December 2013

December 31, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

(Yesterday the power was out, but thanks to the Maritime Electric crews, we were one of the people who did get back later last evening.)

Jack MacAndrew is set to address Plan B and other issues in his year-end column in today's Eastern Graphic (being published a day early due to New Year's).  I'll print the text and link tomorrow after it is published if you don't have a chance to get it today.

What some of our Federal Parties are chatting about during the holidays:

Green Party of Canada
Elizabeth May,
leader of the Federal Green Party, wrote her year-end remarks here:
http://www.greenparty.ca/year-end-letter-2013?utm_campaign=C13.EHL&utm_source=massmail&utm_medium=email

A notable excerpt on democracy:

I knew on election night (in 2011) that, as happy as I was, as over-joyed as were the hundreds of volunteers and supporters celebrating at our Saanich-Gulf Islands victory party, that the election was a disaster.  I was devastated by the news of  a Conservative majority, a “false majority,” a majority of seats with only 39% of the vote.  Such a result was only possible due to our archaic “winner take all” voting system.  And I knew, because I have known Stephen Harper for years, that our country was in for a beating.  I knew our environmental laws would be targets, that climate policy would remain hostage to oil sands interests, and that our very nature and national character would be sorely tested.

What I have experienced since May 2011 has only confirmed my resolve that we have to break out of the hyper-partisanship which is now accepted as “normal.”  We have to replace “first past the post” with a voting system that ensures that every vote counts.  And we must find a way to reject the toxic politics that allow back-room strategists to set a course for power.

What I see daily as an MP is routine contempt for all our parliamentary institutions. Bills are forced through with time allocations, breaking all historical records for shutting down debate.  In the forty year period from 1917-1957, I found 7 examples of time allocation.  In the last two years, it has happened 50 times.  The abuse of process in massive omnibus bills, also forced through with limited debate, without a single amendment being allowed, is also contempt of the legislative process itself.  When I had worked in the Office of the Minister of Environment in the 1980s, all the bills that went through the House were amended.  Some of the government bills, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act were substantially changed through helpful amendments proposed by opposition MPs.

No longer.  Somehow Stephen Harper seems to think that even the slightest amendment to a government bill is a political defeat which he will not tolerate.  What used to be largely non-partisan exercises – the review of bills, listening to expert witnesses and citizen groups, to consider improvements -  has degenerated into a scripted exercise, an extension of the non-stop partisan warfare.   It is offensive to every principle of democratic governance that the spring 2012 omnibus budget bill, C-38 – a monstrous assault on decades of environmental law -  all 440 pages, attacking, gutting and repealing 70 other pieces of legislation was passed without a single change between First Reading and Royal Assent.  Even drafting errors that were spotted were left intact – and had to be corrected by later government legislation.>>


The National Post has a decent interview with NDP Leader
Tom Mulcair:
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/10/09/john-ivison-thomas-mulcair-keeps-faith-in-opinion-polls-and-policies-that-resonate/
and analysis by the very knowledgeable columnist Chantel Hebert:
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/12/18/mulcair_must_target_ontario_not_justin_trudeau_hbert.html

This spring, an interview from rabble.ca, very thorough and interesting:
http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/christophermajka/2013/05/mind-mulcair-leader-ndp-on-energy-climate-change-and-elector
A few excerpts on the environment:


We have a development model that unfortunately is more akin to what one sees in third-world countries where you let a foreign power and companies come in and take what they want. We let all companies -- foreign and not -- use the air and water as an unlimited dumping ground. We don't internalize costs, in other words we're not including environmental costs, we're not making the polluter pay. It's as simple as that. We think we can do better. And we believe that the government of Canada can play a positive role in obtaining that result. The Conservatives have pulled away from all of that. They make a lovely slip of the tongue: instead of referring to the environmental assessment process, you often hear them talk of an environmental approval process. So the result is pre-ordained. And cabinet has even arrogated the right to change any condition that's been laid down. So that's what we've got to escape from.>>>
<<<
What's always been missing in Ottawa is an overarching approach, a systemic approach, to sustainable development. We don't have that in Ottawa. So, we would apply basic principles of sustainable development, like polluter pay. Like the internalization of costs over the lifecycle of a product. Like consulting with people before a big project goes up and having meaningful consultation, because you cannot -- in this day and age -- go from the top down. And that's what the Conservatives don't understand. They think they can shove projects down people's throats. >>

and on electoral reform of the "democratic deficit":
Well, the first thing that you have to know is that the NDP is extremely serious about going to a mixed proportional system. But, as I often say, and I have to say with a smile to our enthusiasts in the NDP, I have to win under the current system: I can't change it. The other thing that people have to understand is that even if it's not constitutional change per se, it is profound democratic change, and precisely because of that, it's not they type of thing that you can do either by just snapping your fingers the day after an election, or without profound consultation. People have to be brought in. It's a little like any form of development -- this is democratic development -- and it has to be from the base up. People have to agree with it. You can't shove it down people's throats. But I think that it's the only way, for us to get away from the first-past-the-post system, which has proven its inability to represent us.>>

The Liberals are holding a policy convention in Montreal in February, and one resolution being considered is one to discuss democratic reform including proportional representation.  I know there are a lot of "ifs" with this, but the amazing thing is that *the Liberals* are discussing and exploring this.
from Anita Nickerson of Fair Vote Canada (sorry for the small print size):

Today (December 17tth) we have received news that the Liberal Party of Canada caucus (the Liberal MPs) have brought forth a resolution which will go to a vote at the Liberal Policy convention in Montreal in February, 2014. The resolution states the party will, immediately after the next election, initiate an all-party process including experts and citizens to study all electoral reform options, including proportional representation, and report back to Parliament with a recommendation within 12 months. If the resolution passes in Montreal, it will make the Liberal Party officially open to considering a form of proportional representation, rather than endorsing only another winner-take-all system (Alternative Vote).

If you are a Liberal member, please join the resolution website - www.electoralreformforcanada.ca - or share it with Liberals you know.

Um, well, no words of wisdom from the ruling party.

Today being New Year's Eve is the last day to make contributions to the party of your choice for 2013.

Stay warm and have a great New Year's Eve,

December 29, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Just a couple of short(ish) items, one a repeat:

The Watershed Alliance publicized the link to the Survery Results from the Land Use Policy Task Force here:
http://www.peiwatershedalliance.org/web/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/fema_LUPsurvey.pdf

It illustrated the 15 or so questions on Islanders' priorities very nicely, and then has the summarized date towards the end.

From the summary page:
"The information from this survey supports the feedback that was received by the Task Force at seven public meetings. The survey captured a snapshot of the concerns and perceptions about land use issues on Prince Edward Island."

And hopefully will guide the Task Force in what it suggests the province does with any Land Use policy, which wouldn't be presented as any sort of legislation until at least Fall of 2014.

Guesses:  This spring's Legislative Assembly sitting will have the Lands Protection Act recommendations as legislation (more later)
This fall would have any sort of Land Use Policy legislation (at the earliest) based on the January 2014 report to government.
Next spring would have any changes to the Municipalities Act.

Since this was buried at the end of Friday's Update, and there might be time in front of the computer today or tomorrow, here is a repeat:
And here is more regarding the importance of the NDP and Greens making themselves known in their province, this from a Moncton blog, regarding who has power in New Brunswick and what can happen during their election in Fall 2014:

Graeme Decarie is an 80-year old academic, writer, and commentator in New Brunswick:
http://themonctongrimes-dripdrain.blogspot.ca/2013/12/dec22-most-important-provincial.html

Full blog (with typos corrected by me, some parts in bold that seemed especially cogent):


Dec.22: The most important provincial election ever......

by Graeme Decarie

....and, no, the big issue is not the provincial budget.
It's not Mr. Alward's fault (not directly) that we have a deficit. Anyway, he doesn't have an answer for that problem.
It's not Mr. Gallant's fault, either. In fact, Mr. Gallant's Liberals are quite devoid of any thought about anything.  That's their policy, their only policy. They know they have nothing to say that would win the election - and they know they don't have to say anything. They'll just let the Conservatives lose, trusting the the old, New Brunswick style of electing one party because they're mad at the other, then electing the other when they get mad at the first one.
In any case, there's no point in discussing policies because it doesn't matter a damn what policy either the Libeals or the Conservatiives have. Take the budget, for example.
I said it's not Mr. Alward's fault we're in a deficit. Of course not. Alward gave up financial control of the province at least three years ago. Remember?
That was when Mr. Irving announced he was in coalition with the government - that is, that he was a member of the government. That was when Mr. Irving had the arrogance not only to announce he was in the government without bothering to get elected, but he was holding a great conference to plan the economic future of New Brunswick.
Get that. Not only was he not elected, but we had elected a government to do just that, the economic future . And Mr. Irving dismissed all that, and there wasn't a whimper.
So he held his farcical conference, most of whose members (including Mr. Irving) had no qualifications whatever to plan a provincial budget. Indeed, it was quite shameful for most of the people at the conference to take part in that farce.
We were never told the details of what plan emerged. Why should we be? It's quite obvious that Mr. Irving and his press have nothing but contempt for us.
No, he just handed Mr. Alward a list of the names he was to accept as official advisors to the Minister of Finance.
In other words, Mr. Irving has been running the economy of this province throughout the Alward years. He will also run them throughout any term that Gallant might serve. The man responsible for our deficit, then, is Mr. Irving. That's what government is about. The person who runs a department is the one who gets the blame when it doesn't work. Think about it, Norbert. or.....well.... just try to think.
And I'm sure those were very good budgets for Mr. Irving. He is, after all, not in the business of looking after provincial budgets. He's in the business of getting provincial revenues into his own pocket.
Why on earth would he want a budget surplus - or even a balanced budget? In either case, that would just mean our money that wasn't going into his pocket. But he lives on getting our money into his pocket. He lives on running up a deficit in the form of tax cuts and favours, and cutting our services so there's more for him.
And if New Brunswick goes broke and the people of this province suffer, why should he care? He doesn't have to pay off the deficit. We do.
Similarly, he openly interferes in education, though he knows nothing about it. He openly interferes in health care.  He strangles our news, not because that helps us in any way but because it helps him. He pushes hard for fracking - because it's good for him.
As a democracy, New Brunswick is a farce. That's why there's no use in discussing any issues in the coming campaign. No matter whether Liberals or Conservatives are elected, Mr. Irving will set the agenda.
Well - what it means is there is an issue, just one issue It's just one issue because nothing else can be done unless we first deal with this issue.
We have to get big business out of government. Until we do that, it couldn't matter less what else we plan. Unless we can restore democracy, there's really no point in even having elections, and no point in staying in this province..
Not all Liberals and Conservatives are sell-outs. Some are muppets -well-intentioned but clueless and obedient to the party.
A very high proportion of the voters is, alas, in the same category. Tens of thousands, probably more, will vote Liberal or Conservative simply because their families always have voted that way. And some have (quite false) ideas that Conservative means being careful with money, or that Liberal means sort of broad-minded when really, both the Liberals and the Conservatives are just sock puppets for major corporations.
As well, this is a province of frightened people. It isn't noticed here; but it's obvious to a newcomer. People will suffer enormous abuse and contempt. They're scared. They might not admit it even to themselves, but they're scared.
There is virtually no public discussion of public issues. Many people simply plod wherever they are ordered to plod - rather like a prison camp.
That has to be dealt with. Now - the parties..........
There is no point whatever in voting either Liberal or Conservative. If we do, then we might just as well appoint Mr. Irving emperor (It's amazing how many people put trust in corporate leaders to operate areas like public service of which they know nothing, and which are not in their interest to operate properly anyway.)
That leaves us with two parties, the NDP and the Greens. You don't like them? Tough. Since 1867, this province has been run as if we were sheep and the rich were our owners. For this election, at least, there are no other parties to choose from. They are the only parties that can be trusted to deal with New Brunswick's central problems - the greed and dictatorship of the corporate bosses, and the timidity of the New Burnswick people.
So we have two large and wealthy parties that will sell us out. We have two smaller and poorer parties which are the only ones that will represent us.
So we split out forces by running them separately. 
What?
We split the minority to face what is already a very powerful majority?
This is crazy. Both of those parties, for now, have the same objective. Nothing either of them wants can be achieved so long as those old parties are still in power and still obey the corporations.
And we split their vote? This is madness.
The second thing both the NDP and the Greens have to do is to imprint themselves on the consciousness of the voters....NOW.
Most voters have pretty feeble ideas of what the NDP and the Greens are about. The very little they do know comes in very small and infrequent stories in a press that is highly prejudiced.
The NDP and the Greens have to plant themselves in the provincial consciousness. And you cannot do that in the final months of a campaign. And you cannot trust the Irving press to do the job for you. It's already late.
The Greens and the NDP have to get on their horses. They have to look now for opportunities to speak to church groups, schools boards, unions, parents' groups, whoever they can find.
And they have to hammer at the central theme. What's at stake here is the government by the people that we love to pretend we have. That's the issue.
We may not get a second chance. The history of periods like this is that if we don't re-establish a confidence in democracy, then the turn that all the anger takes is toward rage, violence and hatred. We're seeing it now spreading in Europe through fascist and racist groups
Ever wonder why so many Torontonians will still vote for Rob Ford? That's the group that has already gone into anger and rage.
And, yes, it can happen even among the super-meek people of New Brunswick. The NDP and the Greens have to hit the ground running - now. And they have to drive home the theme that what's at stake here is democracy itself which, for all its faults, is far better than rule by corporations and individuals made mad by greed and power.

