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Since his election as premier just barely a year ago, Denis King has performed well, especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, three and half months ago.
He has wisely followed the recommendations of Dr. Heather Morrison, the chief public health officer, which among other things included closing schools, many businesses, most government offices and encouraging people to stay home.
The one decision she made as a pubic health officer, that he, as premier and politician, should have moderated, was the closing of the province’s liquor stores. It soon became apparent the closure was a political mistake and accommodations were quickly made.
Within the past fortnight the premier and the government made another move regarding COVID-19 constraints that is also proving to be politically unpopular.
While the government has begun to relax some of the constraints on retail businesses, it came as a bit of a surprise to many Islanders that the government was going to allow out-of-province residents who own cottages to return for the summer.
The announcement came when Islanders were still restricted from visiting relatives in senior citizens residences, were limited as to who could visit relatives in hospitals and a host of other restrictions that, while well-meaning and medically sound, are nonetheless irritating.
Many Islanders don’t understand why the province is allowing people living in areas where COVID-19 is much more prevalent to come to the Island, which is virtually COVID free.
This week in the legislature both opposition parties wanted to know why the decision was made.
The premier said the government had asked public health officials to look at the matter.
“These seasonal residents are taxpayers just like everybody else," said the premier.
“They have a right to be here.”
Being a taxpayer does not make anyone the same everybody else. Paying taxes does not give anyone the same benefits that citizens have. Lots of Americans pay property taxes, but the they don’t get free medicare.
However, what the premier didn’t say in the legislature, but what The Guardian had earlier reported, was the fact that the province had received a letter from the tourism operators requesting a protocol to allow long-term visitors to come in order to assist the tourism industry.
Heavens knows, the tourism industry is going to need all the help it can get this season. Premier King should have said that allowing seasonal residents to return to the Island will benefit the economy. He could stress that everyone coming will have to self-isolate and prove they are COVID-free. And, they have to follow the Island’s rules and restrictions, not the rules of their hometowns.
It is somewhat surprising that the public, politicians and media focused so much on the issue of returning seasonal residents at a time when the military were revealing the incredible abuse and neglect that some elderly people were subjected to in senior citizens homes in Ontario and Quebec.
Military personnel that had been sent to nursing homes in both provinces because of staffing issues were shocked at what they found. Some of the elderly were bullied, other were improperly fed, and some were left in soiled beds and diapers for days.
What is perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that the recent military report is only the latest revelation of these conditions. According some people who pay attention to the plight of the elderly in Ontario, that province has known about these or similar conditions for years and has done nothing about it.
It is hard to believe the conditions described occurred in Ontario and Quebec, not some poor, third-world country. If these things can happen in Ontario, they can happen anywhere.
Has anyone, in the media or government, made any effort to determine if there is elder abuse, of any kind, on the Island. Not saying there is, but it would be reassuring to know for certain.
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown.