• Liberal Caucus

Small Shoots of Optimism are Beginning to Appear

In the midst of this dreary and disruptive public health crisis, small shoots of optimism are beginning to appear.

I am encouraged by the sense of community displayed by Islanders – and the eager willingness to help family, friends and neighbors.

Faith in public institutions has been maintained – and there is a clear desire to abide by expert advice. The result is pretty good: We’ve all been doing our part to help each other through this thing.

I’ve also been thrilled with reports of people exercising more – and taking the time to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their families. It’s kind of ironic, but maybe a public health crisis has helped many of us understand the importance of personal health.

As we slowly get out of this, I think it is probably time to take a really close look at some of the wellness programs our province offers.

Yes, government always pays lip service to the idea of wellness. But do they really follow through? Do they really support people who could use a little nudge in the direction of personal health?

Last year, the provincial government budgeted $735,000 for the Health Promotion Division, which falls under the authority of the Chief Public Health Office. That division is there to “enable Islanders to increase control over and improve their health. The unit is responsible for implementing the provincial Wellness Strategy.”

So, let’s compare that to the unbudgeted spending of the Department of Transportation last year. In November, that department suddenly found an extra $17 million to do some paving.

Now, I know some paving is always going to be necessary – and I only raise that spend to give a little context.

And the reality is this: That one-time, unbudgeted spending splurge was more than 33 times the size of the entire health promotion budget.

And really, does that make any sense? Shouldn’t our personal health be a much larger priority? Isn’t it important to help Islanders get healthy and stay that way?

During this crisis, I have been doing my best to help people out with exercise programs. I’ve been doing it on Facebook, and it’s really good to see so many people tuning in for an hour or so of exercise every day. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s helped to create a small, happy community.

In my opinion, government can do so much more. During the provincial election, the Conservatives promised a “$500 wellness and activity credit to help Islanders improve their overall health and well-being.”

I pushed them to keep that promise, because it seemed like a good idea. But it’s a year down the road, and nothing has happened.

But, a $500 credit is only a small step. I think we have to take a look at how government supports wellness in a much bigger way. There is so much more we can do to help seniors, children – everyone – involved in the kind of habits and activities that will help them their whole lives.

There will be good that will come out of this crisis. But we have to do some of the hard work now. That way, we will be ready for a recovery that puts us in the right lane for a new and better direction.

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