December 28, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

We had a nice time at the Plan B party last night, and it was good to see so many of you.  If you weren't able to make it, I am sure we will plan something within the next couple of months!

The Guardian printed this letter yesterday from Walter Wilkins, to-the-point, well-written, sardonic.  The more I read it, the more brilliantly it gets its message across:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-27/article-3557796/Whose-HST-is-it-really%3F/1

Whose HST is it really?
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on December 27, 2013
Editor:
Their penchant for idioms aside, Mr. Ghiz and Mr. Sheridan may be correct when they say, “It puts us on a level playing field.” That is, as long as the “us” being referred to are people like themselves and big business —maybe.

But, if the “us” heʼs referring to is something other than that, then Iʼd like it explained how the HST is level or, for that matter, even a playing field. Itʼs not very level, and thereʼs not much of a field left to play on, if youʼre an “us” that canʼt afford to buy healthy food, secure decent shelter and find meaningful employment.

As Aristotle says, “The biggest injustice is to treat equally things which are unequal.” Bottom line is that the “us” that controls political decisions appears to have secured their way, but from where I sit that “us” doesnʼt reflect the majority of Islanders.
And Mr. Ghiz not only enabled this to happen, heʼs darn proud of it. It hurts to say it, but is this what “Liberal” really looks like?

Walter Wilkins, Stratford

And The Guardian printed a commentary I wrote, but they changed it a bit (inexplicably eliminating the bolded section headings, which were there for a reason as they spelled out the "awkward truths")  ;-) 
link: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-27/article-3557715/The-emblem-of-poor-government-decision-making/1

Here is what I sent, with the photos:

Looking west towards Bonshaw at Crawford's Hill, from spring 2012 (top), and December 2013 (bottom)

Commentary

Plan B: The Emblem of Poor Government Decision-Making
This week some Island newspapers and CBC will feature friendly year-end interviews with Premier Robert Ghiz.  This makes it a good time to remember some "awkward truths" about this government, especially as it's been exactly two years since the Plan B highway project was announced.

It's Not Done
The asphalt is down, the guard rails up -- it's not just a "done-deal", as TIR Minister Robert Vessey said at the onset, but it looks *done.*  Not quite!  There are still many steep bare hillsides underneath snow and a bit of mulched hay, which will bear watching when winter rains and the spring melt occur; it is likely to overwhelm the mitigations and allow sediment to enter the West River, as has happened numerous times in the past year.

"It is valuable to continue to bear witness to the environmental impact of Plan B," said Island ecologist Gary Schneider in November of 2012, after Plan B construction started.  Nobody is living in a tipi by the project this winter, but people are watching for the rains, and the long-term health of the remaining trees next to the road.

Why did people get so involved in Plan B?  What made us literally wake up and venture from our comfortable homes to stand on the roadside with signs or camp in the woods, be criticized and ridiculed by some government and media people and sever the previously carefree relationships with our elected officials?

Like a majority of Islanders, we were disturbed that government decided to run a highway we can't afford through land and homes we can't replace and over people's rights to be consulted with and desire to be listened to.  Plan B was such an egregious example of a bad decision not being recanted that many of us got involved.

It's Based on Two Lies
The government repeated two justifications for Plan B, which were both proved blatantly false:
1) "It's all about safety," as the segment was described as the most dangerous stretch of road, due to design -- but only after the Atlantic Gateway money was announced.   Hence the expensive over-reaction realignment, against countless letters imploring and illustrating cheaper and more effective solutions.
The real causes of accidents -- when the data were finally released in Fall 2012 -- were slippery roads and driving too fast for conditions, factors Plan B is not going to solve.  The Guardian from October 2012 on causes:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2012-10-22/article-3104496/Slippery-roads%2C-speed-are-factors-in-accidents/1
and a CBC Radio story about intersections counted more than once which increased the rates, and government's ignoring of another stretch of road with more collisions (September 2012):
http://www.cbc.ca/islandmorning/episodes/2012/09/09/a-dangerous-stretch-of-road/

2) "Islanders told us to go north" in feedback for the original plan to go through Strathgartney Park, which the TIR insisted counted as consultation for a completely new Plan B.  In fact, out of over 300 submissions in Fall of 2011, not one suggested the route be changed to cut into the untouched hillside north of the CBC tower on western end and Fairyland on the eastern side. 
http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/GatewayFeedback.pdf

It Made the RCMP Be the Bad Guys
The Robert Ghiz government ignored or denigrated a petition, rallies, a citizen-initiated plebiscite, countless letters, over 200 Environmental Impact Assessment submissions, and finally people at the site, by calling in the national police force to pull out a couple of women keeping vigil by the ill-fated hemlock forest in the pouring rain. 

(Premier Ghiz) 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. -- columnist Jack MacAndrew, October 2012.

This part has been hard to explain to kids.

It's Not an Outlier
Plan B is not an extreme example, but one of the worst of many poor decisions.  For instance, the implementation of the HST has been hailed by Mr. Ghiz as one of his greatest achievements of 2013.  He said it's not great policy -- he is right, as it is merely a tax grab -- but it is neither great policy nor politics to run for office without mentioning something as important as implementing the HST. 

A new "wilderness" park isn't going to erase Plan B -- though no wilderness by far, it's still a lovely area -- but if the Ghiz government had actually wanted to protect environmentally-sensitive land (a term set out by Environment Minister Sherry in her conditional approval of Plan B), they would not have bulldozed right through the Bonshaw Hills to make this road in the first place.

It Has Caused Some Small Good
Will Plan B opponents ever let it go?  For the most part, we are a pretty positive bunch.  We've channeled some of the energy into the fledgling Citizens' Alliance of PEI, a non-partisan voice for Islanders to bring forth those "awkward truths", especially concerning environmental and democratic issues.

Plan B has reinforced that we -- all Islanders -- need to take care of our Island, both our land and our democracy.
Keeping both healthy will encourage our young people to be here making a living and dropping the cynicism that their participation isn't necessary.  And that should be Plan A.

Chris Ortenburger lives in Bonshaw and is a member of the Citizens' Alliance of PEI.

December 27, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

I hope you had a great Christmas enjoying some time away from "regular" things, and enjoying what really matters.

OK, back to regular stuff ;-), first announcements:

  • The Plan B (now) Holidays party is tonight, unless the weather turns and driving conditions would be poor.  Then we will e-mail an announcement (call if you are uncertain -- 675-2239).  Come anytime after 7PM, at the Bonshaw Community Centre, bring some munchie food and/or drink to share.
  • I think today's Guardian has possibly printed a commentary by me about Plan B and what it says about government's decision-making.  There is also likely a succinct letter about HST by Walter Wilkins, if you are inclined to get a print version (electronic versions in tomorrow's Update).

and regular stuff, but still somewhat Christmasy:

A scene from the movie often played at Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life:

(people at dinner table, ceiling fixture rocking, thumping noises from upstairs from brothers goofing around)
Mrs. Bailey (calling out):
George! Harry! You're shaking the house down!  Stop it!

I was reminded of this when I read the rebuttal to the rebuttal to the original letter elaborating on a snippet of an editorial in The Guardian about changing the number of MLAs; letters on ideas from two talented and dedicated men on this Island, Mike Redmond and Peter Bevan-Baker.

I am paraphrasing, and the original letters are below.
First, the final part of a
Guardian editorial on December 6th (the top part regarding Olive Crane's suggestion to change the number of MLAs):

Then we have Island New Democrat Leader Mike Redmond saying the number of MLAs should be reduced to a mere 15. Mr. Redmond says a premier and five cabinet members could to the job (sic) and seems to think that four recent massive majority governments are the reason for a litany of problems facing the Island.
And what would a fractured, tiny government, with the workload on just six people bring, but dysfunction and gridlock?

Mike Redmond, leader of the PEI NDP, wrote explaining his argument:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-12/article-3540765/Partisanship-crushing-P.E.I./1

Partisanship crushing P.E.I.
Letter to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on December 12, 2013
Editor: Thank you for your December 6 editorial that discusses my long-standing proposal of a total of 15 MLAs for the P.E.I. legislative assembly.
You suggest that I have stated a provincial cabinet must have six ministers. Actually in my recent response to a Journal-Pioneer editorial I stated that five — the premier and four others — could do the job. Your editorial encourages me to review my recent arguments to The Journal-Pioneer on this topic.
The number 15 provides more than enough people to be cabinet ministers and other MLAs to do committee work. A premier, whose caucus has eight or less MLAs, can choose cabinet ministers from the other MLAs outside of his or her own caucus. Excessive partisanship has given us patronage, bad policy decisions, huge public debt, and failed programs. A mixed cabinet could focus government on the business of the public rather than the back room priorities of a political party.
Large government caucuses and cabinets have not served Islanders well. After almost seven years in power, the misguided and self-serving Ghiz government of 23 MLAs with 13 in cabinet has brought us to a very low point. The debt is crippling, a billion dollars added by the Liberals over six budgets. The Ghiz government has responded to their record of mismanagement with the HST, increased small business taxation, higher fees on many services, and deep cuts to the pensions of public sector workers.
We have the worst educational outcomes in Canada and in the whole western world, among a long list of negatives for P.E.I. Your conclusion that my proposal would bring dysfunction and gridlock gives more credit than deserved to what has actually been done by governments and legislatures over the last several decades in this province.
Partisanship is crushing us. And when it comes to political representation bigger is definitely not better. We need a serious debate about changing the size and role of the legislature.
Thanks for moving this debate along.
Mike Redmond,
Leader, NDP P.E.I.

