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Prince Edward Island.

The Legislative Assembly opened for the Second Session of the Sixty-second General Assembly on November 18, 2004. It adjourned to the call of the Speaker on December 16, 2004, after 17 sitting days, and was recalled on April 6, 2005.

Significant Legislation

Two of the more significant pieces of legislation considered during the Session were:

An Act to Amend the Tobacco Sales to Minors Act prohibits the sale of tobacco in designated places, which would include health care facilities, government buildings, schools, and recreational facilities. The Act also prohibits tobacco from being sold in vending machines or in any sort of self-service display. A further section, which will come into effect June 1, 2005, provides for the designation of pharmacies and certain retail stores as places where tobacco products may not be sold.

The Renewable Energy Act requires a public utility to obtain a prescribed amount of its electric energy from renewable energy sources each year. This provision will have effect in 2010, when a minimum of 15% of a utility's electric energy must be obtained from renewable or "green" sources. The legislation also sets out requirements for public utilities to complete demand side management plans, with the goal of reducing the intensity of the peak demand for electric energy. Finally, the Act allows small capacity renewable energy generators to enter into net-metering system agreements with public utilities.

Resignation of Information and Privacy Commissioner

Karen Rose, the province's first Information and Privacy Commissioner, resigned from her position in April 2005, citing personal reasons. In making the announcement, Speaker Greg Deighan congratulated her for a job well done and thanked her for her professionalism in carrying out her duties. Ms. Rose had held the position since November 2002, and was responsible for administering the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. A replacement for Ms. Rose will be appointed in the near future. The Standing Committee on Legislative Management has responsibility for recommending to the Legislative Assembly a person for appointment as Information and Privacy Commissioner, which must be supported by at least two-thirds of the Members voting before being confirmed.

Retirement of Chief Electoral Officer

The province's Chief Electoral Officer, Merrill Wigginton, retired on April 30, 2005. He had served in the post for the past 19 years. Many would agree that his finest hours came during the General Election of 2003, when Hurricane Juan hit the province in the early hours of election day. The province experienced widespread power-outages and property damage. Schools, government offices and businesses were closed due to thousands of fallen trees and damaged power lines. A full two-thirds of the polls remained without power for the entire day, with ballots being counted " by kerosene lantern and candlelight. Despite this, voter turnout, at just over 83%, was down only slightly from the General Election in 2000, a tribute to Mr. Wigginton's equanimity and composure in the face of disaster. In true "busman's holiday" fashion, Mr. Wigginton left immediately upon retirement for British Columbia to assist in that province's provincial General Election and vote on proportional representation.

Lowell Croken, former Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, who has served with Elections PEI since 1996, has been named as Acting Chief Electoral Officer.

Commission on PEI's Electoral Future

In January 2005, the Commission on PEI's Electoral Future was created in response to recommendations in the Electoral Reform Commission report which was released in 2003 (available in its entirety at www.assembly.pe.ca). The eight-member Commission is composed of one representative from each of the three political parties registered for the 2003 provincial General Election, one person from each of the four federal electoral districts in the province, as selected by the Standing Committee on Legislative Management, and one person as chair, also selected by the Standing Committee on Legislative Management.

The Commission on PEI's Electoral Future will be responsible for developing and conducting a public education program to increase awareness of the present first-past-the-post electoral system and, as an alternative, a mixed-member proportional system. The Commission will also develop the wording of the question as to which system Islanders prefer to be presented in a future plebiscite. The timing of the plebiscite will be a recommendation from the Commission to the Legislative Assembly.

Commissioners started meeting in March 2005 and plan a series of public meetings in the fall of 2005. The pros and cons of both a mixed member proportional system and the first-past-the-post system will be presented to the public at the meetings. It is anticipated that significant discussion and debate will result.

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Matters

The twenty-seventh CPA Canadian Regional Parliamentary Seminar will be hosted by the Prince Edward Island Branch in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, from October 20-23, 2005. Invitations and registration forms will be sent out to all jurisdictions in the near future.

Speaker Deighan represented the Canadian Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at the 2005 Executive Committee Mid-year Meeting in Sydney, Australia, in April 2005.

Littles in the Legislature

Members of the Legislative Assembly hosted 25 children on April 12, 2005, in a pilot program called "Take a Little to the Legislature." Members of Big Brothers Big Sisters got a close-up look at the workings of government and the provincial legislature. Each MLA was matched for the day with one young person from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Edward Island organization. The youths had a tour of the Official Opposition offices in the morning and then visited the Premier's office before going to Government House, where pizza was served on silver platters to the delight of all the guests. In the afternoon, it was off to the Public Gallery at Province House, and each Little was welcomed and introduced by his or her respective MLA. The day was a great success and garnered a great deal of positive interest in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and its work.

Marian Johnston

Clerk Assistant and Clerk of Committees
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Title Annotation:Legislative Reports
Publication:Canadian Parliamentary Review
Geographic Code:1CPRI
Date:Jun 22, 2005
Words:989
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