Fighting Words, where area residents offer their opinions on the issues of the day, from the serious to the whimsical. The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the Stanley Bridge Centre.
Prince Edward Island: We’re not just about fiddles and Anne
By Michelle M Arsenault
I’m sure to a person unfamiliar with PEI a quick search on the Internet might leave them with a very one dimensional view of the island. In fact, some might think they are time travelling back a hundred years, with all the period costumes on display. Of course, there’s occasionally a shot of some seafood or beautiful landscapes, but overall potential tourists are left with the impression Prince Edward Island is not exactly the place you’d go to do tequila shots and dance on tabletops.
Should the tourism department broaden their reach beyond ceilidhs and the usual tourist traps?
Last year a friend of mine from Vancouver announced she would love to visit me. However, she decided to hold out until I moved off island again. The reason? Doing a quick search of PEI’s tourism websites didn’t exactly make her want to travel across the country to see me. A woman in her 20s who listens to death metal and thrives on excitement saw very little to encourage her to spend hundreds of dollars on airfare. Of course she’d also end up spending much more once she got here on our often overpriced and lackluster tourist offerings. That includes staying in one of our many Airbnb places, something local residents used to refer to as ‘apartments’ only a few short years ago. She doesn’t drive and since we don’t have much in the way of public transportation….well, the idea fell flat fast.
I’m not sure why PEI feels the need to keep things so predictable when it comes to tourism. After all, we’re competing with many exciting destinations around the world – although it’s true that sometimes people come here for the quiet, laid-back pace of life, for the fresh air, and the beautiful scenery. Of course, there’s no money to be made if a tourist takes a nap on the beach.
How about switching gears? Why not have a large outdoor concert that isn’t always country? Why not have something a little more controversial, like a weed festival? Maybe an event centered on the LGBT community? Why not go ahead in time and have something more futuristic, such as an Artificial Intelligence-themed event? Why are we limiting ourselves and repeating the same tired image again and again? And, as a final point, why is the summer season so short? Surely we can work to extend the season beyond Sept 1 and even into October, when the water is still warm enough in many places to dip a toe.
By Jim Brown
Got guests coming to your RD2 zoned property in the Resort Municipality? No problem! But they better not bring RVs and trailers if they expect to sleep in them.
That was the message from the May 27 council meeting of the Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico.
“The position of travel trailers/recreational vehicles has been in place since the municipality was formed. I certainly think it’s created an expectation in people who purchase property that they weren’t going to be surrounded by travel trailers (and) recreational vehicles,” said Matthew Jelley, the resort municipality’s mayor.
The regulation also applies to much of the rest of the province.
But you can have them on your property as long as you don’t allow anyone to live in them.
Mayor Jelley grew up in the Cavendish area in the 1980s and part of his early years involve memories of “problems with sewage in people’s yards.”
There is always the concern about proper disposal of sewage and that’s why fully equipped and regulated campgrounds are the best place for them in the resort municipality.
There was some pushback from a councillor who said people should be allowed certain rights when it comes to their own property and that includes allowing family members who visit them to use a recreational vehicle/trailer to sleep in for a few days. What’s the big deal if they use the toilet in the house?
Accommodation is getting pricey (and scarcer) in the resort municipality, especially during the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, which draws tens of thousands of visitors every summer for the three to four day festival – now in its 11th year.
Council will review the RV-trailer issue further and the research will be included in a strategic plan. A public meeting will be held sometime the future.
The new regulations, if any, won’t be completed until next year.
A councillor suggested, as part of the review, the municipality look at allowing trailers/RVs to be used for temporary accommodation – perhaps one or two weeks maximum. Fines where appropriate could be applied.
“The Cavendish area is the jewel of the Island and the Island itself as a whole is the sweetest place in Canada,” Queens District RCMP Staff Sgt Shane Hubley told Resort Municipality of Cavendish councillors at their May 27 meeting.
“Prince Edward Island has the lowest crime index in the country, per capita,” he said.
