At the Liberal government’s Economic Forum held on March 16, 2016, Premier MacLachlan introduced the members of his Economic Advisory Board as follows: “I want to say a special welcome to our Board of Economic Advisors, Elizabeth Beale, Michael Horgan and Tim O’Neill….we are fortunate to have their insight, experience and their friendship.”
Given the incredibly influential placement of these three unelected, and no doubt, well-intentioned economists, Islanders deserve to know a little more about both their friendships with the Premier, as well as their economic vision for PEI.
Tim, Elizabeth and Wade have all served as Board members with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. Elizabeth, Michael and Wade are all members of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. Elizabeth, Michael, Tim and Wade all participated in an economic Forum in 2005 entitled, “Economic Transformation in Atlantic Canada.” Much more could be said to show how their friendships go way back, but it’s obviously impossible to cover that ground in one short article. And providing a critique of their economic vision for PEI, and why it’s not appropriate for our Island, will have to wait for another article; this one’s about Tim O’Neill’s involvement with the Premier.
Tim and Wade were also both formerly employed at UPEI; however, it’s their shared interest in their spouses’ involvement in the Watermark Theatre in Rustico that seems to have turned a close friendship into a family affair. I’ll explain.
Wade’s spouse, Duncan McIntosh, was the Artistic Director of the Montgomery Theatre, and continued in that role with the Watermark Theatre when it was incorporated on January 25, 2008. In June, 2010, the Watermark Theatre acquired a new home in North Rustico and received two non-repayable government grants totaling $107,600 ($60,000 from ACOA and $47,600 from the Ghiz government). This money was essentially given to Wade, since the Premier currently holds the mortgage on the Watermark Theatre.
When Duncan retired as Artistic Director of the Watermark Theatre in late 2015, the Directors named the stage after Duncan in his honour. Praising his artistic accomplishments, the Chair of the Board, Lois O’Neill, stated: “Mr. McIntosh’s visionary perception of Canadian theatre led to the creation of ReIgnite Inc., a unique Watermark endeavour focused on the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation talks that took place on PEI.”
ReIgnite Inc. was incorporated on January 17, 2014 and has three directors, one of whom is Tim O’Neill, the husband of the Chair of the Watermark Theatre Board, Lois O’Neill. Eight months after incorporation, on August 24, 2014, ReIgnite received a $100,000 non-repayable grant from ACOA. Then on February 6, 2015, ACOA issued another cheque to Watermark Theatre for $39,440.00, exactly two weeks before Wade became Premier.
Islanders should know that at the same time that Wade appointed Tim O’Neill as the Chair of the Board of Economic Advisors – just days after Wade became Premier – O’Neill was a director of the company paying the Premier’s spouse’s salary with government funds.
Duncan’s “Canada 300” project presented nine plays in twenty‐one venues across Canada from February to April, 2015, and concluded with the JS Palmer Conference at UPEI on September 3-4, 2015. The keynote address was delivered by Tim O’Neill, and Wade delivered an address at the Premier’s Luncheon. Tim’s and Wade’s spouses also had their moment to shine, when delegates were bused to the Watermark Theatre in Rustico for a Thursday evening reception, after which they watched Duncan’s play, which was described in the Conference literature as “…the play that sparks discussions.” Indeed.