January 2014


  1. 1 January 31, 2014
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 1.2 Why should we support request where resource put further at risk? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Mike Durant
  2. 2 January 30, 2014
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 2.2 Deep wells, fracking draw heritage farm ire - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 2.3 P.E.I. potato industryʼs grab for more water doesnʼt pass smell test - The Guardian Commentary by Todd Depuis
  3. 3 January 29, 2014
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 3.2 Sherry tips her hand on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 3.3 Ag federation faces decision on deep wells - The Guardian Editorial
  4. 4 January 28, 2014
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 4.2 CSAs a Way to Connect Directly with Local Food Producers - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay
  5. 5 January 27, 2014
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 5.2 Canada Post eliminates P.E.I. postmarks -The Guardian Opinion by Andy Walker
  6. 6 January 25, 2014
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 6.2 Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 6.3 Bermuda provides lesson on water use - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 6.4 Innovations needed to aid transparency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  7. 7 January 24, 2014
    1. 7.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  8. 8 January 23, 2014
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 8.2 Time for responsible farmers, citizens to step up - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Dale Small
    3. 8.3 Will tourists still visit our fair province? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  9. 9 January 22, 2014
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 9.2 Deep-water well issue more than sufficiency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  10. 10 January 21, 2014
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 10.2 Premier Ghiz has everything in hand - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  11. 11 January 20, 2014
    1. 11.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 11.2 The fracking debate - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross
  12. 12 January 19, 2014
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 12.2 Deep-well irrigation not well understood, says professor - The Guardian article by Nigel Armstrong
    3. 12.3 Does potato board have the mandate? - The Guardian letter to the Editor
    4. 12.4 Whatʼs the difference with deep-water wells, or aquifier fracking? - The Guardian Editorial
  13. 13 January 18, 2014
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 13.2 Liberals must support water -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 13.3 Charlottetown getting Walmart Supercentre - The Guardian article by Dave Stewart
  14. 14 January 17, 2014
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 14.2 Short-term pain, long-term pain? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  15. 15 January 16, 2014
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 15.2 Deep-water wells jeopardize supply - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 15.3 Defining difference in promise vs. lie - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 15.4 CETA trade benefits grossly exaggerated - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  16. 16 January 15, 2014
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  17. 17 January 14, 2014
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 17.2 Deep water wells already an issue? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  18. 18 January 13, 2014
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update:
  19. 19 January 12, 2014
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  20. 20 January 11, 2014
    1. 20.1 14 Food Resolutions for 2014 - by Danielle Nierenberg
  21. 21 January 10, 2014
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  22. 22 January 9, 2014
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 22.2 Acreage disappears in farming statistics -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 22.3 Family farm in spotlight by UN decree - The Guardian Editorial
  23. 23 January 8, 2014
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 23.2 Reinventing Progressive Politics - by Murray Dobbin, rabble.ca
    3. 23.3 Nuclear power best option for reliable electricity - The Guardian Letter of the Day
  24. 24 January 7, 2014
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 24.2 Farm Centre Associationʼs planting seeds of a Legacy Farm - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay
  25. 25 January 6, 2014
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 25.2 That was the year that was…2013’s highs and lows - Elizabeth May's blog
  26. 26 January 4, 2014
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 26.2 Electoral democracy, salesmanship, or the games people play - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Marie Burge
  27. 27 January 3, 2014
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 27.2 Why Ruin a Good Thing - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  28. 28 January 2, 2014
    1. 28.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 28.2 Let's celebrate the gifts of winter - David Suzuki's blog
  29. 29 January 1, 2014
    1. 29.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 29.2 Task Force interested in Islandersʼ viewpoints - The Guardian Letter of the Day
    3. 29.3 Sorry, but that’s all for 2013 folks - The Eastern Graphic "The view from Here" by Jack MacAndrew 

January 31, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The PEI Federation of Agriculture is meeting today for its Annual General Meeting.

One of items is a presentation on groundwater and high capacity wells from someone from the Department of Environment, who has said the science supports the ability of Island groundwater to have "dozens and dozens and dozens" of high capacity wells (CBC Radio, yesterday morning after 6AM).  There is a resolution for government presumably about lifting the ban on these wells.

Here is a letter from the one of the watershed groups in Wednesday's Guardian:

Why should we support request where resource put further at risk? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Mike Durant

Published on January 29, 2014

The P.E.I. Potato Board and Cavendish Farms are asking that the moratorium on high-capacity groundwater extractions be lifted. Concerned citizens, scientists and the National Farmers Union have presented their own arguments against such action. We now learn that ex-politicians and ex-civil servants have been hired to lobby every MLA on the potato industryʼs behalf, moving the debate away from objective science and into the political realm.

The Central Queens Wildlife Federation feels that all Islanders should understand the facts of this important debate. We have sent this fact sheet to every MLA on future Islandersʼ behalf.

Did you know? The new Water Extraction Permitting Policy allows 100 metres of headwater streams to dry up entirely during the low-flow time of the year when groundwater makes up all or most of stream flow. As the flows are reduced, the pathway for water shrinks in from the banks of the river, further eliminating the downstream edge habitat that is so critical for young fishes and other aquatic life. Young fish forced into mid-stream are eaten by larger fish, reducing and potentially eliminating future generations of the population. Where will the fish come from to sustain these populations?
Did you know? There is a lag time for recovery of groundwater loss from extraction. It may be many weeks before the affected stream will return to normal levels. If this is very late in the summer, the water level may not recover until spring. Island rivers are already being impacted by low water levels and low rates of recharge in recent years, evident from Environment Canada monitoring. Will recharge rates return to the historical rates upon which the provincial extraction permitting policy appears to be based? How much will climate change affect recharge in future years?

Did you know? This issue is not just about the quantity of groundwater available to people and nature, it is also about the quality of that water. When wells pump water up to the surface for our use, it creates pressure underground that pulls water toward the well from the surrounding soil and rock.

On the Island, that means water from closer to the surface will be pulled down to the depth of deep-water wells. Water closer to the surface has higher concentrations of nitrate —nitrogen. It also contains other fertilizer components like phosphorus and water-soluble forms of pesticides. In the process of extracting water from greater depths, we will further contaminate our deepwater aquifer. What consequences will this have to the water discharging to our estuaries, and the frequency of anoxic events ?

Did you know? The guideline for acceptable levels of nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water is a concentration of 10 mg/L, for protection of aquatic life it is 2.9 mg/L. Nitrate concentrations indicating ʻpristineʼ water conditions on the Island are in the range of 0.5 -1.0 mg/L. Average nitrate values for the Wilmot, Dunk and Mill Rivers in 2008/2009 exceeded 7.1, 4.5 and 3.0 mg/L, high enough to produce anoxic events. When drinking water values climb, the only recourse for the well owner to reduce the nitrate concentration is to either install a reverse osmosis filtration system ($1,500) or dig a deeper well ($3,000). There are roughly 30,000 approved cottage lots on the Island. In some locations, they may be faced with two choices: dig a shallow well with high nitrate-nitrogen concentrations or dig a deeper well with saltwater intrusion. If someoneʼs well goes dry or is contaminated, will the potato industry be compensating them? How many Islanders can afford to front these costs themselves?  

Did you know? While the industry lobby is arguing that supplemental irrigation will improve potato yields and make Island growers and processors more competitive, the main advantages enjoyed by this industry in other regions are superior quality soils and longer growing seasons. Irrigation will not affect either of these factors. Soil quality monitoring by the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Forestry has shown that the benchmark three-year crop rotation does not prevent soil organic matter from decreasing year after year. A minimum of a four-year crop rotation with two years in forage is required to maintain organic matter in the soil. Why is organic matter important? Because it holds water! You canʼt retain water at the soil surface for plant uptake if youʼre growing your crop in sand. The potato industry has squandered their topsoil and soil organic matter for decades by operating in a manner that is not sustainable. Supplemental irrigation is not a cure for these harmful practices. If we continue in this fashion, the data shows that our soils will become inert and our groundwater unsuitable for animal or human consumption. How many more years will it really give the industry? Who will benefit in the long run from this initiative — potato producers or just the processors?

Yes, the potato industry on the Island has challenges and yes, they need to take a hard look at the long-term sustainability of their practices. But why should the public be asked to support an initiative where the longevity of the benefits to the industry are questionable and where a public resource is further put at risk?

The Island is in desperate need of strong policy on land and resource use. While the current government works on a land use policy, there is no indication that this will sufficiently protect our ground and surface waters from over-exploitation. We need a provincial water policy, similar to other provinces, which eliminates the potential for strong lobby groups with deep pockets to override what is in the best interest of Islanders.

Mike Durant is a board member of the Central Queens Wildlife Federation and West River Watershed Project.
The irony is that the photo The Guardian presumably plucked from its files to illustrate the letter is from a few years back and shows the current executive director of the Federation of Agriculture flyfishing on the West River.

The Guardian file photo

January 30, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The high capacity wells issue continues:
I heard the Manager of Watershed and Subdivision Planning from the Department of Environment on CBC Radio earlier this morning.  He said the Island could handle "dozens and dozens and dozens" of high capacity wells.

From Betty Howatt of Tryon, a paragon of common sense and care of the land (bold is mine):

Deep wells, fracking draw heritage farm ire - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 29, 2014

Since cultivation began on our land around the 1770s, shallow hand-dug wells have provided all needs of man and beast. There was ample water here. I can still show the location of three wells, for watering animals, now not needed, so filled in. A fourth, producing one on our property across the road from us ran dry so a new well was drilled about five years ago.

In 2013 the shallow, hand-dug well that has supplied the needs of our farm and household for the many years Iʼve been fortunate to live here, that well dried up, with another 150- foot well needed.

The farm federation does not speak for this member family. We strongly oppose the granting of permits for deep wells. We also request a permanent moratorium on permits for fracking.

An oversized sandbar, surrounded by salt water, that is our Island, our living space. Think on that.

Betty Howatt, Howattʼs Fruit Farm, Tryon

CBC Radio is also talking to a representative from the P.E.I. Potato Board, and from Todd Dupuis from the Atlantic Salmon Federation after the 7AM news, I believe.  His very well thought-out commentary was also in yesterday's paper (full text at end):

The political panel will also discuss the issue after 7:40AM on the radio.  Presumably they'll comment on how Environment Minister Sherry has handled this, as Paul MacNeill has written in The Eastern Graphic:

P.E.I. potato industryʼs grab for more water doesnʼt pass smell test - The Guardian Commentary by Todd Depuis

Published on January 29, 2014

When it comes to the economy, the P.E.I. potato industry may be a giver; but when it comes to the environment, it is a taker and a big one at that. Donʼt forget that this industry is responsible for millions of tons of topsoil eroding from fields and into our waterways annually. This is the same industry that is responsible for the stinking dead zone anoxic events that happen annually in our estuaries. Itʼs the industry that is responsible for more than 40 pesticide-related fish kills, which happen like clockwork every year, some making national and international news. The industry is responsible for nitrate contamination of our drinking water, an issue that is only getting worse. Every person that drinks water out of his or her tap in Charlottetown is drinking chemical fertilizer.

Thanks to the potato industry, Charlottetownʼs drinking water nitrate level is three to seven times higher (depending on the government data you use) than what is considered normal background level. Remember the cityʼs water supply is in the countryside amidst potato fields. Many people living near the central and western potato belts would give their eye teeth for Charlottetownʼs drinking water, because their water is that much more contaminated. And while the potato industry is the cause of all these environmental issues, it takes no responsibility for cleaning it up. The industry does not have to consider the cost to the environment in its cost of doing business because it is allowed to freely impact the environment. If the industry were required to put the infrastructure in place to protect the environment, it certainly would not be worth 1 billion dollars.

It is no secret that Island soils are degraded from years of industrial potato production. Short rotations and high erosion rates have resulted in shallow topsoil with lower organic matter — not good conditions if you want to hold moisture in the soil. The fact is that our soils are in worse shape today than they were decades ago and there is little indication this trend will change soon. Big industry knows this. The problem is that once it is no longer viable to grow potatoes in the province because of degraded soils, this big industry will move on.

Remember — there is plenty of room to grow potatoes in Idaho and Manitoba. I can hear the industryʼs swan song now: “Thanks for your soil and water but we must be moving on. Sorry for your troubles.” I do not blame the individual farmer.

Like most Islanders, I have friends and acquaintances that are good farmers who are doing their best to be good stewards of the land. Most of them are independent and making their own decisions but, in many cases, the big corporations run the show. The growing of processing potatoes on P.E.I. can be tricky business for our farmers. It goes something like this: “Sign here please. Oh yeah youʼll need to grow what we tell you. You need to add this much fertilizer and by the way youʼll need to buy it all from us. Do what we tell you or else we donʼt buy your product.”

Now big Industry is making a push for more water. A well-orchestrated and well-funded campaign that has come out of the blue is designed to catch Islanders off guard. Thereʼs a new water extraction permitting policy written by a few people in government, seemingly with plenty of industry input. They say they used good science and that P.E.I. has a lot of water. They did not consult with the public though.

Iʼve read the new policy and, although Iʼm not a hydrologist, I do have some training in the field and 30 years of experience walking along and trying to protect Island streams and their fish. While the new policy states there is lots of water, I have lots of questions, as do many others in the conservation field.

I know governments are under pressure from big industry, but this government should not jump into deep-well irrigation until itʼs sure it has consulted with all Islanders and that their best interest is being protected. This government should ensure it is not leaving a legacy of dried-up rivers and contaminated drinking water. If industry and government are so confident in their water data and new water extraction policy, then the government should set up a standing committee so the public will have time to study the science and provide input. Why not let outside experts take a look at it? Why the rush? Remember — this is a new policy that has the potential to impact all Islanders, a policy that has had zero public input. If the science is as sound as industry contends, then let it stand the test. At the moment though, many in P.E.I. think something stinks. It smells like big industry is in the room.

Todd Dupuis is executive director, regional programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

The panel discussion after the showing of Island Green last night sounded great!  I had a bit of driveway issue that put my plans of attending "on ice," but I hope some of it will be posted on YouTube.

January 29, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight is a showing of Island Green, the 30-minute movie that poses the question of an organic PEI.
It is free, starts at 7PM at the Farm Centre, and will be followed by a panel discussion on questions the movie asks.

Yesterday, The Guardian's editorial praised Saturday's "rational" letter by the P.E.I. Potato Board chairman for not wanting "unfettered" access to water, among other things.  The editorial describes the negative reactions of those who do not want these high capacity wells, and says the Federation of Agriculture (set on Friday to pass a resolution presumably supporting lifting of the ban) is worried about Islanders getting "misinformation," and the editorial ends with, "The key word here is misinformation."  The editors do not elaborate on who is spreading misinformation or what the misinformation is.  Perhaps they too are wishing for more education from the Potato Board as with Saturday's "first lesson."
(copied below)

Cathy Grant certainly spells it out clearly with accurate information:

Sherry tips her hand on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 28, 2014

Environment Minister Janice Sherry has just made a stand on deep-water well irrigation for potatoes on P.E.I. She has stated that the “P.E.I. Potato Board has to go the next step and ʻeducateʼ Islanders about deep water well irrigation.”  What the heck?
Since when does the environment minister of any jurisdiction, banana republic or potato republic, cede the “next step” to industries who will benefit from said deep-water drilling and make them responsible for ʻpublic education?ʼ

Oh yes, we have had a lot of ʻpublic educationʼ over the past several years from the government. They have informed us that decisions regarding Plan B and the HST were not popular decisions but they were right decisions according to Premier Robert Ghiz, his caucus, and the business community.

On the matter of deep-well water drilling, Ms. Sherry has previously stated she has “read all the science.”  Well I hope she will come out to share the science she has read with Islanders and not fob off another environmental disaster on an Island industry that has much to gain from Ms. Sherryʼs shrugging off her responsibility to Prince Edward Islanders and its fragile environment.
I come from a mostly Irish heritage, and though my family didnʼt settle on P.E.I. because of the potato famine, many Island families did. These statements from Minister Sherry cannot but make me think of like decisions made by English lairds when they let local Irish farmers and citizens starve rather than helping to support them and their efforts to establish more diverse agricultural practices.

Cathy Grant, Meadowbank

Ag federation faces decision on deep wells - The Guardian Editorial

Published on January 28, 2014

Meeting this week should signal support for potato boardʼs contentious request

This weekʼs annual meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture will attract more interest than usual because of the contentious issue of deep-water wells for potato irrigation. The federation has wells placed prominently on the agenda with a presentation outlining the P.E.I. Department of Environmentʼs perspective on water quantity and seasonal demands, while outlining the governmentʼs water extraction policy for groundwater and surface water.

