State of the Region: Prince Edward Island

Posted on January 18, 2021 | By Dawn Chafe | 0 Comments

In the space between an unprecedented economic boom and COVID’s pandemic panic, Islanders strive for balance

If there was a competition for the title of Prince Edward Island’s most positive person, Shawn McCarvill would be a serious contender. Reached by phone in the midst of a global pandemic that’s triggering a worldwide economic crisis, the president of Slemon Park Corporation repeatedly said he had much to be thankful for.

Topping his list of ‘gratitudes’ is the federal and provincial governments’ management of COVID-19. “Yes, we’ve had to wear masks and socially distance, but there aren’t many people in the world whose lives have been as minimally affected as ours have been here,” he said. As of December 14, there had been no hospitalizations or deaths on the Island related to the coronavirus.

The province has done so well in fact, that two of McCarvill’s daughters—one’s a physician and the other’s a CPA—relocated from highly-infected Ontario to the safety of P.E.I. They didn’t come empty-handed either. The doctor brought her doctor-husband with her, along with their four children, which goes a long way to explaining the smile in this grandfather’s voice.

Still, it’s hard to imagine what would inspire that positivity in Shawn McCarvill’s professional life. The economic development crown corporation he leads is essentially a property management organization renting space to commercial and residential tenants. Those commercial tenants include manufacturing companies, public safety training organizations and P.E.I.’s aerospace industry.

That’s right, aerospace—a sector that has been all but grounded by the travel restrictions necessitated by COVID-19. Last May, passenger traffic at the Charlottetown airport was down 97 per cent compared to the same month in 2019. It decreased a further 94 per cent between April and November 2020. On the day this article was written, there was exactly one flight coming into YYG and one flight going out. Surely McCarvill must be weighed down with concern for his clients, specifically StandardAero and Honeywell… except, he isn’t. Concerned? Yes. Weighed down? Not so much.

According to McCarvill, P.E.I.’s aerospace industry isn’t in the commercial airline business; it’s in the MRO business (that’s maintenance, repair and overhaul, in case you were wondering). Yes, he confirmed, there have been some layoffs and those have been both significant and unfortunate for the families affected. And yes, he acknowledged, the long-term implications could be devastating (“Making sure we have a strong commercial airline industry when this is all done is an important thing for governments to manage and support.”), but…


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