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Prince Edward Island’s history on a day in other years, as seen through the pages of early newspapers.
Robin’s in Kensington is the place to catch up on what’s happening in the community.
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The Stanley Bridge Centre is pleased to offer news from the Resort Municipality such as events, meetings, programs.
Area residents offer their opinions on the issues of the day, from the serious to the whimsical.
Find out what exciting events are happening across PEI and in your area
Are we reaching the limits of growth in Cavendish?
Story and photos by Jim Brown
Beautifully contoured farmland mingled with picturesque cottages, glistening ponds and streams, ocean-lapped beaches, inviting woods, emerald green golf courses, and a long list of attractions, restaurants and souvenir stores. It all blends together into a wholesome, family-friendly package that is the envy of tourist destinations everywhere. And, just after the last traces of snow have left and before the hordes of tourists have arrived, dozens of lobster boats hit the waters from the port of North Rustico for the start of the spring lobster fishery.
But it could have easily gone another way, perhaps turned into a Coney Island, “Shoot The Freak” show, with sweaty, leather-lunged barkers screaming at passerby to fire their paintguns at a costumed, heavily padded “Freak” dashing back and forth behind a chain fence and surrounded by graffiti blighted rubble.
There is a wonderful trippiness to much of Cavendish proper and the resort municipality, with business operators not quite sure what to think of what an incredible abundance of good fortune and good stewardship over several decades has brought them. Go big on Anne of Green Gables and the straw hats? Or maybe the Cavendish Beach Music Festival and the tens of thousands of country music fans, some of whom may not be sober for much of the three days of performances? Or maybe add another half dozen or so naturalist resorts to the one tucked down a rarely travelled side road, away from prying eyes? Maybe go wall-to-wall Niagara Falls with the tackiness and the chintz and slot machines and the not-quite-ready-for-Vegas acts?
What to make of the Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico?
If you are among the 50 or so businesspeople and officials from all three levels of government attending the spring general meeting of Tourism Cavendish Beach Inc, you want the good times and years of record visits to roll on. But there is that niggling worry about the implications of unrestrained growth.
If you attended the meeting at the Cavendish Destination Centre on May 7 you heard about the troubling shortages of cooks and cleaners as well as other seasonal workers. You likely wouldn’t have been reassured by what you heard from guest speakers who basically warned those shortages will not ease any time soon.
An immigration official from Charlottetown confirmed what many nodding business owners already knew – it can cost upwards of $1,000 in fees and other expenses to hire temporary foreign workers.
That same immigration official said at any one time one billion people around the world were considering moving to Canada. Not that it helps tourist operators desperate for help in Canada’s smallest province.
You may have also have heard Canada, like many other industrialized countries, is getting older and there are fewer young folks around to pay the taxes that will sustain the country’s comprehensive social welfare system. Right now there are four workers for every retiree, but by 2030 that number will fall to just two. Canada’s low birthrate places this country 81st in the world in terms of fertility and that’s not a good place to be.
Where are the families with the screaming kids wanting to go to the Sandspit or the Cavendish Tourist Mart or that place that sells beavertails going to come from in the near future, if not Canada? Let’s hope worldwide travel continues to grow at a record rate and that Ottawa is smart enough to boost immigration numbers.
As an observer it was fascinating watching the polite pushback granting agency officials got from some tourist operators when they suggested ways to extend the summer tourism season into the fall, winter and early spring.
It’s easily to imagine a few dozen eyebrows going up at the same time.
Let us count the ways that could be problematic, including boosting advertising budgets to chase potentially fewer people while incurring more costs to provide additional product, and did I mention the problems encountered hiring workers?
There was something else that garnered a fair bit of discussion. The strategy of leaning on “travel influencers” to generate buzz about a locale. Newspapers and magazines, though still important in drawing visitors, are so late 20th century.
That guy or gal with flak jacket, press badge and camera as long as your arm is no longer ‘King of the Walk’.