The federation will also hear an update on the Georgetown Conference and the impact of the harmonized sales tax. The federation strongly supported the HST and said tax rebates on the cost of doing business would position Island farmers on an equal footing with the rest of the region. But the key topic Friday in Charlottetown will be wells.

Deep-water wells have drawn a flood of comment because it affects every Islander who has legitimate concerns over a secure supply of drinking water and contamination of the water table with nitrates and pesticides. Itʼs a hot-button topic that leaves government with a very difficult decision. The total economic wealth associated with close to 90,000 acres of spuds is in excess of $1 billion and that money finds its way into every Island home and business.

Environment Minister Janice Sherry has received an advisory board recommendation on deep wells but is reluctant to make that public, at least at this time. She had suggested to the P.E.I. Potato Board that since itʼs their idea to lift the moratorium, it should present its arguments in a public forum to allay the concerns of Islanders.

The board issued its argument Saturday in the form of a rational, well-crafted opinion piece to The Guardian. Its key argument was science supports a reasonable, supplemental irrigation program because all demands of water in the province today “use less than two per cent of the annual groundwater recharge.” The board isnʼt seeking unfettered approval and notes that applications would be judged by the department while considering local water sources and supply. Already, there is strong reaction to chairman Gary Linkletterʼs opinion piece, all of it negative.

The National Farmers Union has made its position known, and as expected, is vehemently against the idea. The NFU is left of centre on most environmental issues and had vigorously opposed changes to the limits on land ownership last year. The federation usually leans right of centre, and had supported the increased acreage limits. The federation is usually more concerned with the bottom line for farmers, with the belief that a farmer losing money is a farmer leaving agriculture. But it does endorse the mantra of farmers being economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible.

The federation has yet to take a public stance on the well issue. And government is surely waiting for the farm group to signal its support or opposition before going any further. Itʼs likely there will be public hearings but a decision must be made soon to have any impact on this growing season. Potato farmers would have to dig wells, buy expensive irrigation equipment and be ready for any dry weather to assist their valuable crop. It would take months to take advantage of any change to the moratorium.

It would be a surprise if the federation doesnʼt support the potato board Friday and pass a resolution recommending the lifting of the moratorium, at least in some regulated form. A release from the board on the annual meeting already signals that position. It states there has been a lot of recent “controversy and misinformation” being circulated surrounding deep-water wells and water quality on P.E.I. The key word here is misinformation.

January 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is a 2 1/2 minute "RSA Animate" about food and good eating ("How Cooking Can Change Your Life").  The script was written and read by Michael Pollen, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and the poster-writing animation charmingly illustrates the point.

The RSA looks like an interesting organization:
from their website:
"The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce): an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world. "

Today (I thought it was last Friday) is really the last day to reserve a space in the Community Supported Agriculture workshop, and here is the link for a Guardian article on

About the workshop:
The P.E.I. Food Security Network is hosting a workshop on the topic of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) on Wednesday, Feb. 5 from 4-7 p.m. at the Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., Charlottetown.  The workshop will highlight CSA on Prince Edward Island as one viable option for sustainable production and distribution. It will provide P.E.I. CSA producers an opportunity to share their knowledge and CSA customers/sharers will have a chance to share their experiences. And, it will showcase the individual CSA producers' offerings and provide sign-up options.  This event is free of charge. Supper is included, but space is limited. All are invited.
Pre-registration is required before Jan. 28.

To pre-register: Cooper Institute 894-4573 or email cooperinstitute@eastlink.ca with your name.

and the article interviewing organic farmers and all-around earth-caretakers James Rodd and Rita Jackson:

CSAs a Way to Connect Directly with Local Food Producers - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay

Published on January 26th, 2014

In a world where tomatoes can come from Mexico and carrots from California, there's an easy, simple way to connect directly to the source of the food you eat.

In fact, some Prince Edward Island farmers like James Rodd and Rita Jackson are on first name basis with clientele who have signed up for their community supported agriculture (CSA) program, which is a subscription-based service where community members support farmers by providing capital investment through share fees. This seed money allows farmers to invest in producing quality local food that picked fresh for the consumer, typically on a weekly basis.

"For me it's like having a bigger family . . . ," says Jackson, who along with her husband, James Rodd, will be at the P.E.I. Food Security Network's free CSA workshop at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown on Wednesday, Feb. 5 from 4-7 p.m.
This workshop will have a little something for everyone: food, discussion, demonstration booths.
"If you don't know a farmer, get to know a farmer. And if you can source out a CSA, try it. The difference is on the plate," says Rodd, who is now in his seventh year of being a CSA producer on their RJR 100 Acre Farm in North Milton, which was converted from conventional farming to organic in 1997.

Each CSA producer has his or her way of presenting the program to the public. In the case of RJR 100 Acre Farm, it is a 16-week program that begins around the first week of July and continues on into the fall.
As many as 42 share members have received weekly deliveries of reusable CSA cloth bags filled with produce that changes as the season goes on.

That list includes things like beet greens, Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, peas, beans, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggs, apples and a bevy of fall root crops, squash and more.

"Every week our people get an email telling them what is going to be in their (bag). We also give them suggestions on cooking and recipes because a lot of people don't know how to use some of the vegetables," Jackson says.

CSA farmers can also tailor some of the coming crop to suit the tastes of share members.

"We actually talk to them and ask "What do you like? Is there something in particular,'" Jackson says.

"We've had all kinds of encouragement to grow an herb garden this year," Rodd adds.

"We've had basil and parsley and dill (before) but we're going to gave the full gamut of herbs this year and devote a full section to that."

Many of their clientele take advantage of the open invitation to visit the farm, often helping with the weeding and harvesting of the very crops that will be in their weekly CSA delivery.

"If the consumer knows the farmer and knows that there is integrity in the producing of that crop or that livestock then that consumer can get connected to how that food is produced, and get connected to the land, which a lot of people aren't. They look at soil as being something dirty when in fact it's a living organism."

The upcoming CSA workshop showcases the benefits of a CSA program.

"We see (community supported agriculture) as one viable option to increase sustainable distribution for farmers, but certainly not the only option. It's more of a combination that's important, like gardens, markets and CSAs," says Hanna Hameline, chair of P.E.I. Food Security Network's sustainable production and distribution working group.

CSAs also help to revival the rural regions by increasing a sense of community.

"It definitely increases agro-biodiversity because the farmer isn't going to just grow carrots and sell you only carrots the entire year. So it definitely increases the selection of crops and supports mixed farming," Hameline adds.

"It creates a connection between farmers and citizens, which has been lost. It supports the local farmer, which is disappearing on P.E.I. and globally so in that sense it definitely revives the rural community."

"We have a relationship and that's an important thing with producing food for the consumer," Rodd adds.

"If the consumer knows the farmer and knows that there is integrity in the producing of that crop or that livestock then that consumer can get connected to how that food is produced, and get connected to the land, which a lot of people aren't. They look at soil as being something dirty when in fact it's a living organism."

The upcoming CSA workshop showcases the benefits of a CSA program.

"We see (community supported agriculture) as one viable option to increase sustainable distribution for farmers, but certainly not the only option. It's more of a combination that's important, like gardens, markets and CSAs," says Hanna Hameline, chair of P.E.I. Food Security Network's sustainable production and distribution working group.

CSAs also help to revival the rural regions by increasing a sense of community.

"It definitely increases agro-biodiversity because the farmer isn't going to just grow carrots and sell you only carrots the entire year. So it definitely increases the selection of crops and supports mixed farming," Hameline adds.

"It creates a connection between farmers and citizens, which has been lost. It supports the local farmer, which is disappearing on P.E.I. and globally so in that sense it definitely revives the rural community."

January 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Rally for Canada Post and other public sector workers
3:30PM, Murphy Community Centre

(I recently found out about this fascinating movie being shown tonight)

Movie: Home (2009), 7PM, AVC Lecture Theatre A, UPEI campus, all welcome, free admission with optional donations to the UPEI Environmental Society

A link to the Facebook event page (there is a map with directions to the vet college building:

About:  With aerial footage from 54 countries, Home is a depiction of how the Earth's problems are all interlinked, but with only one thing responsible: the human. The story begins with the evolution of the animal species on Earth including the human, who starts living peacefully with nature. Until the accelerating growth of population in the last 250 years and the discovery of oil changed everything.
The trailer on this website is fantastic:

Relating to Canada Post, most of us heard about the planned price hikes and phasing out of urban home delivery.  I was upset to hear about the home delivery, especially for seniors, (and found clear messages in Torquil Campbell's three-minute commentary on "Q")
and mad about the price increases and loss of sorting on Island (I mean, how stupid is it to truck Island mail off-Island and then ship it back), but will admit I also sighed with relief that rural postal service was being left alone....
....Until I heard a couple of weeks ago that another round of rural post offices on PEI is scheduled to have hours cut. (Including my local one.)  No overt warning, no public consultation at all, just quietly being whispered about one week then told it's a done deal.  Evidently, this is the second or third round of rural postal location hour cuts in the past year or so, each wave seemingly targeting random rural post offices in the Maritimes.

What to do about Canada Post cuts?
1) Contact your MP  ---there is a vote on an opposition bill about the changes TODAY in Parliament.
Lawrence MacAulay    lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca
Sean Casey                 sean.casey@parl.gc.ca
Wayne Easter              wayne.easter@parl.gc.ca
Gail Shea                    gail.shea@parl.gc.ca

2) Consider heading to the rally this afternoon (details above)

A commentary from earlier this month in The Guardian:

Canada Post eliminates P.E.I. postmarks -The Guardian Opinion by Andy Walker

Published on January 10, 2014

It has been over 350 years since P.E.I. has been part of Nova Scotia but, as far as Canada Post is concerned, the past is repeating itself.
Back then, Ile Saint Jean (as it was then called) was one of the last bastions of the French empire in North America. It was under the control of Ile Royale, now better known as Cape Breton, from 1713 to 1763. Since then, Islanders have been a separate political jurisdiction.  Islanders have resisted Maritime union and took a pass on Confederation for the first nine years until a large debt from building a railway forced Island politicians of the day to take a second look at the idea. Every time the Island has been left off a map or grouped in with another province, there is usually an uproar.

That is what makes the decision by Canada Post so unusual. It did come over the Christmas holidays so maybe people were otherwise occupied. However, it could also be that “snail mail” has become so irrelevant it just doesnʼt matter.

The days of mail that was sent on P.E.I. bearing an Island postmark are soon to be in the same category as typewriters and record players. It is all part of a move by the Crown Corporation to try to survive in the age of email, social media and paperless billing.
Last year, the Crown Corporation switched from manual sorting of Island mail in Charlottetown to machine sorting in Halifax. The red mail boxes that had always been designated for Island mail and “all other destinations” are now the same.

Since the mail now all goes to Halifax, Canada Post maintains there is now no need to officially recognize P.E.I. as a separate province.

As part of the digital sorting process, the geographic postmark is being replaced by a code showing the mail is being handled by the automated sorter in the Nova Scotia capital.  The only exception to the rule is if the sender asks to have a local postmark. This happens quite a bit during the summer, for example, when tourists ask for their mail to be postmarked from the Green Gables post office.
That post office is located in Cavendish — the home of Anne of Green Gable author Lucy Maud Montgomery and the setting for the fictional village of Avonlea portrayed in her novels. There are also times when a postmark may be required — for example when a piece of mail has to be postmarked by a certain date and time. Canada Post is still prepared to provide that local postmark — at least for now.

The move to take away the Islandʼs provincial status is just one of a series of measures the Crown Corporation has implemented. The biggest is the phase-out of door-to-door mail delivery, where it still exists in the country, within five years. As well, the price to mail that letter and that takes longer to deliver will also go up to an even dollar.
While the elimination of the door-to-door service will likely save some money, the price increase will actually move Canada Post further towards extinction. The move has the biggest impact on businesses, which will now likely intensify their efforts to convince customers to convert to paperless billing.  Since new legislation passed recently by the federal government prohibits companies from charging extra for paper bills, most companies will likely go the route of providing discounts for those choosing email billing.
Losing more customers will likely mean more cost increases which will mean more lost customers until a level is reached where the service has become so irrelevant it can be eliminated with little outcry.

It is an approach that has worked before. When Canadian National wanted to get rid of rail service in P.E.I., it cut the frequency of the service and increased the price. When the number of users dropped drastically, the railway went to the federal regulator and said “nobody is using this service and we want to get rid of it.” Their request was granted with minimal opposition.

A few years ago, any suggestion Canada Post would no longer recognize mail originating in P.E.I. would have provoked a strong outcry. This time around, there is barely a whimper. Could it be the service has already become so irrelevant to most Islanders, it is simply not worth the effort of waging a campaign aimed at reversing the decision?
If the present trend continues, many of us could well be mailing ourselves a letter to show our grandchildren and great- grandchildren there was once something called a “post office” that delivered something we used to call “mail.” 

A life-long resident of Prince Edward Island, Troy Media Syndicated Columnist Andy Walker has been a writer and commentator for over 30 years. www.troymedia.com

I think this is also the same Andy Walker who is editor of Island Farmer paper (a bi-weekly publication from Paul MacNeill's company).

(Here are some other editorials from Island Farmer:    http://www.peicanada.com/category/titles_and_authors/editorial_andy_walker   )

January 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some fantastic opinions in The Guardian worth a "second reading".

This is the longest, but a systematic breakdown of the breakdown of faith in fracking:

Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 23, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing has been around since 1947, when the now infamous Halliburton Corporation pioneered its use to retrieve gas
deposits from a field in Kansas. Much the same as today, the processed involved injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at high-pressure, first down, then across horizontally drilled holes in the earth (these holes can be as deep as 10,000 feet below the surface today). The pressure causes the rocks to crack and release the natural gas trapped within them. The rocks are kept separated by the sand particles, which allow the gas to flow up the well.

It sounds pretty simple, doesnʼt it? Water and sand at high pressure seem safe enough. Well, it canʼt be that dangerous. After all, they have been doing it since 1947. But what about those chemicals? I have been told some of them I can find in cleaners in my house. They canʼt be that bad? Right?

At fracfocus.org, you will see quite a litany of things on the menu. From acids and corrosion inhibitors to biocides and gelling agents, it is a very impressive cocktail. These are used to reduce friction, increase soil stabilization, kill bacteria and “winterize” the well, or as you and I would say “antifreeze.” This site, which is produced by the industry in the U.S., tells us we should not be alarmed. We should “trust them.” It is a safe and proven technology and that “they have the protection of the environment as their top priority.”

Residents of the town of Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania, would strongly disagree with that. In 2012, they reported rust-colored water flowing from a spring and two small creeks bubbling with methane gas. The incidents were among more than 50 similar cases related to the gas drilling in the state. In several instances houses exploded as a result of gas leaks and in one case three people were killed.
Workers at U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy near McKeesport found that water used to power their plant contained so much salty sediment it was corroding their machinery. An estimated 10,000 fish died on a 33-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in this area.

Furthermore, in June 2010, Vanity Fair wrote a story about the small town of Dimock, also in Pennsylvania. It states “Dimock is now known as the place where, over the past two years, peopleʼs water started turning brown and making them sick, one womanʼs water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.

You would think the U.S. Congress might want to step in and do something about this: You would be wrong!
There are no regulations for hydraulic fracturing in 21 of the 31 states where the practice has been in effect for several years. Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act in 2005.

What makes all of the above more of a travesty is that it doesnʼt even help the U.S. economy in the long run.
Dr. Richard Miller, former British Petroleum geologist and co-editor of a special edition of the prestigious magazine, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, co-authored a paper with Dr. Steve R. Sorrel, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton. In it, they state: “Greater reliance upon shale oil resources produced using hydraulic fracturing will exacerbate any rising trend in global average decline rates, since these wells have no plateau and decline extremely fast – for example, by 90 per cent or more in the first five years.”   Moreover, they deem any benefits to the U.S economy will be short lived. Shale oil production will not benefit the economy, will peak by 2020 and will never be able to replace the current 9 million barrels a day of imports.

New Brunswick is now allowing hydraulic fracturing in their province. Why would they want to? It will not meet their long term energy needs; it will not provide long term employment to local people; and it could cause a great amount of damage to the environment and local people, which can not be reversed.  The winner, of course, will be Corridor Resources, currently performing the fracking. If everything goes well, they will be able to use the water, air and land resources cheaply and any profits will go to the management.

If things go badly, and there is a chemical spill, the company can just declare bankruptcy, the management loses nothing, and the taxpayers of New Brunswick, or depending on the size of the spill, Canada will be left with the cost of the clean up.
It doesnʼt matter how rich you become if you donʼt have clean air, water or food. As many Pennsylvanians discovered, New Brunswick has made a potential deal with the devil.

