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ELLEN JONES: No trophies for ignoring the rules

Ellen Jones, pictured here with Ginger, won her case for much higher compensation from the province which expropriated her therapeutic horse farm in Cornwall to make room for the bypass highway around the town.

(Guardian photo)
Ellen Jones, pictured here with Ginger, won her case for much higher compensation from the province which expropriated her therapeutic horse farm in Cornwall to make room for the bypass highway around the town. (Guardian photo)

There should be no reward for cheating people out of fair compensation or income

Well, after almost a year and a half of dealing with our provincial government throughout this Cornwall Bypass project, I’ve learned that our system is set up to benefit government, even when it doesn’t play by the rules.

With this in mind I’m going to channel your thoughts back toward our current P.E.I. government. Recently, although they won’t say it this way, they failed - significantly.

I’m not telling you this because I want to rub it in their faces; rather I see a learning opportunity for them and the rest of us, which needs to be spoken aloud instead of swept under the rug.

The Minister of Transportation Infrastructure and Energy along with many other cabinet ministers and bureaucrats (the premier too) -  lost in the arbitration regarding land prices in the Cornwall area. The judge threw out their contracted appraisal and basically said the job performed was not one of relevance to the issue before her.

The government hired a third party independent appraiser and gave him a mandate, which meant we, as an expropriated party, were never going to be treated fairly. There was never any negotiation or discussion, just a position government took and refused to look beyond. This means had we not taken the initiative to seek out our own third party independent appraisal with a mandate regarding expropriation - we never would have known how short sighted and unfair the situation actually was.

It’s frightening to think of how many people were short changed on their land because government has become accustomed to getting the trophy at the end of the game - even though they haven’t played by the rules.

We never hear any real admission of failed initiatives in government? There is no transparency - just spin, which means we give permission by default, allowing the same things to happen again and again.

Leading by example is hard for governments - especially ones who are led by academics who believe they are the smartest person in the room. Criticism can be really difficult for those people to absorb.

If the government themselves, either because of ego, conditioning or lack of knowledge are unable to admit or acknowledge their failures, they will never be able to grow and this means things in this province will never change.

This isn’t a one sided issue though, and here’s where it gets tough. It’s on all of us to hold the government accountable for their shortcomings and failures.

We’ve reached the finish line now and the results are clear, the bad behaviour of government did not net them the results they were after. I believe it’s our job to not let the government forget their failures; we need to begin to require change.

If the P.E.I. government doesn’t start treating people fairly and with the respect every human being is entitled to -  they are going to lose (in the legal system as well as the court of public opinion) consistently and often, at the taxpayer’s expense.

There is no reward (nor should there be) for cheating people out of fair compensation for their forcibly taken hard earned home.

At best this could be a learning opportunity, at it’s worst it could be permission for the government to continue it’s poor practice.

There are more landowners who have not yet been dealt with by government for this road and there is an amazing opportunity to demonstrate through future actions that this government is capable of growth.

The P.E.I. government failed us, and that doesn’t mean they can’t be committed to doing better next time. There’s no mistaking that after our arbitration, we all know better.

It’s time to apply that knowledge and begin to require government to do better for the people of this province.

- Ellen Jones owns the Hughes-Jones Centre for People and Animals in Cornwall.

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