Recent news has focused on the extra costs of Plan B due to the effective protest movement that has exposed the lunacy of the project. Some unthinking observers may conclude that the protests should stop because of these extra costs.
To them I say, keep in mind that the purpose of the protests is to save our tax dollars, to stop the Liberals from wasting many millions on a road we do not need.
If the project were stopped today, the provincial taxpayers would save millions as well as save sensitive environmental woodland.
No one would lose if the project were stopped - except for those receiving the patronage dollars. And, of course, if the Liberals became creative and used their imaginations, they could find them a sensible patronage project.
Leon Berrouard, Rose Valley
Re: ‘Booed Tory MLA receives apologies’: as MC at the Hemlock Day Rally, I also apologized to Mr. Dumville for the fact that I should have asked the group to let him speak without interruption. Although we have been frustrated by a lack of respect and meaningful consultation from government on Plan B, we have always tried to maintain a respectful attitude to the process, the RCMP and the people involved.
Extensive public criticism and scrutiny has obligated the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) to continually revise their environmental protection plans. Yet this project has already, in four weeks of operation, shown the massive destruction, compounded by 'haste makes waste' of an unnecessary highway project.
Meanwhile the low level of confidence we had in the ability of the P.E.I. government to give complete information to the public about Plan B has been further eroded. TIR has kept pertinent information about safety on P.E.I. highways hidden, has distorted 'safety' statistics, and has continually changed its reasons for Plan B. TIR and the government did not publicize their recent Complaint Management System, which we have now brought to light of day, although there is very little detail of how the public is expected to use that system.
And so we ask again with hope of a clear direct answer — if the highway from New Haven to Bonshaw was so dangerous, why didn't government, long before now, put up warning signs, improve sight lines by cutting trees along the present highway, and use other inexpensive ways to make it safer?
Also, if Plan B is going ahead because of the seven accidents on average out of 2.3 million vehicle trips per year in this general area (of which at most one accident on average per year could be attributed to road design), will the P.E.I. government be building new highways to replace every road on P.E.I. which has that many accidents-per-vehicle-trips?
On the other hand, if the plan is to instead replace all of the highway from Albany to Charlottetown, when will the residential areas of Bonshaw and New Haven be bypassed, making Plan B obsolete? And how will P.E.I. ever pay for these mega-road-building projects?
We continue to await respectful answers.
Tony Reddin, Bonshaw
My husband and I have travelled through Bonshaw hundreds of times and have never had a problem with the highway. We drive according to the speed limit, don’t tailgate, don’t DUI, drive according to road conditions, don’t talk on a cellphone while driving, have winter tires on our vehicle from November to April and always make sure our vehicle is kept in good mechanical condition. We’ve driven on highways in many other provinces and in comparison, this stretch of highway is by far much safer.
No matter what is done to Island highways, there will always be accidents because of the way people drive. This project is nothing more than a make work project and is wanted mainly by two groups of people, those who are making money from it and those who want to drive faster.
At the rate this government is spending money, several future generations will be burdened with debt that can never be paid.
The grandchildren and great grandchildren in PEI will grow up, get jobs, and pay taxes and I’m sure many of them will wonder what the government was thinking when they put such a burden of debt on Islanders. By that time I’ll be gone as I’m an older senior and I feel sorry for future generations who will be carrying the debt on their backs that’s being caused by this provincial government.
Janet Gordon Gaudet, St. Catherines, New Haven
The View From Here by Jack MacAndrew
It may (or then again, may not) have come to your attention that a very special political personage will be visiting the blessed isle this weekend, to whit, the Leader of the Green Party of Canada, Ms Elizabeth May.
Ms May is also the first, and to this point in the political history of Canada, the only member of the Green Party ever elected to the Parliament of Canada.
She comes to us for an overnight visit, for the express purpose of celebrating the acclamation of “The Happy Dentist,” Peter Bevan-Baker as Leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island, and potentially the first representative of the Greens ever elected to the Legislature of Prince Edward Island.
As you may be aware, Mr Bevan-Baker has come to some prominence lately by emerging as a lucid and common sense spokesperson for those who believe the so-called Plan B is one of the dumber wastages of taxpayer money to come down the pike in several generations.
He is mooted by many as a very good bet to trounce Valerie Docherty three years hence, in large part because of Ms Docherty’s utter silence on the Plan B issue, contrary to the expectations of a large contingent of her constituents.
It is dead certain that the scar on the environment of the Bonshaw Hills represented by the new stretch of highway will remain in perpetuity as an example of ultimate political perfidy on the part of Robert Ghiz and his minions, of which Ms Docherty is one.
Now, Ms May may be the only federally elected Green, but she has made an impact far beyond her singularity. Indeed, she has become a kind of literate conscience to the Parliament of Canada.
To put it bluntly, the lady’s got guts and she talks good.
Witness, if you will, the statement she offered to her parliamentary colleagues last week, on the matter of the Investment Agreement with the Peoples Republic of China, negotiated and decided by the Conservative Government without consultation or debate with the representatives of the people, and about to be enacted with the same disregard to the niceties of democracy currently in practice in China.
Which is to say, forget it, we have the power.
Ms May rose in the House of Commons to say, “Mr Speaker, here is your 60 second briefing on the Canada-China investment treaty, the most significant treaty of its kind since NAFTA.
“I requested a technical briefing from the minister of International Trade on September 27. I got it one hour ago, so I can update folks.
“It confirms that state-owned enterprises would have the right to complain and charge for damages for decisions made in Canada by municipal, provincial, territorial or federal governments. It confirms this treaty will apply till 2027 for a minimum, and potentially till 2042, and China can complain of anything it feels is arbitrary.
“It will be of greater benefit to Chinese investors in Canada than to Canadian investors in China.
“No province has been asked if it approved of this agreement.
“Yesterday, the prime minister asked that members of this place should acquaint themselves with the treaty.
“I have. It threatens our security, our sovereignty and our democracy. Yet this 60 seconds will be the only briefing this house will get.”
However, the concerns of Ms May, as significant as they may be for some Canadians, are small considerations for a busy prime minister.
Why just last week he was busy continuing his efforts to re-write Canadian history.
You must by now have been subjected to those extremely expensive television commercials inundating the air waves with all that guff about how Canadian soldiers with Indian allies defeated the Americans in the War of 1812, and thereby saved Canada.
The truth is the generals and the soldiers were mostly British. Canada did not exist at the time and what became the nation called Canada was known then only as the colonies of British North America - Upper and Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces.
Why Stephen Harper is spending $25 million to falsify the historical record about a war hardly anyone even remembers, even as he diligently goes about picking on poor people and seasonal workers by cutting them off Employment Insurance, is a mystery to me, but there it is.
Last week Mr Harper carried his revisionist war on Canadian history to new lengths by handing out medals to the Chieftains of 48 First Nations and Metis communities, “with a heritage linked to the war of 1812,” whatever that means.
According to Mr Harper’s version of Canadian history it means, “During the War of 1812, First Nations and Metis warriors stood shoulder-to-shoulder with English and French -speaking militias and British military forces to defend our country against American invaders.”
Now that’s very neat and noble, except there was no country called Canada to be defended at the time, only the colonies of Great Britain.
“Without their courage and honour Canada would not have been able to successfully defend itself ...”
Except there was no Canada extant.
Which may explain why nobody gives a toot about the War of 1812.
Now, I do not in any way mean to demean the Aboriginal and native peoples for coming to the defense of the British Crown and help keep the colonies out of American hands, but to present them with something called the Canadian Forces War of 1812 Banner, and something called the Commemorative War of 1812 Medal for Aboriginal Canadians, is simply a staged publicity stunt.
I have no idea why Mr Harper and his government feel it necessary for the health of the national psyche to attempt such a goofy re-writing of history over a war that happened 150 years ago that nobody cares about.
And spend many millions in trying to convince Canadians to accept a lie.
It is ever so much easier to just tell the truth. Cheaper too.
For one thing, chest beating nationalism has rather gone out of fashion in a high tech world of instant global communication.
For another, actions speak louder than words, or so the feller said, and the government headed by Stephen Harper has much to answer for in its treatment of aboriginal and Metis peoples.
To trot them out for a photo-op as part of a phony publicity campaign staged for narrow political purposes, while tolerating the conditions in which many of these same chieftains live, is not only crass, it is hypocritically indefensible.
Those millions being spent to perpetrate a lie could be better spent helping the people of those 48 nations and Metis communities live a better life.
I’m sure Ms May would agree.
That’s the view from here.
Second Opinion by Paul MacNeill, publisher
If you thought only Tories are asking leadership questions think again. PEI Liberals are scratching their heads at Premier Robert Ghiz who has become the invisible man during a period of public discontent not seen at any other period during his administration. Unlike the Tories no one is suggesting a Liberal Party coup is necessary. But many Liberals are questioning why the premier has gone silent while ordinary Islanders are protesting against the Plan B highway development, now symbolic of government arrogance.
Only once has the premier slipped out of his Fifth Floor bunker to discuss Plan B and the spectacle of ordinary Islanders being arrested in opposition to a plan that the government has failed to justify. Other than his CBC in-studio interview Premier Ghiz has deferred to Minister Robert Vessey, who himself has preferred to let bureaucrats do the talking for government.
Perhaps it is a by-product of the Liberals often confusing public relations strategy, which puts accountability at the bottom of the to do list. Or perhaps, as a growing number of Liberals are quietly speculating, Robert Ghiz is losing interest in being premier.
It’s possible. The premier has a young family and has been known to privately lament about the burden of public office – and its constant scrutiny – it places on an individual.
Whatever the issues Liberals face, they pale in comparison to those of provincial Tories. It is increasingly apparent that the party is deeply divided over the leadership of Olive Crane. The question is can the party navigate a truce and move forward or will it implode.
Those who oppose Crane frame the call for a leadership review before the next election as being about democracy.
Don’t believe them.
Dissenters are organized and well funded and have one goal – undercut Crane and her leadership. Their interest is not democracy. Their interest is dumping Olive Crane. Proof is found in a highly questionable poll paid for by some unknown party operative that purports to show a vast majority of party members support a change in leadership. That may be the case. But if it is, why go to the expense of commissioning a poll and ensuring the results are made public just before the party’s annual general meeting? Why not let the majority carry the day?
It’s because Olive Crane’s opponents play dirty and they play to win.
Poll results were leaked to The Guardian. Not included in the leak was any data to support the outlandish results. No mention of response rate. No mention of the percentage of undecided. No breakdown of interviews per riding. No mention of margin of error when specific results for a riding were cited. No mention of who paid for the poll. Even the overall margin of error is estimated at four per cent rather than ‘accurate within X percentage points 19 times out of 20’ as is standard in reporting on polls.
This ‘poll’ has nothing to do with scientific validity. It has everything to do with delivering a preordained result. It achieved its goal – a backroom hatchet job on Olive Crane’s leadership.
These backroom operatives should tread carefully. There are significant issues with Olive Crane’s leadership and ample evidence she is failing to connect with ordinary Islanders. There is little to indicate she is taking advantage of the Liberals downward spiral. No impartial observer would dispute that. However, when her opponents so blatantly orchestrate a party coup they risk a rebound effect that could actually benefit Crane in a fight for survival.
Backroom bullies and shady tactics rarely win respect, let alone wide public support. But they do ensure blood on the floor and a divided party.
Hello, All! Happy Hallowe'en!
Media: Breaking through to major media, and in a thoughtful and current way:
Blitz David Suzuki: David Suzuki is coming to give the Symons Lecture at the Confederation Centre on Friday, November 16th, at 12:30PM. This lecture is sold out, and I don't know what else is planned for while he is here. We have been trying through several "channels" for months to let him know about Plan B -- but let's try one last blitz. He certainly has heard the backstory.
Could you write him -- you can keep it short, maybe mention the website: https://sites.google.com/site/stopplanbtchbonshawpei/home or just send the original video. http://youtu.be/NF4ZanbD3AY
There were people at the Info Centre yesterday, and lots of back and forth at Base Camp (Camp Vision). The next time the info centre at the Bonshaw Community Hall will be open will be Saturday, November 3rd, from 1-3PM, downstairs.
Take care in the storm!
See Plan B: Base Camp is now being called Vision Camp and is still happily peopled, with folks who are preparing for winds and rain. Feel free to stop by! Despite clear-cutting along Crawford's ravine (west on Peter's Road) and the strip south of the Camp, you can still come into camp and walk around the private property (which we have permission to be on) and see what is going on from there. There is information regarding the Complaint Management System for environmental concerns in the trailer.
Courtney Starkman's song "Defend our Island: Stop Plan B"
The weekend was a nice time for people to get out and see the beauty of the Bonshaw Hills and the destruction at the Plan B sites (perhaps I shouldn't use destruction and nice in the same sentence, but that's Plan B and the wonderful people opposed to it). There was a lot of fun at Base Camp Saturday afternoon and Sunday many attended a fabulous walk organized by Ron Arvidson in Strathgartney Park; several took the opportunity to drive by Peter's Road to take in the road cut.
