Provide your feedback on 2020 grassroots policy motions

This page is being used to provide the opportunity to view and provide feedback on the four grassroots policy motions that have been submitted by Green Party of PEI members for debate and voting at the Spring 2020 Convention in Summerside. Please enter your feedback, suggestions or questions for any of the motions; it will be considered by both the motion sponsors and the Policy Motions Submission Committee in advance of the final motions being shared with the membership on February 27, 2020.

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PEI Commission on a Sustainable Future for Farming

The Motion:

Sponsored by: Pauline Howard, Teresa Doyle, Darcie Lanthier, Soleil Hutchinson and Sally Bernard

See the full motion, including supporting evidence, here.

Whereas agriculture is of major importance on PEI, economically, socially, and culturally;

Whereas agriculture, domestically and globally, is highly dependent on government policies, and these policies, together with markets, determine what systems become, or remain, economically and environmentally viable;

Whereas agriculture occurs in natural environments and ecosystems and it is highly dependent on this natural resource base to remain sustainable in the long term;

Whereas exports are essential for PEI agriculture due to its small population, but a commodity model based on low prices and high volumes puts island industries in disadvantage, due to our small land mass and fragile ecosystems;

Whereas farming practices can influence the role of agriculture in the climate crisis, and decisions made on these practices can either contribute to amplify the crisis or be part of the solution;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Green Party seek that a government-sponsored, inclusive, non-partisan commission be established to examine the future of farming on PEI. The Commission will be comprised of subject matter experts and stakeholder representatives, including farmers, processors, and the civil society. The Commission’s mandate will be to develop and consult on a ten-year plan on how PEI can transition to a model of sustainable agriculture, with consideration to all connected issues, and what role the PEI provincial government, industries, and citizens can play in fostering this transition.

Background:

Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse emissions (estimated 8.4% in Canada) while it is also a major player as a carbon sink. Farming practices play a very important role in this ratio of emissions vs sinks. Farming can be part of the climate crisis solution.  

No one wins if the much-needed debate on farming practices becomes "us" vs "them" (for example organic vs conventional). All farmers are vulnerable to market pressures and drivers, and all farmers depend on the environment for sustainability.  Finding common ground is important to move forward with a transformation that improves the conditions for all. Farmers are in business and a change in farming practices can be achieved if the incentives are there.

Agriculture policy is interconnected with the environment, land use, fisheries and the economy and any policies must appreciate this interconnection. Moving towards a circular economy that reduces the dependence on external inputs, recycles byproducts, and closes nutrient loops can generate additional value for all involved when waste from one process becomes the input into another process (example: organic compost, biogas fuel).

Although this would not be the first instance of one such Commission, there are many good reasons to establish one now. In the spring of 2008, the federal and provincial governments established the Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Agri-Food on Prince Edward Island, mandated to assess the state of agriculture in the province, articulate a vision for the future, and develop an action plan to achieve the vision. More than 10 years have passed since that Commission delivered its report, “Growing the Island Way,” with 16 recommendations. It is time to take stock, review what has been accomplished, how the environment has changed since, and what we have learned. In hindsight, now we see that citizens of the community at large and some sectors of the industry were underrepresented in that dialogue. Other stakeholders such as Island First Nations were not represented at all. The backdrop of climate change was not as well understood as it is today and it is barely mentioned by the report, mainly in terms of its effects on competitiveness by undermining the viability of “some farming regions,” rather than a crisis close to home.

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Climate Change Investment Fund

The Motion:

Sponsored by: Phil Ferraro (this motion needs four co-sponsors - please indicate whether you would be willing to co-sponsor this motion).

See the full motion, including supporting evidence, here.

Whereas government action is essential to respond to the climate change reality;

Whereas access to capital is often a barrier for investment in fossil fuel reduction initiatives;

Whereas mechanisms to incentivize investments in clean energy and green technologies are  important means for provincial governments to act to reduce fossil fuel use;

Whereas community investment funds have been used with success in other jurisdictions to raise capital for social enterprises;

Therefore be it resolved that the Green Party of PEI seek that a government-sponsored climate change investment fund (CCIF) be established  to support and encourage investment in enterprises that can bring forth a reduction in fossil fuel consumption in Prince Edward Island.

This CCIF would facilitate the reduction in fossil fuel usage through a program whereby the Provincial government would offer tax credits for those investing in enterprises that provide goods, services and technologies that reduce fossil fuel usage. The program could be modelled on the Nova Scotia Community Economic-Development Investment Fund or other similar initiatives.

