“Measuring and preserving the Island way of life.”
These transcripts relating to the Well-being Measurement Act (Bill 101) are listed below in chronological order. Click on the date to expand the section.
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI
Orders Other Than Government
Deputy Speaker: I call on the Leader of the Third Party at this time.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to notice given, I beg leave to introduce a bill to be intituled the Well-being Measurement Act, Bill No. 101, and I move, seconded by the Honourable Member from Summerside-St. Eleanors, that the same be now received and read a first time.
Deputy Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.
A brief overview, hon. member?
Clerk: Well-being Measurement Act, Bill No. 101, read a first time.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Mr. Speaker, this bill will reform the way in which government collects the information it uses for its decision making purposes, and through public input it will develop a set of measurements to supplement existing economic indicators in order to determine the true well-being of Islanders.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI
Speaker: We will now call on the hon. Leader of the Third Party.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Member from Summerside-St. Eleanors, that the 25th order of the day be now read.
Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.
Orders Other Than Government
Speaker: Mr. Clerk.
Clerk: Order No. 25, Well-being Measurement Act, Bill No. 101, ordered for second reading.
Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the Honourable Member from Summerside-St. Eleanors, that the said bill be now read a second time.
Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.
Clerk: Well-being Measurement Act, Bill No. 101, read a second time.
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI
Immediately after Second Reading, the House went into Committee of the Whole to debate the bill. Peter started it off with his opening remarks after which debate opened to all MLAs.
The transcripts of the proceedings are posted below the video.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Madam Chair.
I first want to thank the house leaders on both sides for offering me this opportunity to present a bill as a member of the Third Party. There’s not every Third Party in the legislatures across this country that gets this opportunity and I sincerely thank you for making the time.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Also, I have many friends to welcome tonight, but let me just say I look forward to the day when there are as many Greens inside the rail as there are outside the rail right now.
Some Hon. Members: (Indistinct).
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Before we go into a line-by-line debate on the bill, some members of this House have asked me for sort of an explanation as to the intent of this bill and I’m happy to take several minutes to do that, with the House’s indulgence.
Indicators and accounts are powerful. What we count and measure reflects our values as a society and determines what makes it onto the policy agendas of governments. They can tell us whether we are better off than we used to be, whether we are leaving the world a better place for our children, and what we need to change.
I described governance last week in this House as succession planning on a community scale, and if I were to distill the essence of this bill, it would be that we should create a score card for government in order to gauge how we are doing that.
I think I speak for all members of this House when I say that we all want for our citizens of Prince Edward Island such things as good health and good education, more employment, less crime and mental illness, and a clean environment. The depth of our common commitment to those shared goals is matched only by our current unwillingness, and inability, to monitor whether they are getting better or worse.
At the moment, if we want to monitor whether we are getting better or worse or progressing as a society, we turn to Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, to inform us as to our direction. If GDP is growing, things are fine; if it is not, then hard times are upon us. While there is a certain validity to this outlook it fails to take into account so many facets of our lives that have a profound bearing on our sense of well-being.
Governing is about improving the lives of the citizens of PEI, and through this bill I am simply providing a mechanism which will inform Islanders how well their government is protecting this unique, precious, and fragile thing that we all cherish – the Island way of life.
Measuring well-being is not a new idea. Other jurisdictions have recognized the limitations of GDP as a measure of collective wellness. Here in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Ontario have all to varying degrees started down the path of adopting a wider, more comprehensive set of indicators in measuring their progress.
Just this year the country of Wales passed their own Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act which aims to do exactly what our bill would do here on Prince Edward Island.
I, personally, have been working on well-being measurement for decades. Back in 1997, after one of my many failed electoral attempts, I was approached by the successful Liberal candidate, Joe Jordan, and invited to develop policy that would bring some of the Green ideas that he had heard and liked during the campaign into legislation that he could present to the House of Commons in Ottawa. The result was the Canada Well-Being Measurement Act, a motion that passed debate in the House, handily receiving support from all PEI MPs who were present, and a majority of the Conservative party, also.
A few years ago a version of the original bill was presented in the Nova Scotia provincial legislature by an NDP member. I say all this to demonstrate that this idea is neither new nor radical. Measuring well-being is seen as a perfectly reasonable and, some might say, necessary innovation in order to modernize the way that governments collect information to help build policy-making. Here on Prince Edward Island we also have an intimate relationship with measuring well-being.
In 2006 an in-depth study was carried out in Tyne Valley which aimed to discover what really matters to Islanders when it comes to their quality of life. The results of that study triggered a passage in the 2008 throne speech of the Robert Ghiz government, which committed to establishing, and I quote: “…an Office of Public Engagement, whose mandate is to build a common foundation of knowledge and information from which both government and communities can assess and discuss public policy issues.” In other words, measuring well-being.
In 2013, more recently, the Georgetown Conference discussed many of these same issues and concerns, issues that this bill will help address, in revitalizing and, for example, maintaining a vibrant and sustainable rural economy on Prince Edward Island.
I’d like to spend a few minutes explaining the limitations of Gross Domestic Product as a useful measure and of how expanding and modernizing how we monitor progress will be good for Islanders.
GDP counts the amount of money exchanged for goods and services, and it’s a measure of production and consumption. It’s been around since the 1940s and was a useful tool for governments to gauge their economic health following the war. But the world is a different place from what it was70 years ago and the usefulness of GDP as our principal measure of progress in society is now seriously in doubt.
The assumption that economists and politicians make is that as long as the economy is growing then we are making progress, but today that is not always the case. We can make the economy grow by going deeper and deeper into debt. We can make the economy grow by liquidating non-renewable resources. If the wealth from that growth is not reasonably equitably distributed, then society is not necessarily stronger or more cohesive.
More than that, GDP makes no distinction between useful expenditures such as that that we might spend on education and growing our food, and regrettable expenditures such as those required when things go wrong, like the $10 million this province spent repairing damaged infrastructure following last year’s rain storms up west.
Just for a moment, let’s view a house robbery from the point of GDP. The money spent repairing the home from damage increases GDP; the money spent to replace stolen goods increases GDP; the police and legal time spent tracking down, prosecuting and convicting the perpetrator increases GDP; and then keeping the thief in prison is yet one more boost to Gross Domestic Product. And yet we end up with a more insecure community, fractured families, and increased burdens on the public purse. In this and many other situations I could recite Gross Domestic Product grows while we as a society are clearly going backwards. How can we reconcile these obvious contradictions?
That is what this bill aims to do, to develop a broader, more comprehensive and subtle set of measurements so that we can monitor how we are really doing. Is this precious thing called the Island way of life that we all cherish and want to preserve being protected by our government?
This bill is what I would describe as an enabling piece of legislation. It is not demanding much of this House in terms of money or other resources, and it allows the extent to which PEI would adopt alternative measures of well-being to be determined by a standing committee. My sense is that we already measure much of what would be included in the annual report card that would flow from this legislation, and all that is required is for that information to be collected and presented in such a way that it can be used to inform public policy, taking into account of course what Islanders themselves recognize as being of utmost importance to them. It fits perfectly with this government’s stated pillars in the recent election: people, prosperity, and engagement. It engages people to determine what prosperity really means to them.
Aside from the ease and inexpensive nature of implementing this bill, if adopted, from here on decisions would take into account lifetime costs and benefits and it would steer Prince Edward Island towards sustainable prosperity, and likely saving large amounts of public money in the process. In the same way that a person who invests in their own health is less likely to become ill and therefore saves the medical system money, an Island that invests in its health, building stronger communities, happier people, and a clean environment and a diverse and modern economy, will produce significant long-term public savings.
I moved to Prince Edward Island because it is not like the rest of the world. I came here because the things that I value – a strong sense of community, people caring about each other, a love of place, care of the land and water, and the knowledge that life is about more than just making money and buying more stuff – all of these values are reflected in the Island way of life. I want us to measure that, to value it and to protect it. Not only will this be a good thing for us lucky enough to live here today, but it will send a message to people everywhere that when it comes to PEI, here is a place that cares about its people, its communities, and its natural environment.
I believe that by leading the way in proclaiming that PEI is above all else concerned about the quality of life of its citizens we can become a magnet for progressive, community-minded people to reinvigorate our rural communities, to strengthen our economy, and create a new era of prosperity and contentment on Prince Edward Island.
I want to close by quoting presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy from 1968:
“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross [Domestic] Product… counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage…. Yet the gross [domestic] product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
The Well-being Measurement Act will provide the evidence base for good policy that seeks to integrate and harmonize social, economic, and environmental objectives with a view to enhancing well-being in the largest sense for both present and future generations. In other words, it will measure that which makes life worthwhile, and I urge all members of the House to offer their support for this historic bill.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Chair: Hon. members, we will now go to reading the Well-being Measurement Act. I would be happy to start a speaking order. If anybody wants to be added just catch my eye and I will add you, I would be happy to add you to the speaking list.
- In this Act,
(a) “management committee” means the management committee established pursuant to subsection 3(1);
(b) “Minister” means the Minister of Finance;
(c) “Standing Committee” means the Standing Committee on Public Accounts of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.
Shall the section carry?
Mr. Roach: Question.
Chair: You have a question?
Mr. Roach: Yeah.
Mr. Roach: First of all, I would like to –
Chair: The hon. Minister of Finance.
Mr. Roach: Thank you.
I would like to thank the hon. Leader of the Third Party for raising this issue in the House, and his ideas are helpful and insightful on wellness, and I am glad to see that collaboration.
Just a question on 1(c), Standing Committee on Public Accounts: Does the Leader of the Third Party, do you sit on that committee?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I do. I sit on every committee (Indistinct) –
Mr. Roach: Also on health and wellness?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Yes.
Mr. Roach: Okay, thank you.
Chair: The hon. Member from Rustico-Emerald.
Mr. Trivers: Thank you, Chair.
Again, I also want to comment on the importance of measuring well-being outside of the GDP scope, and I understand what you’re saying there and it is a very important thing, so thank you for bringing this forward.
I did want to know if you had brought this idea forward to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts prior to introducing the bill.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I’m sorry; I missed – why we had not?
Mr. Trivers: Did you bring it before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts prior to introducing the bill?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: No, I did not, hon. member. I did speak to the Chair, however, to let him know that this bill was coming forward.
Chair: The hon. Member from Rustico-Emerald.
Mr. Trivers: I was wondering why you felt legislation was the way to go as opposed to starting off with a motion and then getting that passed, that sort of process.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: That’s a very good question. I certainly need to address that.
