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LYNNE LUND: Preventing sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility

It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week, and this is an important time for conversations on how preventing sexual violence is everyone’s responsibility.

It’s well known that sexual violence is widely under reported, and a big piece of that is the very real fear survivors have of not being believed. There is necessary work at virtually every level of society.

We must ensure survivors feel safe and supported to come forward after a sexual assault, to improve their experiences in the justice system, and to do whatever is necessary to eliminate the culture that makes these assaults all too common in the first place.

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HANNAH BELL: It’s Time for Free Residential Water Testing

Did you know that in PEI the recommended residential drinking water test (bacterial and chemical) costs at least $135 + HST?

It is generally recommended that homeowners using drinking water from their own well should get their water tested for bacteria at least once a year and should have a chemical analysis of their well water done when a new well is first drilled, and at least once every 3 to 5 years. It is also recommended that you test your water any time you notice a significant change in the taste, smell, or appearance of the water. This is not an optional or nice-to-have perk; this is a health and safety issue. But, the costs associated with this basic water test are a barrier for Islanders who have the right to ensure they have quality, safe drinking water.

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Hannah Bell: Feeling the pinch? PEI needs an economic recovery plan

You may have recently seen stories about Canada’s annual inflation rate reaching an 18 year high at 4.1%. You may, however, have missed the part that PEI’s inflation rate year over year increase is the highest in Canada. Our rate is 6.3%. Some of this drastic increase in the pace of inflation can be attributed to COVID flattening prices a year earlier, but the numbers are still shocking.

Most Islanders are probably not talking about inflation rates, but they are talking about the rising cost of just about everything – from houses to gasoline to groceries – and that’s what inflation looks like in the real world.

Inflation is impacted by a huge range of factors, many of which are not things that can be addressed directly or quickly. The long term effects of the pandemic – supply chain challenges, labour shortages, and fluctuating demand – have made day-to-day life even more expensive. These are global issues that we feel in our wallets every day.

As we move out of the pandemic, these spiking inflation rates should be temporary. But do we really think that prices will go back down as inflation eases?

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STEVE HOWARD:: The Minister of Education must prioritize Island children. She must take responsibility.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has been saying since the spring of 2020 that ventilation is a factor in the spread of COVID. In June of this year, PHAC said ventilation was of particular concern regarding how quickly and easily the more contagious Delta variant spreads in buildings.

The department has known for two summers that inadequate ventilation is a problem for Island schools when it comes to the spread of COVID. In fact, ventilation is a problem in our schools that preceded the pandemic. Yet, the King government has done nothing to fix this problem.

The federal government, fully understanding the need to provide a safe learning environment for students, made millions of dollars available to provinces to improve air quality in schools. Instead of spending those dollars, the King government left its share of the money unspent. That is irresponsible.

Despite having the time and evidence necessary to adequately safeguard our children, the King government chose to do nothing until the absolute last moment. In late August, the Minister of Education released a plan that was inadequate and rushed. Consultation also did not happen with stakeholders. Now we have the highest case count since the pandemic began.

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TRISH ALTASS: We need improved covid supports for parents & families

The outbreak of COVID-19 in Island schools this past week is incredibly stressful for parents and families. They are dealing with the very real risk of their children getting sick, not to mention the potential loss of much needed income as parents care for their children.

The outbreak also shines a spotlight on the weaknesses of the King government’s pandemic planning and support for parents and families.

The province’s Special Leave Fund aims to support workers who slip through the cracks of the federal COVID programs. However, it relies on businesses to apply on behalf of their employees. It does not allow workers to apply for themselves. This has been a barrier with other programs.

The criteria to access the program are also too restrictive to meet the diverse needs of Island workers affected by COVID. Government needs to make its programs more flexible and responsive to the needs of Island workers.

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HANNAH BELL: Increasing nitrate levels in Island rivers points to need for better support for new agricultural practices

I love our Island home. It offers beauty and opportunity in so many diverse ways. This is why it is deeply concerning to learn that nitrate levels are rising in some key watershed areas on PEI.

