Prince Edward Island residents are known for our kindness, generosity, resilience, and our neighbourly support, especially during times of crisis and hardship. This culture and inherited sense of responsibility to our communities and those less fortunate have enabled our province to persevere through the devastation caused by hurricane Fiona.
That’s why I am heartbroken, and frankly, in disbelief at the simply inadequate response by the Dennis King government to this disaster, consisting of inequitable supports, unclear and inconsistent information for the public, little oversight of funds and overall sheer lack of co-ordinated relief efforts.
The government’s response to this disaster follows suit with how they have dealt with many of the major pressing issues in our province over the last 3.5 years – a hands-off approach and having our NGOs do the heavy lifting.
For example, the number provided by government for the Red Cross is a call centre that could not provide information on any of the supports available to Islanders, a timeline of when their requested support will be distributed, or a timeline of when you could expect a call back from a Red Cross volunteer.
There was also great confusion surrounding the recently announced $250 per household support being administered through the Red Cross, including distribution timelines and how to even apply in the first place.
There are other issues with the King government’s response so far, including:
The wage support program for employees/businesses is only retroactive to September 25, a day after businesses had to close due to the hurricane.
Most Islanders are lacking targeted supports. During a time when household budgets are already stretched thin, neglecting working families and individuals will push more people closer to poverty.
A lack of priority placed on seniors who live in provincially operated housing complexes who have gone without light and power for far too many days.
Cellular reception and internet access are still lacking in many areas. This means Islanders are paying for services they are not receiving while Premier King believes this is not the time to question the telecom providers. What’s worse, residents can’t even access relief programs without reliable phone and Internet services.
No support available to parents of children who have to stay home and lose income due to school closures and no available child care.
These are just a short-list of my many concerns. In saying this, I also have requested a meeting with the Premier and the Green Party Leader to discuss government’s plan for the weeks ahead. In addition, I will be advocating for immediate government action on the following:
$500 to all households that went without electricity longer than the five day period for which government advised residents to allocate resources.
Make the Wage Rebate for Impacted Workers Program retroactive to September 24, 2022.
Compensation to parents who have lost income due to having to stay home with their child because of school closures and no available childcare.
In the meantime, I urge Islanders to please continue to support one another and demonstrate the Island generosity and camaraderie that we are known for. We will get through this together, and brighter days are ahead.
Interim Liberal Leader