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Prince Charles says birth of grandson focuses world's challenges for him

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CHARLOTTETOWN - Prince Charles says the need to tackle the world's challenges became more evident for him after the birth of his grandson as he highlighted Tuesday the need to harness the creativity of young people to find innovative solutions to those problems.

Known for sometimes being outspoken on social and environmental issues, Charles said in a speech in Charlottetown that it's important to see the connections between the planet's challenges and its well-being.

"They all ... rest on the nexus of water, energy and food security and finding common purpose in meeting our common needs," he said.

"These are environmental, economic and social issues all tied together. In other words, the health of nature's life support systems, which are now under such threat, has a direct bearing upon the health and well-being of people."

Charles listed a number of issues facing the world, including the widening gap between rich and poor, the lack of opportunity for women and girls, youth unemployment, deforestation and overfishing after he received an honorary Symons Medal for his contribution to Canadian society.

"I'm sure that you would agree the world faces huge challenges but has enormous opportunities," said Charles, a longtime friend of Prof. Thomas Symons, a supporter of the Confederation Centre of the Arts where the medal was presented and the founding president of Ontario's Trent University.

The Prince of Wales said the birth of his grandson George last year has had an impact on his views.

"I have long tried to draw attention to this connection but it has come into even sharper focus now that I am a grandfather," he added.

"It is all our grandchildren who will have to live with the very serious consequences of us believing today that we can simply carry on with business as usual as if nothing has changed."

Charles and his wife Camilla were in the middle of a four-day tour of Canada in Prince Edward Island on Tuesday.

Camilla separately toured a residential health-care centre for senior citizens in P.E.I. and Immanuel Christian School, where Grade 6 and 7 students did a letter writing exercise inviting the duchess to their class.

Elizabeth Pithang, 12, said she was excited by the reply from Camilla.

"I thought that she would just write a letter to us, but she was actually coming, so I was really happy," she said.

Many of the events scheduled for the prince in and around Charlottetown reflect his interests, including a tour and the dedication of a new trail system at Bonshaw Provincial Park. Charles also met with representatives of the Canadian Institute of Forestry and students working on sustainable development projects at Holland College.

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall began the day at a youth parliament inside the province's historic legislature as 15 young people involved in its page program debated a resolution calling on youth to build on the work of the Fathers of Confederation, a fitting topic as the city marks the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference that led to Confederation in 1867.

Charles mentioned the passion of the youth parliament debate in his speech, adding that more should be done to encourage young people to volunteer.

"Needless to say, there is so much creativity, determination and conviction amongst young people just waiting to be tapped. And it is this kind of, you might call it social capital, that I have in my own way sought to release so it can be put to good use," he said.

At the youth parliament, Charles asked the students if serving in the legislature page program had been helpful in showing the inner workings of government and whether it had encouraged them to get involved in politics.

Julia O'Hanley, who served as the opposition leader in the debate, said she would like to run for office.

"Being a page in the front seats here has kind of opened my eyes to the realities and that there's a lot more to it. I know seeing the conversation outside the chamber, whether it's in the kitchen or in the hallways, opposition and government actually get along a lot better in real life than what it might seem," she said to laughter and the pounding of desks from her fellow debaters.

Charles and Camilla arrived in Winnipeg early Tuesday evening to grey skies, drizzle and cool temperatures.

Several dignitaries, including Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, were bundled up in jackets and raincoats as they waited to greet the royal couple.

A motorcade brought the couple to the lieutenant-governor's residence for a reception, where Charles and Camilla signed the guest book.

Charles talked with Selinger for a few minutes about some inner-city projects in Winnipeg, including the Merchants Hotel. The former rundown bar and hotel is being redeveloped to offer safe, affordable housing.

The Manitoba government bought the property for $1.3 million in 2012 and is working with local groups to have it developed.

On Wednesday, Prince Charles and Camilla are to tour a Winnie the Pooh gallery at a local museum. Charles is to visit Assiniboine Park Zoo, where he is scheduled to feed a polar bear.

Camilla is to watch a demonstration of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet before the couple leave Canada from 17 Wing Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg on Wednesday night.

— With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg

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