Now you got kids who can draw hundreds of thousands of eyeballs to a single post, even if it is littered with typos and grammatical errors.
I can just imagine members of the Khardashian family dropping a few words and images on their Twitter and Instagram feeds in a bid to steer a sizable chunk of their millions of followers to Cavendish.
And, considering there are 800 or more cottages in the resort municipality, do we really need any more? Do we really want to encourage massive new development that strains the community’s resources and changes everything we love about Cavendish?
It reminds me of that old expression from the Vietnam War era, “We had to destroy the village to save it.”
At the spring session one speaker noted in Venice, Italy local residents were advised to stay indoors as much as possible during high season to avoid the huge crush of selfie-taking tourists trampling on everything in sight. Headlines blare about how tourism has “destroyed” Venice. One of the most beautiful cities in the world, steeped in history and culture, is rapidly depopulating. Venice’s population is less than a third of what it was in the early 1950s, with many residents fleeing to escape the suffocating tide of tourists. Real estate has soared in value, making it harder for people who actually call Venice home to find affordable housing, and things only got worse when cruise ships dropped anchor in Venice’s famous canals.
One of the world’s most famous cities was always sinking under relentless attack from the sea, but global warming and the tourist invasion haven’t helped.
Cavendish gets as many as 500,000 visitors during the summer even as its population swells from 250 full time residents to about 10,000 or so when seasonal residents, including Americans and mainland Canadians, return to their cottages. Imagine how truly wretched things would become if the resort municipality got even 10 per cent of the 28 million or so visitors Venice gets annually?
Would they also mount protests against the threatening hordes as Venetians have done?
Let’s hope it never comes to that.
Century-old church pews available at Stanley Bridge Centre auction
By Jim Brown
The Stanley Bridge Centre is holding an auction shortly to raise funds to pay for $65,000 worth of renovations, to begin later this spring. Among the items up for grabs to sharp-eyed bidders are several century-old church pews and their cushions, in good condition. Anyone who wishes to donate items for the auction can reach the website editor at email@example.com and they can also contact Don at 902-432-2485 or Clayton at 902-886-3360.
Neighbours open their arms to Stanley Bridge family after devastating fire
History burned to ashes when historic farmhouse destroyed
Story and photos by Jim Brown
It was the day after a devastating fire claimed a nearly 200 year-old farmhouse in Stanley Bridge and smoke could still be seen curling skyward from its charred basement.
On Thursday Feb 21, flames were flickering in the rubble while the home’s four residents were trying to pick up the pieces.
Michelle Fyfe, daughter of the home’s owners Alfred and Karen Fyfe, said she and her fiancé Kristen and her mom and dad had only seconds to fetch everything of value from the home when the smoke was detected around 7:30 am, Feb 20.
The farmhouse had been in the Fyfe family since 1829 – six generations.
“We don’t really know what happened. All we know is that it started in the basement,” she said of the blaze firefighters ruled accidental.
“Dad was awake, mom was awake, and dad woke Kristen up. I was up but lying in bed, around 7:30 am.”
Smoke was filling the house as everyone rushed to get out, but Michelle and her family didn’t think the worst, yet.
“I think if we’d had known we were going to lose our home we would have taken the 45 seconds to grab something, anything. But we thought for sure it was just a flue fire and the fire department was going to come and get it out and we would be able to go back in, but that’s not the case,” said Michelle.
“I grabbed my purse and my cellphone, mom grabbed her purse and her cellphone, Kristen grabbed his cellphone and dad grabbed his cellphone. That’s it.”
It’s been a whirlwind ever since, but there was a very big silver lining.
The family has been blown away by the tremendous support they’ve received from their neighbours.
“We’ve got overwhelming support. This community is the best community to live in,” said Michelle, with a quiver in her voice.
“I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out. Food, clothes, offering to help anyway they can. The plumbers, the electricians, the firefighters, everyone just coming to offer us words of encouragement and support and saying we’ll get through this and that they were there to help us,” said Michelle.
“For 30 years this has been home,” she said.
What will be missed most of the many, many possessions that were lost to the fire?
“There’s years and years of history, years of photos and antiques and quilts made by my dad’s mom and fine china…When we were at the Red Cross yesterday they asked us if we wanted a quilt and it reminded me that my grandmother made me a quilt when I was born and now it’s gone.”
One thing she feels lucky to have preserved from the fire are several photos of her historic farmhouse.
“I loved to take photos of the home. I have photos on my phone which I’m sure we’ll get printed.”
A beloved family dog and cat also escaped.
“The cat landed here one day in a snowstorm and we took her in. She was pretty shy yesterday. She spent the day in the back of the car, and then when we got to where we were going for the night she hid under the bed until I climbed into the bed and then she curled up and slept with us all night.”
Michelle and her family stayed at a home in the area, generously made available to them.
They plan to spend some time at Leslie MacKay’s, which is almost next door, allowing them to continue their daily work routine. The house may have been destroyed but the farm survived and needs tending.
“Even if there is a major snowstorm we’ll still be able to get to the cows and be here if the plumber, or insurance agents drop by. Cows still need to be fed,” she said.
The family plans to rebuild the home, once they have the insurance settled.
“I don’t think there’s a thought of not rebuilding. The farm is here, we need a home to live in,” said Michelle.
“We spoke to an insurance agent yesterday. He was out and dropped off the papers that we needed to get the ball rolling. So once we all sit down and have a minute to think and talk to each other and figure out what we want to do, then we’ll start moving forward.”
North Rustico and surrounding communities need a new arena
By Jim Brown
The old barn, the rink, the arena.
Whatever name it goes by, it is the lifeblood of just about every small community in Canada, including North Rustico.
On Wednesday, Jan 30, residents from throughout the North Shore and central PEI will get a glimpse of the possible future of the North Star Arena, which could include the arena’s replacement with a new multipurpose facility, featuring a new gym and indoor walking track, according to North Star Arena manager David Whitlock.
“Our arena is one of the busiest rural arenas on PEI. We rent in the vicinity of 49-52 hours per week, which is very high ice usage,” he said.
“We are pretty much booked all season. The only arenas that would be busier than ours are city arenas.”
No immediate structural work needs to be done, but that could all change in the next two to five years as the arena continues to age. Meanwhile, the ice surface is not regulation size and that is hampering its potential.
“At the end of the day if you fix up an old arena you still have the same old arena when you’re finished, with an ice surface that is not regulation, as well as other outdated parts,” stated Mr Whitlock.
He went on to say the plant that keeps the ice currently works well, “but it is old and outdated…My opinion is this is the time to start looking at building a new facility for the area and a new wellness facility could be a new hub for all surrounding communities to benefit from and enjoy.”
The Jan 30 public meeting will be held at 7:30 pm at the North Rustico Lions Club (upstairs). Residents from surrounding communities are invited
Visiting Spanish couple disappointed Green Gables House closed, surrounded by construction
By Jim Brown
Most Islanders know nearly everything tourism related, including attractions featuring PEI’s most famous redhead, are closed after the leaves have fallen and snow is on the ground.
But not a Spanish husband and wife, who arrived by taxi from Charlottetown at the Green Gables House in Cavendish in late November, only to find heavy construction surrounding it and no way to go inside.
“People go on vacation any time of the year and they leave somewhere sunny and they figure it’s going to be the same thing when they get to (their destination),” said Arnold Smith, a long-time tourist operator.
He’s also a member of the Resort Municipality’s planning board, which met on Dec 5.
“People plan vacations and it’s a lifetime dream and they’ve retired and off they go. Some of them are fortunate enough to come here in the summer and do a little extra planning and other people have just saved up the amount of money it’s going to cost them to get here and they’ve booked the flight at a little cheaper (price)…They assume because the Taj Mahal is open year year round (and) Big Ben and Niagara Falls, that other things are open year round too.”
To loud gasps from planning board members CAO Brenda MacDonald described the couple’s ordeal. They had eventually arrived at the Visitor Information Centre, where Brenda’s office is.