We see many motions coming before this House and indeed we debate very many worthy motions, but it strikes me that a lot of the motions that we pass do not have a lot of legislative teeth. They don’t have a lot behind them. Sort of like telling your child to go and clean your bedroom without enforcing it. You can say that – well, I speak from my own experience. You can tell your children to go and clean their bedroom as many times as you like, but unless you actually enforce it it’s not likely to get done.
This legislation would say: Go and clean your bedroom now and I’m going to come and check that you’ve done it. I brought forward a bill rather than a motion because I wanted it to have some teeth. I wanted it to have some oomph behind it.
Mr. Trivers: Thank you.
Chair: The hon. Member from Georgetown-St. Peters.
Mr. Myers: Thank you.
I like to think that motions have teeth. We run them here all the time. Members in this Legislative Assembly all speak to them so I take exception to the fact that motions don’t have teeth because we spend a lot of time working on ours. We bring very good issues forward to the Legislative Assembly here on a weekly basis and speak at length for hours about them, so I take great exception to that.
Why didn’t you bring this through the Public Accounts Committee? The committees of the Legislative Assembly are very powerful. We have one that I sit on with you, that’s the education and innovation committee where we’ve done great. We’ve had great cooperation amongst all the members regardless of what party they represent. We’ve had different representatives right across Prince Edward Island come in and present to us.
If these metrics that you’re talking about, if they are so readily available, why didn’t you write a letter to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and ask him for the committee to follow out that work anyway? It would have been up to the members of the committee to follow through and do it just like any other committee.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I suppose I could have that. I believe, as I said in my remarks earlier, that this information is actually readily available, but I think it will require a certain skill and a certain amount of work to collate all of this information, to collect it and to make it into a usefully presentable order, and I think that would require more than a simple letter to the committee Chair.
I think what this act does is it instructs, in this case, the Public Accounts Committee to collect that information or to go out to Islanders, actually – that’s what it really does – and ask Islanders what matters to them. What is it that is the most important thing in your life? That’s not something that can be done – it would sort of take all of that consultative aspect of the bill out of it.
Chair: The hon. Member from Georgetown-St. Peters.
Mr. Myers: I guess what I’m asking is: Why didn’t you write a letter to the Chair of Public Accounts Committee and ask them to do what you’re trying to instruct them to do through legislation? Ask them to go out and meet with people, ask them to gather, ask them to put it in a readable format, and ask them to present it back to the House. Not just write them a letter and ask them to write you back the answer with the metrics. Actually have the committee do the work because inevitably you’re asking the committee to do the work anyway, so why didn’t you ask the committee do the work because you sit on the committee?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Hon. member, this bill is standard practice. This is what was done in the federal parliament, it’s what was proposed in the Nova Scotia parliament, so I don’t think I’m doing anything that’s unusual or out of place at all.
Chair: The hon. Member from Georgetown-St. Peters.
Mr. Myers: That’s not what I asked you. What I asked you was: Why didn’t you write a letter to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, a committee which you sit on, and ask if the committee can meet and collect the information that you’re talking about and present it back to the Legislative Assembly?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I did speak to the Chair of Public Accounts Committee and he was happy that this bill was coming forward. There was certainly no indication from him that this was in some way not an appropriate process.
Mr. Myers: Question.
Chair: The hon. Member from Georgetown-St. Peters.
Mr. Myers: That’s not what I asked you. What I asked you was: Why didn’t you write a letter to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and ask that the work that you’re trying to instruct them to do through legislation, why didn’t you ask: Can the committee do this work?
If you wanted to do it even through a trial basis so you can go back to the House and say: See, this works so well, we did it on a trial basis this summer when the committee could’ve met and talked about this, and presented it back to the House this fall and used it as a supporting document for your legislation.
So now you’re asking us to try it blindly where you could’ve asked the committee to do it, got their agreement, had a report presented to the House here now, and used it as a supporting documentation.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: As I said, hon. member, I did speak to the Chair of that committee. It was my decision, based on the activities that have happened in both our federal government and at least one other province in Canada, that this is the appropriate way to go forward with this. It’s a fairly complex idea and it’s not something that I think I could have communicated clearly enough in a letter to the Chair.
Chair: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Chair.
What that, if this is such a complex idea, I believe in principle what you’re talking about, the Leader of the Third Party. But if this is such a complex idea, have you held any meetings with the public or public forums to get their ideas and hear what Islanders are saying on this across the Island?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I have not held any public meetings. I’ve certainly spoken to dozens and dozens of Islanders in that regard and the bill actually – part of the bill is recommending that we go out to Islanders and do a consultation process. That’s exactly what this bill is planning to do, hon. member.
Chair: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Leader of the Opposition: So with that, why wouldn’t you get that information first to really provide the framework and the groundwork and get the feeling of Islanders and their comments and maybe suggestions on this prior to bringing forth the bill and maybe taking that information to the standing committee and working with that group to bring it before the House?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Hon. member, there have been several studies done on Prince Edward Island already, and in fact, Dr. Irene Novaczek who sits in the gallery today was the author of one of those studies, Quality of Island Life Study of Tyne Valley in 2006, I cited in my remarks.
There has also been social and cultural values mapping as a decision supporting tool for climate change adaption, immigrants, Island – there’s several studies here that have already been done on Prince Edward Island. I think the public will is there, the information is there. What is lacking is the government aspect of this, the government will to get involved and to be a partner in this. That’s what this bill does, it invites government to be part of the discussion.
Chair: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Chair.
Is the hon. member willing to bring on the person he just indicated that’s in the gallery to sit at the table and to provide her opinion and comments and beliefs on this?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I hadn’t planned on doing that. I –
Leader of the Opposition: Personally, I would like to hear her opinion and what her thoughts are.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: There’s a couple ways you could go (Indistinct) – I’m in an unusual situation. I’m usually out in right field there and I’m sitting in the pitcher’s mound here, so I’m not quite sure what to do.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Madam Chair has just pointed out there are only four minutes left in the discussion here, and perhaps we should just continue and hopefully come back and discuss this further.
But I think it’s important to note that this is not a new idea. Studies have been on Prince Edward Island, it’s not a new notion for Islanders. All I’m asking for here is for government to be involved in the process in order that we develop a set of measures.
Chair: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness and Family and Human Services.
Mr. Currie: Thank you very much, Chair.
First of all, I just want to acknowledge the Leader of the Third Party for bringing the Well-being Measurement Act. As the health minister and minister of family and human services we’re always striving to continue the quality of life for Islanders.
I guess I’m trying to understand. In our department of health we have the Chief Public Health Officer. The announcement that our Premier shared last week was on the creation of the HUB and the new role that the Chief Public Health Officer will play in her annual report on the state of children in the province.
Just want to understand sort of the function of the act. Right now the Chief Public Health Officer monitors reports on the state of health and the population of the province. We are all aware of that. It includes up-to-date information and trends on life expectancy, education levels, household incomes, employment, etc., obesity rates, physical activity rates, sense of community belonging. There’s some themes that tie in that are fairly consistent to what you’ve shared. This is certainly very formative information. Health PEI also monitors and releases the information on access. We have date coming from CIHI.
Just trying to kind of understand where all of that information that’s currently being done, that resources are being put into – can you speak to that? I’ve got a couple questions, but can you speak to that about sort of that role that’s ongoing, that work that’s ongoing and does provide good data and good information to help us shape policy and to be better, basically? Maybe your thoughts on that.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Certainly. Thank you, hon. member.
As I’ve stated a couple of times now, I believe that a lot of the information that would be required in order to set up this score card, if you like, for government is already there. The problem is it’s not arranged in a useful manor. It’s scattered between departments, whether that be the department of energy, department of health and wellness, department of justice, the department of communities, land and environment. All of the information is there but it’s not being collated and organized in such a way that is useful necessarily to inform public policy, particularly when we look at making decisions for the long term.
I mentioned that in the country of Wales their act is called the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, absolutely looking at the long-term consequences of the decisions we’re making. In order to do that this information has to be presented in a coherent manor, and that’s the problem, it’s not, it’s scattered throughout departments.
Mr. Currie: Yeah. I’m trying to understand the – because there is, if you look at the student drug report, I mean, the Chief Public Health Officer, who is Dr. Heather Morrison, I feel that her data and her detailed information is very helpful. Trying to understand what we’re currently doing and how this potentially could blend in. As I did share, we are going to be looking at another level of involvement by the Chief Public Health Office on the state of children –
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct).
Mr. Currie: – in the province, so look forward to more conversation.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Adjourn debate.
Chair: Hon. members, the debate has been adjourned.
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI
On December 2nd, the last day of the fall sitting, Motion 70 passed unanimously (see transcript below), which referred the Well-being Measurement Act (Bill 101) to the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness for further consideration. This should begin in early 2016 when the Standing Committee resumes meeting, and if all goes well, the Committee should report back to the House during the spring sitting (April-May) with its recommendations on the bill.
Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Mr. McIsaac: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. Member from Summerside-St. Eleanors, that Motion No. 70 be now called.
Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.
Clerk: Moved by the hon. Government House Leader, seconded by the hon. Member from Summerside-St. Eleanors, the following motion:
WHEREAS the Leader of the Third Party has introduced a bill entitled the Well-being Measurement Act (Bill 101);
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Well-being Measurement Act (Bill 101) be referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness for further consideration.
Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.
The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Mr. McIsaac: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and move this motion, and we appreciate the work of the hon. Leader of the Third Party in raising this issue.
It’s an important one and the intent of which everyone in this House likely supports. We support what he is trying to do to ensure that we have a means to track the economic, social, and environmental well-being of peoples, communities, and ecosystems in the province. I appreciate the level of his civility and his ideas are helpful in providing this House with deeper insight into the issues of wellness and sustainability.
He, like all members of the House, is willing to collaborate in the best interest of Islanders. Much of this information being collected in the bill has already been collected by government in the Statistics Act, and the PEI Statistics Bureau could be directed to undertake this work within the mandate of the Statistics Act and provide briefings to the standing committee as appropriate.
As the intent behind this legislation is worthwhile, we think it warrants further consideration and would direct the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness to consider the merits and financial implications of this bill.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Speaker: The hon. Member from Summerside-St. Eleanors.
Ms. Mundy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
We had some very positive debate on this bill the other night in the House and therefore I am very pleased to stand here today and second this motion.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am delighted to rise in support of this motion, and I welcome the opportunity for what I consider to be a really important bill to have some further discussion around the committee table. I encourage all members of this House to support this motion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Speaker: The hon. Member from Georgetown-St. Peters.
Mr. Myers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I get a kick out of government here. They’re patting themselves on the back for the work that the hon. Leader of the Third Party did here today. Everybody in this House knows that all the information that he’s talking about is readily available. If you read the reports that the health minister has tabled, the countless reports that he’s tabled here in the last four or five years, you would see that there are numerous indicators that everybody chooses to ignore every single day. I’m not opposed to looking at them at all, but I get a real kick out of the way government handles business.
Where last night they were standing on the floor of the Legislature changing a motion when we were asking that people don’t have to pay to park to see their loved ones who are sick in the hospital if they are there under an hour they couldn’t cooperate with us on that, and the minister of agriculture gets up here and pats himself on the back like he is some kind of hero because he’s going to send a bill to committee. It’s really quite comical to see the way the government operates when it comes to the work that we’re trying to do. Not taking anything away from the Leader of the Third Party and the good work that he’s trying to do, but it’s quite obvious that they look at the two of us quite differently.
I’m not sure what their mandate is over there. These are the guys that said they wanted to do things differently. These are the guys that said they wanted to collaborate. They don’t want to collaborate with us at all. They want to collaborate with the hon. Leader of the Third Party and that’s fine, and good on him for being able to do that. But we’ve brought countless things to the floor of this Legislature. The Leader of the Opposition had a bill on the floor that was killed soundly – no mention of sending that to committee – killed soundly by this government.
Anytime we have ever had legislation on the floor this government has killed it soundly and never sent anything to committee to be looked at, never once tried to cooperate with us, and it’s a silly game that they’re playing over there. They want to talk about the higher level that they brought this Legislature to, and quite frankly, it’s a joke.
Speaker: Is there anybody else who would like to speak to the motion?
If not, I will go back to the mover to close debate on the motion.
The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Mr. McIsaac: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I think it’s very relevant and very worthwhile looking into this. Be pleased to wait and see what assessment that the committee of health and wellness gives to this, and so we look forward to their report in the spring session or whenever they bring that back.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Speaker: Are we ready for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question!
Speaker: All those voting in favour of the amendment, say “yea.”
Some Hon. Members: Yea!
Speaker: All those voting against the motion say “nay.”
The motion is carried and it is unanimous.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI
Chair: Move on, great. C says, Motion 70, Consideration of the Well-being Measurement Act, adopted unanimously by the Legislative Assembly on December 2nd, 2015, requests that the Well-being Measurement Act (Bill No. 101), be referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness for further consideration.
I will open the floor to comments and ideas to all of you.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I suppose it’s appropriate that I would start the conversation on that.
Of course, I’m delighted that the legislation is being further discussed in this committee. My ultimate hope would be that a recommendation comes back from this committee that the bill see passage through the Legislature. But we’re a ways away from that and I understand that this is a large piece of legislation which would have an impact on all ministries. Therefore, it’s important that it’s properly understood by all members of the Legislature and I think this is a great place to start that process.
I have a list of about six or seven people that I think would be useful for this committee to hear from. People who are either scholars in this area or are involved politically; the Liberal ex-MP whom I worked with 20 years ago and some people from GPI Atlantic who are internationally renowned for their work on this. But a number of local people as well: Jim Randall at the university, a couple of economic professors there as well, and I think some civil servants from within the PEI civil service, should be asked to come in. I have a couple of suggestions there.
Of course, I would certainly invite other people to make suggestions so that we do have a good full understanding of what this legislation is about.
Mr. Dumville: I’m glad you brought it up and I did vote for it because I think there should be some light thrown on it.
The only thing that I’m concerned about is it being a separate bill on its own, whether it could be handled in each department under regulation. I’m not sure that we need a separate act. They should be doing their job and they should be measured up to be succeeding at their job in each department. Now having said that, maybe some departments are a lot better than other departments at providing the well-being of our citizens, but at the same token I think we should explore it, to your point, but I’m not so certain it should be an act unto itself as opposed to a regulation.
But if you’re having different regulations over different departments, possibly there should be some form of audit making sure that all regulations are of equal strength and are doing the intended purpose. That’s the only caveat that I kind of want to put into the thing as we go forward, keeping that in might, that well-being measurement act, that it just doesn’t kind of float off. You know what I mean? Am I making sense?
Chair: Yes, you’re making sense.
Mr. Dumville: Okay, so anyway. That’s the only caution I have, that you create an act unto itself that should really be supported by good departmental policy, and a good departmental policy can be enacted in each department where they’re actually measuring their results and getting results. You know what I mean? As opposed to an act from the outside on the number (Indistinct) type basis.
Anyway, that’s as far as I can go with that. Thanks for listening.
Chair: Would you like to respond, Peter?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: (Indistinct), sure.
I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive at all, Bush, and I think you’ll find that in other jurisdictions who have well-being measurement acts in place – and the most recent one is the country of Wales which actually has a far more extensive well-being measurement act than the one I’m proposing here. It’s working fine. It’s fairly new. I mean, this is cutting edge. We’re not the first jurisdiction to suggest doing this or potentially to implement it, but it is at the cutting edge of policy. But there’s certainly no inherent conflict between what you’ve just suggested, Bush, and the intent of the legislation as it is worded.
The other thing I would say is that all of the statistics which would be brought together to give us an indicator as to whether each department, and overall the government, is doing a good job in improving the well-being of its citizens – a lot of those statistics are readily available. They’re just not packaged in a way that’s particularly useful or palatable or understandable, and that’s really the heart of this bill, is to get these statistics from each department and put them together in a useful form so that legislators and Islanders can understand what we’re doing.
That’s why I’ve suggested that Nigel Burns, who’s the director of the division of economics and statistics within the civil service here, would be one of the people who would come forward and speak to this.
I don’t think there’s an issue there and I don’t think this legislation would handcuff or limit the ability of any of the departments of government to do their job or to report accurately on what they’re doing.
Ms. Casey: Thank you, Peter.
This is really interesting, and as you stated, it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’d be interested to see what they’re doing in Wales. Maybe the committee might – it might be useful for the committee to have maybe the legislation from Wales –
An Hon. Member: Sure.
Ms. Casey: – just so we can see what their thought is.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Sorry, Kathleen.
Ms. Casey: Yeah, it’s okay.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I have a list here of people that I think it would be useful for the committee to hear from, including the incoming CEO, if you like, of the program in Wales. Her name is Sophie Howe and she’s actually a police officer. She’s the one who is going to be implementing it in Wales. She doesn’t start her job until February, actually, she’s replacing somebody.
But I was thinking it would be nice – and this afternoon we have a committee meeting where we have a Skype call. Obviously bringing somebody from Wales over would be prohibitively expensive, but in these days that’s not necessary.
Ms. Casey: No.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: So a number of the people on my list here are not local – many of them are – but I think it’s entirely possible that we could do those sorts of things through Skype.
Ms. Casey: Absolutely, (Indistinct) great.
Chair: I might ask, Peter, that you give us a copy of that list –
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Absolutely.
Chair: – so that we can start some work on that.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Those are only suggestions, of course, and I would welcome other people to bring forward ideas of people who could come forward and explain this more fully than I’ve been able to.
Chair: Anybody else have any comments?
I do have a question or a concern in regards to the work, and hopefully as a committee or maybe Emily can either yea it or dispel it. I guess one of the things that concerns me, and not saying that I’m not in favour of looking at it and that I don’t think it’s a great idea, but my concern is, as a committee member sitting on a committee, we’re supposed to review things with a high level of objectivity. I’m just curious if there’s a conflict for Peter as the Leader of the Green Party and the person who has made this, brought this piece of legislation forward, is it conflicting for him to be a part of the decision making? Is he sort of bringing forth his own work and then contributing to the decision, making the decision? Is there any conflicting piece there?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I have that down as one of the concerns.
Chair: Okay –
Mr. Dumville: Chair? If I might, I don’t think his presentation would be conflicting. The only thing maybe is the voting. He could set out for the vote of what comes out of that thing. (Indistinct) I don’t know –
Chair: Anyway, I’m just raising it because I don’t want us to get down the road and have somebody come forward and say we have somebody here who’s bringing forth a piece of work who obviously has something to gain from being successful with it and also being the person that’s promoting it at the committee level, and also voting yea or nay. So if we can have the discussion and dispel that I’m fine with that.
Mr. Dumville: What if he goes to the conflict of interest commissioner, asks for a ruling, and then guides himself accordingly?
Ms. Casey: He’s not gaining anything.
Mr. Dumville: He’s not gaining anything –
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct)
Mr. Dumville: – there’s no personal gain.
Ms. Casey: There’s no (Indistinct) yeah, no –
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct) conflict, no –
Chair: It’s not personal.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Kathleen, you look like you wanted to say something. Maybe I should –
Ms. Casey: No, I just – my gut feeling was no, there wouldn’t be a conflict, but I’m not a legal beagle, but maybe we could check into it with legal services or the clerk’s office and see what they say. But I think we would welcome his knowledge and why he wants to bring this forward. What’s your concern?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I would hope that I could speak to it in the same way that we have done in the committee on democratic renewal. I mean, I have some pretty clear biases and strong opinions on what I think should be done there, but I’ve managed to keep them in check, I would hope, over the months that we’ve been meeting.
I would like to know if there is a precedent for this. I don’t know whether an MLA has brought forward a piece of legislation which has subsequently been discussed in committee and she or he has been part of that committee. I don’t know, but that might be a place to start, Emily, to find out whether this is the first time that has happened and therefore we do need to make some decisions on it. Or maybe that discussion has already been had.
Chair: That’s all I’m saying. I’m not trying to be critical of Peter or –
Dr. Bevan-Baker: (Indistinct).
Chair: – his work, but my thought is if there is any grounds of conflict here then I would rather, as a committee, be proactive and make sure that we rule that out so that if the questions get asked we can very confidently say: We’ve looked into it. You may ask that question, we’ve already discussed it at the committee level, we’re looking to make sure that it’s aboveboard and fair and equitable for him to be doing this, and we can move on.
I just don’t want anything to stand in the way of the work of the committee from a professional perspective, so we’ll eliminate it right at the first and then we don’t have to worry about that and we can move forward.
Mr. Dumville: I think that’s excellent because personally, Chair, I have no problem, as Kathleen had said, with Peter’s integrity. He’s always aboveboard so –
Mr. Dumville: But it’s just up to him. He should check through the proper channels and he can come to his own –
Chair: I think Emily –
Mr. Dumville: – decision.
Committee Clerk: If I may? In having conversations about this committee with more senior clerks there hasn’t been an issue, I don’t think, with a conflict with you having promoted this bill. I think you’re a member of the committee so it would be all right for you to partake in any discussions and you would have, I guess as a member, a vote when it comes time to make a recommendation regarding this bill when we present the report to the Legislative Assembly.
