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Island students debate affordable housing to rolling papers during Rotary Youth Parliament

Susanna Hamilton, a student Grace Christian School, was the acting premier during the 31st annual Rotary Youth Parliament held in Charlottetown on Friday and Saturday. The exercise gave students from across the province some hands-on experience of what it’s like to be a provincial MLA.
Susanna Hamilton, a student Grace Christian School, was the acting premier during the 31st annual Rotary Youth Parliament held in Charlottetown on Friday and Saturday. The exercise gave students from across the province some hands-on experience of what it’s like to be a provincial MLA. - Tony Davis

The snowstorm Friday may have closed schools across the province, but it didn’t stop young minds hungry for political knowledge from getting some early experience.

Thirty-six students from various Island schools piled into the George Coles Building in downtown Charlottetown to take part in the 31st annual Rotary Youth Parliament.

The exercise, which is hosted by the Rotary Clubs of P.E.I., gives students hands-on experience drafting and debating legislation.

Sam Bailey, who represented Grace Christian School, couldn’t wait to act as the opposition leader for the exercise.

“I’m excited. My school really helped with leadership skills,” said Bailey, who credited his teacher Neil Thompson with guiding his interest in politics.

Bailey kicked off the event’s question period by asking about the province’s plan to address a shortage of affordable housing.

“You’ve set in place a plan to create 1,000 units in the next few years, with 275 being created this year. I was wondering if we could have an update on that situation?”

The event included two days of debates on topics ranging from affordable housing and mental health care to public transit and cannabis management.

Bailey was concerned with the pending national shortage of legal cannabis.

“I want to know what you, as premier, plan to do to ensure any Islander who wants to purchase this product can do so fairly and legally without having to go to the black-market.”

Susanna Hamilton, who also represented Grace Christian School, was the acting premier for the exercise.

Hamilton said while she agreed a cannabis shortage could be a problem in the future she did not feel it was a top priority.

“It is most likely not going to become a problem in the extremely near future. So, I believe we have time as a government to come up with a proper solution which is well thought out and will make sure there is an answer to this problem,” Hamilton said.

The debate got more heated during an amendment to remove cannabis accessory products, such as rolling papers, lighters and smoking devices, from government stores.

Acting Finance Minister Jack Morse, who represented Colonel Gray, defended the amendment and said it could help small Island businesses profit on legalization.

“We are not trying to single anybody out or leave anyone behind,” he said.

Recommendations put forward by this year’s Rotary Youth Parliament.

Government legislation

- The Accessible Women’s Health Services Act: Establish women’s health clinics in each county of P.E.I.

- The Busing in Rural Areas Act: Establish a rural bus service for P.E.I.

- Cannabis Management Corporation Act: Will support the private sale of accessories related to the consumption of cannabis

- Cigarette Butt Litter Act: Will include cigarette and cigar butts as litter

- Electric Vehicle incentive Act: Provide tax credit for anyone who purchases an electric vehicle

- Amendments to Health Services Act: Allocate resources to improve mental health care outcomes

Opposition resolutions

- Create incentives for the construction of affordable housing

- Establish a health tax on foods with excessive levels of fat and sugar

- Require that environmental impact records be kept by those involved in farming and fishing industry

- Require the delivery of school courses on food security, establish gardens on school properties

- Introduction of a reformed and modified sexual education program in Island schools.

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