Commentary by David A. McGregor, Stratford

On squandering our water resources:

Bermuda provides lesson on water use - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 23, 2014

We assume the powers that be will look at all the science and possible results, negative and positive, in allowing increased potato yield through irrigation from deep-water wells. It would be short-sighted to have a monetary benefit today whose value would be negated in our grandchildrenʼs time.

Bermuda, during its early settlement, had artesian wells as its source of fresh water, causing the water table to drop, allowing saline to enter the well water. The consequence -- brackish well water, undrinkable, used only as grey water for toilets and washing. Drinking water is mostly rainwater collected in cisterns and water from desalination, at enormous expense, to make up the shortfall. Weʼve all seen the fish kills due to nitrates and herbicides washing from fields into our streams. Imagine the results if our groundwater was similarly affected by the over-watering of agricultural fields. The nitrate level is already quite high in some wells.

We are an island. Our resources are finite. Using deep well groundwater for irrigation may be todayʼs gain and tomorrowʼs loss, maybe not. But should we take that chance, whose to decide, and is there enough real science to justify it?

Heather Holmes, Charlottetown

If you were like me and needed to look up "artesian well", it is here:
from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/geology-terms/artesian-well-info.htm
"Artesian Well, a well in which water rises under its own pressure, without pumping. If the pressure is great enough, the water will rise all the way to the surface and flow freely from the well. The name "artesian" is derived from Artois, France, where such wells were sunk as early as 1126."

And a bit on transparency in government:
(bolding mine)

Innovations needed to aid transparency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 23, 2014

I want to thank Ken Gillis for his letter to the editor today, especially his suggestion that in government I would increase the municipal grant thus enabling increased expenditure on snow removal. It would take an independent third-party audit to sort out management problems with the public works department of the City of Charlottetown to address the snow removal problem. Resourcing of the service should be done with that information in hand.
But Mr. Gillis is absolutely correct that an NDP government would increase the municipal grant. I did commit to this position last year at a meeting of the Eastern Prince Edward Island Chamber of Commerce. For decades the provincial government has been too dominant in controlling our communities and manipulating people with patronage. I strongly advocate decentralization so communities can chart their own futures and the political parties would be weakened in terms of how they use public resources for political gain.

But municipal governments are not immune to such abuses of political power. Accordingly, for many months now, I have been advocating the inclusion of municipal governments under freedom of information legislation in line with most other provinces. Mr. Gillis suggests increased taxes may be necessary to deal with issues such as snow removal. That is not so. There are potentially huge inefficiencies in how public services are operated at this time, and the public is not permitted the information to make such assessments.
Municipalities should have more power. But everything should be out in the open. One action goes with the other. These innovations would make governance on P.E.I. more democratic, transparent, and effective.
We cannot keep doing things the same way and expect different results.

Mike Redmond, Leader, P.E.I. NDP

Have a good Saturday, and stop into a Farmers' Market if you are near one and see all there still is that is local!

January 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here are some events and deadlines that might be of interest:

Today is the deadline to reserve a spot at a workshop and meal learning about or sharing your experiences in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The workshop is Wednesday, February 5th, 4PM to 7:30PM (supper is included).  It will be at the Farm Centre,(another good fit of an event with the location), 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown.  It is free of charge! and is sponsored by the PEI Food Security Network.
CSAs are a way of sharing the bounty and the risks with a food producer.  Most on PEI are variations of paying at the beginning of the season (or some are on-demand) on weekly vegetable baskets from July to September, and now other food producers are offering foods like honey, or meat.
There will be a panel with a CSA farmer, CSA shareholder, and presenter on sustainable farm systems.  Some CSA producers will be there to showcase what their CSAs are like, answer questions, and perhaps sign up new members if they have space. 

Saturday is another PEI Food Exchange workshop, which I will be leading, on making dairy products with Island dairies' milk and cream in the home kitchen.  Yogurt, a 30-minute "mozzarella" and some cultured milk products will be demonstrated; I am not expert but enjoy sharing what I know that's simple, nutritious, and usually saves money.  There will also be a bit of discussion regarding milk in our diets, respectful of people's choices and situations.   The workshop should be interesting and is another great idea from the PEI Food Exchange; it could be a victim of its own success if there are a lot of people and seeing/doing is an issue.  I really think this is geared towards the home-dairy "beginner" -- people who haven't made yogurt, for instance, and don't know where to begin -- rather than people who already do some of this stuff.   (2-4PM, Farm Centre)

Sunday afternoon (26th) is the monthly Bonshaw ceilidh at the Bonshaw Hall, 2-4PM, admission by donation, proceeds going to the PEI Council of People with Disabilities.

Monday, January 27th,  is a "National Day of Action to Save Our Post Office" and support public services, at the Murphy Centre (corner of Richmond and Prince Streets in Charlottetown), 3:30PM.

Wednesday, January 29th, is the bi-coastal screening of Mille Clarkes' Island Green, Charlottetown (7PM, The Farm Centre) and Victoria, BC.  Free admission*, with snacks and hot beverages.
Presented in collaboration with PEI Certified Organic Producers Co-op.
A post-screening discussion will include:
Ian Petrie - Journalist
Mark Bernard - Organic Farmer - Barnyard Organics
Margie Loo - Organic Farmer - Elderflower Organic Farm
Phil Ferraro - Director, Institute for Bioregional Studies Ltd., Executive Director PEI ADAPT Council, General Manager, PEI Farm Centre Association
*Donations will be accepted to support Springwillow Farms and the legacy of Raymond Loo.

Saturday, February 1st, Winter Woodlot Tour, Mayfield, PEI, 9AM to 1PM (drop in), free
This 4th annual outdoor event, sponsored by the P.E.I. Model Forest and three watershed groups, showcases stream enhancement and forestry programs, chainsaw safety, value-added wood products, winter wildlife, birds of prey, folks from Birding P.E.I., and other outdoor stuff like snowshoeing and sleigh rides, et. al.
  There will be many people around to answer all sorts of questions, and a warming tent and hot cider, too.
The actual address is #6123, Roue 13, Mayfield, between New Glasgow and Cavendish.

That's enough for now.

January 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

On Compass Tuesday night, nine minutes into the broadcast, Environment Minister Janice Sherry is interviewed about the PEI Potato Board's demand that the ban on high capacity wells be lifted:

OK, it is up to the Potato Board to educate Islanders on the science.

The Guardian has been the forum of the people questioning this. Tuesday, this *excellent* commentary appeared:
Dale Small's letter:


Time for responsible farmers, citizens to step up - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Dale Small

Published on January 21, 2014

Some are saying this issue is a “fait accompli” for the Island. I, for one, certainly hope not.
During my lengthy career with DFO, I attended numerous community hall meetings where use of P.E.I. water resources was the topic. The meeting halls were packed. Obviously we Islanders are passionate about water and rightly so. Iʼve also been fortunate to have explored every watershed on P.E.I. for both work and pleasure. Iʼve seen firsthand the harm we can do.
The powerful potato lobby is pushing hard to gain access to our water resources, and I expect the government will use a (hopefully unbiased) scientific study to justify their decision to grant or deny permissions.
After many years of working directly with the scientific community on fisheries/water issues, I generally have great respect for their knowledge and expertise. That said, they are not always correct. Scientific studies are, like many other professional studies, only as good as the persons conducting them, along with the validity of the data provided or obtained.
The most misleading studies Iʼve read are those that use data appropriate on the mainland and that fail to account for P.E.I.ʼs unique soil composition, substrate and geology. Failure to do so has been and can be a disaster.
In this instance, I donʼt believe Islanders should take the risk. It is simply not worth it; especially considering the gross inefficiency of current potato irrigation methods and the dire consequences to P.E.I. from over-exploitation of our water resources.
As a lifelong reader of The Guardian, Iʼm well aware of the blowback directed at letter writers. Some will say “heʼs anti-farming.” Not true. Many of my friends and relatives are farmers. My ancestors on P.E.I. from all sides of my family have been involved in farming since the 1760s. I wish nothing but prosperity for our farming community — but always with one essential caveat: donʼt harm our fragile environment.
Although many in the farming community have recognized what is at stake and made significant efforts to farm responsibly, the record is not good. This is a perfect opportunity for responsible farmers to step up. To all other Islanders I also urge you to step up. Call, write your MLA, your friends and the media. Others I urge to step up are: Premier Ghiz, Janice Sherry, George Webster, and Valerie Docherty — my MLA, do the right thing. Whether you are an urban or rural dweller or a CFA, get involved: donʼt allow this high-risk plan to harm our precious Island.

Dale Small, Rice Point, spent his career with Fisheries and Oceans Canada on P.E.I.

And this letter ties together many points about this issue:

Will tourists still visit our fair province? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 22, 2014

It is time for all Islanders to move out of their comfort zone, do their own research on the facts this decision will be based on. There is so much misinformation regarding the benefits of the potato industry to P.E.I.'s economy out there already. How can this industry contribute $1 billion to this small economy, when Stats Canada reports total farm gate receipts from Agriculture at a little over $400 million per year.

Has anyone assessed the health care costs resulting from the by products used with growing potatoes? We are the Cancer Capital of Canada.

Irrigating potatoes will only cause these poisons to be returned to our water table in larger quantities and at a faster rate.

The annual recharge rate on P.E.I. could not possibly be the same in all areas of the province due to the different types of soils found in all parts of the province.

This is an excellent example of how the spin-doctors misrepresent the facts to confuse Islanders on what is true and what is not.

Neil Young stepped up to expose the tar sands in Alberta, do we have any credible scientists here who are willing to stand up and present the real facts? Time will tell.

Our body is made up of mostly water, we can live maybe three days without it, but cancer can take years to kill you. David Suzuki was here a few years ago talking about how interconnected our water table truly is. He is an independent scientist without any financial gain in the potato industry here, his opinion should be objective.
Let us join together once and for all to protect our children and grandchildren. 

Wayne MacKinnon, Marshfield

Take care cleaning up today,

January 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It was a fun and interesting film last night, as Occupy Love chronicled snippets and images from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, focusing on positive ideas and feelings people had instead of being negative or hateful (which is, of course, easier).  It wasn't really prescriptive, and didn't delve into many other related issues (such as land, farms and food, which truly supports everything), but was definitely worth seeing.

Thanks to Ann Wheatley for doing all the heavy lifting (and fine technical work, too) showing the film and leading a discussion afterwards.

Another movie coming up:
Island Green is going to be shown with a panel discussion afterwards, at the Farm Centre, next Wednesday, January 29th.

The is a reading from a new book called On Fracking by C. Alexia Lane, scheduled for tonight at the Haviland Club, but it is likely to be rescheduled due to the storm.

Before the movie, some people representing groups opposed to lifting the ban on deep-water wells met, and agreed to meet again to work together -- hey, kind of like the Charlottetown Conference, without the drinking.   More on that later.

(Probably these are more accurately called "high capacity wells", since depending on location a well may not be deep to pump out *a lot* of water.)

There was a lot in yesterday's paper and on Compass last night on the water issues, which I will package up later, except for eminent biologist Ian MacQuarrie's letter.

Have a great snow day,

Deep-water well issue more than sufficiency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 21, 2014

I appreciate your recent editorial concerning lifting the present moratorium on deep-water wells. However, I believe that the issue is much more complex than just water sufficiency. We need, as a province, to look at this in a broader, more ecological way. Some preliminary questions:

Firstly: merit. Potato production has been responsible for contamination of our ground water with nitrate, of our surface waters with silt, and for poisoning aquatic life with pesticides. The industry as a whole has not accepted responsibility for this, nor has it stepped forward to pay for the cleanup.
There are examples of producers voluntarily implementing good soil and water conservation. However, many others have required legislation or compensation to get them to take even preliminary action. If there is sufficient water to meet demands for irrigation (and I donʼt know that there is), has the potato sector shown that it is a responsible steward of land and water?

Secondly: cost. The agricultural sector is heavily subsidized though both direct contributions and tax exemptions/rebates. From lowered property tax, to gas tax to HST, farmers receive much public money. Water has economic value, as residents and businesses in many municipalities know. Should this industry be entitled to it at no cost? Put another way: if — as we are told — the potato industry cannot prosper without this further public subsidy, is the sector even viable?

Finally: consultation. Groundwater is a public resource that affects all of us. We are all entitled to comment on how it is used. In particular, I believe the Crown has a specific obligation to consult with First Nations about decisions affecting water, land and wildlife. It would seem to me that allocation of a large amount of water for private, industrial use should trigger such obligations.

Ian MacQuarrie, Hazel Grove

January 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight the regular documentary screenings sponsored by Cinema Politica Charlottetown, will co-host the movie Occupy Love, with the Citizens' Alliance of PEI.  "Admission is free, but donations are accepted at the door and help Cinema Politica to cover its membership, which includes the rights to show some pretty amazing documentary films throughout the year."
It starts at 7PM at Lecture Theatre A of the Atlantic Veterinary College.  It's about 90 minutes long.

What's this movie about? 
from the Facebook event notice:
"Woven throughout the moving, action-oriented backbone of the story, is a deep exploration of the heart of the movement, the meaning of love, and concrete examples of just what “another world” could look like, featuring some of the world’s key visionaries on alternative systems of economics, sustainability, and empathy. Occupy Love is a moving, transformative, heartfelt film, featuring Ripper’s signature stunning visuals and rich soundscapes. A powerful cinematic experience that will leave audiences inspired.

OK, so what's this movie about?
"Vague as all this is, the photography is beautiful, the scenes of crowds and their signs arresting, and the interviews with individual protesters-in Tahrir Square, Zuccotti Park, teargassed Oakland, and even melting Greenland-are often inspiring."
--Excerpt from a film review in The Village Voice, full article here:

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.” -- Winnie-the-Pooh, via A.A. Milne

So come down (before the snow hits overnight) and enjoy a positive and interesting film!

Just goofing around, but perhaps the mask of the Occupy movement, from a Guy Fawkes mask, has its own doppelganger:

All joking aside, the story behind the mask is here:

"The Guy Fawkes mask is a stylised depiction of Guy Fawkes, the best-known member of the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the House of Lords in London in 1605. The use of a mask on an effigy has long roots as part of Guy Fawkes Night celebrations. A stylised portrayal of a face with an over-sized smile and red cheeks, a wide moustache upturned at both ends, and a thin vertical pointed beard, designed by illustrator David Lloyd, came to represent broader protest after it was used as a major plot element in V for Vendetta, published in 1982, and its 2006 film adaptation. After appearing in Internet forums, the mask became a well-known symbol for the online hacktivist group Anonymous, the Occupy movement, and other anti-government and anti-establishment protests around the world."

And more entertainment:
from yesterday's Guardian, laughing but it's all sadly true:

Premier Ghiz has everything in hand - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 20, 2014

Our premier is indeed an amazing man. Just think of all his accomplishments: Plan B, hills of Borden, two pay raises for MLAs in one year, new cars for cabinet ministers (caused big increase in Island car sales), the marvelous Geo-Sweep investment of $4 millions, a record deficit, and his greatest achievement of all — the level playing field created by the HST.

Recently, at his state of the province address, he informed us he has pulled his head out of the sand to save our failing education system. He moves from one great success to the next, leaping tall buildings in a single bound. The latest and greatest objective is to save the poor potato farmers. They need to drill deep wells to draw more water for their potato crops. In order to do this safely, a wise group of lobbyists have been summoned to the house to assure us there is enough water, even if there isnʼt.

The group call themselves Policy Intel and are two unemployed Liberals who silly Islanders failed to vote for in the last election. Iʼm not sure what the Intel part of their name means, might be short for intelligence. They, along with the head of the potato board, will advise the government to allow deep wells.

The head of the potato board tells us there is plenty of water so no need for us to worry. Rivers drying up have nothing to do with drilling deep wells. In fact that could be a bonus. Just imagine with no rivers weʼd have no pesticide runoff and no fish kills. Besides, itʼs only a small majority of mean islanders who blame the potato farmers every time there is a fish kill.

So folks nothing for us to worry about, our premier has everything in hand. If our shallow wells dry up, the government will provide bottled water for a small fee, plus HST.

F. Ben Rodgers, Hunter River

January 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Another article in Saturday's Guardian was the lead story on fracking.  (entire print at end of this e-mail)  The industry trade group representative provided most of the information regarding the process and how "heavily regulated" it is.  The article gave the current status of fracking on PEI (there are expired leases for exploratory wells, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry in November 2013, recommended a moratorium on oil and gas exploration, and is writing the Environment Minister on this).