Background:

Climate change is one of the largest threats humanity has ever faced. Sea levels are rising, weather patterns are being disrupted, storms are more frequent and more intense, the ocean is acidifying, biodiversity is becoming more strained, agriculture is suffering in many places, and refugees are beginning to leave their homes due to increasingly, hostile environments.

As an Island, PEI is one of the most vulnerable regions in North America. There is a need for policies to encourage investments that enable a transition to a truly sustainable future.  Provincial governments can play a key role in providing incentives for such investments. 

In a recent survey of over 4,000 Canadians (insert link to survey), 91% of respondents either strongly or somewhat supported a new program that would include a massive investment in clean energy, green technology, and electrification to reduce carbon emissions in Canada to net-zero by 2050.

A community investment fund (CIF) is a pool of capital which is raised from individuals to invest in for-profit entities within a defined community. These funds are controlled by a local group of officers and directors accountable to the investors. An example of this type of fund, the Community Economic and Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) was established in Nova Scotia and has operated successfully for many years. In that province, CEDIFs can raise capital through an exempt public offering and advertise its shares to the public. Examples of successful social enterprises that benefited from CEDIF include Just Us Coffee, NS FarmWorks and several community owned wind farms.

Examples of the initiatives that could be targeted by a climate-focused CIF may include refurbishing and construction of buildings to reach net-zero heat loss, regenerative agriculture, clean transportation options.

Click here for a policy paper with more in-depth background on the idea.

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Protection of Pollinators on Prince Edward Island Including Protection of Honeybees and Bumblebees from Infestation by Small Hive Beetle

The Motion:

Sponsored by: Stan Sandler, Trudy White, Amy MacPherson, Liz Dacombe and Adam Sandler.

See the full motion, including supporting evidence, here.

 

Whereas  honey bees, bumblebees and other wild bees are important pollinators providing ecological and economic services (pollination)  that benefit all residents of PEI, human and non-human;

Whereas the health and well-being of honey bees, bumblebees and other wild bees worldwide is increasingly threatened by many factors including habitat loss, climate change,  pesticides, and the spread of disease, invasive parasites and pests;

Whereas the Small Hive Beetle (SHB) is one such parasite /pest that can have major impacts on both honey bee and bumblebee colonies.   Globally it is spreading rapidly, and international SHB researchers are calling for urgent actions to prevent / slow its further spread;

Whereas Small Hive Beetles are also now known to contribute to the spread of other serious diseases of honeybees including  American Foulbrood (AFB). Further research is needed to determine if SHB may also spread diseases of other bee species; 

Whereas PEI is preparing  to allow the importation of hives from areas infected with Small Hive Beetle, this spring,  using an Importation Protocol which ignores beekeepers concerns and scientific evidence of the high risk that SHB will be introduced onto the Island.  This importation is being enabled in order to meet the blueberry industry's demand for more pollinators to increase blueberry yields, regardless of the high risk or  future negative impacts on honey bees, bumblebees or other wild bee species.

 

Therefore be it resolved that the Green Party of PEI puts the health of our wild pollinators and our honey bees ahead of short term economic considerations, and supports a ban on on the importation of honey bees into Prince Edward Island from areas of Canada that are positive for small hive beetle, and make it illegal to move bumblebee colonies from infected areas into Prince Edward Island.

Background:

Small Hive Beetle (SHB) is a major pest  of honey bees. Since 1996, it has spread from sub-Saharan Africa to all continents except Antarctica.   Preventing its spread is very difficult because small hive beetles are extremely hard to detect in hives until they are well established.  SHB has adapted quickly to overwintering in colder climates and now also infests the colonies of bumblebees and other social bees. Some new research indicates they may also infest solitary leafcutter bee nests.

The blueberry industry on PEI has expanded significantly in recent years.  It now typically imports colonies of honey bees and bumblebees because there are not enough local honey bee colonies or wild bees to meet their pollination requirements.  (Note: some blueberry farmers do not use rented hives relying instead on localized healthy populations of native pollinators.) In the past, hives have usually been imported from Nova Scotia or from SHB free areas of Ontario.   However, since March 2019, Ontario has lifted its internal quarantines for SHB infected hives, so all of Ontario must now be considered a SHB positive area. There is no safe way to import colonies from a SHB positive area. Any importation, particularly in the early spring , must be considered  high risk because SHB are extremely difficult to detect, especially in the early stages of infestation. 