“They didn’t realize that wherever they stayed in Charlottetown, they (were told) the house was open,” she said.
The Parks Canada website wasn’t very clear on the attraction’s hours of operation.
“They were so frustrated, I was just trying to help,” she said.
Brenda said she drove them to a coffee shop in North Rustico, giving them a short tour, for which they were very appreciative since they were hungry and had nowhere to stay until the taxi arrived from Charlottetown (about a 40 minute drive).
Board members said efforts should be made to contact taxi companies, to make sure they knew the lack of places foreign visitors could go to in the winter months when everything is closed up.
This sort of thing happens every year and it can be very distressing to visitors expecting attractions to be open, said Brenda.
“They were happy and thankful, but it was just a bad situation because they had come specifically to see Green Gables House.”
She and the couple tried to reach Green Gables by phone but kept getting an answering machine.
There is definitely much more than can be done to reduce the chance of that sort of thing happening in the future, including better signage, greater awareness among taxi drivers and more up to date websites and guidebooks, said planning board members.
New twists in used car sales lot application saga
Dispute heading to IRAC public hearing
Story and photos by Jim Brown
It’s never over until it’s really, really over.
And even then it may not be over.
Bill Drost’s bid to open a used car sales lot in Stanley Bridge after its initial rejection by the Resort Municipality in July will now go to a public hearing in front of the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC). He decided to go the public hearing route on Oct 26.
Mr Drost didn’t take “No” for an answer when his application was given a thumbs down back in the summer.
A lot has happened since, including getting acclaimed to the same council that had rejected his application.
“I spent many years in government at the deputy minister level and other senior executive levels,” said Mr Drost.
He was always interested in public service, so he submitted his name.
Mr Drost said he could have opted to rely just on his written submission to IRAC to make his case. The municipality also made a written submission.
“For four months now I’ve been suffering financially because of a very arbitrary short-sighted decision by council,” he said.
“I live in this municipality and I think this should be a good place to do business and I want to continue to do business and at the end of the day they may drive me out of the municipality and force me to go some place else,” said Mr Drost.
The Resort Municipality “should be business friendly, and not just for tourism business but every type of business,” he said.
Mr Drost says he’s got about 20 cars on a lot near the Stanley Bridge roundabout, but he can’t sell them.
It’s basically just a parking lot, he said.
But he hasn’t given up on his dream.
“I submitted my case and the municipality submitted their case for the denial of my development permit and then we submitted rebuttal statements to rebut each other’s positions.”
And now, another twist.
“I went one step further and made a suggestion to IRAC that we have a thorough examination of past development permits that have been given out by the municipality for the last three years.”
“It’s not a great number…I would suggest a few dozen, likely…I just wanted to see the minutes of the planning committee (over three years).”
The Resort Municipality’s mayor, Matthew Jelley, says he couldn’t comment on Mr Drost’s IRAC appeal because it was before “an adjudicated body”.
Mr Jelley went on to say he didn’t think the appeal would hurt council’s operation, since differences of opinion will happen from time to time among councillors.
As long as conflict of interest regulations are followed it shouldn’t be an issue, he said.
Mr Jelley also noted differences of opinion over development issues can arise with he, or other councilors and have in the past.
As long as the appropriate regulations about not participating in the decision making process are followed, there shouldn’t be any problems, he said.
My friend was raped at 18 and the justice system only made things worse
By Michelle M Arsenault
A close friend of mine was raped at 18. She wasn’t raped at a college party or after a drunken escapade, nor did it happen because she was dressed ‘slutty’ or because she hung around the wrong people. It happened because she was always told to trust the police; and so, when an on duty officer stopped his car to offer her a drive home, she felt safe accepting. This was her first mistake.
After driving her into a secluded area (this was rural NB after all) he raped her. Considering the officer was in the position of power, clearly that put her at an immediate disadvantage. She followed all the rules in reporting the assault but it was swept under the rug. The cop was shoved off to another community with no charges, and as a result my friend was sent a clear message; you don’t matter.
