Eastern Graphic Columns and Opinions

Government dependence can’t last forever

The Ghiz government fancies itself a competent manager of our money – at least that is what the Premier and Finance Minister keep telling us. They tell us how they’ve made tough decisions to make government more efficient.

But have they? Does the rhetoric stand up to scrutiny?

Not by a long shot.

Our dependence on government is as acute as ever. Since the Binns administration made it legally impossible to find out whom works for government and what their job is, we have guessed at the number of Islanders who draw a salary from the public purse. This is not a statistic any administration routinely floats in the public domain. Most educated guesses put the number at roughly 2,000 federal employees and 12,000-14,000 provincial employees, which equates into a pretty sizable chunk of the total PEI workforce of 75,000.

In the bizarro world of the Harperites there is no room for reason or rational thought

“The Harper government’s continued focus on the threat of voter fraud in federal elections is approaching absurdity. Everyone with any expertise who has examined the question in detail has arrived at the same conclusion: There is no fraud.” ... Globe and Mail editorial.

The editorial board of The Globe and Mail has apparently arrived at the same conclusion. The Fair Election Act is a fraud, based on a lie - that the integrity of our parliamentary democracy is in mortal danger.

It is. But only because of the attempt of the Harperites to foist an anti-democratic power grab on the people of Canada.

The justifications cited by the Harperites for imposing this bizarre collection of untruths on Canadians simply do not exist.

They are figments of the Harperite imagination.

Fishermen’s way of life on the line

It isn’t always easy to pick up the phone and make the call. As reporters, sometimes we already know where the story’s headed or who might be on the receiving end of some bad news. That being said, in this week’s edition of The Graphic, we worked hard to bring you a compilation of fisheries stories in time for the upcoming lobster season.

I want to let you know what it’s like talking to dozens of Island fishermen as they prepare to set their lobster traps for the first time since last year’s prices threatened their livelihoods. Though some declined comment, most were willing to speak with us. Some spoke of hope, hope for their families, their futures, their traditions and hope their industry might bounce back this year.

In speaking with these fishermen, a common theme was evident and although hopeful, each conversation about the state of the fisheries on PEI resonated with sadness, frustration, and in some cases, anger.

The importance of fishing on PEI

Fisheries are an incredibly important aspect of our Maritime culture.

They not only provide jobs to fishermen and those who make their living on the water, but they provide a number of other opportunities as well.

Many of our tourist activities revolve around the fisheries. There are numerous tour providers that earn money by giving boat tours that inform people about the fishing culture PEI is known for.

Island restaurants often cater to a specific crowd of people who will come very far lengths to have seafood on PEI.

Not to mention our lobster is a very well known aspect of our Island. I’m sure everyone remembers Lester the Lobster from PEI.

So much time gets devoted to issues like employment insurance and quotas that we sometimes forget all that the fisheries do for our Island. So many of our communities are built close to the water because of this very industry. It has literally shaped our Island.

Islanders aren’t defined by halls of government

On the heels of a $1.8 million repair bill comes the ominous message that Province House is still in great disrepair and the bill to bring it to safe occupancy status could be in the ten of millions.

Yes, it is a part of history and our most significant link to the formation of Canada, but when will enough be enough?

It brings to mind the experience of nursing along an older vehicle - throwing good money after bad thinking we’ll just replace this part and the rig will last us another few years.

Usually there comes a point when we realize a payment on a newer, more reliable vehicle would make more sense economically.

Is it time for Parks Canada and the Provincial Government to look in that direction?

Of course the rich history has to be taken into consideration, but this could be an opportunity to let some of the rest of the history of Prince Edward Island be introduced to the public.

It’s been a tough winter for our feathered friends

The following was in an email I received this week from Bonnie Bertelsen: “This winter has not only been a tough one for us older folks, it seems to be equally bad for our feathered friends. I can’t believe how many birds have flocked to the feeders and how much bird food I have purchased this winter. In addition to the usual compliment of jays, doves and starlings, I have quite a number of juncos, chickadees and lots of snow buntings. I’ve even had a skunk and a fox eating seeds at the base of the feeder. Last week I caught a little chipmunk, who lives under my deck, sitting in the bird feeder, feasting on sunflower seeds. He’s been there regularly over the past few days so I am optimistic spring may not be too far away.”

Thank you for the cheerful note, Bonnie. Yes, we are all hoping spring-like weather is just around the corner. This afternoon it’s 5 degrees Celsius and I am enjoying it.

There’s no vaccine for ndd - yet

There is no app for common sense, but there should be.

