© Guardian photo
P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy, left, chats with members of the Charlottetown branch of the Royal Canadian Legion Friday in Charlottetown. At centre is Gerald Coyle, past-president of the legion, and Junior Dowling.
P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy is floating the idea of amalgamating the three Maritime provinces – an idea the P.E.I. government firmly rejects.
Duffy said he and a group of senators have been discussing the notion of Maritime union and decided to try to create a public discussion on the topic.
Maritime union could help ease many of the economic difficulties facing all three Maritime provinces, Duffy said.
“I think we need to have a very health, frank and open discussion about how we can make our economies more efficient,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.
“We’ve got an aging population – 14 per cent of the population is over 65 and in 20 years it’ll be double that. We’ll need more hospitals, more manors… why aren’t we using our buying power together?”
The idea is getting a big thumbs-down from the P.E.I. government.
Deputy Premier George Webster said in the legislature Tuesday he was ‘shocked and dismayed’ by Duffy’s statements.
“I feel it’s quite inappropriate for a person that’s representing us at the national level,” Webster said.
“He is supposed to represent Prince Edward Island and the views of Prince Edward Island in the federal government system in Ottawa… Without question, we do have a great relationship with our sister provinces, but we need our leadership here on Prince Edward Island.”
Duffy’s comments also elicited a strong reaction from his federal counterparts.
Malpeque MP Wayne Easter said he is ‘incensed’ Duffy is suggesting Maritime union.
“Here’s the senator who’s supposed to be representing P.E.I. now encouraging our demise,” Easter said.
He accused Duffy of using the idea as a diversion tactic on behalf of the Harper government to shift focus away from unpopular employment insurance reforms and federal public service cuts currently affecting the region.
“What we really need to be talking about is Maritime cooperation and cooperation of the prime minister of this country in building this country as a greater economic powerhouse from coast to coast, not downloading costs onto individuals and cutting services to Canadians,” Easter said.
Duffy says he knows the idea of Maritime union is a controversial one, but expressed surprise local politicians would reject it so immediately.
Other senators will be coming out publicly on this issue over the coming days in an effort to create a ‘multi-partisan’ dialogue on the issue and elicit opinion and public pressure, Duffy added
“Somebody’s got to blow the whistle and say ‘This can’t go on’, with our aging population and our shrinking tax base,” he said.
“Look at what we see around the world, we’re in chaotic times and there’s strength in numbers, so let’s go for it.”