July 2012

July 31, 2012

Spending Money to Enable Drunks -- The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Reporting on the meeting of the Standing Committee on Fisheries, Transportation and Rural Development on July 26, your reporter failed to mention several rather revealing exchanges.

First, when asked to identify the causes of accidents along the proposed Plan B stretch of the TCH, the province’s chief engineer, Stephen Yeo, stated several times that he is not concerned about causes because, as he put it, “the same cause can happen anywhere.” Building upon this argument, MLA Pat Murphy suggested that while impaired drivers might be able to speed along much of the TCH with little difficulty, it is the sharper turns on the Churchill section that cause them to get into accidents.

For Yeo and Murphy, the fact that accidents are caused by drunks doesn’t seem to matter; the way to make a road safer is to make it straight enough for drunks to negotiate.

In response to this surreal perspective, MLA Steven Myers proposed that the Department of Transportation provide the committee with the RCMP data that identifies the causes of all the accidents along the TCH over the last 10 years. Although Myers’ motion passed unanimously, later that day the government announced that it would take between two and three months to gather this data.

This is disturbing, for it means either: this information has not yet been compiled because the government never bothered to examine the extent to which accidents were caused by drunk driving when developing either Plan A or Plan B; or the government has this information and is deliberately trying to delay releasing it until the contracts are signed and the trees are being cut down.

The RCMP has stated repeatedly that drunk driving is the primary cause of accidents in P.E.I. This point has consistently been ignored by the government in its plans for rebuilding the TCH. Instead, by making the road faster, the government seems prepared to spend at least $20 million to enable drunks and that’s flagrantly immoral.

If Minister Vessey is offended by this suggestion — and he should be — I challenge him to provide this data immediately. If he continues to obfuscate, then we can only conclude that Plan B has nothing to do with public safety.

Richard Raiswell, Charlottetown

July 30, 2012

Government one of worst -- The Guardian Letter to the Editor

I believe the reasons this present provincial government seems to be the worst in our Island history is because they seem to ignore the basic rights of the citizens of P.E.I. On one hand you have Vessey pushing Plan B highway and Sheridan pushing his HST.

I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with a government when it ignores the will of the people. When a government goes ahead with its own plans over the will of the people it is not a democracy.

One note I’d like to mention is that my father served in the Second World War from 1939-1945 in the British and Canadian Merchant ships that were sunk during the war.

It’s now been over 60 years since the Second World War and I don’t think any of these brave veterans went to war to have a provincial government like this present one in power. They went to war to fight for democracy, the will of the people and respect for its citizens. When a government goes against the will of the people this is “not” democracy.

I think arrogant and bad governments would soon pay attention to their citizens if they suddenly stopped paying their property taxes for a year in protest. Maybe this is what it would take for them to stop ignoring the will of the people and start to respect them again.

I believe now is the time to stand up for democracy. It seems politicians who act like dictators are coming back into our governments. This seems to be especially true when we have majority governments, provincial, and federal in power and it seems it’s unfortunate for all of us.

Lloyd Pickering, Kensington RR#2

July 26, 2012

A new Tale of Robin Hood -- The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Recently in The Guardian newspaper our finance minister likened himself to Robin Hood. A real stretch of the bow string me thinks.

However, Minister Wes Sheridan’s recent comments have inspired another great Island story on a par with Anne of Green Gables. It goes like this:

Once upon a time there was this merry scary band of outlaws; they lived deep within the city. Their leader was the bad sheriff Ghiz of Nott(listen)ingham. Robber Hood Sheridan was his right-hand man. He was busy planning a new way to rob the poor and give to the rich.

Meanwhile, the resident camp faith giver, Friar Tuck McKinley, was attending another last supper. The merry scary band knew the locals were restless and may at any minute take to the streets waving dangerous banners and flags.

However, the merry scary band were not worried, Little John Vessey had a Plan B, he would build a fast escape route through Bonshaw to Borden where they could safely hide out in the hills until things cooled down.

The merry scary band were a merry lot, they had lots of money and credit cards, and if the locals cast them out, they had rich government pensions to see them through. The merry scary band had nothing to worry about; they would just live happily ever after.

Frederick (Ben) Rodgers, Ebenezer

July 24, 2012

Electorate forced to use unusual venues to air concerns about government policy-- Guest Opinion in The Guardian

By Louise Cockram

Recently an Edmonton high school student named Bashir Mohamed was ousted from a speech at a barbecue hosted by Immigration and Citizenship minister, Jason Kenney. Mohamed had interrupted the minister’s address to voice his opinion about some proposed cuts to refugee health care in Canada. According to Mohamed, he was not given the opportunity to address the minister regarding his concerns. Despite Kenney’s assertion that he has listened to Mohamed’s opinions on the matter beforehand, Mohamed insisted that the minister had snubbed him and merely shook his hand. The Edmonton teen also claimed there was no question and answer session after his speech.

