Archive for April, 2009

Budget becomes main focus of question period

April 20, 2009

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Premier Robert Ghiz answering questions for the media. Conway photo.

 

    The Liberal government is proud to have created such economic growth during a time of economic downturn, said provincial Treasurer Wesley Sheridan during Question Period April 17.

    Montague Conservative MLA Jim Bagnall said the Conservatives feel the economy is not doing as well as the Liberals are saying that Sheridan can’t seem to ever know the proper economic figures.

      The argument began when Bagnall asked the treasurer about the $ 42.3 million deficit.

      “The budget that was put in by the previous government when you came into power had a surplus of $2.1 million. That would have showed three surplus budgets in a row. Mr. Treasurer, why did you revise the budget when you came in from a $2.1 million surplus to a $42.3 million deficit?”

       Sheridan said the province was just coming out of the 10 best economic years the province and the country as a whole have ever gone through and the Conservatives had nine deficit budgets.

       “Probably the most embarrassing piece of financial work I have ever witnessed.”

        Sheridan said there were a lot of problems caused by the Conservatives which the Liberals had to take care of when they took office.

         He said examples included a health care system which was ignored for 10 years, write offs in the beef industry and in the fisheries as well.

      “The things we had to clean up inside that first year were incredible.”

      Bagnall said the treasurer numbers were wrong and the fact was he had lost $39 million in his first budget.

     “How do you expect Islanders to have faith in your number?”

      Premier Robert Ghiz stepped in to answer the question.

      Ghiz said Islanders were actually very happy to have a treasurer with as much integrity and experience as Sheridan.

       “He is doing a tremendous job balancing the books of this province. I wish he had been in power 12 years ago when that government was in power because I think the Island would be in better shape than it is now.”

        Bagnall said the Conservatives were on the verge of a balanced budget.

        “But when the Liberals came in, we get a budget with a deficit.”

         Sheridan said the Liberals were there when Islanders needed help and the Liberals will be there to invest when there is a need for it.

          “Twelve hundred jobs will be created on the Island. Our model of a stimulus budget has been used accross North America and even the Obama government has followed our leader.”

          The discussion ended with one final question from Bagnall.

          “How can we have a deficit with the economy working as well as you said it has?”

           The Liberal party has seen other jurisdictions that are producing billion dollars in debt, said the provincial treasurer.

            “We have tightened our belts and don’t have that problem.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

 

How to protect important information with biometric technology

April 20, 2009

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First year CIS students; Norma Mayhew, Paige Palmer and Jean ‘Louis Pinet presenting the facts about Biometrics. Conway photo.

 

   With the growing threat of identity theft and security breaches, the need for the government agencies, big companies, and even home computer owners to protect themselves is a growing need, says Computer Information Systems student Norma Mayhew.

     Biometrics is a method of using an individual’s behaviours or characteristics to positively identify them and to make sure they are the only ones to access their information.

       Biometric technology is the next step in high tech security.

       Mayhew said one such biometric technology is the use of Dynamic Signature Varification, which uses the handwriting of the computer user to confirm his/her identitiy.

        “It is not just the image that is verified but also the speed in which they write, and the pen pressure that they use. It is more of a three-dimensional characteristics that they use.”

       She said these security measures are becoming more widely used anywhere from big companies to home computers.

      “Even laptops can use biometrics. Some use voice recognition and fingerprint scans.”

       Paige Palmer, who is also a student in the CIS program, said different companies and government offices are using biometrics to gain access to confidential information.

        “For example, finger print scans of employees are often used instead of punching in numeric codes.”

         Mayhew said it all depends on how secure they need their enviroment to be.

         “The idea behind biometrics is that the use of passwords or ID cards can be stolen or forged or someone could have been given the password by someone from within the company.”

     “With biometrics it is physical or behavioural characteristics of a person which grants access to the information, making it much harder to forge these things.”

       The type of information, whither it is a scan or an image of an employee, is placed into a database and when someone makes a request for the information they wish to access, they would have to make one of the scans in the database to acquire it, she said.