There are a wonderful revolving group of people living at Base Camp and preparing for this week's wind and rain. Consider stopping by to say hello, pop into the trailer to get a map and get some "Watch Plan B" materials about the Complaint Management System, and see what is going on.
Event: Reserve Saturday night, November 10th, for a wonderful concert at the Jack Blanchard Hall on Pond Street in Charlottetown, all for Plan B.
And don't forget to check out the revamped website for videos, the latest letters, and interesting information:
Opinion pieces: Dr. Irene Novaczek's commentary in Friday's paper gives me pause, because she wraps up everything with such crystal clarity. I do hope our MLAs, many of whom do not read the paper, will read this -- consider passing it on:
Gary Loo's letter in Saturday's paper gives examples of what small places need to value:
P.E.I. is a small place and like other small places, I think we need to protect those things that make it special.
Norway is famous for its fjords and woodlands. The Netherlands has its canals, windmills and fields of tulips. Switzerland has the Alps and alpine meadows with chalets overlooking peaceful valleys, lakes and rivers.
On P.E.I. we have as much treasure and world-class beauty in our rolling hills surrounded by water and our fields, hedgerows and what's left of the Acadian forest. The delicate genetic diversity is what gives P.E.I. its colours and natural beauty. Is it wise to bulldoze through these hills - as in Plan B -and cover another area with asphalt forever destroying a piece of what we have left?
During work on a renovation project in Ireland, the driveway and the stone wall through which it passed needed to be moved several meters on request of the Dublin city planning commission so that traffic would not pass over the roots of a large cedar tree growing near to the existing driveway on the homeowner's land.
Another time while hiking on Mt. Rigi in central Switzerland, I was amazed at the number of cowbells I could hear. It was spring and the cows were being herded up to alpine meadows for summer grazing. I was unaware to what extent this old practice continues in modern times. A few weeks later, a late winter storm swept through that part of the country. Stranded cows were airlifted by helicopter to lower ground to prevent them from dying. The milk or cheese produced by a cow in a lifetime would not pay for a helicopter ride, but that's not the point. These are examples of how strongly the people of those areas believe in protecting the part of the world they have inherited and working to maintain it into the future.
I believe it's time we give up on the antiquated idea of bigger always being better. We need to value what we have, what makes us unique and be good stewards of this beautiful little island.
Gary Loo, Charlottetown
We has a fantastic walk with Gary Schneider from MacPhail Woods yesterday. Before it started, I felt horrible -- here Gary was coming out the day after the Acadian forest he helped plant was razed; all this
By Irené Novaczek
I was in and out of the hemlock grove lining the stream in the ravine next to Peters Road on an almost daily basis up until that area was cleared for Plan B road construction.
I observed that there were perhaps 20-50 citizens gathered in the hemlock grove and standing by the roadside with placards at any given time, plus at least as many more who went in and out daily to provide food, water, warm clothing, bedding, firewood and moral support to the campers. There were also other visitors, including new people every day. Parents came with small children; local residents stood in sorrow beside the stream and reminisced about what this place had meant to them and their children. It was clearly an area laden with history and values. Others came to walk in the woods, admire the stream and express their concerns over governance and government, democracy and citizenship, fiscal responsibility, land use, landscape, and quality of life. It was extraordinarily moving.
The closest historical parallel I can think of was the farmers’ revolt over the development plan of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Then as now, government was being led by a narrow set of ‘expert’ values (then it was modernization through efficiencies of scale; now it is efficient road transportation) with scant attention paid to the broader constellation of values held by many Islanders. I write this as a private citizen, but of course I am well aware of research done by the Institute of Island Studies, in which rural Islanders (many of whom live in town but have summer homes in the country) were invited to define what contributes to their quality of life on P.E.I. People responded by describing a sense of place, personal well-being, and community that is heavily dependent on the health and beauty of our natural environment. Opponents of Plan B also express these values, as well as values of fiscal conservatism, a sense of the public good, a concern for transparency in government, and even a concern for road safety — but not at any cost.
It is important to note that the road construction standards that are the basis for the argument for Plan B are not actually legal requirements, but guidelines developed by the construction industry. If they were legal requirements, huge sections of the Trans-Canada Highway coast to coast would have to be closed down. As residents of a small island carrying a heavy burden of debt, we need to ask whether it is sensible at this time to blindly follow guidelines that, upon inspection, focus on large-scale vehicle efficiency and speed (values of a petroleum-rich age that is now past), and are set at a level that ensures that road crews and engineers remain in perpetual motion. Should we not exercise our provincial jurisdiction, consider those guidelines in light of local realities, and make an independent decision as to whether and how to apply or adapt them?
P.E.I. is the province with the densest population per unit area, not because we have a huge number of people – our tax base is in fact very small relative to our lifestyle expectations – but because our land base is very limited relative to the population. We also have more roads per square kilometre of any province. And in the absence of coherent land use planning and regulation, every road, including major transportation corridors intended to carry heavy traffic, is lined with houses. The burden of infrastructure maintenance that logically follows such a pattern of development is already more than we can support – whether measured in road maintenance, health care provision, cellphone towers, power poles, or indeed the rate of traffic accidents. This is a serious challenge and one that cannot be overcome by straightening one road.
Costs of oil, gas, and electricity are rising. Natural resources we have traditionally relied upon to generate wealth are shrinking. Climate change impacts are being felt and will intensify. We are entering an age of downsizing and energy conservation, restrictions on public services and land use, requirements to drive less and more slowly, and other measures that will be forced on us if we continue to allow conditions to deteriorate. We urgently need to develop a collective vision and a plan for development that fits our island's size and scale. Because we are a province we have the opportunity to build on the natural assets that we have by virtue of being an island in a way that resonates with our core values and protects the special quality of life that we have here. It seems that both the process and the product of Plan B take us in the wrong direction, and at a price that many, many people clearly find offensive.
Dr. Irené Novaczek, Breadalbane, is with the Institute of Island Studies
Yesterday, construction continues:
My husband and I have travelled through Bonshaw hundreds of times and have never had a problem with the highway. We drive according to the speed limit, don’t tailgate and don’t drive under the influence. We drive according to road conditions, don’t talk on cellphone while driving, have winter tires on our vehicle from November to April and always make sure the vehicle is kept in good mechanical condition.
We’ve driven on highways in many other provinces and in comparison, this stretch of highway is by far much safer. No matter what is done to Island highways, there will always be accidents because of the way people drive. This project is nothing more than a make-work project and is wanted mainly by two groups of people: those who are making money from it and those who want to drive faster.
At the rate this government is spending money, several future generations will be burdened with debt that can never be paid. The grandchildren and great-grandchildren in P.E.I. will grow up, get jobs, and pay taxes and I’m sure many of them will wonder what the government was thinking when they put such a burden of debt on Islanders.
By that time, I’ll be gone, as I’m an older senior, and I feel sorry for future generations who will be carrying the debt on their backs that’s being caused by this provincial government.
Janet Gordon Gaudet, St. Catherines
Two opportunities to walk with knowledgeable people in the next few days in the Bonshaw Hills:
Gary Schneider from MacPhail Woods is coming our way for a walk tomorrow, Friday, October 26. We are meeting between 10:30 and 11AM at the Strathgartney Lookout, located next to the Strathgartney Provincial Park. At that point we will decide the best places to go, depending on what's available near the construction zones. We will see a lot of what we have lost, but what's left. The walk goes to about 12:30. I think we will talk about the complaint system for the public, too. Here is the facebook link.
Ron Arvidson has planned a birding and more walk around Strathgartney on Sunday, October 28th, from 1-4PM, also meeting at the Lookout. Jackie Waddell from Island Nature Trust will be there, and there will be lots to see.
Media: OK, so it's not hard to find media stories about Plan B. Yesterday was a well-coordinated blanket of media coverage from our Transportation people on the costs of the security. It does seem rather pathetic to "blame the victim".
The PEI NDP issued a great press release on this and Plan B problems:
Tuesday was a very well-done piece by Pat Martel at CBC radio, interviewing the three women who were actually there at 4PM Friday, October 12, the day of the RCMP raid on the Hemlock Grove. It clarified some misconceptions in the Guardian article, and encouraged RCMP spokesperson Corporal Blackadar (who wasn't down there at the time, either) to straighten out the inaccuracies.
Well done to the women who stood up to all that, and to the media and police to answer to their misleading statements! I hope the members of the CBC political panel were listening, too.
The letters in the Guardian have been a bit uneven, but Sarah Saunders from yesterday is the best clarification ever.
Congratulations on publishing the excellent letter by Liese Ortenburger, aged 15, of Bonshaw, who asks how can she trust the government, the police, the Department of the Environment, and the media stories. She echoes the sentiments of many others. Bravo, Liese. And you can add my broken heart and broken trust to the list.
I am surprised The Eastern Graphic publishes letters (website comments) signed “Anonymous.” In my opinion if you can’t sign your name to something then it is not credible and lacks integrity.
I could be mistaken but I don’t think other newspapers publish unsigned letters.
How does one of the anonymous writers know that “Not every Islander is against this plan.”
Obviously every Islander is not against Plan B but how would we know if we were not allowed to vote either way? Shame on you PEI government.
Hilary Prince, Montague
In his column Oct. 20, Rick MacLean is giving more organizational credit than is due to Plan B opponents.To imply that such a diverse group of people are somehow acting with one mind is absurd. To give the impression that people involved have the time, energy and desire to cohesively organize this type of media strategy is very naive.
There is a diverse and wide range of people opposing this project.
People come of their own accord, speak and act in a range of ways based on their own conscience. The only organizing force that's steering this is common sense and civic concern. These are our neighbours and friends who care enough about what's happening to speak up. He may like to think we're all out plotting photo-ops but in fact, most of us just want to get home and do some laundry.
Sarah Saunders, Bonshaw
Okay, it’s time for stage two of the opposition of Plan B: commemorating and embedding the Plan B fiasco into the Island’s collective consciousness. To start this process off, perhaps T.K. Pratt’s Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English ought to have a new word: planb. You pronounce the word by loosening your lips, putting the accent on the first syllable and saying the word very fast. It’s used something like this. “I was just sittin’ innocent like at the bar and he comes along wit his gang and one of em planb’s me right in da head. Never even saw it coming - hurts like hell too!” Or perhaps. “Ya wanna sell me something that I don’t want nor need and ya want me to borrow money for it? What, ya think I’m stupid enough to let ya planb me?” Or how about? “Listen, next time ya’s going to try an planb me, at least tell me yer wearn’ protection!” Mr Ghiz, at the end of the day I want to thank you for making a significant contribution to Island culture. Ahh, I’m only planb’n ya buddy, I’m only planb’n ya!
Walter Wilkins, Stratford
CBC Radio is broadcasting an interview in about ten minutes with the women who were there when the RCMP were called in that Friday afternoon.
Yesterday was an interesting day: Such bravery shown by the women in the trees. A very symbolic gesture, in the face of a government whose arrogance is extending down to the people on the ground enforcing the project.
While we watch the Crawford's maple and birch stand get ripped up, we are looking at our few avenues of public comment.
We can participate in the Environmental Protection Plan -- it's part of the process that the public has the right to comment and have their comments addressed. With its usual logic, these environmental concerns are handled by the Department of Transportation. They *have* to investigate concerns submitted from the public. If they don't, then they are not following the process set up for them, and in violation of Minister Sherry's conditional approval of the project.
So this this has been named, (somewhat darkly, perhaps,) Watch Plan B, and information about it is on Stop Plan B website:
The gist is that since Minister Sherry's Conditional Approval of the project on October 1st, and environmental concerns can be written or called in and need to be addressed. Major concerns like sediment in a particular stream, and ones like noise from the site, mud on the roads, etc. can and need to be submitted. This is the process set up for the public, and perhaps they are hoping we never found it and won't use it, but it is there and their compliance is part of the conditional approval of the Plan.
So please read the document on the website that describes the process and how to frame your concern.
They have set up a phone number 1(902) 675-7490 and an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org -- how nice of them to reuse this e-mail address), which is for the public to call and ask about the process, so please do.
Here is a great letter from yesterday's Guardian:
I am so worried about the beautiful forest heart of P.E.I. being ripped out by heavy machinery. While the Ghiz government wants to justify this atrocity, everyone knows this route is just wrong.
What is also a worry is a government that cannot come up with the solution. There are alternatives, but the Ghiz government has blinders on. This is frustrating to people with genuine concerns for P.E.I.
If the Liberal government is capable of destroying the beautiful old-forest heart of P.E.I., without regard, I worry about what is next to be rammed down our throats for our own good.
