Annals of Righteous Indignation

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.


Alan's picture
Alan on November 20, 2008 - 15:26 Permalink

…one to Ottawa and another to Miami and Toronto, at a total cost of $2,771.43…

Perhaps someone should also point out that that amount of money for that amount of travel is insanely cheap. So not only is travel necessary (because no one in their right mind can imagine a community of 140,000 will have all the best ideas out of a planetary population of 6 billion or more) but that it is also incredibly frugal.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on November 20, 2008 - 15:26 Permalink

Says the man who attends a “Quality of Life Board Meeting”.

Jevon's picture
Jevon on November 20, 2008 - 15:35 Permalink

Alan: I thought it must be a mistake when I saw that,. under 1000$ all in per trip,. these guys aren’t staying at the Ritz, that is for sure.

Dan James's picture
Dan James on November 20, 2008 - 15:43 Permalink

On the other hand Brown went to “London, Iceland, Atlanta and Boston at a cost of $28,910.89”. He must have been staying at the Ritz. I imagine it’s a case of buying Air Canada Latitude fairs and booking full price at hotels. Maybe we should hold a “how to travel in luxury for cheap” session for the government travel bookers.

Alan's picture
Alan on November 20, 2008 - 18:14 Permalink

Dan, I presume that the costs include staff traveling with the Minister but if not you are right. They need their own “summer fun van” for at least the Boston leg.

Jane's picture
Jane on November 21, 2008 - 01:09 Permalink

I was as incensed as Peter at the attitude in this annual or semi-annual non-story. PEI is the smallest province and is an island, at that. If we don’t travel and connect with the rest of the world, we fall prey to the worst of “insularity” and capitalize on the least benefit.

(That being said — Unfortunately, Alan, I’m pretty sure the full story said that the travel didn’t include staff accompanying the minister.)

Kevin's picture
Kevin on November 21, 2008 - 13:44 Permalink

I agree (with Peter and Jane) that this isn’t a story. I’m equally certain that, were this story not dragged out for its annual voicing (including the “gotcha” slant), that it would be a real story fairly soon. Human nature being what it is, it seems ambition and integrity are zero sum (all too often).

I would cite the former government of Grant Devine (Premier, Alberta) as evidentiary support for this. This from Wikipeida: “Although Devine himself was never implicated in any criminal wrongdoing, several members of his caucus were convicted of fraud relating to expense accounts that occurred during Devine’s second term from 1986-1991.” The fact is eight of his colleagues were convicted of malfesence. Eight; convicted! They stole about a million dollars.

Anyway, if CBC (or whomever) can prevent this sort of rot from entering our legislature simply by being petty, provincial (and perhaps insular), then I’m on their side.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on November 22, 2008 - 13:20 Permalink

The CBC is concerned over elected officials wasting taxpayers dollars because they are competing for those dollars to waste.…