A recent study done in the United States focuses on children and the worrisome amount of time they spend indoors.

School aged children, according to the study are spending 90 per cent of their time in front of one type of screen or another.

That’s not surprising, but what’s really mind blowing is researchers have gone so far as to label the circumstance. It’s called Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD).

I kid you not.

Many dossiers have been written and discussions held by health practitioners across North America on it. Even Canadian born environmental activist David Suzuki has published theories and offered solutions to NDD.

Perhaps it’s too simple, but in my mind the remedy is obvious and costs virtually nothing.

Campbell and Ghiz share style not substance

Alex Campbell was just 33 and less than a year into his new role as Premier of Prince Edward Island when he delivered a speech to the Maritime Provinces Board of Trade in 1967 that resonates to this day.

“The whole process of collaboration between the provinces could be strengthened immeasurably by simply making it the continuing and precise responsibility of some part of the structure of government in each province. Otherwise, it will remain a part-time affair, and will be only as effective as the inclinations of the moment or as a response to a particular short-term problem.”

The charismatic Campbell, who went on to become PEI’s longest serving premier, envisioned cooperation across all areas of government. Why should each province build and maintain an expensive bureaucracy, he argued, when it could be shared among three?

Deep water wells could be the prelude to environmental and economic disaster

“The shadows sway and seem to say, tonight we pray for water,
Cool water,
And way up there he’ll hear our prayer and show us where there’s water
Cool, clear water.”

That old song by Sons of the Pioneers, the country and western group founded by Bob Nolan, from New Brunswick, evokes the idea rather well that water is the basic element of life on planet Earth.
We cannot survive without it.
Some parts of the world are in deep trouble because their supply of fresh water is dwindling and on the verge of disappearance.
All of which gives the current controversy over deep well digging on the blessed isle a certain kind of emphasis that, and the principle of unintended consequences.
In mid-January, scientists downloaded new data from a pair of NASA satellites, and guess what they discovered?

Well, goodbye Eastern Graphic

The past four weeks has been a very eye-opening experience for me here in Montague as a reporter for The Eastern Graphic.

There is only so much you can learn in school (Holland College Journalism course) and so much more that comes from reality.

I admired the energy of my co-workers and the amount of work that actually goes into putting out a newspaper every week.

Thanks to everyone I interviewed while I was here. It’s been so much fun listening to your stories.

The word ‘deadline’ now has a chilling panic feeling associated with it, so I think maybe I’ll freelance from home after I graduate.

There is comfort in setting my own hours.

I’m headed back to Charlottetown to finish up my course and search out some stories at the upcoming ECMAs.

Hopefully, I’ll take the winter weather with me and you’ll all get some spring, really soon.

Mary Angela White


Death of the middle class

The middle class is dying and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Middle class wages are stagnating. Youth are finding it increasingly difficult to find jobs after completing school.

Technology has placed more responsibilities on workers while
eliminating jobs.

A growing apathy and discontent to our current political, economical, and international relations is destroying the so-called Canadian Dream.

The top echelons of the world obtain the vast majority of the wealth. According to Statistics Canada, in 2011 the top one per cent of earners took home 10.6 per cent of the country’s income.

In the United States the percentage was almost double that.

As the cost of living continues to rise and many families and individuals, especially young ones, are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet the middle class continues to be stretched into oblivion.

Rules aren’t necessarily made to be broken

In 2007 I had the pleasure of meeting an ordinary Islander who has done some extraordinary things despite tragedy that touched his life.

I met this shy, unassuming man one day when I was working in a bakery and just starting to dabble in writing for a community newspaper.

Being a waitress was a great way to find out what was going on in the community and this particular day Mr MacLean and his wife came in for a coffee just after finding out he was going to receive the Order of PEI.

Once I learned that I traded my order pad for a note pad and we had a wonderful chat about his accomplishments that ended with an invitation to visit what he considered his greatest accomplishment The International Children’s Memorial Place.

Social promotions devalue education

There’s a growing menace rearing its head in schools throughout the country and in a province like PEI where education is already strained, the effects may have a lasting impact on many of our students.

Known as social promotion, it is the practice of promoting a student to the next grade at the end of the current school year, regardless of whether or not they’ve learned the necessary material. This is done to keep them with their peers by age.

In theory, the practice is implemented to keep children from developing issues with self-esteem, to advance them despite poor grades or lacking understanding of course material.

But, in time, this creates two problems.

Snow Buntings visit reader’s feeder

The following is from a letter from Carolyn Strickland of Murray River area: “I looked out my kitchen window Sunday, February 16 at 4pm and saw two snow buntings. I guess they had broken away from the flock. I had put out mixed bird seed, niger seed, cracked corn and millet. They flew right in and joined the juncos.