Mary Rose Smith, Bonshawhttp://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-22/article-3104907/RCMP-confirm-officer-touched-sacred-fire%2C-deny-throwing-log-in-stream/1
October 22, 2012
Base Camp update:
What an interesting week at the Peter's Road base camp! The Warrior family of Chief Peter Bernard and his wife, children and grandchildren left Sunday morning. The sacred fire was blessed, and as it has been more than seven days, it can go out. Despite the media hype and inaccuracies, the group was here of their own accord and to assess the situation according to their cultural beliefs.
This weekend many people stopped in to chat with the campers and to head out to see either the hemlock grove area or the Acadian forest to the west of Peter's Road (the steep ravine with maple and birch). There is tree-chopping equipment parked west of the area, so it's obvious the Province intends to continue its inexorable march through Island forests to cut this road-line. How ironic it is during what is the peak of Fall colour.
For the time being we have stopped asking people to be sign-wavers on the highway by the Cameron Road construction entrance. With the installation of guard rails and mud and gunk all over the road, plus constantly moving equipment, it's not easy to drive on this stretch. The beautiful hillsides contrast too much with the sickening devastation on either side of you.
Media: Robert Vessey is suddenly interested in active living and furnishing trails on our small islands of woods remaining between highways:
An interesting media day Friday, as the Hemlock seedling rally was filled with comments from parents, children, and grandparents urging government to make wise, longterm decisions; the media focused on histrionics.
This article is written in a very deliberate, clinical way about the changes in the area of the Plan B highway:
Of note: And I would like to mention the passing of one of the New Haven-Riverdale patriarchs, Oliver MacDonald, who lived with his wife in the little yellow house right by Strathgartney. I only met him a few times, but he was a kind and gentle man, and I am sorry for how this road and the purchase of his house must have affected him and his family this last year.
Environmental Complaints: Sorry we have been slow to get the user-friendly forms out. This "Complaint Management System" is the process in which citizens can lodge complaints to the government regarding environmental concerns -- it's our opportunity to "Watch Plan B", submit short descriptions of problems, and request information about the resolution of environmental concerns during the construction. Although not permitted on the actual construction sites, people can still be in the adjacent areas and see what effects are taking place -- especially after rain.
A flowchart outlining the process and the current form are found here:
And more information to come this week as we deal with bad choices our government has made -- more in tomorrow's update.
Letters: Two letters, of many: In appreciation of the protesters Published on October 18, 2012and The battle has just begun Published on October 19, 2012
It is true that Plan B is a colossal waste of taxpayers' money. It is true that Plan B will destroy a unique natural environment, including a stand of original growth hemlocks. It is true that there are many points on the Trans-Canada that are more dangerous than the Bonshaw Hills.
And, of course, if job creation is the issue, many more could be created in other ways. Just remember the 150 jobs that Public Works lost by saving a paltry half-million dollars.
But that is not what I am writing about today.
What concerns me the most is the apparent lack of democracy and sound reasoning in the case of Plan B. Presumably we elect the government to manage our province for us. Government, in turn, depends on the expertise of our civil servants to do the right thing. This works reasonably well as far as education and health is concerned.
But when it comes to the environment, the system is failing us completely. Again and again, the minister sees his role as protecting contractors, industry and farmers against the legitimate concerns of citizens. Disturbing data is collected on the pollution of our water and air, but this information is not made available to the public.
Plan B is no exception. Instead of having an honest debate, government is hiding the relevant safety and environmental information. Public Works engineers may testify that the work is necessary, but how can we trust them when we know that their job is on the line unless they agree with their government? Basically the government and its civil servants (that should be ‘our' civil servants) are closing ranks against public opinion. As I understand it, they even called in 20 RCMP officers to remove four protesters.
What are we ordinary citizens to do against such stubbornness and brute force? The answer is more protest. This is not just about Plan B, but about our democratic rights. Peter Bevan-Baker recently announced how the environmental legislation allows every citizen to file a complaint against violations against the environment. Violations are happening as we speak at the Plan B site in Bonshaw. Go to the site and see for yourself. It is your democratic right to oppose this bullying by our government.
Ole Hammarlund, Charlottetown
You know, this whole Plan B thing is more than just about destroying P.E.I.'s last remaining old-growth forests, trampling on democratic discourse with citizens, wasting precious resources and driving Islanders further into debt, prompting more severe austerity measures, cutting social workers etc.
It's a flashpoint for a growing anger over many years for the complete lack of understanding of how valuable our land resources are: look at nitrates in tap water, putrid green rivers and stinking bays, deep water wells, massive soil erosion, high rates of asthma in Island children, weird and high rates of cancers in the province, hundreds of thousands of trout and salmon in 30 major river kills and on and on and on.
This all has to stop. They may have cut down the hemlocks but they unwittingly have set forth a lasting anger and set alight a sacred fire in us all.
Change is coming to Prince Edward Island and the real battles over the gift of land we have been given has just begun. I thank the Bonshaw hemlocks and their 200 years of life for this opportunity.
John Hopkins, Breadalbanehttp://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-19/article-3103318/UPDATE%3A-Plan-B-protest-comes-to-MLAs/1
By Liese Ortenburger
Broken trees. Broken hearts. But mostly broken trust.
Our government has not listened to anyone but themselves. The MLAs did not dare to break the mould and stand up for us. We were sure we lived in a democracy, but now?
Last Friday evening, the government ordered police to deny the people access to public land. Here, in a developed country, in Canada. In sweet little P.E.I.
This was done to prevent people from stopping, or even viewing, the deliberate destruction of a rare grove of old trees.
Some of those trees sprouted when George Washington was president of the United States, when the French Revolution was disposing of extravagant despots. They are - were - one of the very few old-growth hemlock stands of P.E.I. that was actually reseeding. If you walked through them before this, you would have noticed young hemlock sprouts here and there. Past tense.
It is true that not all the hemlocks and pines were cut. It is also true that that ravine will be built up enormously, and the surviving trees will be to the north of this artificial hill. They are not going to see much sun. They are going to feel the effects of construction for months, of the salt spewing down from the road in the winter, of the dust and exhaust all year round.
The government is only hurting its already rocky relationship with citizens and voters. Threatening us with "education" about Plan B is not helping anything. Clear as crystal, they are saying that we do not know what is good for us and must be taught. They are saying that if we do not agree with them, we must be instructed as to why they are right.
I, like many other young people, am apprehensive about the future. I will proudly vote in 2015. But this government should know that my, and many other young people's, trust in them is utterly shattered. What else is to be expected when we have been disappointed and betrayed by the government like this? How can I trust them after what they've done? How can I trust them after they shut their ears and eyes to the wishes of the citizenry like that, so blatantly? So shamelessly? How can I trust that they will make good decisions in the future, seeing how they've handled this?
How can I trust the police force, in spite of all that children are told "the police are your friends"? How can I trust them after they showed they listen only to what the government orders them to do, as opposed to what is right, or fair? How can I trust them after they have been government-funded security forces for construction companies?
How can I trust that the Department of the Environment will truly protect the environment after this? They have destroyed trees, silted streams, and still they've hardly begun. We're told that the government will do more than is required of them by the Environment Impact Assessment. How can I trust that the EIA does a good job of ensuring the environment will be protected?
How can I trust that media stories are actually honest accounts of what happened? I've been to these events, and then I've heard and seen news stories about them afterwards. They are often skewed, important parts left out. Sometimes they feel like a toned-down version.
But mostly, how can I trust that this government will ever again listen to voters? How can I trust that they truly have our best interests at heart? How can I trust that anything they do is a good idea?
And why should I?
Liese Ortenburger is 15 years old and lives in Bonshaw.
For months I have been reading letters and commentaries in these pages in opposition to Plan B. I mistakenly thought that the volume of letters and commentaries (as well as other initiatives) from both individuals and organizations would be heard and respected by government. Many of those writing expressed well-reasoned and compelling arguments revealing how ill-conceived the project is and how flawed the process has been.
The government's assertion that its only concern is the safety of Islanders has a distinctly hollow ring. Many of us just do not believe that this is the primary driving force behind this project. The revelation of questionable practices with respect to accident statistics and the causes of those accidents is disconcerting.
Over the months, as I read the letters, I watched the left-hand side of the page for editorial comment. I have been disappointed. In a democracy when government fails to listen to the people, traditionally a free press is an ally in that struggle. The subtitle in your Oct. 4 editorial states: "With no environmental damage expected, why would the province not proceed?" Has the editorial writer not been reading the paper over these months? The environmental damage of this project has been more than adequately - and expertly -spelled out. You are aware that it is the government's environment department that has given the go-ahead to the project. Obviously, their assignment was to find the means of justifying proceeding with Plan B.
So all reasoned arguments have fallen on deaf ears and the last resort has been to be at the site in a last-ditch attempt to demonstrate that an irreversible mistake is being made. Those committed protesters are enduring wind and rain not for any personal gain but because they care deeply about our Island. Their efforts are appreciated.
Ron Irving, York Pointhttp://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-18/article-3102731/RCMP-say-members-didnt-touch-sacred-fire-at-Plan-B-site/1
If you haven't had a chance to see this short video from Friday and Saturday, by Perry Williams, here it is:
Yes, we aren't going away and there is a lot we still can do:
Walk and Wave: Definitely go by the hemlock site and see what's going on. You can see what's happened since the last time you were there, and realize that it's not just about a couple of hemlocks in the way -- a whole chunk of forest ecosystem was razed, and is slated to be filled 60 feet over your head when you are down there.
You get there by Peter's Road off the TCH http://goo.gl/maps/kI8jg
Go up Peter's less than a km, and turn right at the first "driveway". Park on the hill (it is a little muddy due to the rain), say hi to anyone tending the fire and "upper camp", and head down the road/path to the water --you have to follow more of a footpath towards the end. It's definitely sloppy, so wear boots. There is a snowfence to keep you "safe" if there is any construction going on down by the hemlocks.
You can sign up to hang-out at base camp, stay overnight, or definitely to wave signs for a two-hour shift on the highway. Please contact Megan Burnside <email@example.com> to see when she needs you. Usually, there are a few "experienced" people there to give you a lesson on sign-waving and safety (it is all about safety, eh?). If you can make new signs, that would be appreciated, too, since the originals are getting a bit bedraggled. Just don't put a stop sign image on a sign -- it makes the police jumpy.
Write: I personally didn't feel the coverage of the events of Friday and Saturday was particular in-depth or accurate, so as we are all citizen-reporters, we should write to the editors of the papers with comments, clarifications, and opinions. The letters can be sent to:
The Guardian editorial page: firstname.lastname@example.org
The View From Here by Jack MacAndrew
“Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes corrupt.” ... Mahatmas Ghandi
It is indeed a sad day for democracy when the government of the day turns the national police force against its own, citizens who have never had so much as a speeding ticket on their record.
“That what looked like a happy, shiny government a few years ago but is actually a group of self-serving individuals that pushed along this project, is more odious than I can bear.”
Odious yes, that and more, much, much more. We are talking about the now infamous Plan B, of course.
And what a pretty sight we now witness, muscular Mounties hoisting young women over their shoulders while others are handcuffed and pulled out of the forest, denied access to land bought in part with dollars they have contributed to the provincial treasury. So now the RCMP have barricaded roads leading into private property, where protesters have sought and received permission to be. Should any protesters get by the barricades, the Mounties stand on guard for thee with charge sheets at the ready, to be drawn and filled out for trespassing, trespassing understand, on public lands, the people’s own land, bought and paid for by the people’s own money. All in the process of enforcing the edicts of a rogue government.
There can be no satisfaction in being used as a tool to protect a government that clearly does not have the backing of those it purports to represent. We are constantly told by the Ghizites, the police, and by some in the media, that the fenced off kilometres are “government land,” which would suggest the government of the day actually owns the land.
It does not. Those lands are only held in trust by the government of the day.
That being so, how can citizens be legally expelled from their own property?
How can the right of peaceful assembly be violated by the national police force operating under instructions of a rogue government. And it is clear by now that the majority of the people of Prince Edward Island support neither Plan B, or the shoddy means and methods by which the government is inflicting Plan B on the people.
Last Friday both Premier Ghiz and his minister of transportation peeked over the parapet just a tiny bit to re-state their obdurate attitude towards that majority, come hell or high water, or the opinion of Islanders, Plan B will go ahead.
Minister Vessey ventured forth as far as the confines of the CBC’s morning radio show, where he was scolded in person by Roy Johnstone. Mr Johnstone is one of PEI’s finest fiddlers and he had Mr Vessey dancing to a merry tune throughout the program.
So did the vast majority of callers to the open line show. All but two registered their strong opinions against the project, for a variety of reasons. Mr Ghiz made it to Compass where he whined in his characteristic nasal tones to a television audience, that he was quite willing to pay a political price because he was convinced he was doing “the right thing” with Plan B.
He apparently remains unmoved by the spectacle of RCMP officers hoisting and hustling citizens off their own land, and unconscious of the harm he is doing to the RCMP, his own government and the very essence of democracy itself.