Then Peter Bevan-Baker of the Green Party of PEI wrote:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-16/article-3545217/Proportional-electoral-system-best-option-for-P.E.I./1

Proportional electoral system best option for P.E.I.
Letter to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on December 16, 2013
Commentary by Peter Bevan-Baker
I could not agree more with the headline that accompanied Mike Redmondʼs recent letter — “Partisanship crushing P.E.I.”  I could not disagree more, however with his suggested remedy — to reduce the number of MLAs.
Our Island is indeed small, in population not much more than a large town, and yet we have the gift of jurisdiction that comes with being a province. In our Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, a goodly number of opposition members and government back-benchers are necessary for the system to work effectively — for there to be adequate checks and balances on the power of the Premierʼs Office. When we look at other small-island jurisdictions, some with populations significantly smaller than P.E.I., itʼs very rare to find a legislature or parliament with fewer than 30 members. In the Isle of Man, for example, the Parliament (the Tynwald) has 35 members for a population of 86,000 people.
A reduction in the number of elected members, with the implied reduction of government costs and improved efficiency, may be a popular position to promote politically, but for the well-being of a functional democracy on P.E.I., it is a dreadful idea. The disproportionately high cost of government in any small jurisdiction is not a result of the direct costs associated with its elected members, rather it is the result of a monstrous bureaucracy behind the scenes. I would much rather see the number of elected MLAs retained (though put there under a more modern voting system) and a significant reduction in the size of the bureaucracy associated with our government.
We should follow the lead of Iceland, a sovereign country with about twice the population of P.E.I., where they have an elected Parliament, the Althing, of 63 members (proportionately more elected representatives per population than P.E.I.). If we were to emulate Iceland — a jurisdiction with far fewer agencies, boards and commissions than P.E.I. — we would perhaps start to value our elected representatives, but also demand much more of them. I believe our Island MLAs are overpaid and underutilized. With elected privilege should come profound responsibility. Instead we have a situation on P.E.I. where ministers are shielded from their responsibilities by unelected boards and commissions who do little more than provide outlets for partisan appointments and muddy the waters of accountability.
It is disingenuous of Mr. Redmond to ascribe all the ills he lists in his letter to size of government, not to mention what masters of partisanship the NDP has become in Ottawa and beyond. Our poor performance and record on all the issues he quite rightly laments — from educational shortcomings to economic insecurity — are more likely the result of a profound lack of political vision, and the predominant patterns on P.E.I. of patronage and nepotism which get in the way of good governance.
The way out of our often dysfunctional political past and present is to adopt a proportional electoral system, to reduce government bureaucracy while creating a prosperous economy that will absorb the many people who consequently would be looking for work, and to demand more of our elected representatives.

On Christmas Eve, The Guardian published Mike response:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-24/article-3555800/Letter-ignores-problem-of-partisan-interests/1
Letter ignores problem of partisan interests
Letter to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on December 24, 2013

Editor: Peter Bevan-Bakerʼs December 16 letter criticizing my proposal for a reduction to 15 MLAs, makes an argument for proportional representation, without acknowledging the biggest problem of P.E.I. politics — too many politicians serving partisan political interests, and wasting resources and opportunities.
Mr. Bevan-Baker imagines that a large number of MLAs provides a check on the power of the Premierʼs Office, a misconception of the last several decades of P.E.I. political history. Large cabinets expend huge resources horse trading among themselves, and catering to the whims of MLAs for support and applause in the legislature.
He cites a lack of political vision and patronage as contributors to poor performance in government, but fails to understand what causes these problems. For decades, the election of a new majority government has meant enriching a few key power holders. Cabinet ministers and MLAs scramble to serve the power brokers who have financed them and will look out for them in the future.
Not only wasteful, it is harmful to the reputation of our provincial public sector. The ruling party distracts the public service from the best options for Islanders and toward benefits for special interests — the PNP cash grab, the Plan B manipulation, the HST deception, and so on.
In all these cases, better options were available, but the premier and cabinet chose those that served special interests. Liberal MLAs clapped along with every one of these moves. As for Mr. Bevan-Bakerʼs aspersions to problems with our “bureaucracy”, it is not justifiable to blame public sector workers for the actions of a domineering political party.
We must change what being an MLA on P.E.I. means. We must reduce the size of the legislature. We want smaller cabinets working harder, too busy solving problems to cater to vested interests. We want fewer MLAs cheering and waiting for cabinet promotions. We want a few dedicated back-bench MLAs focusing on legislation and accountability.
Mike Redmond,
Leader, NDP P.E.I.

It is very good for discussions to take place, for these issues to get some serious discussion in the press.  That's how Islanders can become informed on these topic, consider options, and demand change.

I have *tremendous* respect for Mike and Peter and can hardly estimate the amount of time and effort is involved in their jobs as leaders of the "third-parties".  Both men understood that Plan B was not just a political game to bluster about, that it was really poor government decision-making (previous party leaders, interim leaders, and party presidents get a lot of credit for paying attention, too).  Peter, of course, was especially involved in opposing Plan B, whether it was attending countless meetings, writing satirical songs, or literally crossing boundaries to make the point that Islanders did not want Plan B.   Seeing these two gentlemen in MLAs' seats in 2016 would be great, and is doable.

It is good to hear the NDP and Green Party leaders tell us in what areas their parties are different.  So often people just shrug and say, "There is no difference; they should merge," without realizing that there is history and differences that may make this close to impossible -- but they should still be acutely respectful in their language as not to look like they are picking fights or casting aspersions.  What both parties have in common is worth discussing, too.

I'd say, Please tell us how and why your parties are different, but don't shake the house down doing it.

And here is more regarding the importance of the NDP and Greens making themselves known in their province, this from a Moncton blog, regarding who has power in New Brunswick and what can happen during their election in Fall 2014:

Graeme Decarie is an 80-year old academic, writer, and commentator:
http://themonctongrimes-dripdrain.blogspot.ca/2013/12/dec22-most-important-provincial.html

Full blog (with typos corrected by me, some parts in bold that seemed especially cogent):

Dec.22: The most important provincial election ever......

by Graeme Decarie

....and, no, the big issue is not the provincial budget.
It's not Mr. Alward's fault (not directly) that we have a deficit. Anyway, he doesn't have an answer for that problem.
It's not Mr. Gallant's fault, either. In fact, Mr. Gallant's Liberals are quite devoid of any thought about anything.  That's their policy, their only policy. They know they have nothing to say that would win the election - and they know they don't have to say anything. They'll just let the Conservatives lose, trusting the the old, New Brunswick style of electing one party because they're mad at the other, then electing the other when they get mad at the first one.
In any case, there's no point in discussing policies because it doesn't matter a damn what policy either the Libeals or the Conservatiives have. Take the budget, for example.
I said it's not Mr. Alward's fault we're in a deficit. Of course not. Alward gave up financial control of the province at least three years ago. Remember?
That was when Mr. Irving announced he was in coalition with the government - that is, that he was a member of the government. That was when Mr. Irving had the arrogance not only to announce he was in the government without bothering to get elected, but he was holding a great conference to plan the economic future of New Brunswick.
Get that. Not only was he not elected, but we had elected a government to do just that, the economic future . And Mr. Irving dismissed all that, and there wasn't a whimper.
So he held his farcical conference, most of whose members (including Mr. Irving) had no qualifications whatever to plan a provincial budget. Indeed, it was quite shameful for most of the people at the conference to take part in that farce.
We were never told the details of what plan emerged. Why should we be? It's quite obvious that Mr. Irving and his press have nothing but contempt for us.
No, he just handed Mr. Alward a list of the names he was to accept as official advisors to the Minister of Finance.
In other words, Mr. Irving has been running the economy of this province throughout the Alward years. He will also run them throughout any term that Gallant might serve. The man responsible for our deficit, then, is Mr. Irving. That's what government is about. The person who runs a department is the one who gets the blame when it doesn't work. Think about it, Norbert. or.....well.... just try to think.
And I'm sure those were very good budgets for Mr. Irving. He is, after all, not in the business of looking after provincial budgets. He's in the business of getting provincial revenues into his own pocket.
Why on earth would he want a budget surplus - or even a balanced budget? In either case, that would just mean our money that wasn't going into his pocket. But he lives on getting our money into his pocket. He lives on running up a deficit in the form of tax cuts and favours, and cutting our services so there's more for him.
And if New Brunswick goes broke and the people of this province suffer, why should he care? He doesn't have to pay off the deficit. We do.
Similarly, he openly interferes in education, though he knows nothing about it. He openly interferes in health care.  He strangles our news, not because that helps us in any way but because it helps him. He pushes hard for fracking - because it's good for him.
As a democracy, New Brunswick is a farce. That's why there's no use in discussing any issues in the coming campaign. No matter whether Liberals or Conservatives are elected, Mr. Irving will set the agenda.
Well - what it means is there is an issue, just one issue It's just one issue because nothing else can be done unless we first deal with this issue.
We have to get big business out of government. Until we do that, it couldn't matter less what else we plan. Unless we can restore democracy, there's really no point in even having elections, and no point in staying in this province..
Not all Liberals and Conservatives are sell-outs. Some are muppets -well-intentioned but clueless and obedient to the party.
A very high proportion of the voters is, alas, in the same category. Tens of thousands, probably more, will vote Liberal or Conservative simply because their families always have voted that way. And some have (quite false) ideas that Conservative means being careful with money, or that Liberal means sort of broad-minded when really, both the Liberals and the Conservatives are just sock puppets for major corporations.
As well, this is a province of frightened people. It isn't noticed here; but it's obvious to a newcomer. People will suffer enormous abuse and contempt. They're scared. They might not admit it even to themselves, but they're scared.
There is virtually no public discussion of public issues. Many people simply plod wherever they are ordered to plod - rather like a prison camp.
That has to be dealt with. Now - the parties..........
There is no point whatever in voting either Liberal or Conservative. If we do, then we might just as well appoint Mr. Irving emperor (It's amazing how many people put trust in corporate leaders to operate areas like public service of which they know nothing, and which are not in their interest to operate properly anyway.)
That leaves us with two parties, the NDP and the Greens. You don't like them? Tough. Since 1867, this province has been run as if we were sheep and the rich were our owners. For this election, at least, there are no other parties to choose from. They are the only parties that can be trusted to deal with New Brunswick's central problems - the greed and dictatorship of the corporate bosses, and the timidity of the New Burnswick people.
So we have two large and wealthy parties that will sell us out. We have two smaller and poorer parties which are the only ones that will represent us.
So we split out forces by running them separately. 
What?
We split the minority to face what is already a very powerful majority?
This is crazy. Both of those parties, for now, have the same objective. Nothing either of them wants can be achieved so long as those old parties are still in power and still obey the corporations.
And we split their vote? This is madness.
The second thing both the NDP and the Greens have to do is to imprint themselves on the consciousness of the voters....NOW.
Most voters have pretty feeble ideas of what the NDP and the Greens are about. The very little they do know comes in very small and infrequent stories in a press that is highly prejudiced.
The NDP and the Greens have to plant themselves in the provincial consciousness. And you cannot do that in the final months of a campaign. And you cannot trust the Irving press to do the job for you. It's already late.
The Greens and the NDP have to get on their horses. They have to look now for opportunities to speak to church groups, schools boards, unions, parents' groups, whoever they can find.
And they have to hammer at the central theme. What's at stake here is the government by the people that we love to pretend we have. That's the issue.
We may not get a second chance. The history of periods like this is that if we don't re-establish a confidence in democracy, then the turn that all the anger takes is toward rage, violence and hatred. We're seeing it now spreading in Europe through fascist and racist groups
Ever wonder why so many Torontonians will still vote for Rob Ford? That's the group that has already gone into anger and rage.
And, yes, it can happen even among the super-meek people of New Brunswick. The NDP and the Greens have to hit the ground running - now. And they have to drive home the theme that what's at stake here is democracy itself which, for all its faults, is far better than rule by corporations and individuals made mad by greed and power.

