'Challenging, frustrating, disappointing and never-ending': P.E.I. premier reflects on 2021

·4 min read

Premier Dennis King hopes the Island can find a way out of the COVID-19 pandemic sometime in 2022.

In a year-end interview with CBC News: Compass, the premier said that 2021 has been a challenging year for all Islanders.

With rising COVID-19 cases, the presence of the Omicron variant and a trade dispute that's yet to be solved, 2022 is set for a difficult start.

"So many starts, so many pauses, so many stops, so many steps backwards," King said. "I think frustrating is probably the best word. [It's been] challenging, frustrating, disappointing and never-ending."

King said in many respects, the Island seems to be in the same place the province was when the pandemic began almost two years ago.

"We know a little bit more now, but it's also a bit more disappointing," he said. "When we started this is in March [2020] nobody knew what was ahead. We have that in our rear-view mirror now as part of our guide on how to move forward. And I'm not sure that makes it better or more tolerable, or maybe it makes it a little bit more difficult.

"I think we're in a better place than we where in March of 2020, but it's equally as frustrating and puzzling."

His chief worry is that with the highly contagious Omicron variant now in the province, a rising number of cases will have an impact on a health-care system, which "doesn't have the size or capability" to deal with a major outbreak.

"At the same time, we have really good professionals in place and we have strong planning in place. And we've proved in the past that when we need to do something, we can roll up our sleeves as Islanders and do it," he said.

Potato trade uncertainty

King said his government has had to deal with other major challenges besides COVID-19, such as trying to improve the health-care system and housing.

Mental health and addictions, as well as rising inflation, are also issues King said P.E.I. will have to address in 2021.

But the premier said the problem that's been taking most of the government's time besides the pandemic is ban on fresh potato exports to the U.S.

"To throw the potato issue on top [at] the end of the year has been a really big challenge," he said.

No quick solution seems to be in sight. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently said its investigation into the discovery of potato wart on two Island fields that triggered the ban could take until 2023 to complete.

The Potato Board says the ban has already cost the province's economy millions of dollars.

Hoping for 'brighter' 2022

While he said he doesn't have too much time to consider his government's accomplishments this year, not everything has been doom and gloom.

"The implementation of the four-year-old pre-K I think went very well, and I'm very proud we were able to get that going. The child-care agreement we were able to make with the federal government, I think, will fundamentally change how our child-care system works here in P.E.I.," he said.

"Obviously the medical school at the University of P.E.I. was a big announcement that will make a lot of changes in the future."

King said he hopes the province is able to find a way out of the major problems it's facing as it heads into the new year.

"I'd like to find a way to get through this COVID and get back to normal as quickly as possibly. I'd like to find a quick and reasonable solution to the potato issue to get the fresh product flowing back to the United States where it should be," he said.

"I want to continue to make strides in our health-care delivery and do a better job at that for Islanders, and really just try to keep people first.

"Hopefully we can have a really positive 2022 from an economic, from a social and from a mental health perspective as well. That would be my wish for all Islanders heading into 2022, that it's a lot brighter than the past year has been."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting