TERESA WRIGHT: Double standards from P.E.I. politicians

Published on November 29, 2016

Teresa Wright

OPINION: MLAs questioning funding ‘honour the vote’ lobby should look in the mirror

You know the old saying about how, when you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you?   

Someone should remind some of our provincial MLAs of this saying.

Over the last two weeks, several Liberal MLAs have taken issue with things reported in the news media and raised concern about an organized group of Islanders urging government to honour the results of the recent plebiscite on electoral reform.

Some of their comments display a remarkable double standard that MLAs appear to be applying when it comes to those who don’t agree with them.

Last week, Liberal backbencher Bush Dumville was among several MLAs who suggested the group of proportional representation supporters “appears to be a well-funded lobby of special groups.”

He also accused local media of not being balanced in its coverage of the plebiscite issue, noting a Globe and Mail editorial that endorsed Wade MacLauchlan’s decision to hold a second vote on electoral reform due to low voter turnout in the P.E.I. plebiscite.

Dumville then dictated questions he believed local media should be asking – notably whether there’s been any “off-Island financing to influence the outcome of the plebiscite” and whether there have been any “special interest groups or unions financing the proportional representation lobby.”

This is where the double standard comes in.

The Liberal party happily accepts lots of money from individuals, companies and “special interest groups” from outside P.E.I.

Two of the top five highest donors to the Liberal party in 2015 were from off-Island. L.W. MacEachern, president and owner of Fortune Industries Ltd. in Calgary, gave $10,000 last year to the P.E.I. Liberal party

J.D. Irving companies, based in New Brunswick, gave a total of $19,887 in 2015 to the Liberal party and an additional $16,264 to the PC party.  

Meanwhile, one of those Irving-owned companies, Cavendish Farms, has been lobbying the province to lift a moratorium on deep-water wells, sparking intense public concern over the future of P.E.I.’s water supply.

Yet the Liberal and PC parties happily accepted large cheques during an election year from this off-Island company that has been actively lobbying government on a policy that affects the whole province.

Why, then, do they suggest it not OK for the proportional representation lobby to accept money from off-Island?

I’ve been told by organizers within the Coalition for Proportional Representation they will “meet and exceed” reporting requirements that political parties adhere to regarding their funding, even though they are not required to do so.

After all, no spending limits or rules about spending were set for the plebiscite.

And as for the local media not being balanced in its coverage, I spy another double standard.

The Globe and Mail’s editorial from Nov. 18 praised the MacLauchlan government for its handling of this issue. This has been referenced a few times, including by MacLauchlan.

No one has referenced the numerous local editorials raising concerns about government’s actions on this issue.

It seems media coverage is only balanced if it endorses government.

---

Teresa Wright is The Guardian’s chief political reporter. She can be reached at teresa.wright@tc.tc Follow her tweets from the P.E.I. legislature at Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa.