Summer beckons. We will be vaccinated and eager for the stress of the past months to drain away as we once again enjoy the outdoors under a warm sun. However, before we get there, the Legislature is scheduled to begin sitting.
When not advocating for constituents, the weeks since we adjourned have been filled with committee work. In anticipation of the birth of her second child, my colleague Megan Mitton, MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, has been blazing a path to transform the Legislature to become more supportive of women and parents. This required work by two Legislative Committees, both of which I am a member, to recommend the much-needed changes to House rules, policies and procedures. Infants will be permitted in the Chamber, a family room will be established in the Legislature, and additional constituency staff will be funded to support MLAs on maternity leave so they have the added capacity needed to serve their constituents. Votes in the Legislature may be made virtually, or by having a caucus colleague vote by proxy, though this remains to be decided.
Throughout April the Estimates Committee examined the budget of each department in detail, and questioned each responsible Minister. A highlight for me was the revelation by the Minister of Social Development that single parents trying to get by on income assistance will no longer have their child support payments clawed back by the Department. This will make a significant difference in the lives of single parent families mired in poverty.
I have been speaking with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jill Green, the MLA for Fredericton North, about the potential for renovating the Victoria Health Centre property to better serve the many non-profit groups and the Community Mental Health Centre it currently houses, while creating new spaces for a drop-in centre for the homeless, as many residents from Sunshine Gardens have constructively suggested. I am hoping to hold a meeting with the non-profit tenants of the building to hear their ideas for the future of the rambling former hospital.
In this session of the Legislature, I hope to bring my bill to provide government the ability to cap rent increases, to second reading. The housing situation in Fredericton has become intolerable as rents continue to go up, sometimes twice in the same year, and the supply of affordable housing is severely limited.
Primary health care provider are also in short supply. The recent opening of a nurse practitioner’s clinic in the Priestman Centre will help, taking between 5,000 and 6,000 people off the waiting list. The clinic will also house nurse practitioners who will care for non-urgent cases from the Chalmers’ Emergency Department waiting room. This should end the unbelievably long wait times at the ER.
In the new provincial budget, there is a commitment to implement 75 percent of the measures from New Brunswick’s 2016 Climate Action Plan. There are no details as yet, but I have been advocating for money from the carbon tax revenue to be used to improve assistance for people looking to make their homes more energy efficient, install solar panels, purchase electric vehicles, and to improve public transit.
In June, watch for hearings to be held by the Standing Committee on Climate Change and Environmental Stewardship into the impacts of spraying glyphosate on the health of people, wildlife, and our ecosystems. A number of expert witnesses I suggested will be appearing before the committee.
Congratulations to all the graduates this year from our high schools, universities and community colleges. You have faced many challenges this year and are part of an extraordinary graduating class. I wish each and everyone of you the very best for the future.