Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard from a number of Islanders who are concerned by the Conservative decision to discontinue free voluntary identifications. The fact of the matter is this: In a modern society, every citizen needs reliable identification documents.
On a day-to-day basis, identification is required for financial transactions, travel and proof of age. Unfortunately, many Islanders also find it difficult to afford the identification required for all those matters. Care and consideration must be given to our most vulnerable Islanders – like seniors, people with disabilities, and those on a fixed income. While I agree we need to face climate challenges head on, eliminating free voluntary identification does not address climate change.
Additionally, there is no good financial reason for ending the program. This year, the Conservatives inherited a budget that has $156 million more in revenue than was originally expected. That’s an extraordinary amount of money. And to put it in other terms, that’s $1,000 in unexpected tax dollars for every child and adult on Prince Edward Island. To my mind, that kind of financial cushion is more than adequate to pay for much-needed services – like free voluntary identification.
The question of affordability on the Island has grown in importance. We see it all the time – in terms of all the basic essentials, like food prices, rents and fuel costs. We need to ensure we are taking care of our most vulnerable.
That’s the main reason the former Liberal government introduced programs like free voluntary identification – which, in part, was designed to help ease at least some of those pressures.
For those reasons, I believe that government should reconsider its decision to end the policy of providing free identification – and restore the program as soon as possible.
Heath MacDonald is the Liberal MLA for Cornwall-Meadowbank.