Response to the report of Premier’s Council for Recovery and Growth by Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition
The Green caucus, for months and months, has pushed the King Conservatives for its economic recovery plan. The report from the Premier’s Economic Council, finally released yesterday, clearly expresses the vast difference between the Conservative idea for PEI’s future and the Green vision.
The Green caucus firmly believes that any economic recovery plan must be framed in how we can work together to achieve a fairer and more equitable society on PEI. Our province works better when it works for all of us. Unfortunately, this is not the approach advocated by the Premier.
Unsurprisingly, the Conservative idea for the future of our province is extremely pro-business. The pandemic has had an enormous impact on workers, yet there are only vague mentions in the report of changes to improve the working conditions of Islanders. In fact, the report makes no concrete commitment to legislated paid sick days or raising the minimum wage to a living wage.
The King Government continues to prefer tax relief for businesses over tax relief for Islanders. Despite noting that basic income was the top recommendation from the consultations, the commitment to “examine options” for a “form of basic income” is so vague and weak as to be meaningless.
The Premier fails to offer any solutions for our housing crisis as many Islanders struggle to find and afford shelter. Not only does our housing crisis come at a great personal cost to Islanders, it also locks many people out of economic opportunity. The reluctance of the King government to acknowledge housing as a basic human right, and a critical part of a healthy economy, is telling in its approach here.
The King government also seems to be rather averse to advancing issues of reconciliation and addressing systemic racism. Outside of proclamations of days to honour or recognize Indigenous and BIPOC communities, there are no clear actions to improve the economic conditions of Indigenous and racialized Islanders. For example, despite opportunities to be leaders in the respect and promotion of legal treaty rights in the area of fisheries, the government remains silent.
Although this plan was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it remarkably reads as though the pandemic never happened. Government clearly prefers to remain comfortable in the familiar than to chart our future in a bold, new direction.
The last eighteen months have brought extraordinary changes in Islanders’ lives. But wider issues such as climate change, housing, diversity, inequality, and changing healthcare needs were already changing the Island prior to the pandemic. We need a clear and compelling vision that will prepare our province for the post-pandemic world. The Premier’s plan speaks about the need to “raise the level of ambition” necessary to thrive in this new world. Clearly, the Premier is failing to lead by example.
Peter Bevan-Baker, MLA New Haven-Rocky Point
Leader of the Official Opposition