Important message to our readers

We are social creatures, forced to live apart from friends and family. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reach out to each other, even in these difficult times. How are you coping in the age of social distancing and self-isolation? What is it like living in this strange new world? Why not share your story with our readers. You can email your personal account to the North Shore News And Views website, where we will publish it for other Islanders to read. Please send your story to peijim@hotmail.com. We can get through this together.

 

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We must get past our anger at allowing seasonal owners to return
By Alesia Napier
Mermaid, PEI

On May 20 Premier Dennis King, with PEI’s Chief Public Health Officer Heather Morrison sitting next to him (two metres apart), announced as of June 1 Prince Edward Island would allow property owners who live elsewhere part of the year to return to their Island homes.

As much as I thought there would be resistance to this idea of letting “Come From Aways” cross the Confederation Bridge, I have to admit I am stunned by the response of most Islanders. There seems to be a tsunami of rage at this decision. On May 19, you couldn’t find a person on PEI who wasn’t proud of Dr. Morrison and Premier King’s guidance and leadership, and by the afternoon of May 20, you’d be hard pressed to find many who would continue to proclaim their admiration.

“We aren’t COVID-19 free and we will never be”

It is often stated anger is a secondary emotion. The primary emotion is often short-lived and rarely examined and therefore presents as anger or even rage. In this case it’s easy to see the vitriolic response is based on fear; and rightly so. Dr. Morrison and Premier King instilled into all of us a primal fear of the virus. They needed to in order to get the vast majority of Islanders to comply with orders to stay at home and be physically distant to one another.

We were asked to report those who didn’t follow the orders and many of us did, because we wanted to protect ourselves, our families and those amongst us who are most vulnerable. We complied with the province’s public health directives and did such an amazing job we were flooded with the relief of thinking we were “COVID-19 free”.

Here’s the deal though. We aren’t COVID-19 free, and we will never be. We have had 27 cases. There have been reported “resolved” cases that became active again. Will we quarantine all persons who at one time had the misfortune of contracting this vile illness? Of course we won’t.

We have essential workers, that for the survival of every islander, risk their health and well-being by leaving the island and coming back on a regular basis. Do you expect these individuals to self-isolate for the rest of their lives? Of course you don’t.

In the middle of March we had no protocols in place, no systems in place and the medical and scientific communities knew nada about this virus that was rapidly spreading throughout the world. It made sense to close the bridge and issue stay at home orders.

“Even if the cottagers don’t come, life on PEI is not going back to pre-Covid-19”

We are in a different space now. We have cough and fever clinics and anyone that needs a test gets a test as PEI now has the capacity to test 2,800 cases a week. We have protocols in place to protect our infirmed. We have guidelines to safely open businesses with reduced traffic, enhanced cleaning and physical distancing as our armour. Every individual knows to keep their distance, wear a mask and wash your hands like your life depends on it. Because it does. We are geared up to test, quarantine appropriately and deploy a task force to contact trace when it becomes needed.

Here’s the part that the vast majority of islanders are missing; even if we don’t let cottagers come, we don’t get to go back to the way it was before. That time is over. Even if the cottagers don’t come, life on PEI is not going to go back to pre-COVID-19. It won’t until the scientific community either produces a vaccine or data becomes apparent the vast majority of people develop long term immunity after contracting COVID-19. Scientists all over the world are scrambling to solve the vaccine solution. They don’t know if they will ever find a vaccine, and even if they do, development and safe clinical trials can take years. Expecting a vaccine to be ready in the expected timeline of 18-24 months will only happen if huge amounts of training, expertise and funding are backed up by an exponential dose of luck. The jury is still out if a person develops immunity to COVID once they’ve had the illness and recovered and again, science will need time and data to figure out the specifics of immunity.

“This virus is literally forcing us to rethink every aspect of our day to day lives”

So, we must learn to live with COVID-19 for much longer than we originally thought. That means always keeping physically distant. It means wearing masks to protect one another, it means washing our hands over and over again. It means finding new ways to entertain ourselves. It means finding new ways to socialize. It may mean finding new ways to educate our children and young adults entering universities. And yes, it means it will be a struggle to be as physically close to our aged parents and relatives as they hibernate in nursing homes. This virus is literally forcing us to rethink every aspect of our day to day lives.