This is the same message many women have received in various situations over the years. Whether it’s the recent case with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the US or many other women who’ve reported assaults only to be abused by not only the perpetrator but also the system; it’s not a new story. Unfortunately, even though it’s 2018, it still appears nothing has changed from when my friend was raped 20 years ago.
Although this isn’t always the case, as a woman I often feel that if needed the police won’t be on my side. In fact, if I am victimized, I really have no faith calling the cops will help me. They’ll show up, ask a few questions and chances are that’s where everything will end. I’ve heard too many stories from other women who have reassured me of this belief; from women who were in abusive situations to women who were stalked, threatened and one of which was eventually killed, with little or no help from the police. I recently heard one story where the female officer accused the woman involved in a domestic situation of being of fault. Not to say that women are always innocent victims but it makes me feel that my odds of being taken seriously are slim.
My friend was never the same after that day. She suffered from self-esteem issues, made irrational and sometimes self-destructive decisions and not surprisingly, had a great deal of distrust for authority. Years later, she was assaulted again by an acquaintance who asked for a drive home. She briefly – very briefly – considered going to the police but finally decided against it. In her mind, it was the people who were supposed to protect her in the first place who lost her trust. The sad part is that when I tell this story to most women, they aren’t surprised.
Fierce winds, power challenges fail to disrupt Christmas Craft Fair
Some thoughts on Callbeck, Island PCs, Brett Kavanagh and the ugly side of politics
By Mike Duffy
My wife says “this is better than any soap opera on TV!” By “this” she is, of course, referring to the slow motion train wreck unfolding in Washington.
The ugly, nasty side of politics is on full display, as the two sides arm-wrestle over abortion. They don’t make direct reference to it, but abortion is really what the Kavanaugh nomination fight is all about.
Ever since the Roe v. Wade decision, when the US Supreme Court opened the door to abortion, pro-life people have been dreaming of the day when a conservative majority on America’s highest court would overturn Roe and turn back the clock.
That’s why American pro-choice forces have put so much money and effort into trying to block the nomination of a conservative Roman Catholic judge. Brett Kavanaugh told US senators Roe v Wade is “settled law”, that means if confirmed he’s not going to vote to overturn it. But the pro-choice people aren’t buying. They don’t trust him.
We have had the same debate here on PEI about the availability of abortions for Island women. For decades successive Island governments have tried to avoid dealing directly with the issue, hoping it will quietly go away.
I am not going to wade into that minefield today, but instead want to address another big issue raised by the Kavanaugh hearing: Why would anyone go into public service when their entire life will be put under a microscope, and can be so easily and unfairly destroyed?
Could that be why none of the MLAs in the PC caucus plan to seek their party’s leadership?
At the rate we are going, it will be difficult to find bright, talented people to serve in politics or any other aspect of public life.
Which brings me to this weekend, and the installation of Hon. Catherine Callbeck as Chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island.
After a successful career in business, and serving with distinction as Premier, MP and as a Senator, Ms. Callbeck would be entitled to say, “I’ve met my obligation for public service.” But no, like the great Islander she is, Ms. Callbeck has once again answered the call to serve at UPEI. (She studied business at Mount Allison University. One of her fellow students was John Bragg, Eastlink Cable, Oxford Frozen Foods etc.)
Ms. Callbeck’s background in, and deep knowledge of business and politics will be important to the continued success of our province’s university.
As chancellor, she follows business great Don McDougall, who brought the Blue Jays to Toronto, and whose optimism and boundless energy helped save Summerside after the CF base closure; and before him, Calgary oilman William E. “Bill” Andrew, who even with his great success in the oil patch, has never forgotten his alma mater.
UPEI has been fortunate to have a long list of distinguished chancellors, a who’s who of eminent Islanders who saw this public service as a way to give back to their home province.
As our economy continues to evolve, we will need our educational system to evolve with it. It will take strong, determined leadership.