This has been a worry for both farmers and other Islanders who use or live near our waterways, and an issue that the Green caucus has been raising since its very first day in the Legislature. The news is also particularly disheartening as it shows a reversal to the gains that had been slowly made since the late 1990s.

The Minister believes this is the result of the droughts over the last couple of years. However, a report from his own department, Land Use and Long-Term Nitrate Trends in Island Streams, states that it takes 5 to 10 years for nitrates to travel through groundwater systems before reaching our streams.

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A government of empty promises, no vision and disappointing leadership

Governing is hard.

Good governing needs two separate skill sets – being responsive to crises and being responsible through good long-term management attached to a strong vision.
Good governments are both responsive and responsible.

COVID-19 presents a useful example of what I mean: it required an immediate, short-term response to the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic, and as PEI now exits the pandemic, it demands that we develop a long-term plan to create a stronger and more resilient province.

Being responsive to situations as they arise requires collecting good information, having solid advisors, and being decisive. Being responsible over the long haul means having vision, doing strategic planning, having benchmarks to measure outcomes to assess effectiveness and guide future planning, and using strong organizational skills.

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Statement by Steve Howard, Official Opposition Critic for Education and Lifelong Learning, on cancellation of meeting of Standing Committee on Education and Economic Growth to discuss back to school plan

The back to school plan that was announced just over three weeks ago was soundly criticized by parents, caregivers, and experts. One epidemiologist described the plan as being ‘overconfident’ in ignoring the realities of the Delta variant of COVID and how easily it is transmitted. Government ignored the concerns and proceeded with a plan that would not prevent a community outbreak from happening.

This is the reality in which we find ourselves today – an outbreak and community spread in our schools. Islanders’ fears are being realized.

Today, I was supposed to be in a meeting of the Standing Committee on Education and Economic Growth where we were to discuss the back to school plan with representatives from the Department of Education. I was also hoping to ask the Minister of Education, who was invited to the meeting, what her plans are now that we are facing what many Islanders had predicted would happen if she proceeded with the plan presented.

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Statement by Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition, on lack of preparation and action by King government which is leading to community spread of COVID among PEI schools

It was shocking to listen to Premier King state earlier today he would do nothing differently regarding how his government handled its back to school planning. After months of telling Islanders to be vigilant and to go the extra mile to protect our neighbours, it is his government that is opening the door for community spread to happen in our schools.

Children under twelve have no vaccination protections. They are a completely exposed population of nearly fourteen thousand. It is unconscionable that their health is being given such low regard and concern by the King government.

I am also bewildered by the reluctance of Premier King to take immediate, decisive action to protect Island children. I am shocked to hear him say his government is doing everything they possibly can. This is positively untrue. There are no mask mandates for the broader public, no movement on school ventilation upgrades despite having COVID contingency funds from the federal government, no mandatory vaccinations for teachers and staff, and despite making routine testing for unvaccinated staff at long term care homes a requirement, the King government is unwilling to do the same for Island schools.

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Non-Disclosure Agreements Act

Non-disclosure agreements (or “NDAs”) are contracts that prevent parties from sharing any information covered by the agreement. Non-disclosure agreements are not inherently bad. They can serve useful and legitimate purposes. For example, an employer might require employees to sign an NDA to prevent the disclosure of intellectual property or trade secrets. An employer might require an employee to sign an NDA if they manage personal information through their job. Or, two businesses considering a merger or acquisition might enter into an NDA to promote open dialogue between them and prevent the release of sensitive financial and strategic information to external parties.

NDAs have been used to silence victims of unlawful acts                                                                                                            

However, with the rise of the #MeToo movement, greater public attention has been drawn to the use of NDAs to protect harassers. They have been used to prevent victims from speaking out. The harmful effects of these non-disclosure agreements have been widely discussed in the media, academia, and as part of the broader discussions within the #MeToo movement.

The unethical use of NDAs to silence victims has also drawn the attention of elected officials around the world. There is a need to understand just how widespread these secretive agreements are. We also need to ensure these agreements are not used to protect predators. They must not place other employees at risk of harm in the future.

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