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Health in all policies

The following are the speeches in the Legislature delivered on May 1, 2018 by Peter Bevan-Baker and Hannah Bell in support of Peter's Motion 40, Encouraging government to adopt a “Health in all Policies” approach to governance.

Peter Bevan-Baker's speech

Improving the physical and mental health of Islanders is often viewed as the work of the healthcare system. But in reality what we currently call health care could better be described as illness management, as it is primarily tasked with caring for individuals when they are sick or injured.   That is, of course, a critically important service. We all need to know that we will have access to timely care when we are ill. Indeed in Canada, we rightly take pride in providing all citizens with access to critical interventions that often mean the difference between life and death. Yet these systems are mostly designed to respond to the absence of health and rarely focus on building health and resiliency nor do they bring significant improvement to the health of the population.

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One Piece of the Puzzle

Over the past few weeks we have heard a great deal about the new funding being made available to PEI’s post-secondary students through bursaries and debt-reduction programs. This is fantastic news for young Islanders who are beginning their post secondary education and those who are going to stay here on PEI after they graduate. I look forward to seeing the details of how these new programs will roll out.

I applaud this effort, but have been surprised to see Ministers pointing to this as a ‘cure all’ for the problems facing Island youth. Of course, it would be impossible for one program or initiative to address every issue. The needs of young Islanders are complex and varied.  Yet, in the current sitting of the Legislature, new bursary and debt reduction programs for post-secondary students have been presented as an answer to a wide range of issues such as affordable housing for youth, low youth income levels (see Hansard April 24, pg 1921), and perhaps most confusingly, as a response to why UPEI is not covered under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP)  (see Hansard April 12 2018, pg. 1561). Indeed, the new student bursary and debt relief programs were featured in Ministers’ statements three out of the four days the first full week the legislature was in session (see Hansard April 17-20). Unequivocally, this seems to be a go-to-answer for almost any question related to post-secondary education or young Islanders.

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Improving Rural Governance on PEI

As a Green Party MLA, I approach all issues through a couple of lenses: is this position the right one for the people I represent, and is this position consistent with Green Party values?

Most of the time those two lenses are aligned, and as I’ve discovered to my delight over the last couple of years, Islanders’ values line up beautifully with Green values, so generally the right path is clear to me. And those same Green Values are used in the development of all our policies, to make sure that our platform reflects the principles on which our Party is built. But occasionally an issue will arise where, due to its complexity, or contentiousness, it is hard to craft a position that makes me feel completely comfortable and confident. That, I suppose, is one of the central challenges of politics – as an elected representative, you are repeatedly tasked with making difficult decisions on behalf of your community.

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The case for funding stability

We were delighted to read the province’s recent announcement of one-time financial support for 16 non-government organizations (NGOs). Discretionary funds are invaluable for these non-profit community organizations to move forward on projects and activities, and we applaud this move.

Supporting the NGO sector is a good investment for so many reasons; the very nature of NGOs means that in addition to creating meaningful jobs, they also are tackling social, environmental or financial injustices. Many provinces have taken steps to recognize and value the contribution of this sector, and rightly so. This announcement, however, did leave us with a few questions.

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Let the games begin …. in April 2020

Canada just came off our best winter Olympics ever, with 29 medals. And right afterwards we got to enjoy watching Islander Mark Arendz in the Paralympics win six medals for Canada and have the honour of carrying the Maple Leaf Flag into the closing ceremonies. The winter Olympics only happen once every four years, and perhaps their infrequency is a big part of the reason that so many people - even those who don’t typically get excited about sports - become so caught up in the whole thing.

We already know when and where the next games will be – in Beijing, China from the 4th to the 22nd of February 2022 – and no doubt plans are already being made and training strategies drawn up with an eye on those dates.

There is another event that also comes in four-year cycles – provincial elections. And because, like the winter Olympics, we have fixed election dates, we already know when our next election will be. Or do we?

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Getting Local Government Right

 

We often hear how Prince Edward Island, with its 150,000 souls, is really just one smallish community, and that is how it feels for me as I travel from tip to tip on a fairly regular basis. However, under that appearance of unity, there remains a simmering rural/urban divide which seems to be a permanent - and to many regrettable - part of Island life.

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Mental health literacy is not mental health intervention

RE: “Island teachers trained to detect mental health disorders in the classroom”.

Hoping for something does not make it so - a lesson most of us learn early in life when the magical thinking of childhood is lost. Training teachers to deliver curriculum designed to increase knowledge of mental health issues does one specific thing - increases knowledge of mental health issues. A worthy goal in itself, but what does the evidence actually tell us about this program’s ability to support student mental health and wellbeing?

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Strings attached

This year for the first time, PEI post-secondary students who are Employment Insurance (EI) eligible have been allowed to collect EI while attending school. This is an important change that will help make higher education more accessible for all our youth, and alleviate some of the burden of student debt. Additionally, the program encourages students to be actively employed during the summer break, which will no doubt bolster employment in our seasonal industries. The inclusion of University students within the PEI Career Connect program is a positive and timely change that puts us in line with our neighbouring provinces that have similar initiatives (see EI Connect New Brunswick and Fast Forward Nova Scotia).

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Access to Justice

In Canada we are fortunate to have access to a publicly-funded health care system to meet our medical needs when sickness or injury occurs.  But what about access to justice when unforeseen legal issues arise?  

The issue of “access to justice” most commonly refers to the inability of a growing number of people to obtain legal representation.  In many cases, these are people requiring assistance with family law matters, including child custody and access rights and child support.  

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Making “openness and accountability” more than buzzwords

There’s hardly a day goes by without our present government claiming to be open and accountable. Like a lot of words politicians repeat, the hope is that if they say them often enough, they will be accepted as truths not to be challenged.

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