The illustration in the print edition and on-line was from the company Corridor Resources:

Photo from The Guardian, January 18, 2014, copyright Corridor Resources, of a fracking pad in Penobsquis, NB.  Quite the "little" operation.

Penobsquis, NB, is near Sussex.  It's an area with with a long history of potash mining (and subsequent issues) and now gas wells.  Here is an article by the well-respected alternative media site, the Halifax Media Co-op:

Two things came to mind:
One was a reminder in the article by Andrew Lush of Don't Frack PEI and in previous Guardian letters to the editor about the certainty of the cement casings cracking in the wrong places over time.
The second is that in the article the National Energy Board says it will ask companies to release the list of chemicals in fracking fluid 30 days *after* they finish a fracking operation.  Chemicals that the industry downplays as being in small quantities (partially true) and "common household items".  For many of us, just because a chemical is on the shelf at the store as a common household item doesn't mean we want to drink it or find it in our wells.

The fracking debate - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross

Published on January 18, 2014 in The Guardian

When is comes to natural resources nobody would confuse P.E.I. with Alberta.  There are no oil wells pumping away or gas wells flowing freely to fuel the economy and help pay to keep the government running. But there are some who worry that could change if the P.E.I. government decides to allow companies to use the exploration technique called hydraulic fracturing, which is otherwise known as fracking.

Although the province hasnʼt taken a stance on fracking, in November the members of the legislative standing committee on agriculture, environment, energy and forestry recommended a moratorium on the practice.
That recommendation came after the committee heard from groups with concerns about oil and gas exploration, including Donʼt Frack P.E.I.

Tyne Valley-Linkletter MLA Paula Biggar, who is the committeeʼs chairwoman, said based on the evidence and information provided to the MLAs there was a consensus to recommend a moratorium.

Biggar said evidence that dealt with the injection of chemicals into the ground was one of the big factors in the decision.

“Basically environmental concerns in regard to making sure our water is protected,” she said.
If the government does decide to impose a moratorium it wonʼt be alone in Canada where Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec have all put temporary freezes on new permits while they study the issue further. Nova Scotia has also commissioned a study to look at the issue.

While the committee, which is made up of six Liberal and two PC MLAs, can make a recommendation to government, that recommendation isnʼt binding.

Biggar said Environment Minister Janice Sherry hasnʼt sent a written response to the recommendation yet, but the committee will send her department a letter when it meets again in the next few months to get a formal response.
In an interview with The Guardian, Sherry said the government is still waiting for the results of studies in other jurisdictions about hydraulic fracturing before it takes a stance on the issue.

Sherry also said since she became environment minister in November 2011, no one has given her or her department any indication they had an interest in undertaking fracking in P.E.I.

“We believe itʼs a very serious issue and weʼre trying to take in as much scientific information in regards to fracturing as we can,” she said.

Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling vertically down into a shale formation, which can be several kilometres below the surface. Once it reaches the required depth the drill changes direction to move horizontally across the shale before a steel casing is inserted and secured with cement to keep the well separated from any ground water supplies.

The casing is then perforated to allowing fracturing fluid to flow under high pressure into the nearby rock and create fractures to free up natural gas.

That fracturing fluid is made of mostly water and sand with other chemicals mixed in. The sand is used to keep cracks in the rock open enough for natural gas to flow into the well.

Natural gas exploration and development is big business in Canada with Canadian Natural Gas Initiative reporting there were more than 172,000 jobs in the sector in 2010.

The group predicts that over the next 25 years, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan will collect $98 billion in royalties from natural gas. Closer to home, Nova Scotia has collected $1.6 billion in royalties from the Sable Island development since 1999, according to Canadian Natural Gas.

That P.E.I. doesnʼt benefit from natural resource development isnʼt news to most Islanders who pay some of the highest taxes in the country, thanks in part to a lack of revenues from other sources.

But even though oil and gas development hasnʼt led to stuffed provincial coffers, that doesnʼt mean there havenʼt been attempts to find commercially viable sources.

Exploration companies have been doing seismic testing dating back to 1942 when dynamite was used to look for oil off P.E.I.ʼs coast.

More modern techniques involve vibration equipment, or small explosive charges and devices called geophones, that record data from sound waves as they bounce off underground formations.

The data gathered is then used to map the layers below the surface.

Since 2002 the province has issued seven on-shore permits for seismic surveys, but none of them have ended in production wells.

Corridor Resources and PetroWorth were the last companies to do seismic testing and build exploratory wells.
The last wells were built in 2007 and all of the onshore exploration permits have lapsed without any commercial production.

Data about P.E.I.ʼs potential gas reserves is also not widely available with neither the provincial government, the National Energy Board nor the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers having any figures on how much gas might be available.

While there are opponents to hydraulic fracturing, the industry maintains it is safe.

Sheri Somerville, natural gas adviser for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said hydraulic fracturing can be done safely and the industry has been doing it for more than 60 years.

“Hydraulic fracturing isnʼt actually new,” she said.

What is new within the last few decades is horizontal drilling that reduces the surface footprint of a gas well and gives the ability to reach deposits at lower depths more efficiently, Somerville said.

“If you did it conventionally, drilling straight down vertically, your surface would probably have many, many, many wells on it. It would look like a Swiss cheese sort of thing as opposed to having one well pad and being able to drill 20 wells from there out on the horizontal.”

Somerville said the key to safe hydraulic fracturing is to maintain the integrity of the steel and cement used to encase the well.

“Thatʼs whatʼs going to protect your aquifers and what not from any possible leaks or emissions,” she said.
Many hydraulic fracturing opponents point to problems in the U.S., such as charges and a $100,000 fine against Exxon Mobile subsidiary XTO Energy for spilling more than 50,000 gallons of wastewater at a natural gas well site in 2010.

Somerville said the rules in Canada are different and more strict when it comes to regulating gas exploration through fracking.

“Weʼre one of the most heavily regulated sectors in Canada,” she said.

That doesnʼt mean there havenʼt been problems in Canada where there have been cases of fracking fluid mishaps, such as in 2011 when groundwater was contaminated near Grand Prairie when the fluids were released at too shallow a depth before anyone realized. Water testing found traces of chemicals from the fluid, including benzene and chloride.

Another concern among hydraulic fracturing opponents is what they see as a lack of information about what chemicals go into fracking fluids.

Somerville said the industry isnʼt trying to hide what is in its fracking fluids and supports disclosure of the chemicals and additives used in hydraulic fracturing.

Thatʼs already happening in B.C. and Alberta where companies use Fracfocus.ca to disclose information on the fluids they use.

The National Energy Board announced in November that it will start asking companies to disclose that information 30 days after they finish a hydraulic fracturing operation.

Somerville said regulations stipulate how much of the chemicals can be used and in what concentrations.
“Many of the chemicals that are used are found in common household items,” she said.

Some of those chemicals disclosed for one well in B.C. include ethylbenzene, which is used as a solvent, methanol, which is a form of alcohol, and polyethylene glycol, which is sometimes used in cosmetics.

As for the possibility of gas exploration leading to any significant production in P.E.I., like Sherry, Somerville hasnʼt heard of any companies planning to work in the province.

“I havenʼt even seen any estimates on what the potential is there.”

That lack of interest hasnʼt diminished the concern among fracking opponents, such as the group Donʼt Frack P.E.I., which has been pushing for a ban on hydraulic fracturing for about a year.

Leo Broderick is one of Donʼt Frack P.E.I.ʼs members and while the group was glad the committee recommended a moratorium, he said the problem is it just puts off a decision for the long term.

“Itʼs a delay tactic and we need more than that,” he said.

The biggest concern for fracking opponents is what they see as the potential impact on groundwater supplies.
Although fracking is done below groundwater levels, the casings can travel through or near aquifers and opponents worry that problems with those casings could allow toxic chemicals to leak into the water supplies.

Andrew Lush, another of Donʼt Frack P.E.I.ʼs members, said some of the well casings will eventually fail and contaminate groundwater supplies because nothing lasts forever.

“Itʼs just a matter of time,” he said.

And while the industry says many of those chemicals are found in common household products, Lush doesnʼt think that means people would want to have them in their water.

“You might find them in small quantities, but you wouldnʼt want to drink them.”

Broderick said it comes down to whether Islanders trust elected officials to make what he sees as the right decision and deny any requests for exploration permits, if any companies ask for them.

“Unless thereʼs a strong public outcry now I would say that theyʼll make the wrong decision.”

January 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The Seed Expo yesterday at the warm and inviting Farm Centre was a great chance to get many folks together to talk about seeds and spring, and new plans for the the Farm Centre with its Legacy Garden project.  It'll be great to see that as an annual event. Great job to the organizers and volunteers.

Yesterday's The Guardian, on-line and print, was quite full of interesting water issue-related stories and letters. The bolding is mine.

This article was on-line and likely to be in Monday's print edition:


Deep-well irrigation not well understood, says professor - The Guardian article by Nigel Armstrong

Published on-line January 18, 2014

Islanders must not allow corporate agriculture to irrigate with deep-well technology to cope with water problems it helped create, says a veteran university professor.

The Environmental Coalition of P.E.I. held its annual meeting in Charlottetown this week, then turned to guest presentations, including a talk by Daryl Guignion about deep-well irrigation for agriculture.  Guignion is a wildlife biologist, researcher, and retired UPEI associate professor of biology with a special focus on water ecosystems.
“It is an area that is truly unexplored in many scientific ways,” he said.

Creating a model of what might happen with deep-well irrigation is useless if there is insufficient data and science to back up the assumptions and data put into the model, he said.

“Modelling is not science,” he warned. The relationship of groundwater to P.E.Iʼs rivers and streams is partially understood.

“One hundred per cent of the water in the summertime in the streams is from springs, more or less,” said Guignion.
The springs are fed from the water table.

Rivers run red with silt that clogs the bottom and nitrate levels in streams are going up without control, he lamented.

“I think the poor land stewardship, the degradation is beyond belief,” said Guignion. “From my perspective, in the last 10 years I think we have had a decrease in soil and water conservation practices. It is just appalling.

“If we ever get to the point where we can be bullied into giving (deep groundwater) away before we know what we have, this is very, very bad for all Islanders and future Islanders,” he warned.

“We need a water policy for P.E.I. The principal goal has to be an abundance of good water, high quality and clean.
“As far as Iʼm concerned, this (allowing deep-well irrigation) is sort of a reward for poor soil and water conservation.
“We have let some of our gems of rivers degrade to the point that to me, itʼs almost heartbreaking,” said Guignion.
There is a complex network of natural factors affected by water levels in streams and rivers, he said.

When water levels go down, young fish that get food and protection from the shallow edge are forced to the deeper middle of the river where they are eaten by the big adult fish that lurk there in place all season, for example.
“If we ever get to the point where we can be bullied into giving (deep groundwater) away before we know what we have, this is very, very bad for all Islanders and future Islanders." Daryl Guignion

A recent study of water levels affecting fish just looked at those grown adult fish and showed no population change, ignoring the death of many young fish, he said.

Fish moving upstream to spawn depend on sufficient water levels to get back down, along with the new young fish at just about the time that maximum agriculture irrigation would be expected, said Guignion.

A down-stream move of tens of thousands of gaspereau fish in decades past helped sustain the lifecycle of bigger fish and human harvest further along, he said.

“Scientific knowledge of the annual water requirements of aquatic organisms is needed,” said Guignion.
“If you are going to develop government policy (on deep-well irrigation), you should have a very good handle on the organisms it is going to impact,” said Guignion.

Do not look to examples of deep-well irrigation from other areas like Idaho or Alberta, he said.

Those areas have a better climate and better soil for potatoes so P.E.I. canʼt base itʼs decisions on what the U.S. potatoes growers are doing, said Guignion.

“If you look at the damage that they are doing to their aquifers and what is happening in the United States, I would say they are going to be looking north very shortly for more water,” he said.

“You often get misleading information to suggest that we have all this water that is falling all over P.E.I., there is copious quantities available for use.

“Man, there really isnʼt copious quantities available,” said Guignion. “Most of our streams in the last two or three summers have gotten really, really low.”

Much of the water landing as precipitation on P.E.I. is not seeping back into soil and thus recharging the groundwater, he warned.

It runs off exposed agriculture land in winter and into streams, into storm sewers in urban developed areas, and wetlands that once also helped recharge the water table have been destroyed to a degree that has never been scientifically quantified on P.E.I., said Guignion.

The writer, Nigel Armstrong, deserves a lot of credit for consistently writing clear stories about environmental meetings and related issues in The Guardian.

This letter, from organic farmer Ranald MacFarlane, was in yesterday's print edition:

Does potato board have the mandate? - The Guardian letter to the Editor

Published on January 18, 2014

I am opposed to the lifting of the moratorium on deep-water wells. I am not the only one. I have been getting a lot of feedback.

Non-farmers are opposed and it turns out so are some potato farmers.

They have some compelling reasons as to why they are opposed. It is more than just about recharge rates. It would appear at this point that only the contract potato growers are the ones that want more deep-water wells for irrigation.

I question whether the P.E.I. Potato Board has a mandate from the industry as a whole to advocate for the lifting of the moratorium on more wells. The potato board should have a producer plebiscite to see if this is where the industry wants to go. Until they have done this they should withdraw their support for lifting the moratorium.

There is also a lot of talk that the lifting of the moratorium is already a done deal. Some think powerful players want the water and they will take it.

Rightly or wrongly there is a huge perception of conflict of interest by having agriculture minister and potato grower George Webster involved in these discussions. It looks bad.

Premier Robert Ghiz should recognize this and deal with it. 

Ranald MacFarlane, Fernwood

And this was the lead editorial, and good to see the editorial team take a position on an environmental issue:

Whatʼs the difference with deep-water wells, or aquifier fracking? - The Guardian Editorial

Published on January 18, 2014

Province should let science decide on answer for thirty potato sector

Itʼs surprising that someone hasnʼt tried to make a connection between digging deep-water wells and fracking. Is there much difference between the two? Itʼs widely believed that fracking would pose a serious threat to the Islandʼs aquifier and drinking water system. Drilling through aquifers to reach delusive oil and gas reserves and forcing some kind of chemical cocktail into the drill hole to fracture the mantle seems a foolhardy practice, considering our fragile, sandstone base. The province would be wise to support a recommendation from a legislative committee and place an immediate moratorium on fracking, or even better, put in place a full ban, following the example of granite bedrock provinces like N.S. and NL.

The lobby coming from the potato sector to lift the moratorium on deep-water wells to placate the thirsty industry must be thoroughly examined and decided with all factors considered.

A number of years ago, Cavendish Farms wanted to expand its operations in New Annan but also sought to drill more deep wells to get the extra water it needed. The province would love to have the extra jobs and more markets for P.E.I. spuds, but there was a threat to the water table in Kensington, Summerside and surrounding areas. It said no.

The cost to dig such wells and then put an irrigation system in place to water thousands of acres of potatoes is exorbitant. Is it really worth the expense when one year out of every five might be unseasonably dry and affect production?

Let science decide the answer. Can our water table sustain such a heavy demand?  Letʼs find out. Conservation and environmental issues for all Islanders should trump the economic wishes of the potato industry, despite its vital importance to the Island economy.
a Happy Birthday to Cindy Richards, environmental monitor from Plan B, and fantastic part of the Citizens' Alliance!

January 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

As when people wrote about Plan B, regarding the deep water wells, there have been poignant letters, funny letters, letters spare and to the point; and then a beautiful one appears that sends a punch. 


Liberals must support water -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 17, 2014

The question of the day is “Will the Liberal Party honour its tradition of at least a basic level of environmental concern or will it cave in to special interests, ignoring the will and the health of the people?” I am talking about the authorization of deep water wells that remove large amounts of groundwater Islanders depend upon.

If potato growers wish to boost productivity, they can look to the depleted and deadened soil they have created through fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides.

Not only have these high rates of chemicals killed fish, birds, and pollinators, but the resulting lifeless soil has difficulty holding on to the rainwater. Organic farmers who care for their soil can show you that once the soil has been built up and can support living things beyond the planted seed, productivity per acre increases substantially. These wise farmers will also tell you that massive mono-cropping is rarely beneficial and should not be supported.
Those few farmers who can afford the significant expense of this equipment (which, if they follow the rules, they would only need every three years) can afford to make do without. We, the people, however, cannot afford further depletion and pollution of a finite and essential resource — the water.

It is life itself and is not to be threatened for a few who stand to benefit monetarily. I challenge even one Liberal MLA to speak up on behalf of the people and the water. If you cannot, then face your children and grandchildren and tell them how you have cared for their legacy. Please show us for once that being good stewards of Mother Earth trumps special interests.