Lots to think about there!

December 24, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

If time permits in the next couple of days, here are two little items, that are worth watching or listening to (again, if you have been passed them already).  Each are just a couple of minutes long:

David Mitchell is a British, spending two minutes being funny about a serious topic, our environment (video):

http://www.upworthy.com/ok-we-admit-it-being-grotesquely-irresponsible-is-really-fun-sadly-its-time-to-grow-up?g=2&c=gp1

Torquil Campbell is the CBC Radio show Q's "roving cultural correspondent".  Even though host Jian Ghomeshi is heard goofing around at the introduction about how emotionally-charged Torquil is, Campbell comes across as completely sincere about the topic at hand -- what these proposed changes at Canada Post say about Canada (audio):

http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/12/19/torquils-rant-what-has-happened-to-canada/

Wishing everyone safe travels, even if it is just to their (still there) mailbox or further afield, and a Merry Christmas!

PS The Plan B Christmas Party is still rescheduled for Friday, 7PM, Bonshaw Community Centre, and let's hope the forecast improves!

December 23, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A news article worth passing on, applying global to local:

The United Nations' Conference on Trade and Development issued a report this fall on world food issues.  Here is an excerpt from a press release with the link to the document:
http://unctad.org/en/pages/PressRelease.aspx?OriginalVersionID=154

Transformative changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems in order to increase diversity on farms, reduce our use of fertilizer and other inputs, support small-scale farmers and create strong local food systems. That’s the conclusion of a remarkable new publication from the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). - See more at: http://www.iatp.org/blog/201309/new-un-report-calls-for-transformation-in-agriculture#sthash.0y91rcEX.dpuf

Farming in rich and poor nations alike should shift from monoculture towards greater varieties of crops, reduced use of fertilizers and other inputs, greater support for small-scale farmers, and more locally focused production and consumption of food, a new UNCTAD report recommends.

The Trade and Environment Report 2013 warns that continuing rural poverty, persistent hunger around the world, growing populations, and mounting environmental concerns must be treated as a collective crisis. It says that urgent and far-reaching action is needed before climate change begins to cause major disruptions to agriculture, especially in developing countries.

The report, subtitled Wake up before it is too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a changing climate, was released today. More than 60 international experts contributed to the report’s analysis of the topic. The study notes that the sheer scale at which production methods would have to be modified under these proposals would pose considerable challenges. In addition, it would be necessary to correct existing imbalances between where food is produced and where it is needed, to reduce the power asymmetries that exist in agricultural input and food-processing markets, and to adjust current trade rules for agriculture.

The Trade and Environment Report 2013 recommends a rapid and significant shift away from “conventional, monoculture-based… industrial production” of food that depends heavily on external inputs such as fertilizer, agro-chemicals, and concentrate feed. Instead, it says that the goal should be “mosaics of sustainable regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and foster rural development”. The report stresses that governments must find ways to factor in and reward farmers for currently unpaid public goods they provide – such as clean water, soil and landscape preservation, protection of biodiversity, and recreation.


Just the title is a transferable message here on PEI:
Wake before it's too late: Make agriculture truly sustainable now for food security in a a changing climate.

and one would have to think hard about whether deep-well irrigation for one crop is sustainable or advisable.

To see the argument "for", from Friday night's Compass:
Gary Linkletter of the PEI Potato Board demands an immediate lifting of the moratorium on this type of irrigation and justifies the need for this irrigation with numbers minimizing the effects:
(starts about 14 minutes 10 seconds in, about 3 1/2 minutes long)
http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/PEI/Compass/ID/2425923990/

Transformative changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems in order to increase diversity on farms, reduce our use of fertilizer and other inputs, support small-scale farmers and create strong local food systems. That’s the conclusion of a remarkable new publication from the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The report, Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before it is Too Late, included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world (including a commentary from IATP). The report includes in-depth sections on the shift toward more sustainable, resilient agriculture; livestock production and climate change; the importance of research and extension; the role of land use; and the role of reforming global trade rules.

The report links global security and escalating conflicts with the urgent need to transform agriculture toward what it calls “ecological intensification.” The report concludes, “This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.”

The UNCTAD report identified key indicators for the transformation needed in agriculture:

  • Increasing soil carbon content and better integration between crop and livestock production, and increased incorporation of agroforestry and wild vegetation
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of livestock production
  • Reduction of GHGs through sustainable peatland, forest and grassland management
  • Optimization of organic and inorganic fertilizer use, including through closed nutrient cycles in agriculture
  • Reduction of waste throughout the food chains
  • Changing dietary patterns toward climate-friendly food consumption
  • Reform of the international trade regime for food and agriculture

IATP’s contribution focused on the effects of trade liberalization on agriculture systems. We argued that trade liberalization both at the WTO and in regional deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had increased volatility and corporate concentration in agriculture markets, while undermining the development of locally-based, agroecological systems that better support farmers.

The report’s findings are in stark contrast to the accelerated push for new free trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which expand a long discredited model of economic development designed primarily to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy. Neither global climate talks nor other global food security forums reflect the urgency expressed in the UNCTAD report to transform agriculture.

In 2007, another important report out of the multilateral system, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), with contributions from experts from over 100 countries (and endorsed by nearly 60 countries), came to very similar conclusions. The IAASTD report concluded that “Business as Usual is Not an Option,” and the shift toward agroecological approaches was urgent and necessary for food security and climate resilience. Unfortunately, business as usual has largely continued. Maybe this new UNCTAD report will provide the tipping point for the policy transformation that must take place “before it’s too late.”

- See more at: http://www.iatp.org/blog/201309/new-un-report-calls-for-transformation-in-agriculture#sthash.lE1VxHlY.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.iatp.org/blog/201309/new-un-report-calls-for-transformation-in-agriculture#sthash.0y91rcEX.dpuf

Transformative changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems in order to increase diversity on farms, reduce our use of fertilizer and other inputs, support small-scale farmers and create strong local food systems. That’s the conclusion of a remarkable new publication from the U.N. Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). - See more at: http://www.iatp.org/blog/201309/new-un-report-calls-for-transformation-in-agriculture#sthash.0y91rcEX.dpuf

The report, Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before it is Too Late, included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world (including a commentary from IATP). The report includes in-depth sections on the shift toward more sustainable, resilient agriculture; livestock production and climate change; the importance of research and extension; the role of land use; and the role of reforming global trade rules.

The report links global security and escalating conflicts with the urgent need to transform agriculture toward what it calls “ecological intensification.” The report concludes, “This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers.”

December 22, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some letters in the paper this week worth finding or rereading:

Cathy Grant argues for the mayor and council of Cornwall to wake up and join the 21st century
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-21/article-3551973/Cornwall-council-must-back-transit/1

*Cornwall Council Must Back Transit*
Published on December 21, 2013//, in/ The Guardian.

Editor:
I have just heard that the council is voting tonight (Dec. 18) on whether to end its contract with the transit system. I cannot 
believe that council would make such a shortsighted decision. There are obvious environmental concerns: reduced greenhouse
gas emissions and the reduction of reliance of one or more vehicles per family living in Cornwall to name just two.
Cornwall is a growing community, and from some recent planning / zoning decisions is apparently planning to open up increased
development to multi-family dwellings. For example, the recent subdivision on the York Point Road was approved with much
concern by current residents about the increased traffic and the drain on municipal services.
I also see that many other new housing developments in our area are duplex rather than single family dwelling, and council
recently approved a zoning change from a single family dwelling to a duplex in Cornwall. Taking away the transit system will also compromise the Cornwall municipality's ability to accommodate student travel to UPEI, Holland College and other institutions, not to mention the
accommodation of newcomers and their families.
I urge the Cornwall council to join the 21st century and continue to support a transit system.
Cathy Grant,Meadow Bank.
A chain of letters originated with one by Catherine O'Brien about the fast-and-loose approval of GM salmon, and has moved
around about local, small versus factory farming, and back to this topic: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-20/article-3551302/Sustainability-key-as-opposed-to-growth/1
*Sustainability Key as Opposed to Growth* printed on December 20th, 2013 in /The Guardian Editor: In response to the letter by S. John Newman on "Genetic modification ensures future of salmon stocks:"
Regarding a so-called lack of knowledge, it is amazing the amount of information that has been generated by some very
knowledgeable people regarding the safety concerns of this technology. Scientists such as David Suzuki (a geneticist with an
Honours BA in Biology) indicated the premature application of biotechnology is downright dangerous; Dr. Arpad Pusztai
(world-leading nutritional science expert, Rowett Research Institute) showed that GE potatoes cause serious health problems in
rats; and Gilles-Eric Se?ralini (professor of molecular biology, University of Caen in France) found that animals fed GM corn had
increased mortality and more tumors than a control group.
Garbage in equals garbage out. An analogy that can be used to describe genetic engineering would be like adding an ad hoc
command to a very complex computer program not really knowing what may happen at all of the various points of operations
down the line. David Suzuki explains that the context within which the new gene finds itself has been changed; therefore we
cannot say what the behavior of the new gene will be . . .
For instance, corn that has the pesticide Bt engineered into its genetic makeup to make it resistant to certain pests --- Bt is a
natural pesticide, but it would never naturally find its way into corn seed. It does not make sense to me that we should expect to
NOT be harmed, for example, by eating a plant that has been modified to include a pesticide in each and every cell of that plant.
GMOs cannot be recalled from the environment after they?ve been released since they are integrated further by cross
pollination, breeding, or ingested making it impossible to contain. I find it to be fundamentally wrong to release such a technology
without being able to retrieve it at will (unlike stopping the action of applying pesticides, etc.)
Regarding factory farms, it does not make sense to me that we should keep going in the direction of industrial farming when it is
proven that our ecological framework does not work with such simplistic views of biology. It makes more sense to work with
nature and do what works, such as organic farming --- better for the air, soil, water --- therefore better health and quality of life for
all living creatures --- on land and/or at sea.
At the expense of the family farm, transnational corporations use their market power by reducing prices to producers, raising
input costs, shutting out competitors, and pooling patented technologies.Much information indicates that the world already has
plenty of food to go around. The problem is that (1) it is not fairly distributed, and (2) the poor cannot pay to purchase what they
need. Growing more food is not going to solve these problems, particularly for the poor. Solving poverty will be needed before we
can solve the problem of hunger. Solving poverty may have to be to encourage much smaller family units --- decrease the world
population. There is such a thing as a saturation point where Earth only has a certain capacity; space and resources. At the
same time, we need to stop kidding ourselves and stop polluting our air, water, and soil.
Instead of having one large corporation mass producing something, it would be better to have many individual smaller operations
producing quality.In the case of organic farming, if all farms would be organic, there would be a need for many smaller farms. This would create more equality by removing the large corporate farms, providing more people with an opportunity to do what they
love. More jobs and a cleaner environment (better air, water, and soil) --- as a result, better health. Healthier people mean more
productive societies, less crime. This could be applied to everything that we make (products) and do (services) whether it is
farming, fishing, transportation, housing, medical, energy, research, communication, etc --- there is room for improvement on
everything!
The key is sustainability as opposed to growth. We do not need to be zillionaires to be happy --- zillionaires have far more than
they need to retire yet they still want more . . . when is enough, enough? I can't imagine that some generation down the road not
be affected to the point of no return --- there is no time like the present to turn things around --- quality versus quantity --- working
towards a cleaner planet is a better way, for one, to ensure the future of salmon stocks.

