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STATEMENT on the out-of-touch and callous response by the King government to the predicament of Islanders facing record inflation levels

Reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake”, the suggestion by the King government for Islanders to “tighten their belts” reveals the Premier and his Ministers are simply out of touch with the very real, very painful struggles Islanders are facing each and every day.

For example, the cost for someone to travel from the Minister of Finance’s district to Charlottetown and back is around $15 a day or $75 a week if they were doing this every day as a commute to their workplace. That means for a minimum wage earner, more than the first hour of their work day is just to cover the expense of getting to their job. Their fuel expenses aren’t covered by taxpayer dollars.

Fuel costs are just one area that record inflation on PEI is creating unsustainable expenses for Islanders. Yet, the cost of fuel affects everything from access to goods and services for things from food, medicines, and healthcare.

 

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PETER BEVAN-BAKER: Calling on the Prime Minister to address rising cost of living by implementing a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies

Today Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the Green Party of PEI, joined provincial Green leaders across the country calling on the federal government to address the affordability crisis and implement a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies.

“Islanders continue to feel the rising cost of living – at the grocery store, the gas pumps, and when they are paying their home-heating bills,” said Bevan-Baker. “In the absence of leadership from Premier Dennis King and his provincial government, I, along with my provincial counterparts, am calling on the federal government to step in and support Canadians during this difficult time.”

 

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KARLA BERNARD: Calling on Minister Trivers to immediately hold a public meeting on the Community Outreach Centre

The community of Charlottetown-Victoria Park is feeling unsafe. The community has serious concerns about the safety and security of its residents and the clients of the Community Outreach Centre.

By ignoring the concerns of the community and the concerns of the clients, by choosing to misrepresent the reality or ignore it, the Minister responsible is choosing to place the safety of the community of Charlottetown-Victoria Park at risk.

Many have expressed concerns about the garbage around the Centre, including the safe disposal of used needles. There has been theft from residents including the theft of bicycles. There are concerns about loitering. There are not enough shelter beds in Charlottetown so people are sleeping in the hallways of private buildings, backyards, and in tents wherever they can find space. These are the direct outcomes of a government that has failed to invest in people and the services they need.

I have brought these concerns to the attention of Minister Trivers numerous times both publicly in the House and in conversations, meetings, and emails. In every instance, the Minister has questioned my account of the concerns of constituents in my district. His willful ignorance of the issues and refusal to take action has led to a crisis in our community.

 

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MICHELE BEATON: Calling on Premier King to Listen to Nurses and Stop Denying Healthcare Workers Their Vacation

Union leaders are speaking out because healthcare workers, including LPNs, RCWs and RNs are being denied their vacation requests. It is unacceptable that nursing professionals are being denied their much-needed and well-earned vacation.

I have heard from many staff at different facilities who have been denied their vacation. They are frustrated and rightfully so. Nurses have held our healthcare system together and they are carrying a massive burden with no end in sight. They are exhausted.

For two years, Premier King and Minister of Health Ernie Hudson have praised healthcare workers for their work on the frontline of this pandemic. Praise isn’t enough. They need time off to rest and relax, to spend time with loved ones and to take care of themselves but the King government continues to say no to their health needs. PEI’s healthcare worker shortage is not going away and denying nurses vacation is only going to make the rate of burnout so much worse.

 

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MICHELE BEATON: COVID-19 cases in Island Long-Term Care Homes

Recent COVID updates have left me uneasy. I am especially concerned about the conditions in long-term care on PEI, particularly private facilities. Over the past two years, there has been a complete lack of action by this government to protect both residents and frontline healthcare workers.

For example, the number of beds in private long-term care and public long-term care are roughly equal—624 and 632, respectively. Both are also given the same public health guidance. Yet COVID outcomes have been considerably worse in private care homes.

There have been at least 244 cases among residents of private LTC homes, compared to at least 127 cases among residents of public LTC homes. In other words, private LTC residents have been nearly 2x more likely to catch COVID than public LTC residents.

 

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Official Opposition responds to PEI Partnership for Growth Economic Action Plan

With the release of the PEI Partnership for Growth economic action plan today, the Island’s business community has outlined its economic vision for Prince Edward Island.

“I was pleased to see the plan recognize that the well-being of all Islanders is critical, and that livable wages, affordable housing, and access to critical services like health care will be central to that prosperous future,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition Green Caucus. “Our caucus could not agree more.”

Yet there is something conspicuously missing in the process.

“The role of government is to create an environment where small businesses and communities can succeed,” said Trish Altass, Official Opposition Green Caucus Critic for Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture. “We have not seen the necessary action or planning from this government that workers and businesses need to thrive.”

 

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PETER BEVAN-BAKER: Government must act now to help Islanders facing crippling costs of living increases

Once again Prince Edward Island is leading all of Canada with a soaring cost of living. According to new Statistics Canada data released today, PEI recorded an 8.9% inflation rate, year over year, in April.

In the spring sitting of the Legislature, my caucus repeatedly called on this Government to share its plan to support Islanders through this unprecedented period of inflation. Instead of a plan, the Minister of Finance, who earns twice the median Island household income, could only offer unhelpful advice to ‘tighten your belts.’ This was not simply a terrible choice of words – it was a clear expression of the King Government’s approach to supporting Islanders.

When given the opportunity to provide Islanders a full carbon rebate—hundreds of dollars more than what his actual plan provides—Premier King questioned whether putting more money in Islanders’ pockets was the best approach. When pressed to rapidly provide food gift cards to Islanders—something that was so easily done for tourists—this government did nothing.

 

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HANNAH BELL: Failure of the King government to deliver its promise of a bike rebate for all Islanders

It was a budget announcement that the public and the Official Opposition celebrated – “…starting this summer, we will be providing a $100 rebate on the sale of any bicycle purchased in Prince Edward Island to encourage active transportation and active living.“ (2022 Budget Address, pg 11)

As this government has shown us over and over again, what they promise and what they choose to do are not the same thing. As I have said before, “The devil is in the details.”

According to information that has been shared with retailers, we know now that the bicycle rebate program will launch on May 20. First the good news. The program will be an instant point of sale rebate at participating Island retailers. Our thanks go out to retailers who are taking on the extra administration and paperwork to deliver this program on government’s behalf.

 

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Spring sitting reveals two visions for Prince Edward Island as King government continues to fail Islanders on healthcare, housing and affordability

Charlottetown, PE – The spring sitting of the PEI legislature gave Islanders two visions for the province. 

One is a province where in the face of soaring inflation Islanders are told by government to “tighten their belts”, where the free market dictates housing prices, and Islanders and healthcare workers are abandoned. 

The other is a province where Islanders get the support they need during these difficult times, where everyone has access to affordable housing and healthcare, and where healthcare workers are respected, valued and paid what they deserve. During the sitting the Official Opposition Green caucus called on government to build this kind of province, one that responds quickly and effectively to the needs of Islanders.

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KARLA BERNARD: Concerns about the lack of transparency over how King government is making decisions to address mental health, addictions, and shelter services

Charlottetown, PE – Today the King government announced the Community Outreach Centre will have a new operator beginning April 18th, 2022. According to a release by the province, operations will be assumed by the Adventure Group with oversight by community partners.

“The news that government is more widely engaging community partners to help Islanders needing mental health, addictions, and shelter services is encouraging. The Adventure Group is a well-respected community organization and I look forward to seeing their vision for the Outreach Centre,” said Karla Bernard, Official Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing. “However, there are a number of important questions left unanswered in government’s announcement.”

The release provides no mention of the accountability framework that the Adventure Group must operate within. It also does not demonstrate or explain the government’s role in oversight.

“Despite promising to do things differently, the King government has struggled to be transparent and upfront.” observed Bernard. “In November 2020 they signed an untendered $3.7 million, three-year contract with The Salvation Army for it to operate Bedford MacDonald House, Smith Lodge, and Community Outreach Centre without clearly defining expectations for reporting or provision of services. Now, we have another group appointed to do the work without any public disclosure of the process of how they were selected. There is also no disclosure of what happens to the money that was given to The Salvation Army.”

 

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