Jane Thomas, Bonshaw

The Seed Expo is today at the Farm Centre from 10AM to 4PM -- looks like a fun place to drop in!

The Farmers' Markets are also open today. But next year there will be one more thing to compete against (bolding mine):


Charlottetown getting Walmart Supercentre - The Guardian article by Dave Stewart

Published on January 16, 2014

Walmart in Charlottetown is being converted into a supercentre.

Employees at Walmart have been told that the conversion will be complete in time for January 2015, although a spokesperson with Walmart Canada said late Thursday that they canʼt confirm the date.

“I can confirm that weʼre planning to convert the Charlottetown store into a supercentre,ʼʼ said Rosalyn Carneiro, manager of public relations, “but I canʼt confirm any dates around when we anticipate construction will start or be completed.ʼʼ

Walmart supercenters tend to offer a full-service supermarket component, including meat and poultry, baked goods, a deli, frozen foods, dairy products, garden produce and seafood.

Ah, can't you taste that local flavour...well, no, I cannot either.

January 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few events coming up:

Saturday, January 18th
PEI Seed Expo
10AM to 4PM (drop in), Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue (between CBC and Sobeys), free
"This fun day-long event will offer farmers and home gardeners a chance to check out new varieties for 2014, as well as learn the value and history of some of the heritage seeds that have long been in use.
Many local and regional seed companies are planning to attend, such as;
- Vesey's, Halifax Seed, Cardigan Seed, PEI Potato Board, Agro-Coop, Johnny's Selected Seeds from Maine<<
By attending the Seed Expo will you will be able to ask the seed representatives any questions regarding growing challenges you face in your farm of garden. There will also be opportunities to talk about trading seeds, plus there will be a series of speakers throughout the day addressing issues dealing with seeds and food security."

Tuesday, January 21st
Cinema Politica movie "Occupy Love"
7PM, AVC Lecture Theater, admission is free but donations accepted
hosted by Cinema Politica and the Citizens' Alliance of PEI

I think there should be a special honor for the individuals who write to the local papers regularly.
Each one of us help keep issues talked about, bubbling up to the surface, but some people write more often and with their own style.

Carl Mathis does this with alternating droll and wicked humour.
Yesterday's reached new limits of perceptiveness and profundity.


Short-term pain, long-term pain? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 16, 2014

There are short-term advantages to irrigating from deep wells on the Island. A larger, higher-quality potato crop is desirable, and is the reason for wanting to do this, but the consequences may not be at all to our benefit.

I grew up in the Texas Panhandle, which is above a part of the Ogallala Aquifer. This aquifer is one of the largest in the world, at 450,000 square kilometres, an area approximately 80 times the area of P.E.I.. Intense use of this aquifer since about 1950, now providing over 25 per cent of the irrigation water in the U.S, as well as municipal water to 4/5 of the population in the area, has depleted this vast body of water. Wikipedia has maps and charts and this quote from the article: “Certain aquifer zones are now empty; these areas will take over 100,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.”

Some aquifer zones on the Island are threatened now. Charlottetown is being forced to look for another, as the Winter River is being dried up.

More and better spuds are valuable to the Island, but before we deplete the water beneath us, we need to see that the aquifers can replenish themselves rapidly enough to support this activity.

Carl Mathis, Charlottetown

Mike Redmond wrote a press release on this issue recently, and here is an excerpt:

Source URL: http://ndppei.ca/2014/01/16/ghiz-must-now-speak-on-deep-water-well/

<<Environment Minister Janice Sherry has not spoken publicly to the issue. Before Christmas,Agriculture Minister George Webster made  public statements to the effect that the government was considering the lifting of the deep water well moratorium. No government minister has spoken to the matter in 2014.

Government has mismanaged the communications on this file so it is likely they are mishandling
the environmental and scientific aspects of the question. They have made a mess of this so it is
time for the Premier to step up and tell Islanders what is happening,” added the NDP Leader.

In 2013, Prince Edward Islanders saw depletion of the Winter River watershed, fish kills in Prince
County and mismanaged construction activity at the Plan B site in the West River watershed area.

“While the Premier explains himself on the specific problem of deep water wells he should take the
opportunity to open public consultations for a real watershed management policy for our province.
The Liberals have gone rogue on the environment. It is time to get things back on track,” concluded

January 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

More Politics and Potatoes
Yesterday, the cover story on The Guardian was about the P.E.I. Potato Board's request for a lifting on the ban on deep-water wells for irrigation.  Part of their argument, the story suggests, is an almost 20-year old study by the Department of Environment.  The phrase that the lifting of the ban is already a "done deal" appears.

Today, the lead story (on-line) is about how the P.E.I. Potato Board and Cavendish Farms have hired a consulting firm to facilitate "lobby meetings" with MLAs about this issue.   The firm, Policy Intel Inc., is headed by Premier Ghiz's former (as of two years ago) Chief of Staff Chris LeClair and employs former MLA Cynthia (Dunsford) King.  Opposition critic Colin LaVIe wants the meetings to be open to-the-public meetings with the Standing Committee on Agriculture.

What should really be the last word on this:

Deep-water wells jeopardize supply - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 15, 2014

The government is considering lifting the moratorium on high-capacity wells for crop irrigation. I am not sure if there are any good reasons for jeopardizing the drinking water supplies of current and future generations of Islanders, but I am absolutely certain that doing so to allow for further intensification of potato production must be one of the worst.

Ian Dohoo, Flat River


A possibly useful note:
from Twitter ‏@ruk 15 May (2013)

"To prevent the Guardian paywall from tracking you, prevent your browser from accepting cookies from "http://ppjol.com ". "

A possibly funny cartoon from Wayne Wright in The Journal-Pioneer from January 11:

The JP, along with The Eastern Graphic, have Island editorial cartoonists.

And not to forget our Premier:

Defining difference in promise vs. lie - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 14, 2014

I almost gagged when Premier Robert Ghiz bragged of “bringing in the HST” was the best thing he did for P.E.I. in 2013, after “promising” prior to the last election, he would not.

Now, with help from a computer, these are the definitions of a promise and a lie. A promise is a vow to assure a person or group that something will or will not happen. A lie is a false statement made to a person or group, who knows it is not the whole truth, intentionally.

Now, in a court of law, a lie is considered a criminal offence and whoever is convicted of such, can and will receive a fine and/or jail time. Is it ever OK to break a promise? Honouring a promise is high on my list of requirements in being a person of integrity. Basically, whenever a person fails to follow through on a promise, it registers as a betrayal. How do you define “I will not be bringing the HST to P.E. Islanders?”

Bob MacLean,  Auburn

And something on the horizon, a "who will really benefit?" issue:

CETA trade benefits grossly exaggerated - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 14, 2014

Trade is important to Canada and P.E.I. But, to enter into trade agreements based on misleading information is unwise and possibly foolish. On January 10, Rob Moore, Minister of State for ACOA, once again stated the official federal government propaganda on the benefits of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) to the local Chamber of Commerce. The two commonly reported are $12 billion annual boost to the Canadian economy and 80,000 new jobs. These are simply not true. They are benefits based on computer models with very unrealistic assumptions. Everyone knows models can be made to say whatever the designers want them to say. In this case, the models were developed by a joint report commissioned by the European Union and the government of Canada to promote the CETA agreement.

The assumptions in the model include, among others, full employment, balanced trade and a perfectly functioning market place. If you can find this in the real economy, I would like to know about it. The reality is that Canada has a significant trade deficit ($19 billion in goods and services) with Europe. We import much more than we export. The same joint report also predicts that imports from the EU will be twice as much as we export therefore increasing our trade deficit. Trade deficits usually go together with overall job losses, lower GDP, and a weaker economy.

The assessment of realistic gains and losses within CETA needs to be part of the public debate. There is much in this agreement which is of concern. The secrecy in which it has been cloaked is not in keeping with our democratic processes. It must come out from underneath the covers and be subject to a sound analysis and public input.

Lou Richard, Charlottetown
Despite all of that news, have a good day,

January 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The guard rail along a part of Plan B got fixed yesterday afternoon.

Looking east onto Plan B, Bonshaw, near "McManus Road" to old TCH by Bonshaw 500, Tuesday, January 14, 2014. (The road "above" Plan B is for hauling out rocks from one of three storage areas along the Plan B.)

One diligent worker, with a small excavator, was sent to fix the guardrail along Plan B in Bonshaw where supports were damaged.

So it's still all about safety, right?
In the rush to get the asphalt laid in October of 2013, to be able to crow about Plan B being "on time" (and supposedly on budget), there was *no time or budget" to put little reflectors in the road, as there are along other parts of the TCH.  There *are* areas of intense, superbright lighting at intersections, but none of these little gems that really help the traveller at night and when conditions are wet or foggy.

Reflectors, sometimes called "cat's eyes" **, working even though swamped with road grit, Old TCH in Bonshaw, January 2014.
One side of the plastic piece reflects back light in the white ones, two sides in the yellow.

These inexpensive reflectors are an example of a way to improve safety as a small cost, and the Department of Transportation has installed them along the TCH and some other roads....except not on Plan B, which may be wide in places but it's very hard to tell shoulders and lanes when it's wet and dark.   Perhaps they will be installed when the "finish coat" of asphalt is applied next summer.

** though the original cat's eyes in England are cast iron (no snowploughing) and have two reflective orbs.

Snow and ice, snow and ice, tonight, Confederation Centre Public Library, 7PM.   Jackie Waddell of Island Nature Trust will illustrate this presentation with lots of PEI content on winter wildlife under the shelter of snow.

January 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

(Apologies for the length!)

Tonight is the Environmental Coalition of PEI's annual general meeting, starting at 6:30PM, at Holland College's Mackinnon Lecture Theatre in Charlottetown.  It is always a pleasant, informative AGM that sticks to its time frame.  At 7PM, there will be a showing of Mille Clark's documentary Island Green,  which is about 30 minutes long and explores if PEI could go organic, in a poetic framework.  Part of the movie is a beautiful, now almost-painful, time-capsule of organic farmer Raymond Loo; and there is gorgeous photography and heartwarming images of other great people on this island.
(If you are unable to make it, there is one more showing of the film that I know of:  Wednesday, January 29th, 7PM, sponsored by the PEI Certified Organic Producers Co-Op, at the Farm Centre.  There will be a panel discussion after that showing, too.)

Following the movie is a presentation by Dr. Daryl Guignion about the controversial request by the potato industry for the province to lift the ban on "deep-well irrigation" for seasonal irrigation of the potato crop in parts of the Island.

There will be a panel discussion after Daryl's talk, with him and Island Green's creative team.
Regarding this request to lift the ban n deep-water wells for irrigation:

Organic farmer Ranald MacFarlane's letter


Deep water wells already an issue? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 09, 2014

This last summer was very dry. My well failed me for water for the first time ever.

I figured it is because we keep more stock and do more things with water than before. I had to put in a new well here at Pleasant Farm. I called for a quote and the well driller from the area said a well in Fernwood would be easy to do. He said he never had to drill beyond 80 feet.

When the job got done he ended up drilling 180 feet to hit water. He was most apologetic and couldn't understand what happened.

Here in greater metro Fernwood there were already three deep water wells, and all were being used daily - two were for irrigation of potato land and one is in the industrial park.

I realize this is not hard scientific evidence that the water table is losing critical mass but I certainly wonder if there is a correlation.

I am concerned that if Premier Robert Ghiz lifts the moratorium on deep water wells for irrigation of potato land then more people and industries that need water may not be able to get it.

Moreover, if it turns into a drilling competition to secure water, how deep will my next well have to be? The last one nearly broke me.

I am opposed to deep-water well irrigation.

Ranald MacFarlane, Fernwood

The Watershed Alliance held a symposium on November 30, 2014, about this issue and have put many of the presentations on their website:

A sample slide from Cavendish Farms and the PEI Potato Board's presentation, which uses the word "sustainability" a lot throughout:

From Daryl Guignion's presentation, "Why Fish Need Cool, Clear, Abundant Water":

  • "With the new water Extraction Policy (2013), the suggestion is made that up to 35% of water in the main stem of a river may be extracted through high capacity wells (such as irrigation) without damage to sensitive species. From my 45 years of field experience on PEI, I would categorically describe this statement as blatantly inaccurate. Theoretically, this percentage could mean that the entire east branch of the Morell River could run dry.
  • The degradation of our precious water (rivers running red, sedimentation throughout watercourses, exploding nitrate levels, anoxic estuaries, shellfish closures, larvae mortality, fish kills and overall ecosystem degradation is disgusting to witness.
  • We know the solutions but even after numerous reports, commissions, and action committees, we are bullied into believing the status quo must remain."
  • Groundwater on PEI is a public resource. It is crucial to both “man and beast”. It is my opinion that water should not be allocated to ANY GROUP without public dialogue and consent of Islanders. The lack of soil and water conservation practices across PEI is appalling and the province urgently needs a WATER POLICY – one that reflects current and future desires of all our people with the principle goal of high quality, abundant, clean water for ecosystems and future generations of Islanders."

In the end, a few weeks ago (December 15th), the board of the Watershed Alliance wrote a letter to the Environment Minister (last link on page of presentations' links) with this excerpt:

But asking for tighter regulations.  

I was dismayed when I read that letter, as they seem to give it their blessing, using the justification *if it's done properly* or somesuch;  there was a well-structured and -documented letter to Minister Sherry from the Central Queens Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation (West River Watershed Project) sent a couple of weeks later:

Excerpts from CQWF letter of December 27, 2014, (bolding mine):

"The arguments presented by the potato industry favoring supplemental irrigation are based on PEI potato yields measured against yields from other potato growing regions of North America. Their implication was that irrigation will improve yields and make the Island industry more competitive; however, the main competitive edge derived by farmers from continental regions like Idaho is not their use of irrigation, rather it is that their soil quality is superior (class I soils) and that their growing season is longer than PEI’s.

"Irrigation is one factor that improves crop yields, but improved soil conservation strategies including 3 year crop rotations, winter cover crops or mulching, and retention and enhancement of organic matter in the soil are far more effective in both the short and long term for improving yields4. Despite strong evidence for the importance of these factors and encouragement through incentives to farmers to practice best management for soils, there is ample evidence across the province that many potato producers do not apply these critical soil conservation strategies. Why should the Island public allow producers to use another public resource – groundwater - when they have not demonstrated strong leadership and stewardship in their use of the public resource that is our topsoil?

"Controlled deep well extraction irrigation was presented by the farming industry as benefitting the environment since it will mean that less energy, fertilizer and pesticides will be required to produce the same total yield (in lbs) annually. However, when questioned on the specific amount of nitrogen that is required for an irrigated field vs. non-irrigated field, the representative could not provide any estimates to back up this statement. If the province is truly considering lifting the moratorium on high-capacity groundwater wells, then there must be at least an equal reduction in environmental risk, through coincidental regulated restrictions on fertilizer and pesticide use."

and finishes with:
"There must be an open and transparent public dialogue on this issue with all stakeholders before any decisions are made to change the Government’s policy. We would urge you consider this carefully and seek input from external experts about how to address the remaining information gaps before proceeding further.

If you feel you have enough information and have an opinion about this, you could write Environment Minister Janice Sherry <jasherry@gov.pe.ca>
Agriculture Minister George Webster <gtwebster@gov.pe.ca>
and your MLA.

January 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update:

Some rain, some melting; not too much, which is good.

Some mitigations are barely holding up
Sediment pond at Crosby's ravine, which flows down the hill into Bonshaw (West) River by little wooden footbridge, Sunday, January 12, 2014.

And Transportation has let its guard down:
Plan B, Bonshaw, across from the connector to the old TCH (McManus Road), Sunday, January 12, 2014.  Presumably a snowplow nicked the top of the guard rail supports.  A pretty steep ravine off to the left, that leads down to that sediment pond (above picture).

Close-up: Guard rail not attached or supported.  January 12, 2014, Plan B, Bonshaw.

January 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some rainy day reading on our fossil fuel dependence:
Crying "Peak Oil is here!", or not, and the economic ramifications:

Historical and social implications:


January 11, 2014

There is a fundraiser for the family of Ron and Anne Arvidson, who have given so much time and effort to Stop Plan B and many other causes, to help offset some medical expenses.

Beautiful things!  Raffle tickets ($5 each or three for $10) are available at various locations including the Bonshaw Hall (Post Office) and Ellen Burge's pottery stall at the Charlottetown Farmers' Market (by the smoothie bar), and from friends.  Contact me and I can put you in touch with the right people.  The last day for getting tickets is January 19th.

