The new commissioner appointed to review the Lands Protection Act has announced that he plans to hold 12 sessions to invite public participation in the process. And he was clear about his own expectations.
"I intend to listen," Horace Carver, a former cabinet minister, said recently in an interview. "But I can only listen if someone is speaking or making their opinions known."
He's right. The Ghiz government chose wisely in picking Carver to review the land use and protection laws of the province. He was deeply involved in the drafting of the current laws, and brings to the job an appreciation of the many complex emotions and opinions surrounding the use of our limited land base. But to provide meaningful advice to government on how these laws should be adapted to reflect modern needs, he will need the insight of Islanders from all walks of life. They should take advantage of the opportunity to offer that during one of the 12 sessions.
Attracting health professionals
The federal government's willingness to give student loan breaks to doctors and nurses prepared to practise in rural parts of the country is good news not only for Islanders who depend on rural medical services, but for the provincial government itself. It's under pressure to deliver this care, and it needs all the help it can get to fulfil this commitment.
The federal government recently announced a new initiative to forgive a portion of Canada Student Loans for nurses and doctors who practise in rural areas. According to Health Minister Doug Currie, this should enhance the province's efforts to recruit and strengthen its efforts to draw doctors and nurses to rural communities.
Starting in April, the federal government will forgive up to $8,000 in Canada Student Loans per year for doctors working in rural or remote communities, and $4,000 a year for nurses or nurse practitioners.
Added to the province's own incentives - such as signing bonuses for doctors and money for their education in exchange for a five-year commitment to working in the province - the federal incentives should improve the province's ability to compete for these much-needed health professionals.
An erosion of oversight
If the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is apprehensive about becoming an approved supplier of trap and net tags, it's understandable. It seems like one more example of the federal government downloading responsibilities onto the industry.
Ian MacPherson, executive director of the association, says the preferred option was to have the Department of Fisheries and Oceans retain the responsibility of supplying trap and net tags. Nevertheless, now that this job has been passed along to the fishermen's association, its objective, he says, is to keep the tag price down and the integrity of the program in place. Accordingly, tags will be handed out to fishermen in the three districts handled by the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association in an effort to keep track of the catch pressure and landings.
No doubt the fishermen's association will do its best to fulfil its objective, but the shifting of a federal responsibility onto the industry is unfortunate. The federal government has an obligation to oversee the use and management of the fishery, and passing off duties such as the supply of trap and net tags can't help but erode, even if in a small way, government's ability to provide that oversight.