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CORNWALL – Town council is calling on the federal government to reverse P.E.I.’s split Employment Insurance (EI) zones.
However, one councillor is questioning whether the town is starting to advocate on issues too far outside of its lane.
Prior to voting on a motion during Wednesday’s meeting asking for the federal government to reverse the 2014 EI zone change, which split P.E.I. into two zones, Coun. Peter Meggs said the request was similar to a June motion that called for a removal of the Confederation Bridge toll.
“This is us not staying in our lane again, we’re using a municipal forum to get into federal issues and I think we should stick to what we’ve been elected to deal with,” said Meggs, who voted against both motions.
Ultimately the motion passed 5-1, with Meggs being the only opposing vote.
When Meggs asked if there was “potentially no end” to this type of resolution, Mayor Minerva McCourt replied that council has a duty to consider anything that comes forward.
Following questions from other councillors of where the request originated, council heard the idea was discussed during a meeting between the Cornwall, Stratford and Charlottetown mayors.
Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown also attended the Cornwall meeting, after his council passed a similar resolution during last month’s meeting.
Cornwall chief administrative officer Kevin Coady said he understood the intent was to create a united voice for the capital region, as all three municipalities are impacted by the split zone.
Coun. Corey Frizzell, who introduced both the bridge and EI motions, said he was sympathetic to Meggs’ concerns.
However, he said he hears from residents about the split zone on a weekly basis, and the town should do anything it can to help.
“He is right, to a certain degree, but I’m happy to veer out of our lane in support of our residents,” he said. “It’s simply a request. It’s not costing us anything, but it is showing our residents that we hear them.”
Deputy Mayor Cory Stevenson said he agreed with Meggs but felt the bridge toll and EI zones were unique issues affecting Islanders.
“It all comes down to what’s hurting or helping our residents,” said Stevenson.
Coun. Shane McGuigan said he felt the motion was no different than council voting on requests for speed bumps. While the town takes some responsibility for street safety, the roads are owned by the province.
Coun. Elaine Barnes said she has heard residents who voice concerns about living in the town because of the zone and say they are better off a little further out.
“I think at some point we’ve all heard those concerns. Unfortunately, in P.E.I. a lot of positions are seasonal,” she said.
Meggs said a number of federal issues adversely affect Cornwall residents – and that he could bring in several every meeting – but that the town should also stick to its own responsibilities.
“There are so many things that happen at different levels of government that have an adverse effect on our residents,” said Meggs. “There’s no end to it.”