Despite repeated attempts  by beekeepers on Prince Edward Island, to be consulted and have their objections and suggestions heard,  the Minister of Agriculture and Land has announced it plans to allow the importation of hives from Ontario this year.  Last year the province also allowed bumblebee colonies that had been exposed to SHB in New Brunswick to come to PEI.

The short term objective of this motion is to protect Island honeybees, bumblebees, and possibly other wild bees from Small Hive Beetles due to the high risk importation of honey bee and bumblebee colonies from SHB positive areas this year.  This can only be achieved by closing PEI's border to those areas according to the scientific evidence on preventing SHB spread. 

The mid term goal is to increase public and stakeholders' awareness through education about the SHB threat, so that stakeholders  begin working together to seek and promote pollination solutions that are ecologically responsible and sustainable.

The long term vision of this motion is of an Island that protects all pollinators, by supporting small-scale local beekeeping and promoting more pollinator conservation programs for native species.  An important part of this will be our transition to ecologically sustainable agricultural practices that promote biodiversity instead of monocultures.

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Initiate formation of a Citizens’ Assembly on Proportional Representation in 2020

The Motion:

Sponsored by: Anna Keenan, Jordan Bober, Lucy Morkunas, Natalie McDonald, Irene Novaczek, Pauline Howard, Andrew Lush & Nils Ling.

See the full motion, including supporting evidence, here.

Whereas the 2016 plebiscite was widely regarded as a fair and open process in which all islanders had equal opportunity to participate, and in which well-informed and engaged voters participated, and this plebiscite resulted in a 10% margin of victory for MMP over First Past the Post.

Whereas the Spring 2019 referendum ended in a stalemate - neither ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’ reached the 17-district threshold to be considered ‘binding’, as set out in the Electoral Systems Referendum Act,

Whereas a stalemate result was remarkable, considering that the Electoral Systems Referendum Act defining the rules for the referendum was highly controversial, requiring 27 amendments before passed with the support of only the MLAs of the previous governing party, and considering that the ‘No’ side campaign relied heavily on fear-based arguments.

Whereas the 49% result in the 2019 Referendum was for a specific, poorly-specified version of Mixed-Member Proportional Representation, and so it is nearly certain that support for proportionality as a principle is likely higher, and support for a better-designed version of Proportional Representation would likely gain the support of a majority of Islanders.

Whereas the ‘No’ vote in 2019 was highly geographically concentrated in the 3 districts Up West, and different designs of Proportional Systems can be found to address the specific concerns of that community.


Whereas PEI can lead Canada, and on this issue, Canada needs leadership.

Whereas countries with Proportional Representation have better representation of equity-seeking groups in politics, better results in climate action, and more trust in democracy, and more satisfaction with politics.

Whereas support for Proportional Representation is specifically named and enshrined in the Constitution of the Green Party of PEI, as part of the Global Green Charter core value of Participatory Democracy.

 

Whereas all politicians, and all parties, are widely perceived by the public, and by each other, to have a vested interest in the design of the electoral system.

Whereas Citizens’ Assemblies - a random selection of citizens, compensated for their time, engaging in a facilitated, deliberative process with access to expert advisors - have considerable legitimacy and public trust, because participants are a representative body of citizens that has no vested interest in the outcome.

Whereas Citizens’ Assemblies are representative of the general population; build civic capacity; focus on shared principles; and are generally a more meaningful way to hear from citizens than referenda.

Whereas Citizens’ assemblies can be used to discuss issues in which politicians are at an impasse and unable to agree with each other for political reasons. 



Whereas in 2019, 6 of PEI’s 8 Green MLAs were elected in seats which clearly supported MMP in the Referendum, and on average, 54% of the constituents of Green MLAs voted ‘Yes’ for MMP.

Whereas Islanders are enjoying the minority government, with government satisfaction reaching an 11-year high in late 2019; the minority government is providing experiential evidence that minority governments typical of Proportional systems can be more productive, stable and effective than majority governments; public anxiety about minority government has declined.

Whereas in 2020, the current Premier is in favour of Proportional Representation, as were the leaders of 3 of the 4 provincial parties in the last election.

Whereas if First Past the Post system is maintained, there is a significant chance that the next election could result in a false-majority government, and/or it could result in any one of the three elected island political parties being wiped out in a sweep of disproportionality; this risk presents an opportunity, as the two old-line parties may now see proportional representation as being in their interest.

And whereas voters’ memories are short, and delaying further on advancing this issue will lead to a loss of the considerable momentum built in the past years.