So the premier at least apparently knows what to expect from the electorate. Mind you, his statement could also be taken as a hint that he will have bailed out of the office and won’t be around to lead the Liberals into what could be a debacle for the party, come election time. You see Mr Ghiz has a problem. The more money he wastes on radio and newspaper advertising and orange fencing and security guards, all in an effort to convince Islanders of the rightness of his cause, the more they turn against him.
He engineered a sham of a process and he got caught at it.
And now he is stuck with it. He has crossed a line, and now he must live with it.
The credibility of his governance is gone, torn to tatters by this fight. He has nothing left to salvage except his own arrogance in dictating to those he has sworn to serve. And he may well have created a new and potent political force in the province. His name is Peter Bevan-Baker. He is a dentist from Crapaud and the incoming leader of the Green Party of PEI. Bevan-Baker has been an honest and lucid spokesperson for those trying to stop Plan B. You may be sure he will not forget about the struggle in the years leading up to the next election.
Yes, the battle of the hemlocks has been lost. But the war is not over.
That’s the view from here.
When I was six years old, my grandmother took me to the fire hall in Stratford.
I remember the excitement of being out on a school night. My parents said they didn’t think it necessary, but my grandmother insisted. “It’ll be good for him,” she said. “He should have a say in this too.”
I never concerned myself with what she was talking about and was accustomed to not understanding what grown-ups meant anyway, so with nervous excitement, we hopped in the car and made our way to the fire hall.
It was a short drive to the hall, but time enough for my grandmother to ask me one question. She wanted to know if I would prefer a ferry or a lengthy bridge?
My family did a lot of travelling, which meant a lot of ferry crossings.
So I knew the pleasures of the arcade and watching ice crushed below the ship.
But I was on the fence, a gigantic bridge sounded pretty exciting too.
We arrived at the hall and my grandmother explained how the people of PEI had been given a choice. The government was asking the people if they would prefer to build the bridge or keep the ferry service.
I saw the pride in her eyes as she cast her ballot. I felt the pride in the room as dozens of Islanders stood in line to do the same.
The lady behind the table smiled and looked at me. “What would you like more?” she asked. “The bridge or the ferry?”
I remember weighing the options quickly and deciding the arcade would be too much to part with. “The ferry,” I said shyly.
It was January 1988, when Premier Joe Ghiz declared Islanders would vote in a plebiscite on the question of a “fixed link” to mainland Canada. The right for the Island public to have their say on a major provincial project unified the population and made Ghiz among the most revered leaders in Island history. In June 2007, Islanders went to the polls and elected the man they hoped would unify the Island once again and give their choices back.
How wrong we were. I write this today because I know my grandmother is heartbroken. She watched this Island grow from its humble beginnings. She dedicated her life to this Island and the choices it gave her.
Premier Robert Ghiz and his decision to push ahead the Plan B project has slapped Islanders in the face and his leadership has taken away our right to choose and to be part of the decision making process.
I’m personally embarrassed to claim this Liberal party a governing body and am ashamed we continue to allow this government to remain in power. Premier Ghiz’s actions regarding both the Provincial Nomination Program and Plan B have been nothing less than criminal. He has demonstrated complete irresponsibility and shown the public nothing more than the characteristics of a greedy sociopath. Tonight, the Island’s forests will suffer the brunt of this government’s gross mismanagement. There are but a few areas remaining on the Island where trees have survived our development. Tonight, our government turned its back on their responsibility to protect them. The canopy will tumble, earth heave and overturn and rivers and streams run red.
Tonight, as my grandmother weeps for the forests she grew up in, the forest she watched grow, she’d asked but one question.
“Why didn’t they ask the people?” In 1993, a leader made a speech to Ottawa.
“And when they are addressed, I am hopeful that we are big enough as Canadians to look beyond our own back yards. I am hopeful that we will look at the overall good of the country in order to contribute to the dream of Sir John A. Macdonald and Georges Etienne Cartier in building one of the most generous and compassionate countries on the face of the earth, a country that will be a model to the entire world, a model of tolerance, compassion and understanding. I believe we can do it.” - Premier Joe Ghiz. Unfortunate for Islanders, his son Robert seems to have forgotten what his father understood. For a government to accomplish these goals requires the voice of its people be heard.
So let us be louder. No “leader” makes my grandmother cry.
Luke Arbuckle, Charlottetown
Plan B: Here on P.E.I, it's now part of everyday conversation and you can't turn on the radio or open the paper without hearing or seeing the uproar over it. You can't even drive down the road without seeing ‘Stop Plan B' graffiti sprayed on mailboxes. And rightfully so; the project is ridiculous.
But while much of the controversy rests with the bulldozers about to plow over trees and the environmental cons of the project, people are forgetting about the colossal waste of taxpayer dollars being wasted on this unnecessary highway realignment.
The Plan B project is looking like an upwards of $20-million-bill for the Liberals. Bear in mind the Conservative feds are contributing funds for the project, but look at it this way: if you were a person already in major debt, and your overly-generous friend offered to pay half of a new $40,000-car, as long as you paid the other half, would you? If you don't have the money, you can't do it. It's as simple as that.
With Ghiz and his Liberals already running a massive debt, spending millions of dollars to realign a small portion of a highway that does not need to be fixed is a gross waste of taxpayer dollars.
I have driven through that portion of the highway several times and have yet to see how it can be considered dangerous. If people follow the speed limit, at least through this section of the highway, it is very easy to manoeuvre. The same logic applies to the unnecessary roundabout the Liberals wasted money on in Poole's Corner.
Plan B is just another example of the Liberals' wasteful spending and poor fiscal management. Mr. Ghiz must have struck big in a lottery, because last time I checked, he did not even have a million dollars to spend on Montague Intermediate School.
The decision to go ahead with the project is a sad day for democracy. In a democracy, government should listen to the voices of the people. Unfortunately this hasn't been the case for Ghiz and his Liberals.
Ryan Deagle, Montague
To quote from Jack’s column, “I can hardly wait for Premier Ghiz to order out the RCMP and the wonderful television pictures of burly constables hustling gray haired protesters into custody.”
I am so disgusted and disheartened by what this government and premier are doing, how I’m feeling is not fit to put into print. This premier and government will go down in history as the worst ever in the history of PEI.
This province that I was born in and love with all my heart and soul is being destroyed by this incompetent premier and government and I shudder at the thought of all the damage they will still do in the time left in their mandate. I don’t understand why they were re-elected in 2011. Why do PEI voters have such a mindset as “well, I don’t want to vote Conservative so I guess I’ll have to vote Liberal.” There were three other parties on the ballot.
I don’t think the sky is going to fall down if a voter marks an X by another party candidate. I think there will be some big changes during next provincial election. I certainly hope so with all my heart. This government never should have gotten a second term and anyone who voted for them certainly doesn’t love this beautiful province as much as the ones who didn’t vote for them.
That’s my viewpoint from St. Catherines overlooking the beautiful West River. We live next to the property that belongs to the family of Premier Walter Shaw and I think Walter would break down in tears if he could see what’s happening to the beautiful land and trees in Bonshaw. No former premier would have allowed this to happen, whether they were Liberal or Conservative, and that includes Joe Ghiz.
Janet Gordon Gaudet St. Catherines, New Haven
Abraham Lincoln once said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” No quote could better sum up the leadership of the current government after gaining power for their second term. They have continually implemented developments (Plan B and the implementation of the HST, to name a few) that are contrary to the will of the people of Prince Edward Island. If you sincerely doubt this, let the government run a plebiscite on either of these developments to determine what the will of the people actually is.
While it would be expedient to just blame it on a government that has lost touch, what these developments really highlight is the character of a leader and a party who do not have the best interests of the Islanders. This, unfortunately, is not uncommon.
Once governments are elected for their second term (and they become eligible for their pensions), they often make decisions that are in their own best interests. There is an old political adage “leave the unpopular decisions until the second term” which means, like President Lincoln said, a leader and a party’s true character will come out often in the second term.
There are some who say that no one can predict what leaders will be like once they gain power. Yet if one were to examine closely the character of leaders closely before they gain power, one could easily see that their actions left clues as to who they were, and how they would have behaved after they gained power. Did the leader win a close leadership race by busloading a large majority of high school students not yet eligible to vote to a convention – not violating the word but very spirit of the constitution of a party? Did the leader and party change the constitution of a nomination process so that a nominated candidate could not run for his party after gaining the nomination?
Upon examination of these actions in hindsight, one can easily see that the current actions are the continuation of a leader who advertised to the people of Prince Edward Island who and what he was.
Given that leadership leaves clues and that one of the political parties of Prince Edward Island just nominated a new leader, it is important to examine the current leaders of all our parties to see who is most suitable to lead Prince Edward Island after the next provincial election. Who will challenge the status quo? Who will take our province in bold new directions? Who will best represent the needs of Islanders and the constituents who trusted them with power? By examining the leaders of each of the parties closely we will know better their characters after they gain power. Once we examine the actions of these leaders and select the one who best represents our desires, dreams and aspirations - then and only then, will Islanders get the leadership they desire.
Leadership which, as John Quincy Adams stated, will inspire Islanders “to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.”
Tony Carroll, Parkdale
History has taught us that the first weapon of despotism is to create a sense of futility. If you can convince people opposition to a cause is hopeless despotism wins - all the time, every time, no exception. Despots and their enablers have always belittled those who oppose authority as few and foolish. In these situations, the strong always characterize the weak as ignorant of the facts and not worthy of respect. Throughout time, such mechanisms have been used to manufacture racism, suppress women, the poor, and more recently, environmentalists.
But, does anyone really think our democracy, on this tiny Island, is unbreakable? That it can withstand propaganda, apathy, instant gratification, the love of power and monetary greed? If so, we are sadly mistaken.
Does anyone really believe countries are kind and democratic one day and then all of a sudden turn bad overnight? No, it happens one small step at a time. Sure, Plan B may look like a tempest in a teapot, something small and silly - but is it? If we ignore this wrong do we ignore the next wrong too ... and the one after that?
Putting all politics and blame aside, I am quite confident most Islanders know Plan B is wrong and we have made a mistake. But how confident are we that we can fix the mistake? What, at this point, does a fix even look like? To do nothing is more than a small step in the wrong direction. To this end, my thanks goes out to those who are opposing the powers that enable a sense of futility - and in this case, Plan B.
Walter Wilkins, Stratford
I see the odd letter saying it's time to get on with Plan B, more so in recent days. The writers seemed reluctant to publish their feelings when the controversy boiled over in the media. Kind of like ‘yeah, see? I told you so'.
In a recent Guardian, Austin Bowman (‘We need this highway upgrade') writes more of a history lesson on the Trans-Canada Highway than good concrete reasons to spend so many tax dollars (as I've said, it's our money, not Stephen Harper's or Robert Ghiz's) on such a little stretch of road.
Mr. Bowman says "we do need to begin upgrading our highway systems", and since he spends so much of his letter on the Trans-Canada Highway, let's use it as an example.
The government is projecting to spend about $20 million (counting the $4 million to buy properties) on the 5.5-kilometre ‘improvement'. The TCH runs 101 kilometres from Borden-Carleton to the Wood Islands ferry. I'm sure proponents of Plan B could justify the same treatment for the whole thing, and at the current rate, it could cost $367 million.
Good thing it would be a nice new (and much safer road) because, with spending like this, the only hospital we could afford would probably be in Halifax. But we would be driving on the modern road we, apparently, seem to need.
Mr. Bowman closes by saying this project is not " the great ecological disaster its detractors have been proclaiming." Since he says, in his credentials, he "specializes on transportation issues", not environmental issues, perhaps he should restrict his comments to the former.
Lloyd Kerry, Charlottetown
I believe we now have a very unpopular Liberal Ghiz government on P.E.I. at the present time.
Its unpopular projects and decisions seemed to start this spring with approximately 1,000 seasonal workers that it put out of their jobs. This government seemed to get even more unpopular with their HST and the Plan B by Vessey.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be stopping here, as this government seems to be carrying on this trend of reckless spending in a time of record provincial debt.
The $30-million-plus to be spent, to my understanding, on the Charlottetown conference anniversary to be matched by Harpers' Conservatives in Ottawa doesn't seem right at this time, in my opinion. Where is the sanity in this kind of thinking by both levels of government?
It seems to me the only ones who would support these kinds of projects are ones that would benefit financially from these.
I think it's well overdue for all of us to stand up and demand some common sense from the Ghiz government. It has to seriously consider getting this massive provincial debt under control and eliminate its big and reckless spending projects, such as the unpopular Plan B highway project, before it bankrupts our province. I really don't think government can continue to tax the people of this province, as I think it will soon be unbearable for the general public to take much more of this reckless spending and higher taxes, in my opinion.
Lloyd W. Pickering, Kensington
Maybe it's time for a short history lesson about the art of protesting. I was in Montreal in 1990 when in a small town called Oka, the town council lawfully granted a permit to expand the local golf course.
The native people blockaded a road and disobeyed a court injunction. They, too, wanted to protect a forest (trees) and their ancestral lands. From that point on they were considered a bunch of lawbreakers. Seventy-eight days later and the closure of the Mercier Bridge, one dead SQ Officer and a sanction from the United Nations, the dispute was resolved. Oka did not expand the golf course!
Again in Montreal just last year, protesters took to the streets to protest a reasonable tuition increase. Again the government acted lawfully in suspending the students' rights to protest "en masse." The government, having the support of the electorate, passed a law to support their position and arrested unlawful protesters. There has been an election in Quebec since then and guess what? The old government was defeated and the anti-protest law rescinded, plus the tuition increase was put on hold and sent to committee for further study.
The Social Right, as I call them, is active in every community on P.E.I. They carry a torch that is lit by the reasonable desire to preserve a certain and sustainable way of life for everyone. Progress for them is not defined by the exploitation of a line in the federal budget. When the government decides to spend $4 million in the pre-construction stage of this project and then has a hard time to adequately fund rural schools and health care, it is a hard pill to swallow for some people. I, for one, am pretty sick and tired of hearing the new ‘sell the idea' commercials on the radio and in the newspapers. A great idea sells itself and the money that they are spending on those commercials could be more wisely spent.
Does the government really think that the people in Alberta are happy that their children's inheritance is being spent to clear cut an old growth forest in P.E.I.? I think not.
Graham Ayers, Summerside
By Ann Wheatley
The decision of the minister of the environment, Janice Sherry, to give final approval for Plan B to be implemented is extremely disappointing to all those Islanders who oppose the project.
It is public knowledge that the minister received over 250 submissions in response to the Environmental Impact Assessment - the Stantec report.
Never before have so many people taken the time to comment on an environmental review or assessment in Prince Edward Island. One can only interpret this unprecedented response as an indication of how profoundly the citizens of this province care for the natural environment and how important it is to them to protect areas of environmental significance.
It was notable in the Stantec report, in the minister's comments and in the conditions she subsequently placed on the project, that this government considers it acceptable to cause environmental damage in the name of progress, as long as mitigation procedures are in place. This is especially troubling as there is no evidence to suggest that the province considered alternative ways to address the highway safety issues in ways that would not result in a net loss to the Island's natural environment - an environment that is so important to our Island's economic and social well-being - its fishery, agriculture and tourism. Most Islanders hoped for something more of a response than ‘if we make a mess we'll have ways of fixing it'.
Now that the decision to proceed has been made, work is underway, and government and ‘experts' alike have proclaimed it to be safe for the environment, who will take responsibility when environmental damage occurs? Once this part of the forested land in this province is gone, it will be a permanent scar on an Island that claims to be attractive to visitors because of its natural beauty.
We know who will live with the results: all of us who value clean water and healthy forests and ecosystems. But most especially affected will be those people living in the Bonshaw area whose land will be forever changed because of this project. The expropriation of land may be legal in Prince Edward Island (it is not legal in other places), but that does not make it morally acceptable, especially in a case such as this, when it is done against the will of so many.
This is an opportunity lost. After the Environmental Impact Assessment was received, and after P.E.I. residents, scientists and environmentalists responded to it, there was a chance for government to state emphatically that the environment is the number one long-term priority of the minister of the environment. Members of ECO-P.E.I. are disappointed that the minister
let this opportunity go by. This province needs a department and minister of the environment whose first and foremost allegiance is to the environment, not to any other government department, and not to any other sector.
We urge Minister Sherry to take a stand, to encourage a change of heart in government and stop the project. There is still time to prevent more irreversible damage and there is still time to demonstrate a commitment to the protection of the environment. Islanders have spoken out. They have stated very clearly that the land, water, trees, plants and animals of this province have intrinsic value and must be protected. How we wish these values were shared by more of the people we have elected to public office.
Ann Wheatley has submitted this on behalf of the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island.
In the on-going struggle between those who love P.E.I., commonly referred to as 'tree-huggers' by some, and those who want ‘progress', known as 'Costco-huggers' by others, one of the threats often rolled out is the fact that the Liberal party will lose the next election because of not listening to Islanders.
As a threat, one has to remember that 'losing an election' is not always as bad as it seems. In many cases, it is better than winning; there are plenty of government postings ‘at the prime minister's/minister's discretion' - even the jackpot: the Senate!
As the American philosopher Thoreau stated, "There are a thousand men hacking at the leaves of ignorance for each one hacking at the roots." Fighting Plan B is a grassroots movement that will not go away. The thought of losing the next election is not as bad as losing face.
The letter 'C' is an important one, as it could also be understood as ‘see'. See who will look bad in nature magazines, tourist material, the national and maybe international news. No government wants the world to ‘ see' it as incompetent, ruthless, inconsiderate of the environment - especially when tourism is its lifeblood. Let's ‘see' a new dialogue begin, realistically this time; tell the construction companies (with their on-going pressure tactics) to take a hike until spring. It's time for Plan ‘C'.
Let's see Premier Ghiz visit the Bonshaw hills to discuss with the protesters, the First Nations Peoples, concerned Islanders. I'm sure he will be treated with respect if he arrives with respect. No suit, no loudspeakers - just a good pair of hiking books and an open mind. Bring friends, not advisers, Mr. Ghiz. Bring coffee.
One could say: "Posturing is only good for the back." Now is the time to show leadership and empathy. The for-and-against do not sit across from each other in an ivory tower downtown , as we know. I'm sure that you would be welcomed to the site, Mr. Ghiz. As a citizen, as a neighbour and as an elected leader. This will not indicate concessions on the government's part; it will, rather, show that you care for our environment. We care.
Gary Walker, Charlottetownhttp://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-13/article-3098831/Protesters-rally-at-Province-House%3B-more-than-200-participate/1
I have never seen such strong opposition to a provincial government decision as has been the case with Plan B.
For months there have been daily letters to the editor, protests and rallies where Islanders have given our elected officials the public's opinion on this controversial decision.
I have found it appalling that, despite unprecedented opposition, Premier Ghiz and his ministers have done little to address the public's environmental and budgetary issues with this project. I am concerned that P.E.I. is facing an erosion of our democracy.
Neil Mader, Charlottetown
I happened to hear an advertisement on the radio recently extolling the virtues of Plan B. I then picked up my morning newspaper and saw a very large advertisement, again extolling the virtues of Plan B. I note one of the key themes to the message is that this is done in the interests of safety. There is mention of cutting down on the number of driveway accesses to the highway, and how this reduction will make us safer.
Now, let's contrast that message with reality. I drive in and out of town every day, through Stratford. In the last few months, it appears to me that several accesses have been given onto the Trans-Canada Highway.
Would I be a fool to think that safety of motorists is truly a concern of this government and their Plan B?
Dennis Halliday, Pinette
I was astonished at Premier Ghiz's comments following Environment Minister Sherry's approval of the Plan B Environmental Impact Assessment.
At the time, Premier Ghiz stated that if this highway project goes ahead, the P.E.I. government would undertake an education program to help Islanders understand why this is the best route to realign the Trans-Canada Highway.
Within a few days, expensive advertisements started appearing in newspapers and commercials on some broadcast media. Are ministers and the premier suddenly becoming available to the media to ‘discuss' Plan B?
I am confounded by the arrogance and insensitivity of the leader of the Liberal Party and by his monumental contempt for the intelligence and reasonableness of voters and others on P.E.I.
I do not need to be re-educated about the expenditure of public monies for plainly political purposes. Islanders did want and need honest and full communication before the decision was made about Plan B. Why were there no public consultations held by the government on Plan B specifically? This would have been where meaningful two-way education could have and should have taken place.
But what can you expect of a premier who believes this project is a source of 50-cent dollars from the Canadian government (i.e. people), when the true ratio is more like 80 cents and rising as time passes?
We won't forget what Ghiz and his cronies have done.
Peter Bower, Victoria
In response to the commentary by Austin Bowman (‘We need this highway upgrade’, The Guardian, Oct. 10, 2012): Mr. Bowman seems to be living in the historical past. Super highways, large transport trucks should be a thing of the past. What is needed are upgrades to our rail systems. Rail is a far better form of transportation than trucks.
To say we need 'Plan B' because more cars are on the road and the trucks are carrying more things is to miss the point environmentalists are trying to make. The world needs to change the way we think.
Mr. Bowman, the world is heading to an ecological disaster, and Plan B will not help. The world is far different than that of 1950. Progress is good, but not when it is based on ‘old think’. That the government, the editor of The Guardian really think that cutting down trees of 100 years and defacing the landscape in 2012 is progressive thinking gives me no hope for the future of this planet.
Carol Capper, Summerside
RCMP arrest four at Plan B site --The Guardian online
article The Guardian
Over the last few months there have been many, many letters to the editor outlining excellent reasons why Plan B must be stopped.
I would like to add my name to this long list of concerned citizens of P.E.I. who say "No" to Plan B.
Even at this point, I believe it is not too late for government to have the courage and wisdom to reverse this decision.
Joan Doyle, Charlottetown
Minister Vessey's defence of Plan B does not come close to justifying the proposed expenditure, nor the disruption and personal hardship the realignment would cause to affected landowners, nor the blight it will leave on the Island landscape.
He refers to the radius of certain curves being below the minimum national standard of a 440-metre radius as an important factor and contends that curves closer to a 330-metre radius are "far too sharp." I find this very misleading because there are many factors other than radius that affect the safety of a curve, such as the design of the approach, the length of the curve and the cross slope of the curve, to name a few.
The curves near Churchill are relatively short, which is good, and could be improved by modifying their radius to the extent that the adjacent terrain would reasonably allow and, most importantly, by bringing the cross slope up to standard. The latter is the only real deficiency in the current design. The fact that these curves have a radius of less than 440 metres is not important when they can be made safer by adjusting other factors.
I would also point out that the so-called national standards were set by industry, not by government, and therefore are not mandatory. The minister also claims that the hills are too steep to maintain a reasonable speed. This is simply not true for the majority of vehicles on the road and passing lanes already compensate for the current grades. The hills would have to be a lot steeper than they are to justify the proposed realignment.
The public reaction to Plan B has been almost universally unfavourable, to put it mildly, and the justification put forward is not convincing. The minister should send his engineers back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that is both affordable and acceptable to the people of P.E.I.
Merv Baker, Borden-Carleton
Re: ‘Facts On Trans-Canada Highway Realignment' colour advertisement on Tuesday, October 9.
It is sad to see that the Liberal government spends taxpayers' dollars on a full colour ad to justify Plan B. Their mantra for justifying Plan B is "safety." Consider these points:
• If they are concerned with informing the public, why were ministers not present in public meetings concerning Plan B?
• Why do they withhold the data to make the claim of improved safety?
• Would the 50 per cent increased number of accidents in this section of highway have anything to do with winter driving conditions in the highest, windiest section of highway on the Island? Note the new highway will actually have a higher elevation and be more open to the northwest wind.
• In addition to safety, Plan B will "Benefit the Economy" - 200 jobs will be created? With the tax dollars spent, would our economy benefit more by using the dollars to pay many more than 200 unemployed workers to stay at home?
Richard Baker, Argyle Shore
The View From Here by Jack MacAndrew
“ I understand that not all Islanders are supportive of this project.” ... Transportation Minister Robert Vessey
Ah, such a magnificent gift for understatement on the part of the mastermind behind Plan B. What could it have been that made the minister suddenly come to the awakening that the populace generally is enraged at the waste of money being expended to straighten out a few curves in the road through the Bonshaw Hills?
There he was in The Guardian extolling the virtues and the need for Plan B.
This comes after an editorial in The Guardian backing the government for its decision to go ahead with the new stretch of highway.
This is a government in severe trouble with those it purports to govern, a government so afraid of its citizens its ministers hide from public view, and any form of face-to-face public discourse where they must eyeball those they scorn.
It smacks of a government which deliberately creates an ugly sham of a rigged environmental process so shoddy it destroys any vestige of credibility in any other decision made within the sacred walls of that building on Rochford Street.
Mr Vessey’s arguments are essentially the same ones always trotted out in defense of his pet project, inherited from his predecessor Ronnie MacKinley.
They will have absolutely no effect on the Islanders who have made up their minds about the need for this project and the priority given it by the Ghiz government in the expenditure of the funds they provide through taxation.
That is especially so at a time when that same government continually cries poor mouth, and continues to cut services while it raises taxes and fees in every direction.
Mr Vessey goes on and on in his piece about curves, hills and safety. He does not explain why he found it necessary to cook the accident statistics the government has cited in an attempt to prove the stretch of highway is intrinsically unsafe, and cannot be straightened.