The RCMP officer delivered a full year incidence report on Cavendish, extending from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.
Hubley reported property crime and violent crime was almost non-existent in the Cavendish area, compared to other parts of the province and the rest of the country.
He went on to report property crime in Stratford and Cornwall is “way up” this year and it’s because drug addicts are based in more urban areas.
Lawbreakers from Charlottetown don’t want to drive all the way to Cavendish “to break into a cottage to get a TV to sell when they can go to Stratford or Cornwall. That’s essentially what’s happened.”
Hubley stated the RCMP have more resources coming this year than last year.
“We’ve got a large contingent coming over from New Brunswick that’s going to help us out.”
He said officers enjoyed the duty so much last year they want to come back.
Hubley went on to say there will be an increased presence, due to this being the first summer in which cannabis is legal.
There are a couple of changes. One involves liquor bracelets worn by concert-goers, which will be discontinued by Cavendish Beach Music Festival (CBMF) organizers.
Councillors were baffled as to why that practice isn’t still in place.
“I don’t understand how it’s a good use of resources,” said Mayor Jelley. “I don’t know how it’s more efficient and don’t know how it reduces underage drinking.”
Councillors also heard concert-goers have to bring ID with them at all times in case they are approached by officers and that inevitably leads to many important documents being lost or misplaced.
Last year there were as many as 200 reports of lost wallets, licenses and other documents.
Some highlights from the 2018-2019 Queens District RMCP occurrence statistics report (April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019)
11 reports of crimes against the person (sexual offences) including sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and distributing an intimate image without consent, leading to eight charges.
45 traffic offences reported, including one fatal one.
43 impaired operation related offences reports, with eight charges laid.
44 provincial statute violation reports, including liquor, off road vehicle act, child welfare act and dog act violations, with 31 charges laid.
30 other criminal code reports, including 12 disturbing the peace offences, with 12 charges.
Five offensive weapons violation reports, leading to four charges.
24 reports of robbery, extortion, harassment and threats, leading to 11 charges.
Two reports of forcible confinement, with no charges laid.
31 reports of assaults (excluding sexual assaults), including assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, assault and administering a noxious thing, with 15 charges laid.
27 reports of crimes against property, thefts under $5,000, leading to four charges.
8 reports of crimes against property, theft over $5,000, with no charges laid.
One charge of exposure of genital organs to a person under 16.
38 reports of crimes against property, mischief, with six charges.
179 common police activities calls including false alarms, animal calls, suspicious person or vehicle, abandoned vehicles and breach of peace, with no charges laid.
12 reports of break and enter (businesses, homes, seasonal residences, etc) with two charges.
Final thoughts on one of the wildest, wackiest elections in Island history
By Jim Brown
So who saw that coming a year ago? Who saw the Green Party sprinting to second place, winning eight seats in a minority government?
Who would have thought the dysfunctional Progressive Conservatives, who changed leaders in the past few years about as often as many of us change our underwear, would outlast the sagging Liberals and the surging Greens, to win 12 seats.
Unthinkable, until just a few short weeks ago.
Here are some scattered thoughts about the April 23 election and its aftermath, some of which might actually make sense.
Green Party women show the way
Talk about a game changer.
Of the eight Green candidates elected, five were women. Just one other woman was elected, from the PC Party, which (may) form PEI’s first minority government in more than a century.
So how did that happen? Researchers could be writing doctoral papers on that for decades to come. My guess? There is something about the Green Party that makes it easier for voters to elect women. Perhaps if you are a Green Party supporter you are more inclined to vote for women.
Is it possible Green Party female candidates were simply better candidates? Did they network and connect with voters better than their female counterparts in the PC, Liberal and New Democratic parties? I suspect that might be at least part of the answer.
Ponder this: Nine of 27 Green Party candidates were women, which is 33 per cent of the total. But that trails the NDP, which was shut out, yet again. Eleven female candidates carried the orange banner. The Liberals and PCs weren’t far behind the Greens in fielding female candidates, at seven and six candidates respectively.
