What the web version of this CBC story about ministerial travel on Prince Edward Island cannot effectively communicate is the sense of righteous indignation with which is was delivered on the local radio news this morning.
Of the myriad traits of Prince Edward Islanders, good and bad, the most poisonous and self-defeating one is xenophobia: the sense that we’ve got a good thing going on here and the associated resistance to the strange, the foreign and the unusual. As if accepting a world beyond our borders risks pollution of the Island Way of Life.
This is by no means a universal trait, and there are many, many Islanders with minds open to the world. But still the tendency lurks in the heart of the Island identity. And that’s not only unfortunate for the rest of the world, which could learn a thing or two from Islanders, but more so for the Island: restricting the oxygen of the novel is not the way to thrive in the interconnected world.
Which is why the CBC’s “gotcha” approach to “uncovering” ministerial travel, as though finding evidence of an egregious crime, is so galling. It is the role of the fourth estate to be vigilant, and certainly the CBC fulfills this role every day. To fan the flames of the natural tendency of Islanders to be suspicious of anyone travelling off the Island, however, is irresponsible, and goes beyond vigilance and into tabloidism.
I’m certain the some ministerial travel is vital to the life of the province. I’m equally certain that, on occasion, ministerial travel is essentially ceremonial and at least somewhat self-indulgent. Which travel is which deserves scrutiny.
But regardless of how practical ministerial travel is, it is important to the life of the province that ministers travel, broadly and frequently: to remain solely inside the echo chamber that is Island politics leaves a minister exposed to a limited slice of ideas, approaches, opportunities and ways of doing things; the simple fact of being immersed in a different environment is reason enough to travel, for the openness of mind that inevitably results.
When Premier Robert Ghiz went to China earlier this autumn there may well have been practical reasons for doing so.
But, more importantly, when Islanders saw Robert Ghiz on television standing on a stage in China with his fellow Premiers it communicated, as the Premier himself said, “We need to look outwardly.” That’s an impulse we should celebrate.
Update for non-Islanders: “ministers” are member of the provincial cabinet, chosen by the Premier to lead government departments.