Mr Vessey unconsciously admits the project will in fact cause environmental damage when he says, “every step will be taken to minimize and mitigate impacts on the environment.”
He is referring here to the removal of so much shale it would fill a football field and 732 metres high, and using it to fill in ravines and gulleys that fish and other living things call home.
If no damage were to be caused, there would be no need to “minimize and mitigate.”
And while the government vainly launches a public relations campaign on one front to justify the expenditure of more than $20 million on a project we neither want or need, the same government refuses to provide the former Deputy Minister of Tourism to the Public Accounts Committee to explain $8 million in contracts cited by the Auditor General as problematic for a variety of reasons that amount to a mishandling of public funds.
“The real issue here is about accountability,” said Opposition Leader Olive Crane, and well said she was.
Ms Crane put forth a motion to subpoena former deputy Tourism Minister Melissa MacEachern to appear, and explain why more than $8 million was approved by her without following treasury board rules.
It was resoundingly defeated by the Liberal majority on the committee.
It seems the Ghizites subscribe to a political philosophy holding that our money becomes their money once the tax man has done his work, and they can do as they bloody well please with it without a bye-your-leave to anybody, especially the folk who gave it to them to squander.
Which is what they are up to with $5 million to be doled out to every village and hamlet in quasi-celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference.
I’m not so sure that exactly subscribes to the vision of responsible government so hard won by our ancestors.
A letter to the editor of The Guardian puts it well, “The harm that Plan B will do (and has done) is far-reaching and indelible.”
“Beyond the environmental and monetary issues, there lies a chronic abuse of the public’s trust, making this a historic turning point for PEI’s political landscape.”
“Any hope I had for our elected officials has crumbled and eroded.”
“Plan B stands for Plan Blunder, and a giant crater has been created between “them” and “us.”
Those are the words of Aleida Tweten of Vernon Bridge.
They aptly describe a government no longer responsible or accountable to its people.
Those ordinary Islanders picketing the improperly prepared worksite on the road through the Bonshaw Hills, are in accord with the first law of civic unrest, non-violent defiance of an unjust government.
They are peaceful warriors for democracy.
If Robert Ghiz is looking for a legacy he has found one, and it ain’t pretty.
That’s the view from here.
“To rectify past blunders is impossible, but we might profit by the experience of them.”- George Washington, 1780.
They (elected officials) were at a crossroads; to move forward with Plan B or listen to the voice of reason from us (the citizens). They had a choice. They chose to proceed with Plan B, despite its numerous flaws (questionable environmental impact statement, undemocratic methodology, and excessive waste of money). They have widened the gap between us and them. I was hopeful there would be a we in this; that they would listen to us.
The harm that Plan B will do (and had done) is far-reaching and indelible. Beyond the environmental and monetary issues there lies a chronic abuse of the public’s trust making this is a historic turning point for PEI’s political landscape. Any hope I had in our elected officials has crumbled and eroded. They have decided to surge forth, bulldozing us with mistrust and leaving behind ditches of empty promises they made to us.
It astounds me that round and round we go, when will we learn? Nobody knows. Why is it that the PEI government will not learn from previous money wasting road projects before repeating a similar mistake in moving forward with Plan B? Could they not have consulted the public and created a solution to modify the highway to increase safety without the extensive damage this will create? Plan B stands for Plan Blunder, and a giant crater has been created between them and us.
Aleida Tweten, Vernon Bridge
I didn’t think Islanders would risk being arrested over protesting and stopping Plan B by occupying the construction site.
However, I’m mistaken, and impressed by the acts of courage based on conviction. Even Islanders have their limits as to how much government abuse they will take since the Ghiz government has gone overboard on this issue and has treated opposition witharrogance.
I hope Roy Johnstone gets more support and more Islanders stand up to be counted against Plan B, because this is a rare example of democracy in action. Lord knows, P.E.I. can use all it can get these days.
David Steeves, Charlottetown
The Guardian editorial of Thursday, Oct. 4, asks, “Should the province never build another road until every hospital bed is brand new, or every school has the most up-to-date equipment?”
I believe a fairer question would be, “Should the province never build another road until there has been meaningful public consultation, and until this consultation includes a discussion about ways to make the existing road safer, such as more turning lanes, better lane marking, more Cat’s Eyes, better signage or even modifying certain turns?”
Maud Barlow, of the Council of Canadians, claims that hope is not optional — it's a moral imperative. For the 200 or more people who took the time and energy on a holiday weekend to attend the Stop Plan B demonstration, there continues to be hope that such consultation and even a change of course is still possible.
The Oct 4th editorial also states that "Experts say the project can be completed with no lasting environmental damage." This umbrella claim seems unsubstantiated since the Environmental Coalition of P.E.I., Island Nature Trust, Gary Schneider, manager of Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, and Central Queens Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation have all spoken against Plan B.
Bethany Doyle, Charlottetownhttp://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-10/article-3096281/RCMP-visit-Plan-B-protesters-camp%3B-no-arrests-or-fines-this-morning/1
How wonderful that the government has found thousands of extra dollars for newspaper ads to let Islanders know why Plan B must go ahead. This in spite of slashing grants to organizations all over P.E.I. because everyone must tighten their belts.
A few days of these useless ads would have covered the Acorn Press grant and how many others?
If this government did not convince Islanders that its proposal was valid, how will these ads do the trick? Closing the barn door after the horse is out never works.
MLAs who toe the party line or otherwise play ostrich should not be allowed to say that they represent the people. The people have spoken, have demonstrated, have written and shouted no to Plan B! And now we have ads that are supposed to change their minds.
Government can't have a very good opinion of Islanders' intelligence because it keeps saying we don't understand. Well, we get it. Government wants Plan B, they want a new office building for MLAs, they want a big party in 2014, they want the HST.
Islanders want their government to respect them, and at least pretend to listen to them. All we can do is continue to protest and I, for one, will be back at the legislature as soon as it reconvenes, because it is all I can do.
Wendy Budgeon, Charlottetown
This Liberal government seems to have a problem with understanding the principles of a democracy. A democratic government is one in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or, indirectly, by elected representatives.
Premier Ghiz's government has repeatedly ignored the concerns and wishes of the people of Prince Edward Island. Plan B, introduction of HST, and cuts to health care are only three of the most recent examples of their disrespect for Island voters.
Along with their obvious arrogance at ignoring Islanders' concerns, the Ghiz government has the gall to further insult us by misusing more of our tax dollars to launch a media campaign to justify their stance on HST and Plan B.
The fact that the majority of Islanders have voiced legitimate opposition to Plan B, HST and other Liberal initiatives seems to hold very little weight. One would think that this government no longer needs supporters and has no interest in being re-elected. If that is the case, Islanders beware, as this government will close out its term of office doing as it pleases, helping its friends, and with little regard for the people who elected it.
Judy Barrett, Charlottetown
By Bryson Guptill
Now that the environmental review process has been completed, the government seems determined to press forward with its Plan B. At the same time, opponents to the highway alignment are poised to ramp up their protests with blockades and other forms of civil disobedience. Like many Islanders, I'm hoping both sides consider their positions and try to reach a compromise.
We've heard the arguments put forward by the government - there's federal money being offered, and there's a long tradition on the Island of never looking a gift horse in the mouth. The federal government has frequently dangled the carrot of easy money in front of provincial governments in order to bribe them to do things that are perceived to be in the national interest. The most recent example is the offer of millions of dollars in financial incentives to provincial governments who convert to a harmonized sales tax. The P.E.I. government resisted this for many years, but has now decided to cash in on the federal largesse.
The folks who are opposed to Plan B have mounted a fierce and growing resistance to the government plan to straighten the highway in Bonshaw. What started as a small protest to a flawed government plan to push the highway through a provincial park has grown to a large grassroots protest against big government pushing forward with its agenda in the face of legitimate questions about the proposed route and the cost of highway improvements.
As this issue has become more polarized, there seems to be a fair amount of moral indignation on both sides. For those opposed to Plan B, there is an underlying belief that P.E.I. would be better off if it returned to a simpler time. A time when we didn't have big trucks rumbling down our highways, bringing goods and materialistic temptations to big box stores near to you and me. From the government side, we are told that the safety of the motoring public is dependent on a highway realignment that will see big trucks getting to Borden 30 seconds faster than they can today.
The truth likely lies somewhere in between. Cutting down old-growth hemlocks and bringing in mountains of fill doesn't seem necessary when all it will do is move cars and trucks more quickly into downtown Cornwall. A bypass around Cornwall would save more lives and do a lot more to speed traffic to the bridge. At the same time, given the government's earlier plan to bulldoze Strathgartney Park, it's hard to believe that the proposed highway alignment couldn't benefit from more study and consultation with the people who are opposed to the current plan.
Let's all hope that cooler heads prevail and that we see both sides give a little for the benefit of all Islanders.
Bryson Guptill worked for more than 30 years as a senior policy adviser for the federal and provincial governments in Ottawa and in P.E.I.
"To rectify past blunders is impossible, but we might profit by the experience of them." - George Washington, 1780.
‘They' (elected officials) were at a crossroads; to move forward with Plan B or listen to the voice of reason from ‘Us' (the citizens). They had a choice. They chose to proceed with Plan B, despite its numerous flaws (questionable environmental impact statement, un-democratic methodology, and excessive waste of money). ‘They' have widened the gap between ‘Us' and ‘Them'. I was hopeful that there would be a ‘We' in this; that ‘They' would listen to ‘Us'. The harm that Plan B will do (and had done) is far-reaching and indelible. Beyond the environmental and monetary issues, there lies a chronic abuse of the public's trust making this is a historic turning point for P.E.I.'s political landscape. Any hope I had in our elected officials has crumbled and eroded. ‘They' have decided to surge forth, bulldozing ‘Us' with mistrust and leaving behind ditches of empty promises that ‘They' made to ‘Us'.
It astounds me that round and round we go, when will we learn? Nobody knows. Why is it that the P.E.I. government will not learn from previous money-wasting road projects before repeating a similar mistake in moving forward with Plan B? Could they not have consulted the public and created a solution to modify the highway to increase safety without the extensive damage that this will create? Plan B stands for Plan Blunder, and a giant crater has been created between ‘Them' and ‘Us'.
Aleida Tweten, Vernon Bridge
By Robert Vessey
Across the country, provinces and municipalities are dealing with an aging road and highway network. For example, according to the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, more than half of Canada's municipal roads are in need of repair with an estimated replacement cost of $91.1 billion nationally.
Prince Edward Island is no exception. Over the past 10 years more than $100 million was invested to improve Route 2. Now that work is complete, the attention must turn to improving the Trans-Canada Highway, beginning in Churchill.
The Trans-Canada is the province's busiest route and most important highway, yet it doesn't meet today's standards.
Robert Vessey is minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.
Plan B work stopped for a second day --The Guardian online
Kyle Pineau rolls out a snow fence that will be used to keep people out of the construction zone for Plan B.
Protesters managed to stop work on the Trans-Canada Highway realignment for a second day after a lack of fencing gave them access to the construction site.
There were varying numbers of protesters near the Plan B work site as people came and went throughout the morning.
Transportation Department staff started laying out snow fencing around 10 a.m., continuing work started late Thursday to close in the work site.
Protesters were still able to get to the small area clear-cut Thursday by going around the fence.
But they weren’t able to park on the side of the road after Transportation Department staff put up no parking signs, along with construction zone signs, complete with a no trespassing warning.
A few of the protesters who did make their way down to the construction site stopped a harvester as soon as work started around 7 a.m. this morning.
Those same protesters spent part of the morning piling fallen trees into makeshift teepees before they turned their attention to the harvester where they leaned trees against it, almost hiding it from view on one side.
More details to follow as they become available…
To view the comments go to: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-05/article-3093355/Plan-B-work-stopped-for-second-day/1
Hurray for the Island Liberals! One baby step forward for you; one giant leap for Islanders. You showed you could do it and the world did not come to an end. You reversed your decision to reduce dental coverage for Island children (‘Province to keep child dental program', The Guardian, Sept. 29, 2012).
Like new parents urging their child to take his first steps, I, like many Islanders, am excited. We are urging you to take the next step, an easy one: restore funding to the Buffalo Park and then another, reverse the decision to close the dialysis centres in Alberton and Souris. By then, with so many of us Islanders happy and thanking you, you should have no trouble at all to take a big step - cancelling Plan B. Then we can all have a big party to celebrate. I suggest we hold it in Joe Ghiz Park. I am sure Joe would approve. After the party with the Liberals still in festive mood they might even cancel the HST.
Ernest A. Mutch, Hazelbrook
I attended the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) meeting regarding the Trans-Canada Highway realignment in New Haven to Bonshaw (Highway Plan B). The format involved a presentation by Stantec, followed by questions from the public. A question was raised as to whether projects are ever denied due to the EIA, and the answer was, very rarely. It seems to me their job is to creatively mitigate any issue. Mitigation was certainly the buzzword for the evening.
