P.E.I. sees spike in applications to come to the Island after Atlantic bubble bursts

·3 min read

P.E.I.'s Department of Justice and Public Safety says it is dealing with a spike in people seeking approval to come to the Island.

Officials say since the closure of the Atlantic bubble and the chief public health officer's recommendations to not travel during the holidays, the province has seen five-times the amount of inquiries.

Justice and Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson says the province was bracing for a spike following the announcement P.E.I. was pulling out of the Atlantic bubble because of increased COVID-19 cases in neighbouring New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. He says people need to be patient, adding the province will get through the backlog within the next couple of days.

"We've been doing this for almost eight months now and as every announcement comes there's an influx of inquiries, applications," said Thompson. "So to address this announcement Monday we've brought in six new staff to deal with some of the backlog."

On Monday, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer announced P.E.I. was pulling out of the Atlantic bubble and said Islanders should only travel outside of P.E.I. for essential purposes or work.

'They haven't received an approval or denial'

Anyone who needs to travel to the Island, including residents of Atlantic Canada, now has to apply for pre-travel approval.

CBC
CBC

Island residents do not require pre-travel approval, but will be required to self-isolate 14 days once they return to the Island.

Frustrations over the growing wait times spilled over onto the floor of the P.E.I. Legislature Wednesday.

Cory Deagle, PC MLA for Montague-Kilmuir, said he had been contacted by a couple that had been waiting 168 hours for a response, much longer than the 72-hour response time the province tries to achieve.

The couple is moving from B.C. to his district, and the couple's parents — who have also reached out to him — are his constituents.

Deagle said they first sent their letter to the province on Nov. 18, long before P.E.I. pulled out of the Atlantic bubble. He said the couple was asked for more information on Nov. 21.

"It's now Nov. 25 and they haven't received an approval or denial letter and they are travelling across Canada," said Deagle.

'What they are going to do when they get here?'

"They received approval to enter New Brunswick but they don't know about P.E.I. What they are going to do when they get here?"

Al MacCormack/CBC
Al MacCormack/CBC

Thompson said he would get the name of the family and follow up immediately to ensure they have an answer before they get to the Confederation Bridge.

Deagle said the family is growing increasingly frustrated.

"These two individuals are travelling across Canada, they said today they tried calling, no one's answering the phone, they tried leaving voicemail but the inbox is filled."

Thompson did admit wait times have increased significantly because of the closure of the Atlantic bubble.

"We will be back to 72 hours very soon," Thompson said from the floor of the legislature.

'I hate making politics out of something so important'

But Deagle fired back saying, "You shouldn't have to contact your MLA to find out if you can get approval to come to P.E.I."

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

Thompson then took a shot at his PC colleague.

"This is a very important question and I hate making politics out of something so important," said Thompson. "I sat beside this member in caucus, I wish he had brought this to me then."

In an interview after question period, Deagle said he makes no apologies for raising the concerns of his constituents.

"The premier has said that we can ask tough questions, even though it's our own party, we can ask tough questions that are important to our constituents and Islanders," Deagle told CBC News.

"We've never been told one way or another to not do something, if we feel it's important and we want to ask it, we can ask the questions."

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