PEI

Premier 'anxious' to open P.E.I. Legislature, Greens say it's about time

Premier Dennis King said Wednesday he has been in discussion with other party leaders about opening the legislature for a short emergency session in May and a full session in July.

Emergency session likely won't happen before May 22

Premier Dennis King says the Coles Building can fit all 27 MLAs under physical distancing guidelines but it would mean no room for media or the public gallery. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Premier Dennis King said Wednesday he has been in discussion with other party leaders about opening the legislature for a short emergency session in May and a full session in June.

That can't come soon enough, said Green Party MLA Hannah Bell, though it likely won't happen before May 22.

She said the Official Opposition Greens have been calling for weeks for the legislature to sit, even if it is just with a quorum of 10 MLAs and the Speaker.

"We have been very frustrated by the unwillingness of the government and the other caucus to want to get into the space," she said.

"We were ready to go weeks ago but that appetite wasn't there."

'Well overdue'

The P.E.I. Legislature last sat in November. It was scheduled to reconvene in early April but was postponed because of COVID-19. Every other provincial legislature in the country has met at some point in March or April.

"We're well overdue," Bell said. "The longer we go without that session, the longer we go without that accountability that we are supposed to be providing."

Green Party MLA Hannah Bell says for weeks her party has been calling for the legislature to sit. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

King has said it is possible for all 27 MLAs to sit in the chamber and still adhere to the two-metre physical distancing rule, though it would leave no room for the media or public gallery.

"We are anxious to do that," he said. "A big part of what we need to do is go to the legislature."

In a statement to CBC, the third party Liberals said they are "ready, willing and able to sit when the House is called."

Bell said it's important to sit as soon as possible to deal with critical issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as oversight to expenditures, amendments to the Employment Standards Act, extending sick leave and health care, and the appointment of independent officers such as the child and youth advocate, auditor general and information and privacy commissioner.

It may take more than one sitting in May to accomplish everything, Bell said. The budget would come during the proposed full session in June.

In the meantime, the Green Party said it plans to host a virtual question period every day at 9  a.m. on Twitter and Facebook until the legislature reconvenes.

The first was issued Wednesday by leader Peter Bevan-Baker and addressed to the premier.

Bevan-Baker said the Opposition starting asking for details more than four weeks ago about the new economic recovery council and its mandate.

His question Wednesday was "Who is on this mysterious council and what is their mandate?"

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Kerry Campbell

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