Great things happen when Greens are in the House - Fall 2021 Legislative Roundup

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The Fall Sitting of the Legislature wrapped up last Wednesday, and many are calling it the best sitting yet for the Green Official Opposition. In all Greens passed three impactful pieces of legislation and five motions, and contributed massively to the direction and well-being of this province through the issues they raised.

“This is a thrilling time for Prince Edward Island,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition. “This fall sitting has been a highlight of my career. I couldn’t be prouder of the tremendous and life-changing work by my colleagues in the Green caucus.”

Truly, great things happen when Greens are in the House!

In this update, we will provide an overview of what Greens accomplished in the PEI Legislature this fall, including highlights since our last update at the end of October.

PEI made Canadian history last week with the unanimous passage of Lynne Lund's Non-Disclosure Agreements Act.

In the past, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) have been used to silence victims of unlawful acts. The new legislation provides critical protections and support for Islanders who have been subject to harassment or discrimination.

“This is truly an historic day,” said Lynne Lund, Official Opposition Critic for Justice and Public Safety. “With the passing of this legislation - the first of its kind in Canada - Islanders can be confident that their rights and needs are respected and protected when it comes to organizations attempting to silence victims and cover-up misconduct.”

>>Read more:

Historic Green legislation to prevent organizations from silencing Islanders experiencing harassment and discrimination through NDAs passes unanimously

P.E.I. Legislature backs bill to limit NDAs from silencing harassment and discrimination victims (CBC News Nov 16, 2021)

Bill to restrict NDA use in sexual misconduct and discrimination cases passes 3rd reading on P.E.I. (CBC News Nov 17, 2021)

P.E.I. becomes first Canadian province to put guardrails on use of NDAs as gag orders ( The Guardian November 17th, 2021)

NDA bill prompted by repeated questions about gag orders in P.E.I.'s civil service ( The Guardian November 12th 2021)

>>Watch: Lynne Lund talks about why the passing of the NDA Act was a highlight for her this Fall Sitting.


MORATORIUM_ON_RENOVICTIONS.pngOn the final day of the Fall Sitting, Hannah Bell introduced and passed a simple bill with major implications for renters on PEI, imposing a two-year moratorium on so-called "renovictions".

A renoviction is when a landlord evicts a tenant by claiming that they’re going to complete major renovations to a rental unit, as allowed under the current Rental of Residential Property Act (which the government has been promising to overhaul for two years but still hasn't done). However, all too often these kinds of evictions are done in bad faith, as a pretext for vacating a unit for the sole purpose of putting it back on the market at much a much higher rent.

There have been hundreds of renovictions this year alone, creating impossible personal crises for the tenants in the midst of the ongoing provincial housing crisis. This requires immediate action.

The moratorium, which took immediate effect, means that any eviction notices that have been recently served for the purpose of renovations are now null and void. Landlords may now only evict tenants for renovations if they are necessary for the health and safety of the occupants or of the building.

“We are doing the work that government has not made a priority – Islanders cannot face another winter with the stress and worry that they might find an eviction notice on their door when they get home,” said Bell. “I implore the King government to stop doing things in half measures and make housing a priority and ensure every Islander can enjoy the basic human right of shelter and home.”

>>Read more:

Green legislation for partial moratorium on renovictions passes

P.E.I. passes bill implementing two-year moratorium on 'renovictions' ( The Guardian Nov 18, 2021)

P.E.I. declares moratorium on 'renovictions' for 2 years (CBC Nov 17, 2021)


Also last week, Trish Altass' bill, the Pay Transparency Act, received unanimous support in the House to make PEI only the second province in Canada (after Ontario in 2018) to adopt such progressive legislation.

Thanks to this new law, Island workers will enjoy increased protection and equality in the workplace when it comes to compensation. It is also expected that this legislation will improve labour mobility, which will play an important part in addressing our labour shortage.

“Despite greater economic participation by women and the advancement of more women into senior positions, the gender wage gap persists as an issue,” explained Trish Altass, Official Opposition Critic for Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture.

“This legislation protects against past pay being used to inform future wages, especially where that past pay was discriminatory,” said Altass. “I am pleased to see MLAs from both the Third Party and Government support this bill.”

>>Watch: Trish Altass talks about the significance of her Pay Transparency Legislation for ensuring that Islanders are paid equally for equal work.

>>Read more:

Green legislation tackling unfair wages and wage gaps passes second reading


One of the most hope-inspiring moments in the Legislature during this sitting was when the motion calling for the establishment of a Citizens' Assembly on Proportional Representation passed, brought forward by Steve Howard and Peter Bevan-Baker, passed with support from MLAs in all three parties.