Just imagine if the Green Party had fielded 20 female candidates instead of just nine.
Some serious horsetrading about to start
Did you think this election would severely crimp backroom deals on PEI? Then it’s your lucky day! I have some swampland in Arizona to sell you.
I believe even before the dust has settled on this wonderfully loopy election result, Green, Liberal and PC operatives will be huddling together, trying to come up with a deal that will work for two of those parties.
Don’t believe all that Kumbaya talk on election night – some serious horse-trading will be going on. I don’t know who will come out on top, but I believe the Greens better ignore their “play nice” instincts. The 2019 election represents a great opportunity for the party to make electoral hay by striking a deal with a tired, demoralized Liberal Party whose leader was unceremoniously defeated in his own riding.
Yes, that MMP
Elections have consequences. Hate to say it but Dennis King’s reign as PEI Premier may be over before it starts. The Greens, the Liberals and King’s PCs all finished within seven points of one another in the popular vote. Put any two of those parties together and you have a viable governing coalition. Why not the Liberals and Greens?
And consummate negotiator that he is, Peter Bevan-Baker could throw MMP into the mix. But wasn’t it narrowly defeated in a referendum? Yes, but does that mean it has to die? No.
Unpopular policies are adopted all the time without referendums. Remember the GST? The provincial HST? And how about free trade with the US and then Mexico and the US (twice)? And before that publicly funded health care, the Canadian Pension Plan, EI and so on.
Let’s get real here. Forty-nine per cent support for MMP in an election referendum is a lot more support than most other government initiatives get, such as Trudeau’s recent carbon tax.
If Islanders want more representative government and fewer blowouts in which nearly all the seats all won by a single party with 40 per cent of the vote, MMP has to be adopted. It’s as simple as that.
MMP should never have been voted upon in a referendum, whose results can be fudged six ways to Sunday.
Green MLAs and rising carbon footprints
My big question is how will Green Party candidates restrain their carbon footprints since they will be travelling back and forth to Charlottetown for legislative sessions and flying all over Canada to share the secret of their success with other Green Party apparachiks. Not to mention the very real possibility they could form a coalition government with the Liberals in which Peter Bevan-Baker could suddenly find himself PEI’s premier and an attendee at premiers’ meetings across the country. World travel could also be in the Island Green Party’s future.
Remember, most of the Green Party’s newly minted MLAs will be getting a big pay boost, with base pay, not including benefits and perks for attending meetings, nudging $75,000.
What will they do with the new cash, government cars (if the party gets in bed with the Liberals or PCs to form a coalition) and other perks of the job?
After all, you can only plant so many shrubs as carbon offsets.
Right wing media have it all wrong about Dennis King and the PCs.
So Prince Edward Island is yet another domino to fall, bringing Canada closer to that wonderful day when Conservatives control everything and those wicked progressives are shown the door.
Not quite. There is very little daylight between the Liberal and PC parties on PEI and many believe the PCs would embrace several Green Party policies. It’s the Island way, everyone moves towards the middle ground and consensus.
We’re simply not going to hear anti-immigrant dog whistles, or see slash and burn cuts to health care, environmental regulations and social programs on PEI, which is probably why we have one of the strongest economies in all of Canada. And unlike, Ontario under Premier Doug Ford, we haven’t experienced a bond rating cut.
It will be the kind of productive, civil government many Canadians in provinces like Alberta and Ontario wish they had.
Climate change is threatening our future and Canadians are not doing enough to fight it
By Jim Brown
Canada’s much-loathed carbon tax was greeted on April 1 with millions of clenched fists.
Many Canadians saw the tax as a threat to everything they held dear, not as something they must embrace for the planet’s survival.
Canadians are failing to pick up the torch in the fight against climate change, but we aren’t alone. So is nearly every other industrialized country, just when global warming threatens to destroy humanity’s only home.
The sad, sobering truth is that the carbon tax was never meant to be a ‘golden bullet’ to inoculate us against a nightmarish future. It was only the first step – and a baby step at that.