Joanne LeBlanc, Wellington
And please make note of two events that happen to include film screenings in January: *Tuesday, January 14th:* ECO-PEI's annual general meeting, and a screening of two short films, including Millefiore
Clarke's /Island Green/, about an organic PEI. There will be discussion afterwards. (The PEI Organic Growers' is also considering screening the movie sometime in 2014.) *Tuesday, January 21st*, The Citizens' Alliance is co-hosting with Cinema Politica the movie /Occupy Love/, which looks at the

global economy and change from a powerful, people-oriented society.

December 21, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Minister Sherry said in remarks on CBC Radio later this week regarding the request from the PEI Potato Board and Cavendish Farms to lift the ban on deep irrigation wells for potato fields that she needs to "hear the science."

It reminded me that science, even rocket science, is not above *anybody's* understanding, if basic concepts are first explained and more complicated information layered in context (without bias!).  There is a pleasant physician named Peter Lin on CBC's Island Morning and other CBC programs who is able to use examples and analogies to explain almost anything clearly.

American astrophysicist Carl Sagan had this gift in spades, but he also delivered some dire warnings about "our species' future."  In 1980, he talked of "nuclear winter" happening if the US got into an atomic tussle with the Soviet Union (then quite a threat), and conversely mentioned global warming being the outcome of unrestrained fossil fuel burning.  He said, "We'll end up as if we were living on the planet Venus."

In the last part of his life (May 1996), fighting bone-marrow cancer, he talked with broadcaster Charlie Rose about many things; this excerpt about the peril of letting the understanding of science fall through the cracks --especially regarding politicians making decisions affecting us all -- strikes clearly today (2 and a half minute excerpt):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iyFw8UF85A

and the full interview (if you are storm-stayed this weekend):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8HEwO-2L4w
Carl Sagan died December 20, 1996.

Understanding the science, and being able to sweep away both the froth from those with financial interests and the bits of exaggeration from truly caring but not-quite-accurate opponents is always the challenge.  Some science education and a whole lot of critical thinking among politicians and non-elected citizens is a must.

Here is an issue affecting the nation, in which "the science" is said to be what is going to determine the eventual fate:  the Enbridge "Northern Gateway" pipeline approval (but with more hurdles to come).
David Suzuki shares his opinion:
http://action2.davidsuzuki.org/stand-with-the-dene

and a wry piece from columnist Stephen Hume with the Vancouver Sun
http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/Stephen+Hume+Northern+Gateway+approval+Theatre+Absurd/9308196/story.html

As an aside, fyi:
Enbridge gave 4-H Canada over a quarter of a million dollars for their centennial celebrations for 2013, and is called a "national sponsor."
http://www.agcanada.com/albertafarmer/2011/08/01/enbridge-makes-large-donation-to-4h-canada/
There are lots of materials given to 4-H kids across the country with Enbridge's logo in the corner for various contests and celebrations.
Bayer Canada (makers of the controversial neonicotinoid pesticide Imidacloprid -- "Admire" -- that has been implicated in being part of Colony Collapse Disorder among bees) is also a national sponsor.

Have a great solstice day,

PS  The Plan B Christmas Party has been rescheduled to Friday, December 27, 7PM, Bonshaw.  Drive safely this weekend.

December 20, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Plan B was announced two years ago today.  You may remember, Minister Vessey making the surprise and surprising announcement of a completely new plan to use all the Atlantic Gateway money on a revised and expanded TCH realignment now stretching from Bonshaw to New Haven.  This was several weeks earlier than expected and just a few short weeks after consultation on the three original Atlantic Gateway proposals closed.  Vessey said the comments from those consultations said don't go through Strathgartney, but do go north of the CBC tower.

When all the comments where finally released -- well after Plan B started -- there were no indications urging the province to go north of the CBC tower. 

The Guardian
inadvertently marks the occasional in the lead of yesterday's editorial, with a pat on the back to Cornwall Mayor Barney Fullerton for clapping Robert Vessey on the back about Plan B.  The editorial writer thinks it odd that so few have taken that such a vocal stand.  Odd.

**And on CBC Radio this morning about 7:40AM**, there will be a bit of coverage of a meeting yesterday.  Cindy will be speaking about it with the hosts.

Meetings were called for independently after the rains of December 4th by both Peter Bevan-Baker and by Cindy and me on behalf of the Citizens' Alliance and the public monitors.  Minister Sherry batched us together, as it was the same group that met with her last year in January about failing mitigations then.  We wanted to know their plans for specific areas that were left a mess by such late construction this fall and plans for the spring melt.

The bottom line is that Minister Sherry is aware of most of the concerns, has asked for TIR's plans, and we'll talk again in January when they get that. 
----------

The forecast looks a bit messy for tonight, but we'll go ahead with the Plan B Christmas party (in case it changes to be much worse and then we will postpone until after Christmas).  7PM, Bonshaw Community Centre.

December 19, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Heading south for a few minutes (just pretend we're following some Snow Birds):

Here is a three page-article in recent Rolling Stone about how US President Obama really works (or doesn't) to end climate change:
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-and-climate-change-the-real-story-20131217

There is an international organization that you may already know about called Avaaz that brings to light campaigns regarding various issues around the world.  They pay a lot of attention to climate change, and send a lot of petitions around, and get people thinking and talking.

from their website:
Avaaz—meaning "voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.

Anyway, they are thinking about and preparing for the March 2016 climate change conference in Paris.  It could be (needs to be!)  a turning point in actually dealing with it, if organized, which is what they wish to do. (They are asking for small pledges.)  This was originally produced in July of this year. FYI
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/30_months_loc_donate/?fp

And back to local --
and local cranberries:
proceeds go to help the Wheatley River Hall expansion
$3 per pound fresh or $8 per pound dried.
 To order and figure out delivery or pick-up,
contact booksandblooms@bellaliant.com or call (902) 621-0718

December 18, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

If you are having a snow day, and have a bit of time, here are some articles about our forests and our use of them:

From the Chronicle-Herald, the Novascotian section, this article from Nova Scotia biologist Bob Bancroft:
http://thechronicleherald.ca/thenovascotian/1174135-seed-trees-determine-future-of-ns-forests

Seed Trees Determine the Future of NS Forests
published on December 14, 2013

A National Geographic film crew flew to the Halifax airport several years ago, hired a vehicle and drove to my place east of Antigonish. These world travellers came to discuss coyotes, but the cameraman’s first question was: “What’s wrong with your forests? They’re scruffy and scrawny.”

After clearing or clearcutting land, forest regrowth requires seed sources from nearby trees. When I purchased old farmland in 1975, nature had already been busy reclaiming a little over 22 hectares in eastern Nova Scotia. Different from the original forest, the new tree species growing here were mostly poplars, spruces, red maple, fir and wire birch. Able to grow on dry land exposed to sun, they colonize clearcuts, abandoned old fields and pastures, replenishing the soil with fallen leaves and needles.

Many decades earlier a few relics from the original forest had been left to provide summer shade for pastured farm animals. These yellow birch, sugar maple, eastern hemlock, white pine and white ash became vital seed sources. They can germinate and grow in the partial or full shade of a forest.

Over the next four decades I favoured their seedlings wherever they grew under the poplar and old field spruce forests. Many sites had no such trees nearby for seed.  Planting was the only way to re-establish a more diverse forest. More diversity means a more resilient woods and wildlife.

Ninety-nine per cent of the early seedlings or saplings that I first planted were eaten by common woodland animals. Protecting each planted tree with stakes and wire became a necessity for its survival. Those young trees and their cages continue to require regular tending as the trees grow, and openings in the forest have to be enlarged to let more sunlight reach them. The process is time-consuming and expensive, but it works.

Many forests in Nova Scotia have been repeatedly harvested without much concern for the following generations of trees. For some reason, we tolerate the privatizing of profits to the forest industry, while ignoring the ecological costs or leaving the public purse to pay for rehabilitating the degraded forest.

The pulp industry, supported by taxpayer subsidies, has spent decades cutting down complex forest ecosystems, replacing them with even-age, single-species softwoods. Discussions about biodiversity and species richness have become a farce in the face of this thrust to produce one cheap commodity — pulp.

The red spruce is Nova Scotia’s provincial tree, growing in shady sites, and living for 150 to 200 years. How does this square with the 30-year-old sticks on tractor-trailer loads headed for mills? The government’s own harvest guidelines recommend leaving a significant mature forest component.  Old trees have become rare, although they are sought out by many wildlife species that need them for shelter or nesting. Are we caretakers of our forests?

Forests have become targets of large biomass producers. Some forest material was once left to rot and replenish forest soils after a harvest. Now it’s hauled, ground up and burned. This further degrades our forests, soils and wildlife habitats to subsidize industry energy costs.

A recent government-industry agreement for wood on Crown land in western Nova Scotia set the price at $8.20 a tonne. That’s roughly a $16.40-per-cord cost to the industry. A cord of firewood to heat my wood stove costs $120 delivered, with a 60 per cent-plus energy efficiency. The more than 50 tractor-trailer loads of former forest being delivered daily to Nova Scotia Power’s biomass plant in Point Tupper produce electrical energy at a 21.5 per cent rate of efficiency.

Yellow birch stands on Crown land in eastern Nova Scotia have become subject to biomass grinding. Is this wise use? What will the industry justify next?   This industrial-strength forestry is too tough on the land. It’s not green.