      “It runs on the fact that no two people are alike.”

       Palmer said even identical twins have their own individual set of characteristics that could be pick up in a scan.

      “They have different finger prints and retinal characteristics for example. Everyone has their own unique characteristics.”

      These systems are advanced enough to tell even if someone is conscious, she said.

      “For example if someone had cut off an employee’s finger to gain access to the information, it would not work because there would have to be a pulse or temperature for the print to be properly identified.”

      She said with the constant improvements in this technology, its usage is becoming more and more common as information is becoming more valuable.

       “Finger print and retinal scans are the most popular.”

        Mayhew said voice scans are a popular choice for home computers and laptops because all the user needs is a usb port to plug in a microphone or the computer might already have one built in.

         “Voice scans work in one of two ways. Text dependent, which the user would have to not only have their voice match the scan but also say a particular phrase to gain access. Text independent on the other hand, the user can use any phrase they choose because it is only the voice that has to match.”

      The sound is broken up into segments and each of the words spoken by the user is compared to the sample in the data base, she said.

      “If there is a match it checks to see if the tones and the voice pattern are are match as well.”

      Mayhew said as long as the need for secure information continues to grow, more biometric systems will be put in place to protect that information.   

 

College students end up in provincial court

April 20, 2009

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P.E.I. Provincial Supreme Courtroom number 5. Conway photo.

 

   It was 10 a.m. on the Thursday before the Easter holiday when a group of students from the Holland College journalism program entered the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown for a tour of the facilities.

    The students and their instructor were greeted at the door by Sheila Gallant, clerk of the Court of Appeals. Gallant welcomed them warmly and informed them she would be their tour guide.

     The first stop on the tour was courtroom No. 5. This is where some of the larger court cases are handled as it can hold up to 120 people.

     Gallant started off the tour of the courtroom by pointing out the holding area in which the defendant would be held  to protect those in the court and themselves as well.

      “Prisoners leave the holding area to go up stairs with the deputies,” she said. “It is to prevent violence.”

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Sheila Gallant, showing students around  the courtroom. Conway photo.

 

       Gallant said this particular courtroom was also used in civil cases and explained how a criminal case differs from a civil case.

        “The purpose of a civil case is to settle a dispute for money,” she said. “It often involves an insurance claim.”

         Students were shown everything from the judge’s desk to the jury box, but one thing they found really interesting was the press area.

          The area is in the same area as the public seating area but with one special difference. The seats in the press area have a special little tray attached to each seat for a reporter’s tools of the trade (their pen, paper and what not). Some of the students couldn’t help but test out these little trays first-hand.

     Gallant took the time to inform the students about the relationship between journalists and the court system.

     She pointed out such things as the need for journalists to seek permission to record court proceedings and to learn of any publication bans that might be in place.

      “In a family case, for example, the name of a young offender can not be used,” said Gallant. “Although the offenders initials can be used in violent cases.”

       The students began to explore the room to take photographs as Gallant continued to explain the inner workings of the court.

       Some of the students looked down upon the room from the judge’s bench as they took pictures from this  new perspective and even posed for a group photo.

       One student noticed how close the jury box was to the witness stand. Gallant said that was to make sure the jury members could clearly hear the testimony as well as to observe the mannerisms of witnesses. It is all an effort to make sure the jury will make the best judgment possible.

       Gallant also pointed out that this particular courtroom is also used for special occasions, as it is called a ceremonial court.

       “This courtroom is also used for when a new judge is sworn in to the Supreme Court,” she said.

        The tour of courtroom No. 5 came to a close and the tour group was on the move as they made their way upstairs to courtroom No.3.

         The students couldn’t help but feel as if there was something different about this new courtroom, something which separates it from the room they had visited just minutes before.

      The students were surprised when they realized the courtroom was actually quite smaller than the one they had already visited.

       Gallant said this is a courtroom used for the court of appeals, mostly for human rights and workers compensation cases.

