Committee rejects King's changes to Emergency Measures Act

A committee of P.E.I. MLAs has come out against changes to the Emergency Measures Act.

'The public was not in favour of this bill,' says committee chair

Changes to the Emergency Measures Act would give P.E.I. Premier Dennis King's cabinet the power to suspend or alter provincial laws during a state of emergency. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

A committee of P.E.I. MLAs has rejected proposed changes to the province's Emergency Measures Act. 

The changes would give Progressive Conservative Premier Dennis King's cabinet the power to suspend or change provincial laws without a vote in the Legislature during a state of emergency.

Bloyce Thompson, minister of justice and public safety, introduced the amendments in May. During a second reading of the proposed bill, Thompson said the amendments were necessary to allow the government to quickly react if another wave of COVID-19 hit the province.

MLAs from both the Green and Liberal parties had characterized the bill as a government power grab, prompting the government to send it to committee for review.

The review was made public late Tuesday.

The committee decided the legislative assembly should first exhaust all efforts to meet in-person to debate changes, or to find alternative proceedings before considering suspending laws.

Liberal MLA Gordon McNeilly said the public was not in favour of changes to the Emergency Measures Act. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"We had over 35 public consultations that were submitted to us. The public was not in favour of this bill. (They) thought it might have overstretched a fraction," said Liberal MLA Gordon McNeilly, who chairs the committee. "It was really a big guiding force for all committee members."

McNeilly said the committee also brought in each government department to see how bills could be tabled during emergency situations. 

"We have to bring it back and figure out how those departments can bring legislation to the floor," he said.

Virtual meetings?

A separate committee is looking at whether the Legislature could meet virtually in the event of a pandemic or other state of emergency.

The current laws do not allow that to happen.

McNeilly's committee said until the work of that committee is completed, the legislative assembly shouldn't consider relinquishing powers as proposed by the King government.

The report is expected to be read and debated in the P.E.I. Legislature Thursday.

CBC News attempted to contact the government, but did not hear back before publication.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Wayne Thibodeau


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