“We have no choice but to adapt and move forward”

Premier King stated there are about 3,500 homes on PEI owned by people who only live here part of the year. Twelve hundred are international, and of those about 150 are owned by Americans. The other 2,500 are Canadian owned. Dr. Morrison has stated before anyone is cleared to come to PEI they must prove property ownership and provide their 14-day quarantine plan. This isn’t about someone wealthy enough to own a property on PEI as much as it’s about their ability to quarantine themselves without risking others.

Dr. Morrison has emphasized that her team will not allow all these people to come at once but will schedule arrivals so that her team can continue to track individuals on quarantine to ensure they continue to be healthy and are following isolation protocols. Her team will also inquire if they need help.

Though I have not heard either Dr. Morrison or Premier King state this, I’m certain the pre arrival screening will include health conditions. If someone has a fever or cough, or arrives with a fever or cough they’ve developed during travel, they’ll be postponed or potentially rerouted.

With or without cottagers coming to PEI, the risk of another COVID case via essential worker travel is always going to be with us. With or without cottagers, we could face an outbreak that would force our Chief Public Health Officer to issue a stay at home order. Our lives are NOT going to go back to pre-COVID days. We have no choice but to adapt and move forward.

This time, I’m not letting my fear present as anger. This time, I’m going to use my fear to motivate me to help my fellow Canadians. They have invested in our communities and from what I’ve witnessed the vast majority have our well-being at heart. They want PEI to stay “COVID free” because they too want a safe haven.

I’ve met one via Twitter who wants to leave Ontario, self-quarantine on PEI and then stay here and ride out COVID away from the madness. I’ve volunteered to be of assistance during their quarantine. It’s the humane thing to do and more importantly, it’s the Island thing to do.


Stanley Bridge wharf, a day before setting day
Photos by Jim Brown

The rhythms of life continued in ports across PEI, even in the midst of a devastating pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives around the globe and has stilled the engines of commerce nearly everywhere. The coronavirus outbreak delayed the spring lobster fishery’s start date by two weeks, to May 15. On May 14 the Stanley Bridge wharf stirred to life with workers cutting bait and lobster fishermen loading traps onto their vessels in preparation for the 6 am launch time. The photo showing a vessel leaving port was taken a couple of days earlier.

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Cavendish Tourist Mart could open as soon as May 15
Owner would be happy if he only lost $100,000
By Jim Brown

A favoured haunt of tourists and area residents alike, the Cavendish Tourist Mart, could be open as soon as May 15 if everything falls into place.

Owner Brian Ellis, who has run the popular store for decades, says if he can get through this season with only a $100,000 loss he will consider it a success.

“We’re shooting for that date…but we don’t have any stock in just yet,” he said on May 6.

Of course the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into his usual opening plans – since he will have to operate with fewer staff and on reduced hours. Fortunately, there are federal wage subsidies to help out and he believes he can shave thousands off electricity and other bills. For instance, he won’t need as much refrigeration.

The important thing is to provide his core staff with work opportunities and make it possible for them to collect employment insurance benefits in the fall if jobs fail to materialize in a COVID-19 ravaged economy.

Mr Ellis said he will focus on groceries with fewer T-shirts, souvenirs and novelty items, as well as camping supplies.
Of course if demand were to pick up he could add them later in the season.

It will be a much different operating season this summer, with few, if any, tourists. Many Cavendish area businesses will likely not open.

Mr Ellis said there was another good reason to open this season, even if doesn’t make a profit. His core employees have been with him for years and are very good at their jobs. If they aren’t retained this summer they may drift away to other work and he won’t be able to call them back for next summer when things could return to normal.

Another reason for opening, with the province’s approval, is to give the business community a boost – to revive local commerce.
A community without the noise “of hammers and saws” is an empty, haunted community, he said.

The PEI Liquor outlet attached to the store will also be open.


The mystery of the hole at a Cavendish cemetery
By Jim Brown

It was something Elwin Wyand had never seen before in all the years he had worked as a volunteer at the Cavendish Community Cemetery, helping to straighten and raise stones, plant grass seed and generally tidy up the property after harsh winters.

The mystery hole, next to a grave marker.

A couple of weeks ago while he was visiting the cemetery, made famous around the world because it is the final resting place of Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery, he saw a large, ragged trench dug next to a gravestone.

“See the crowbar marks?” he said.

Were they pulling something out? a reporter asked. Elwin let that question hang in the air.

“Not sure,” he said.

Why was it dug? Elwin isn’t the only person asking that question. So was an RCMP officer, who investigated the act of vandalism, or maybe something more.

