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.

I am struck by how much the plan relies on “recommended” or discretionary actions rather than clear requirements. The reluctance by the King government to put forward definitive, proactive measures will create uncertainty and inconsistency, and will unfairly download enforcement and compliance responsibilities to individual teachers and staff.

This plan also has very few specifics about the delivery of important services and how service interruption will be mitigated. For example, there is no information about how the delivery of the School Food Program—which is a primary source of healthy food for some students—might be affected by COVID-related disruptions. There is also no guidance whatsoever on supporting students’ mental health, which is surprising given it has been recognized as a priority by other provinces and reflected in their own plans.

The plan mentions remote learning and then immediately asks Islanders and schools to ‘stay tuned’. Why is it that in the months since the last school year, the King government has not been able to put together a fulsome plan?

Government had lots of time to develop a clear and comprehensive plan; instead what we got was incomplete and vague. Not only does it seem that the King Conservatives are either unwilling or unable to make the necessary, and difficult, decisions to protect the dignity, safety, and health of students and vulnerable youth—their decision to release that plan without an opportunity for the media to ask for details show they are also unwilling to be accountable for their decisions.

Peter Bevan-Baker, MLA
New Haven-Rocky Point
Leader of the Official Opposition and the Island Green Party