The fibre giveaways spell doom for many wildlife species and their habitats. They adversely affect fish in nearby streams, eliminate more valuable, local seed trees and render the sites unsuitable for the new growth of many valuable tree species. The current pace of tree removal severely limits future opportunities to rehabilitate forests cost-effectively.

Restoring healthy forests and their wildlife habitats will be more costly without a source of local seed trees. Rehabilitation is needed, not continued ecological degradation of our forests. Nova Scotia needs to restore many valuable, site-suited native trees.

To truly sustain ourselves as a species, as well as the wildlife with whom we share this place, the tide of abuse and overuse must be turned. It’s time for us to work along with nature.

Bob Bancroft write clearly and knowledgeably; and PEI has very similar issues, but more intensified since our land base is smaller.  We are fortunate to have talented people such as Gary Schneider and Darrell Guignion and others working in the woods, trying methods on their own property, leading workshops, etc.

I meant to highlight these videos (below) earlier this fall, a year after Gary Schneider of the MacPhail Woods Forestry Project came to Plan B a few days after major tree chopping and bulldozing had started (Friday, October 26th, 2012).

This is a beautiful video montage, but heartbreaking, the photos and soft music produced by Island woodsman and photographer Bruno Peripoli.  It's about seven minutes long and records the day Gary led a walk in the Churchill area of Plan B.  "It is sadly ironic that these machines have just cut a stand of 15-year old Acadian forest that I planted," Gary is quoted as saying.  Yes, it was.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNYNakCz-mw

Here are two "live" short videos recording part of the walk and Gary's comments:
Starting out:
http://www.frequency.com/video/ecologist-gary-/64416478

A second part by a mixed pile of trees tossed in a stack.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqZdyAKo33Y
The wood is unfortunately useless, Gary says, unless it was taken and sorted.  Time has passed, and I have lost track -- it is a good question about what happened to those trees.

Too late for the Plan B roadbed, but a fantastic resource for anyone in our area with a bit of woods or just interested in it is Restoring the Acadian Forest, by Jamie Simpson, reviewed here: http://ecopei.ca/Book_review_by_David_Coon.htm  (The link to purchase it appears dead, but you can ask a local bookseller to order it or purchase it on-line.)

Forest cutting for illogical reasons like biomass, roads going through good land, issues like fracking -- comments about land use and protection that the Land Use Policy Task Force would be happy to hear before writing its report to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
landuse@gov.pe.ca

And a note that there will be a Plan B Christmas party, coinciding with the "anniversary" that the thing was announced two years ago, on Friday, December 20th, starting at 7PM, at the Bonshaw Community Centre.  Bring a snack to share and come have a visit! 

December 17, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

There are always great articles out here to read and reread, and 
background to dig up:

*Fracking in New Brunswick:*
Ralph Surrette is a freelance journalist who lives in Yarmouth County, 
NS, and wrote this piece for the Halifax /Chronicle-Herald /(bold is mine):

http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1173949-surette-fracking-is-fool-s-gold

*Fracking is Fool's Gold
*/published on December 13, 2013/*

With anti-fracking protests ongoing in New Brunswick, Premier David 
Alward has been going around with a strangely blissful look on his face, 
proclaiming his determination to forge ahead because of the gusher of 
tax revenues and jobs he claims will surely follow.

New Brunswick, running deficits of over a half billion dollars a year, 
is especially desperate, which is unfortunately what all this is about. 
But the issue reverberates in other provinces, including Nova Scotia.

The protests are over the environment but, alas, there's a deeper source 
of trouble afoot for the fracking industry: it's from the heart of the 
financial world where billions of dollars are being lost and the sense 
of having been suckered by hype is setting in.

Some saw it coming. The conservative business magazine Forbes argued a 
while back that the profitability of fracking was a fantasy and that "we 
can expect some staggering investment errors" because what it's all 
about is "some very stupid money chasing an illusion that will surely 
end in tears."

The tears are now flowing. The head of Shell Oil said recently that 
investing $24 billion in fracking was one of his biggest regrets, as he 
writes down huge losses. Other operators are doing the same --- names 
like H.P. Billiton, Chesapeake, Encana. Some CEOs have lost their jobs 
over it. Apparently the ones who made money are those who sold out to 
"stupid money" before the jig was up.

Hydraulic fracturing, like extracting tar sands oil, is very expensive. 
It is also very short-lived. A fracked well is not like a regular 
natural gas (or oil) deposit. Production declines by as much as 50 per 
cent or more in the first year, as much as 80 per cent by the second, 
after which it's a dribble. To keep gas coming you have to keep 
fracking. And with the gold-rush mentality surrounding it, and cheap 
financing, the industry --- even at a loss --- has flooded North America 
and driven prices below the cost of production.

The next step was supposed to be LNG terminals to ship gas to Asia, 
where gas prices are four or five times higher than here. Alas, again, 
sober voices are saying there may not be enough to export. The gas that 
was supposed to keep the U.S. awash in the stuff for 100 years is now, 
according to some accounts, due to peak within the decade.

The Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania, first hyped as containing 
as much a 500 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, has now been 
reduced by the U.S. Geological Survey to perhaps as little as 80 tcf. 
And the California government, like David Alward's, had itself briefly 
in ecstasy at the prospect, according to early estimates, of $25 billion 
in tax revenue and three million jobs by 2020 from its Monterey 
formation. The geologists took a second look and the story now is: with 
present technology, forget it.

As for the environment, just two points. The effects will only be known 
slowly because most U.S. fracking happens on private lands, where owners 
have to sign confidentiality agreements. In other words, no wimping and 
whining about polluted rivers and dead cattle. And, according to 
reports, lobbying money from the fracking industry is pouring into the 
U.S. Congress in unprecedented amounts to snuff a measure that would 
force frackers to disclose what chemicals they use in their operations.

*But here are two bigger points. Irrational energy illusions are nothing 
new as we seek the magic potion that will relieve us of our dreary duty 
to seriously change our ways --- use less, use it more efficiently, and 
seek the alternatives.*

**

Nuclear was supposed to be, by now, "too cheap to meter," according to 
the head of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in the mid-1950s. Ethanol 
mixed with gasoline, another of many hyped saviours that flashed by, is 
now suspected to be damaging engines, and lawsuits are at the ready in 
the U.S.

Meanwhile, here in Nova Scotia, fracking is one of those notions that 
creeps into the economic development debate. More and more commentators 
raise opposition to fracking --- which is under moratorium here --- as 
more evidence of our entrepreneurial backwardness and our government's 
lack of Alberta (and New Brunswick)-style "political courage."

Further, a U.S. report by a Montana institute called Headwaters 
Economics, which has studied western U.S. counties that had oil and gas 
plays from 1980 to 2011, just fell into my lap.

It found that the effect of this mostly temporary activity left these 
counties with higher crime rates and lower educational achievement than 
their neighbours, and with declining per capita incomes.

As we struggle with our own economic future, here's hoping that the 
Ivany Commission, which is studying the rural economy in Nova Scotia, 
keeps all this in perspective.

And an eye-brow raiser from the CBC archives (thanks to Cathy Grant 
noticing it).  It is two years old -- and I dug what little I could find 
on it below:
http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/canada/new-brunswick/story/1.1007171


  Southwestern Energy faces fracking lawsuit

        Posted: May 24, 2011

A U.S. company that is seeking to drill for natural gas in New Brunswick 
is facing a class-action lawsuit in Arkansas over its use of the 
controversial hydro-fracking procedure.
Southwestern Energy has committed to invest $49 million into the 
province as a part of a three-year licence to search for oil and gas.But 
in the United States it is already facing a claim for damages from about 
a dozen families in Pennsylvania. Now, another law firm has launched a 
class-action suit in Arkansas.Tim Holton, the lead lawyer on the case, 
said hundreds of people could be included in the latest lawsuit. Holton 
said the case started when one family's water well was turned into a gas 
well allegedly because of nearby fracking.

"The water well next door to their house began to spew methane. So much 
so that they ended up putting a flare in the person's backyard," Holton 
said. Holton said other families have started coming forward with 
claims.  The lawyer said other people say their water wells have also 
been contaminated with chemicals, which they blame on the fracking 
procedure.

The debated hydro-fracking --- also known as hydraulic fracturing --- 
has caused many New Brunswick communities to discuss the strength of the 
province's mining rules.  Hydro-fracturing is a process where 
exploration companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into 
the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations. That process 
allows companies to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise 
go untapped.

The New Brunswick government has hosted a public meeting on the mining 
procedure.  As well, Southwestern Energy has hosted a series of open 
sessions to explain its plans.  Holton said the New Brunswick government 
should be careful before allowing Southwestern Energy to use the 
contentious drilling technique in the province.  "There are rules, there 
are regulations. The question is: are they being enforced," Holton 
said.  "And I think to a large extent people wonder exactly how much do 
we know about what is being done to the earth when you hydraulically 
frack rock."

The lawsuit asks for millions of dollars in damages.  It also asks the 
court to order the drilling companies to pay for an independent 
monitoring of the water supply and health of the families.  The lawsuit 
was filed last week. The allegations have not been proven in court. 
Southwestern Energy has not yet filed a statement of defence.

Here is a screen shot of a pdf regarding some cases, interpretation of 
which is probably interesting:
from:

 Hydraulic fracturing case chart - Arnold & Porter LLP <http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDUQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.arnoldporter.com%2Fresources%2Fdocuments%2FHydraulic%2520Fracturing%2520Case%2520Chart.pdf&ei=edOvUra7FujesAT48oKgBg&usg=AFQjCNE-eyLg8vT09FVRAHtJFW83fX9Wgw&sig2=fXk_3DDGNCcIJ7fq40DiOw&bvm=bv.57967247,d.cWc> www.arnoldporter.com/.../Hydraulic%20Fracturing%20Case%20Chart.p...? Jul 11, 2013 - /Southwestern/ Energy Production Co.,. 10-CV-1981 *....* Air Act with respect to the /oil/ and gas industries) *.....* Freedom /of Information Lawsuits/. And, if you have made it this far, here is SWN's (Southwestern Energy)'s website. http://www.swn.com/Pages/default.aspx and if you go to the right hand corner "Quick Links" you have a choice of SWN's animation and explanation: "Video: Learn About Horizontal Drilling". Indeed! It is actually a good, detailed but /chilling/ explanation, about 6 minutes long.

December 16, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Hope you had a good snow day!

Here is a two-minute video, made by the folks at the David Suzuki Foundation, about the concept of Environmental Rights legislation, and the need for it, narrated by environmental lawyer and writer David Boyd:
http://youtu.be/JnOlxeRHigE

The Citizens' Alliance of PEI would also like to see this happen.

and the article it is from (sorry, the links from the article didn't transfer over, but the original article is here):
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2013/12/we-can-make-canadas-reality-match-its-image/?mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRokuajOZKXonjHpfsX56OUoXa6ylMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4DSsJnI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFS7jNMbZkz7gOXRE%3D

We can make Canada's reality match its image


Canada is blessed with some of the last vestiges of pristine nature on Earth - unbroken forests, coastlines and prairies, thousands of rivers, streams and lakes, open skies, abundant fresh air. Many of us live in urban areas, but our spectacular landscapes are embedded in our history and culture. They define and shape us as people.