It’s not often that we send legislation to committees in our Legislature. The last time that happened, I think, was in – a really in-depth discussion was done on a private members’ bill was in 2009. It was with the minister now, Alan McIsaac. He had brought forward a bill regarding tax inclusive pricing. He wasn’t a member of the committee. He did eventually come in to present to the committee. That’s really, I guess, one of the examples of a bill being discussed at committee level.
At some point, as the committee might want to have (Indistinct) you in as a presenter to discuss your reasoning why you had brought forward this bill. Discussing with more senior clerks it was not really an issue of conflict, I don’t see at this point, if you were to do so.
Ms. Casey: That might be a good starting point for us as well, right? Reasons where you think we should go.
Mr. Aylward: Sure.
Committee Clerk: I’ll check with my supervisors and just – I’ll say that we had this discussion. I’ll just make sure that there is no conflict and I can report back to the committee on that.
Chair: Any other questions or comments before we –
Ms. Casey: Just one comment.
Ms. Casey: Thank you, Chair.
When Peter had mentioned about the conflict, this is really only a – this committee only recommends to the Legislature, so we’re just a recommending body. It’s just recommendations to the Legislature. I just wanted to put that on record that (Indistinct) make recommendations.
Chair: Again, I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure.
Ms. Casey: Absolutely.
Chair: Right? Because it might also have a negative impact on the work that’s trying to be accomplished. Let’s get that out of the way and carry on with the confidence that we’re doing it in the appropriate manner for the taxpayers of Prince Edward Island. That’s all my question is.
Committee Clerk: I’ll check on that and I’ll report back to you.
Thank you, Chair.
Chair: Wonderful. Are we good on C, everyone?
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI, pp. 127-134.
We posted the slideshow for our presentation online so you can follow along.
Chair (Sherry): Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our meeting for the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness. Welcome everyone here.
I would ask for an adoption of the agenda, please.
Ms. Casey: So moved.
Chair: Thank you, Kathleen.
As you can see, members of the committee, we have quite a full agenda today, so if we’re going to make our way through and be completed by noontime I will be very stringent on the timeframes as we move forward into the meeting.
Without further ado, I guess the first order of business is beginning our consideration for Bill No. 101, the Well-being Measurement Act. I believe we have at the head of the table Patrick Lévêque, who is the legislative assistant for the Office of the Third Party. We welcome you, Patrick.
I’m assuming that Peter Bevan-Baker will be joining you at the head table, so without further ado I will ask you to move from one role to the other.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Chair.
Chair: And also –
Some Hon. Members: (Indistinct).
Chair: – to let you know you have about 30 minutes for your presentation. As I said I will be stringent on the clock because we have a lot of business to get through this morning.
Having said that, I pass it over to you, gentlemen.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you very much, Chair.
Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Third Party.
One of the many things I did prior to my life in politics was to talk about happiness: what I believe it is, what it is not, and how we can create more of it in our lives, personally and also collectively.
I used to start my talk with the assumption that we all want to be happy. I don’t think any of us wakes up in the morning and thinks: How can I strive to be miserable today? I don’t think that’s the essence of human existence. I think we all want to create contentment in our lives.
But if you look at some of the choices that we make personally in our lives, whether that be at work or in our relationships or anything else, you have to wonder whether we actually understand what happiness is and whether the choices that we make are moving us towards that goal or not or perhaps taking us in an entirely different direction.
One of the things I used to say on my talk was that we have to stop on our journey of life – on our path of life – frequently and check in and ask whether the choices we are making and the path, the direction in which we are going, is indeed leading us towards the goals that we desire. We have to ask some of those deeper questions: What is the purpose of my life? Why am I here? How can we invite contentment into our lives?
Many of us make the assumption that if we have more power, more status, and in particular if we have more money, that we will be happier, and that’s demonstrably not true.
You may assume that there is no point of contact between politics and happiness, but I beg to differ. In fact, I think that absolutely the opposite is true, but I think we make the same assumptions – incorrect assumptions, sometimes – in politics as we do in our personal lives. We assume sometimes that the purpose of our job is to grow, for example, the gross domestic product, and if we’re doing that, fine, then we’re doing our job well. But I think we have to dig deeper down and ask the question: What is the purpose of government? Because I don’t think that we stop often enough and ask that profound question. What are we here for? What are we trying to do as legislators? I think we could all agree that our overall goal should be to improve the lives of Islanders.
That’s what we’re trying to do around this table.
I think those words are lovely, but we don’t always dig down deeper to ask what that means. What are we trying to do here? Are we making the best policy decisions in order to improve the quality of life of all Islanders? What is the evidence we are using, and is the evidence that we are using good enough? Is it broad enough? Does it go deep enough? Does it answer those questions – the big question, what is the purpose of government – well enough?
Today I hope that in discussing the Well-being Measurement Act that we can dig down deeper into that question: What is the purpose of government and are we indeed using politics to improve the quality of lives of all Islanders?
Patrick Lévêque: Just before I get – do I need to state my name for the record or –
Chair: Yes, that’d be great.
Patrick Lévêque: Patrick Lévêque, legislative assistant in the Office of the Third Party.
A little bit of what information we use to make decisions in PEI. We have the Annual Statistical Review which is basically a collection of economic indicators. There’s not much there about social or environmental factors at all.
I think this quote from the press release last summer on the release of the review really shows that there’s a need for a better and a broader range of data in our decision-making process. Saying that the review: is the most complete source of information and clearly that that is what’s used to make important policy decisions, I think we can do better than only economic data.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Of course, the main economic indicator that we use to monitor our progress as a society is gross domestic product. GDP is indeed a very useful and necessary measure. It’s the one that all jurisdictions use to a greater or lesser extent to determine whether we’re doing well and it tells us very accurately the size and therefore the health of an economy.
But as I mentioned in my earlier comments, in terms of our individual lives, we make the assumption that the more money we have the happier we will be. That’s not the case, and I am here to argue this morning that the larger the economy of any particular jurisdiction – and of course, this morning we’re talking about Prince Edward Island – the larger the size of the economy does not necessarily mean that we are doing our job well. I think we have to look at other ways of measuring the progress of governance.
Some good things about GDP. It is a good measure of the size of our economy and it measures very well the economic activity in our region, however, it’s quite limited. It does not take into account what are called externalities, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that later, it does not in any way account for inequality within our society, and it has some very bizarre aspects to it.
For example, the cost of armouring our shores against rising sea levels and climate change increases gross domestic product, but is that activity actually improving the well-being of Islanders’ lives? There are many other examples of costs to society in order to deal with problems which we look at as positives in GDP which may indeed not be that case at all.
Here is a graph which has a – graphs are often difficult to understand, but I think this one is very clear. There are two lines on this graph. The steadily ascending line is a measure of GDP on Prince Edward Island for the last 30 years, just over 30 years, and you can see that it’s grown dramatically since the 1980s.
The less clear straight line is a measure of the percentage of Islanders who live in poverty. You can see – if you look back, for example, to 1983, the level of poverty amongst Prince Edward Islanders is exactly the same as it is today, 30-something years later, despite the fact that our economy has grown dramatically. So GDP and overall well-being and equality within a society are not related in some ways at all.
Patrick Lévêque: (Indistinct) handout (Indistinct).
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Oh yeah, we have a handout here. Do you have that, clerk, or –
Patrick Lévêque: Yeah, they have it.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: This might be a good time to introduce this.
We’re now going to talk about other jurisdictions and the various measurements they use beyond or instead of gross domestic product to measure the success and the trajectory of their societies.
The oldest one of these is gross national happiness, which might seem like a trite term but actually it has some very profound implications. It was introduced in Bhutan in 1972 and it involves more than just measuring the size of the economy in determining the well-being of society, and it inspired many future well-being developments in other countries. You can see the list of countries at the end.
Now, in Bhutan today one of the senior economic advisers is a gentleman called Ron Coleman. Some of you may know of Ron. He spent most of his life in Halifax where he headed up an organization called GPI Atlantic. GPI Atlantic has been around for a long time and it’s a local organization that did a lot of work on alternative indicators. It modified GDP and suggested that we need to take into account other factors when we’re talking about the health of society and indeed of our economy.
I’ll pass it over to Pat now.
Patrick Lévêque: One of the more recent alternative measures of well-being that has come out is called the social progress index. This is a global effort. As you can see from the image on the slide there, it’s structured in kind of three main categories with a bunch of sub-indicators, a total of 54 different indicators, to give an overall aspect. This is based largely on the work of three Nobel-winning economists so really it comes from the economists’ perspective, in a lot of ways.
But a lot of effort was put into the design of it. A couple of key points with that is that it’s focused on outcomes, so really, on kind of the end effect of government policies. Not necessarily on what gets put into it. It’s not how much money you spend on something, but what you get out of it. Another aspect is that all the indicators are – or at least the goal was to have indicators that are representing things that are actionable, so really concrete things that we can do something about. One of the weaknesses with the gross national happiness, for example, is that it talks a lot about cultural and spiritual factors which are very difficult to quantify whereas this talks more about things that we can actually modify or have an effect on through government.
Other interesting aspects of the social progress index are that it’s really scalable. These two images give a good idea of that. You can see how it was applied in Europe, and this is very recent, like, three weeks ago I think that was released. But you can see it looks at even different regions and different countries and you can get an idea: some policies are working well in some countries and not the other. You can really use it to compare different areas and analyze your policies that way, comparatively, and you can take it in the opposite way. You can take it right down to the neighbourhood level within a municipality, as has been done in Columbia and other places. It’s really scalable that way which could be an interesting aspect to use on PEI. You can think of applying it to county levels, municipalities, the province as a whole. It can do that very well.
Another more close-to-home development has been the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. The really sort of interesting thing about this one – and it ends up with something fairly similar to the social progress index in that you have a series of indicators and a composite index. Eight categories here instead of three, but same basic idea. But the way in which it was developed was through a lot of public consultations over a number of years across the country. The indicators used are really tailored to Canadian values, so that’s an interesting aspect of that one.
This next graph here really illustrates well how GDP doesn’t necessarily give the whole picture. You can see the eight different categories from the Canadian index of well-being here and you can see that none of them really correlate that closely to GDP. For example, you look at any of the lines that have decreased over the last 15 years while GDP, aside from a blip in the recession, has increased pretty steadily. It really gives us a much fuller picture, a much doing and how it affects quality of life.
