In one way or another, each of us continues to struggle with the unfortunate effects of the pandemic.
Many are concerned about the health of their families, friends and communities.
And many are also worried about the impact the pandemic is having on our financial well-being – and prospects for employment.
Over the past couple of months, members of the Liberal caucus worked hard to ask government questions that have meaning to Islanders.
For the most part, we stuck to debate about health care, education and supports for families. In nearly every case, our questions were based in the context of covid-19 – and the unprecedented impact that its spread is having on our country and our province.
In general terms, I believe government did a fairly good job in answering the questions they were asked. And it is very important to remember that cabinet ministers and their support staff are now faced with unprecedented difficulties – and they deserve a wide degree of latitude.
That said, I remain very concerned with a few matters.
For instance, government attempted to pass legislation that would have given extreme and unquestioned power to the cabinet to make and amend laws.
The Liberals remained steady and consistent in opposing that law – and after a few attempts by the Green Party to ‘fix’ this terrible legislation, they finally agreed that government’s idea was wrong. And they joined the Liberals in killing this bad law.
At another level, the Liberals are also concerned with the rollout of our school programs this fall.
Unfortunately, Education Minister Brad Trivers appears to be overwhelmed by the challenge he faces. To a degree, this is understandable. It’s a big system with a lot of moving parts. But parents, educators and students need a plan that is easily understood, so that planning for the fall can take place. To be frank about it, the Liberals remain worried that Minister Trivers may be trying to grapple with a single answer to the entire system – rather than breaking the challenges into component pieces. Frankly, the second approach is more likely to succeed.
Similarly, we have real concerns about post-secondary education. Every year, we welcome students from across Canada and around the world – and 2020 may cause real difficulties with that traditional expectation. Across Atlantic Canada, colleges and universities are warning about difficult challenges ahead – but again, Minister Trivers appears to be crossing his fingers and assuring Islanders of his faith in luck.
Additionally, the Liberal caucus remains troubled with government’s financial and economic plans for the months ahead. Most Islanders understand this fact: It’s going to be a long, hard road. But in general terms, the government appears to be relying on sunny predictions, hopes and dreams. While such an attitude may be pleasant, this really is a time for sober, mature decisions that plans for the worst – and builds for the best. For that reason, I was pleased to see both Green Party and Conservative support for the Liberal request for a full financial and economic update in September. With that, we’ll all be able to track our progress a little more closely.
Again, we are in a tough place. And in my view, all members of the Legislative Assembly did an admirable job in helping to illuminate the direction of government. But – there are more tough times ahead – and it will be very important for all elected officials to keep government between the guardrails and on a clear path forward.