I had never seen one up close – only in a flock at a distance. They stayed around for three days and then took off. I guess they were just fuelling up. The male flicker is still around and I saw my second robin on February 14. Still no finches. I have been talking to my neighbours in the area and they don’t have any finches either.”

People are our most important resource

A cold blanket of snow sends icy chills through the veins of folks living in eastern PEI, but on an equal plane warmth continues to permeate the hearts of many.

It’s been a challenging winter, both financially and spiritually.

However, the fuel that keeps rural Islanders going often comes in the form of selfless giving.

Take fundraisers for example. There’s been a multitude these past months and each one of its own distinction has been successful.

To be more specific, over the past couple of weeks friends of Wayne Spin have been rallying to ease the burden associated with some serious medical challenges that have sent him to a Halifax hospital.

Now, Wayne is disputably an in-your-face kind of guy. He’s a town councillor here in Montague, but first and foremost he’s a family man who dotes on his wife Cindy and daughter Lily.

Lobster fishermen must cooperate to succeed

Is 2014 the year PEI’s lobster industry finally rebounds?

Well, that depends who you listen to. On one hand there are a growing number of fishermen who realize they must take a leadership role starting with a mandatory one cent per pound marketing levy. On the other hand the old boys’ club - championed by the likes of Fishermen’s Association President Mike McGeoghegan and Liberal MLA Charlie McGeoghegan - who see the price of a lobster dinner and think all the ills of the industry can be solved if fishermen just get a bigger cut.

The white tablecloth argument bears no correlation to the price fishermen are paid. Restaurateurs charge what their customers will pay. It is a recipe that has little to do with fishermen.

There’s a strong smell of A set up

“I can take it. I have been shot at by real bullets.”
Lieutenant General
Andrew Leslie (Ret’d)

The somewhat feisty rejoinder by former Lieutenant General Andrew Leslie to comments by Conservative Party of Canada nit-pickers like his former civilian boss, Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson is apt under the circumstances, even though it does not enlighten us as to how in the name of all that’s holy, it cost Canadian taxpayers $72,000 to move his household effects six blocks down the street in Ottawa.

It is useful to bear in mind that the money was not paid to the General. It went directly from the Department of National Defence to movers and real estate agents. Without unduly belabouring the point, the money was paid by Minister Nicholson’s own department under a program the Harper government has been administering for the past 10 years.

Will we meet the expectations?

We’re not out of the woods yet, but in a few short weeks, spring will be upon us. Islanders will wake from their slumber and begin their preparations.

The tourists are coming.

Thousands upon thousands of people from all over the world are purchasing cruise tickets, booking flights and putting the finishing touches on their campers. They think of PEI and long for the calm, sunny beaches, the world class food, the entertainment and the hospitality.

Last year, Travel and Leisure released its annual ‘World’s Best’ poll and ranked Prince Edward Island as Top Island in the Continental US and Canada. I’ve worked in PEI’s tourism industry most of my life and I can say with certainty, a designation like that will have an impact. Vacationers the world over will flock to these shores.

A step in the right direction

Just taking a look around at family and friends, I’m sure everyone in PEI can cite multiple names of people who have been affected by cancer in one form or another.

The numbers are appalling really.

Huge events such as Relay for Life, being launched this week in Kings County, to the smallest of gestures like Brett McFadyen paying it forward by letting young cancer patient, Autumn Newell, cut his hair, all raise awareness and much needed funds for research.

Also, you only have to read Dolores Johnston’s story in this week’s Graphic to see the results of research. (See Relay for Life on page 7)

Though much has already been done in the way of research, it is refreshing to see government take a solid step towards putting it to good use in the form of a newly-established committee.

Arrogance and disrespect

Should Heather Moyse have been given the Order of Prince Edward Island by Premier Robert Ghiz so frivolously?


Premier Ghiz ignored protocol when he decided to award her the honour at a ceremony in Summerside Friday night.

Ms Moyse is obviously deserving of accolades as an Olympic gold medallist, but for Mr Ghiz to ignore the traditional nomination process is a slap in the face of the award itself.

It shows a desire to use political photo opportunities to associate oneself with a clearly positive event. The award, if given to Ms Moyse, should have been given in the proper manner so as to maintain the integrity of the award’s merits.

If Premier Ghiz plans to change the criteria for bestowing the Order because of extraordinary acts, it belittles all other recipients of the award. It is a shame that the premier will sully the award just for a glorified photo opportunity.

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