One last example to give is an even more recent development. In Wales just last year they passed a well-being of future generations act. What this one – the really – similar to the last two examples, it uses a set of indicators, but the really interesting aspect – they took it a step further – was in implementing a set of goals. These were, again, through extensive public consultation, five years of consultations in fact, and they came up with these seven well-being goals, they called them. They used these to basically set priorities for government. In my mind the really interesting aspect is what they do to follow up on that, which is they created what’s called a well-being duty, which requires public bodies to essentially set priorities based on those well-being goals and to follow up on them, even to the point that the Auditor General can examine them and see how well we are meeting those goals.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Which brings us to the PEI Well-being Measurement Act. So it’s clear that over the last 40 years – this is not a new idea. This has been used in many jurisdictions for many decades. The whole purpose of all of these alternative measures is to give us a more complete, a more subtle, set of indicators as to how we’re doing when it comes to governance. In introducing the PEI Well-being Measurement Act it is my goal that we will be able to do this here on Prince Edward Island.
The PEI Well-being Measurement Act comes from a tradition of well-being measurement acts which have been introduced in Canada, the first federally in the year 2000 by a friend of mine and a Liberal MP in Ottawa called Jim Jordan –
Unidentified Voice: Joe.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Joe Jordan, excuse me. His dad was Jim Jordan who preceded him in the riding. I ran against both of them.
Joe and I became fast friends after an election and he came to me and he said: Peter, I love a lot of what you were talking about, it resonates with me, but how can I bring some legislation to the floor of the Parliament in Ottawa that would reflect Green values and has a chance at being passed in the House? Out of that conversation that Jim and I had – and Joe – came the Canada Well-being Measurement Act which was presented as a motion initially on the floor of the House of Commons, passed, had all-party support, and unfortunately died on the order table when the government was changed. It was succeeded by the Nova Scotia Well-being Measurement Act a year later, almost sort of a provincial version of the federal act, presented by an NDP member in the house in Halifax.
What is the PEI Well-being Measurement Act? It’s whatever we want it to be. It’s not a prescriptive piece of legislation. All it is doing is saying: Look, I think that we can do a better job of governance here on Prince Edward Island, and if we collect a wider, broader, better sense of measures in order to do that it will facilitate that goal, and through public consultation we would like to involve Islanders in that process.
Patrick Lévêque: Just to get into the weeds for a couple of minutes here. The details of how this act would actually work – it’s really a three-step process. The first is what we’re doing now and ultimately ends with the Legislature passing the bill.
At that point it directs the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to conduct a study consulting with experts and Islanders to determine what would be the best system of measurement for PEI. The bill is structured so that that could mean creating an entirely new system, but it could also just mean looking at the alternatives that already exist and figuring out which one fits us best, or maybe tweaking one or maybe a combination of two. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel there.
The Public Accounts does that study, reports back to the Legislature, and once the Legislature adopts the report, then it creates a management committee which is responsible for publishing the indicators or whatever the system that’s adopted, publishing it annually. Then there’s one other little requirement. It is just that basically the minister respond to this annual publication and report on the status of well-being on PEI.
Three simple steps. It’s pretty wide open. Especially in step two, the committee can really take this – it’s pretty wide open. The committee can take it in a lot of different ways.
The most obvious challenges and opportunities with this – the challenge right away that comes to most people’s mind is: How much is this going to cost? As I kind of said before, that can range quite a bit. If we choose to adopt an existing system of indicators, for example, say we choose the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, the research has already been done there. The system exists. It would be very minimal cost. If, on the other hand, we want to get into measuring different indicators or developing a new system that could be a much more costly endeavour. Some opportunities that exist – there’s already a lot of data collected by our own departments and also by Stats Canada. As you’ll hear later today there’s already some local expertise here on the Island and chances to work with them.
There are many potential benefits from this piece of legislation. I want to point to a couple in particular.
First is kind of what we’ve been talking about since the start. It’ll give us better information with which to make decisions so ultimately that should lead to better policy.
Secondly, is that this really can help put everyone in government on the same page and working with a clear focus, especially if we use the Welsh model that I outlined there about using goals and objectives and that accountability process. It can really help, I guess, break down silos, to use the expression that we often hear.
There are many other benefits but we can get more into those in questions if there are some.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: In my mind what we’re proposing here with the PEI Well-being Measurement Act fits beautifully with the government’s stated priorities. You will remember back in the most recent election that the Premier outlined three priorities that he would like to govern by and they were people, prosperity, and engagement. If we look at each of them we can see that the PEI Well-being Measurement Act fits beautifully.
When it comes to people, if we’re truly concerned about the well-being of Islanders, then the adoption of a Well-being Measurement Act will allow us to monitor whether we’re truly doing that. If we talk about prosperity, by adopting a Well-being Measurement Act and a broader, deeper, more subtle set of measurements, then we will be able to understand better what true prosperity is and how we can distribute that in a way that would improve our entire society. When we talk about engagement, the process that we are suggesting for the Well-being Measurement Act is that we go to Islanders and ask them what is most important to you. From that research – and there is already research out there; you will hear from Doctors Randall and Novaczek shortly – that some of that work has already been done, but it’s absolutely a way of involving Islanders in their government.
Finally, I realize that this is, for some of us, a large step. It’s a large step emotionally and it’s a large step intellectually. We’re used to little pieces of legislation which are, if you like, apps that we add on to existing programs and they’re little tweaks. That’s what almost all legislation is.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about changing the operating system. We’re talking about wholesale changes. But it doesn’t have to be disruptive, it doesn’t have to be expensive. We’re just talking a different level here. This piece of legislation is saying: How are we governing on Prince Edward Island? Can we do it better? If the answer to that is yes, how can we facilitate the policies that we bring forward to improve the lives of Islanders? Because at the end of the day that’s what we’re all here to do.
Chair: Thank you very much.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I should say, while we’re obviously here to answer questions, but there’s a very famous quote by Robert Kennedy from 1968 which some of you are no doubt familiar with. It certainly makes clear the deficiencies of using – he uses gross national product, but domestic product is essentially the same thing to talk about what the limitations are of using that as our primary source of information when it comes to measuring progress in our society.
Thank you, Chair.
Chair: Thank you.
I will open the floor for questions and I believe, Bush Dumville, you’re the first.
Mr. Dumville: Thank you. Have you got your own questions to ask? Just a quick question in – thank you for your presentation, by the way.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Pleasure.
Mr. Dumville: I know it’s genuine. Just curious, you’re talking about – I’m looking here, it says Bill 101, Well-being Measurement Act, and it almost looks like it’s already written up as an act. Is this fait accompli or is this just a beginning example that’s to be modified by the process? It almost looks like it’s already done.
Patrick Lévêque: Essentially it is. That’s what I was trying to explain with that graphic earlier, is that what the bill itself just – as Peter said – it’s enabling legislation. It allows us to develop something else. It doesn’t specify what the outcome should be necessarily. We are, obviously, open to suggestions to improve it, definitely. I think, really, it doesn’t say that we should adopt a specific system, but rather that we should examine things and adopt something.
Mr. Dumville: Thank you.
Chair: Any other questions?
Mr. Aylward: Thank you, Madam Chair.
With regards to your presentation, can you make that available to us as well?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Absolutely.
Mr. Aylward: I know we’re tight on time here today so there is – some of the things that I’d like to go back and do a little research on my own, and then maybe forward some questions directly to you, especially as Chair of Public Accounts.
One other question, actually, Chair. You referenced Nova Scotia as well, that they had a Well-being Measurement Act, I believe put in or –
Mr. Aylward: – introduced – thank you – about approximately a year after the federal one was. Did that actually see, excuse the expression, but see the light of day or did it die as well?
Patrick Lévêque: None of the other ones, the bills, were passed, no.
Mr. Aylward: Is there a specific reason for that?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: It was a private member’s bill. Howard Epstein, who was in opposition at the time, brought that forward. I don’t know, James, the specifics as to why it died, whether the government changed or it was not brought before the House or it was voted down. I should know that but I don’t.
Patrick Lévêque: Should also just mention that since that time, those first bills in 2001, there have been a lot of developments, like the social progress index, the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, those are all developments since then. I don’t know, but it’s possible that it was seen as too big a project at the time. Now there are a lot of other groups that have done the work so where we are now it’s a much smaller project, potentially.
Chair: I just have a couple of comments, if I may.
James took one of them when he asked about the legislation federally and then in Nova Scotia. But I guess a couple of my comments or questions – comments first. I think that when you talk about happiness I think that that is a very – how can I put it? – a very sharp point as far as being the centre of longevity and quality of life. If people are happy – I’ve always said in probably the last 15 or 20 years of my life that if I was to name the number one killer it would be misery or stress as opposed to having a sense of happiness and what that does for people’s longevity, if you don’t look at anything else, so I concur with the premise of the Well-being Measurement Act.
But the other part is when you talk about the Well-being Measurement Act and how it impacts everyone and it’s a great measurement for the quality of life that matters to Islanders, when we look at a social action plan, for example – and the government had one on the table for a number of years – and looking at those things, we all recognize that if we really want to evaluate how well we’re doing we just have to look at the most vulnerable in our society or in our communities, whether it’s in Prince Edward Island or beyond that.
I guess my question to you is: How do you see the difference between an actual social action plan and a guaranteed income, for example? How do you think that differs from the Well-being Measurement Act? Or how much farther would it go, if you wouldn’t mind?
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I think they would be entirely complementary. Pat attended the economic forum yesterday put on by the Premier in which at least one of the economists there was suggesting that we adopt a universal basic income. It’s no longer sort of seen as some sort of outside, strange economic idea. It’s in mainstream economics these days and you will find that economists on – Milton Friedman was the first one to bring it forward, who is as right-wing as you can get. So this is something which embraces the entire economic spectrum.
I think what we said earlier about expanding the measures, rather than assuming that as long as we’re doing something that’s making GDP grow and in doing so that our job is fine, I think we have to question that further and we have to start measuring the impacts of that. As we showed in one of the slides earlier, the graph that shows that poverty has not improved at all despite the fact that GDP has gone up. In a well-being measurement act whatever measures we choose to use it will be clear to us that we’re not doing our job. If after 30 years poverty is at the same level on Prince Edward Island as it was, then we’re not doing our job, even though GDP may be going up.
Introducing a wider, broader, more subtle set of measures would change government. As Pat said, we would be looking at outcomes. We’re not looking at how much money we’re spending on a program but how effective that program is, and I believe that’s critical to governance. We shouldn’t be throwing money at things. We should be measuring the actual, tangible outcomes of what we’re doing here.
To answer your question of social policy would look – we’d at least be able to measure whether what we’re doing is working or not because in my estimation it clearly is not at the moment, despite the fact that we’re spending more and more money in that area.