Elwin Wyand inspects the gravestone of an infant child. The hundred year old gravestone was one of many such stones in the cemetery.

“He just said it was a mystery. They were going to look into it,” said Elwin, who is the president of the nine director cemetery association, which looks after the beautifully landscaped, much-visited graveyard.

There were tracks leading from the hole, which looked like they were made by a “two wheel rig used to push propane tanks around,” said Elwin.

Was the rig used to move something heavy from the hole?

The tracks have since disappeared, fading away under fast growing grass.

“You never know what the heck it could be…I’m not going to speculate…but I’d like to know where it went,” said Elwin.

Update to story

Another media outlet, the CBC, has reported the object pried from the hole several weeks ago was a gravestone, dated 1939. RCMP are still investigating the incident.


Improved internet service coming to North Granville Community Hall, residents

Chris MacFarlane, owner of Red Sands Internet, has been a very busy man in early April.

Workers drill a hole for a 45 foot power pole.

On April 7 a 45-foot power pole was erected by workers employed by Owen Simpson next to the recently renovated Stanley Bridge Centre (SBC) building. The building sits on property owned by the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society, the SBC’s operator.

Chris said the pole “will allow me to extend my service to a tower that will be erected in North Granville. That pole should also enable me to reach a number of homes in the Stanley Bridge area as long as they can see the pole.”

He went on to say: “I plan to begin working on the pole over the (Easter) weekend and hopefully have it ready to provide service to subscribers within two weeks. I will also be providing WiFi service to the Stanley Bridge Centre.”

Don Maynard of Granville Ridge Consulting had approached Chris about providing improved internet service to his company and ultimately for the North Granville area.

The power pole, after installation.

 
“It is difficult to nail down a timeline but we are hoping to have the tower ready for service within a month or so of having the pole in Stanley Bridge go live,” said Chris.

“Then I plan to extend my service to the North Granville Community Hall, once there is service available at the tower. It is expected that I should be able to reach the majority of homes on Taylor Road as well as a few on the Rattenbury Road in the North Granville area. Any home within a five km radius of the tower should be able to subscribe to my service as long as they have a clear line of sight to the tower.”



 
 

Gun-toting vigilantes and the Decline of the American Empire
By Richard Deaton, Stanley Bridge

This past weekend was an historical turning point. Only historians such as Gibbon and Toynbee would have the sweep and insight to fully appreciate the Decline of the American Empire in the Time of the Coronavirus. And as medical historian William H. McNeil has argued there is an intersection between epidemics and historical political events. But Sinclair Lewis and Philip Roth were right, It Can Happen Here. Fascism through the ballot box.

This past weekend those watching the social media were treated to the sight of right-wing goons wearing black military outfits and armed with assault rifles occupying and blocking the entrance to the state capital buildings in at least six American states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Many of these states have Democratic governors.

However, in any constitutional democracy there is always a limit to the exercise of political rights. No right is unfettered. The right to free speech, as US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, does not give one the right to yell fire in a crowded theatre. There are legitimate constraints on every political right. And public health measures are a necessary limitation on certain rights.

It is no exaggeration to say that these self-appointed vigilantes, who are allegedly protesting the COVID-19 shut down and “stay at home orders” in the name of “opening up the economy” do so by asserting their First and Second Amendment rights to public assembly and to bear arms. Toys for boys. These actions are grounded in the paramilitary- survivalist movement called Minutemen, created by Republican Senator Barry Goldwater when he ran for president against Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Make no mistake about it, these are anti-government nihilists – red necks and crackers – parading as patriots, wrapped in the American flag. These are weaponized good ole’ boys and deplorables. In today’s political environment they are the modern day version of the Hitler’s brownshirts, the SA, who were his private army of street fighting goons who intimidated and beat up political opponents.

Most disturbingly we must ask: Where are the police? Where is the state National Guard? Where are the Democrats, and where is Joe Biden speaking out to preserve political democracy and social order? And outlining a rational exit strategy from COVID-19? America has become a Third World banana republic, with the president serving as the cheerleader-in-chief agreeing with and pandering to the lawlessness of his base. He has done this from the very first days of his administration. Are we now waiting for our Reichstag moment?

What is appalling is the silence emanating from Democratic Party leaders and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. Some have commented on his recent incoherence and poor performance at the lectern; rumour has it that his handlers are limiting his exposure to 15 mins. Is he well? Is he up to the task? Should the DNC look to Cuomo as the Democratic nominee?