Here is an event (presumably with tasty local food) that may be of interest if you are in a community supported agriculture group (CSA) or especially if you are curious about it:

Community Supported Agriculture Workshop

Wednesday, February 5th,  4:00 to 7:30 p.m.
The Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown
Supper Included

"The workshop will highlight Community Supported Agriculture in Prince Edward Island as one viable option for sustainable production & distribution. It will provide PEI CSA producers an opportunity to share their knowledge and CSA customers/sharers will have a chance to share their experiences. And, it will showcase the individual CSA producers’ offerings and provide sign-up options."

The workshop is sponsored by the PEI Food Security Network: Sustainable Production and Distribution Working Group.

There is no charge but preregistration is required, before January 24, 2014.

To preregister: Cooper Institute 894-4573 or cooperinstitute@eastlink.ca

And something to consider from "FoodTank, the Food Think Tank" (bolding is theirs):
Source URL:   http://foodtank.org/news/2013/12/fourteen-food-resolutions-to-bring-in-the-new-year

14 Food Resolutions for 2014 - by Danielle Nierenberg

As we enter 2014, there are still nearly one billion people suffering from hunger. Simultaneously, 65 percent of the world's population live in countries where obesity kills more people than those who are underweight. But these are problems that we can solve and there's a lot to be done in the new year! 

2014 was declared the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Food Tank is honored and excited to be collaborating with FAO around highlighting how farmers are more than just food producers--they're teachers, innovators, entrepreneurs, environmental stewards, and change-makers! 

And negotiations are continuing around the new Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. It's our hope that the new goals will help not only reduce hunger and poverty, but find ways to improve nutrient density and improve farmers' livelihoods. 

In addition, the issue of food loss and food waste is gaining ground thanks to the U.N.'s Zero Hunger Challenge, which calls for zero food waste, as well as the good work of many organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Feeding the 5000, the U.N. Environment Programme, and WastedFood.com who are showing eaters, businesses, and policy-makers solutions for ending waste in the food system.

And youth are taking the lead in pushing for a more sustainable food system. Young people like Edward Mukiibi, who is helping Slow Food International's 1,000 Garden in Africa's program gain momentum. In addition, the Young Professionals for Agriculture Research and Development (YPARD) is helping connect agronomists, farmers, researchers, and activists around the world. Food Tank will also be announcing some exciting work around mobilizing youth in 2014! 

Through concrete action, hope and success in the food system is possible.

As Nelson Mandela said, “sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.”

Together we can be that generation and find solutions to nourish both people and the planet!
Here are 14 food resolutions for 2014:
1. Meet Your Local Farmer
Know your farmer, know your food (KYF2) aims to strengthen local and regional food systems. Meeting your local farmer puts a face to where your food comes from and creates a connection between farmers and consumers.
2. Eat Seasonal Produce
By purchasing local foods that are in season, you can help reduce the environmental impact of shipping food. And your money goes straight to the farmer, supporting the local economy.
3. End Food Waste
More than 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted each year. Tips to reduce waste include planning meals ahead, buying "ugly" fruits and vegetables, being more creative with recipes, requesting smaller portions, composting, and donating excess food.
4. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Many diseases are preventable, including obesity, yet 1.5 billion people in the world are obese or overweight. Promote a culture of prevention by engaging in physical activity and following guidelines for a healthy diet. Gaps in food governance must also be addressed to encourage healthy lifestyles, including junk food marketing to children.
5. Commit to Resilience in Agriculture
large portion of food production is used for animal feed and biofuels--at least one-third of global food production is used to feed livestock. And land grabs are resulting in food insecurity, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, and water loss. Strengthening farmers' unions and cooperatives can help farmers be more resilient to food prices shocks, climate change, conflict, and other problems.
6. Eat (and Cook) Indigenous Crops
Mungbean, cow pea, spider plant...these indigenous crops might sound unfamiliar, but they are grown by small-holder farmers in countries all over the world. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately 75 percent of the Earth’s genetic resources are now extinct, and another third of plant biodiversity is predicted to disappear by the year 2050. We need to promote diversity in our fields and in our diets!
7. Buy (or Grow) Organic
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that at least one pesticide is in 67 percent of produce samples in the U.S. Studies suggest that pesticides can interfere with brain development in children and can harm wildlife, including bees. Growing and eating organic and environmentally sustainable produce we can help protect our bodies and natural resources.
8. Go Meatless Once a Week
To produce 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of beef can require 6,810 liters (1,799 gallons) of water and 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of pork can require 2,180 liters (576 gallons) of water. Beef, pork, and other meats have large water footprints and are resource intensive. Consider reducing your "hoofprint" by decreasing the amount and types of meat you consume.
9. Cook
In Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked,” he learns how the four elements-fire, water, air, and earth-transform parts of nature into delicious meals. And he finds that the art of cooking connects both nature and culture. Eaters can take back control of the food system by cooking more and, in the process, strengthen relationships and eat more nutritious--and delicious--foods.
10. Host a Dinner Party
It’s doesn’t have to be fancy, just bring people together! Talk about food, enjoy a meal, and encourage discussion around creating a better food system. Traveling in 2014 and craving a homemade meal? For another option try Meal Sharing and eat with people from around the world.
11. Consider the "True Cost" Of Your Food
Based on the price alone, inexpensive junk food often wins over local or organic foods. But, the price tag doesn’t tell the whole story. True cost accounting allows farmers, eaters, businesses, and policy makers to understand the cost of all of the "ingredients" that go into making fast food--including antibiotics, artificial fertilizers, transportation, and a whole range of other factors that don't show up in the price tag of the food we eat.
12. Democratize Innovation
Around the world, farmers, scientists, researchers, women, youth, NGOs, and others are currently creating innovative, on-the-ground solutions to various, interconnected global agriculture problems. Their work has the great potential to be significantly scaled up, broadened, and deepened—and we need to create an opportunity for these projects to get the attention, resources, research, and the investment they need.
13. Support Family Farmers
The U.N. FAO has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming, honoring the more than 400 million family farms in both industrialized and developing countries, defined as farms who rely primarily on family members for labour and management. Family farmers are key players in job creation and healthy economies, supplying jobs to millions and boosting local markets, while also protecting natural resources.
14. Share Knowledge Across Generations
Older people have challenges--and opportunities--in accessing healthy foods. They're sharing their knowledge with younger generations by teaching them about gardening and farming, food culture, and traditional cuisines. It’s also important to make sure that older people are getting the nutrition they need to stay active and healthy for as long as possible.

And a savvy Charlottetown Farmers' Market patron mentioned it's sometimes easier to park at the UPEI lots close to Belvedere Avenue and cross at the crosswalks to get to the Market (especially when the snowbanks are easier to get around).

January 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some events taking place in the next little while:

Today, 12noon, Charlottetown Legion on Pownal Street, second floor:
Rally against cuts to DVA

A correction (had the date wrong yesterday):
ECO-PEI annual general meeting is Tuesday the 14th, MacMillan Hall, Holland College, starting at 6:30PM:

Saturday, January 18th, daytime:
Farm Centre hosting the first PEI Seed Expo for gardeners and farmers:
"The day-long event will offer participants a chance to check out new varieties for this year as well as learn the value and history of some of the heritage seeds that have long been in use."

Tuesday, January 21st, 7PM, AVC Lecture Room A,
Film:  Cinema Politica and the Citizens' Alliance of PEI are hosting the film "Occupy Love"

Wednesday, January 29th, 7PM, Farm Centre
Screening and discussion of film Island Green
PEI Certified Organic Producers' Co-Op and Open Cinema

And tonight on CBC TV's The Fifth Estate:
"In the past few years, the federal government has cut funding to hundreds of renowned research institutes and programs. Ottawa has dismissed more than 2,000 federal scientists and researchers and has drastically cut or ended programs that monitored smoke stack emissions, food inspections, oil spills, water quality and climate change.
Now some scientists have become unlikely radicals, denouncing what they call is a politically-driven war on knowledge. In Silence of the Labs, Linden MacIntyre tells the story of scientists - and what is at stake for Canadians - from Nova Scotia to the B.C. Pacific Coast to the far Arctic Circle."


And just a note that we are updating the Citizens' Alliance website from the www.watchpei.org website and it's not-quite-accessible right now.   Updates and other information are still up on the www.stopplanb.org website.

January 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Back to the land:

There are two chances to see the movie Island Green by Mille Clarke this month.  (This is the 30-minute movie that lyrically examines the idea of an organic PEI.) The first is at the Environmental Coalition of PEI's annual general meeting next Tuesday, January 15th, along with a summary of ECO-PEI's work this past year, and wonderful speaker biologist Darryl Guignion;,MacKinnon Hall of Holland College's  Prince of Wales (Charlottetown) campus.

and the other time is on Wednesday, January 29th, at the Farm Centre, sponsored by the PEI Certified Organic Food Producers' Co-Op.

Both events will have discussions afterwards, so after being inspired by Mille's movie you can help focus on what actually to do to make this closer to happening.
In yesterday's Guardian, David Weale paid attention to the numbers and wrote this:
Source URL:http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-01-08/article-3567640/Acreage-disappears-in-farming-statistics/1

Acreage disappears in farming statistics -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 08, 2014

Some clarification is needed on the information provided to the Guardian by the Department of Agriculture on Jan. 6, (This is the year of the Family Farm). It stated that in recent decades the number of farms on P.E.I. has dropped from 15,000 to under 1,500. It also stated that the approximate size of the 15,000 farms was 90 acres, and that the average today is around 300 acres. Do the math. That would mean there were 1,350,000 acres of ʻfarmlandʼ back when, and only 450,000 today. What happened to the 900,000 acres unaccounted for? Someone needs to go back to the drawing board.

The article also repeated the common shibboleth that, “Todayʼs farms are much more productive and efficient....” It raises the question as to whether the loss of 13,500 farm units, and the “decline, if not the decimation of many rural communities” should be described as efficient. The analysis from this perch seems rather narrow.

Surely in the big picture the transition has been hugely inefficient, and detrimental to rural P.E.I. And, predictably, there is no mention of the hidden cost of the degradation of Island soil that is the by-product of industrial monoculture.

At worst, the article was disingenuous. At best, confusing.

Having said all that, one can only hope that it represents, policy-wise, some small turning away from the present model of farming toward one that is more friendly to both the land and those who farm.

David Weale, Charlottetown

I couldn't dig up the original column written by the Department of Agriculture yet, but here is Monday's editorial on the United Nations' decree:

Family farm in spotlight by UN decree - The Guardian Editorial

Published on January 07, 2014

2014 campaign to highlight potential to eradicate hunger, preserve resources

There is another reason to consider 2014 an historic year on P.E.I. We are all aware of the 150th anniversary this year of the Charlottetown Conference which led to Confederation. And as thousands of guests and visitors flock to our province, they are sure to enjoy the pastoral country scenes all across the province. Those scenes are recognized around the globe in countless calendar pictures, postcards, advertising and photographs, all because of the family farm which has been the foundation of this province since well before Confederation.

Now, the United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. The UN has launched a campaign to highlight the potential of family farmers to eradicate hunger, preserve natural resources and promote sustainable development. The designation is tailor-made for P.E.I., probably more so than any other province in Canada because we have such a high percentage of our land under cultivation. Itʼs true that many P.E.I. family farms have incorporated for business and taxation reasons but families still own and operate those farms which have been passed down from generation to generation.

In a recent online survey conducted by the Task Force on Land Use Policy, Islanders made it abundantly clear they stand shoulder to shoulder with P.E.I.ʼs family farmers. There was a strong response to the survey indicating a keen interest in the future of land use in the province. A key finding of the survey indicated that a majority believe that the best farmland should be kept in agriculture and not open for any kind of development. They want the family farm to continue to be the guardian and custodian of the land and to pass it down to following generations largely intact.

Two little comments: The Guardian uses the editorial to mention the results of the Land Use Policy survey.  While I think any response from Islanders is valuable, it was a small number -- they call the response of about 700 Islanders "strong". (Remember that the citizen-initiated plebiscite regarding Plan B had 4,000 respondents and that number was belittled by mainstream Island media.)  They also did not use the opportunity to discuss *any* issues of farming on PEI, such as soil degradation or pressures on family farms like those faced by the Best family in Tryon, just its postcard prettiness.

January 8, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is terribly long, but interesting, if you have a chance to read it.

Reinventing Progressive Politics - by Murray Dobbin, rabble.ca

posted on rabble.ca in June of last year
Source URL: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2013/06/reinventing-progressive-politics#.UscxNLMPIxU.email

We are so accustomed to the connection between political parties and democracy that to question the relationship between the two might seem absurd. But for those who recognize the multiple crises faced by humanity -- the destruction of our environment, climate change, the ravages of unfettered finance capital, the undeniable limits to growth -- the failure of our liberal, multi-party democracies seems increasingly obvious. To many people -- the millions who can't even be bothered to vote -- they are simply irrelevant.

Of course for the elites and the corporations that feed off it, the current system is working fine. Deregulation, privatization, high-end tax cuts and the Orwellian security state now being exposed in the U.S. all contribute to wealth and political power of the 1% (actually more like the 10%). While they still have to breathe the same polluted air as the rest of us, the elites believe they can somehow achieve immunity from the global forces now in play. Of course they are wrong. But so long as they believe they are right, the crises will continue to worsen and the rest of us will continue to suffer.

The tragic irony in all this is that in most democracies the majority of people actually share values that, if they drove government policy, would begin to address the crises. But there is a persistent disconnect between what people want and what the system can deliver. The multi-party system is designed to be dominated by money and increasingly sophisticated marketing, micro-targeting and data-mining. Disengaged citizens haven't a prayer in dealing with the modern election machine.

Left-wing parties try to play this game but inevitably come up short. The "game" has been designed not to represent the needs of people or communities but to manage capitalism in the interests of the elites. As soon as you accept the rules of this game, that is what you end up doing. The electoral contest is inherently corrupting of genuine democracy.

Reflective of this decay of democracy is the recent BC election in which a totally bankrupt Liberal government won re-election against an NDP which thought it could stroll to power using the conventional machine approach to elections. But to truly draw upon people's progressive instincts you have to engage them at the community level year round. Just think of the odds against winning in the conventional BC contest: a totally hostile media which effectively operates like the propaganda arm of the Liberal Party, live-steaming neo-liberal ideology into every home every day of every year.

Elections as we experience them are themselves apolitical. People are supposed to suddenly become informed citizens -- for one month every four years. There is no substantive dialogue with the citizenry. The parties are like alien entities that suddenly arrive in your living room, not to engage you but to somehow coax you into voting for them. Even working in elections is apolitical -- the NDP insists that its callers and door knockers not talk to people -- because they fear their own members are so ill-informed about its policies that they might say something to harm the campaign.  

The inevitable result of a progressive party adopting the election tactics and operating principles of its right-wing opponents is that it has to move to the right to be competitive. If you don't trust your support base or even your members to be progressive you have little choice. At the federal level a single policy area fatally reduces the NDP's capacity for progressive positions. The NDP refuses to seriously address the revenue/tax issue. Conservative and Liberal tax cuts have lopped off between $50 and $80 billion a year in revenue without which the NDP can do virtually nothing to reverse the dismantling of the social democratic features of the federal state.

To be fair to the NDP the other missing element in national politics are robust, grassroots social and labour movements whose role it is to move the ideological and political goal posts to the left. With the aforementioned media ready and willing to trash any policy or party that steps outside the bounds of what is acceptable to Bay Street, it is not difficult to understand the NDP's reluctance to provide bold leadership on critical issues. Without social movements creating the political space an electoral machine party is vulnerable when it comes to taking bold positions.

Two recent examples of the NDP taking advantage of political space created by social movement organizations demonstrate how it should work. Last year the NDP alarmed social activists with statements suggesting broad acceptance of corporate rights ("free trade") deals, including the odious CETA deal with the EU. But recently, both Don Davies the NDP trade critic and Mulcair himself have come out clearly against the investor-state provisions of these deals -- provisions that neutralize government's capacity for legislation by allowing corporations to sue governments directly for laws that affect their profitability. That change followed effective grass roots campaigns against CETA and FIPA, the 31-year deal with China.

On the tax front the NDP has taken a strong position on the issue of tax havens. While this is an easy one to lead on (not even the Taxpayers Federation can find a way to defend crooks) the party's position is strongly reinforced by an effective campaign by the group Canadians for Tax Fairness. It remains to be seen if the party will take on tougher tax issues like increasing personal and corporate income taxes and whether the fair tax movement is there to back it up.

