Healther Moyse with Premier Robert Ghiz during rally in Summerside Feb. 28, 2014.
©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Heather Moyse was notified Friday she will become the newest recipient of the Order of Prince Edward Island later this year. Applause, please. But wait, we are hearing some boos from the gallery. It has nothing to do with Ms. Moyse and yet she is left in an uncomfortable situation caused by a series of events not of her making.
All she did was train hard, overcome much adversity and win another gold medal for Canada in women’s bobsled at the Sochi Winter Olympics. In so doing, she repeated the gold medal performance from Vancouver four years earlier. Her two golds are the first for any P.E.I. athlete, a feat that likely will never be duplicated.
So, does she deserve the award? Of course. That ordinarily would be the end of it. But this is P.E.I where everyone has an opinion and where the minority and the critical bend the ear as much as the majority and the supportive.
The premier went to Summerside last Friday evening with the best of intentions to help welcome and recognize our greatest Olympic hero. There was a joyful celebration and the premier was determined, on behalf of a proud and grateful province, to show her proper appreciation. In the excitement of the moment, he perhaps went too far, too fast. Yes, it could have been handled better.
The highest award the province can bestow is entry into the Order of P.E.I. The premier decided to sidestep usual protocols. He could have waited and allowed the rules to play out where nominations end in March, a committee selects three people by May and an induction ceremony is held in the fall. The premier decided to speed up the process.
If Mr. Ghiz went to Summerside with a simple plaque, both he and the province would have been justly criticized for an underwhelming show of appreciation. Ms. Moyse merited much more.
The award, instituted in 1996 by the lieutenant- governor on the advice of the provincial cabinet, is administered by the Governor-in-Council to honour current or former Prince Edward Island residents for conspicuous achievements in any field. A committee then makes its selected recommendations to the cabinet which vets the list and passes it on to the lieutenant governor.
The intent was to leave politics and politicians out of it, but last Friday the premier did intrude, although we feel with the best of intentions. Premier Ghiz argues the original rules were flawed and the government will amend them to allow for special recognition in exceptional circumstance. If this exception was included in the original act, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today.
The rules will change this spring where the premier or government of the day can act decisively and recognize an Islander where there is an exceptional accomplishment. The key fact here is the premier is acting on behalf of the entire province, not a politician or representing a political party. There is a big difference. Yes, the premier could have said he would personally fill out her nomination for the order and invite all Islanders to add their names to the entry form in support of her induction. But that didn’t happen.
The premier had discussed the idea around caucus and got unanimous support to announce the good news Friday night. The selection committee was also aware of his plan.
It’s unfortunate some people get caught up in the trivial. We hope Ms. Moyse doesn’t feel embarrassed by the critical comments being made. By attacking the process, they are also attacking her award, however much they wring their hands and protest to the contrary. It’s their criticism which has politicized the announcement.
Ms. Moyse deserves the award, so let’s congratulate her. To suggest the premier of the province is dragging Ms. Moyse into the turmoil is an insensitive criticism of her. This announcement is about Ms. Moyse and the province’s recognition of her incredible, historic feat. Think about it and move on.