OPINION: More questions than answers in Skinners Pond

Published on February 20, 2016

Stompin Tom's school house in Skinners Pond

©Guardian photo

What should happen now is review of Canadian Heritage, its mission statement, its guidelines, its officers

Gail Shea raised some excellent points. In response to the now-missing Canadian Heritage funding for the Stompin’ Tom Connors project in Skinners Pond, the former Egmont MP and federal cabinet minister raised questions that many Islanders are also asking today.

“If (Canadian Heritage) can’t find a way to support a project that commemorates Stompin’ Tom Connors, a legendary Canadian, a true patriot of our country, who wrote and sang songs about every corner of our beautiful country, who has been recognized by the Queen, the Governor General; whose family was presented the Canadian flag from the Peace Tower on his passing, who had his own Canadian postage stamp and who was made an officer of the Order of Canada, then maybe (Canadian Heritage) has some changes to make.”

You are talking to the converted, Ms. Shea.

If there were doubts that the project qualified for heritage funding, they should have been answered by July 31 before the minister held a press conference to unveil plans. A federal election call came two days later on Sunday, Aug. 2.

Today, work on the project is on hold, at least until a review is completed, triggered when Canadian Heritage said its projected $350,000 in funding was rejected because the project didn’t qualify. Other funding partnerships depended on Canadian Heritage and now the entire project is in danger of collapse.

It’s a disgrace. The fiasco has left people wondering just what went wrong.

Ms. Shea insists the rejection was based on a technicality. Tignish Initiatives was told that because it didn’t have ‘heritage and culture’ as part of its mandate, it could not qualify. Tignish Initiatives then added heritage and culture to its mandate last year but then Canadian Heritage denied the application on grounds that heritage needed to be part of the group’s mandate for two years.

That’s when frustration with red tape and stonewalling bureaucrats at Canadian Heritage has spilled over. And rightfully so.

Canadian Heritage was absorbed last summer with a controversial, $5.5 million memorial in downtown Ottawa for the victims of communism. Almost everyone opposed the project, except the federal government and Canadian Heritage.

Ottawa had no trouble finding $4.4 million as its share of the project which was quickly suspended following the federal election. Just where are the elements of Canadian heritage and culture in a bizarre memorial to commemorate atrocities committed in Eastern Europe more than 75 years ago?

The Stompin’ Tom project is an obvious heritage and cultural project, and an important project for Skinners Pond. It’s supported by everyone except Canadian Heritage which has its blinders on - except for projects in the national capital region.

What should happen now is a review of Canadian Heritage, its mission statement, its guidelines and its officers. Any group which could make such an ill-advised decision on the Stompin Tom Connors project should be reviewed and its officers removed for incompetence.

Let the fun begin

Hotel rooms are full and thousands of youngsters and the young at heart are swarming through downtown Charlottetown this weekend to celebrate the Jack Frost Children’s Winterfest.

The festival, a key winter attraction for the city and province, hit a brief roadblock last November when key sponsor Confederation Bridge suddenly pulled out. But other supporters quickly came forward to ensure the festival offered even more attractions for children and families as part of a gala, mid-winter, entertainment package.

The Jack Frost draws an estimated 60 per cent or more of its festival-goers from outside P.E.I. and is one of the key economic boosts for the city and province at a usually slow time of the year for tourism. Hotels, restaurants and stores are busy this weekend.

The weather is co-operating with clear skies Friday, a few flurries in the forecast today and light showers or flurries on Sunday. Last weekend leading up to our provincial Islander Day holiday - would have been bitterly cold for youngsters.

This weekend, everyone can safely arrive and depart while enjoying our warm Island hospitality.

The children’s festival is pure fun and entertainment with an interactive children’s stage, indoor playground, family fun zone and outdoor snow kingdom. And many, many other events.

Let the merriment begin.