While these are positive signs for progressive politics they are rearguard actions aimed primarily at stopping things from getting even worse. There is another political world out there that is the elephant in the room -- the need for a steady state, low growth economy, bringing finance capital to heel and dealing with the rapidly unfolding climate crisis. The formal political scene still operates as if it is business as usual, incapable in its current state of seriously addressing the most important issues facing humanity. At some point progressive forces are going to have to come to grips with the need to change the way they do politics both at the party level and the civil society level. Both branches of progressive politics are in desperate need of fundamental change though at this point there is little appreciation of this fact.

It will require an enormous effort in both camps which have institutionalized their approaches to politics to such an extent they cannot see the need for change. It is difficult to imagine the NDP suddenly returning to its CCF roots and once again becoming a movement rooted in community. History does not move backwards and there is no grass roots push within the NDP membership for developing a movement/party that actually engages ordinary citizens on a year round basis.

Similarly, the remnants of what were once robust and effective social movements are (with some important exceptions) increasingly weak, demoralized and isolated. Small wonder. The context for the creation of these single-issue movements was the early Trudeau era when governments actually listened to citizens' groups while expanding the social and economic role of governments. The efficacy of this kind of civil society organizing has however been in a steady decline since the signing of the FTA with the U.S. What is now needed is a broad social movement which incorporates all of the issues now dealt with by hundreds of disconnected organizations.

It all has to do with recovering community and the commons. The destruction of community has been the great success of the right. When Margaret Thatcher stated there was "no such thing as society" she was not describing current reality -- she was describing her goal. It has been largely achieved in English speaking developed countries. If we are to even begin to address our share of the global crises we will have to do it by creating a political culture that reinvents the commons and ends people's isolation from each other.

It's a difficult and long-term task -- likely as long as the right has been dominant. There is at least one reason for optimism on this front: the recent coming together of the CAW and CEP unions to launch Unifor billed as a reinvention of unionism, "for the unemployed and self-employed, a union for women and young workers -- a union for everyone." That sounds a lot like a union rooted not just in the workplace but in the community. It will, we can hope, be a challenge to the rest of the labour movement which finds itself in a state of near irrelevance in the struggle for a better world.

But, how, in the next five to ten years, can civil society organize in such a way as to reverse the decline of community and transition from "silo" politics? A key to this goal is to be found at the level of civic politics. It is the level of government closest to people in their daily lives and presents a scale of politics with the most potential for community building. There are scattered efforts across the country to elect progressive councils but the left needs to focus serious resources and planning if civic politics is to become the battleground for changing the political culture.

The right has already thrown down the gauntlet. Preston Manning's Centre for Building Democracy announced this spring that it is putting major resources into civic politics to help conservative candidates take over city and town councils across the country. It's the last field of battle for the hearts and minds of Canadians. We had better show up.

Murray Dobbin is a guest senior contributing editor for rabble.ca, and has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years. He writes rabble's bi-weekly State of the Nation column, which is also found at The Tyee.

Not an endorsement, but passing on an interesting point of view, from Monday's Guardian:


Nuclear power best option for reliable electricity - The Guardian Letter of the Day

Published on January 06, 2014

Current weather conditions have emphatically shown the need for reliable and abundant electricity supply for this region, and indeed the whole country. Options for governments appear difficult. Whatever method of generating more power will encounter vociferous objection from various groups, some of it justified, and much that does not stand up to critical analysis.

A consensus among climate scientists indicates the need to quickly reduce burning of fossil fuels, particularly the dirtiest, coal. Many other forms of energy generation have their problems. The one green system that is a known technology with a very high safety record is nuclear power. It is high time for governments to bite the bullet and put in place an ambitious program of nuclear power construction across the country.

This technology has been around for a long time, we know how to do it. We have the added advantage of making all these stations thorium powered, with vastly reduced radiation hazards and waste disposal problems. Thorium is abundant in Canada and we have the excellent CANDU reactor. All we need is political will and a rising level of community understanding of the whole picture, including the risks involved.

This leads me to my one point of unease. Any system of power generation needs disciplined government oversight of safety standards. Having seen what slack safety standards can do in the Lac Megantic rail disaster leads me to think that nuclear power needs to wait until we get rid of the Harper government. This is a government which has shown a reluctance to apply strict oversight of the activities of corporations in the energy sector, and which has consistently attacked science and community access to its findings.

This is serious. 

Peter Noakes, Charlottetown

January 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here is a round-up of some news items:

Well-water contamination confirmed from fracking in four U.S. states (article originally by the Associated Press):

A lot of e-mail bounced yesterday, so if you didn't get this list, here it is again, Elizabeth May's list of Highs and Lows from 2013:

Phil and the Farm -- it's good to see a plan for some of the P.E.I. 2014 money that sees a future for keeping things green, local and growing:

Source URL:

Farm Centre Associationʼs planting seeds of a Legacy Farm - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay

Published on January 06, 2014 in The Guardian

The seeds for a long-lasting legacy will soon be planted by a new Farm Centre Association initiative.
This spring the association is embarking upon a Legacy Farm project, which is a community-based research and demonstration farm on an eight-plus-acre parcel of land directly behind the centre in Charlottetown.

“The whole idea of the Legacy Garden will be in keeping with the theme of 2014 so it will be honouring the past, giving recognition to the present and helping to create a vision of the future for Island agriculture,” says Phil Ferraro, general manager of the Farm Centre Association, which received funding from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund.

The association, which has partnered with the Agriculture Canada Research Branch, the P.E.I. Food Exchange and The Culinary Institute of Canada, has obtained a long-term lease of the land, which is on Charlottetown Experimental Farm property.
“Our partners include the Agriculture Canada Research Branch and they will be growing lots of grains and vegetables that were actually developed on Prince Edward Island in the past 100 years. We will be including some signage and having some tours of what those crops were and what they meant to P.E.I. and Canadian agriculture,” Ferraro says.

"Another partner is the P.E.I. Food Exchange which became fairly well known this past fall for going out and ʻgleaningʼ fields.  After a farm has been mechanically harvested theyʼll go in to pick food and give it away to charity. Next year they will be growing food (in the Legacy Garden) as well as gleaning from other farm fields.”

The Culinary Institute will also have a garden plot and they will also be hosting a series of dinners at the Farm Centre, which will be coupled with events that all relate to Island agriculture and food security.

In addition to Agriculture Canadaʼs extensive field plots where they will demonstrate various crops that theyʼve developed on P.E.I. over the years, there will be community gardens and research plots where new and under-commercialized crops will be introduced to that people can see what opportunities there may be to growing some of them.
“So between the community gardens, the research trials and the demonstration plots we will also have an activities area. This agricultural research station is actually unique in Canada. Itʼs the only one that has historically always invited people to be part of it — to walk across it.  All of the other agricultural stations across Canada are more restricted,” Ferraro says.

“If you look back at past events it used to be a place bus tours came, where weddings were held, where special events occurred, so we hope to reinvigorate some of that enthusiasm around the farm by having an area where we will certainly be hosting events over the course of the year, but then in the future as the orchard and gardens mature that people will want to utilize the space for their events.”
Ferraro says the Legacy Garden has tremendous potential as an agri-tourism destination, for cruise ship passengers, for example.
“(Also) over the last couple of years is that farmers are using the farm centre as a depot for their community-supported agriculture projects, so within the garden there will be an expanded opportunity for farmers to do that,” he

The half-acre community garden will be established this spring, as will a half-acre orchard of various fruits and nuts. Shelterbelts will also be planted to present an esthetically pleasing landscape as well as a productive landscape.
Educational programming, as well as demonstration farming activities, will also part of the Legacy Farm package.
“This being an urban location in the middle of Charlottetown, urban agriculture is becoming very prominent. The vast majority of new farmers in North America are small diverse farms with direct marketing, and the younger generation of farmers tends to be closer to cities or in cities,” Ferraro says.

“So there might be an opportunity for tools and techniques for small farmers and urban gardeners.”
There is also an opportunity for horticultural therapy for the elderly, disengaged youth, and those with physical, developmental, mental, and learning disabilities; and garden-based learning for early childhood education.
“There is no design for this to be a commercial farm. Weʼre not setting out to give space for people to compete with Island farmers. Itʼs a research, demonstration, celebratory, educational space. . . ,” Ferraro adds.

“Itʼs a very exciting endeavour. If you look at the original mandate of the Farm Centre it was to be an event centre and a place to help bring together urban and rural people . . . Somehow over the years it kind of lost that vitality and became just an office building. So weʼre hoping to reinvigorate the mandate of the Farm Centre as well as the heritage of the (experimental) farm that had always been sort of a destination and celebratory site that was unique in Canada.”

January 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is a list of environmental and democratic "highs and lows", in the view of Green Party leader Elizabeth May.  Of course, some are partisan, but I have put in bold what I felt were most interesting observations:

Source URL: http://elizabethmaymp.ca/news/blogs/2013/12/31/that-was-the-year-that-was-2013s-highs-and-lows/

That was the year that was…2013’s highs and lows - Elizabeth May's blog

by Elizabeth May; (posted) by Craig Cantin | December 31, 2013 8:38 pm

I have been over the last few days, like most Canadians, getting the deluge of retrospectives on 2013.  Rob Ford’s name looms large in these reviews, along with Duffy and Wallin, Senate expenses and shenanigans.

This review will not mention those names. The highs and lows of 2013 as I saw them:

The “Lows”

  1. Greenhouse gases in the planet’s atmosphere crossed the 400 parts per million threshold. This dangerous development was marked with headlines around the world, but was hardly mentioned in Canada.  (From press clippings May10-14, 2013: New York Times:Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears, Guardian: Record 400ppm CO2 milestone ‘feels like we’re moving into another era,’ BBC: Carbon dioxide passes symbolic mark , also Le Monde, Le Figaro and so on.)
  2. Approval by “unanimous consent” of new national park when I was briefly out of the Commons.  Why would I not want to consent to Sable Island National Park?  It is the first time industrial activity has been approved in a national park.  The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) will have control of approving seismic testing for oil and gas within the park or directional drilling under the park.  CNSOPB only has to inform Parks Canada, not obtain permission or even consult.  I mourn that a blow to the integrity of all national parks was achieved by stealth.
  3. Destruction of libraries throughout the federal government.  Whole collections of archives of forestry and fisheries have been trashed, with small residual materials set to other locations. The Tyee covered this yesterday with more shocking details:

A federal document marked “secret” obtained by Postmedia News indicates the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that can be read in its entirety at the bottom of this story, mentions only the “culling of materials” as the “main activities” involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details “culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries.”In contrast, a government website says the closures are all about digitizing the books and providing greater access to Canadians — a claim federal and retired scientists interviewed by The Tyee say is not true.”


  1. The treatment of Mi’kmaq non-violent protesters in New Brunswick.  I have been shocked that the approval of fracking on unceded territory of the Elsipogtog First Nation has been so ignored nationally.  The burning police cars on the front page of newspapers has created the impression the protest was violent, but the opposition to fracking is widespread in NB and the blockade had been peaceful.  In fact, the protesters were allowing through vehicles on the blockade.  The assault by RCMP and other unidentified security forces occurred before the cars were set on fire.  There are conflicting accounts from eye witnesses, but it is fair to say, there is a dispute about the idea that the camp was responsible for the fires.
  2. The National Energy Board decision to recommend approval of the Enbridge risky pipeline and tanker scheme.  It was not a surprise.  The NEB has never said “no” to a pipeline.  But it was a surprisingly weak report, ignoring a lot of the strong arguments against the project.  Missing was any serious analysis of the claim that the project is in Canada’s economic interest.
  3. Canada’s unexpected withdrawal from the UN convention on desertification.  It was an appalling message to the drought-plagued countries of Africa.  For a small sum, less than $300,000 a year (less than the cost of feeding one panda on loan from China), Canada participated in international science and assistance to countries facing the threat of creeping deserts.  Climate projections for our Prairies in the future suggest we will need that science.
  4. Canada’s foot dragging on another global treaty attracted attention. On the Arms Trade Treaty, Minister Baird has repeatedly said we do not want to disadvantage duck hunters in Canada. Say what?
  5. Bad news on trade deals–  although we still have no text to review, the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and Europe looks like a bad deal for Canadians—especially those worried about higher drug prices.  European Greens oppose it as it introduces the Investor-State model into EU trade.  Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement also requires serious watching and detailed review.
  6. Lac Megantic.  The tragic loss of lives, the disaster of the rail crash and the mystery surrounding why crude oil blew up like a fire ball marked a low point for any nation.  As did the serious of other events that cost Canadian lives in extreme weather events – the Calgary and High River flood, Toronto ice storm, and Toronto flooding.  All have in common the price of fossil fuel addiction.
  7. Lastly, the move by the Prime Ministers’ Office, forcing Conservative motions in over 20 committees to remove my rights to put forward amendments to bills in the House itself at Report Stage, by “inviting me to submit amendments to committees.  As I am not a member of any committee (at least until we have 12 MPs) it is not a real opportunity.  But it does mean my amendments can be summarily defeated without allowing a debate in the House itself.  We fought it and will keep fighting it.

The “Highs”

  1. Michael Chong’s introduction of a private members bill to limit leaders’ powers.  The Conservative MP for Wellington-Halton Hills has dealt a real blow for democracy.  (Chris's note -- I am not sure what she means by a "real blow *for* democracy".  Perhaps she meant another word or I am misreading it.)  Now to get the bill passed!
  2. The bravery and leadership of the Hupacasath First Nation of Vancouver Island.  Thanks to this small First Nation, the Canada-China Investment Treaty is being challenged in the courts.  For all of 2013 the China FIPA was sitting ready for ratification by Cabinet.  Thank goodness it has not been ratified.  It appears the Hupacasath actions have halted ratification.  I also think many Conservatives oppose a treaty giving China’s State Owned Enterprises the right to sue Canada in arbitration for laws they claim unfairly hurt their profits. Keep an eye to block FIPA in 2014.
  3. The federal-provincial environmental review of the Prosperity Mine once again gives a thumbs down.  The company is going to court. Let’s hope Environment Minister Aglukkaq will follow Jim Prentice’s lead and also turn down the mine at Fish Lake.
  4. Shutting down coal fired power plants in Ontario.  Thanks to Premier Wynne for a rare climate win.
  5. Keeping the Experimental Lakes Area open.  But it was at quite a cost. Government scientists are being told they have to choose between research at the ELA and working for the government.  Meanwhile the deal between the Province of Ontario and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), is still being sorted out.  I was shocked to learn recently that IISD has lost all its core federal government funding.
  6. A good bill became law.  Conservative Larry Miller (Bruce Grey Owen Sound) got a private members bill, C-383, passed.  It bans bulk water exports from transboundary basins!
  7. Lots of democracy going on in Conservative back benches. I was very encouraged by Mark Warawa (CPC MP-Langley BC) pushing back when his right to free speech was denied by his party whip.  So too do I salute Edmonton MP (now Independent and former Conservative) Brent Rathgeber denouncing the extreme levels of party discipline required by the PMO. This all ties in to point 1 – Michael Chong’s bill.   We must push for MPs to be empowered to do their job – representing their constituents and not their political party spin doctors.
  8. And to help make that point – Great news for Greens as Bruce Hyer, Independent MP from Thunder Bay-Superior North joins me as the new, doubled Green Party Caucus.  I am so hopeful that our presence in the House will help raise awareness of how a party caucus should function.  With respect, good debate and the freedom to vote as your constituents would want.
  9. And more high points for Greens.  The May BC election brought in another ground-breaking moment, with the election of BC’s first Green MLA, noted climate scientist, Dr. Andrew Weaver. And a close race for BC Greens’ new interim leader, Adam Olsen.
  10. And while it is hard to describe it as a high point, the publication of the RCMP affidavit about the scandal in the PMO, the payment of $90,000 from Harper’s Chief of Staff to Mike Duffy and the subsequent cover-up, have opened a window on the very closed workings of the PMO.  My prediction is that the more Canadians learn about what goes on in PMO, the stronger the case to limit its budget and powers no matter who is Prime minister.

So Ring in the New Year!!  Let’s hope for more “highs” than “lows” in 2014!

Let's hope the freezing rain isn't too bad and the spell of warm temperatures eases the snow load on the trees.

January 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This gem of a piece by Marie Burge was in Monday's Guardian, and it is certainly worth a thoughtful read or re-read. The last paragraphs are in bold because they wrap the issue up so well.


Electoral democracy, salesmanship, or the games people play - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Marie Burge

Published on December 30, 2013

Election of politicians, though important, is not a significant measure of how well democracy is working. In fact, party politics in the current electoral system is often self-serving and does not engage citizens or communities for the long run. Democracy, meant to provide wide representation of the people, would be better served by a carefully designed system of proportional representation.

