Ottawa looking to “divide and conquer” P.E.I., says Charlottetown mayor

By Maddie Keenlyside
March 14, 2014

It’s a sad day for the country and the province of P.E.I., says mayor Clifford Lee.
“I’m really disappointed that the country has gotten to where we are, where we have a government, certainly in Ottawa, looking to divide and conquer sectors of this community in our country.”
Charlottetown city council meetings can seem very tranquil on the surface, as councillors vote whether or not to allow the expansion of an apartment, or the relocation of a door.
But the recent changes made by the federal government to employment insurance on P.E.I. have made the calm proceedings tense, and the council’s resolution sparked controversy among its members.
Mayor Clifford Lee said there was a 5-5 tie in city council regarding whether or not to defer the resolution.
“I was quite surprised, honestly, that council had even entertained the idea of deferring the resolution.”
Lee said he broke the tie because it was a very timely issue that will impact the lives of many.
“Quite frankly city council needs to stand up and be counted.”
Councillor Mitch Tweel said he made the move to deferral because of concerns he had about the resolution. He said he wanted to come in with an all-inclusive resolution that would show urban and rural P.E.I. working side by side.
“I moved that, and it was 5-5, but the mayor broke the tie. He just wanted to go ahead will-nilly again, and the resolution didn’t pass.”
Fisheries minister Gail Shea brought the EI changes forward because it affected her riding in Egmont. But surprisingly, her name was not in the resolution, he said.
“The mayor and the chair of the administrative committee tried to put the whole onus and emphasis on Jason Kenney, which I found very peculiar and very bizarre.”
But Lee said this was obviously a red herring.
“That’s not relevant to the issue at all. The reality is there is a minister responsible for the employment insurance program, and he was mentioned because that’s where communication is going to go.”
Councillor Rob Lantz says the council’s recent resolution to oppose EI changes is symbolic, and he doesn’t expect it to have any actual impact on recent changes made to EI on the Island by the federal government.
He supports the general intent of the resolution, that the unemployed of Charlottetown are being treated unfairly. But the way the resolution read, it seemed like they were asking all of the recent EI changes be repealed, he said.
“There are a lot of people on P.E.I. that are quite happy about these changes, obviously, but I would like to see similar changes happen in the city of Charlottetown.”
Some of these EI changes actually took place under the previous (federal) Liberal government, he said.
“And in fact, what the Conservatives have just done is rolled back some of the changes that the Liberals made, but they only rolled them back in the rural areas and not Charlottetown.”
Lee said it was important to remember the city recently challenged the federal government’s decision with regards to changes to veteran’s affairs.
“Quite frankly, if the government’s not going to listen to veterans, they’re probably not going to listen to anybody.”