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Cottage measure sparks backlash among P.E.I. residents

In a May 22 briefing, Premier Dennis King announced the province is getting ready to welcome back some seasonal residents.
In a May 20 briefing, Premier Dennis King announced the province is getting ready to welcome back some seasonal residents. - Computer screenshot



Ryan Campbell, a Holland College student and parent, started a change.org petition asking the P.E.I. government to reverse its plans to allow entry to seasonal residents as of June 1. As of Thursday, the petition had garnered over 1,000 signatures.
Ryan Campbell, a Holland College student and parent, started a change.org petition asking the P.E.I. government to reverse its plans to allow entry to seasonal residents as of June 1. As of Thursday, the petition had garnered over 1,000 signatures.

As a student and a single parent, Ryan Campbell says his life has been pushed off-course since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

His courses in the construction electrical program at Holland College were moved online by mid-March, and he has been without daycare services for his child. Although he works part-time for Canada Post, he said the daycare service he had used is only reopening on May 22. So returning to work has had to wait.

"My son isn't even back in daycare yet. I'm just finally going to be able to potentially function in a fraction of what my normal capacity is,” Campbell told The Guardian by telephone. 

So when Campbell heard that the P.E.I. government would be allowing seasonal residents to enter the province by June 1, he felt deceived.

King announced on Wednesday that seasonal residents who own property on P.E.I. would be allowed to enter the province if they committed to self-quarantining for 14 days as of June 1.

Seasonal residents will need to apply to enter beforehand and present documentation detailing their quarantine plans before entry. 

Campbell says he is concerned about the public health implications of the move. He is also frustrated by what he views as the inconsistency of the decision.

"We've got elderly parents who are suffering from dementia who feel abandoned. We've got special ed students who can't go and receive the education and supports that they need to,” Campbell said.

“But we're willing to allow people in for leisure."

Campbell’s frustrations with the move are shared by many Islanders. Campbell started a petition on change.org calling on the P.E.I. government to reverse the decision. By 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, the petition had gathered over 1,000 signatures. 

A screenshot from an online petition demanding the P.E.I. government reverse its plans to allow entry to seasonal residents as of June 1.
A screenshot from an online petition demanding the P.E.I. government reverse its plans to allow entry to seasonal residents as of June 1.

The move may prove consequential for other plans to ease regional travel restrictions. In an interview with CTV News on Wednesday, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he was surprised with King’s announcement and said the decision might also imperil plans to ease travel restrictions between New Brunswick with P.E.I. 

But the move could prove a lifesaver for many operators of accommodation businesses on P.E.I. 

Steve Murphy, president of Cavendish Beach Inc.
Steve Murphy, president of Cavendish Beach Inc.

Cavendish Beach Inc. president Steve Murphy said the move is welcome news for tourism operators, many of whom worry about permanently closing their doors if travel restrictions are not eased this summer.

Murphy said tourism operators needed word soon about whether there would be a tourism market at all this year.

"Doing nothing is going to have a longer-lasting economic downturn,” Murphy said.

“Death is worse. But an economic crash of the province is bad, too."

Matthew Jelley, mayor of Cavendish, estimated there are around 700 Canadian seasonal residents in the Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico. He said Wednesday’s announcement was welcome news.

He said several cottage operators have offered to provide locations for 14-day self-quarantine for seasonal residents if needed.

He said these operators have been in touch with the Chief Public Health Office.

Jelley said one concern expressed by CPHO staff was monitoring the compliance of individuals in self-quarantine.

"One of the ideas was, well if we put 25 groups on a cottage development, would that reduce the surveillance cost from the public health department's point of view?" Jelley said. 

Tourism operators had also proposed that seasonal residents post a bond prior to travelling to P.E.I. 

This suggestion was not part of Wednesday’s announcement.

Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker says he is concerned about the public health implications of Wednesday’s announcement.

The Green leader says he has heard from many residents who are upset and angry with the decision.

“People who don't live here are able to visit and check on their cottages at a time when Islanders are still not able to visit and check on their loved ones who are in long-term care facilities," Bevan-Baker said.

"There's something fundamentally wrong and something fundamentally unfair about that."

Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald also said he believed the decision was rushed. He pointed to the fact that the province’s Renew P.E.I. plan for easing restrictions did not include details for allowing seasonal residents this soon.

“If you’re going to build public confidence you have to inform people,” MacDonald said.

"That wasn't done. It wasn't done at a level provincially and it wasn't done inter-provincial. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had no idea this was happening."


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