The second session of the Sixty-sixth General Assembly of Prince Edward Island opened today with the reading of the Speech from the Throne by the Honourable Antoinette Perry, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island.
The speech outlines a path forward for Prince Edward Island as the province continues to respond, starts to recover and prepares to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Islanders are to be commended for their strong adherence to public health protocols which has put our province in an enviable position to recover from this pandemic,” said Premier Dennis King. “As a government, we will continue to use every lever possible to help Islanders get through this pandemic while focusing on a plan for a strong economic, social, environmental and health recovery for our province.”
Highlights of the speech include:
A sustainable, inclusive and innovative health care system
- establish three new primary care medical homes and medical neighbourhoods;
- introduce a five-year, $10 million Community Mental Health and Addictions Fund;
- introduce a single point of access for mental health and addictions services 24/7 to help navigate the system;
- establish the PEI Centre for Mental Well-being;
- establish a working group to focus on expanding the RN program at UPEI and the LPN program at Holland College centered around Island students;
- establish a five-year, $5 million fund for recruiting nurses and nurse practitioners over five years that will provide student debt forgiveness for RNs and NPs while they work and live in PEI;
- establish a five year, $2.5 million Retention, Mentorship and Training Fund for RNs and NPs;
- develop a proactive forecasting model for the health system to help identify needs in the Island health care system;
- build on the Seniors Health Strategy with a focus on safe care at home and closer to home care.
Commitment to children and families
- add 300 childcare spaces in 2021;
- increase early childhood educator wages;
- continue to work towards universal Pre-K Program for fall of 2021;
- add more frontline resources including school counsellors, student well-being teams, autism consultants;
- create a School-to-Workforce Transition Team to help those finishing schooling to find early work success;
- establish a UPEI and Holland College challenge fund to provide seed money for development of new clean technologies;
Investing in clean technology
- embark on a strategy to build, support and encourage PEI’s Clean Tech sector;
- create a $50 million loan portfolio to assist new and existing business more towards clean technology solutions;
- establish three tax-free development zones to encourage industry clusters;
- launch a $10 million fund over the next five years earmarked for Clean Tech projects;
- establish a PEI Energy Academy and Eco-Innovation Park to help with early development of energy innovation and connect with industry, education and culture.
A safe place to live, work and raise a family
- introduce additional harm reduction measures;
- continue work on developing strategies to combat gender violence, family violence, sexual violence and harassment;
- explore new therapeutic justice options.
A more equitable and inclusive Island
- work to make our province a leader in celebrating and supporting diversity;
- support taxi and rideshare operators to retrofit vehicles to ensure access for Islanders with disabilities;
- create a micro-loan program for under-represented populations (BIPOC, women, 2SLGBTQIA+, youth) to start their own businesses;
- establish partnerships with vocational schools like the Atlantic Police Academy to fund seats for under-represented groups and visible minorities;
- work with police agencies to focus on crime prevention programs and alternatives to punishment and rehabilitation.
Enhancing our community
- work with the federal government to explore a Basic Income Guarantee and other options to help eliminate poverty;
- continue investments to address our housing challenges;
- implementing an Island-wide public transit system and increase our commitment to active transportation;
- develop a broad set of PEI well-being indicators with UPEI.
A cleaner environment
- put out a call for communities and non-profits to submit proposals for net-zero and climate change projects to the Infrastructure Secretariat;
- encourage a greater use of electric vehicles;
- expand our energy efficiency programs with a focus on assisting low-income islanders;
- assist municipalities in becoming more sustainable;
- implement a food waste reduction strategy;
- introduce measures to reduce single use plastics;
- implement a soil health strategy;
- introduce free energy audits for farmers to assist in reducing energy consumption;
- increase the level of protected land to reach the goal of 7%, with intention of moving to 10%.
A more resilient economy
- create a new Agency for Workforce Development to coordinate workforce preparedness and transitions;
- develop a $1 million recovery fund for air travel in PEI;
- renew Skills PEI and Innovation PEI programming to be more responsive to industry, employers and employees;
- introduce a special Activation Fund to assist tourism operators to assist with safe reopening;
- enhance and expand the Canada Food Island Gift Card Program;
- support a dine-in incentive to help local restaurants;
- introduce new programs to support farmers with soil health, access to water, buffer zones, land requirements and crop rotation.