Canada’s rate of temperature rise is double the world average and a few cents extra a litre on gasoline and other petroleum based fuels isn’t going to have an immediate impact. It, alone, certainly won’t save hundreds of shore-hugging cottages on Prince Edward Island, which will swept away in the coming deluge.
But what the carbon tax represents is something far more valuable. Momentum.
It mobilizes us to take on even greater challenges. We take this one small step in unity and then the next, larger step, doesn’t seem as daunting.
And then an even bigger step after that, and then bigger yet and then perhaps we will make real, measurable progress towards saving the planet. Especially if the industrialized nations of the world, the largest greenhouse gas emitters, do the same.
But it is unravelling already. One of Canada’s major political parties, which will likely seize power in less than six months, is run by a cabal of climate change deniers. They’ve closed their eyes, their ears and their hearts to the peril ahead. The Conservative Party of Canada, and its provincial cousins in oil-rich Alberta and Saskatchewan, and in Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, are portraying it as a cynical money-grab.
Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer and other Conservative leaders appeared in a photo op April 1, carbon tax implementation day, fueling up their gas-guzzling cars and vowing to roll back modest climate change regulations already brought into law.
They might as well be chanting “Burn, baby, burn…”
History books, if they are to be written in the dark decades ahead, will not be kind to these deniers.
What brought us to this desolate stage? I think it all stems from an erosion of trust – in our institutions, in our governments and in ourselves.
We haven’t had a cause to fight for since the Second World War and we are incapable of mobilizing as a society to fight the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. We grumble over spending nickels and dimes when climate change will cost us hundreds of trillions in the too-near future, according to the vast majority of climate scientists.
Floods, famines, fires, diseases and hundreds of millions of hollow-eyed migrants moving across a ruined world, seeking refuge in the few places that might still be habitable.
Endless wars over water, land and resources will be the legacy we leave our children. And perhaps a vision of mushroom clouds.
All because we couldn’t put our petty, tribal interests aside for the common good. All because we wanted the extract the last drop of oil from a dying world.
Everyone who has followed climate change knows the real work lies ahead and humanity must confront the horrors that are coming or die.
But we have politicians promising to cut taxes and slash anti-pollution regulations in a shameless pitch for power and profit. They want government out of the way so they can complete the looting of the natural systems that sustain us all.
And it looks like Canadians are giving them a blank cheque to do just that.
Your creative side is waiting to be unearthed
By Michelle M Arsenault
Let’s face it. If you’re 17 years old and share your dreams of becoming a writer, a rock star or a painter, chances are you may not be taken as seriously as someone who talks about college, degrees and any profession that requires an intensive science program. In fact, most creative professions are kind of lumped into the same category as psychics, witchcraft, meditation, and anything spiritual. In other words, a little woo-woo. You know, it’s interesting but can you make money with it?
But the truth is if you’re really good at any of those things you probably can make a lot of money once you have a following. People are intrigued by psychics, artists and yes, even witchcraft! However, most people don’t take them seriously and one of the reasons is because many people pursuing these areas don’t either. We all know people who talked of writing a book, joining a band or studying herbs, only to flake out as soon as they realized it takes much more time and effort than they had assumed. After all, I don’t get up at 6 am for the hell of it.
Believe it or not, creative pursuits require a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, so overnight success is rare. There’s no easy formula. If you want to be a nurse, for example, teachers can help point you in the right direction. If you want to be a rock star, not so much.
For that reason, many people become discouraged. It just seems like a long shot and unstable. It causes people to bury their creative side – to believe it is all silly and useless. However, be reassured it’s there. If you were ever a child (and I’m guessing you were) you were creative. When you were five, chances are you weren’t talking about the stock market or politics but most likely were ass deep in paints, Lego or toys. There was no structure. Coloring inside the lines? What? That was crazy talk!
Coloring outside the lines as an adult is a whole other story but does it have to be? Maybe it’s time to explore that creative side because it’s there. I promise. Underneath criticisms you once heard about not being serious enough, not following the rules and of course, not sitting quietly, your creative side is waiting to be dug out.
