BY CLIFFORD LEE
I believe a newspaper’s responsibility to the public is to report the news – balancing the good and bad – and to write about injustices and discrimination with the intent of assisting in creating positive change.
The Guardian’s recent editorial (January 17, 2018) – “No room at the inn” – rehashing the issues between the Charlottetown Inn and Conference Centre and people from rural parts of the province does the opposite. The editorial takes an isolated problem – that as far as we know is limited to one business’s poor decision – and suggests that rural Islanders aren’t welcome in their capital. It paints all of Charlottetown with the same brush, much like the hotel has done to western P.E.I.
Based on the outcry following the New Year’s Eve incident, it’s fair to say the majority of people both in and out of Charlottetown were appalled at the discrimination shown by the hotel. Discrimination of any kind is not OK in my books.
The Guardian – the paper that is supposed to represent the entire Island – has pointed the finger at all Charlottetown businesses and organizations, and suggested that we must all have an anti-rural bias because we didn’t try to make it up to the people affected.
Assuming the media reports are accurate, the business made a mistake and it has most likely affected their bottom line. They have been living a PR nightmare and, as anyone should expect, they will need to go to great lengths to not only make it up to those the people they slighted but also to win back business and trust.
As a corporation, we are responsible to the taxpayers of Charlottetown. When we have events or we spend taxpayer money on an initiative, it is the City residents that we must think about first and foremost. That said, our events are open to all Islanders.
The Guardian felt the need to point it out, but we are well aware that the support to Charlottetown businesses, sport tournaments, events and festivals comes from people all over the Island. PEI is a small province. The collective we, including the Guardian, need to understand that in order for urban P.E.I. to be successful, we need a strong rural P.E.I. In order for rural P.E.I. to be successful, we need a strong urban P.E.I. The expression rings true: United we stand, divided we fall.
I think I’m safe in speaking for the restaurants and other businesses in Charlottetown when I say that we appreciate the business from rural Islanders just as we appreciate when our citizens shop locally.
To suggest that the respectable businesses of Charlottetown should have apologized on behalf of the Charlottetown Inn or somehow atone for their mistake is ludicrous. Bad customer service, unfortunately, happens. Discrimination, unfortunately, happens. But it doesn’t make sense to punish the other businesses and organizations of Charlottetown for the mistakes of one.
What happened between the Charlottetown Inn and Conference Centre and the people of western P.E.I. is appalling and not acceptable, but do not assume or suggest that everyone in Charlottetown must has the same attitude. To do so, would mean you’re making the same mistake that the hotel did.
- Clifford Lee is Mayor of the City of Charlottetown