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Government hiring 170 new border staff while some Islanders frustrated by P.E.I. Pass

·4 min read
Government hiring 170 new border staff while some Islanders frustrated by P.E.I. Pass
P.E.I's Department of Justice and Public Safety says about 4,000 people will be travelling into P.E.I. on June 27. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
P.E.I's Department of Justice and Public Safety says about 4,000 people will be travelling into P.E.I. on June 27. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The P.E.I. government is hiring 170 people to manage all the travellers coming to the Island at the end of June.

The province has received 28,151 P.E.I. Pass applications so far, officials with the Department of Justice and Public Safety said in an email to CBC on Tuesday. Of those applications, 2,090 have been approved.

There are 90 people processing travel applications and answering phone calls and emails about border restrictions. Staff members are working from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week to process applications.

Ryan Neale, manager of P.E.I. environmental health, is helping to oversee the Island's points of entry and the hiring of new border personnel.

Neal said there were about 45 staff at the border before the P.E.I. government announced it would be easing border restrictions for the end of June. By the end of this week, Neale said the province hopes to hire an additional 170 border personnel.

"It's a daunting task but, you know, we have a lot of committed individuals here who know this is what it's going to take to protect Islanders."

'A challenging role'

Neale said the primary role of these border personnel will be screening travellers coming into the province. Workers will collect travellers' information, do health screenings, ensure visitors know COVID-19 and self-isolation guidelines on P.E.I. if relevant, swab people and run samples through testing equipment.

All new hires will be trained on these tasks, Neale said. His department is partnering with Health PEI for training on swabbing travellers to run tests.

The pay for these positions ranges from $15 to just under $20 per hour. Neale said his department took guidance for the pay range from the province's public service commission.

"It's a challenging role," Neale said.

The border personnel are present 24/7 at Confederation Bridge. They also screen travellers coming in from all other points of entry.

Frustration and confusion

While the government is hiring dozens of new employees to manage the border, members of the public are still confused over travel requirements and the P.E.I. Pass.

Island resident Taylor MacLeod hasn't seen her boyfriend since May 8, when she moved back to P.E.I. from Halifax for her summer job.

Her boyfriend has applied for a P.E.I. Pass in hopes of coming to the Island on June 28, but MacLeod is not sure if his application will be processed in time.

"We've had all these plans and I was really excited for him to come here, but now I don't really know. He's applied for his pass and just waiting for it to come in."

So many people have been waiting to see family and loved ones in other provinces. — Green MLA Trish Altass

Although MacLeod thinks the P.E.I. Pass is a good idea, she said she doesn't understand why it is necessary for Island residents.

Green MLA Trish Altass, who is also Opposition critic for economic, growth, tourism and culture, said she's heard many questions from Islanders "who are expressing frustration and confusion about this pass."

"It's so confusing to me why this process hasn't been more well thought out, and also why the government hasn't taken the opportunity to engage with the other Atlantic provinces to come up with a clear and comprehensive plan that will be aligned," said Altass.

Altass said the P.E.I. Pass seems to be "an unnecessary level of bureaucracy" for Islanders.

"So many people have been waiting to see family and loved ones in other provinces. They are ready to do whatever is necessary and jump through any hoops. But there are so many questions as to why there were so many hoops put in place for Islanders to be able to access the pass."

Officials with the Department of Justice and Public Safety anticipate about 4,000 people will travel to the Island on June 27, and they expect all travel applications for that date to be processed in time.

More from CBC P.EI.

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