PEI

Opposition hammers P.E.I. government on decision to let in seasonal residents

What began as a question to Premier Dennis King about how he was doing during the COVID-19 pandemic turned into a heated debate over government's decision to let some seasonal residents into P.E.I. this summer. 

'What we are doing now is introducing a potential threat, a potential avenue for a new outbreak'

Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Premier Dennis King debated the decision to allow seasonal residents to come to P.E.I. in the legislature Tuesday. (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly)

What began as a question to Premier Dennis King about how he was doing during the COVID-19 pandemic turned into a heated debate over government's decision to let some seasonal residents into P.E.I. this summer. 

The question came during the first sitting of an emergency session of the P.E.I. Legislature Tuesday. 

Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker began question period highlighting the concern from some Islanders over last Wednesday's announcement that P.E.I. would begin taking applications June 1 from Canadian seasonal residents wanting to come here.

'Decision that came out of left field'

"We went from making clearly sound decisions that were marked along the path that Dr. Morrison had laid out for us, to making a decision that came out of left field," said Bevan-Baker. 

"What we are doing now is introducing a potential threat, a potential avenue for a new outbreak on Prince Edward Island."

He said the decision comes as even more of a sting to some who are still not able to visit friends and family living in long-term care facilities.

"Can the premier explain to Islanders why you made this decision to open our borders before all of the other steps that we had agreed to?" Bevan-Baker asked King.

'They have a right to be here'

In response, King said every decision about seasonal residents was made in consultation with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison and that it was important for P.E.I. to continue on a road to recovery.

"We have to remember that these seasonal Islanders who are taxpayers here, are just like everybody else. They have a right to be here," King said.

"I feel we're in a good position to do this now. We are trying to do it carefully. We are trying to do it cautiously. We are trying to do it safely."

Any seasonal residents that come to P.E.I. will need to follow several strict safety measures, including self-isolating for two weeks and providing a plan on how they will do that.

At a health briefing earlier on Tuesday, Morrison said seasonal residents will also undergo risk assessments that consider where they are coming from and how good a self-isolation plan they have. She also said testing could be required.

In response to a question asked by Bevan-Baker about how the decision was made and if it was in the best interest of Islanders, King said there were other factors in considering the health of P.E.I.

"My job, our job in here is to look at the health of Prince Edward Islanders.… Part of that job is our economic, our social and our mental well-being."

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