Provincial highway crews for fixing roads, not setting up concerts, says minister

P.E.I.'s new transportation minister says government has turned down requests from concert promoters to have provincial highway crews help with setup of their events.

Steven Myers said organizers of the Cavendish Beach Music Festival submitted a request asking for six crews to spend six days helping set up their concert site, while organizers of Rock the Boat in Tyne Valley requested one crew for a 10-day period.

"The shape of the roads after this hard winter, we think we should have our staff dedicated to fixing the roads, not on concert sites. So we're going to do what transportation is supposed to do," said Myers. "There'll be no plans going forward to do any of those types of services for anybody."

Myers said he wasn't sure how far back the practice goes, but said provincial crews have been provided at no cost to event organizers in the past.

CBC

He said last year the province provided workers as an in-kind contribution to CBMF at a value of $56,000.

Myers said each crew is made up of five to six provincial employees, meaning the request from CBMF would have required upwards of 30 highway staff for almost an entire week.

"To take six of our 16 western crews … and put them on a concert venue for six days is taking away from all the rest of Prince Edward Island, and all the rest of our highway system," said Myers. "We didn't think that was an appropriate way to spend taxpayers' dollars."

'Deeply disappointing,' says one organizer

But Adam MacLennan, president of the Rock the Boat Music Festival, said the move will come at a cost for his organization.

"The decision that they've made is deeply disappointing," MacLennan said. "It puts a lot more stress on community volunteers. It's a major shock to us and our organization, considering the government more-or-less campaigned on being advocates and a strong voice for rural P.E.I."

Randy McAndrew/CBC

MacLennan said a local highway maintenance crew has been made available to help set up fencing since Rock the Boat was incorporated into the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival in 2014.

He said that crew also provided snow fencing and rebar at no cost.

"I don't think the current government realizes that our organization is all non-profit. It's all operated by volunteers and watershed groups that are down there assisting the site setup," said MacLennan.

MacLennan said he's been asking government about this since two weeks after the April 23 election and only found out the request was being denied when contacted by CBC. Rock the Boat takes place Aug. 3.

"It would have been really nice to know two or three months back they weren't going to provide a government crew," said MacLennan.

CBC

"Now when we're about six weeks out, it basically leaves us almost no time to readjust."

MacLennan said proceeds from previous year's festivals have gone to support local charities and pay off the mortgage for the local rink. This year's festival was to raise money to install solar panels at the rink, but now he said the event will incur more costs and require more volunteers.

"I'd really encourage the minister and I'd really encourage some of the MLAs, if they're looking to get out and help us volunteer, we'd be more than happy for them to come in and help us set up fencing."

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Cavendish Beach Music Festival.

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