Very soon P.E.I. will be struck with election fever and many of us may even take leave of our senses and get involved in what is often called a game. Before the prospect of two major voting opportunities in 2015 and in 2016 settles on us we could reflect on democracy and elections.

Those who say Iʼm not voting: the government does nothing for me are probably more destructive to democracy than are corrupt politicians. These citizens are claiming that the role of government is to cater to the wants of individuals. Without missing the importance of the individual, we need to insist that government by its nature is a social institution meant to serve the whole society, with special emphasis on sectors which are usually left on the margins.

P.E.I. is cursed with a long history of patronage which gives us poor governments. In our country, people are silenced by a partyʼs threat, sometimes subtle, to hamper their capacity to make a living, for example. Our question is: have we made any progress from the days when a vote could be bought with a teddy of rum and a five-dollar bill?

Some say all politicians are crooked. This is untrue and unjust and can be used as an escape from responsibility. As in other sectors, we need to collectively take the time and energy, sort out whoʼs who, and then act accordingly. It is probably true that many politicians allow themselves to be influenced by the rich and powerful. If the message of power and money is what they hear the loudest, they will be influenced by it. That does not make them crooked.

It just makes them vulnerable and ill-informed. It also gives them access to easy campaign funds.

There are those who maintain that all the parties are the same. These are also irresponsible people who obviously refuse to put effort into studying the actual policies of each party. Currently we have four parties in P.E.I. and one independent. There really are five distinct policy directions.

Maybe politicians are more interested in selling their product than in giving voters policy options. The pre-election language and actions of candidates and their handlers brings some concerns to mind. Notice how obsessed parties are about establishing their brand. Party strategists seem to be more interested in advertising the brand than they are in policies. Parties often design election platforms around what they think will please the most of their potential voters rather than what will be for the good of the whole community. The real kicker is the belief that negative ads work.

Finally, and no less sobering is the image of politics as a game. It is all based on the sports model of winners and losers. Candidates are supposed to beat their opponents. And of course, our electoral model is called first-past-the-post. Statisticians love to feed us the odds to help us in placing our bets (we mean, our votes).

Our electoral history in P.E.I. gives us a grim picture of two parties vying with each other for absolute power. The winning party has frequently had a large majority with the opposition reduced to ineffectual pecking at the flaws of the governing party. We are not served well by this setup.

A major electoral mystery for me: what happened to the debate about proportional representation (PR) in P.E.I.? Those in power, have obviously decided in their wisdom that proportional representation is not an option. Sure we had a vote on the question. But what few people will dare to say is that those who long for absolute power did all in their power to discourage a yes vote. So now, is there a political party which would honestly take this on in the next federal election and the next provincial election?

We need to adopt a form of government which truly represents the make-up of our community. We should vote for a way of governing which is best for the majority, without forgetting minorities. All of us can do better. As a community we have the capacity to revive a process for gaining proportional representation. We can all be wiser in our voting.

Meanwhile, happy election fever, everyone.

Marie Burge, Mermaid, is a member of the Cooper Institute, which works with groups organized for social change.

from the description of Marie Burge when she was awarded an honourary degree from UPEI last spring:
Marie Burge is a founding member and CEO of Cooper Institute of PEI where she works to advance its vision of empowering groups and individuals who are involved in social change. For over 40 years she has served disadvantaged individuals and families and continues to motivate communities to action. Burge is an alumna of St. Dunstan’s University and has taught at UPEI as a sessional lecturer. She has also collaborated with the University on many research initiatives and projects. Burge was awarded the Order of Prince Edward Island award in 1998.

She is a wonderful person who brings strength and grace as she improves life on this Island.

January 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

As you have probably already heard, 2014 has been declared by the United Nation as the year of the family farm

Steven MacKinnon of New Argyle, with National Farmers' Union, and a huge supporter of local food and supporting family farms, has been talking about this and about issues that will affect farming on PEI (deep-well irrigation, fracking, the Lands Protection Act changes).  He was talking about it on CBC radio yesterday (I will post the link if it becomes archived).

Yesterday's Guardian had a heartfelt letter:

Why Ruin a Good Thing - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Janaury 2, 2014

Recently, it has come to my attention that we as a society are starting to neglect the obvious importance of our farmland in Canada. Without our farmers, we would be forced to eat products from foreign countries and would no longer have the option to go buy fresh products from a local Farmerʼs Market.

In Canada, we are fortunate enough to be able to eat from our own land and produce a huge variety of crops. Why ruin it?
Farmland in Canada is becoming rare and extremely expensive. This makes it almost impossible for small private farmers to earn a living anymore. Do we really want these extremely deserving people to be paid close to nothing? The cost of food is rising because the cost of producing is skyrocketing.
People need to stop complaining. Farmers canʼt afford to keep their properties and we are losing more local producers every year. These people need support, and need to make money in order to sustain their farms. Why go to the grocery store, when you can buy from someone almost literally down the road. You can then know exactly what youʼre buying and where it came from.

Agriculture is part of our heritage. It would be a shame to lose a part of our history. Today, less than two per cent of the countryʼs employment is in the agriculture sector. This means that one in 50 working people are responsible for some sort of food production. These people should be honoured. They are given almost nothing for their very important contributions. Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers and exporters in the world. This must, and I repeat must, be sustained. According to the Huffington Post, North America was losing two acres a day of farmland due to development.

Finally, buy local. I cannot stress enough the importance of farmland. Without it, Canada would be an entirely different place. We need to stop taking it for granted and support our farmers.

Rosalie OʼHara, UPEI student

The Charlottetown and Summerside farmers' markets are open tomorrow --  beef from the Loo Family farm will be available in Charlottetown, and local meat in Summerside, too; and there are still many kinds of local produce available, and always ideas on what to do with them, and how to get items in larger quantities.  Charlottetown now has vendors selling local wine and beer.   Yes, it's often a pain to park and crowded at times, but consider how much you *could* buy there that you wouldn't need to buy from off-island or through a middleman.

January 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Well, if David Suzuki says we should, then we should:

Let's celebrate the gifts of winter - David Suzuki's blog

from David Suzuki Foundation's blog of December 19, 2013, found here with working links:

We Canadians have a special relationship with snow and ice. We ski in it, skate on it, play in it, shovel it, drive through it, sometimes even bicycle through it and suffer through it for many months of the year - some of us more than others, depending on what part of the country we call home. But how much do we know about it?

Do Inuit really have dozens of words for snow and ice? Are snowflakes always six-sided? Can two ever be alike? Why is snow white? Is it a mineral? What makes frozen water so important to us? Some of the answers are more complicated than you might imagine.

Even though English-speaking skiers and snowboarders use multiple adjectives to more accurately describe different types of snow, such as powder, corn and champagne, some say the claim of numerous Inuit words for snow and ice is a myth. But is it? 

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, "the few basic words used by the Inuit to refer to different types of snow or ice do not translate everything they can say about these two natural elements." In Inuktitut, words consist of a foundational element that provides basic meaning, along with other elements "to clarify and/or modify the basic meaning. New words can therefore easily be created from another term." For example, the word siku refers to ice in general, and sikuaq ("small ice") refers to "the first layer of thin ice that forms on puddles in the fall." Sikuliaq ("made ice") refers to "the new ice appearing on the sea or on rock surfaces." Some words also have broader meanings, depending on the context. The word maujaq, for example, means "soft ground", but when referring to snow, it means "the snow in which one sinks."

So, "the total number of terms referring to the various aspects of snow and ice goes far beyond ten or a dozen," allowing Inuit to "draw very subtle distinctions between a very high number of snow or ice types." 

When it accumulates on the ground, snow appears white because, unlike many natural materials, it reflects most light rather than absorbing it, and visible light is white. And although snowflakes form in near-infinite patterns and shapes depending on temperature, wind, humidity and even pollution, each single crystal is always hexagonal, or six-sided, because of the complex way water molecules bond. When a frozen droplet or crystal falls from a cloud, it grows as it absorbs and freezes water from the air around it, forming a six-sided prism. The almost infinite variables mean it's unlikely, although not impossible, for two snowflakes to be exactly alike. 

And yes, snow can be classified as a mineral. According to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, "A mineral is a naturally occurring homogeneous solid, inorganically formed, with a definite chemical composition and an ordered atomic arrangement." Frozen water fits that description.

Snow and ice are important to life on Earth for many reasons. Both are part of the cryosphere, which includes "portions of the earth where water is in solid form, including snow cover, floating ice, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, seasonally frozen ground and perennially frozen ground (permafrost)," according to the Snow and Ice Data Center. It covers 46 million square kilometres of the planet's surface, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, and helps regulate the planet's surface temperature. Changes in the cryosphere can affect climate and water availability, with corresponding effects on everything from winter sports to agriculture.

By reflecting 80 to 90 per cent of incoming sunlight back into the atmosphere, snow cover cools the Earth. Losing that reflective protection, as is happening in the Arctic, upsets the energy balance and accelerates global warming. Snow also insulates parts of the Earth's surface, holding heat in and keeping moisture from evaporating. When soil freezes, it prevents greenhouse gases like carbon and methane from escaping into the atmosphere. When snow melts, it fills rivers and lakes.

Instead of complaining about the dark and cold of winter, we should celebrate snow and ice. The cryosphere is an important piece of the intricate, interconnected puzzle that keeps us alive. So, build a snowperson, play some hockey, get out on the slopes and enjoy the gifts that winter brings.

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

I didn't know about the part of the Earth's surface called the cryosphere (from the Greek word  for cold/ice/frozen),  and its affects modulating climate change.  More photos of the current state of the cryosphere are here:

I think Mainstreet on CBC Radio this afternoon is talking about weather stories of 2013 with Dr. Adam Fenech of UPEI's Climate Change Centre.

January 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Happy New Year, everyone!

Boyd Allen and Catherine O'Brien wrote a great letter about citizen participation and the Land Use Policy consultations which was in yesterday's Guardian:

Task Force interested in Islandersʼ viewpoints - The Guardian Letter of the Day

Published on December 31, 2013

The Land Use Policy Task Force has published its survey results:
Less than one per cent of Islanders took the survey. The Land Use Policy Task Force travelled the Island and held several public meetings to encourage people to get involved and give their opinions on how we should be developing land use policy on Prince Edward Island. Despite the small sampling, the data derived from this survey will be reflected in any future legislation.
Although we are dismayed that more people did not get involved, we still feel it was one of the few opportunities we have been given to voice our opinion and exercise our democratic rights. We were encouraged to attend meetings, respond to the survey online, or contact the task force members.

Why did so few Islanders participate in this exercise? Were we all made aware of the opportunity? If not, why not? If we were aware and chose not to get involved, was it because of the perception that government will do what it wants and our opinions donʼt matter? In recent past that seems to have been the case.
Development of land use policy on P.E.I. is important. From our health to our way of life, land use affects us all. Decisions made now will have a profound impact on our future generations and on the land itself. The Land Use Policy Task Force would still be happy to listen to more viewpoints. Itʼs not too late to contact them (see link above).

When we are given the opportunity to interface with government we must make use of it. If not, decisions will be made for us, and will not necessarily reflect the needs or wishes of all Islanders.

Boyd Allen, Catherine OʼBrien,
Citizensʼ Alliance of P.E.I.

Jack MacAndrew's column in The Eastern Graphic, from Tuesday:
(we know it should be the Citizens' Alliance, as in more than one citizen :-) )

Sorry, but that’s all for 2013 folks - The Eastern Graphic "The view from Here" by Jack MacAndrew 

Published December 31, 2013

It is that time of year when many in the journalism racket make up lists about the best and worst of this or that, or select athletes of the year, and otherwise write stuff that’s easy to come by when the world (or at least our miniscule part of it) slows down long enough to reflect a bit about where we’ve been and what we’re headed for.
The biggest 2013 story hereabouts would have to be the commencement of the destruction of one of the most beautiful natural landscapes on this here isle, the one now entered into the halls of environmental infamy, and popularly known as Plan B.
For a dedicated band of people living in the vicinity, and with the sympathetic backing of Islanders from one end of PEI to the other, the Ghiz government’s dogged determination to plow ahead with this expensive, totally uneeded, totally unwanted piece of highway construction, was a political wonder to behold. For some it will cost the Ghizites a price they will be paying right up and throughout the election slated for 2015.

This was pissing on the leg of the body politic in no uncertain terms. It was a profligate spending of more than $20 million to build a bit of highway that will permit large trailer trucks to drive even faster, so as to cut about 20 seconds off travel time getting their loads of whatever to and from Charlottetown.
This is idiocy of a particularly pristine nature, giving the finger to rational thought and reasonable discourse.
As the leaders of the Plan B Movement (now called The Citizen’s Alliance of PEI) point out, it ain’t done yet. Just wait until spring and the heavy snowfall already upon us begins to melt on those huge unprotected banks of dirt on either side of the new Ghiz speedway.

You heard the word mitigate being used a lot by Mr Vessey and other government big shots as the natural beauty of the Bonshaw Hills was gouged away, as in, not to worry, we have plans to mitigate any environmental damage etc, etc.
Please note mitigate does not mean prevent, or make whole any deleterious effect of highway construction/destruction on the environment.

If you haven’t checked your dictionary lately, what it means is “to make less harsh, severe or alleviate” any damage caused by said construction/destruction.
It doesn’t mean make whole, or even fix it.
It may also be interpreted as locking the barn after the horse has buggered off.

All of which brings to mind a column I read recently in The New York Times. It bore the title “A Poor Apology For A Word,” and turned out to be a dissertation on the use of the word sorry, a poor excuse used by some in place of excuse me, notably by certain politicians of late.
Apparently the word is of English (as differentiated from Scots or Irish) extraction, used by middle class folks (upper class folks are not required to apologize for anything) in merry olde England an average of eight times per day, which, when applied to a lifetime, would amount to something more than 200,000 occasions for your average 70-year old.
In the opinion of the author of this diatribe, sorry is a mixture of decayed piety and passive-aggressive guile, which you must admit is a mighty neat turn of phrase. And which would immediately account for its use by Mayor Rob Ford, the embarrassment emeritus of the City of Toronto.

Indeed, sorry is a sorry apology. The only acceptable apology is action.

Shaun Atleo, a little guy with a lot of moxie and a big title as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, isn’t a bit sorry for comparing the treatment of Aboriginal people by the Canadian government through the years and continuing into the present to that of Apartheid in South Africa.

He was a member of the Canadian delegation to South Africa for the ceremony occasioned by the death of Nelson Mandela.
Chief Atleo told The Globe and Mail “to walk by and spend a moment over the casket and do a ceremony. You could feel the weight of history. There was something happening here.”
He also took an eagle feather with him, to be buried with Madiba.
Then he told the Canadian delegation, including Stephen Harper, “we must take home with us Madiba’s spirit of reconciliation ... that reconciliation requires respect on behalf of all parties, including respect for indigenous rights and recognition of indigenous peoples.”
Grand Chief Doug Kelly suggested it was “rich with irony that South Africa imposed its legislation on those peoples. Those tribes in 1948, they learned from the Indian Act of the government of Canada, that they built their apartheid system on Indian Act of Canada.”

Oops, sorry.

But it’s true. Bureaucrats from the Department of Indian Affairs met with counterparts from South Africa, and elements of Canada’s Indian Act were incorporated into apartheid, including the requirement that black South Africans required a pass to leave their town or village.
May I leave you, on this New Years, with a message for the coming 12 months
“In Praise of Failure.”
That is the title of another essay I have encountered through The New York Times.What brings it to mind at present is a reflection on one of the central themes of the Georgetown Conference - the fear of failure as an excuse for doing nothing, and the inability to accomplish much of anything unless the venture embodies the risk of failure to body, spirit or reputation and social standing.
Failure, according to Professor Costica Bradatan, “is the sudden irruption of nothingness in the midst of existence. To experience failure is to start seeing the cracks in the fabric of being, and that’s precisely the moment, properly digested failure turns out to be a blessing in disguise.”
In this context, the professor tells us, “failure also possesses a distinct therapeutic function.
“Most of us suffer chronically from a poor adjustment to existence,” he says. “We behave as though the world exists only for our sake. We insatiably devour other species, denude the planet of life and fill it with trash.”
“Failure could be a medicine against such arrogance and hubris, as it often brings humility.”
That is one of the many lessons to be learned from the life of Nelson Mandela.
It was only after Madiba failed to bring freedom to his people with violence, that he adopted non-violence and won the magnificent victory he then celebrated in the true humility of forgiveness towards his oppressors.

Happy New Year.

That’s the view from here.