We are also defined by our Constitution, which is far more than a set of legal prescriptions. It embodies our highest aspirations and values. As our nation's top law, one would expect it to reflect our connection to the land, air, water and wildlife that keep us alive and healthy. Our Constitution's Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives us freedom of expression, equal protection from discrimination and the right to life, liberty and security of the person. But it doesn't mention the environment. How can we fully enjoy our freedoms without the right to live in a healthy environment? 

Some Canadians are further ahead than others. Quebec's Environmental Quality Act and Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms both include environmental rights. Other provinces and territories - including Ontario, the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut - provide limited environmental rights. Worldwide, 110 countries enjoy constitutional rights to a healthy environment, and 181 of 193 UN member countries support recognition of such a right. Canada and the U.S. are among the exceptions. 

The sad truth is that Canada fares poorly among wealthy nations on environmental performance. A recent ranking by the Washington-based Center for Global Development puts Canada last of 27 industrialized nations. The Conference Board of Canada rated our country 15th out of 17 industrialized nations for standards on air pollution, climate change, water and other environmental factors. And the World Health Organization reports that 36,800 premature deaths a year and 13 per cent of illnesses and injuries in Canada are related to exposure to environmental hazards - costing us tens of billions a year in health-care expenses and lost productivity. 

The benefits of constitutional protection of the environment are many and the drawbacks few. In places with such a right, people have legal avenues to protect them from activities that pollute the environment and put human health at risk.

For example, Argentina's constitutional environmental-rights protection was used in a case where industrial pollution was seriously affecting the health of people along the Matanza-Riachuelo River. After residents sued the national, provincial and municipal governments and 44 corporations, Argentina's government established clean-up, restoration and regional environmental health plans. It has increased the number of environmental inspectors in the region from three to 250, and created 139 water, air and soil quality monitoring points. There's still much to be done, but three new water-treatment plants and 11 new sewage-treatment plants mean millions of people now have access to clean water and sanitation. Many garbage dumps and polluting industries were shut down. And the local economy benefited. 

A legal right to a healthy environment is not about hamstringing corporations; it's about ensuring they're run responsibly and that people's health and well-being come first. It's also about ensuring laws are enforced and penalties imposed when they're violated. The total amount of fines imposed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act from 1988 through 2010 (about $2.4 million) amounted to less than what the Toronto Public Library collected in overdue-book fines in one year, 2009 (about $2.7 million)! And it's not a right-versus-left political issue. Jacques Chirac, France's conservative president from 1995 to 2007, made constitutional recognition of the right to a healthy environment one of his priorities. More than 70,000 French citizens attended public hearings on the issue and France's Charter for the Environment was later enacted with broad support from all political parties.

Evidence suggests that stronger environmental regulation spurs innovation and competitiveness, so the right to a healthy environment can benefit the economy. In the aftermath of the Walkerton disaster, Ontario strengthened its drinking-water legislation, which stimulated development and growth of the water-treatment technology sector. Countries with constitutional environmental protection, such as Norway, often enjoy high economic and environmental standards. 

It won't be easy to get the right to a healthy environment enshrined in Canada's Constitution. But with public support and small steps along the way - such as encouraging legal protection from municipal, regional and provincial governments - we can make it happen.

Watch a short video about Right to a Healthy Environment.

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

December 15, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Today it is likely to snow heavily and many of us will stay put, but thanks to our good friends at the Department of Transportation, here is a virtual way to see Plan B:

The Hemlock Grove Cam:
http://www.gov.pe.ca/roadCameras/roadCamera.php?source=BO

The camera is positioned facing west, so when you check it after the sun is up, you can see how they bulldozed that road right through the middle of the Bonshaw Hills, to paraphrase the Opposition Leader; Crawford's Stream and the Grove are in the valley of the view of the road. 

(Of course, the cameras and their weather stations are fine and helpful enough -- I am not mocking that, just other decisions TIR has made.)

Even though the department doesn't note this, the camera isn't in Bonshaw anymore, it's in Churchill --no, wait, that community lost all its members and is apparently not even on official Island maps anymore.  I think that makes it in New Haven, by default, and hope they will change the website accordingly. 

The tower with the new camera and weather station is at the corner of Plan B and the connector (that was once called by us "new South Peter's Road") and the sign reads "ERIC'S CROSS Road", which is likely named after the very knowledgeable local resident Eric MacPhail (though he was not informed of TIR's decision to do this).  Though adamantly against the damage to land and community, the cost and the lack of consultation of Plan B, he had the lovely thought that the connector would be a "crossroads" between the old and new, on many levels.  This whole community is enriched by the presence and caring of such a gentleman as Mr. Eric MacPhail.
---------
According to the thumbnail on this page of all the cameras, it is still on the bucolic road by Strathgartney Homestead in the community of Bonshaw:
http://www.gov.pe.ca/tir/index.php3?number=1016836

Map of Plan B with Road Cameras locations (in yellow):

The camera station in Bonshaw has been removed.

You can also find the road cameras through the 511 road condition pages:
http://511.gov.pe.ca/en/map_report.html
(and you have to play with the settings in the upper right hand corner to "enable"  camera locations and also the outdated construction warnings....)

December 14, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some bits to note:

Regarding the Gulf of St. Lawrence:
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Oil Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), which "manages the petroleum resources in the Newfoundland Offshore area on behalf of the federal and provincial government" says no to off-shore drilling on the west coast area and near Gros Morne park.

From Sylvain Archambault, who came to PEI in October to discuss this issue:
"The CNLOPB has refused to give Shoal Point Energy a one-year extension on their 1097R lease (from Corner Brook to way north of Gros Morne).   Shoal Point tried hard to negociate, but the CNLOPB stuck to its decision."


And in a state that is heavily supportive of oil and gas development:
The city of Dallas, Texas, places enough restrictions on fracking to effectively ban it:
http://rt.com/usa/dallas-passes-fracking-restrictions-178/

This letter in Friday's Guardian was very uplifting but also brought tears to my eyes.
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-13/article-3542423/Better-solution-to-factory-farms/1


Better Solution to Factory Farms
published in The Guardian on Friday, December 13, 2013

Editor: In your "Letter of the Day" Mr. S. John Newman suggests large factory farms are a solution to satisfy the ever-increasing consumer demand for affordable food.

Well, I have found a simpler and better solution. For the past 10 or 15 years we have bought our beef and pork from the small family farm of David and Edith Ling. The Lings have made a good living, for many years, by growing high-quality, organic beef and pork and selling directly to the consumer.

There are many plusses to this simple solution. It is environmentally friendly. It is more humane. We get a better product at a price significantly cheaper than supermarket prices. The farmer gets a fair return for his or her labour, and the money stays in our local economy. What could be better?

This solution suggests that we must find a way to connect more and more consumers directly to those who grow the food for us.

Sadly, David Ling has recently passed away — but his farming legacy lives on and I hope, as time heals, Edith Ling will remain active in our farming community.

Brian Pollard, Charlottetown

December 13, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Another string of interesting letters worth a second look:

Catherine O'Brien got the discussion going about the risks of genetically modified (GM) salmon as the production facility for eggs is here on PEI:

December 2, 2013
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-02/article-3526801/Bureaucrats-continue-to-rubber-stamp-unproven-GMs/1

Bureaucrats Continue to Rubber-Stamp Unproven GMs

Editor: Environment Canada has said it sees no problem with AquaBounty Tech producing its genetically modified salmon eggs at its hatchery in Bay Fortune. Once approval comes from Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration it will be able to start selling these eggs to hatcheries throughout North America.

The USFDA has already ruled the fish/eggs posed no "significant" environmental threat, but public response was so loud it has extended the comments period to allow more debate.

The problem is the very significant chance of these salmon escaping and polluting the wild stock. These are Atlantic salmon we are talking about, a species that has been decimated in the wild, and especially in its former territory in North America (every stream and river in Eastern Canada, all the way up to Southern Ontario, once had wild spawning populations; Atlantic salmon also spawn in Iceland, Scotland, Norway, etc.).

They are so fragile, and shaky standards in the aquaculture industry have introduced more problems to the wild stock. The escape and spawning of one of these GM salmon could mean the permanent introduction of those genetics into the wild stock; there would be no turning back. There is no ocean-based aquaculture farm that has not lost fish at some point. It will eventually happen.

These salmon eggs were developed in Canada, and are produced at the hatchery in Bay Fortune. (Yet the company behind it all is American!).

To be clear, the salmon eggs are already being produced in Bay Fortune, and salmon have already been raised; the waited-for approvals are just to allow them to sell their eggs, to whoever wants them. AquaBounty is sending eggs for testing to Panama.

The Panamanian test site does not have a great record. In 2008, a storm destroyed part of the facility, according to a filing to the FDA. In 2010, an entire batch of fingerlings died in transit, according to Panamanian officials. The National Environmental Authority in Panama conducted an inspection of the AquaBounty operation in 2012 found violations including failures to submit monitoring reports every three months and a failure to obtain permits for wastewater discharge.

Our government is being cavalier about genetic modification.

The ramifications of such genetic manipulation would need to be studied for years, even decades, to truly know what the long-term effects will be, yet bureaucrats continue to rubber-stamp GMs based on little or no science other than that of the companies applying for the approval.

Like so many other environmental crimes, Canada leads the world in GMs, both research and use. This is not an area I feel comfortable being a leader in.

Catherine O'Brien, Pownal

A few days later came this letter with additional concerns about the fish and plans for other genetically modified animals:
December 7, 2013
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-07/article-3533817/Get-informed-about-GM-issues/1

Get Informed About GM Issues

Editor: The letter by Catherine O’Brien on Dec. 2 should set off a siren and a series of flashing red lights. The letter contained a lot of facts that apply to GMO produced salmon such as the absence of studies that are of sufficient length to clearly indicate the absolute safety of these products for consumption.

A GMO mini-summit was held last month in the U.S. which outlined many serious problems with genetically-modified organisms. This letter is a follow up to Ms. O’Brien’s letter of Monday. Jeffrey Smith, who was both an interview and an interviewer at the summit, is a world authority on the dangers of GMOs. Regarding GMO salmon he said, “a genetically engineered fish was tested by the Canadian government and when it was put into tanks with other 'Frankenfish' or natural salmon and there was sufficient food, everything was fine. But as soon as they reduced the amount of available food, these ravenous ‘Frankenfish’ started killing and consuming their competitors.

He adds … “when Aqua Bounty submitted its research, even the pro-GM FDA asked them to redo it. Then they assembled a team that was handpicked to approve it and to recommend the salmon. Even that team couldn’t recommend it based on the shoddy science and they sent it back for more research.

But that hasn’t stopped the FDA from saying, “We have enough research to approve it.” Hopefully they won’t end up approving it. Right now we have more and more supermarkets saying that if it is approved, they will not sell it. Further, in referring to Monsanto and GMOs, Smith says “they have many types of fish in the pipeline waiting to be introduced. They have pigs. They have cows. They want to genetically engineer the mothering instinct out of livestock to put them into factory farms. They basically want to replace nature in its entirety.”

