Making Nice

My brother Steve emailed this morning and mentioned, about someone he’s working with, that “he jokes even with people that don’t like him.” He meant it as a compliment.

It got me thinking about living on Prince Edward Island — it’s my 14th anniversary of living here today — and how in many ways it’s like the 135,000 of us who live here are crammed into a small room with each other, and as such have to find ways of getting along.

This week I’ve been out and about in public more often than usual, and in my travels I’ve run into two friends who’ve run federally for the Conservatives, a friend who’s running for the Liberals in the next provincial election, several friends who are die-hard capitalists and a couple who are die-hard socialists. In my immediate circle of friends I have people on all points of the religious compass, from full-on drunk-the-Kool Aid believers to complete skeptics. I have friends who are adamantly pro-choice, and friends who are, well, not. I have friends who live on $12,000 a year, and friends who live on $120,000 a year.

And I’m pretty sure that I’m a pretty typical resident of Prince Edward Island in this way.

Of course many people elsewhere have a diverse and multi-opined community.

It’s just that here in PEI, where family ties are so strong, where overlapping family connections are so prevalent, where it seems sometime that everybody went to school with everybody else (or at least their brother did), and where, relatively speaking, there are so few of us, the fabric of everyday life is woven more tightly.

In other words, it’s best not to piss someone off because it’s likely that eventually they’ll be your boss. Or your brother in law. Or their sister the police officer will be arresting you.

And yet, for the most part, things work out: Islanders have a way of relating to each other that allows people of wildly divergent political, religious or philosophical views to, well, joke with each other.

This isn’t to say that Islanders get along all the time. And it’s certainly not to suggest that people don’t “talk.”

But when you see two people who, in any other place, would likely never meet, and who if forced to put all of their ideological cards on the table would likely be mortal enemies, gathered around the kitchen at a house party getting on like gangbusters, it’s hard not to marvel at the delicate balance that lets PEI society work as the well-oiled machine that it is.


Ann Thurlow's picture
Ann Thurlow on March 15, 2007 - 16:22 Permalink

My very beest example of this came from the time I worked as the Legislative reporter for CBC. I looked up into the visitor’s gallery at the legislature and spotted Lawrence MacAulay, the Solicitor General for Canada, sitting right next to Wessie the Cat.

Fred's picture
Fred on March 16, 2007 - 01:25 Permalink

Sniff. That was beautiful man — I am so choked up and overcome!

And then there was Roger Bell …

Stan Rogers's picture
Stan Rogers on March 16, 2007 - 02:53 Permalink

It’s such a small Island I am pretty sure that I can name 2 of the 3 political candidates you alluded to.

Gerry Hull's picture
Gerry Hull on March 17, 2007 - 16:26 Permalink

I am wondering if you read
“A Report on a Study of Recent Immigrants to PEI” by
Godfrey Baldacchino, Canada Research Chair (Island Studies)
February 2006?
It’s at…

If you’ve not read it, take a look. They way you present PEI is a different picture from the (mostly) bleak outlook presented by the recent immigrants interviewed in the survey.
Even though you are an immigrant, you certainly do not speak the same voice that many speak about PEI.

BTW, I’ve tried to contact several government officials for information using the email addresses on the TechPEI site… It’s been three weeks… and no reply.

My wife and I still want to immigrate to the island — but the views in this report have certainly put a damper on things.

Alan's picture
Alan on March 18, 2007 - 14:45 Permalink

It’s funny having lived in Nova Scotia, the Ottawa Valley, PEI and now in Kingston, Ontario that the experience of a small community you describe is the same in all those places but for the fact that people do not make much of it.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 18, 2007 - 16:54 Permalink

It can now be told, because he’s written it in public that the “someone he

Godfrey Baldacchino's picture
Godfrey Baldacchino on March 19, 2007 - 19:38 Permalink

A reply to Gerry Hull…..

Thank you for finding my report on Recent Settlers to PEI useful. It is edifying to note that it is influencing your decision as to whether to move to PEI or not.

It is a frank assessment of the challenges of living on this island with a strong sense of place and community. Of course it is difficult to fit in, if one does not “belong”: but that does not excuse you, or ahyone, from trying. The report also speaks to the positive side of the place and illustrates various examples of those ‘come from away’ — who are really islanders ‘by choice’ — of how they try, and at times succeed, in “fitting in”.

From my experience — and I have been here almost 4 years now, with wife and son — it is well worth trying!

Godfrey Baldacchino

Gerry Hull's picture
Gerry Hull on March 20, 2007 - 19:16 Permalink

Hello Godfrey,

Thank you so much for the excellent report. I’ll email you more privately.