While there have been conflicting accounts between Kenney and Mohamed as to whether or not they had a conversation to air Mohamed’s concerns beforehand, one thing is clear: Mohamed felt unsatisfied, frustrated even, at the lack of dialogue between himself and someone who plays a major role in refugee policy in Canada, a subject which Mohamed obviously felt strongly about. Even though the event was a Conservative Party of Canada function, it was open to anyone and Kenney, as a minister and MP, ought to discuss views on government policy in any context. Instead it seemed to have been a congratulatory partisan event, the audience (of Conservative party members, I assume) even clapped when Mohamed was forcibly removed.

No matter how one might view the federal government policy on refugee health care, what this event illustrated is the lack of a place for political dialogue between elected representatives and their constituents. Mohamed obviously felt that the only way to make Kenney aware of his views was to interrupt him in the middle of the minister’s speech. The electorate should not need to make such ostentatious displays to make their issues known.

This problem is not just isolated to Mohamed’s outburst at the barbecue in Edmonton, however, there are examples of it closer to home on Prince Edward Island as well.

The recent citizen’s plebiscite on the plan B highway project (which showed that 91 per cent of those who voted opposed the plan) is indicative of the frustration most voters feel when their views are not given credence by their elected representatives. While there have been “information sessions” on plan B, there has not been any constructive dialogue between those who oppose the project and the government, who has decided to build the highway regardless of what voters on P.E.I. think. A group of voters felt the need to express their view on the matter in the form of a plebiscite, because the government will not entertain any voices contrary to government policy.

It seems as though the only spaces for political dialogue between voters and those who represent them is at strawberry socials and barbecues (fun, but not conducive to serious political discussion) or “information sessions” planned by elected officials who have made up their mind on a certain policy anyway. Both of these types of events are one-sided, unlike a “facilitated discussion” or a “town hall” it is those who are creating legislation or attempting to propagate a certain view whose views are the focus — not the electorate. Voters are of course free to write to or phone their MPs but this type of communication is not the same as having a face-to-face dialogue.

Perhaps Canadians ought to look across the Atlantic, to the United Kingdom, where MPs in the House of Commons as well as Members of Scottish and Welsh parliaments hold special sessions where constituents can come and discuss issues of importance to them. These sessions are known as surgeries (a confusing term, I know) and are well publicized and frequent. Everyone who shows up is given a set amount of time to sit down with their MP and discuss views of importance to them. Surgeries would make our elected representatives more accountable and would make voters feel that they had been listened to and that their views were being taken seriously by elected representatives. Right now, most constituents seem only to be seen by our elected officials as ballots, to be reactivated at every election.

It is ironic, in both instances mentioned in this piece (the ousting of Mohamed and the lack of dialogue between the current P.E.I. government and those opposed to plan B) that elected officials are telling the electorate what is best for them and not the other way around. There is something wrong here. In a proper democracy, it would work the other way.

Louise Cockram graduated this May from UPEI with a BA in political science and history. She will pursue graduate studies at Dalhousie University in September.

July 20, 2012

Citizens must take action against growing democratic deficit -- Guest Commentary in The Guardian

By Chris McGarry

Imagine, just for a moment, that you are one of the owners of a very large corporation. One day, you vote to hire a chief executive officer and several upper-management personnel in addition to thousands of lower-level managers and workers. You need these staff to run your company efficiently.

Now envision these 'hired helpers' taking over your company, not doing their jobs efficiently and outright refusing to listen to you - the employer. And worst of all, there's very little you can do about it. Well, my fellow citizens, this is what governments and their burgeoning bureaucracies have been doing to their employers (the taxpayer) for decades.

This column is not an anarchistic attack on our ancient democratic institutions. It is, however, an articulated commentary about how grassroots democracy is eroding and how democratically-elected governments commonly act like dictatorships.

The fact that P.E.I is over $2 billion in debt and may very well go bankrupt in the near future doesn't seem to be deterring the current regime, led by Robert Ghiz, from spending a whopping $16 million that doesn't exist to fix a section of the Trans-Canada Highway - a project 91 percent of respondents in a recent poll are firmly against. If this wasn't bad enough, Ghiz, the 'CEO' of P.E.I, shall we say, is on record as smugly stating that regardless of the results of the poll, the government, the 'upper management', is saying to hell with what his 'employers', the people of P.E.I., want and has plans to go ahead with the project anyway.

It has been said time and again that governments are merely a reflection of the people who elect them. I may ruffle a few feathers by this statement, but over the past four or five decades, as our standard of living has vastly improved, many people have simply become apathetic about politics. To quote Edward R. Murrow: "Nations of sheep will beget governments of wolves."