Therefore be it resolved that a provincial Citizens’ Assembly should be formed with a mandate which includes proposing, in a report to the Legislative Assembly, a specific, detailed design for a proportional electoral system that is tailored to PEI’s needs, and which it believes would meet the approval of a majority of the Island public.

Be it further resolved that the Citizens' Assembly should be formed of at least 27 willing, randomly-selected citizens, compensated for their time, who are broadly representative of island society as reflected in the Census, including age, gender, social class, and regional spread.

Be it further resolved that the Legislative Assembly shall respond to the report of the Citizens’ Assembly by tabling legislation to enact the changes recommended, and shall not respond by calling another referendum on the recommendations.

Be it further resolved that the process for forming such a Citizens’ Assembly should be initiated in 2020, while the right conditions exist for success.

 

Background:

This issue has been live on PEI for a long time. It was right to let the issue rest after the 2019 referendum, but if we want to achieve this change, now, 2020, is the time to bring it back, while we have the opportunity, the recent memory and a highly-informed public, and the benefit of a minority government and support from the Premier. 

Waiting another election is too risky - if Greens do not hold power, or even a balance of power, and another party gains a false-majority government, this issue will make no progress in the next 4-year period. We should not gamble on the off-chance that the Greens will form a majority government next election: rather, we must do what is right, now, while we have the opportunity. With delays, the recent memory and momentum on this issue will fade away, and any new efforts for change will be starting from a much-weakened base - we might not see this issue return for another few critical decades. 

It is worth noting that between the failed plebiscite in 2005 and the 2015 provincial election,  there was a decade of inaction on Proportional Representation, in which momentum nearly-completely stalled. We cannot risk this happening again.

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This issue is strong for the Greens, and for our Leader. It is largely thanks to the 2016 plebiscite campaign, and the principled advocacy of our Leader both during the plebiscite campaign, and the integrity demonstrated by the party during the ‘Honour the Vote’ campaign which followed, that Green popular support shot upwards by 20% in the polls, and Liberal party support tanked, paving the way for our electoral breakthrough in the 2017 byelection, and the 2019 general election. Indeed, the 2016 plebiscite campaign was a foundational piece of our party’s 2016-2024 Strategic Plan.

A clear majority of constituents of Green MLAs want to see Proportional Representation happen. Even in Districts 22 and 23, where Green MLAs represent districts s which narrowly voted ‘No’ to MMP, most voters there would accept that something has to change, even if they don’t support the specific model of MMP that was proposed. A Citizens’ Assembly can appeal to those voters as well. 

In all Green ridings, it is highly likely that the voters who voted ‘Yes’ strongly overlap with the base who voted Green. So: performing well on this issue is likely to enhance the ability of our current MLAs to hold their seats.

Calling for a Citizens’ Assembly now is likely to generate cross-party support, and will also demonstrate that governance is a major strength and differentiating factor for our party.

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At 49% Yes to 51% No, in the 2019 Referendum, which focused squarely on a specific model of MMP, there is clearly a lot of appetite in the community for reform.

Even the official ‘No’ side repeatedly said that they aren’t opposed to change itself, they are just opposed to ‘this specific change’: the Mixed-Member Proportional model proposed in the Referendum Act.

The PR Action Team’s Referendum Response advocated to the incoming government “to consult with both advocates and opponents to this change, and find ways to resolve the concerns raised during the campaign, including some elements of MMP which were not clearly defined by the previous government.”

Three needs that they identified to make MMP comfortable for a majority of islanders are:

1 - Requiring partisan candidate lists to be elected through a democratic process

2 - Mechanisms to prevent a loss of rural representation

3 - Establishing minimum thresholds for an individual or party to be elected to the proportional seats.

Each of these was raised several times throughout the 2019 campaign, and each is a solvable problem.

The lack of detail in Schedule 2 of the Referendum Act was disconcerting for many voters, and is something that the previous government could have easily addressed, had they consulted with stakeholders before rushing the Referendum Act through the house.

The outgoing government handled this file exceedingly poorly, and in a biased manner, and the results from the 2019 referendum reflect this.

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Finally, it should be noted that when a Citizens’ Assembly is formed, its mandate can cover many issues - it does not need to limited to Electoral Reform alone. For example, the Irish Citizens’ Assembly of 2016-18 - an exemplary process - covered 5 major topics over 18 months: abortion, the aging population, fixed-term parliaments, how referenda are held, and climate change. 

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