© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Healther Moyse with Premier Robert Ghiz during rally in Summerside Feb. 28, 2014.
Premier Robert Ghiz has tabled legislation to help smooth the controversy he stirred last month when he awarded the Order of P.E.I. to two-time Olympic gold medalist Heather Moyse.
Ghiz tabled amendments to the Provincial Emblems and Honours Act – the law that dictates the process by which Islanders can be nominated and chosen for the Order of P.E.I.
The amendments will allow the Order of P.E.I. advisory council to submit a selected nominee to the premier’s office at any time during the year.
The lieutenant governor would then automatically and immediately approve this nomination.
Ghiz says this will give the advisory council more freedom to award the Order of P.E.I. for special, unscheduled circumstances.
“This legislation will allow the committee, in the future, if they so choose, if there’s a special occasion for something, to be able to not be so tied down to the exact legislation that was in place before.”
Ghiz faced criticism last month when he unilaterally named Prince Edward Island's Olympic gold medalist Heather Moyse to the Order of P.E.I.
The chair of the Order of P.E.I. Advisory Council said at the time proper procedures as laid out in law were not followed.
The current rules say nominations are open until April. The committee then chooses three recipients and the awards are given out during a ceremony in May.
Ghiz named Moyse a recipient well before nominations were even closed. Also, the premier is not normally involved in the nomination process, except to endorse the committee’s selections every year.
"It kind of puts politics into the Order of P.E.I., which we're trying to take the politics out of it," the Order of P.E.I. Advisory Council chair Charles Curley told The Guardian in March.
Ghiz made no apologies about his decision to announced Moyse a recipient, which he did at a big rally to celebrate her homecoming from the Sochi Olympics.
“We had Heather there, a hometown crowd, and I thought it would be a nice idea,” Ghiz said.
“I asked the committee and they thought it would be a great idea, but unfortunately the legislation wouldn’t allow them to do it.”
The amendments tabled this session will fix what Ghiz says is a problem wherein the Order of P.E.I. committee cannot react more immediately for special circumstances.
Ghiz also noted he did not actually give Moyse the award that night in Summerside. She will receive her Order of P.E.I. in May, along with the year’s other recipients.
As for the criticism he has faced over the issue, Ghiz shrugged it off, saying he believes it’s simply coming from people who like to attack him.
He said he only feels bad for the fact Moyse was drawn into what turned into a political controversy.
“I was being tarnished, which I’m fine with that’s my job, but I felt bad that she was involved in the issue,” Ghiz said.
“But I spoke to her by phone when this was going on, and she was a class act all the way, and as she said, I think, to the media, it’s the thought that counts and hopefully we’ll see her receive it later on this year.”
The amendments also say council can select a minimum of three recipients, which means they could nominate more than three people if they choose.
The bill must yet go through second and third readings before it will pass in the House.