It's high time for the people to begin realizing that they are the government and politicians are merely our servants. In order to minimize abuse, perhaps we need to limit our elected representatives to one term in office. If history shows us anything, second-term governments become arrogant and are often borderline dictatorial by their third term in power.

If this proposed idea comes across as being undemocratic in itself, we, the people, could conceivably devise a system whereby a politician would be allowed to serve for his/her career but would receive a pension only after 25 years of service. As well, public sector unions need to be reined in so that public servants, such as police officers and social workers, do not abuse their authority and are fully accountable to their employers (the people).

Lastly, I urge all citizens to take some time to study democratic systems such as recall, referendum and initiative. By becoming more proactive and less complacent, we will have the power to make positive change and show our elected officials who truly is boss.

Chris McGarry is a freelance journalist and published author who lives in Belfast, P.E.I.

July 17, 2012

Strongly defending the environment -- The Guardian Letter tot the Editor

Perhaps with all the hustle and bustle of 'Plan A' and 'Plan B' the government has lost sight of 'Plan C' - also known as saving the environment. We are in the middle stages of running out of drinking water. Will the government in power, this one or the next one, or the one after that, finally realize that we can plow all the hills we like (or don't like) but when we turn on the tap we expect to receive pure cool drinking water?

Enough of this "matching federal infrastructure money" - matching means spending our own dollars to match our own other (federal) dollars. So we lose some federal money, but we invest in our resources. We can't drink dirt. Well, maybe we will.

P.E.I. is becoming an environmental joke - informers watching to see who is wasting water (answer: many) and who is lighting fires. At what point do we notice that we have no water left to fight the fires? Are we to become like 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'? "Water, water, everywhere, nor a drop to drink"? Can governments get priorities straight? That's right, priorities, not ro

If any government can leave a legacy of strongly defending the environment it will be remembered as the finest government that has been around for many generations. We are waiting.

Gary Walker, Charlottetown

Common sense plan merits discussion -- The Guardian Letter tot the Editor

Re Plan B, why isn't Plan C being discussed - the Plan of Common Sense? We have kilometres of paved road on P.E.I. with little or no shoulder that is suitable for bicycles, walkers or even cars if a driver needed to pull off the road.

Sixteen-plus-million-dollars would go a long way to paving shoulders. Let's start with the roads and highways that intersect the Confederation Trail to create safe rides and walks to and from the trail.

This would be appreciated by Islanders who use their bikes for commuting and recreation. It would also be a plus to bike touring visitors and to bike tour companies. Straightening a road helps drunk drivers, speeders, and perhaps some truckers (we have heard from some that have no problem with the Churchill road as it is).

Which groups do we want to encourage?

Ruth Richman, De Gros Marsh

July 14, 2012

When will government listen? -- The Guardian Letter tot the Editor

The proposal by the Ghiz government for Plan B to the federal government was mostly justified by having tourism flourish in P.E.I. in order to secure our economic future. Government built mounds in Borden to welcome visitors coming off the Confederation Bridge. It spent millions of our tax dollars on these mounds of dirt.

We, as a tourism establishment, have many guests ask us if there is a law in P.E.I. that mandates homeowners to keep their properties well-manicured and spotless. Our standard answer is that there is no such law, only that Islanders are proud of our beautiful Island and take pride in doing their part in keeping P.E.I. beautiful. Many of our guests are appalled by the welcoming scene in Borden. As Islanders, we are embarrassed.

The unmanicured hills in Borden only substantiate the facts that the Ghiz government has not only lost respect for their elected government positions and lost respect for the Islanders who put them in office, but they have also lost respect for our beautiful Island.

Plan B will destroy even more parts of this beautiful province. The Ghiz government built hills in Borden that we did not want and now they are tearing down the hills of Bonshaw that we do want - all at our expense.

When is this government going to listen to the wishes of the people who put them in power?

Dave Moore, Bonshaw

July 13, 2012

Some suggestions for the minister -- The Guardian Letter tot the Editor

On the topic of the New Haven-Bonshaw Highway, there has been a lot of discussion about Plan B. I do not think enough thought has gone into improving the existing road. A good portion of the present route has two lanes in each direction. If the whole distance had these two lanes in each direction, I think safety would be greatly improved and would have to cost a lot less than Plan B.

In the interest of public disclosure, I would ask the minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal to reply in The Guardian on this. Let's call it Plan C. I will suggest a couple of points to the minister.

1. Use what you already have, but improve on it;

2. To borrow a few words from Stompin' Tom, in these times of economic downturn, we should not be "spending money we don't got."