       One of the young journalists asked about an interesting painting being proudly displayed in the room. Gallant explained it was a portrait of Henry Davies.

court4Gallant answer a question asked by Journalism student Patricia Nunez. Conway photo.

 

       “The only Islander to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada,” she said. “He held the position from 1876-9. He was also an MP and the Fisheries Minister as well.”

          Before the tour ended, Gallant gave a bit of a history lesson about her time working at the Supreme Court.

          She started in 1984, which makes her tenure, the third longest in the court.

         “Only two of the girls from the head office have been here longer than I have.”

           She said she had seen her fair share of strange occurences.

          “We had one bombing, two fires, a broken sprinkler system, and of course the car crash that happened a few months back. I’m glad that one happened at night, considering how busy the lobby gets during the day.”

          “We also deal with some pretty rude or ‘interesting’ characters on , well I wouldn’t say daily but definitely a weekly basis.”

           After Gallant ended the tour, she gave the students directions to courtroom No. 8, which was holding a hearing at the time.

     The students (mysef included) were surprised to see a young man enter the court room in shackles. It was quite surreal. He was facing multiple charges, including drug possession, impaired driving, public intoxication, and public mischief.

      The man pleaded guilty to all charges but with the time he had already served and the defendant’s willingness to improve his situation in life, the judge sentenced him to pay a $1,000 fine, a $100 fine, 12 months probation, and spend four days in the provincial correctional centre. His drivers licence is also suspended for 12 months.

        It is safe to say that these students will not forget their first day in court.                          

 

                                                                                                               

           

 

Holland Steppers sell sweets for an even sweeter cause

April 20, 2009

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Holland College Stepper Barbara Henry, working at the bake sale to raise money for the Run For the Cure. Conway Photo.

 

   The boardroom of Montgomery Hall was filled with people looking to buy the delicious baked goods of the Holland College Steppers to help fund breast cancer research on April 8.

    The Holland College Steppers is a group of 32 people who are Holland College staff members, retirees, and a few family and friends who participate in the CIBC run for the cure, said bake sale organizer Barbara Henry.

    “The Holland College Steppers have been together for four years now and since then we have organized six fundrasing events a year, which include plant sales, pickle and preserve sales, chili cook offs, and bake sales.”

     Henry said everything at the bakesale is handmade by members of the steppers.

     Henry worked at the Charlottetown Centre of Holland College until about two years ago when she retired but she returns to the campus every now and again to see some old friends and raise money for the Steppers.

      She said she remembers her time at the college fondly.

      “My time here was excellent and I would like to say how I am impressed I am with the folks here at Holland College for working as hard as they do and for being as helpful as they are with the fund raisers.”

       Shirley Gallant from Computer Services at Holland College is also a member of the Holland College Steppers. She said the group has had one main goal since it was formed four years ago.

       “The purpose of the group is to raise awareness for the Breast Cancer Foundation and to raise money for breast cancer research.”

     Gallant, like Henry, said the bake sale is only one of the different fund-rasiers which the steppers organize throughout the year.

       “We also held a silent auction at the bake sale as well. We also have barbecues, a garden sale in which we sell some nice plants that we had grown and dug up. And we have held lunches as well, like the Chili Cook Off we had in the cafeteria last month.”

        Gallant said she enjoys her time as a member of the Holland College Steppers.

        “We have a lot of get togethers before the sales and do the cooking and we get together before the Run for the Cure as well, to just relax and have fun.”  

   

 

           

            

 

Island New Democrats offered hope in leadership conference finale: First elected NDP Quebec MP speaks; Rodd is elected leader

April 20, 2009

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Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair, speaking to his fellow NDPers during Provincial leadership conference in Charlottetown. Conway Photo.

 

      Newly elected provincial NDP leader James Rodd vowed to form government in Prince Edward Island and used guest speaker Thomas Mulcair, who is the first NDP MP to ever be elected in Quebec as a prominent example that it is possible.

      Before was offically announced as the leader for Island New Democrats at the NDP leadership conference on April 4, Mulcair delivered a message of hope to his fellow NDPers.

      His speech began with an offer of hope to his fellow New Democrats in attendance at the conference.

      “Stephen Harper for all of his gloom and doom may have won the federal election but the NDP had its best showing ever and we should never forget that.”

       The Quebec MP’s message of hope for a New Democrat to be elected in P.E.I. was the perfect lead in for the newly elected provincial leader James Rodd’s acceptance speech, where he offered the same sentiment.

      Mulcair said the growth of the NDP in Quebec has to do with the idealogies of the Conservatives and Liberals.

       “The Conservatives are more Conservative than ever. They have become a group of idealogues who act without thinking out their next step.”

        “The Liberals don’t believe in anything. Ignatieff is more or a less a Conservative but has changed his opinions when he was running for the Liberal leadership.”

         Mulcair ran down a list of items Ignatieff had changed his mind about over the course of his leadership.

        “Ignatieff called for the need of imperial law, during his time at Harvard. He called for Canada to get involved in the war in Iraq in 2003.”

       “He may be trying to show his Liberalism but this is the same man who voted for a budget that cut the equal pay for women in this country and the protection of Navaho water is also gone now because of that budget. Liberals signing the Kyoto accord is more like a PR stunt.”

        Mulcair didn’t spare Ignatieff’s feelings as he made a rather sharp observation at the expense of the Liberal party about their sense of entitlement.

        “Liberal’s feel all they have to do is show up for an election and they would at least walk out with second place. They only look out for number one and not the Canadian people.”

        Mulcair said he knows the people of Quebec are not happy with the way both Liberals and Conservatives have been running the government.     

        “In Quebec, people were beginning to realize there was another option out there and it will happen here in P.E.I. as well.”

         This is the time for NDPers to provide Canadians with hope and perhaps it is time to speak of the party’s vision for Canada, he said.

        “The NDP is the federal party with the best record for having a balanced budget and a will to act on people’s behalf during what could be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

         He said with Harper being the real deal for the Conservatives and The Liberals voting with him, it is a great opportunity for the New Democratic Party.

         “It is you who helps us push forward. The rise in the amount of people who vote NDP is real. Make people realize it, just like we did in Quebec.”

          After Mulcair’s speech, Rodd shook his hand and presented him with a lovely painting of a P.E.I. sunset. Party members then voted on who would fill each of the leadership positions in the party.

          Rodd was elected as the provincial party leader after running unopposed. After he was officially elected as leader, shared Mulcair’s message of hope for the NDP.

           He began by congratulated the executive branch of the party, which he called fresh because there are five women members.

           “I am really looking forward to working with the executive, as we continue to push the policies of our party forward that we have started here today.”

           He asked how the party could invest in its people, and its communities and make them viable, strong and self reliant?

           “It is not going to be easy because our previous governments, the Liberal and Conservative governments have negelected the rural community, which was once a source of wealth and an economic generator for our entire economy but that source of wealth is gone.”

           He said the source of wealth in the area is gone because the infrastructure is gone and the services aren’t there anymore.

         “The wages haven’t been keeping up so you have young people and middle-aged people and people of all ages leaving the rural communities to urban areas and if not, they are leaving the Island entirely.”

          “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to welcome back the wisdom and the energy and the wealth that these Islanders have garnered while leaving P.E.I. and then bring them back to advise us to rekindle our economy with their help.”

        Rodd began to focus on the energy usage in the province. He said the province uses approximately $700 million on petroleum products in a year.

        “It is a staggering amount of dollars to be spending by Islanders on transportation, heating feul and other things. So energy is going to be something that this party is ahead on. We are going to present policies that will create energy that is to the net benefit of Islanders and would be a change to what we are currently experiencing.”

         He asked his fellow party members what can they as a party look forward to the months and years ahead.

         “What I am seeing here is that we have a lot of work to do. But I always have considered myself a team player and I entend to keep it that way. The work that we do both within the party and with Islanders, is to incorporate team work with mutual respect, with equality, with sharing, with caring, and balance.”

          “That is what will distinguish us from other political parties in the end and that is what I belevie will give us an advantage.”

