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|Congratulations to District 5 MLA Michele Beaton on the passage of her first bill, giving more teeth to the Auditor General by granting them the authority to audit the use of taxpayer funds by third party organizations.|
What a time the last little while has been on PEI; following months of isolation and shutdown, the past couple of weeks have brought some sense of normalcy as more businesses open up, small social gatherings take advantage of the nice weather, and the PEI Legislature finally began sitting again after a long hiatus, bringing much needed accountability and transparency back to the governance of PEI.
However, in one of the first and biggest signs that Islanders and others around the world are not willing to accept a return to all aspects of the "old normal", thousands took to the streets of Charlottetown on Friday, as in other cities throughout Canada and the U.S., demanding an end to all forms of racism and discrimination.
As Peter Bevan-Baker said in the Legislature on June 2nd, "The legacy of slavery, racism and oppression continues to take new, ever-changing forms in our society. Like those who fought it in the past, we must confront it whenever and wherever it appears and not let it take root."
The Green Party is ready to take on the work of ensuring that our party is part of the solution when it comes to ending the discrimination, violence and underrepresentation that continues to oppress black, Indigenous and people of colour in our society. Please see further below how you can join us in that work!
Executive Director (interim)
In this newsletter:
- "Emergency" Legislative Sitting Recap
- From the Desks of Green MLAs
- Call for Volunteers
- Energy consultation - have your say!
"Emergency" Legislative Sitting
On May 26th, PEI's Legislature was the last in Canada to be recalled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Deemed an "emergency" sitting, which the government had anticipated would last only a couple of days, yesterday MLAs rose from Week 2 of the sitting and are due back in on Tuesday, June 9th. It's beginning to look more and more like a regular spring sitting that could last for several weeks - which is just fine, as there is much work to be done, and many precautions have been taken to ensure MLAs can maintain physical distancing while at work.
Here are some highlights from the past two weeks of the Legislature:
Peter Bevan-Baker questioned the Premier on his decision to open up PEI to thousands of cottagers, including from provinces with continued community spread of COVID-19, particularly when this deviated from the phased re-opening plan approved by Dr. Heather Morrison. Many Islanders have expressed their concerns about allowing cottagers onto the Island too early, citing the risks of reversing our COVID-free status and keeping vulnerable Islanders, such as those living in long-term care homes or with immunocompromised conditions, isolated in their homes for the indefinite future.
At long last, PEI has its first independent Child & Youth Advocate, Marvin Bernstein. The Legislature also appointed Denise Doiron as the the Information & Privacy Commissioner, and Darren Noonan as the new Auditor General. Welcome to all of these new independent officers of the Legislature!
District 21 MLA and Green Economic Development Critic Lynne Lund questioned the Premier on the composition of his new economic recovery council, which did not go through an Engage PEI recruitment process and is missing voices from many critical sectors and regions of PEI. This is the second economic recovery council appointed by the Premier since March. The Premier had initially refused to reveal the composition of that first group, then disbanded it, although it recently emerged that the first group is still meeting. Rather confusing affair...
Opposition Health Critic Trish Altass questioned Health Minister James Aylward on his overseas trip to Ireland at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his failure to return directly home to self-isolate upon his return.
Steve Howard questioned the Health Minister on the effectiveness of outsourced verification calls being made to those required to self-isolate on PEI.
Michele Beaton questioned the government on the $4.7 million handout that it offered Cavendish Farms via the Potato Board under the guise of "supporting farmers", while other Island businesses are only being offered loans at best. This led to a very interesting exchange with the Minister of Agriculture, and is a prime example of the important role of the Legislature and the Official Opposition in holding the government to account and bringing greater transparency to government dealings.
Week One video recap from Peter Bevan-Baker
Day 5: Two Green bills and one motion passed!
Michele Beaton, MLA for District 5 Mermaid-Stratford and Opposition Finance Critic, passed her first bill! Bill No. 113 - An Act to Amend the Audit Act - ads "follow-the-dollar" powers to the Auditor General's toolbox, allowing him or her to to audit private companies and non-profits that have received government funding, whether in the form of loans, grants, subsidies or tax credits, to ensure that public funds were spend as intended.
That same day saw the passage of Peter Bevan-Baker's bill which provides protection to whistleblowers in the private sector. Once proclaimed as law, this bill will provide a mechanism for employees of private companies to be able to bring up cases of misconduct in their workplaces while being protected from retaliation from employers.
Before the day wrapped up, District 22 MLA Steve Howard's motion on Protecting Privacy and Personal Information During the COVID-19 Pandemic was brought up for debate and passed in a unanimous vote of the Legislature.
