P.E.I. readies to appoint new child advocate during spring sitting

The P.E.I. government is making moves to allow a new independent child advocate to be appointed during the spring sitting of the legislature.

On Saturday, Section 2 of the province's new Child and Youth Advocate Act came into effect, allowing for the position to be filled.

The remainder of the legislation will come into effect April 3, according to an order from the provincial cabinet made at its Jan. 7 meeting.

Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, a member of the committee which will ultimately put forward a candidate for approval by the legislative assembly, said a professional hiring agency will be used to conduct a competitive process that is "open and independent and non-partisan."

Bevan-Baker said a key role for the new child advocate will be "to critique government when things don't go well. And if you have an officer who … has been chosen with any sort of sense of partisanship or politics being involved, then that role is not truly independent."

Kerry Campbell/CBC News
Kerry Campbell/CBC News

A year ago, the government of Wade MacLauchlan — after years of delays — announced it would create a position for a children's commissioner and advocate, appointing former deputy minister Michele Dorsey to that role.

But the opposition PCs and Greens complained that Dorsey did not sit as an independent officer of the legislature, similar to the auditor general, but rather served at the pleasure of the premier.

A bill passed unanimously in the P.E.I. Legislature in November of 2019 to create a position for a new child and youth advocate to function as an independent officer of the legislative assembly.

According to that legislation, a candidate recommended by the province's legislative management committee requires the support of at least two-thirds of MLAs in a vote in the House to be appointed to the position.

In November the province issued a tender for a new office for the future child and youth advocate, specifying the office could not be on the same floor as any other government department or service in order to maintain the independence of the position.

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