On November 30, 2017, I, along with several residents of the unincorporated areas in the proposed Three Rivers amalgamation, attended the sitting of the Legislative Assembly. Our MLA, Steven Myers, presented our petition of over 500 names, asking the government to give us a plebiscite, allowing us to vote yes or no to being part of the proposed municipality.
I came away from observing Question Period and the deposition of our petition deeply disappointed and angry with the Government’s response to our request. Minister Mitchell’s responses were arrogant, condescending and inaccurate.
Minister Mitchell spoke of a process which is community driven. As many of us know, the government drives this process, from the hiring of consultants to make the initial recommendations (what would you like us to say in this study, they ask?), to the appointment of Steering Committee members who are delicately chosen to reflect the government’s mandate.
The two public meetings were monopolized by the Steering Committee, the accountant, well paid by the government, Minister Mitchell and last but not least, a highly paid consultant to the Steering Committee and the government, who tried to shut down questions from the public.
These two public meetings were the culmination of the Steering Committee’s work – work that had been held a closely guarded secret for more than two years, where members had to sign confidentiality agreements. Most people living in the affected unincorporated areas had no idea they were even implicated in this process.
Why not afford us the same rights as those who voted in Montague, Cardigan and Brudenell? Perhaps because they worry the outcome of such a vote would be different.
During Question Period, Minister Mitchell was asked about the consultation process on two other matters, the Water Act and the Lands Protection Act. The Minister stated that there had been extensive public consultations and that the government had this well in hand - the same type of open, community driven process as the one for the proposed Three Rivers amalgamation. God help us all.
Just to round out some other thoughts going through my mind as I sat on that hard wooden bench, listening to all these assurances, I began to think of the 634 seniors in P.E.I. who are on a waiting list for housing; the severe lack of nurses and doctors in this province and wondered why this government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to force people and communities into unprofitable and unmanageable amalgamations.
It was clear, as we rose from those wooden benches, that the government would not give us the plebiscite that nearly 3,000 citizens of this province are entitled to. MLA Steven Myers will organize the plebiscite and we will get the vote out.
Ultimately, it is the people in a democracy who are right. A government, which does not understand or believe this simple fact doesn’t remain the government. As we were leaving, one of our group said. “I have just witnessed a failing government in action.” I agree.
Sylvia Teasdale is a resident of the unincorporated rural area of Burnt Point near Georgetown