic Lynne Lund scored some good laughs with her analogy comparing the fight against climate change with a game of hockey on Earth Day. Click on the image above to watch it!|
A lot's been happening in the Legislature lately - our Green caucus has had some significant successes as well as a few defeats (such as the Voting Age Act.) This newsletter will give you a chance to catch up on some of the highlights.
Have an amazing May, and we'll be in touch again soon!
In this newsletter:
- Greens in the Legislature
Here are some highlights from the work of our Green MLAs in the Legislature in the past couple of weeks.
This was a busy couple of weeks in the debate over the future of PEI's water in the Legislature.
On Friday April 23rd, Peter Bevan-Baker posed a number of questions to the government about whether it will commit to developing a sustainable irrigation strategy in order to ensure fair, safe and transparent access to water in Prince Edward Island.
Peter also spoke to CBC's Island Morning about this issue last Tuesday, expressing his frustration that two decades after the high-capacity wells moratorium for irrigation was first implemented, the province still hasn't done the watershed-by-watershed research to get data on the possible impact of various types of water use options.
>>Read more: Droughts vs. moratorium logjam shifting to debate on irrigation planning in P.E.I. (The Guardian)
>>Read more: P.E.I. still lacks data needed for irrigation decisions, says Opposition leader (CBC)
This is a victory for all those who have been urging the government to do this for the past year! As you know, there has been a rush on the construction of holding ponds in some areas, in an attempt to gain a permanent exception to Water Act regulations, which Minister Myers had indicated they would.
But, we are not out of the woods yet. Even as Myers put a temporary stop to the rush to build additional holding ponds before the Water Act comes into force on June 16th, he also claimed, much to the surprise of all, that "the province has all the data it needs" to end the province's 19-year moratorium on high capacity irrigation wells, which he called "silly". This is strange in light of the fact that the government has recently commissioned a 4-year water study, which has not yet begun, in order to obtain the data that it said it would need in order to consider lifting the moratorium on high-capacity wells. Lynne Lund questioned the Minister on this last Wednesday.
>>Read more: P.E.I. has all the data it needs to lift 'silly' moratorium on irrigation wells, says minister (CBC)
>>Read more: P.E.I. environment minister pledges a halt to holding pond construction (The Guardian)
The Green Caucus had a busy and productive Health Care agenda over the past two weeks!
First, on April 21st, a motion by Hannah Bell and Trish Altass calling on the government to update the coverage of basic frames and lenses for people reliant on social assistance. As Hannah discovered, it has been up to 30 years since some of these coverage amounts had been updated, and they were totally inadequate to cover today's vision care costs.
You can watch the debate on the Social Assistance Vision Care motion here.
Then, on April 22nd, Trish Altass' bill to amend the Health Services Act passed 2nd reading. These amendments will limit political interference and increase transparency in the management of our health system, rolling back regressive changes that had been made by the last Liberal government.
This is also a victory for Island parliamentary democracy. You will recall that when this bill was first voted on on April 8th, it resulted in a tie vote with all government members voting against it, and it was saved only by a tie-breaking vote by the Speaker in order to keep the bill alive.
Following the tie vote, Trish sat down with the Minister of Health to understand the government's concerns, and out of those consultations came amendments that addressed those concerns while preserving the primary intent of the bill.
That same day, Trish Atlass and Lynne Lund both posed a series of questions about the government's arrangements with Maple Health Corporation, the private company that is operating the telehealth system now being offered to some Islanders who have been waiting on the doctor registry for a long time. Specifically, they are concerned with how Maple handles patient confidentiality, as well as how they are billing the government - especially in cases where Maple appointments simply lead to a referral to an emergency room.
The government's arrangements with Maple are just one of a growing number of concerns about its increasing willingness to outsource health services to private corporations, something Trish Altass has raised frequently in the House this sitting.
Michele Beaton asked questions about the lack of sick pay for casual health workers, and also raised the point that PEI is one of the few provinces that does not recognize off-Island experience for nurses, which can lead to problems in the retention of nurses who may have many years of experience from other jurisdictions, but are at the bottom of the totem pole here on PEI.
Last week, the Green Caucus focussed on the growing wait times for surgeries on PEI, which have been growing over the past decade and are now up to four times longer than the Canadian average for some procedures - often over a year.
This past Wednesday, Trish Altass opened debate on a motion calling on government to address long and growing wait times for elective surgeries on PEI.
Also this week, Trish Altass referred to a recent maternal health study undertaken on PEI, which found large gaps in mental health screening for new mothers, and asked the Minister of Health "When will formal pre- and post-natal mental health screening be integrated fully into maternal health care here on Prince Edward Island?". The minister's reply: "Certainly, I do appreciate the member bringing this forward. What I want to do is go back to the department, just find out exactly what training is provided to our front-line health-care workers, to our front-line GPs, nurse practitioners. It's an excellent suggestion that the honourable member has put forward."
Green MLAs continue to advocate for better laws and policies to prevent sexual violence and harassment, and to better protect victims of such violence.
Earlier this month, Karla Bernard called on the government to review UPEI's sexual violence policy in light of a story about a victim of voyeurism on campus who felt let down by the university's handling of the matter.
Lynne Lund asked the government to bring in legislation that would ensure victims have the right to report sexual assault — even if they have signed a non-disclosure agreement in the past. This is an issue she has brought up twice before, but has had trouble getting information from the government. Specifically, Lynne wants to know whether the government's own non-disclosure agreements currently prevent women from reporting sexual crimes to the police.
This past week as well, Trish Altass announced her intention to table a bill to amend the Police Services Act, which regulates local police forces on PEI. Currently, PEI requires that any complaints about police conduct be made within 6 months of an incident, with no exceptions - making PEI the most restrictive province in the country with respect to police complaints. Trish's bill would increase this timeframe to 12 months, in line with most other provinces.
Learn more about Trish's proposed Police Services Act amendment here: https://peigreencaucus.ca/2021/04/an-act-to-amend-the-police-act. She is accepting feedback on the draft until Sunday, May 2nd.
While this bill will have a narrow focus, the Green Party will be looking into other parts of the police misconduct process and conducting public consultations this summer.
Steve Howard brought up the federal government announcement that PEI would be receiving $1.5 million to counter gun and gang violence. He pointed to research findings that people who enter gangs are frequently struggling with childhood trauma, poverty and other systemic issues, and that therefore prevention, intervention and rehabilitation initiatives are key ways to prevent gang violence. He asked the Minister of Justice how much of that money would go to such initiatives.
Steve also asked the Minister to be more proactive in ensuring that community stakeholders are engaged in the design and implementation of crime prevention measures.
Finally, this past week Peter Bevan-Baker's motion on supported decision-making was passed in the House. Supported decision-making is a mechanism used when adults with various challenges or disabilities choose trusted friends or family members to help them make decisions. PEI has talked about introducing supported decision-making legislation for decades, but we still don't have it. Peter's motion calls on the government to ensure there is a dedicated person working on this legislation so that it can be brought forward to the legislature as soon as possible.
One of the big disappointments of the past couple of weeks was the defeat of Karla Bernard's bill to extend the voting franchise to 16 and 17 year-olds.
This is a case in which all the evidence shows that 16 and 17 year-olds have the mental capacity to make an informed vote, the bill was supported by the youth advisory committee to the province’s Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, and yet ultimately, most MLAs from both the PC and Liberal parties chose to fall back on ageist attitudes towards youth, and vote against the bill.
Peter Bevan-Baker took the government to task over its hypocritical attitudes towards youth in the Legislature the following day.
>>Read more: King Government denies Island Youth a voice in decisions impacting their futures (Official Opposition)
>>Read more: Leaders spar over defeat of youth voting rights bill in P.E.I. legislature (The Guardian)
>>Read more: P.E.I. MLAs vote down proposal to lower voting age (CBC)
On a somewhat more positive note, Karla Bernard's motion calling for more play-based learning curriculum for early elementary-aged children passed in the Legislature on Thursday.
Did you know that under the new National Building Code adopted by PEI, locally-cut lumber can no longer be used in home building on PEI? Ole Hammarlund, an architect by profession, tabled a motion calling on the government to allow locally-cut lumber to be used in single-family homes of up to 3 stories. Unfortunately, this motion was defeated in the Legislature.
Ole also raised a number of questions about the National Building Code last week in the Legislature, including why the City of Charlottetown has been permitted to relax parts of the code in contravention of the Building Codes Act; whether the government is considering amending the building code to bring in more net-zero building requirements; and who is responsible for ensuring that the building code keeps up with constant innovation in the construction industry.
In question period on April 23rd, Michele Beaton spoke about the importance of bees to our agricultural industry and ecology, and asked the government a series of questions about how it will support beekeepers and protect against the accidental importation of small hive beetle into the province, which could devastate local bee populations.
This past week, Hannah Bell asked the Minister for Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture to expand the eligibility for the $3 million tourism activation grant program, and to ensure that the funds are benefiting the small, local businesses that need the support the most.
On Thursday and Friday, both Hannah Bell and Peter Bevan-Baker spoke in Question Period about the importance of extending paid sick leave for workers.
Peter Bevan-Baker also asked the Premier where the promised economic plan was, which was promised earlier this sitting.
Steve Howard asked the Energy Minister whether he would change regulations that currently prevent farmers with multiple building from bringing all of their buildings into a net-metering program, which is a barrier to farmers installing more renewable energy.
On Thursday, Peter Bevan-Baker asked the government about the ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) program, which has been significant to farmers and other landowners in helping them protect and expand wildlife habitat since 2008, now covering about 12,000 acres of land all across the province. The problem has been the limited budget allocated to this program. Peter asked the government whether it would increase the budget of the ALUS program, especially in light of the role that these lands can play in meeting our climate targets (to which the minister of Agriculture responded that yes, he would).
Michele Beaton asked Finance Minister Darlene Compton on Thursday whether the government has considered adding additional tax brackets in order to increase revenue by applying a higher tax rate to the wealthiest Islanders. She pointed out that whereas PEI has only three tax brackets, most other provinces have five, allowing them to have a more progressive tax system that ours.
The minister's answer, unfortunately, was very non-committal.
A few weeks ago, Lynne Lund tabled her Environmental Bill of Rights legislation. Lynne has been in consultations with the government over this bill, and is hoping to bring it up for debate this week. If passed, PEI could have the strongest environmental rights legislation in Canada.
This article from East Coast Environmental Law does a great job of breaking down what the Environmental Bill of Rights would do, and how it compares with some similar legislation elsewhere in Canada.
Do you support the right to a healthy and clean environment? If so, please write to your MLA, or write a letter to the editor supporting this important bill!
The Green Caucus has been hard at work to improve the lives of Islanders. If you haven't already, be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And check out their website at www.peigreencaucus.ca for blogs, videos and more!
The Stratford Greens, representing District 5 Mermaid-Stratford and District 6 Stratford-Keppoch, are pleased to present "Burgers, Batter & Banter" at Phinley's Diner on Monday, May 31st at 7pm.
You will enjoy:
- Your choice of either Phinley's famous Fish & Chips or Smokin' Fox Junior Burger, which comes with dessert and a beverage
- Green Trivia
- Music from the Green Party Party Band
- A Mystery MLA singer!
- Meeting Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker
Reserve your tickets here. Tickets are just $55 and come with a $25 tax receipt! All proceeds support the Green Party in Districts 5 & 6.
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