The mayor of Tignish is happy the Access PEI centre in his community is open again, but feels it never should have closed in the first place.
“Some people are scared that they may close us for good, and make people travel to O’Leary or Alberton, or some place,” said Allan McInnis. “I’m under the understanding from the provincial government that it’s not going to be closed.”
The Alberton and Tignish locations for Access PEI were temporarily closed in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the centre in O’Leary remained open.
Part of the issue for residents living beyond O’Leary is timing. It takes roughly 20 minutes to get to the community from Alberton, and roughly 30 minutes from Tignish.
“If you’re from North Cape, that’s a 40 minute drive (one way),” said Hal Perry, MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road. “The problem with O’Leary was we had people who were employed within the area of Tignish who would generally go either during break, prior to work, or just after work, to Access PEI, and they didn’t have that option when it was in O’Leary because it was at least a 30 minute drive there and back. That’s an hour gone, plus whatever the wait time was in O’Leary.”
The Access PEI location in Alberton was supposed to open last week, but Mayor David Gordon is unsure of the specific date.
“We get a few calls (from residents) mostly every day on it,” he said. “They were telling us they were going to open it this week (Week of Sept. 16), and now they’re saying next week, so we don’t know what they’re doing.”
While the Alberton location will open, its hours, like the hours of the Tignish centre will be staggered, meaning one centre will be open one week, and the other location will be open the following week. This is concerning for Mr Perry, as there is no indication so far regarding how long this will go on for.
He noted how vital it is having an Access PEI centre in a community, and that while services like vehicle registration were available online, it’s not the same as being able to go to the physical location.
“It made it difficult for a lot of seniors in the area, who wanted to get work done to their homes prior to winter, and they didn’t have access to the government programs, other than it being online,” Mr Perry said. “A lot of seniors don’t have that technology, or can’t understand that technology. They would usually drop into Access PEI in Tignish and they would get what required paperwork was needed, and maybe a little bit of direction.”
The Graphic reached out to officials at Access PEI for a comment, but didn’t get a reply by press time.