Ivan Walsh, Sherwood

July 11, 2012

The costs of the Plan B highway -- The Guardian Letter tot the Editor

Re 'Province buys former amusement park' in The Guardian, Thursday, July 4th:

This article brings forward one of the many important issues clouding the 'Plan B' highway proposal. It would be informative to readers for The Guardian to investigate the details of how much is being paid to whom for this property and some of the other 33 purchases involved in 'Plan B'. That could be both individual property costs and per acre prices. Keep in mind that this cost is not included in the $8-million limit the federal government would match.

It is also worth mentioning that the intersection work at the Riverdale Road and the Green Road, and other safety improvements, can be done on the existing Trans-Canada without the much higher cost and destruction of building a new stretch of highway.

Last Thursday's article stated that Plan B has "encountered some opposition recently", but it is well-documented that opposition is widespread and has been building steadily since shortly after Plan B was announced Dec. 20, 2011.

The Ghiz government should realize by now that its stubborn refusal to cancel this over-blown project is causing serious damage to their political future.

There have been many better alternatives suggested (see the website www.sites.google.com/site/stopplanbtchbonshawpei/home); Premier Ghiz could reduce the damage by choosing one now, or face the consequences of trying to bully through an extremely unpopular proposal.

Tony Reddin, Bonshaw

How those tax dollars are spent-- The Guardian Letter tot the Editor

The 'mandate to govern' — this is what the majority of the people on P.E.I. gave the Ghiz government in the last election.

What have we got? One blunder after another with the taxpayers' money to satisfy government's own interests and its devoted friends.

With many ordinary people striving to make a living, they can't keep up with the taxes. There is nothing wrong with paying taxes. It is how those taxes are spent and whether they go to an honest project or a wasteful one.

Mr. Ghiz doesn't appear to understand what the words 'common sense' stand for.

He boasts about our democratic society. He sure doesn't practise what that word stands for.

The people on this so-called gentle Island are pushed and treated like a herd of animals when we have a leader who has no respect, and won't listen to the people who elected him. Mr. Ghiz step aside, this Island is too precious to be ruined by you.

Brendon Flood, South Melville

July 7, 2012

Government can drop Plan B -- The Guardian Letter tot the Editor

Hats off to Islanders who voted in the citizens-initiated plebiscite on Highway Plan B. Your vote was recorded, and the result of 91 per cent who oppose this plan should be a clear sign to government of what it must do now.

Although we thought this plebiscite would be an opportunity to use the power of the Internet, it would not have been fair to those without Internet access. We thank the Co-op Food stores, true supporters of Island communities, for welcoming the ballot posters on their community notice boards. Making this vote accessible to all islanders was a key commitment.

However, we were sorry about not having enough paper ballots at all times, and about the teething problems with the website. It was all a learning curve. But the plebiscite was done in good faith, knowing Islanders are smart and honest, and wanted their chance to be heard.

Plan B is an overreaction. It will spend money we don't have on something we don't need. In just a few more years, when the province may be skirting bankruptcy and gouging pensions to pay the interest on the debt, the current government will hope that we have forgotten about the moniker Plan B, the hemlocks, and those who really gained. They shouldn't count on that, just as they shouldn't count those federal dollars as 'free money'. Is it really possible that there is no one in government who understands the most basic facts of finance, and will truthfully explain what this plan would really cost?

It's been six months since Plan B was announced. This letter marks the 100th commentary or letter to the editor published in Island papers regarding this issue. The year has seen one of the largest rallies, the largest petition tabled in the legislature, and now a citizen-initiated plebiscite where over 4,000 Islanders voted 'no' to Plan B.

Government can choose to drop Plan B. It can improve the existing road. It can strive to be as responsible and honest as the overwhelming majority of people who voted in the plebiscite.

Chris Ortenburger, Bonshaw

July 4, 2012

To “B” or not to “B” - it’s still a question -- The Eastern Graphic Letter tot the Editor

Plan B is a road, not something abstract and prone to invisibility like the PNP, bootleg tourism contracts, or even the flawed process that shackles most Islanders to the HST. The road will be a constant physical reminder that democracy and truth can be paved over with deceit. 
Like many Islanders, I thought the “old” Liberal government that tried to kill Liberalism by breaking contracts and slashing wages 7.5 per cent had mended its ways. I believed Mr Ghiz when he apologized for that flawed process. So, based on a trust that procedural fairness would be reinstated, I voted for a “Liberal” government. Now, this moving forward with Plan B just proves my own naiveté. 
Is there any evidence that this government serves the majority of Islanders - that Islanders are truly included in the decision making process? I hope some wit will christen this section of the Trans Canada Highway with a name that reflects how it came to be. Then, each time we are forced to drive over the road, it will help Islanders remember what true representation doesn’t look like. 

Walter Wilkins, Stratford