Is it time for a digital rebellion?
By Michelle M Arsenault
Will there be a day when people start logging out, deleting accounts and just cutting back?
Do you often find yourself mindlessly scrolling through posts you don’t care about? Liking things you are only half paying attention to and reading ridiculous rants about trivial stuff? Perhaps their crispy chicken wasn’t crispy enough or something just as stupid.
Then one day you realize this is your life. You’re spending far too much time in front of a screen or smartphone, connecting with people in the most anonymous way possible. Congratulations! You’re officially wasting hours of your valuable time on something useless and irrelevant. You could be doing something more productive, like learning a new language or going for a walk.
The interesting thing is that many of us are old enough to remember a time when communication wasn’t so easy. You had to pick up a phone, when no one else was on it, and call someone. Then actually talk to them. If you were lucky it was a local call because long distance was too expensive. You were dying to talk to your pen pal or cousin in Europe, but it was so crazy expensive that it was impossible. All you could do was send a letter and not hear back for probably a month. Even paying that extra money on postage for international letters seemed a bit taxing.
Now, you can talk to your cousin in Europe or your friend down the road online, on camera, free (more or less) anytime. But we don’t. In fact, for all the ways to instantly communicate with people these days, we usually don’t bother at all and if we do, it’s a quick text, often full of poor punctuation and misspellings. It’s almost like the objective is to keep our communication as brief and impersonal as possible.
Unfortunately, this has seeped into our everyday life. I’m finding the longer social media is around, the less people are able to connect with one another. I shouldn’t say they can’t connect, it’s often sheer laziness combined with apathy. I recently had a birthday and received many birthday greetings from friends. It’s interesting how you can often sense the sincerity and affection from some, while with others it’s easy to see they’ve mindlessly typed the words.
It was after a few friends who I hadn’t heard from in a long time wished me a happy birthday that I sent them an inbox message attempting to get their advice on something. Some were great. Others were not. In fact, there was one friend who couldn’t have been less engaged. I think it was asking a lot to have full sentences in her reply, let alone a thoughtful and considerate answer to my question. It was too much effort.
The irony wasn’t lost on me. Publicly, this person had no problem wishing me a happy birthday. In private, however, after doing the robotic, mindless social media duties, it seemed way too taxing to have bothered with me. I’m glad we hadn’t actually met in person because I fear the effort this person would have to make to carry on an actual conversation.
Of course, in fairness, maybe this person had something else going at the time, perhaps was sick, who knows, right? However, what is troubling is that this isn’t just one person and one day. This is a lot of people and all the time. It makes you wonder where that puts us in the future.
Personally, I’ve been moving away from social media. I post and connect with people on those posts and occasionally scroll through (although a lot less). I’ve deleted some of my old email accounts and to be honest, I’m becoming less engaged with social media. It makes me wonder if, in the future, we will see a social media rebellion.
Will there be a day when people start logging out, deleting accounts and just cutting back?
One can only hope.
It’s frustrating being ‘From Away’ and living on PEI
By Michelle M Arsenault
“If Islanders aren’t accepting others ‘from away’ from within our own country, how do you think they treat those ‘from away’ from another country?”
One of the most frustrating things about living on PEI is the insane distrust for people ‘from away’. It’s accompanied by this ridiculous belief that people from other provinces (and heaven forbid, even other countries) come here to swoop up our jobs, forcing native born Islanders to move away for work.
First of all, I’m a native Islander who moved away as a teenager. I didn’t do it because of the lack of work but because I grew tired of living in a smothering bubble of outdated beliefs and ideas. I left because I didn’t appreciate being defined by how quickly I got married or how relevant his family was in the community. I left because feeling pressured to ‘settle down’ so young made me want to set myself on fire. I left because I was pretty sure the world had a lot of things going on and I wanted to learn about them and not feel pressured to live by rural PEI social norms.
