Unprecedented changes have begun to sweep through Prince Edward Island. The Green Party is the official opposition. Housing is depleted in its capital city, with vacancy rates lower than Toronto, rents comparable to Montreal and the second highest rate of short-term rentals in the country. Immigration rates are expanding, the economy is “on a tear” and for the first time in a long time, more people were being born than dying.
A piece from CBC freelancer Justin Ling said PEI, right now, could be looked at as “a microcosm for the rest of Canada.” I want to explore the island from that perspective – what does it mean for so many changes to be happening to a place so many people think of as small-c conservative? What is the actual truth of this place? Who are the people who live there? And what made people in the rest of Canada so surprised when all eyes turned to the province for a time during the latest election? I want to talk with the changemakers on PEI right now – the politicians, the new Islanders, the young people who are looking for housing and just trying to make a home. It may seem like a sweeping topic, but the ideas are connected – and it’s the exact kind of journalism I’m drawn to. It’s a piece of work that I see painting a full, vibrant portrait of a place and of its people, while still bringing the most current issues to the fore.
My approach to the MRP is going to cover related ground to an investigative piece I completed in first semester this year, but will not cross into its reporting. Rapid changes have happened on the little island, and this will be a completely original piece exploring the province as it stands now.
Story Form and Justification
The story will be presented using a multimedia webpage. The goal is to have podcast elements, video elements, interactives and photos all interwoven into the work.
After a discussion with my supervisor April, we came to the conclusion that the piece should take on a “road trip” aspect – something a little bit corny, but revealing in its execution.
The website will be taking on the look of a PEI tourism map. These maps feature the “scenic routes” of PEI – taking you along the coast and driving you past the most prominent landmarks: Green Gables, beautiful cliffs, Charlottetown’s historic buildings.
Along those scenic routes I’ll be taking “detours” to show you what’s really going on underneath: the public meetings about the housing crisis, the Mi’kmaq youth trying to understand how their community is changing, the seasonal employment affecting the people trying to bring Anne Shirley to life each summer.
The justification for this format is that it matches PEI’s branding and aesthetic, but twists it: it takes a recognizable image of the province, the outward projection, and shows you the underbelly. These maps are instantly recognizable to me and to pretty much anyone who grew up on PEI, and that’s partially the audience I’m shooting for with this piece.
The format is also something, frankly, I want to explore: I think there are lots of opportunities to tell this story, which has many moving parts, through different media. Different aspects of the story will require different media, and the website will allow me to present in all those different formats.
Primary and Secondary Sources
I’ve been using websites like the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation to better understand the housing crisis. CBC PEI’s series “No Fixed Address” has also been a major aid in better understanding the issues.
Justin Ling’s piece “Tragedy and politics…” made a deep impression on me for the piece. It’s an outsider looking in at a horrid week in Island politics – after a death, how do you carry on? It was a moment that led to a dozen think pieces about whether the Island was setting the perfect tone for Canadian politics.
Also the Toronto Star’s piece on cliff erosion and climate change as part of their “Undeniable” series has been a great help. It’s shown me the visuals I might try to access for my piece, as well as how the overarching structure can come together.
The Abegweit First Nation’s webpage has been a great resource for access to the community as well, but I made initial contact with Schurman Peters on Facebook.
Employment Journey is a job news site on PEI that I’ve been using to get a grasp on seasonal employment numbers, and the way jobs are advertised and disseminated on PEI.
I’m speaking to Peter Bevan-Baker, the leader of the official opposition, as well as hoping to speak to Dennis King, the premier of the province, for short interviews about their new roles. I want to better understand their relationship to each other – an image that’s become iconic already to many Islanders are the two leaders hugging at the CBC offices the morning after the election. Will that energy stay?
Schurman Peters is a Mi’kmaq youth leader in the Abegweit First Nation on PEI. He describes himself as a gay man, and he has seen the changes the nation has gone through recently, such as electoral law changes coming from the Federal Government. I’m speaking to him in hopes of understanding the Abegweit First Nation and the ways its youth are seeing Indigenous relations on PEI change in their lifetime.
Aimee Power is with the PEI Affordable Housing Group, and has been a great resource and voice on the ground for the issue. Robert Zilke is a planner with the city of Charlottetown and has been a professional voice explaining the issue to me.
To better understand seasonal employment and how things are changing while the economy goes “on a tear”, I’m speaking to Chris Doiron, a counsellor at Charlottetown’s Career Development Services, Annie Spears, a professor of Economics at UPEI, and still needing to find my real seasonal work character who will bring that section to life.
Rocio McCallum, manager of youth services at the PEI Newcomers Association, has been helping me better understand the immigration boom that has happened on PEI as of late, and how young people are feeling being new to PEI, and to Canada in general.
Access to Principal Sources
My biggest issue right now is trying to work around some of the close contacts I have with people in PEI. It’s good to be connected – but I’ll need to be very upfront and straightforward with the connections I have to people there in order to fulfill the ethical side of the work.
On the flip side, my other big difficulty is that I’m hoping to interview a lot of prominent members of the Island community that will be hard to access from a student point of view. I’m going to try my best in these cases, but my access to people may cause me to shift my focuses at times.
Reporting and Production Schedule
My plan of attack was to start pulling in material while I’m on PEI over these summer
Months. Then, I’d start culling the pieces together once I’m back in Toronto.
This has, frankly, been more difficult than I would have hoped while working full-time at CBC, amongst other commitments. My goals have had to shift a bit and have been honed down to be more feasible than they previously were.
Right now, my goals:
Jul 24: Have a fully cemented idea of interviews and events, present to April.
Jul 29: Begin interviews and collecting videos of events.
Aug 5 – 30: Do at least 2 interviews each week to begin. Go to housing events, go to Abegweit First Nation, etc.
Sept: Begin editing disparate pieces.
Oct: Work on refining those pieces, also chase additional interviews or information I’ve missed.
Nov: Begin constructing website.
Dec: Start pulling pieces onto website into first workable draft for end of the month.
Jan-May: Work on fully refining the piece to present at end of May.
Bibliography & Source List
Official Leader of the Opposition
Cell phone (private number)
Premier of PEI
902 368 4400
Youth Leader, Abegweit First Nation
902 393 9002
PEI Fight for Affordable Housing
Spoken through Facebook Messages
City Planner, Charlottetown
Counsellor, Career Development Services
Private cell number
Economics Professor, UPEI
Manager, Youth Services, Newcomers Association
Contacted through Twitter
“Tragedy and politics…” by Justin Ling https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/04/22/features/tragedy-and-politics-prince-edward-island
Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation
What created Charlottetown’s housing crisis? – from CBC PEI
“P.E.I. is losing ground…” from the Toronto Star
Islanders in Toronto Facebook Group
Abegweit First Nation
Employment Journey – Job news on PEI https://employmentjourney.com/resources-services-for-job-seekers/
Government of PEI website