           The party will have to make an extra effort to reach out to Islanders and to invite them and encourage them to join with the NDP to improve our democracy and our government, he said.

           “But there is a great deal of cynicism created by both the Liberal and Conservative parites, which draws a lot of people, particulary young people away from voting or to participate in public affiars. This undermines our democracy.”

       He said they must let the people know that they are not like the other parties before offering his message of hope:

         Rodd then took off his jacket.

        “I’m going to roll up my sleeves, how many of you out there are willing to roll up your sleeves? We have a lot of work to do. We want to engage people and bring in the kind of policies to give people the alternative to vote for and the only way to do it is to do some hard work right here and now.”  

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New provincial NDP leader, James Rodd rolls up his sleeves  to help Islanders as he asks the NDP to do so to. Conway Photo.

 

        “Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, we will form government on Prince Edward Island. There are many out there who will tell you that it won’t happen and that Islanders will not vote in a New Democratic government but I will remind them that is what they said about Saskatchewan before Tommy Douglas proved them wrong, that’s what they said in Manitoba, in British Columbia, in the Yukon, in Ontario, and Quebec. It is also what there cousins in Nova Scotia are saying where we have Darell Dexter as a government in waiting.”

 

 

Halifax MP leads anti-poverty panel

April 20, 2009

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Halifax MP Megan Leslie. Conway Photo.

 

     An anti-poverty panel discussed a wide range of economic problems facing Islanders during the NDP leadership conference in Charlottetown April 5.

     The panel was lead by NDP MP Megan Leslie, a founding member of the Community Coalition to End Poverty. The group is dedicated to ending poverty in Halifax.

     Leslie said the Halifax group was formed after concerned citizens marched to the federal building in Halifax asking for a poverty reduction policy but it fell on deaf ears.

      “We launched our own community written and driven policy based on a similar policy they have in Newfoundland.”

      The community group was working and functioning but the government-sponsored group which was launched did not work as well, Leslie said.

      “The community group is worried about the government’s direction considering there are no benchmarks but the fact we now have a policy in place is a huge win for us.”

       She said the anti-poverty policies in Newfoundland and Quebec work well and they do so because they have a clear set of goals.

       “It can not work properly if the goals are not clearly established.”

        CUPE representative Leo Chevevie said the Newfoundland policy works because of the participation of both governement and the anti-poverty groups.

       Shannon Pollard, the third vice president of the provincial NDP and P.E.I. representative for the National Anti-Poverty Organization, said when she and her group were trying to get a policy for P.E.I. she was told to speak with the provincial treasury, but it was too much of a challenge.

     “They don’t have the time of day to speak with us or even think that the poverty exists here on the Island.”

     Leo Garland, a member of both People First and Alert, said there is a myth about the quality of life on Prince Edward Island which needed to be addressed.

     “After looking at the quality of life of people here on the Island, it should be said that it is more expensive to live in the province than the myth suggests.”

     When Leslie asked what the main issues regarding poverty on Prince Edward Island were, she was given a variety of responses.

      Pollard said there is an isolation of the rural areas of the province and a lack of public transportation.

       Jillian Kilfoil, second vice president for the provincial NDP and a member of People First, agreed with Pollard about the lack of public transportation. She said the bus services in Summerside and Souris had been discontinued and the northern rural areas don’t have a bus system at all.

      Chevevie said there are no programs dedicated to social or co-housing available in the province.

      Garland said there is a major problem on the Island that no one likes to talk about- homelessness.

     “The soup kitchens are filling up at an alarming rate, there are young people who would be homeless if they did not have friends to take them in. I have spent a night sleeping in the streets with the homeless and it has really opened my eyes to the problem.”

       Pollard said all levels of government need to cooperate with the anti-poverty groups to get a policy put in place.

       “Areas in P.E.I. need to be consulted as well, instead of just basing what needs to be done purely on numbers.”

        The members of the panel got a bit of a surprise when Lesile said help can be found when going beyond the “usual” suspects in government.

