This week, Green Party of PEI members are preparing for our Annual General Meeting next Saturday, April 24th, while our MLAs are preparing for another week in the Legislature.
Read on for important updates for members, as well as some highlights from the Green Caucus since our last newsletter!
If you haven't yet registered for the online Annual General Meeting on Saturday, April 24th (1-4pm), please take a moment to do so now:
Remember: Your membership needs to be current in order to exercise your vote and have your say at the AGM. You can check you current membership status by clicking here. If your membership has been expired for less than one year, you can renew anytime prior to the AGM to regain your voting rights.
Why participate in the AGM?
The Annual General Meeting is the most important annual forum for grassroots democracy in the Green Party of PEI! At the AGM, you will:
- Learn about what the Party has been doing over the past year, what is coming up, and how members can get involved;
- Discuss and vote on seven member-created policy motions for the first time;
- Discuss and vote on four motions to amend the Party's Constitution and Bylaws;
- Elect new members of Provincial Council and the Ombuds Committee;
- Learn about the findings of our 2020/2021 Member Survey;
- Hear the annual address by Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker.
Grassroots Democracy and Active Citizenship are Core Green Values!
Reminder: Motions Workshop this Wednesday @ 7pm
Since voting on policy motions will be a new feature at Saturday's AGM, we want to give members as much opportunity as possible to understand how motions will be discussed and voted on under the Green Rules of Order, and to discuss motions in advance to identify potential ways to strengthen them.
You are invited to attend a pre-AGM Motions Workshop this Wednesday, April 21 at 7pm!
Since our last newsletter on April 3rd, MLAs have sat for just one week (this past week was a non-sitting "planning week" giving MLAs time to catch up on constituency issues and prepare for several more weeks in the Legislature), but even that time has been a showcase of Green MLAs' trademark ability to hold the government to account while advancing new ideas and laws to make PEI a better place for all.
Eliminating Poverty on PEI
The movement to eliminate poverty on PEI got a big boost when Hannah Bell's bill, the Poverty Elimination Strategy Act, passed 2nd reading in the Legislature with support across party lines.
This bill will require government to create a plan, with the help of a new Poverty Elimination Council, to ultimately eliminate poverty on PEI. To start with, the bill sets the following targets to be reached by 2025:
- the PEI poverty rate will be reduced 25% under 2018 levels overall, and by 50% among persons under 18 years of age;
- food insecurity will be reduced by 50% overall and completely eliminated among children;
- chronic homelessness among all persons will be eliminated.
Further improvements are targeted in the years following that, until reaching the goal of completely eliminating poverty on PEI by 2035.
"By putting a framework in place that has clear targets, measures, definitions and accountability for the minister responsible then what that does is requires government to actually take and report on actions specifically against those targets, that's a really important thing," says Bell.
Rare Vote by Speaker Keeps Green Bill Alive
A little bit of PEI history was made April 8th when the Speaker of the Legislature was called upon to break a tie vote on a bill.
While all 13 opposition members (Greens and Liberals) voted in favour of Trish Altass' bill to amend the Health Services Act, all 13 MLAs on the government side voted against the bill. The Speaker's vote keeps the bill alive, giving Altass the chance to secure support for the bill from among the PC caucus.
The bill seeks to reverse legislation passed by the previous Liberal government which gave the Minister of Health extraordinary powers to personally meddle in Health PEI operations. For a very good article about why those 2018 changes undermined the ability of our health system to be effective, see Martin Ruben's recent piece in the Guardian. See also Trish Altass' February article about why she decided to pursue this bill.
It is fantastic that the Liberal caucus understands the need to restore proper accountability to Health PEI, even though it reverses changes made by the previous Liberal government. Hopefully in the weeks ahead at least a few PC MLAs will join with the Opposition in making these much needed changes to the legislation.
An Environmental Bill of Rights for PEI
Lynne Lund got to table her Environmental Bill of Rights legislation in the Legislature earlier this month. This is a BIG bill that, if passed, would be a game changer for environmental protection on PEI by enshrining the right of public participation in government decision making which could result in harm to Islanders' rights to a healthy environment.
The Environmental Bill of Rights would also create an Environment Commissioner - an independent officer of the Legislature who would serve as a sort of environmental ombudsperson and auditor. Citizens who believe that their environmental rights are being infringed would be able to request that the Environment Commission open an investigation, and it would enable citizens to initiate lawsuits to prevent or reverse environmentally damaging decisions.
We are expecting formal debate on this bill to begin in the Legislature in the week ahead. Please encourage your MLA to support this important bill!
See also: Recording of the "Outside the Rails" webinar with Lynne Lund, in which she discusses her Environmental Bill of Rights.
Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker took the government to task for its continued lack of a real plan to ensure Islanders have access to affordable rental housing. While the rental vacancy rate on PEI has ticked up slightly to 2.6% overall in October 2020, evidence points to these gains being mostly due to the return of short-term rentals to longer-term rentals due to the lack of tourist demand during the pandemic - and therefore a gain that could quickly be eroded again once tourism returns to normal levels.
This, combined with government foot-dragging on things like creating a Rental Registry to crack down on illegal rent increases and updating the Residential Tenancy Act, prompted Peter to ask a series of question about that the government is doing about the housing crisis.
Privatization of Health Care Delivery
Trish Altass asked the government about news that it plans to shut down its cytology lab at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, sending tests the lab currently processes — pap tests, biopsies of tumours and other tests to detect cancer — to a private lab in Ontario starting in October 2022.
Trish is concerned that privatizing health care services to an off-Island company will not only result in job losses here on P.E.I., but will also be a loss of control over the timing and quality of a critical and essential service.
Lynne Lund had a lively exchange with Environment Minister Steven Myers on April 7th over the watering down of the proposed new Water Act regulations. She asked how, given the government's record of breaking its own rules (eg. by permitting water withdrawal from the Dunk River last year when it was already below its minimum level), we can rely on the government to act in the interest of protecting PEI water going forward.
The next day, in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability Committee, the discussion turned to the moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture. Lynne said that asking whether to lift the moratorium is the wrong question.
"The question is, are we currently protecting water on P.E.I in a lot of the province? The answer to that would be yes. But in certain areas we already know the answer is no. I think the concern that so many Islanders have is that government is not prepared to follow the rules they have in place now," said Lund.
In 2019, the Legislature passed a Green motion by Lynne Lund and Steve Howard to pilot a Drug Treatment Court in PEI - a form of court that focusses on restorative justice and getting people help with their additions rather than on traditional punishment.
We've not heard much from the government since then, so Steve Howard asked the Justice Minister a series of questions about where things stand with introducing more restorative forms of courts in PEI.
The answer in a nutshell: "We're looking at it." The minister was not able to share a date when he thought we might see such a court in place.
Peter Bevan-Baker asked Economic Growth Minister Matthew Mackay about the government's new expected timeline for rural internet delivery by 2023. He wants to ensure that rural Islanders will be getting true high-speed internet - and that the quality of the connection is not being sacrificed in the process of speeding up delivery.
Charlottetown Area Development Corporation (CADC)
Ole Hammarlund asked a series of good questions about what the government is doing to ensure that the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation is able to continue playing its positive role in developing the Capital Region, including the role it might play in developing more non-car-dependent housing in the region.
Thank you for reading! Until next time!