Prince Edward Island: Continuation of 1st Session, 66th General Assembly.

AuthorReddin, Ryan

On May 26, 2020, the House resumed sitting in continuation of the 1st session of the 66th General Assembly. The House had previously been scheduled to reconvene on April 7, but on March 18, Speaker Colin LaVie announced that the Assembly would not reconvene as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rules of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island permit the Speaker, in urgent or extraordinary circumstances, to waive the requirement that the House open for a spring sitting during the first week of April and that 60 days' notice of the opening be provided by the Speaker or Executive Council. On May 15, following a request from Premier Dennis King, Leader of the Opposition Peter Bevan-Baker and Leader of the Third Party Sonny Gallant, the Speaker announced that the sitting would resume on May 26.

Prior to the resumption, the operations of the Legislative Assembly were reviewed in consultation with the PEI Chief Public Health Office, in order to ensure that physical distancing and other safety protocols are observed. The Legislative Chamber was reconfigured to allow Members to observe the recommended six-foot separation. In order to achieve this, the public gallery and media gallery, which are normally located at floor-level in the Chamber, were removed. The Hon. George Coles Building was closed to the public and continues to be as of this writing. A media tent was erected on the grounds of the Coles Building. Proceedings continue to be broadcast on Eastlink TV, and live-streamed on the Legislative Assembly's website and Facebook page.

The House met according to its regular weekly sitting schedule throughout the month of June, and continues to do so as of this writing. PEI was in a state of emergency from April 16 to June 28; a state of public health emergency was declared on March 16, and is ongoing.

Provincial COVID-19 Response

On May 26, Darlene Compton, Minister of Finance, tabled "COVID-19 Response," a report providing an overview of the province's health and economic response to COVID-19. The report was added to the Orders of the Day and referred to Committee of the Whole House to give Members ample opportunity to review and discuss actions in response to the pandemic. Members debated the report in Committee of the Whole House over several days early in the sitting.

Legislation to Date

Since the session resumed on May 26, 26 bills have been introduced in the House; 17 of these are Government bills, eight are Private Members' Bills, and one is a Private Bill.

Several bills relate to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bill 36, An Act to Amend the Public Health Act, empowers Government to detain persons who refuse to selfisolate, and expands the Chief Public Health Officer's authority to appoint officials, to limit travel, and to impose penalties for contraventions of the Public Health Act. The bill originally proposed to provide the Lieutenant Governor in Council with the power to suspend or vary the application of an enactment during a public health emergency, but the relevant clause in the bill was defeated during Committee of the Whole House review. The bill received Royal Assent on June 23.

Bill 38, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (No. 3) provides an unpaid leave of absence to an employee who is unable to work due...

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