I returned many years later (we don’t have to go into specific numbers here….) only to find that little had changed. Racism, homophobia and those old ideas about ‘people from away’ continued to hold tight, as if the world hadn’t changed since the year I moved away. It was pathetic.
However, I will say that upon returning I knew immediately that I didn’t want to stay, and it wasn’t because those people ‘from away’ had taken the jobs, but because the jobs that were here had limitations; limited in hours, limited by season, limited in pay rates and unfortunately, sometimes limited by who you ‘knew’. In fact, one place where I was interviewed had no interest in my many references but asked for one ‘from here’ because apparently, even though I hadn’t worked for this person, her word was stronger than that of former employers who relied on me throughout the years.
One of the really odd events came when an Island suppertime newscast was being…well, recast and the network felt an obligation to explain the new host’s ‘connection to the island’. Personally, I didn’t feel the new host should be required to jump through these hoops to do the job. She just had to be able to do the job.
Of course, this isn’t anything new. I’ve been hearing this complaint for years. When I first moved to Moncton as a teenager, I recall someone telling me how a friend/relative/someone they knew had moved to PEI because they thought it was captivating. Turns out, this captivation happened only when she was visiting as a tourist, because once she moved to the Island she received a less pleasant reception. Despite her lengthy resume and abilities, employers wouldn’t hire her and it appeared they were leaning more toward someone ‘from here’. She ended up moving away with some bitterness in her heart.
Immigrants who come to PEI often don’t stay. Can you guess why? If Islanders aren’t accepting others ‘from away’ from within our own country, how do you think they treat those ‘from away’ from another country?
Maybe it’s time we, all Islanders, made an effort to stop living in a bubble and pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist beyond our shores.
Shame the GOP by drafting legislation giving federal workers a temporary pay boost
By Jim Brown –
At the time of this writing the US government shutdown over a $5.7 billion wall no sensible person wants is 33 days long. And barring Trump’s declaration of a national state of emergency, it looks like it won’t end any time soon.
Of course there will be Islanders who read this who will ask: Why do we care? How does a shutdown in another country affecting 800,000 federal workers and millions of other employees in related businesses affect us?
But it does in so many ways. For one thing, our food security is at risk since we get most of our fruits and veggies from America and with large numbers of food inspectors furloughed or working without pay the risk of contamination is much higher. Also, the FBI, which does the bulk of counter-terrorism work, is grossly understaffed and underfunded and unable to pursue many investigations. What will happen to the Canadian economy if a terrorist, who could have been stopped, slips across our border and commits a horrific act of mass murder?
Yes, we have a lot to lose if the shutdown lasts for much longer.
But I have a modest proposal for painting GOP lawmakers and Trump into a tight space they can’t slither out of.
Why doesn’t Nancy Pelosi (Democrat Speaker of the House) draft legislation calling on furloughed and essential workers to receive three times their regular pay during the shutdown? This could help many facing cold-hearted bankers ready to snatch their homes because they’re behind in their mortgage payments.
It could also cause landlords to think twice about throwing them out of their rental units or car dealerships from seizing their vehicles.
Just imagine what a difference it will make to creditors knowing when these workers get their back pay it will be three times what they are normally entitled to.
At the very least the economy will get an immediate spending boost when government is re-opened.
Unfortunately, not everyone will come back to work when the shutdown ends. In some departments sharp-eyed managers will see they can achieve greater efficiencies by reducing the workforce. So the 300 per cent pay boost during the shutdown will provide workers who find themselves suddenly jobless with a financial cushion.
It’s obvious neither Trump nor his party cares that much about the plight of government workers living from paycheque to paycheque, with many forced to turn to food banks and GoFundMe campaigns to put food on the table and save their homes. Many others are left with the heart-wrenching choice between rent, food or medication for their children.
GOP lawmakers may not have much compassion for ordinary people down on their luck but they won’t enjoy the harsh, unrelenting public shaming they will receive if they don’t support legislation that would boost the pay of desperate workers during a shutdown they were responsible for.
With apologies to Donald Trump: “What do the Democrats have to lose?”