Mitigation in general means to downplay or minimize aspects of a situation. For example, when a defendant goes to court after he or she has committed a horrible crime, their attorney may present in court mitigating circumstances. Mitigation, a term that frequently occurs in discussions of restoration, “refers to the restoration, creation, or enhancement of wetlands to compensate for permitted wetland losses”. In my opinion, when utilized in this EIA, it simply means making the best of a bad situation.
It seems that, according to the EIA consulting firm Stantec, they can mitigate anything. They would have us believe they could build us a stairway to heaven with enough mitigation. We do not want or need one. We have our own little piece of heaven right here on this beautiful Island, represented by the wonderful God-given diversity of life in the Bonshaw and New Haven area. I have many concerns about the mitigation plans for this project. I will address but one here. During the question and answer section, Greg Wilson, manager of environmental assessment, expressed that sedimentation was his major concern, or biggest issue to be mitigated. Silt and sedimentation is already a huge concern in the rivers and their tributaries here on Prince Edward Island. All of us (humans) contribute to the collective ecological footprint by simply stepping out of bed each morning. Why would we want to even consider increasing that environmental impact for a road we don’t want or need, and most certainly cannot afford?
Mitigation is not enough. I want to add my voice to the request for the common sense and decency to cancel Plan B.
Nancy Ingalls, New Glasgow
by Ryan Ross
Work on the Trans-Canada Highway realignment had barely started before the government shut it down after a small group of protesters showed up to the construction site Thursday morning.
Roy Johnstone was one of the protesters who stood in front of the heavy machinery that was clearing out trees to make way for the realignment that has become known as Plan B.
With machinery still rumbling behind him before the shut down, Johnstone said the protesters had a legal right to be at the site.
"They shouldn't be operating these machines with people that close," he said.
While there were assurances work was going to be shut down Thursday, some of the equipment was still going into the early afternoon, including a tree harvester and a bulldozer.
When some of the protesters arrived at the site they stood in front of the machinery to block it from clearing away any of the trees in the new road's path.
After the cutting stopped, the protesters were still surrounded by piles of freshly cut trees, all out of sight of the nearby highway the new road will replace.
The protesters watched as a harvester picked up fallen trees and stripped them of their branches before it cut them into smaller pieces.
Another machine grabbed bundles of brush with its claw and dropped them into a pile to haul out of the way.
The equipment Johnstone said he stepped in front of was cutting down trees, but the operator stopped as soon as Johnstone flagged him down.
"These machines are very scary," he said.
Johnstone said he understood the machine operators were just doing their jobs, but the protesters were trying to get more discussion going about the project.
"If they cut all these trees down and start the whole process there's gonna be less motivation to even sit down and discuss it with us or reconsider it," he said.
It wasn't just the protesters or the work crews who were ate the site Thursday.
Several RCMP officers were at the scene but for the most part were just watching watched happened, including Sgt. Andrew Blackadar who spoke briefly with the protesters who had blocked the machinery.
Blackadar said the contractor called the RCMP because of safety concerns related to people walking in to the construction site.
"The safety is first and foremost in relation to the people who are here trying to stop the project, but also the people who are working," he said.
The RCMP has several options in dealing with the protesters, Blackadar said, including what he called a measured approach.
RCMP Sgt. Andrew Blackadar speaks with protesters, from left, Sarah Saunders, Roy Johnstone, and Gail Rhyno, who are at the site of so-called Plan B, the Trans-Canada Highway realignment project west of Charlottetown at this hour. © Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
"We don't come in heavy handed in the beginning."
Blackadar said the project's opponents have legal options when it comes to trying to stop it and people have the right to lawful assembly.
"When it comes down to protests and it comes to stopping equipment that does cross the line into criminal action and at some point we will have to take some action if people are stopping the work from progressing," he said.
There are occupational health and safety concerns and people couldn't stay on the work site, but if it progressed to protesters causing mischief the RCMP would have to take action, Blackadar said.
"Action in terms of if we have to arrest people we're going to arrest people. That's the bottom line."
But he also said it wasn't just about going in and arresting people, but rather it was about getting a dialogue going.
"It's about getting everybody on the same page and moving forward in a measured approach."
Johnstone said he was willing to continue the protest even if it meant getting arrested, because the project's opponents haven't had their attempts to stop it through legal methods get through the court system yet.
"We have to somehow slow the project up otherwise it's gonna be done," he said.
For the government's part, it planned to set up snow fencing around the work site to define the area any protesters would have to stay out of.
The police could then arrest any unauthorized people within that area.
Transportation Department spokeswoman Kim Horrelt said the department planned to shut work down Thursday afternoon and hoped to get the fencing up by the end of the day.
Horrelt said the department didn't put fencing up earlier because it didn't know for sure there would be protesters.
"We're proceeding as quicky as we can," she said.
The department will keep fencing up along any areas where work is underway as long as there are protesters, Horrelt said.
Along with the fencing, the Transportation Department was also putting up no-parking signs along the highway to keep cars from stopping near the construction zone.
The protesters planned to stay at the site to the end of the day to make sure the equipment didn't start up again and expected to be back first thing Friday morning.
Having a plan B is generally seen as a good thing. It means you are well-organized and if your plan A doesn’t work out, you can always fall back on a plan B.
The term ‘Plan B’ has taken on a completely new meaning on Prince Edward Island over the past few months. For some Islanders, it has come to mean environmental degradation and wasteful spending. Others say Plan B represents government arrogance and politicians who refuse to listen to common sense or the electorate.
What has sparked all this discussion is the hotly debated five-kilometre Churchill highway realignment project announced a few months ago by the province. In order to get access to federal Atlantic Gateway funding — 50-cent dollars is how Premier Robert Ghiz describes such funding — the province had to select a highway infrastructure project. The feds are dangling $8 million in funding, to be cost-shared by the province.
The province opted for a serpentine stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway in Churchill. Since then, debate has raged over whether the road needs such a costly upgrade, and whether the project will cause environmental damage.
On the first point, there can be no doubt that the stretch of highway certainly ranks high when it comes to being tricky, busy and potentially dangerous.
The original plan for the Churchill project called for a section of the scenic Strathgartney Park to be gobbled up. Plan A was roundly, and quite rightly, criticized. That’s when Plan B came into play. It looped a bit more to the north of the Plan A route and away from the provincial park.
But if government thought that would appease opposition to the project, it was wrong. Opponents remained upset at the cost involved to taxpayers and the environment.
An environmental assessment was ordered, which concluded that as long as appropriate conditions were met, Plan B would not cause any irreparable damage. After a number of appeals of that assessment were filed and reviewed, Environment Minister Janice Sherry this week gave the project a green light. In doing so, she added some additional construction restrictions to ensure no long-term environmental damage.
While monetary, safety and environment concerns are mentioned by opponents, Plan B has also gained prominence due to the fact it has turned into a lightning rod for anti-government sentiment. Also dragged into the Plan B debate is a multitude of other perceived Ghiz government sins, such as the ‘Hills of Borden-Carleton’, the looming HST, cuts to the civil service, changes to dialysis service, funding for the Souris and Montague schools; the list goes on.
Another factor helping the issue attract political moss is the fact it has been before the public for a long time due to the environmental assessment, appeal period and the consolidation of land.
With the environmental question settled, the strongest remaining argument is the economic one. The province is currently cutting spending to balance its budget and many Islanders have felt the pain of these measures through cuts to jobs and programs. A valid question is this: how responsible is it to lay out $8 million dollars simply to attract matching federal dollars, and then spend a further $4 million to acquire land in the area?
But that argument can be made with just about any major infrastructure project. Should the province never build another road until every hospital bed is brand new, or every school has the most up-to-date equipment?
Experts say the project can be completed with no lasting environmental damage. Ottawa is offering up cost-sharing dollars and the project will have beneficial economic benefits. In that sense it has a lot going for it.
With all due respect to the passionate people opposed to Plan B, it’s a highway project. It may be larger than most, but the province has been working on improving its infrastructure since it was a colony. And given the scrutiny the project will receive, it will likely be one of the most environmentally sensitive highways ever built in P.E.I.
Re the government approval of Plan B to build a destructive highway though old growth forest in P.E.I.:
I was told in my meeting with Minister Vessey by one of his staff, quote, "This has nothing do to with the environment." My response: "I can't believe you just said that!" Plan B actually involves building six kilometres more highway than the defunct Plan A. Building more highway destroys more land and obviously more highwaymeans more money for the contractors chomping on the bit to get at this.
I think Plan A was just a ploy to justify Plan B. This whole thing is a farce. And taxpayers will be on the hook to maintain both highways forever and pay down debt for borrowing millions to do this, taking money away from other areas that desperately need attentionlike rehiring social workers cut from the last budget and finding doctors for the thousands of Islanders without one.
Demand a plebiscite and make this a democratic decision that is responsible to all Islanders whose money is being drained into this make-work project based on inflated safety stats.
A court injunction would bring the realfacts to the table for all Islanders to see clearly. I believe Islanders opposed would gladly contribute $20 or $30 to these legal bills, so the heart of our beautiful Island is not gutted as the first thing tourists see to greet them, devaluing our tourism experience product.
John Hopkins, Breadalbane
The Plan B is nothing more than the province peddling political snake oil -- Commentary in The Eastern Graphic
The View From Here by Jack MacAndrew
“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” ... Mark Twain
It is obvious that Premier Robert Ghiz and the Ghizites in power down there on Rochford Street have never considered the implications of Mark Twain’s observation when considering the matter of Plan B. Had they ever exhibited the slightest come down from the peaks of arrogance from which they rule the citizenry on the blessed isle, they would have done what the staggering preponderance of those same citizens want them to do, which is to scrap Plan B, and use the money more wisely, which means almost anywhere else. So airy must be the ivory tower in which the Ghiz cabinet hibernates, that none of the worthies have noticed there will be a very heavy political price to pay for flouting the will of the people in regard to Plan B. And it must be paid mention yet again, that the will of the people is the very essence of democracy as we know it. Never in all my many years have I seen such unanimity in opposition to a government sponsored spending of the taxpayer’s money and never so many letters to the editor. I would advance the theory that this is because the government has failed to convince any but those in direct self interest, that the expenditure of a great big gob of taxpayer’s money to execute Plan B is in any way justified.
From the very beginning, this project has been characterized by a “damn the people, full speed ahead” philosophy that has made an obvious sham of the government’s own rules and regulations. Farcical is too nice a word to describe a government process wherein the environmental impact statement is done after the land has been purchased or expropriated at a cost of more that $4 million and bids have already been opened to select the companies that will violate the environment. This sort of sham in a supposedly democratic country carries all the hallmarks of a banana republic dictatorship. All Robert Ghiz needs is a pencil thin moustache, a peaked hat and a uniform layered in a lot of gold braid. And the question is why? There are those times when a government must act on principle and go against the will of what it perceives is the majority, questions of racial or religious equality for instance. This is not one of them. There is no social, ethical or moral value by which the government is making its decisions about Plan B. Indeed, theirs is a reverse approach. So why would a government risk its very existence in pursuing a project that nobody needs and nobody wants? Because the Ghiz Cabinet deludes itself if it thinks this is just a “not in my backyard syndrome at play,” if it is banking on the belief that Islanders will not remember this episode four years from now. Because Plan B has become something far more damaging than that. Plan B has become the very symbol of political intransigence, of giving the finger (politically speaking) to every Prince Edward Islander, of the most extreme example of political arrogance and wasteful expenditure anyone can recall. It speaks to every Islander as a waste of money at a time when money is short in government coffers and the pockets of people, with cuts being made to things like health and education and other matters which the people judge to be of far greater priority, with raised and additional fees and taxes and charges being forced on people with marginal incomes. So the political question goes to the credibility of a government in executing the will of the people.
The Plan B process is a disgusting sham. It is nothing more or less than peddling political snake oil. It causes us to lose all respect for the democratic process, in particular all respect for this government. There is more to come. Islanders opposing Plan B are receiving instruction in civil disobedience. I can hardly wait for Premier Ghiz to order out the RCMP and the wonderful television pictures of burly constables hustling gray haired protesters into custody. For that is where this is going. And the question remains, why would a government want to do that? Why would a premier of a province want that as his legacy? Why, when it will be the loser. That’s the view from here.
There is no need for me to catalogue the opinions regarding Plan B as these pages have been filled with them for months. What has been missing is an alternate plan not just statements of ‘No’ (many) or ‘Yes’ (very few). My intention is to advance Plan C.
First, I must point out that a major highway and a scenicroadway are less than compatible. Without statistics, I only suggest that many of the Trans-Canada accidents blamed on the structure of the highway are equally attributable to ‘highway’ drivers trying to pass slower drivers distracted somewhat by the scenery and/or other attractions.
The provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick have discovered this and relocated major portions of the Trans-Canada Highway away from the scenery and attractions along the St. Lawrence and Saint John Rivers. Now is the time for P.E.I. to follow their example.
A brief map study of P.E.I. shows the Trans-Canada Highway twisting and turning along the shore of Northumberland Strait while Route 225 runs in an almost parallel straight line through the centre of this part ofP.E.I. There are few tourist attractions and no scenic water views along Route 225.
I propose that Route 225, from just west of Kinkora to the outskirts of Charlottetown, be redesignated the Trans-Canada Highway. Routes 1 and 1A, from Borden to the Route 225 intersection, are already at Trans-Canada standards, although some minor work might be required at the actual intersection. The same may be true where Route 225 intersects with the existing Route 1 just west of Charlottetown.
Another minor advantage of this proposal is that the number of changes in speed limits along the Trans-Canada Highway would be cut approximately in half.
The millions of dollars earmarked for Plan B can be used to begin this transition and, if additional financing and construction is required, it can be a parallel of the excellent annual projects that have greatly improved Route 2.
Looking to the future, over the coming years, pressures will increase for the present Trans-Canada Highway to bypass Crapaud, Bonshaw, Churchill and Cornwall. On the new proposed route, with the exception of Kinkora, it is unlikely that there would be any pressure in this century to bypass Stanchel, Hartsville, North Wiltshire or Hampshire.
J. Darrach Murray, Sea View
Expropriation is everyone's worst nightmare. It erodes your sense of personal safety and integrity, it destroys whatever faith we have in the fairness of the political and legal systems, especially when it's done with questionable public good.
Roy Johnstone, P.E.I. fiddler, Argyle Shore
Bottom line, the Plan B highway in not needed and not wanted. It is forcing Islanders out of their homes and destroying our Island environment.
The Ghiz Government has been presented with every reason as to why this highway realignment should not happen but have yet to provide a logical explanation as to why it should. It is clear that they have forgotten that it is their job to listen to Islanders and not the other way around.
Steven Myers, MLA, Cardigan
If it were possible to put aside all the reasons not to proceed with Plan B, we would still be left with the most personal and devastating impact: the forcible expropriation of property.
Governments worldwide reserve the right to expropriate property in order that they can proceed unimpeded with critical projects deemed of extreme necessity. Plan B cannot be considered to be of extreme necessity. Back when this project was just an example of financial recklessness and needless environmental destruction all based on unsubstantiated threats of danger and death, over 3,000 people signed a petition against Plan B. That was before the government started this relentless hounding of landowners.
Darcie Lanthier, interim leader, Green Party of P.E.I., Mermaid
The Cooper Institute collective is opposed to the P.E.I. government's expropriation of residents' land for the proposed implementation of highway construction from New Haven to Bonshaw, known as Plan B.
While the government may have the legal right to expropriate land, it seems clear that it does not have the moral right. The Expropriation Act provides the legal right to commandeer land for a public work. In a democratic society, however, moral right is derived from the will of the people and the public good. Any government that chooses to act on the basis of legality, trampling on the expressed will of the people, is travelling a dangerous path.
Marie Burge, on behalf of the Cooper Institute
That the province should consider expropriation of fertile farmland, rare Acadian-forested land and sensitive riparian zones to be stripped, filled in and paved as an act that is "in the public good" in this day and age, clearly shows that the values of this government are seriously out of synch with the values of both rural and urban Islanders.
The many thousands who object to Plan B cherish democratic process, our remnant wilderness, the esthetically-pleasing working landscape, the difficult work performed by those who grow our food, and a quality of life that is not dependent upon reaching town a few minutes faster. Furthermore, the potential public good of a safer road can clearly be achieved through alternate means, and for far less money.
Dr. Irene Novaczek, Institute of Island Studies, Breadalbane
It is tragic that this government's determination to forge ahead despite such strong opposition from the people is now going to see landowners forced to sell their properties, and to re-locate through expropriation.
It has been obvious from the beginning that no matter what the impact on Islanders' lives and the province's landscape, the Ghiz government will ignore those concerns and push forward. This is simply not acceptable.
Olive Crane, Progressive Conservative party leader, Douglas Station
In mid-August, Transportation Minister Robert Vessey announced that the government would initiate expropriation proceedings against the half-dozen ‘holdout' landowners along the path of the Trans-Canada Highway realignment, Plan B, in the New Haven to Bonshaw region. The following is the voice of an Island family whose land is being expropriated, and the voices of concerned citizens:
Here I am nine months into the horrible process of losing my land in Churchill. A huge swath of it is about to be expropriated thereby splitting this beautiful part of the Bonshaw Hills in half.
The thought of what it will look like in a couple of years weighs heavy on my soul. With an awesome view of the West River, a wildlife refuge for many birds and animals, a great sledding hill, a 15-year-old Acadian Forest, which I planted, and great hiking and mountain biking trails; this was my dream place.
Now, if this government has its way, it will become a mountain of shale and pavement, polluted by noise, fuel fumes, and road salt spray. The peacefulness and beauty of the rolling hills will undoubtedly be shattered, along with my faith in our Island's elected officials to make sound environmental and financial decisions.
In my opinion, government hasn't the right to barge into an environmentally sensitive area with lovely views, streams, ravines and old growth trees, and decide a highway should be built when many alternatives and compromises exist. This project has been forced forward with inadequate public consultation, a pathetically narrow-minded environmental assessment, and a trying land negotiation process forcing people from their homes and properties. Reconsidering this project would be beneficial in countless ways. Stop Plan B.
Ruth DeLong and sons Duncan and Jack Sturz, Winsloe
A whole community of residents will lose their ways of life as land is altered and businesses are forced to close. The expropriation of land is nothing more than bullying and shows just how low the government is prepared to go in order to satisfy itself with no regard or respect for the very people they claim to represent.
Plan B is unjustifiable. It is a project born out of foolishness and arrogance.
Andrew Want, president, NDP P.E.I.
© Guardian photo by Mitch MacDonald
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey addresses a crowd of protesters against his department's plan to realign the TransCanada highway in Churchill.
It’s a few weeks later than expected, but work on the Trans-Canada Highway realignment is set to start any time, says Transportation Minister Robert Vessey.
In an interview Tuesday, Vessey said the government notified Island Construction Monday that the project was ready to proceed.
Vessey said the company was expected to start mobilizing Tuesday.
“It’s a big job to get all the gear to the construction site and then I guess they’d be looking at doing some cutting and putting in environmental...measures as we go forward,” he said.
The provincial and federal governments are cost sharing the $16-million construction, with another $4 million from the province to buy the land it needs.
That includes 18 properties the province has already bought, two it previously owned and eight more for which the closing date hasn’t passed.
The Transportation Department has permission to start work on those eight properties, if needed, before the closing date.
Another five purchases haven’t been made and Vessey said three of those were going to the expropriation process Tuesday because they were necessary for the first part of the project.
That’s a total of 33 properties the province owned, reached agreements to buy, had expropriated or will still have to buy before the end of construction.
Although the government did have to buy some houses, Vessey said none of them were expropriated.
The original plan was to start work around mid-September, but Vessey said he didn’t know if the delay would have much of an impact on the construction schedule.
“In fairness to the contractors they haven’t really started the job yet,” he said.
Although the government previously announced Island Construction had the low bids for the two roadwork tenders, it hadn’t awarded them until the environmental assessment process was finished.
“It’s a big job to get all the gear to the construction site and then I guess they’d be looking at doing some cutting and putting in environmental...measures as we go forward,” Transportation Minister Robert Vessey
Vessey said the government awarded those tenders Monday afternoon.
With a lot of public opposition to the plan and some people saying it’s not necessary, Vessey said his department’s mandate is to provide safe roads.
Vessey said the province still plans to re-align other parts of the Trans-Canada Highway where problems have been identified.
“We’re just not here for a one-shot deal,” he said.
In looking at collision rates on the Trans-Canada between 1196 and 2010, part of the section through Churchill had the highest rate with a short portion through DeSable a close second.
Vessey said the department has identified the DeSable section for next year’s capital budget with preliminary work already done.
“It’s comparable and we decided to do Churchill first,” he said.
Opponents to the project recently held a meeting to talk about non-violent civic disobedience and Vessey said he knows it has been a passionate issue for some people. But he also said safety is an issue and he hopes any potential protestors are aware of that on the road and the work site.
“We’ll just have to monitor that on a daily basis,” he said.
As for what political repercussions he might face because of opposition to the re-alignment, Vessey said he believes in the project and the government has a responsibility to provide safe roads.
“It’s all about safety and if there’s a political price in safety then I can live with that,” he said.
by Teresa Wright
Environment Minister Janice Sherry Guardian photo
Islanders opposed to the Churchill highway realignment known as Plan B are vowing to continue their fight to stop the project.
Environment Minister Janice Sherry, together with the federal government, gave the green light to the so-called Plan B project Monday afternoon. This was the last step in the approvals process, which means government can now move ahead with construction.
But a group of concerned citizens that has been very vocal in opposition to the project, is now saying it plans to get a court injunction to stop Plan B.
“The legal case, the court injunction, will be prepared as soon as possible,” said Tony Reddin, a spokesperson for the ‘Stop Plan B’ group.
“I just hope they put release clauses into (contracts) that don’t penalize (the province) too much when this gets reversed.”
Reddin said there are also people willing to physically block construction, should legal proceedings fail.
“There are a lot of people who are intending to do whatever they can to stop this by holding whatever sort of blockade it takes, and that’s not surprising given the bull-headedness of the officials involved,” Reddin said.
Reddin and many others have been raising concerns about the proposed highway realignment and potential harm to waterways, trees and wildlife in the area.
But Sherry said Monday she is satisfied the project can be carried out without major environmental damage to the area.
“After the length of time and the amount of work that has gone into this process, I feel very comfortable with my final decision,” Sherry told reporters Monday.
“When I went through the process with my staff page by page and line by line, the issue, of course, was the environmental impact and I feel confident today with all of the mitigations that have been put in place.”’
The project proposes to realign a section of the Trans Canada Highway in Churchill to make hills less steep and curves less sharp.
It had been awaiting approval from Sherry on the environmental impact assessment, performed in the spring by Stantec Consulting Ltd., which she approved Monday with a few amendments.
One of these requires the Department of Transportation to fund a dedicated employee to oversee all environmental aspects of the project on a full-time basis until it is completed.
Transportation also must develop and implement long-term protection plans for five parcels of land identified by the department as environmentally sensitive. These parcels contain much of the hemlock and old growth trees environment protection groups have been concerned about. Transportation officials will be asking for input from other government departments as well as non-governmental organizations on how best to preserve these areas.
Sherry said she also requested extra precautions be put in place to ensure sediment runoff into a nearby stream is not an issue in the future. That’s why she is requiring the project’s environmental protection plan to include erosion control measures designed to withstand a one-in-25-year rainfall event.
This was added to the plan later to address concerns raised by the public in many of the 300 pieces of correspondence submitted on Plan B.
“It’s a very sad day in Prince Edward Island with regards to democracy,” Opposition Leader Olive Crane
“It was obvious from the public input we received that was one of the most important areas to them,” Sherry said.
If any problems are identified during the construction process, work will be halted immediately, she added.
“You have to move forward with a positive nature in a project of this size and we’re very optimistic that we’ve done the due diligence to make sure these issues are going to be well watched, well protected, well run,” Sherry said.
“I’m moving forward feeling very good about it.”
Opposition Leader Olive Crane says she is disappointed government plans to go ahead with this realignment.
“It’s a very sad day in Prince Edward Island with regards to democracy,” Crane said.
She has been calling for the province to scrap the project.
“They never did look at alternatives to this project, they’re spending money that we do not have and the list goes on and on,” she said.
“The big issue of spending dollars we do not have will haunt Robert Ghiz and his government until the election of 2015.”
The provincial and federal governments are sharing the costs of the $16-million construction, with P.E.I. adding another $4 million to buy 23 properties in the area.
No timelines have yet been set for when work on the highway realignment will begin.
PLAN B QUICK FACTS
Environment Minister Janice Sherry released a list of conditions that must be met by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) for Plan B to go ahead. Here are some of those conditions:
- TIR must construct the project as documented in the environmental assessment, including the minister’s amendments and conditions.
- TIR must authorize funding to the environment department for a full-time employee to oversee environmental aspects of the project
- Within 12 months, TIR must develop a long-term protection plan for sensitive parcels of land in this area which have been identified by the department
- TIR must comply with the revised environmental protection plan, which includes erosion control measures designed to withstand a one-in-25-year rain event
- If sediment from construction enters a watercourse, TIR must cease working immediately and implement diversion measures
- TIR must report all contaminant spills to the department and complete any necessary clean-up
- TIR must obtain proper permits for work conducted within 15 metres of a waterway
To view the comments go to: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-01/article-3088125/UPDATE%3A-Plan-B-gets-green-light/1