Patrick Lévêque: I would just add that it’s not only – it can be used not only in kind of a reactive way of measuring how well we’re doing, but also in setting priorities. We can look at indicators – go back – if we look at, say, this graph we can see some things have declined. That gives us a cue that something’s going on there and we need to set a priority. We need to look at that and make it go back up. You can see in some of those where they have gone up or you might say: That policy is working well, let’s keep doing that. It can be used to inform our priorities as well as react, I guess.
Chair: All right, that’s wonderful.
Just in closing I would like to say that I agree in principle. When you talk about to make sure that we’re paying attention to the things that most affect and give the best quality of life for all Islanders is absolutely everybody’s goal. Maybe the ways that we do it, as you’re suggesting, may need to be tweaked or looked at a little differently in order to get results. But I think it’s also very important to recognize that I do believe that governments, and certainly the present government, does evaluate. I don’t think they just throw money at things, but I do believe that they do presently evaluate the effectiveness of the programs that are put in place. Maybe not as thoroughly as you may suggest, but I don’t think it’s done haphazardly and we all know that the demands are quite large. Maybe changing the focus away from how we’re doing it is a good alternative, but not necessarily I think is the intent to just throw money and not to evaluate the effectiveness of how they’re spending it and being smarter with the money and all of those things.
Patrick Lévêque: Yeah.
Chair: Accountability, I do believe, is there.
Patrick Lévêque: Yeah. Well –
Chair: Some of it’s generational as well. Some of the issues that we have are generational. Again, those are the types of things that we might look at in a well-being measurement act to sort of change how we do things so that we can break some of the generational holds or issues that are maybe impacting especially our most vulnerable here in Prince Edward Island.
I just want to say thank you for your presentation and it was very informative.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you.
Patrick Lévêque: Thanks.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thanks, Pat.
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI, pp. 134-141.
Chair: We will now call upon our next presenter, Dr. James Randall.
Dr. James Randall: Hello.
Some Hon. Members: Hi.
Chair: Good morning.
On behalf of the committee, Dr. Randall, we would like to welcome you to the table this morning and we’re very much looking forward to your presentation. Without further ado, I will pass it over to you and let you – I will remind you that you have 15 minutes for your presentation.
Dr. James Randall: Sure, and please call me Jim rather than Dr. Randall.
Dr. James Randall: I have copies of my speaking notes. I don’t have a PowerPoint presentation but I’ve got copies of my speaking notes that you can have afterwards. Okay?
Chair: Great, thank you.
Dr. James Randall: I’m going to speak fairly closely to my notes here and then I’d welcome questions afterwards.
A little bit about my own background first. I am currently the chair of the executive committee of the Institute of Island Studies and a coordinator of the Master of Arts Island Studies Program at UPEI. I’ve really been – my professional background – I was trained as an urban and economic geographer. Because of that I think I have a passion and perhaps even an appreciation for interdisciplinarity and for the importance of place and context when we’re studying issues.
Some of my research has been spent looking at quality of life indicators. For example, I was part of a team at the University of Saskatchewan that assessed neighbourhood level quality of life of residents, and this team included geographers, epidemiologists, sociologists, and business management professors from the university, but it also included city councillors, representatives from the health district, and community-based organizations in the Saskatoon region.
The research was carried out several times so you’ve got sort of a longitudinal record of the research and we were able to fine-tune an instrument that we were comfortable was fairly accurate in assessing how individuals felt about their own quality of life or their degree of happiness or their sense of belonging. It was also used to help direct public policy including things like addressing neighbourhood inequality, health determinants, and perceptions of personal health and security. Now, as I’ll talk about shortly, this is only one kind of instrument that can be used to assess quality of life or well-being.
Since coming to UPEI I’ve maintained my working relationship with this group and in fact we carried out another version of this quality of life project several years ago where we compared the perceptions of quality of life among residents in Charlottetown, Hamilton, and Saskatoon. We employed a survey research company to carry out a telephone survey for this work and then followed up with focus groups, and especially focusing on the differences in perceptions of quality of life among the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, and the European Accounts of Wellbeing.
Now, in all of these they are really – they’re broken down into two groups. Those that measure the perceptions or attitudes of individuals towards their own life and the world around them and those that use secondary surrogate indicators across a range of almost societal dimensions.
The quality of life project that I participated in that I mentioned in Saskatoon and that we used with a telephone survey in Charlottetown was an example of that former type, looking at attitudes, perceptions, the more subjective kinds of measures of happiness or quality of life.
Among some of the questions we posed in that, just to give you a sense of this, were the following:
In general, would you say that your health is excellent, very good, good, fair, poor, or don’t know? Remember, these are 50 or 60 questions. That’s just one. Then these are bundled together to give you a composite indicator.
There are people in my neighbourhood who I think of as close friends. Do you strongly agree, agree, are you neutral, disagree or strongly agree?
Or this third question:
Can you get help from friends when you need it? On a scale of 1, where 1 is no, not at all and 4 is yes, definitely.
So you can get some sense of the kinds of questions in very different kinds of domains, if you want to call it that.
This is a very rich source of opinions and links very closely to what people feel, especially about the world in which they live. It can also be conducted on a very small scale. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, it may also be expensive to carry out and it’s difficult to compare to different jurisdictions, especially if the questions are slightly different, or to replicate over successive time periods.
Now, the second kind are the ones that are really more sophisticated versions of that Human Development Index. I think you already were exposed to those in the last presentation. These are the ones that use secondary data. In other words, they’re not measuring the phenomena directly themselves and then trying to tell you something about that society on the basis of the responses. But they use a much more comprehensive set of indicators than the Human Development Index in order to try to capture all of the dimensions that that society might value.
The Genuine Progress Indicator that you heard about just a little while ago is a good example of this type of measure. It’s most commonly identified with the GPI Atlantic that you heard about and the work by Ron Colman, but it’s also been carried out in other jurisdictions.
I recently looked at an article in the other Guardian, the UK Guardian as opposed to our own Guardian, and they reported in 2014 that the GPI had been adopted in 20 United States’ states. It’s been used in Alberta and Australia and in many other places. In fact, it’s put in place in legislation in Maryland and in Vermont.
It incorporates a series of domains. In the case of the Nova Scotia Genuine Progress Indicator they use things like the domain of time use, of living standards, human and social capital, natural capital, human impact on environment. Under each one of these there are more specific phenomena being measured. For example, under human impact on the environment you might find things like solid waste, ecological footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, and transportation. Then you need to drill down to try to find: What are you actually measuring in each one of these things?
For example, under solid waste they’ll use an indicator like the solid waste disposed per capita that actually does exist in Nova Scotia and they can find that measure and therefore measure consistently over time. Or residential recycling and composting rates. This also incorporates things like the Gini Index to measure the level of inequality in a society.
The value, as you can imagine, is that it reflects the whole basket of things that we value as a society, not just economic change, and should be adaptable to different societies. Different jurisdictions can choose different baskets of indicators and they can weight them differently to reflect their own values.
You can imagine that in PEI, where we value the strength of social relationships and pulling together to overcome crises, or in the academic literature the strong social bonding capital, then this can be given prominence and we can try to measure how this is changing over time.
In fact, I would go further and say that this is an essential component of this process, the dialogue with a population to determine what best reflects the values of that that community as a group.
Now, with that same Guardian article, one of the advocates is quoted as saying that one of the values of the GPI over more traditional measures like the GDP for policy is that it forces agencies, like government and community-based organizations, to start working together because the measures cut across agency goals. Instead of having separate outcomes for development they can work together in a more collaborative way.
At the very least – think about this – we value what we measure. If we only measure a society on the basis of economic indicators, then that is what we value and that is what drives policy. If we measure other features and do so in a consistent, societally accepted way, then this become a vehicle to stimulate discussion and drive public policy. It allows people to understand the tradeoffs that exist in society and the difference between short-term gain and long-term gain. In fact, we’re doing this right now on a global scale by recognizing that short-term gains from burning more fossil fuels and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions will have much longer term environmental and economic costs for our grandchildren.
One of the challenges is finding data that measures the kinds of indicators that might be part a Genuine Progress Indicator. For example, when it was applied in Nova Scotia in 2008 one of the indicators under solid waste was hazardous and toxic wastes. But in the report it notes that the disposal of hazardous and toxic wastes is not tracked in the province. So although that is a legitimate indicator and measure, you would still have to do work to try to find how to actually specifically measure that thing.
One of the other features I want to bring to your attention is what I call the geography of application. Every measure, whether it’s an economic measure like the GDP or GPP, or the indicators that are used in a genuine progress indicator, has a territory or geography associated with it. For example, the GDP is an average of the value of all production in the country, and we know that this varies across that country, just as the GPP measures economic activity across an entire province.
What do you do if the measure you’re using is too aggregate and doesn’t adequately measure a more locally based aspect of wellbeing? For example, let’s say we’re trying to look at safety or security, or do you believe you can count on your neighbours for help in a time of crisis. These are very much neighbourhood-based or almost street by street-based, or at the very best community-based. It doesn’t matter very much that you might have some kind of indicator that measures the average number of break-ins per thousand population over a county, over a province or over a country, for that matter.
It’s also true that it’s often easier to find measures at this large geography, but when you want to drill down to the individual community, the place where they’re really meaningful, you can’t get them because there are privacy and confidentiality concerns or there are too few observations or with the kinds of quality of life perceptual measures that I have been associated with, it may become too expensive to collect them consistently over time.
What scale do you use? Is it the neighbourhood, is it the city, is it the county or is it the province? Different measures apply best at different scales. For example, if you’re looking at volunteerism that might be best measured over a city or a village or a community scale. If you’re looking at water pollution it’s probably best to measure that on the basis of a watershed. If you’re looking at relying on neighbours it’s probably best to look at it on a family-based or a neighbourhood-based scale.
The one I like best, actually, is one that’s used in Europe, and that’s the National Accounts of Well-Being. Like the quality of life measure I talked about earlier, this falls into that category of subjective, perceptual, or attitudinal kind of measure, and consists of 50 questions that are related to self-reflection – for example, domains of emotional or satisfying life or vitality or resilience or self-esteem – and more societal in nature, so, for example supportive relationships and trust and belonging.
In Europe they did an initial survey of a random number of individuals in each of the EU countries and then reported that result, but the novel thing they did was that they opened it up online to anybody who wanted to take the test themselves and do it and do the 50 questions themselves. They could then actually get their own score in relationship to what their country’s score was or even a regional score is. They can actually compare how they feel in relationship to that broader value.
Not only does that give them a personal sense of where they are, how they feel, but it also allows them to be engaged in the process. Rather than being a snapshot once every two years or so it allows them to be engaged in the process throughout time.
