Harper snubs premier to avoid debate over EI?

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Stephen Harper and Robert Ghiz

PM chose to leave Ghiz off guest list during visit to mark 150th anniversary

For the most part, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stayed on message and on script during a visit Thursday to Charlottetown.

It was a textbook trip for Mr. Harper. There was almost no official advance warning so “protest” groups had no time to organize or demonstrate.

There was time, of course, to invite scores of Conservative party faithful to a “public” event in Memorial Hall at Confederation Centre for comments on the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference — the official reason for the trip.

And the PM also had time to set up a private meeting with Conservative party insiders while in Charlottetown to prepare them for next year’s federal election.

In spite of all the behind-the-scenes groundwork and preparations for Thursday’s visit, someone forgot to let Premier Robert Ghiz know the Prime Minister of Canada was coming to the province.

Premier Ghiz heard some rumours, checked with local media to confirm the PM’s visit, and then decided to make contact with organizers.

The best he could get was something like: “If you want to come, you’re welcome.”

Poor manners are unbecoming for the PM. After all, the visit was largely non-partisan and both federal and provincial governments had chipped in with money for the 150th celebrations.

The PM made special mention of the millions earmarked for Province House repairs once this year’s anniversary events conclude. The province had pushed for the cash and was grateful for the federal financial support.

In addition, Mr. Ghiz and federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea have always appeared to be on cordial terms as the premier has no wish to cross swords with our federal cabinet minister.

It seemed both sides were on the same song sheet on the sesquicentennial party and Province House. At first blush, it seemed hard to explain the snub handed Premier Ghiz.

Mr. Harper would always be the star of the show so there was no chance of him being upstaged. There had to be another reason for trying to keep the premier out of sight, or at least off the stage and away from podiums.

And that reason was quick to come to the forefront as soon as the first legitimate media question was asked — on reforms to the Employment Insurance program. The two men differ widely on the issue.

Premier Ghiz has been a longtime vocal critic of the changes, especially because of the inordinate numbers of Islanders involved in the important seasonal industries of tourism, fisheries and agriculture. If Islanders in seasonal jobs were forced to leave for work because their EI eligibility was changed, it is bound to negatively impact this province. The four Atlantic premiers all felt the same way and commissioned a report to analyze the impact of those EI changes.

P.E.I. Innovation Minister Allen Roach has blamed record out-migration numbers in 2013 squarely on the EI changes. When asked about those numbers, Mr. Harper made some surprising comments.

He rejected any suggestion the two were connected.

Out-migration ... “has nothing to do with the employment insurance system,” said Mr. Harper, nor the hundreds of Islanders living in, or commuting to, Fort McMurray for oil patch work. He said Islanders are moving because there are more economic opportunities in other areas of the country.

The PM offered broad, sweeping comments yet produced not a shard of data or statistics to back them up, nor produced any testimonials from Islanders who moved away, to support his claims.

Premier Ghiz was close by to offer a convincing differing viewpoint on the PM’s comments, something which Mr. Harper obviously hoped might be avoided.

It was the only hiccup Thursday from mission control.

Organizations: Employment Insurance, Province House, Confederation Centre Prime Minister of Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Fort McMurray

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Recent comments

  • voter
    June 25, 2014 - 07:15

    harper is a typical arrogant politician-not to be trusted or believed -- trudeau is also arrogant and just a wannabe because my daddy was politician -- same as ghiz-- sad as it sounds -harper is the only choice - TURDEAU is dangerous -oops !!spelling!!

  • Eeee
    June 24, 2014 - 17:29

    So as usual he slithered in and slithered out

  • fred
    June 24, 2014 - 08:32

    to Mike C: I am a worker, and NDP cardholder, - but I am not blinded by politics, - I call it as I see it, and Harper has provided us all with intelligent and steady leadership, and as a taxpayer I am thankful for that, and hope it will continue. I don't cut off my nose to spite my face ---..

  • townie22
    June 24, 2014 - 07:50

    ooh!! the 36% who voted for Harper in the last election are out in force today. whether it's political protocol or not, it would have been common courtesy to invite the Premier of the Province you were visiting, at least the way i was brought up i would have. sneaking in and out and meeting with only certain people is not going to win any votes here for the CPC, and according to the polls, their going to need every vote they can get.

  • Angus
    June 23, 2014 - 22:19

    Why would anybody be surprised? Premiers do nothing but grandstand for the media and the cameras whenever they get within yelling distance of a PM. They only want 1st ministers conferences so they can fight with the Fed and be the prima donna drama queens they always are. Going back to the days of Trudeau Sr. they never wanted to discuss anything of substance, just to puff themselves up like pouter pigeons for the benefit of the folks back home. Harper's been on to them and the media for a long time. He plays them rather than the other way around.

  • kevin
    June 23, 2014 - 21:28

    |Don't we all wish we had a chance to snub the Ghiz, - we have to wait till the next election, darn it--

  • locust
    June 23, 2014 - 21:26

    I think Harper can hold his own in a discussion with Ghiz, but why would he bother listening to hos blather---?

  • hobart
    June 23, 2014 - 21:22

    Why would he NOT snub Ghiz. This was not an official visit to the Island, no need to involve the Prince ---- We should all be so wise.

  • fred
    June 23, 2014 - 21:19

    Mike C seems to have troubles with the facts, and seems to believe what the Media tells him, and then only the head lines. They hate he refuses to josh with them every time he turns around. He will go down in history as one of the better Prime Ministers we have had, and everyone ought to be thankful for his leadership. But many people like a dumb-wood like Trudeau, mainly because his stupidity fits well with that of the constituents.

    • Mike C
      June 24, 2014 - 06:19

      You greatly delusional if you believe harper is the best PM we ever had. But you are a conservative. You go into attack mode, instead of giving facts to support your diatribe. Thank God, you are part of the ever shrinking harper supporter.

    • Garth Staples
      June 24, 2014 - 19:05

      MIKE---thank heavens PM Harper is changing the landscape of this country and THIS province. Finally freedom to seek your own path not that chosen by the loonie left wing liberals. Finally a whole lot of tax relief. Let me spend my own hard earned money ---not Liberal politicians. Those are the facts you can take to the bank.

  • Mike C
    June 23, 2014 - 16:51

    Don't get me wrong, as am no Ghiz fan. But wake up Canada. This misdirected PM, is changing the landscape of politics in CAnada. Not in a good way. IT IS COMMON PRACTICE that when a PM visits a Province or Territory to meet with the most senior politician of that Province or Territory!!! It speaks volumes of harper's total distain for anything non-conservative. Very, very shallow. TOTALLY UN-CANADIAN!!!

    • Hey Mike
      June 24, 2014 - 08:54

      Yes I agree if Ghiz was doing anything other than running PEI into the ground , he should have met him . But let's look at the facts , Harper is pulling Canada out of the RED that the Liberals had put Canada in . Ghiz is just driving PEI further into the RED . They have very little in common , one is trying to get Canada on track & Ghiz is only trying to get friends & outsiders rich . I'm sure he meets with any other Politician that uses common sense when in power , just not the golden spoon fed kid presently in charge here in PEI .

    • scottpei
      June 24, 2014 - 11:26

      Hey, hey mike - "the RED that the Liberals had put us in" ? Seriously! Where have you been living the last 30 years? Harper inherited a SURPLUS - then proceeded to spend spend spend Canada into a record deficit!! Take the blinders off!

    • Garth Staples
      June 24, 2014 - 14:40

      I guess he was tired of hearing Ghiz ask for more money to cover his sins. Does Ghiz meet the PM every time he goes to Ottawa------Guess not!