The motion was inspired by a motion created and passed by Green Party members during our Annual General Meeting last spring, as part of our grassroots policy development process.

Last Friday, Premier Dennis King, who was not present during the debate and vote on the motion but has expressed strong support for proportional representation in the past, said he would take the motion seriously, and his government would decide in the new year how to move forward.

Citizens' assembly to explore electoral reform on P.E.I. could be created in new year, premier says (CBC, November 19, 2021)

>>Watch: Steve Howard follows up on the Citizens Assembly motion with a Member Statement on November 17th

>>Read more:

A Citizens' Assembly on Proportional Representation - Motion passed!

P.E.I. Legislature approves citizens' assembly to design electoral reform system (CBC October 20, 2021)


As reported last month, a very impactful Green motion by leader Peter Bevan-Baker adopted early in the Fall Sitting called on the government to expand the scope of practice for pharmacists on PEI, so that they, like their colleagues in many other provinces, can take on work they are trained for but not currently allowed to do, such as prescribing medications for simple ailments like ear and eye infections, prescribing birth control, renewing prescriptions and ordering blood work and interpreting the results.


This measure could help relieve some of the pressure on doctors and emergency rooms, and make it easier for Islanders (including the more than 20,000 on the waiting list for a doctor) to access care. And PEI pharmacists themselves have been asking for this for the past two decades!

>>Watch: Peter Bevan-Baker on his work to reduce barriers between Islanders and primary health care, including the pharmacists motion and his request for Skip the Waiting Room fees to be covered for Islanders without a family doctor.


Karla Bernard and Steve Howard tabled and passed a motion entitled Calling on government to use a Childs’ Rights Impact Assessment on all policy and legislative development.

As Karla Bernard explained, a Childs' Rights Impact Assessment, or CRIA, "is a tool used to ensure that the principle of the best interest of the child is placed at the heart of any legislation, service, program, or budgetary spend... Public policy is strongest when the best interest of the child is made a priority and when the impacts on children are specifically considered throughout the policy development process."

"The first and most important value of the best interests of the child is to remind adults that children are important, that their interests are different from those of adults and that adults need to consider the impact of their decisions for children as a top priority."

Implementing a CRIA was a recommendation put forward by the government's own Child & Youth Advisory Council, but not acted upon by the government.

>>Watch: Karla Bernard speaks about her motion on a Childs' Rights Impact Assessment


Lynne Lund and Trish Altass passed an innovative motion called Supporting the mental health of Islanders through artistic, cultural, and social activity.

This motion points to the growing evidence of the mental health benefits of social prescribing, i.e. prescribing participation in artistic, cultural, and social activities in lieu of medication, and asks the government to develop a gift card program for Islanders struggling with mental health issues and low incomes to be able to attend artistic, cultural, and social activities.

Not only would this have benefits for patients, but for businesses and organizations in those sectors, which have been hard hit by COVID-19.

>>Watch: Trish Altass and Lynne Lund discuss their successful motion calling for the government to support the prescription of artistic, cultural and social activity to Islanders struggling with mental health


Health Critic Michele Beaton, seconded by Karla Bernard, brought forward and passed a motion calling on the Department of Health and Wellness to support preventative pelvic floor health on PEI.

As the motion notes, incontinence impacts hundreds of persons with vaginas, often aggravated by childbirth and other physical and hormonal changes. Often, the only solution they are provided is surgery.

Incontinence is one of the top reasons that women are admitted to long-term care. Early preventative intervention may reduce the long-term cost to our health care system and quality of life for seniors.

There are many things that can be done to prevent and help correct such problems though improved pelvic floor health. Some of this can be done through simple exercises at home or with the help of a physiotherapist.

This motion calls for the government to promote an education campaign on pelvic floor health, help and prevention, and to fund pelvic floor exams and treatment for Island seniors.


Bill and motions aren't the only way Greens make change in the Legislature - Green MLAs influence the direction of the province through the questions they ask, their contributions to debates, amendments they propose to improve bills moved by other parties, and through their work on committees and outside the Legislature helping their constituents.

The following is by no means comprehensive list of what Green MLAs are saying and doing, but simply a selection of highlights focussing on the final two weeks of the Fall Sitting (see our October Update for highlights of the first two weeks).

Wondering what Greens are doing on a particular issue not featured here? Write to us at [email protected] and we'll do our best to respond to your question!