Peter Bevan-Baker rose in the Legislature together with the leaders of the other parties, and other MLAs, to speak about the recent wave of protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis, as well as a number of other violent and deadly interactions between police and black and Indigenous people both in the U.S. and Canada.
"I’ve often said during this pandemic that there is no place in this whole wide world that I’d rather be right now than here on Prince Edward Island. I continue to feel that way, but we must not forget that we have issues here, too. Prejudice, a lack of inclusion and overt racism are sadly no stranger to our Island. As leaders, each and every one of us in this Legislature bears special responsibilities. While we often say the right words, it is through our actions, our daily actions inside this House and in our communities where we must consistently and continually foster kindness, gentleness and love for each other." -Peter Bevan-Baker, June 2, 2020.
District 11 MLA Hannah Bell continues her strong advocacy for the most vulnerable Islanders - including students, newcomers, and people living with disabilities. She celebrated the re-opening the province's COVID-19 Special Situation Fund, which is meant to help those who fall through the cracks of other federal and provincial support programs - and her advocacy even won thanks from the government side of the House!
Much of this day's 3-hour sitting was taken up with debate on the recommendation from the Legislative Rules committee, chaired by Hannah Bell, to update the Legislative sitting schedule by eliminating evening sittings. This recommendation dates back to an 11-year old report from the PEI Coalition for Women in Government, as one easy way to make it easier for parents of young children, particularly women, to contemplate running for election as an MLA.
PEI is one of only three jurisdictions in Canada to continue to hold sitting hours after 7pm. Our sitting schedule was designed to accommodate the schedules of passenger trains that have not run on this Island since 1968, and it has frequently been argued over the years that modernizing our sitting schedule is some of the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to measures that can be taken to increase the diversity of the Legislature. It is sad to see continued opposition to this measure from some male MLAs who apparently still do not see this as a small, positive step in the right direction in a province with one of the lowest representations of women in Canada.
Opposition Critic for Transportation, Energy and Infrastructure, Steve Howard, questioned the government on Maritime Electric's plans to raise electricity rates at a time when many are hard-hit financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and renewed his call for a fair rate structure on PEI. Contrary to most other provinces, PEI uses a perverse rate structure that gives large power users lower rates than small users, so that, as Steve put it, "The many pay for the extravagances of the few."
From the desks of Green MLAs
Our MLAs have had a lot to say about a diverse array of topics in the past month!
There is no easy path to renewal for small and medium sized businesses
- Lynne Lund, May 6, 2020
With businesses beginning to reopen as part of Renew PEI, MLA Lynne Lund is urging the Government to include a business owner's lens to decision making because small and medium-sized businesses are at a disadvantage.
Why is Lennon House only receiving pilot-level funding? - Trish Altass, May 7, 2020
Due to the unfortunate temporary closing of some mental health and addictions services as a result of COVID-19, there are even bigger gaps in the system. MLA Trish Altass questions why Lennon House was only funded now and why it is only pilot-level funding.
Addressing gender bias in public programs and supports - Karla Bernard, May 8, 2020
Women are being disproportionately affected COVID-19 in many areas including homeschooling, single-mother households, and as essential workers. Official Opposition Critic for Status of Women Karla Bernard is concerned a Gender Based Analysis lens has not been applied to Renew PEI and urges Government to do so.
Our economic recovery council should not be a secret affair - Lynne Lund, May 9, 2020
MLA Lynne Lund is concerned about the secrecy around the Premier's new Economic Recovery Council. Every industry has different needs and perspectives, and unless we know details of the Economic Recovery Council, we don't know if voices are being left out and where those gaps lie.
A rare opportunity to make a healthy change - Steve Howard, May 12, 2020
Official Opposition Critic for Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Steve Howard argues that with the decrease in usage of our roads due to COVID-19, it is the perfect time to make creative and healthy changes to our road infrastructure.
Changing government procurement strategies will create a resilient local economy - Michele Beaton, May 15, 2020
As Renew PEI moves through its various stages, we know many local businesses are struggling and Island owned businesses need local support now more than ever. Official Opposition Critic for Finance Michele Beaton suggests that the Government begins to take procurement seriously by creating a local procurement strategy.
Official Opposition Statements
Minister Brad Trivers tweeted an accusation of "#fakenews" and the Leader of the Official Opposition Peter Bevan-Baker acknowledges that journalistic independence and integrity are critical for democracy. He calls on the government to direct its Ministers to respect and honour the independence and integrity of our journalists.
In early May, Premier King had been actively lobbying the federal government to change the rules around the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. With a shortage of work, and many safety concerns still unresolved, it is unfair and inappropriate for the Premier to state people are being "paid to not work".