       “You would be surprised with the amount of small business that have decided to help with the program in Halifax.”

       “An even more surprising case was when we were told by a real-estate agent to help with a housing plan they were working on, which resulted in 24 housing units being built. Teachers with poor or lower income students, nurses and faith-based groups can be helpful as well.”

         Leslie feels it is a huge victory for her riding to even have a poverty reduction strategy in place.

         Plenty of other concerns were raised at the round table.

         The fishery is in a crisis and is in danger of collapse and the prices have been devastating, said Chevevie.

         “Unemployment rates in the province are also beginning to creep up.”

          Kilfoil said the local food banks are beginning to run out of food.

          Leslie commented on the state of the Nova Scotian economy.

          “Nova Scotia is becoming an economically depressed area.”

      Rural migration is a growing problem, with people either moving to rural areas or leaving the province altogether.

      Garland recalled seeing over 100 people the last time he visited the soup kitchen.

      “They just kept coming and coming.”

       Pollard complained about the lack of full-time jobs in Charlottetown, saying, “It is all part-time jobs. You can work for a call centre which are more like sweat shops or work a few hours here and there and then move on to the next job without health care benefits.”

       Chevevie mentioned the problems facing the tourism industry on the Island.

       “Tourism has taken a hit with people being unable to afford to travel. This hurts the province’s annual income.”

        Two members of the panel discussed the lack of media coverage regarding the problems surrounding poverty in P.E.I.

       The representative for the participation of women for the NDP, Lorraine Begley, said the media is too complacent.

        “They are too afraid to critique the government.”

        Chevevie said the media doesn’t do an accurate job of analysing the situation.

       “No real analysis of the number of problems regarding poverty in P.E.I.”

        He also mentioned the need for an increase in minimum wage and the urgency of bringing this to the attention of Legislature.

        School teacher Richard Baker brought the final piece of discussion to the panel’s attention. It was the state of education on the Island.

         He said it is cheaper for students from P.E.I. to attend Memorial University in Newfoundland than to attend UPEI and that also includes the travel expenses.

         “If Memorial can reduce tuition rates, why can’t we?”

          Pollard mentioned a student she knew who told her he wants to attend UPEI but since he can’t afford it, he has to take trade school courses instead.

           “He had to take a course where he could find employment in directly after graduation, so he can afford to go to university later on down the road and that should not be the case.”

 

James Rodd outlines plan to revitalize rural P.E.I.

April 20, 2009

     The fabric of the rural communities has been weakened by the neglect of the government but 20/20 vision of Island New Democrats can change this and save rural P.E.I., said provincial NDP  Leader James Rodd.

      The Island New Democrats discussed their 20/20 vision during a leadership convention April 4. It is a plan to vastly improve the quality of life in the province with a main focus on the rural communities by the year 2020. The discussion was lead by leadership nominee, James Rodd.

       Rodd said if the province can build a strong foundation for rural P.E.I. and communties connect Island businesses and products into the martketplace, the quality of life will improve.

       “The world can come to us here on Prince Edward Island.”

        Rodd said education is also an important part of the 20/20 vision plan for the rural communities.

     “It is important to give those living in the rural communities the best education possible and to make sure their education is adequate.”

       With the baby boomers growing older and the population of senior citizens ready to rise by about 20 per cent within the next five years, it is important to build homes which seniors living in rural areas can live in for as long as possible, he said.

        “At the moment, Charlottetown and Summerside are the only areas on the Island to follow the Canadian building code. In the rural areas the contractors decide what is best. We are planning a new universial building code which will make sure all buildings and homes in P.E.I. meet a high quality standard.”

      “With the universial building code we will make sure senior citizens have their homes up to code, with reinforced walls and installed lifts to make sure they can live in their homes as long as possible.”

       Rodd also talked about the importance of the involvement of youth not only in the NDP but in the community and the province as a whole.

       “They are leaving the Island and you can’t blame them. There is a lack of employment opportunities here in P.E.I. but with an investment in Island businesses, we can provide youths with employment here.”

