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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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Statement by Karla Bernard, Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing, on importance of the Community Outreach Centre and King government’s failure to properly support it

I am deeply troubled by the conversations I’ve been having with Islanders about the Community Outreach Centre. This is a vital service in our community and I am calling on government to take action immediately to address these concerns. Through discussions I’ve had while visiting the Centre, conversations with clients, advocates, residents and concerned Islanders, it has become apparent that things are reaching a breaking point — and something must be done. Everyone, and I mean everyone, deserves to live with dignity and safety.

It doesn’t take long to understand one central reason why the Centre isn’t working for its clients or its neighbours. The issues and problems have been made abundantly clear. This centre is sorely underfunded. There is not enough staff, and not enough resources or supports. The clients and the community deserve the supports that are required for this centre to be a success.

On any given day 75 people access the Centre and many end up staying in the neighborhood before and after hours. The reality is there are still only 29 shelter beds in Charlottetown and people do not magically have a place to go when the Centre closes.

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Pay Transparency Act

In 1975, PEI passed the Human Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in pay. In 1988, PEI passed the Pay Equity Act, which sought to achieve pay equity in the public sector. Despite greater economic participation by women and the advancement of more women into senior positions, the gender wage gap persists as an issue. As a result, women have less take-home pay than men.

Current Situation                                                                                                                                                                     

Statistically, PEI has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in Canada, with women who are full time workers making $46,855, compared to $55,726 for men. However, as experts have noted, there are certain factors that might affect our pay gap including the comparatively large size of our public service, low wages relative to the rest of the country, and a failure to quantify the value of unpaid labour like childcare and eldercare. A recent statistical review found that women on PEI are more likely to have higher levels of education than men, and that two-thirds of students enrolled at UPEI are women, yet PEI women earn less than men on average. Government has the opportunity to correct this disparity and truly make PEI a leader in pay fairness and equity.

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Responsible government means being responsible

Conservative governments love to tout their expertise as good fiscal managers – as long as it’s someone else’s money, and as long as you don’t look too closely at the details. Sometimes, there are no details at all.

During the unprecedented COVID pandemic, hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed into PEI from the federal government to help keep businesses afloat and support individuals through a range of programs and services. Using this injection of cash, PEI became one of five provinces to create large ‘unallocated funds’ – that is, contingency funds that can provide the government with wiggle room to make decisions as the situation evolves. On one hand this can help governments to be flexible and responsive. But it also means that the government does not have any checks and balances on how or if that money is spent, and no approved budget.

In fact, the recent CCPA Report ‘Still Picking Up the Tab’ states quite clearly “Large unallocated funds can often be considered poor budgeting practice, in that they provide no detail in advance to citizens as to how large amounts of money will be spent. In the worst-case scenario, unallocated funds can be a means of inflating the value of the crisis response while, in the end, being meant only to reduce the deficit.” (see page 15 of the report)

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Joint statement on King government’s inconsistency of guidance to protect Island’s vulnerable populations

Late yesterday the King government announced increased measures to protect Islanders living in Long Term Care Homes. This is welcome news and very much needed. Early in the pandemic seniors paid a steep price for their safety when they were isolated and cut off from their families and community support. Now with high vaccination rates among long term care residents, it is crucial to have measures put in place to both protect their health and allow critical access to family and community.

However, the approach for protecting this vulnerable group of Islanders lies in stark contrast to how the King government is handling the safety of another vulnerable Island population – our children. There is no child under 12 that is vaccinated on PEI, yet government is delaying or refusing to put in place measures that will protect them and ensure their continued health and safety.

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PEI's Federal Green Candidates

As you know, there is a federal election afoot right now! While the Green Party of PEI is not involved in federal elections, we believe that ALL elections are important opportunities to practice active citizenship, participate in the democratic process, and make progress on the most important issues of our time.

So first and foremost, we hope that you will vote your values in this federal election - and if you have young voters in your life, please encourage them to make their voice heard, too. If you've moved or just become eligible to vote since the last federal election in 2019, check or update your voter registration on the Elections Canada website, and if you would feel safer voting by mail, make sure that Elections Canada receives your application no later than September 14th - click here for more information and to apply to vote by mail.

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King government update on housing action plan shows lack of progress in social housing but an increase in supports to developers and landlords

Charlottetown, PE – In the 2021 Housing Progress Report released by the King government this morning, it is evident that government is not building public housing at the rate Islanders expect and need.

“The King government’s failure to effectively address the housing crisis has led to some Islanders being stripped of their basic human dignity and security,” said Karla Bernard, Official Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing.

Concerns the Official Opposition identified with the report include:

  • No indication that government intends to make the necessary regulatory changes to permit inclusionary zoning by Island municipalities;
  • Aside from a study, there is no timeline or commitment to actually introduce a rental registry on PEI—one of the best defenses against illegal rent increases;
  • The lack of data concerning population projections to determine whether the number of planned new units is adequate to support our growing population;
  • No references to and actions for anticipated labour shortages in the construction sector, which will affect PEI’s ability to build new housing supply; and
  • No indication that government intends to move forward on a vacancy tax to discourage the under-use of existing housing supply.
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