Premier devalues Order of P.E.I. with political interference

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Healther Moyse with Premier Robert Ghiz during rally in Summerside Feb. 28, 2014.

Heather Moyse to get award being downgraded from prestigious honour to political applause line

By Nils Ling (commentary)

This week, Premier Robert Ghiz is being called to task for circumventing a legally constituted  process and peremptorily awarding membership in the Order of Prince Edward Island to an Island hero, Heather Moyse. This prompted some objections from those familiar with that process who were concerned that in dismissing it, Premier Ghiz was changing the nature of the highest honour the Province of Prince Edward Island can bestow. For his part, the premier is claiming that he acted under “special circumstances” and that people need a “reality check”.

I am a former Chair of the Advisory Council on the Order of Prince Edward Island. I am also not just a friend of Ms. Moyse and her parents, but have been vocal in my admiration for her incredible accomplishments. Heather Moyse is a credit to Cyril and Sharon, to her teachers and coaches, to Prince Edward Island, to Canada, and mostly, she is a credit to herself. I can think of nobody who deserves the Order of Prince Edward Island more.

Just not this way.

In an article in the National Post, some journeyman sports columnist named Joe called those who questioned the premier’s arbitrary actions “incredibly stuffy killjoys.”  

He went on to demonstrate his familiarity with our Island by noting with amazement that “ ... even a bagpiper was in attendance” for the celebration during which the premier invited Ms. Moyse to join the Order! And he noted wryly that last year’s honourees included “a former politician ... a retired nurse ... and a retired doctor ...  All three are (were) as old as salt and ... unknown to most Canadians outside P.E.I.”  But to his credit, he did note that they did some “good deeds”.

Well. Thank you for that perspective from Toronto, sir. We shall give it the weight it deserves.  It won’t take long.

Look, nobody — nobody — has more respect for Heather Moyse than I. She is a personal friend and a hero to me and I have told her that directly.

But if the premier wants a “reality check” — and if this ill-informed Toronto columnist who (did you miss this?) sniffed disdainfully at the credentials and accomplishments of the late Dr. Joyce Madigane, among others, agrees — let me present you with what is the new reality: the new reality is that Heather Moyse will be presented with an award that has been downgraded from a prestigious honour to a political applause line.

As a former Chair of the Premier’s Advisory Council on the Order of Prince Edward Island, here is my perspective: from the time the Order was created, its specialness derived from the fact that it wasn’t a prize in the bottom of a box of political cracker jacks.

It was earned through a lifetime of achievement and service to the people of Prince Edward Island.

Its exclusivity derived from the fact that a very distinguished and very non-partisan panel followed a rigorous vetting process to winnow down dozens of nominations to only three.

In my two years as chair, that committee included the president of the university, a Supreme Court justice, and other greatly respected Islanders from across the province. Our deliberations were often intense and drawn out because we respected the process and we respected the responsibility we had to preserve the integrity of the Order of Prince Edward Island.

I am anything but a stuffy killjoy — I think that is pretty well recognized. I am deeply concerned with what the premier did, not because I don’t think Heather deserves the award — she does, absolutely — but because I believe Heather deserves more honour than the devalued and depreciated political bauble that Robert Ghiz has turned the Order of P.E.I. into.

He says he’ll change the rules, and sadly, I’m sure he will . . . and soon, the Order of P.E.I. will be viewed the same was as we view chairmanship of any government commission — not as the greatest honour this province can bestow, but as a reward for being a good poll captain or generous contributor or, say, a brother-in-law of a politician.

 

Nils Ling is a former Chair of the Premier’s Advisory Council on the Order of Prince Edward Island.

Organizations: Advisory Council on the Order of Prince Edward Island, National Post, Supreme Court

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Toronto, Canada

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