Robert Ghiz and his fellow premiers gathered in Charlottetown this week for their annual summer beanfest.
These meetings began a few decades ago are based on the simple premise that it is good for people who have to deal with one another on matters of state then they should get to know each other better; as real people, over a couple of drinks, a barbecue and perhaps a round or two of golf. It started out with just the ten leaders, and their families, gathering for a casual summer get together. All very informal.
Well those days are long gone. The simple premiers’ conflab is now, (a drum roll, please) The Council of Confederation. Instead of just the ten provincial leaders, there were 160 delegates in attendance. And, with a pack of the always ‘politically-correct' press ever present (think Evan Solomon), the premiers couldn't be seen enjoying themselves at the taxpayers expense. So they auctioned themselves off to the corporations and unions, who it seems, were willing to pony up some $500,000 to be able to rub elbows with the provincial nabobs.
Premier Ghiz doesn’t think there is any conflict of interest in having their suppers and entertainment paid for. In his opinion “it’s about supporting democracy.”
Unions and corporations donating money to help political parties and candidates to run election campaigns might be seen as supporting the democratic process. But, this summer gathering has nothing to do with democracy, possibly something to do with governance. One shouldn’t confuse the two.
Nonetheless, the meetings began amid a chorus of gratuitous advice, much of it having to do with the evils and shortcomings of the present federal government, and the devil incarnate who leads it.
One voice in that chorus, singing slightly off tune, given the presumably collegial nature of the gathering, was our own provincial journal, which covers the Island like the dew, don’tcha know. A week ago, The Guardian shed a few of its journalistic dew drops on southeastern New Brunswick, particularly noting that the highway running just east of the rotary at Port Elgin wasn’t up to scratch. The three to five kilometres highlighted in the article were seen to be bumpy, with potholes and many, many patches.
On Monday, in an editorial The Guardian decided that the Council of the Federation “offers Premier Robert Ghiz a perfect chance to discuss the matter with N.B. Premier David Alward.”
One can only hope that Mr. Ghiz ignored this advice, but, if he chose to raise the matter then one should pray that Premier Alward came to the Island by air, and didn’t drive on any of our roads.
If he drove, then he might have observed that a stretch of the Trans Canada just east of Tryon is just as bumpy and no less patched than the road near Port Elgin.
Should Mr. Alward have driven east of Charlottetown then he would have noted that the Trans Canada near Mont Mellick is somewhat less than smooth, again there are patches on the patches.
If Premier Alward drove on any of our secondary roads, say the Seven Mile Road that runs from Cardigan to Bridgetown, he would have found a stretch of that road that makes the Port Elgin highway seem positively pristine.
In its story a week ago The Guardian quoted Scott Annear, chair of the P.E.I. Trucking Sector Council as saying the state of NB Highway 16 has meant P.E.I. drivers and trucking companies have incurred regular costs for repairs.
Premier Alward may have legitimately asked if Mr. Annear was sure it was only the New Brunswick road that caused the problem. And the premier might have said that while Highway 16 may be important to P.E.I., it actually serves very few New Brunswick citizens. He might have added that even though it is a section of the Trans Canada Highway, Highway 16 is just one of the many secondary roads in the province that his taxpayers pay to maintain.
Premier Alward may have also asked Mr. Annear if he appreciated the more than 520 kilometers of four-lane Trans Canada Highway that runs from the Quebec border to Nova Scotia. It is one of the least congested highways in the country and a real boon to the trucking industry.
If he wanted to be really nasty, then Premier Alward might have suggested, that since Islanders are the chief beneficiaries of Highway 16 then maybe they should contribute to its maintenance by paying a toll.
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: email@example.com