        Rodd said the 20/20 vision plan is the beginning for a party stance or platform for the next provinvicial election.

        “We will work hard to make sure that this plan is ready no later than July of 2011 to give us three months to prepare for the election to be held in October.”      

         New party president Edith Perry was the first of many party members to express what they would like to see focused on in the 20/20 vision plan.

         Perry said she is concerned about the policies Island businesses have been following.

         “Businesses need new policies to be put in place to make sure they don’t go for the cheapest labour.”

           Perry was also concerned with the current minimum wage.

          “It needs to more than simply raised.”

         She is also concerned about current state of the province’s current labour codes.

        “We need better labour codes and regulations put in place because businesses small and large are breaking the current ones which were put in place.”

       Other members of the party in attendance also expressed their opinons. During this time Rodd heard a number of suggestions, including: the need for grassroots development programs, the idea of a traveling women’s wellness clinic, the importantce of making immigrants feel welcomed in the community, the need for the lack of public transportation to be addressed, and the possibility of investing in wind energy.

         At the end of the session, Rodd thanked everyone for their input and said the 20/20 vision can move the Island in the right direction if it is met with the support of those in the party. 

       

Ghiz and Crane debate PNP scandal

April 20, 2009

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Opposition leader Olive Crane, answering questions for the media. Conway photo.

 

    Action can not be taken against two former deputies who accessed money under the PNP program under the Conservatives but one of his own deputies will be punished, said Premier Robert Ghiz after Question Period April 2.

     The Provincial Nominee Program was put in place to increase the number immigrants coming into the province and stimulate economic growth.

      Brooke MacMillan, deputy minister of Innovation and Advanced Learning, and two other deputies under the Conservatives, accessed this program and put money into businesses they had investments in.

       Ghiz said when it came to the MLAs who were involved, they acted in good faith and because of them, the legislature is going to create stronger guidelines for the program.

       “We were assured that they acted in good faith, they want us now to look at the guidelines and that is what we are going to do.”

       MacMillan was asked to give the money back and that is what he did, Ghiz said.

       However, money accessed by two deputies was given during the time the Conservatives held government had not been given back.

       “It is not my juristiction.”

        The party is working on strengthening the rules when it comes to deputy ministers and conflict of interest, he said.

      “In fact, when the original investigation took place, into an actual conflict of interest, I went to our executive council and ask him to start working on new guidelines when it comes to conflict of interest and deputy ministers.”

      Ghiz said he called MacMillan the previous night and informed him about the auditor general’s assumption that there is a conflict of interest regarding the funds which MacMillan received because he was a deputy minister.

      “I said it would be reasonable and fair if you returned or reverse the transaction and he said that is what he would do.”

       Opposition leader Olive Crane said MacMillan should resign from his position as a deputy minister.

        “I would also take it step further. Yesterday when I found out about the two previous deputies who had done this, I had started an inquiry to look into the matter and Premier Ghiz should do the same.”

       When asked about whether or not the two deputy ministers who had invested with PNP money under her administration should return the money they had taken, she said there are questions about MacMillan’s investments that have to be answered first.

        “How many units did MacMillan give himself? How many units did Brooke MacMillian refuse to give other people? How units did Mr. MacMillian give to other companies?”

         “There was no paper trail, there is a select crew making decisions and again there needs to be a public inquiry and the inquiry should make the decision of what happens to those involved.”

         “We need to hold a public inquiry, that way everyone will be treated equally.”       

Staff Spirit Award to honour teachers who go above and beyond

April 20, 2009

joanie

Staff Spirit Award committee member Joanie Murray, poses for the camera. Conway photo.

 

     The Staff Spirit Award committee at Holland College Charlottetown Centre is looking for a teacher who goes beyond what a teacher normally does to help students achieve their goals, said committee member Joanie Murray.

       The awards are dedicated to teachers who do their best to be a positive influence on the learning experience of students. The award will be presented during the Student Athletic Awards on Thursday, April, 16.

       Murray said students were given sheets in which they were encouraged to write down a teacher they felt was worthy for a nomination.

       “Students were requried to write the teacher’s name and the reasons why they feel the teacher they had chosen to nominate was deserving of the award.”

        The committee looks for a candidate who they feel goes above and beyond for their students.

         “There are nine different nominees and some were voted in multiple times. The nominees are kept confidential until after we know the outcome and it will be released in an email.”

          Newly elected Student Union president Michele Bradley who is also on the committee said the committee has gone through the list of nominees during their first meeting April 1.

          “We read what was said about each one, and about how they have made a lasting impression on the students and the school.”

            She said she was extremely excited to read about each of the nominees because of the respect she has for the college staff.

        “The staff here at Holland College is amazing. They should all get the award! This award is extremely important because it recognizes the feelings the students have towards their learning instructors.”

          Murray said there is no bias towards any of the nominees who have been chosen for the award.

          “We hope that we choose the right staff member for the award. Someone who has gone the extra mile for students.”

          

Overcoming obstacles for a good cause

April 20, 2009

    The obstacle course for The Rick Hansen Wheels In Motion is fun but it also reminds participants how difficult life can be in a wheelchair, said Cathy Gillan, UPEI coordinator for the English for Academic Purposes program.

     Gillan and a group of her EAP students took part in the Charlottetown obstacle course last year, which raises money to help improve the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injuries.

     This year’s obstacle course is scheduled for Friday, July 10 at 3 p.m. Each team taking part in the event must consist of five participants and must raise an amount of $1,000 in order to compete. That would be $200 per person.

     Festivities planed for the event includes a wheel/walk for family and friends, entertainment, a barbecue and, of course, the Wheelchair Challenge itself.

     Gillan said during last year’s event contestants had to perform tasks which seemed simple at first but they would have to compete in a wheelchair while wearing oven mitts.

     “You would have to plug a cellphone into its charger, shoot a puck into a net, then you would have to go over to a table and bag groceries.”

     They were simple skills but they were made challenging because participants were in the wheelchair, she said.

     “Some of us were lousy with the chair and we had trouble getting around the obstacles.”

     “Luckily one of  our teammates is in a wheelchair, so we had an edge,” she said jokingly.

     Gillan said the event was fun and it was also a good opportunity for her EAP students to learn about charity and volunteerism.

     “They were unfamiliar with these concepts because they do not have these institutions in their home countries. They researched the charity and spinal chord injuries.”

     Gillan said they were also able to use the language skills they had learned in class as they interacted with other students when they raised money on campus.

     “It was a wonderful experience for them.”

     Holland College librarian, Leslie Holt, also took part in last year’s event. She said charity is a great cause and an eye opening experience.

     “You really get a feel for what it is like for people with spinal cord injuries and the struggle they face.”

     Holt said she is encouraging both students and staff to take part in the course this year but assures the amount to be raised is not as intimidating as it seems.

     “Each person must raise $200 but it isn’t as hard too raise the money as people might think.”

     Holt said the course had five stations which would have to be completed by all five members of the team.      

     “Each member of your team would stand beside each other in a straight line and after one person finished the course, it would be up to the next person in line to finish. This continues until all team members finish the course and the team to have all five members finish in the fastest time wins.”

     Holt said the event wasn’t too difficult but did admit it was hard to navigate the course in the wheelchair.

     “It was really hard with the oven mitts on but it was really fun.”

     Holt’s team consisted of her and students from Holland College’s English as a Second Language program.

     “It was really nice to have the ESL students take part and it was a good way to boost their team spirit. We even won the trophy for finishing in second place and it was a pretty big trophy.”

     She said she is trying to help make the event more well known because it is a good experience and a great charity.

     “It is a good way for people to face the adversity, people with spinal cord injuries face everyday.”

     Gillan said she is proud of her students for taking part in the event and proud to see them become part of the larger P.E.I. community.

     “I also walked away with the feeling that I have seen things from the perspective of people with spinal cord injuries.”

     “The event works in creating awareness and it is very successful.”