Chancellor Catherine Callbeck will lead our university forward with confidence and vigor, just as she has led in every endeavor she has undertaken over the years.
Why can’t I get a treat at an ice cream stand after Labour Day?
By Michelle M Arsenault
I recently had a few people say to me it was unfortunate all the ice cream stands on PEI seem to close as soon as September rolls around. It’s almost as if the unwritten rule ‘do not wear white after Labour Day’ on PEI extends to ‘do not have anything touristy open after the first week of September.’
It seems kind of shortsighted, considering we do have some tourists into the fall season. Furthermore, we also have local residents who might want to take advantage of the tourist scene when it’s less crowded, less hot and less busy. That might even include some of our neighbours in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. It’s a crazy idea, I know, but I’m almost willing to bet that if that ice cream stand was open into the fall, they would have customers.
Of course, within reason – I’m not saying that everything should be open right to Christmas! However, why not experiment and go further into the season and see what happens?
I was recently at a local restaurant on its second last day of the season. The place was packed. I looked around and wondered what about that crowd suggested it was a good time to close the doors until next spring? How does this possibly make good business sense? What about the people working? Is it maybe just possible that these people would appreciate a couple more weeks of work for the season? Then again, are locals becoming too comfortable with only working the minimum to go on EI? I once had a relative say to me: “A person gets tired if they work year around.” Yes, I’m sure millions of people around the world are well aware of that fact.
Not only does closed doors in September suggest that the island is no longer open for business, it also closes the doors on Islanders. In fact, maybe what it is really saying is, “we were never opened for you in the first place”.
Empty parking lots surrounded by empty businesses in Cavendish on Sept 24. On many days in the summer parking lots throughout the Resort Municipality are jammed with cars.
Jim Brown photos
Lucky ticket wins this beautiful painting
Connie Morrison, a member of the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society’s (SBMS) board of directors, holds a beautiful painting of the Stanley Bridge wharf by acclaimed Margate artist and author Karen Slater. The SBMS is raffling off the painting, with tickets selling for $5 each or three for $10. They can be purchased on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 9 am to 1 pm, beginning in July at the Stanley Bridge Centre. Money from the ticket sales will go towards needed renovations at the SBC.
The Stanley Bridge Centre – A Venue for Culture and Events
In September, 2008, due to declining membership and financial costs to maintain the building, the Stanley Bridge United Church, in Stanley Bridge, Prince Edward Island, was decommissioned. The United Church Presbytery of PEI and Maritime Conference decided in 2009 to officially turn the building over to the former members of the church and they in turn applied to be incorporated as the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society Inc. Directors and trustees were appointed to provide the leadership and direction for the building, as they felt that it was important to maintain its rich heritage and legacy.
The Board’s Mission Statement was the historic preservation of the church and heritage of the Stanley Bridge church. The Stanley Bridge Centre would provide a Cultural/Events Centre and Archival Room that will house historical items and artifacts of significance as well as genealogy records. The Farmers Market is an undertaking that continues the tradition of this community meeting place.
This renewal project will require a large financial undertaking as a new basement is needed as well as washrooms, a kitchen, window restoration, a new roof, insulation and accessibility for all. The Stanley Bridge Memorial Society Inc, owner of the building, has charitable status and is continuing a campaign to raise funds for building improvements. This website provides an historical background, a virtual tour of the interior and exterior, a viewing of the plans for the building, a Donation page and many other features.
We ask that you consider a donation to our renewal project as we believe that the building is a landmark in the community and deserves to have it’s legacy continue for years to come. We trust that you will support this important community effort in Stanley Bridge.
Stanley Bridge Memorial Society
This website will include developments in the planning, historical research and the ongoing process of fundraising and of the restoration, repair and reconstruction of the Stanley Bridge Cantre. Check back often to keep abreast of what is happening and how your contribution is helping to realize the goals of the Society.
Three Day Weather Forecast For Stanley Bridge, Prince Edward Island, Canada