© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Former Opposition leader and now an independent Progressive Conservative MLA, Olive Crane, listens to the speech
Independent MLA seeks greater voice on issues of importance to all Islanders
If hard work and dedication determined the time allotted to MLAs in question period and for motions, Olive Crane would be suffering from a hoarse throat in the legislature this spring session. Instead, the independent MLA must stay seated and remain quiet for much of the day. The frustration has caused Ms. Crane to publicly plead her case for more time to do her job. She feels shut out from much of the discussion and debate on issues she feels are important to Islanders.
Ms. Crane has approached Speaker Carolyn Bertram who has the final say on the matter. Speaker Bertram says she will consider Ms. Crane’s request and discuss it with the legislative management committee, but notes there won’t be any changes this sitting because an agreement had been hammered out. Ms. Crane will have to cool her heels no matter how seriously she takes her role or how much time she puts into her job.
There is no reason why the Speaker and committee can’t meet and make changes to accommodate Ms. Crane. The MLA uses her questions to address issues affecting all Islanders and doesn’t waste time on cheap shots trying to score political points, unlike some of the wasted banter seen from others in the house.
She has written a letter to the editor, approached the Speaker and issued a press release to argue her case — to no avail. Crane can ask just one oral question and two supplementary questions on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the house is in session. She only gets one half hour for motions every eight weeks of a sitting.
Any MLA can submit written questions to cabinet ministers and Crane has used this outlet to her utmost advantage. She tables written questions every day, and despite having no paid staff, has tabled more than 200 written questions and approximately 100 supplementary questions over the last year.
Ms. Crane is finding it difficult to get the issues she raises out into the public and many people watching question period on TV or in the public galleries must wonder why she is rarely seen or heard. Being quiet in the legislature is not her usual modus operandi.
One can’t blame Ms. Crane for trying to show her constituents in Morell-Mermaid that she is effective and can do a credible job as an independent. It must be very difficult for the former PC leader who used to be constantly on her feet haranguing the government.
Urgency lacking in government
Maritime Electric encountered a crisis this winter. One fateful late afternoon, a combination of plunging temperatures, heavy demand and light winds — which drastically reduced wind generation — saw the utility stretched well beyond customer demand. To avoid a catastrophic, cascading blackout, the utility was forced to cut power to a number of large commercial users. Even that wasn’t enough as several thousand residential customers also lost power.
Two aging submarine cables under the Northumberland Strait couldn’t handle the capacity required, demonstrating just how vulnerable this province remains with its energy supply.
P.E.I. has been lobbying Ottawa for years seeking help with the estimated $90 million cost of a new cable. Maritime Electric believes the situation is so grave it is embarking on preliminary work for the third cable immediately without any funding plans in place.
The two current underwater cables were installed in 1977 and are nearing the end of their lifespan. The preliminary work started this week will determine a preferred route — another underwater cable or on the Confederation Bridge. The utility warns it would irresponsible not to have a new cable operational by 2016. That same sense of urgency is needed from both provincial and federal levels of government.