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NB and PEI Green Leaders call for better Atlantic collaboration to improve transportation and energy integration

CHARLOTTETOWN/FREDERICTON – The leaders of the Green Party caucuses in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are calling on the Atlantic Premiers to collaborate on the development of public transportation and renewable energy infrastructure for the region.

“Islanders routinely seek health care services in Moncton and Saint John, but the public transportation infrastructure is inadequate to get them there and back without access to a private vehicle,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition, Prince Edward Island and Green Party of PEI.

“It is time to serve people’s need for transportation services without forcing them to rely on expensive private vehicles,” said David Coon, Leader of the New Brunswick Green Party. “We need a more convenient bus network integrated with a new regional rail service and improved ferry services if we are serious about doing our fair share in response to the climate emergency.”

The two Green leaders also want to see a fully integrated electricity grid in order to share electricity from the region’s abundant renewable energy resources among the Atlantic provinces.

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Peter Bevan-Baker: Calling on the King government to implement a one-year pilot to open the scope of pharmacists on PEI.

We all get sick sooner or later. Currently on PEI, almost 20,000 Islanders have no family doctor to turn to when they get sick and need care. Sadly, when they need help they will end up standing in long lines at a walk-in clinic or waiting for hours in an emergency room.

Prince Edward Island desperately needs more family doctors. It is going to take time to recruit these doctors. Time is a luxury that many Islanders simply do not have.
Just this week a father reached out to me to tell me about his experience trying to get stitches removed from his daughter’s injury. It took several days of lining up at walk-in clinics, and missing work and school to finally have this simple procedure done.

Telling this father, and other Islanders like him, that the government is working towards recruiting more doctors does nothing to help.

Access to primary care is fundamental to our system, and to supporting Islanders’ health. Doctor and nurse shortages are at critical levels. It means many Islanders are without access to continuity of care for their health needs.

There are ways we can help sick Islanders now by relieving some of the pressure on our health care system as we work diligently to recruit new doctors. One way to divert some of the workload out of walk-in clinics is to allow pharmacists to work to their full scope of practice.

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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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HANNAH BELL: Feeling the Pinch

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.

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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: Doctors are leaving Summerside and Islanders need answers from government

The following was originally published as an opinion piece on Saltwire on September 21, 2021.

This summer I spent time knocking on doors and engaging with constituents at events and over the phone. By far the No. 1 concern I hear is about health care. Islanders want to know why so many doctors and other health-care professionals are choosing to leave Summerside’s hospital and clinics.

Prince County Hospital in particular has struggled in recent years to retain staff at all levels. For example, in the last sitting of the legislature it was confirmed that two general surgeons were leaving Prince County Hospital. Since then, three family doctors in the Summerside area have also given notice to their patients that they are leaving, as well as at least one specialist.

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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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