PEI·PEI Votes

Forum on women's issues hears from P.E.I. party leaders

A public forum on women's issues held in Charlottetown Thursday saw all four provincial party leaders answering questions on everything from advancing women in leadership roles to how to get more Islanders out of poverty.

Hosted by the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government and the Holland College Student Union

The four party leaders all took part in the Leaders' Forum on Women's Issues at the Florence Simmons Performance Hall at Holland College's Charlottetown campus. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

A public forum on women's issues held in Charlottetown Thursday saw all four P.E.I. party leaders answering questions on everything from advancing women in leadership roles to how to get more Islanders out of poverty.

The forum was hosted by the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government and the Holland College Student Union, with questions prepared by Island groups that support and advocate on behalf of women.

Questions ranged from how the leaders would act on the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, what medical and judicial services could be advanced to better support victims of sexual assault, and how to ensure P.E.I.'s new children's commissioner and advocate has the resources and independence to work effectively.

Party leaders were also asked what they would do to maintain women's wellness and sexual health services, and whether they'd commit to support for fertility, midwifery, and HIV treatment on the Island, as well as services for transgender and non-binary Islanders.

Abortion, fertility on agenda

PC Leader Dennis King applauded the current government decision to provide abortions on P.E.I., saying he's committed to continuing the service and enhancing it if needed.

Jane Ledwell, the executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women was the moderator for the forum. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

He said his party is also committed to assisting Islanders with fertility treatments.

"Our platform outlines attracting a fertility specialist back to Prince Edward Island," said King. "And to make some funding assistance available for those families who wish to go down that very painful and emotional and very expensive road."

Leader Dennis King says the PC's platform includes attracting a fertility specialist back to Prince Edward Island. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

NDP Leader Joe Byrne reiterated his party's commitments to maintain abortion access on P.E.I., and spending for fertility treatment.

He added, the Island's health-care system has work to do to better support those who identify as transgender or non-binary.

"It's a different reality that has to be included, and that means training, it means recruiting," said Byrne.

Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan said a multifaceted approach needs to be taken to support women's health and reproductive health, and that work is underway within the Women's Wellness Centre and primary care across P.E.I.

New Democratic Party of P.E.I. Leader Joe Byrne says his party would like to reduce costs associated with the fertility process. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"With that commitment to see this as a continuum, it's to continually then identify where there are gaps," said MacLauchlan.

One such gap he noted was how the province should share information about breast density with women who have had mammograms.

"To come to the question of breast density information and effective communication off of that information is one such example, the recent commitment to support people who are going through gender affirming surgeries, and midwifery — it's imminent and timely and I'll say overdue but it's coming."

Leader Peter Bevan-Baker says the Green Party's platform includes additional money to expand birth-control options for women. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said in addition to maintaining existing services, his party would make birth control more affordable for Island families, and support some funding of fertility treatments. His also said his party is focused on ensuring midwives can practice in P.E.I.  

"You will see in our platform a solid commitment to make this happen in the first term of a Green government. It is something that would be such a valuable adjunct to the health care system here," he said.

Audience had questions too

A quarter of the two-hour forum was allocated for questions from the audience. 

Liberal Party of P.E.I. Leader Wade MacLauchlan says things like midwifery 'are overdue but it's coming.' (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

They asked the leaders about making political events more accessible to Islanders with a disability and whether they'd stick to fixed election dates.

One question was directed specifically to PC Leader Dennis King, concerning tweets from several years ago that a member of the audience told him she found offensive.

"I'm a person who's made a living in words and it caused me to take a very deep look at myself and to understand and learn that some of the words that you intend to use also have unintended meanings and consequences and people take them differently," King responded. 

"The tweets are offensive. They were very offensive and I'm deeply ashamed of them. It's not who I am as a person — through the process I've learned a lot about myself."

P.E.I.'s election will be held April 23. 

Half an hour of the forum was dedicated to taking questions from the audience. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

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About the Author

Jessica Doria-Brown

Videojournalist

Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.