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Statement from Peter Bevan-Baker on lack of leadership by King government in Back to School Plan 2021-2022

 

The plan released today by the King government presents more questions than answers. It is incomplete. It follows this government’s pattern of taking the easy path to avoid taking clearly defined positions on difficult issues. It shows a lack of leadership by the government of Dennis King to enact measures that will definitively ensure the safety of Island children and school staff.

We have a large cohort of PEI children who are not vaccinated – through no choice of their own – and this government seems to believe this is not an area of concern. I am frustrated and concerned by the King government’s reluctance to protect student well being by making vaccines mandatory for front-line staff. In fact, there is not even a provision in this plan requiring pro-active periodic testing for those unvaccinated staff.

Equally concerning is this government’s lack of commitment to mandatory masking in schools. Masking is easy and respectful of those who are vulnerable, especially those who aren’t and can’t be vaccinated. It’s the least we can do for each other.

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King government’s empty promises on mental health is hurting Islanders and costing lives

For years Islanders have been begging for increased mental health support on PEI. Premier King ran a campaign focused on getting “shovels in the ground on day one” for the long awaited Mental Health Hospital. Not only did Premier King fail to expedite the construction of the hospital, but his government recently announced that the hospital opening will AGAIN be pushed back at least another two years to 2025-26 – a whopping four years later than his election promise.

A timeline of discouragement

It has been 18 months since the mental health forum at The Guild where a panel of mental health advocates share their lived experiences with the former Health Minister. At the forum, the best the Minister could do was suggest creating more bureaucracy by making a new cabinet position for mental health.

It has been 9 months since the members of the Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the Official Opposition motion calling on government to make mental health and addiction services a priority.

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King government ignoring Summerside housing crisis

*Originally published as Letter to the Editor, Journal Pioneer, August 18, 2021

Whether we’re talking about housing, healthcare or education, at the heart of it, what most Islanders are really looking for is the services and support they need, when they need it, and where they live. That’s not too much to ask for. And when it comes to housing, I cannot believe how difficult it is to get the Minister to see just how important this is and then do something about it.

As the MLA for Summerside-Wilmot, I’ve been working with people who could never have known they were about to experience homelessness. Oftentimes, these are people with jobs, who have children and busy lives, who were just going about their daily lives when for one reason or another they had to leave their home.

Only when people start apartment hunting do they realize the extent of the housing crisis in Summerside. Ask anyone who has had to look recently and you’ll hear how hard it is to find a place. At 1%, the vacancy rate is extremely low. For many, there is simply nowhere to go, so it’s becoming increasingly common for people to run out of time and run out of options. It’s a shock when they realize they are going to have to put their belongings in storage and live in a motel room without even a kitchenette while they continue to apartment hunt.

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Lack of communication and delay regarding a return to school plan for COVID leaves families anxious

It may still feel like a lifetime away, but school is just around the corner for Island children and youth. Store shelves are packed with back to school supplies and teachers are beginning to plan the curriculum. Last week during the COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Morrison said the back to school plan for COVID would be released by the end of the week, yet the King government still has not announced any type of plan to keep kids, teachers, and staff safe.

COVID has long been thought of as a virus that has little impact on children and youth, but the virus is changing and evidence is reflecting that. This month Florida and Texas reported hundreds of pediatric patients in hospital for COVID. The virus is spreading quickly among unvaccinated people and, unfortunately, every one of our children under 12 are in that group.

PEI also has no mandatory mask guidelines. We are now open to the rest of Canada and the US. And in a few short weeks our children will be grouped together by the hundreds. For our students in primary and elementary schools, the vast majority will not have a vaccine.

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Official Opposition Makes Capital Budget Submission to PEI Government

Charlottetown, PE – Last Friday, August 13, the Official Opposition sent its capital budget submission to the King government. It was created using what Islanders have been telling us are their priorities.

The submission includes calls for increased funding to new public housing developments and mental health and addictions infrastructure, which were both areas of government underspending in the previous capital budget.

It also includes requests for:

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This is not a warning. This is a call for immediate action.

Yesterday’s IPCC report, referring to the climate crisis, was both predictable and sickening. It opened with three words: “It is unequivocal”.

Once again – though this time with even greater scientific certainty and sharper language – we are being told we must act quickly and decisively to avoid making the planet on which we live completely uninhabitable.

This is not a new warning. You might imagine such dire and direct notices of grave danger would have jolted us all into vigorous collective action. Not so. For decades, humanity has essentially ignored these warnings, including the previous IPCC report from 2017 that told us we had 12 years to make a drastic reduction in our emissions before we lost our final opportunity to turn things around.

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Provincial Dental Care Program a win for Seniors and low-income Islanders

Provincial Dental Care Program a win for Seniors and low-income Dental_Care.jpg
Program created in response to Green caucus budget request

Charlottetown, PE – The provincial government has launched a dental care program for low-income Islanders and seniors in response to a request put forward by the Official Opposition Green caucus.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the rollout of the provincial dental program,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition. “As a long time dentist, I am acutely aware of the importance of good dental care on overall well-being. I also know the financial barriers that exist for many Islanders who desperately need access to necessary dental care.”

 

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Provincial Dental Care Program a win for Seniors and low-income Islanders

Charlottetown, PE - The provincial government has launched a dental care program for low-income Islanders and seniors in response to a request put forward by the Official Opposition Green caucus.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the rollout of the provincial dental program,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition. “As a long time dentist, I am acutely aware of the importance of good dental care on overall well-being. I also know the financial barriers that exist for many Islanders who desperately need access to necessary dental care.”

 

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KARLA BERNARD: The delay of the Residential Tenancy Act is unacceptable

Housing is one of the biggest crises facing our province. We hear stories every day—directly, through the news, and through social media—of Islanders who are being left behind by the outdated Rental of Residential Property Act, which fails to provide the necessary protections to tenants. 

To protect their rights, tenants need enhanced rent control, protection against discrimination and illegal eviction, improved standards for clean and safe housing, and robust enforcement mechanisms that have teeth for circumstances when landlords fail to meet their legal obligations. 

Earlier this week, I spoke with the Minister of Social Development and Housing to receive a status update on the proposed Residential Tenancy Act, a new piece of legislation that would modernize tenancy law on PEI and significantly improve protections for Island tenants. This legislation has been in development since 2019. 

I was deeply concerned to hear this legislation is no longer likely to come forward this year. This is frankly unacceptable, especially on an issue that is so important for ensuring the security and wellbeing of vulnerable Islanders.

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The Land Matters report confirms what we have long known

The final report of the Land Matters advisory committee released on Thursday reaffirms the work of the various studies that have examined land issues over the last 50 years.

I first want to thank the members of the committee for their excellent work on these issues which are so important to Islanders and our rural communities. This report, like the previous ones that it reflects, gives clear direction to government on what needs to be done to protect and manage the critical and fragile resource that is Island land.

However, there is little in this report that was not already known, with many of its recommendations having been made multiple times, some nearly 50 years ago.

This is not surprising, given that successive governments have for decades failed to act on the recommendations of the studies they commissioned. We have long known what we need to do, but no governing party has been willing to do the hard work of properly protecting and managing land.

 

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