Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson is defending the job his department is doing at deciding who does — and does not — get to travel to P.E.I.
He was responding to questions in the legislature Wednesday from Summerside-South Drive MLA Stephen Howard.
The Green MLA accused the minister of leaving some families homeless after they sold their homes in other provinces and then were refused entry to P.E.I.
"Government needs to properly enforce border restrictions, but at the same time, it needs to weigh how some of its decisions affect people's lives," Howard said during question period.
"For example, many families have had their pre-approved plans to move here deferred or rescinded," Howard said.
"For some who have already sold their previous home, but now can't get to their new home on P.E.I., they've essentially been made homeless by this government."
What is essential?
Howard said the government was being inconsistent in the way it was applying the rules, allowing people to travel to the Island for non-essential reasons, such as weddings and graduations.
"I would think that having a roof over your head is an essential reason to travel to P.E.I. It's certainly more essential than a wedding or graduation ceremony," Howard said.
"Do you consider having a place to live an essential reason to come to P.E.I.?"
Thompson said his department has had 27,000 requests to come to P.E.I., and each is dealt individually.
"If someone sold their house in another province and wants to come here, it's being dealt with," Thompson said.
"We're trying to make sure everyone is safe, but no one has been denied if they have a property to come to that they own, and they're going to be a permanent resident. It just takes time to process everything."
Howard asked the minister if there was an appeal process for applications that were turned down, or if people had to go to the minister personally to get help.
"I am glad to hear that the minister is considering this case, but politicians shouldn't be the gatekeepers for government compassion," Howard said.
Thompson said, as much as possible, he leaves the decision making to his staff.
"I am not the gatekeeper. We have over 40 staff in Public Safety taking care of this and addressing every instance," Thompson said.
"There's people that reach out to me and I try to manoeuvre them in the right direction, or I'll have people to reach out to them if there's circumstances where someone's stuck and they're Islanders, they're trying to get here."
"I have helped a few people, including a few people across there — some members here," Thompson said.
"It's a compassionate thing that I do, and we also have a compassionate team that deal with compassionate issues for health appointments, funerals, deaths, everything."
Howard also asked what the Department of Public Safety was doing to ensure that people travelling to P.E.I. were following the rules when they arrived.
He referred to a case earlier this week where charges were laid against five people in Summerside who ignored self-isolation requirements upon arriving on the Island.
"We've even heard of a rise in applications for self-isolation exemptions, and I hope government is being extremely cautious about approving these," Howard said.
Thompson said all travellers need pre-approval to come to the Island, and that the situation was "an unfortunate case where people didn't listen."
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