We live in dangerous times and must Stand on Guard for Thee.


Is the coronavirus making it illegal to date?
By Michelle M Arsenault

Michelle M Arsenault is a prolific Cape Wolfe writer of erotic thrillers with edgy, political overtones. Her 12th book, The Devil And His Legacy, recently hit bookstands everywhere.

Before you go off on me about how we have to social distance to contain the virus just hear me out. I’m not saying NOT to do it (which I would probably get arrested or a stern warning for during these Orwellian times) but has anyone thought about what all this means?

It’s a broad topic but for today I’m going to focus on how this specifically affects the dating world. And once again, it’s not necessary to shame me for bringing this up because it may seem selfish in the eye of a virus that kills people. I’m not a moron. I get that. However, I do have a point.

Technically, people aren’t allowed to date right now. Unless you meet someone online, where would you meet them? The grocery store? The gas station? There’s only a small number of essential businesses open and even if you did meet someone there, you have to stand about a mile away (and still get dirty looks from people because you’re talking and don’t have a somber expression on your face) and keep the conversation to a bare minimum. Like compliant robots, we have to move swiftly through the stores or risk offending someone for not moving fast enough, the right direction or again, showing any signs that you don’t currently hate your life.

I’m not sure how a single person is LEGALLY allowed to have a sex life.

Even if you do meet someone online or the three places you can go now, you aren’t technically allowed to go on a date. Businesses where you would normally meet are closed. You aren’t allowed to go to anyone’s house. You aren’t allowed to be in the car with anyone unless you’re related or something like that…I’m not sure of the exact rule. I’m not sure how a single person is LEGALLY allowed to have a sex life.

It’s funny because when all this started, many people joked about all the babies that would be coming nine months from now. That idea doesn’t seem so appealing these days, does it? Most couples probably cringe at the idea of having a child under these circumstances. Would you even be able to get to a doctor? Would you want to go to the hospital now? Would you want to be pregnant during all of this insanity? And forget single people getting pregnant now. If you did happen to, you might get arrested or burned at the stake because it is kind of proof that you weren’t ‘socially isolating’.

Interestingly, when all this started, conspiracy theorists suggested that this virus was a way to cut down the population. Maybe it was, but perhaps in a way they hadn’t considered.


It’s pothole season in Stanley Bridge
Photos by Jim Brown

It’s an annual rite of spring in early April for many Stanley Bridge residents – broken and cratered pavement on the Rattenbury Road. Many motorists might have been tempted to swerve to the other lane to avoid gaping cracks in the disintegrating road, exposed with the vanishing snow and the arrival of milder temperatures. Hopefully, provincial road repair crews will be sent shortly before too much damage is caused to cars. These photos were taken near the Trout River Road intersection.

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Letter from tourism groups to PEI government officials expressing growing concern for seasonal operators

To:
Hon. Matthew MacKay, Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Mr. Kent MacDonald, CEO, Tourism PEI

From:
Regional Tourism Associations of Prince Edward Island

March 31, 2020

Minister MacKay / CEO MacDonald,

During this challenging time related to COVID-19, Prince Edward Island’s collective of Regional Tourism Associations(RTAs) are writing to you with a shared concern for our Memberships, a representation of 750+ tourism operators of all sizes and types. We are also supported in this communication by the Tourism Industry Association of PEI.

Tourism is a vital industry in Prince Edward Island that provides 7,700 full time equivalent jobs for Islanders. It accounts for over $500 million in economic activity each year and 6.3 percent of GDP, the highest percentage of any Canadian province.

By way of this letter, we would like to express that our first priority is to work with Public Health to determine a feasible timeline for tourism activities. PEI’s tourism industry will work with government to ensure government has the funding and technology needed to help screen Visitors and protect the public.

With that said, our greatest growing concern is for seasonal operators and their need for support. Currently, it is unclear how seasonal operators are included in initial rounds of support and there is a growing uneasiness within the industry with how they fit in.

While we understand the landscape may change in due course, it is important that we do not lose sight of seasonal operators at this time. Our Island’s seasonal operators are currently weighing decisions related to whether or not they will open for the 2020 tourism season.

As one of PEI’s top three industries, it is our shared goal for tourism businesses to be open for the upcoming season: if attractions, accommodations, dining and other tourism experiences are closed, it will leave visitors with an impression that there is ‘nothing to do on PEI’, negatively impacting future tourism for our province. Operators are eager to contribute and generate some form of an economic impact that will get our province back on its feet.

