How P.E.I.'s seasonal residents are getting organized during the pandemic

·3 min read
The group came together as people faced the challenges of navigating public health guidelines, says Jen Harding. (Submitted by Jenn Harding - image credit)
The group came together as people faced the challenges of navigating public health guidelines, says Jen Harding. (Submitted by Jenn Harding - image credit)

P.E.I.'s seasonal residents have formed an association to help members enjoy their second homes on the Island.

The biggest issue Seasonal Residents of P.E.I. is facing right now is the COVID-19 pandemic, and the public health rules that are preventing them from coming to the Island.

Last month, P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced that seasonal residents wouldn't be approved to arrive until at least May 17, and on Tuesday she confirmed that will be pushed further, though she didn't give an exact date.

The group started last year on Facebook, with people trying to figure out under what conditions they could come to P.E.I. and how to apply.

"It grew pretty quickly," founding president Jen Harding told CBC's Mitch Cormier on Island Morning.

"It became a place where people would come for facts and information. Also for commiseration as people were challenged with the process and challenged with not being able to access their homes. But it's really grown into not only that but a source of community and help."

'Being official helps'

Harding said most members have family on the Island, and many were born in the province, though she is not of that group herself. She just fell in love with a piece of property near North Lake.

About two thirds of the group are Canadians with most of the rest Americans, a few being from outside North America. Most come every year and have been doing so for decades.

"They have really deep connections to P.E.I.," said Harding.

"Their family is still there so they come every year to properties they consider their other homes."

The Facebook page is free but there is a membership fee for the association. That money is currently going to legal fees, mostly just the cost of setting up. The group is registered as a non-profit in P.E.I.

"Being official helps. It's helpful to say that we actually have an association. That we are a group with similar interests that we think needs representation," said Harding.

Improving application process

As an association Seasonal Residents of P.E.I. has been in contact with the Chief Public Health Office to provide its perspective.

It worked with the CPHO last spring to make the application process more consistent and clear.

It has issues it is addressing this year as well. In particular, the need for three COVID-19 tests during the two-week self-isolation period.

"What we're asking is, help us understand how that minimizes the risks, for people to then leave their homes three times during the self-isolation period," said Harding.

"Our understanding of the science is that staying at home for two weeks and not seeing anyone would resolve any issues."

The group is also trying to make the case that seasonal residents carry minimal risk. Many of them have been vaccinated, she said, and they all arrive with their own private location to self-isolate in.

Harding expects the seasonal residents group will continue beyond the pandemic, and is already offering support on issues that are not connected, such as how to prepare your property to be vacant for the winter, and where to find tradespeople.

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