I think ultimately a society needs both kinds of indicators, both that I talked about here: those that use secondary sources and those that measure the attitudes and perceptions of individuals. They complement one another and help to provide a more robust set of measures on what is taking place in our society and how we feel about those changes.
I should also say just in closing here that, as you may already knows, the Institute of Island Studies has been involved in measuring quality of life on PEI in the past, and I think your next speaker might speak to some of that. We hope to reengage in this activity as one of our own signature projects in the future, and we would be happy to continue to provide advice to the government as it proceeds with this important initiative.
Thank you very much.
Chair: Thank you.
I’ll open the floor to the committee. Any questions?
Pat Murphy, you have the floor.
Mr. Murphy: Has any consideration been given to use the census information on this or to ask specific questions on the (Indistinct) –
Dr. James Randall: I think now that we have the long-form census back that will help a lot. I think the census does gives fairly good indicators in some areas, and so you can look at the census to satisfy some of the kinds of measures you want. But just based on some of the examples I’ve given you, you know that you’re not going to get some of those things in the census.
The census is also – it’s robust enough to drill down geographically so you’re looking at an area that’s finer than just a province, but it’s only measured every five years or for many questions only every 10 years. How do you actually judge how well you’re doing or how poorly you’re doing when you only have that snapshot every 10 years and then it’s only published perhaps two or three years after that 10 years?
I has value, and in fact many of the – from the annual reports that are made available to you, they’re actually based upon the census data. But because of timing, because of geography, and because of the range of things they measure, there’s no way that they can complete the entire basket of things you want to measure.
Mr. Murphy: Thank you.
Dr. James Randall: You’re welcome.
Chair: Kathleen Casey.
Ms. Casey: Great, thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Jim, thank you for your presentation. I just want to follow up on what you just said, but my question was, and you may have just indicated this, but: How often, when you do a study, in order to depict a trend, what’s the ideal? If you do a study once how often do you have to go back to it before you say: Well, yeah, we’re doing really well in this area? Do you have – I think you indicated –
Dr. James Randall: Yeah.
Ms. Casey: – we only measure every five, maybe 10 years. But what ideally would be the period of time that you would go back into the market to do another study?
Dr. James Randall: Just like any answer from an academic I can equivocate on that because it really depends.
For some things, you might want to measure them much more frequently. Let’s say you’re looking at – and I’ll say sort of the level of some indicator of pollution in watershed. It’s critical to know how that’s changing on a day to day, week to week or month to month basis, right?
In other cases where you know that policy might change slowly and the impacts of that policy might change slowly, if you actually measure it too quickly you might get too frustrated. Because you say: Wait a sec, there’s nothing that’s changing here. But that’s because it requires three or four or five years in order to actually see the impact that’s going to have and the outcomes that’s going to have. So you might only do it every five years or something.
I think there’s value in doing it on a consistent basis every couple of years, and especially if you’re looking at sort of the attitudes or perceptual ones. If you’re looking at something that – the secondary sources – those are collected at different times. Some of them are collected only once every two years or three years or something, and so you might have to hold off doing that for a period of time if you want to have that entire basket of measures collected.
It really depends on the kind of indicator that you’re looking at and the kind of outcomes that are taking place.
Ms. Casey: Great, thanks. One more? Sorry.
Ms. Casey: You mentioned the European study about the National Accounts of Well-Being and you said you liked that study, and you mention that there was a part of that process where people were more engaged in the process because they could compare themselves to basically the national average.
Dr. James Randall: That’s right.
Ms. Casey: Have you ever done any studies in Canada (Indistinct) –
Dr. James Randall: I haven’t –
Ms. Casey: – (Indistinct) engaged them?
Dr. James Randall: If I had my way that’s one that I would sort of implement. Partly it’s because we have these snapshots and they might get great media attention, it might be raised in the Legislature, and people speak on it either for or against it, and then the media cycle is such that it disappears a week or so afterwards, and not until the next two years.
But when you’ve got people that are participating in this on a regular basis, then it asks them, gets them to start thinking: What does that mean in relationship to my own quality of life? Maybe if they become complacent, if they actually are doing well in comparison to others, they might feel better about themselves on that basis, but it allows them to do that.
What the Europe one looks like, it’s good, is that it allows that data to be collected on a regular basis. You can actually have a reporting mechanism more frequently every year, for example, on the basis of the way that people have participated and provided their own data. As I think you gather from my comments here it’s not necessarily just the outcome here, it’s the process that you’re going through that might be actually valuable as you get to that outcome.
The other thing I should say here is that we would never question – no matter what political party’s in power in any jurisdiction in the Western world – we would never question the value of having something like GDP per capita. It doesn’t matter whether one government (Indistinct) another, you still measure it that way. I think we know we will have succeeded in some of these alternate indicators when it doesn’t matter which party is in power, when it fact we just (Indistinct) well, we measure it again. It becomes something that is common sense and is just accepted.
Clearly we’re not there. Some jurisdictions, that’s probably why they’re floundering because they’re at the early stages. That’s why I’m interested to see some of the things taking place in the American states where they actually have adopted it into legislation. Of course, that legislation could be changed and it could no longer exist, but that’s a stronger vehicle so that it can survive any kind of change in political power.
Ms. Casey: Sure. I would see that as being a success because when you get a phone call at 6:00 p.m. during dinner and somebody wants you to answer a 50-question survey, whereas everybody these days has a tablet or an iPhone or a computer in front of them and they can do it on their own time, make it fun, they would be more happy doing it, that I would see good outcomes from that. I’m quite interested in that method.
Chair: You’re welcome.
One last question and we’re just going over time a little bit, so Peter, you have the floor.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Duly noted. Thank you, Chair.
As everybody around the table knows I’m not a born Islander, I came here by choice. I came here because of PEI’s unique strengths. I came here because of the values that are important here and because of the importance of community, amongst other things.
I look at this legislation as a vehicle to demonstrate to the rest of the world that here on Prince Edward Island more than economic values matter and the quality of life is something that we adhere to here and that we think is of importance.
I think for all kinds of reasons that I think that would be a magnet for new Islanders to come here for rural (Indistinct). I think that lots of values would come from that.
My question to you – thank you, Jim, by the way, for a very lovely presentation – is: Is Prince Edward Island a place where these sorts of indicators could be adopted fairly easily? Or are we a jurisdiction where it might be problematic to do this?
Dr. James Randall: From my understanding of the draft sort of discussions taking place around the legislation right now, these things are going to based upon our own values, so we create the measures based upon that discussion with the population.
Once again, I hate to equivocate, but it’s going to depend upon how we as a society, as an Island, a population, what kinds of values we have. For example, if we have values that are easy to measure it’s going to be easy to put in place.
There’s no reason why you can’t put in place an indicator using secondary values with what exists at the present time without very much cost attached to it, recognizing that there may be other things that would actually – you would like to have but they can be that second phase. You could say: Listen, we know the amount of toxic waste, for example, we know we don’t have those right now, but we recognize that either that or something like that is important to have. That directs public policy in itself. It directs us to say: We know that’s important and we haven’t got anything to look at it, so for the time being we’ll measure what we actually have – it’s less costly to do that perhaps – but we realize that we might have to do a better job in getting other indicators that better assess what we as a society have said is important.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Chair.
Chair: Thank you.
Dr. James Randall: My pleasure.
Chair: We are out of time, gone a little over. But on behalf of the committee, Dr. Randall, we want to say thank you. It was a very informative and very interesting presentation that you gave us this morning.
Dr. James Randall: I should say I have that same quote by Robert Kennedy in mind but I didn’t say it. (Indistinct).
Chair: Great minds think alike.
We’ll just break for a second until our next presenter. Just a couple of minutes.
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI, pp.141-145.
Chair: We will resume with our proceedings here this morning.
On behalf of the committee we want to welcome Dr. Irené Novaczek to the committee this morning. You do have 15 minutes for your presentation. I will turn it over to you and ask you to introduce yourself for the public record.
Dr. Irené Novaczek: Thank you very much.
My name is Irené Novaczek, resident and community councilor of Breadalbane, currently working for Fisheries and Oceans as a research scientist but formerly the director of Island Studies at UPEI.
I’m very happy to be here and thank you very much for asking me because the measurement of well-being is something that has occupied me and been part of the research that I have done over years.
What I would like to start with is that what we do and the way we’ve always done it I just want to bring home that that is a negotiated social agreement, it is not a law, it is not inevitable. We can always change for the better in terms of how we do things and what we’re doing.
The quote in the bottom comes from an interview transcript with a gentleman in New London bay area. A lot of people kind of see things – well, they feel trapped, they feel powerless, things change and they don’t like it or it does affect their quality of life and they don’t feel like they can do anything about this. I think this Well-being Measurement Act actually gives power to individual citizens of Prince Edward Island, a place where they can go and say: I think there’s something not right, I think we’re going in the wrong direction. Where are the indicators? Are there other people who are equally concerned? Is the government doing anything about it? It really is a tool for an engaged democratic process over the long term.
The institute came this whole area of trying to measure quality of life – trying to define quality of life, actually, on Prince Edward Island – through the Quality of Island Life Co-operative started by Harry Bagole back in the 2000s which attracted a lot of people together around this idea that this Island is a really special place, but what is it that makes it? Why do people live here even though they don’t make a lot of money? Why do people stay here even though they would get better health care in Montreal or wherever? What is it that brings people here and keeps people here and keeps them happy in their own place? Is our development path actually preserving and supporting these things that make our place so dear to us?
You can’t answer that question unless you are measuring what we hold dear, things that are actually consistent with our collective values. I firmly believe that we do – in spite of the fact that there is dissent and disagreement in a whole lot of areas – we do have fundamental core collective values here on Prince Edward Island that can guide us and that can help us figure out what do we monitor.
As you’ve heard there’s lots of different systems out there. People have defined domains of well-being before. They generally do include work and working conditions and economic development, but also social relationships, justice, equality, culture, environmental well-being, health, and so on.
But our question was: How do Islanders define quality of life or well-being? We did a series of projects between 2006-2011, very small scale explorations. The idea was that there were all these systems for defining well-being but we didn’t want to start there. We wanted to invite regular folks in largely rural areas to tell us what quality of life was, and then we would take that information and build our system from the ground up, right?
We worked in Tyne Valley, we worked in New London bay, we did some values mapping in Covehead, and I’m just going to give you some highlights from that because we don’t have time to go through all the methodologies and everything.
We asked people in Tyne Valley the fundamental question: What does quality of life mean to you? They came up with 29 different individual things that – if you take safety and security, they’re kind of similar. You can lump them together. We were able to group all these different things into six different domains. The one that was most frequently referred to – by men and by women, by youth and by elders, and everybody in between – were the factors that went into something that we called community social well-being.
Community social well-being was the thing that people talked about most. Personal well-being – health, personal security, freedom, hobbies – that came next. Community services and infrastructure were also very important. Positive social relations, being close to family, having close friends, is very supportive.
Down at the bottom of the list were anything to do with money and employment which shocked us. This was Tyne Valley area. This is an area where people are not generally very wealthy. Many are on unemployment all winter, they struggle to find well-paid work, and yet when we allowed them to define what supported a good quality of life for them, it wasn’t all about money or even jobs. It was very interesting (Indistinct).
The other thing was physical environment. It was very focused on social rather than environmental.
Community social well-being is all those things, all those social relations that go beyond your own family and immediate dear friends. Knowing who people are in your community, feeling attached, feeling a sense of belonging in place, feeling safe, leaving your door unlocked, having the neighbour’s kids run in and out of your kitchen.
All these different things are part of this community social well-being. Feeling calm, having community spirit, having regular celebrations where people got together and enjoyed one another’s company, levels of volunteerism in the community, and just having what people would see as a well-rounded, happy community life. That was right on top.
We did the same thing in New London bay. We asked the same question, we used the same instrument. Whereas in Tyne Valley community social well-being came out on top and then personal and then positive social relations, in New London bay we got a similar but interestingly different – so personal well-being – these are largely more educated, often retired, often living in a second home close to the coast, so it’s a different demographic. They’re out there jogging. They’re using the recreational trails. Their own personal well-being, health, freedom, and ability to engage in extracurricular activities were right up there. A healthy and beautiful environment and landscape was also right up there, and community social well-being. These are the top three. They were all quite close, but we just thought it was interesting that go to a different community and suddenly health and environment and landscape are up there with community social well-being.
Chair: Can I ask a question?
Dr. Irené Novaczek: Yeah.
Chair: The difference when you were doing the two studies, would the ages have been very different –
Dr. Irené Novaczek: No –
Chair: – because I’m thinking –
Dr. Irené Novaczek: No, it was – the demographics – I don’t think so, no startling difference. Financial status and educational status were the two things that differed more than age or – but there were people from all walks of life.
Here’s a very typical response, and everybody in the world aspires to this, I am sure. We as Canadians and as Islanders are privileged to live the dream, and this is the dream: We value an attractive environment, standing woods, growing fields, wildlife, healthy and clean streams, drinking water, good schools, safety net, paying work, friendly neighbours working together, a nice view from our house, good farming practices, low-impact agriculture.
This was a list that came from a single person which kind of reflected all the things that everybody else was saying in one neat capsule, which is why I like to use it.
When we went into the New London bay area, because environment and landscape had popped to the top, we were interested in exploring a little bit deeper. We sent out other surveys. We asked: Is your environment changing for the better, for the worse? It perceived issues with air quality. Forestry, a third of people expressed concerns that forest areas were in decline, but they weren’t feeling it as an impact on their own personal quality of life. But drinking water quality, that was a deep concern. Almost 50% said: I think my water’s polluted, I really don’t even want to have it tested, I’m scared to go there. It was an impact on their quality of life.
But the big one, being in a coastal area with a lot of recreational activity, big mussel infrastructure, boating and everything, what was happening in the estuaries and bays with ulva blooms, anoxic events, rotting and stinking fish kills – huge concern that people said it seriously had a negative impact on their quality of life, whether it was not being able to go clamming in the areas where they used to go or swimming in areas where they used to go as children, no fish left in the brooks for fishing. These were things where they had seen a significant change in their own lifespan.
The impact, the rapid and dense flourishing of the mussel aquaculture industry at that time, the apparent increase in the scale and intensity of agriculture and the decreased viability, especially of small farms, was a huge – and people linked that, including farmers, to the whole landscape issue. The farmers said: Look, we work really hard to maintain this landscape for tourism. We get no credit for it.
The rapid pace of coastal and rural subdivisions was a big issue, and the McMansion thing: people coming from outside and building these enormous homes that people thought were just disgusting. The conversion of land, whether forested land or and agricultural land, into subdivisions was a concern. Underlying all that was this concern for the Island landscape and how the process of development was written in the landscape and was unsettling. It was unsettling to people.
They also talked about how community volunteerism and a sense of belonging were so important, and that they wanted to be involved more in their communities, particularly in watershed management, but they were time stressed and worn out and sometimes unwell. A lot of seniors and retirees in this area. So wanting to help build community and not feeling they were obstructions to that, that they couldn’t be as productive as they wanted to be.
These are the types of things that government policy – we think, well, that’s pretty nebulous, I mean, what do we do? We certainly don’t want a nanny state saying: You have to do X number of volunteer hours. But what the state has to do in some cases is get it out of the way because there are a lot of forces on the ground in terms of community service organizations and women’s institutes and so on. We’re doing excellent work to support all of these qualities of life. What they need is recognition and support, and for government not to put regulatory obstructions in the way of building community or just to stop and think about it before you – I mean, part of it is measuring well-being and monitoring it, but the other one is just being very conscious of what Islanders value, what our common values are, and making sure that when we put in legislation and regulations that it doesn’t diminish those less tangible things that we might not actually be able to measure, but to be conscious of them.
When we asked people in Covehead-Brackley Bay they had a list of I think 12 or 13 different values: aesthetic values, spiritual, therapeutic, economic. Every value had a colour. They had all these coloured dots, and we wanted them to tell us what places in their landscape they associated with these different values. You can see that the values markers piled up along the beaches, in the waters, along the rivers, and in the larger contiguous forested areas. This tells you a lot about what supports mental and physical health and a feeling of well-being in Prince Edward Island.
It also tells you that you really shouldn’t be putting windmills or big condo developments over there because there’s a lot of social and cultural values attached to that area, and people will really resent it if somebody takes it over for private enterprise and builds up on it, right? So this type of value mapping is very important for land use planning.
We did this by actually mailing out these big maps and letting people do it in their own time. I had another student who attempted to do this online, and online can work, and we did have one of our master’s students, (Indistinct), in the past (Indistinct) look at landscape and the value of landscape in terms of land use planning. She did online surveys and that worked very well. But something more complicated like values mapping, people didn’t seem to really get with the technology on that one. Sometimes online surveys work really well, they’re very efficient and cost-effective, and sometimes not. You have to kind of test drive them first and see which one is going to be effective and which one is just too mind-boggling for people to do online.
I was fascinated by the different values attached to land and water: economic, recreational, history, biology, and special places on land. But look at the water: aesthetic, recreation is in there, life sustaining, therapeutic. Islanders have a very special and significant relationship with water of all kinds. As in governing this Island, we have to pay very special attention to that relationship because if not you’re going to get into serious trouble because Islanders have that very special, deep bond and relationship.
We found that in general community well-being was very important as well as personal well-being, clean water, healthy estuaries, and beautiful landscape. Those are kind of the big ones. What can we measure that will tell us whether these qualities of life are being maintained or not? That’s the question.
Statistics Canada does quality of life measurements. They did one for Tyne Valley just a few years before we did ours. When we finished our study we looked back at what they had measured to come up with a – their stamp of not too bad for Tyne Valley. The social well-being and environmental characteristics were really not being reflected in the indicators that Statistics Canada had devised and applied. They really didn’t get the picture of Tyne Valley in the way that local people would have wanted it to be reflected.
We need to develop an information base that shows how factors that actually contribute to our quality of life on our special place are changing, and people need to have access, easy access, to that.
Chair: Thank you, Dr. Novaczek.
I know pushing you along there.
I’ll open the floor now for anyone who might have questions for Dr. Novaczek in relation to her presentation.
Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Chair.
Thank you for your presentation, Irené. This is directly related to what Irené said, but by way of introduction I want to go back to the moment in the House when I introduced this legislation. There were some questions as to why I was doing this as a piece of legislation rather than a motion. Both Jim and Irené have touched on that in that legislation is different because it’s important, it endures, unlike a motion which would die when that sitting was complete. So the reason that this is crafted the way it is and the reason that the Third Party has brought this forward as it is is because we feel that this is important enough that it endures beyond government, and Jim talked about how it’s important that one government follow on from another. So I wanted to say that.
For Irené, my question to you, Irené, I mentioned I moved here because of the value system that is prevalent here on Prince Edward Island, the sense of community well-being which you said was the number one thing in Tyne Valley in your report, and that we are all in this together. In many societies the idea that I can be happy but my neighbours may be in misery, those two things are just not compatible, is I think what you’re talking about here, is that we’re not all about ourselves here in Prince Edward Island. There’s a sense of community which does not always exist in other places, and that to me is enormously attractive.
I’m concerned about the strength of our rural communities and we’re about to hear about access to health care in rural communities and how important that is to the vitality of our small communities here in Prince Edward Island, the health of our watersheds and mental health issues across the Island. All of these things are important to me.
My question, Irené, is this: When you went out and did the surveys what was the level of interest? Were people like: I don’t care about that, or, get out of my face? Or were people happy to do it? Also, would you imagine that as our legislation is crafted, which is to go to Islanders to ask for their input, do you imagine that that will be either an expensive or a difficult thing to do?
Dr. Irené Novaczek: It sure wasn’t expensive when we did it because we had no money to work with, very little to work with. We had a few students and myself. But you would want to do something of a larger scale.
People were really happy to be asked, and who’s doing the asking is important. Because, of course, for Tyne Valley we hired a local young woman who was known and trusted in her community, and respected in her community, to ask the questions and that’s important. People felt comfortable. They opened up. I think probably the most telling example was when we sent those maps out and got people putting value markers. There was a questionnaire that went with it and there were tiny little boxes for people to write answers and they just abandoned the boxes. They turned the paper over and they wrote an entire page about what their values meant and how it related to their own personal history and the quality of the community and what was important, and that told us that we had really struck a nerve.
When you get people physically engaged in this kind of exercise, of course it brings out all kinds of memories. People start making connections. They start getting really in touch with their own values. Somebody said – it may have been Jim or it might have been you, Peter – that the process of identifying the value system that is going to underpin the monitoring, what we’re going to measure – as you say, if you don’t value it you won’t measure it. If you don’t measure it you don’t value it. It works both ways. But being invited to be part of that, to be engaged in that, was clearly very invigorating for lots of people.
Chair: Thank you, Irené.
Any other questions? Okay, complete.
Thank you, Dr. Novaczek.
Dr. Irené Novaczek: You’re welcome.
“Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things… Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them… Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Robert F. Kennedy (1968)