Making PEI Canada's First Net Zero Agricultural Province

Green Party leader and Agriculture Critic Peter Bevan-Baker opened debate on a motion called "Establishing Prince Edward Island as Canada's first net zero agricultural province."


>>Read more: Opposition motion encourages PEI to become first net zero agricultural province (Nov 17, 2021, Island Farmer)

 


Improving the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) Program

In a similar vein, Green Environment Critic Hannah Bell opened started debate on a motion to improve the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) Program - a unique PEI program that helps farmers protect watercourses and wetlands, reduce soil erosion, boost grassland bird biodiversity, enhance other types of ecologically sensitive lands, and more, but which is severely underfunded to meet the demand and the today's needs.

Thanks to this motion and questions on the same subject asked by Peter Bevan-Baker during Question Period, the Minister of Agriculture has committed to increasing the budget for the ALUS program. We'll make sure he does!

>>Read more: Thompson commits to additional funding for ALUS program (Nov 17, 2021, Island Farmer)


Strengthening the Lands Protection Act (LPA)

During the fall sitting, the government tabled its long-awaited amendments to the Lands Protection Act, to plug the major loophole that allowed corporations to transfer and acquire large land holdings without cabinet oversight by trading corporate shares instead of transferring land title outright.

However, Greens found the government's proposed grace period of nine years for corporations to divest of land held in excess of the limits imposed by the LPA excessive.

Greens moved to amend the government's legislation by reducing the divestment grace period from nine years to four years. However, in the end the government only agreed to reduce the grace period to 7 years.


PEI's Healthcare crisis was a major theme for the Green Caucus this sitting:

    • Following the release by the PEU Nurses Union of a moving video on social media highlighting the seriousness of their situation, Peter Bevan-Baker questioned the Premier and Health Minister on what their government is doing to deal with the nursing staff shortage and frequent 24-hour shifts, and to protect nurses from the violence they are increasingly being subjected to at work.

    • Health Critic Michele Beaton raised the issue of paramedic shortages, sharing information that on some days, multiple ambulances are remaining unmanned due to staffing shortages, putting Islanders at risk.

Watch: Health Critic Michele Beaton speaks about why the Health system is broken on PEI.
  • Michele Beaton continued to raise questions about the government's opaque decision to hand over the management of mobile mental health units to Medavie, a private corporation.

  • Michele Beaton fired a series of questions at the government about its continued failure to ensure adequate psychiatric beds and mental health resources to meet the demand, in spite of its many grandiose promises.

>>Read more: Not enough mental health beds available on P.E.I., Opposition claims (CBC, Nov 05, 2021)

 


Housing, PEI's other H-crisis, continues to be a major focus for the Green Official Opposition Caucus.


Justice Critic Lynne Lund made a powerful call for vastly improved access to legal aid, which is currently only available to the very poorest Islanders and for a limited selection of legal issues only, creating access to justice issues for many Islanders facing high legal fees or the need to put themselves as a disadvantage by attempting to represent themselves in court.

>>Read more: Opposition calling for expansion of P.E.I. legal aid (CBC, Nov 04, 2021)


Lynne Lund also urged the government to consider waiving the fees and simplifying the bureaucratic for those undergoing gender transitions and applying to

Watch: Lynne Lund questions the Justice Minister on the access to justice issues created by the lack of legal aid funding.

change their legal names and genders. Such changes can currently cost more than $200, a high price to pay for many.

The Justice minister acknowledged that those fees were exorbitant and was unaware of the issue, and promised to have his department look into them.

>>Read more:

'Exorbitant' name, gender change costs in P.E.I. may change ( The Guardian, Nov 17th 2021)

Watch: Trish Altass speaks about workers and PEI's economic recovery.

Green MLA calls on government to remove fees for name, gender change for transitioning Islanders (CBC, Nov 17, 2021)

Economic Growth Critic Trish Altass and leader Peter Bevan-Baker highlighted the ways in which regular workers are being left behind by the King government. This includes the fact there were no worker voices represented in the Premier's Economic Recovery Council or its final report, and the continued failure of minimum wage increases to keep up with the rising cost of living - let alone bring us closer to living wages.

Lynne Lund questioned the ministers of Justice and Education about what plans the government has for rolling our education on sexual harassment in PEI schools, on the underreporting of sexual violence, and the need for a seismic shift in our culture, starting in schools. Watch a video of this exchange.

 

Thank you for catching up with us! We will continue to keep you posted on what Greens are doing to improve the lives of Islanders.