The Official Opposition believes it is important to hold Government to account. The Official Opposition had begun hosting a virtual QP until the House reconvenes for regular sittings.
Government must consult seniors and their families when making decisions that affect their health and well-being
The residents of Prince Edward Home and their families were not consulted in advance regarding the facility being designated a COVID-19 unit. The Official Opposition is concerned that the residents and their families were left out of consultations on a decision that could have effects on their health and well-being.
Statement: Karla Bernard on anxiety created by lack of clarity on access to childcare during Renew PEI Together phases
With a lack of clarity around access to childcare during the Renew PEI phases, many caregivers are anxious about whether or not they will have access to childcare. MLA Karla Bernard is asking for clarification on who is and who isn't eligible for childcare in each phase of Renew PEI Together.
Government's proposed Highway 1 route extension would run through 0.72 acres of protected old growth forest. Lynne Lund questions why the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Natalie Jameson is prepared to remove protections on a piece of conserved land in her own district.
Economic decisions made now will be some of the most economically important undertakings of our time. Unfortunately, many government announcements over the past few weeks demonstrate the lack of understanding of the issues facing Islanders. On top of that, Premier King's government has continued to leave islanders in the dark about the Economic Recovery Council.
The government released draft amendments to the Emergency Measures Act and the Public Health Act that will give itself sweeping new powers. This level of power is concerning and raises many questions.
Official Opposition introducing legislation to empower Auditor General to audit government funds provided to third-party organizations
Under the current Audit Act, the Auditor General does not have all of the powers necessary to fully complete an audit of the COVID-19 relief spending. Michele Beaton, Official Opposition Critic for Finance, says she would be introducing amendments to the Act in the legislature the following week.
We stand together with Black Islanders, Black Canadians and all racialized peoples, and we commit as elected members of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island to work towards ending oppression and building a more equal society.
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 new website at www.peigreencaucus.ca for blogs, videos and more!
Green Party of PEI Diversity & Inclusion Caucus
Recent events in both the United States and Canada are catalysing long-overdue conversations about the persistence of both overt and subtle, unconscious and systemic racism and discrimination in our societies, including here on PEI.
As a political party with core values of respect for diversity, inclusion and social justice, the Green Party of PEI, led by our Diversity & Inclusion Caucus, is putting renewed effort into the important work of ensuring that our political community is a welcome, inclusive and representative space for all Islanders, and how we can best contribute to the elimination of discrimination of all kinds from our society.
Are you interested in helping with this important work? If so, please join us! Write to us at [email protected]
Call for Volunteers & Performers: Dream-a-thon fundraising initiative
COVID-19 has brought a myriad of challenges to most non-profit organizations, and as a 100% donor-funded organization the Green Party of PEI is no exception. The inability to organize in-person events has hampered our fundraising, yet fundraising is critical to our ability to continue being a strong force for change on PEI - and to be ready to compete and win in the next election.
Our Fundraising Working Group, led by Fundraising Chair Maria Rodriguez, has come up with a creative fundraising idea this summer: An online dream-a-thon! With a name inspired by our Dreaming Forward initiative, the Dream-a-thon is envisioned as an online extravaganza featuring performances by many of the talented Islanders who support our work.
We are currently seeking both volunteers and performers who can help make this event a success! If you'd like to lend a hand or have a talent you'd like to offer to perform (musical, storytelling or anything else that can be shared online), please do get in touch! Write to us at [email protected]
How we obtain and use energy on PEI needs to undergo a major transformation in the next decade in order to meet our new, science-backed imperative to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 45% by 2030 in order to contribute our share towards the global emissions reductions necessary to avoid catastrophic warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The PEI Government is currently consulting on changes to the province's energy legislation and this is the most important shot we have of updating our energy legislation in a way that will set us up for success.
You can help by telling the government what changes you would like to see in our energy legislation - the deadline for written submissions is June 8th, however you can also send an email right now letting them know that you need a bit more time.
To give you some ideas, we asked Official Opposition Energy Critic Steve Howard what he sees as some of the most needed updates to our energy legislation. Read more about them on our website at https://www.greenparty.pe.ca/energy2020, or get the gist from the infographic below:
The Green Party and our Caucus have so much in the works for you as part of our Dreaming Forward series, but due to uncertainties around how long the current legislative sitting will last, we need to wait just a little bit before sending you the final dates of interactive, solution-building forums on topics including Agriculture & Food, Education, Health & Wellness, Green Economic Development, and more.
Stay tuned for a special Events bulletin in your inbox soon!
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