We look to the government to offer incentives by ways of offsetting labour costs, expenses and revenues so that businesses will stay open even if tourism traffic isn’t there. This is outlined further in this letter.

We are pleased to see the many federal and provincial business support programs that have rolled out in the last few days and weeks. Will these programs be made available to seasonal tourism operators, and will they be available to operators and workers within the timeframe they are needed (i.e. June 1, 2020 and onward)?

The window is closing on tourism operators’ ability to make decisions about operating within the 2020 tourism season landscape.

RTAs suggest the following additional ways that government can assist PEI’s tourism industry this season:

EMPLOYEE SUPPORTS

Many long-time employees in tourism operate on a seasonal basis. Many of them have been eligible for EI benefits since last fall. Given that there is currently no work for them to return to, will provisions be made to extend their EI coverage? Will this allow for the possibility that they are unable to return to work at all in 2020 and carry them through until late spring 2021? What plan does the government have for them?

Wage Subsidies – Wage subsidies recently announced for employers to cover 75% of employee wages is a very positive announcement. It is important that these subsidies are available to seasonal operators at the beginning of the summer season. Offering these options to them as well, in June, July or August may mean the difference between many operators opening or closing.

For seasonal workers who are on EI now, extend or top up EI payments when they go back to work to provide owner-operators an opportunity to reduce operating costs.

Consider reducing the $50,000 threshold to receive salary relief for small and medium sized enterprises (Canada Emergency Business Account). This still leaves a large gap for small operators who will not meet this amount.

INDUSTRY SUPPORTS

Loan options*. While loan options will benefit some tourism operators and we welcome loan options, many operators do not want to add to their current debt load – therefore the suggestions that follow are of great importance.

Working with lending agencies and financial institutions to encourage multi-month deferrals (12-18 months). While some financial institutions are currently promoting 3-month deferrals, this is of little benefit. Operators need time in which to achieve revenue in the 2020 and early 2021 seasons, to be used to pay back existing loans.

Explore opportunities where Finance PEI could potentially assume operator loans from financial institutions, followed by a 12-18 month deferral.

Explore mechanisms for cash flow / cost recovery to operators at the beginning of the 2020 tourism season. Example: monthly grants.

Work with suppliers – Maritime Electric, Bell Aliant and others – to encourage deferred payments and rollbacks on rates for these services. Example: Eastlink has scheduled price increases for April – could the government work with such suppliers to provide breaks for tourism operators and the business community?

Provisions to assist tourism operators/owners who cannot currently access the EI program.

Forgiveness or deferral of federal/provincial tax and business-related fees (ex. Environmental Health,

Tourism Licensing, Visitor Guide Listings, etc.) for an extended time period (12 – 18 months).

Tourism is a year-round business that requires planning, maintenance and other expenses in the lead up to the season. Given that many operators are now facing either a complete elimination of the season, or a shortened season with decreased demand – has thought been given to assistance related to expenses already incurred that may be difficult to recover, such as advertising, training, inventory purchases and more?

Acknowledgement of lost reservations, cancelled events, season passes, group bookings at attractions, etc.

The window is closing on tourism operators’ ability to make decisions about operating within the 2020 tourism season landscape. We call on the government to take these issues very seriously and offer support that will provide seasonal tourism operators with some level of confidence moving into the ever-important summer operating season. This will provide continuity to our tourism industry’s ability to contribute significantly to the economy of Prince Edward Island.

On behalf of all the Regional Tourism Associations, Derrick Hoare, President of the Central Coastal Tourism Partnership, and owner of The Table Culinary Studio in New London, will follow up with Minister MacKay in the coming days. Alternatively, Derrick may be reached at 1-647-920-1542.

Yours in partnership,

Stanley MacDonald, President, North Cape Coastal Area Tourism Partnership Don Quarles, President, Explore Summerside
Derrick Hoare, President, Central Coastal Tourism Partnership
Steve Murphy, President, Tourism Cavendish Beach

Ben Murphy, President, Discover Charlottetown
Tanya Calver, President, Points East Tourism Partnership
Kirk Nicholson, President, Tourism Industry Association of PEI Kevin Mouflier, CEO, Tourism Industry Association of PEI

/pm

c.c.
Hon. Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island Hon. Robert Morrissey, MP for Egmont
Hon. Wayne Easter, MP for Malpeque
Hon. Sean Casey, MP for Charlottetown
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, MP for Cardigan


  
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