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P.E.I. is no longer in a state of emergency

Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson confirmed that the Province no longer required a state of emergency, after changes to the Public Health Act gave health authorities expanded powers.
Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson confirmed the province no longer required a state of emergency, after changes to the Public Health Act gave health authorities expanded powers. - Stu Neatby



P.E.I. is no longer in a state of emergency

But the province remains in a state of public health emergency, a measure put in place early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

P.E.I. declared a state of emergency on April 16, one month after declaring a public health emergency.

The state of emergency was renewed several times by cabinet, but expired June 28.

On Friday, Justice and Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson said recent legislative changes to the province’s Public Health Act made it unnecessary to renew the state of emergency.

The changes to the Public Health Act, passed on June 19, allowing the Chief Public Health Office (CPHO) to make decisions relating to travel restrictions to and from P.E.I.

The changes also allow the CPHO to appoint individuals as public health officials, in order to assist with tasks such as screening at borders.

"The (Public Health Act) helped us address the concerns at the borders where CPHO could have health officers at the borders,” Thompson said in an interview.

“We felt we'd let the state of emergency expire and just stay in a state of [public] health emergency."

Thompson said the expiration of the state of emergency would not mean much for most Islanders.

"I don't think Islanders’ lives are going to change too drastically. I hope they can continue to feel safe and feel that we still have control of the pandemic," Thompson said.


P.E.I.'s pandemic

State of emergency

• First declared on April 16
• Expired on June 28

State of public health emergency

• Declared on March 16
• Ongoing


P.E.I. has not had an active case of COVID-19 for more than two months but government officials have warned that a second wave of virus could hit the Island with much greater severity.

Earlier in the session, Thompson had introduced legislative changes to the Emergency Measures Act that would have given cabinet the power to change existing laws during a state of emergency.

An all-party standing committee eventually recommended against adopting the changes, amid concerns from the opposition Liberals and Greens that the changes would sideline the legislative assembly and hand undue power to cabinet.

Check point crews stop the first vehicles from the New Brunswick side of the Confederation Bridge as they enter P.E.I. just before 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 3. - SaltWire file
Check point crews stop the first vehicles from the New Brunswick side of the Confederation Bridge as they enter P.E.I. just before 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 3. - SaltWire file

Thompson had argued that the changes to the Emergency Measures Act were necessary to allow government to act quickly in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.

But on Friday, the minister confirmed that his department would no longer be pursuing the changes to the Emergency Measures Act.

"We accept the committee's report. We'll just move on from here. We knew it was going to be a difficult road. The Emergency Measures Act is never a popular act,” Thompson said.

During debates in the legislature, Thompson had cited the difficulty in securing a court order to halt tenant evictions in the province in the first weeks of the pandemic as evidence that expanded executive powers were needed.

This court order expired on June 15.

Hearings related to tenancy issues have also resumed with the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.

Some tenants have since been evicted, including during the period in which the state of emergency was still in effect.

When asked why his department had not sought to renew the court order related to evictions, Thompson said few individuals raised issues about evictions to his department.

"There is a balance there that we had to appreciate," Thompson said, referring to the tenancy process under IRAC.

"We didn't want people on the street during the centre of the pandemic. But as everything loosened up, we didn't feel the need to extend it any longer."

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