In response to the possibility of some of these GMO fish escaping to the ocean Smith said, “if that happens, you might have roving gangs of very aggressive fish completely changing the ecosystem.” People, get informed about GMO products.

Dave Campbell, Charlottetown

And Mr. Campbell's letter prompted this diatribe, that when the smoke clears, does (perhaps not intended) raise a good point-- namely that the demand for cheap food has propelled both the decline of the family farm *and* the market for GMO-producing corporations to step in with what they claim are solutions:

Published on December 11, 2013
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-11/article-3539237/Genetic-
modification-ensures-future-of-salmon-stocks/1

Genetic Modifications Insure Future of Salmon Stock

Editor: Regarding David Campbell’s letter (Get informed about G.M. on December 7) just makes me shake my head at the lack of knowledge of the uninformed general public, who spout forth the mantra of the anti-genetic modification brigade — against every foodstuff they are able to name.

He speaks irreverently of salmon stocks being farmed. If Mr. Campbell wants to consume salmon, along with millions of other inhabitants of this planet, then in a very short time Mr. Campbell, Greenpeace and every tree hugger in the western world would be demanding the fishing of both commercial and recreational salmon stock be banned and or prohibited by all nations. Through the skills of modern science and genetic modification, man has created the ability to end the danger of fishing salmon stocks to extinction.

Mr. Campbell’s idea and image of farming fish stock for the benefit of mankind, and the well-being of our planet’s aquatic fellow occupants of the world, appear to be very selfish. He seems to hold the position it is totally irrelevant that we continue to take in unlimited quantities of the commodity from the wild that will lead eventually to the point of their extinction, without any regard or thought for reproducing the species. By farming and protecting the salmon, we ensure the future of the species, for our fellow man.

Mr. Campbell then continues to heap scorn on the farmers of livestock. Has Mr. Campbell ever worked 12 or more hours a day, seven days a week, for 40 or 50 years, as most farmers left in the business of agriculture are of that age group? He speaks of factory farming — removing the mothering instinct from pigs and cows. I think Mr. Campbell should first of all understand what he is talking about. All of us in agriculture know he is just spouting male bovine faeces. Just come to our farm or any farm on the Island, the Atlantic provinces, Canada or North America, and see nature’s instincts at work.

Let us look at his concept of factory farming. His concept is: the mass rearing or growing of livestock for huge profits by large, multinational conglomerates. The motor industry consists of a handful of manufactures of automobiles. Small companies could not compete with the cheap price of Henry F. and his cronies’ assembly lines, and they fell by the wayside in the ’50s and ’60s.

Look at our poor Island’s condition of the small family farm. Hundreds and hundreds of destitute and derelict farms scatter the sides of every rural road. Why? Because the consumer (buyer of groceries) wants cheap vegetables, cheap milk and cheap meat. Has Mr. Campbell ever tried to grow for his personal use, a chicken, a cow or pig? No. And he has no intention of ever doing that, because it is too difficult and the cost is more than the animal is worth.

That is why our farms and agricultural way of life is in decline, leading to bigger “factory” farms that are taking over the production of food for the public: small profit per unit, compensated by huge numbers of livestock or acres of production. What option does the small farmer have, other than to cease production before / after bankruptcy?

Mr. Campbell, as do most of the protesters against factory farming, has absolutely no qualms against “factory fast food” farms. The golden arches, red haired burger girl, hundreds of pizza joints and deceased hockey player coffee shops. All these establishments are selling mass produced prepared food and drink.

Where does the meat, vegetables, and doughnut mixture originate? We just know it comes from “somewhere else” — and don’t ask where. Mr. Campbell and all the anti-G.M. followers are nothing else than blind faith hypocrites, wallowing in self-righteousness, regurgitating the words of others who profess to know just what is right for mankind.

S. John Newman, Springfield

A bit more information is found here:
http://www.watchpei.org/links

December 12, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Letters to The Guardian bring viewpoints that the editorials seldom consider, and this past week had several fantastic ones.

The oozingly positive review of Plan B by Cornwall mayor Barney Fullerton in the November 1st Guardian brought two significant responses:


Randy Campbell took exception to the quote from the Cornwall mayor about government "persevering" despite the opposition:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-05/article-3531059/Best-politicians-listen-to-voters/1

Best Politicians Listen to Voters
published on December 12, 2013

Editor: This letter is in response to Mayor Fullerton’s comments on Plan B, and his commendation to Premier Robert Ghiz and his entire cabinet “for sticking to their vision in the face of considerable opposition.”

I’m saddened to see a politician describe ignoring the public as something to be commended. Whether you agree with Plan B or not, I think we can mostly agree that the best politicians are the ones that listen carefully to the electorate. They understand that, though they may  be “experts” in “spending public money,” the citizens experience the brunt and grace of political decisions. We are experts in the consequences of political decisions. You are servants. It takes strength and humility to listen carefully. It takes stubbornness and arrogance to “stick to your vision in the face of considerable opposition.” We have no need for condescending leadership. We have a great need for humble leadership, with genuine consultation, genuine public debate and plebiscites for controversial issues.

Randy Campbell, Charlottetown

Lloyd Pickering also makes the point of what legacy would be much more useful to Islanders:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-11/article-3539205/Plan-B-highway-receives-C-or-D/1

Plan B highway receives C or D
Published on December 11, 2013 Editor: I read Mayor Fullerton of Cornwall, his editorial “Plan B deserves an A” recently in Saturday’s Guardian on November 30.

Well, I for one certainly disagree with his view of this expensive project and I suspect many more will in the days ahead. Instead of an “A”, maybe it should receive a “C” or “D” as people were also put out of their homes for this project.

I think instead of this Plan B Highway by Robert Vessey and the rest of the Liberal Ghiz gang, we now could’ve had a central provincial museum for the province. The province, with its rich history, and especially with the 2014 events coming up, would have been of a “common sense” approach in my opinion. Unfortunately, the foresight didn’t seem to be there for a worthwhile project like this one by this government.

I certainly believe the Plan B Highway was not a step in the right direction. I really think our tax dollars should have been spent more wisely by the provincial government from the offset.

In the end I think we all need to stand up to the dictators wherever they be. As one gentleman said, “Canada, land of the free because of the brave.” Merry Christmas to all of us who fit into this latter description.

Lloyd Pickering, Sea View

Andy Robb also calls for the establishment of a Provincial Museum, something much more substantial that 2014 money could have gone for:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-02/article-3526996/Heritage-blues-back-on-agenda/1
----------

And related to issues of sidestepping democracy and pushing an agenda through:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-09/article-3536255/No-ombudsman-means-no-answers/1

No Ombudsman Means No Answers
published on December 9th, 2013

Editor: I contacted the English school board so I can speak at the public meeting in Summerside on December 17, 2013. I had no response.

Students are allowed to pass Grade 12 without studying. They just have to show up for class. There is no provincial ombudsman to investigate the practice of passing students from one grade to the next.

The Ghiz government won’t hold school board elections until the next provincial election. Now the Ghiz government is delaying the provincial election until 2016.

The Ghiz government changed the Election Act to maintain the two-party system. P.E.I. has no system of recalling politicians. The commission that determines MLAs salaries is fully aware that the Liberals changed the Election Act to require more signatures for a candidate to run in an election yet allowed MLAs a pay raise. Island students score the lowest in Canada.

I can’t speak at a public meeting to question the delay in school board elections or the Ghiz government reneging on its promise for a provincial ombudsman.

John W.A. Curtis, Summerside

Ron Kelly of Charlottetown writes about the pension reform and circumventing legal challenges:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-05/article-3531063/Government-bullies-unions/1

Government Bullies Unions
published on December 5, 2013

Editor: Comments have been made before about the hypocrisy demonstrated by many members of the legislative assembly in their superficial support for anti-bullying measures in our society. After all, we have seen many instances in the provincial legislature where a form of bullying behaviour has been on clear display.

In addition, all current MLAs represent political parties that have benefited from — and continue to employ — a patronage system that is the political equivalent of bullying.

Now we have a government introducing legislation that attempts to protect it from the legal effects of its efforts to unilaterally reduce pension benefits and break contracts. In other words, we have a government that is saying: “We’re going to do whatever we want and there’s nothing you can do to stop us! And we don’t care if we have the moral or legal right to do this; we’re going to use our control of the legislative assembly to protect ourselves from any legal challenges to our actions!”

Is this not the very definition of a bully?

It should be noted, too, that if the Ghiz government really felt that its actions to reduce pension benefits were legal, it would not have to pass legislation protecting itself from legal challenges.

That being the case, shouldn’t all Islanders who support the principles of democracy and the rule of law — including Liberal Party members and supporters — be demanding that the Ghiz government resist the temptation to hide behind its intended legislative strong-arm measure and, instead, let the chips fall where they may? If the government is confident that its actions are legal, why not let the courts decide that?

Ron Kelly,
Charlottetown

And Carl Mathis spins a silly and sticky senate story:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2013-12-09/article-3536264/Invisible-%26lsquo%3Bduck%26rsquo%3B-tape-missing-from-rope/1

Invisible "Duck" Tape Missing From Rope
published on December 9, 2013

Editor: So far, no one has asked why the PMO got involved with leaving Ms. Wallin and Mr. Brazeau to dangle on their own ropes, while trying to make Mr. Duffy’s rope invisible. So:

Why? Did Mr. Wright imagine the wrong solution, all by himself? Did Mr. Duffy go ask for Invisible Duck Tape for his rope, the better to duck his responsibility for what he had done? The result, of course, is that the Invisible Duck Tape was not transparent.

Why not? Ms. Wallin and Mr. Brazeau did not use Invisible Duck Tape and get only an occasional mention in the media. They have made restitution gestures, Ms. Wallin’s’ restitution being larger than Mr. Duffy’s would have been, and have become translucent, if not transparent. If there had been no Invisible Duck Tape, would Mr. Duffy have become transparent? Wrong metaphor?

It is not the size of the offence. Being government, the government wastes more money every second than Mr. Duffy cheated out of us over his years in the Senate. Was it the verb, cheat, or was it the attempt to Invisible Duck Tape it over, that caused the furor?

By the way, if you look for Invisible Duck Tape at Canadian Tire, you won’t see it.

Carl Mathis,
Charlottetown
----------

More on the genetically modified salmon concerns (and corporate interests) expressed in letters tomorrow -- the Guardian needs to get the first one that raised the issue recently on-line.

December 11, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

John Morris is an Island photographer, visual artist, web designer and photojournalist who spent a lot of time at Hemlock Grove last year, camping, hiking and documenting.

He also used a buzzy flying thing with a "GoPro" camera attached to film this 5 minute (unedited) fly-around the Churchill road cut part of Plan B this summer before any gravel was put down -- you can see the seepy spring areas that just didn't go away when the road was placed over them.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuDNbq7d8rQ
John's gallery of Plan B photos can be found here:
http://www.lensmakeapicture.com/gallery/PlanB

This article was passed on to me about the federal government's closure of most of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries (specifically about the one in Manitoba), which were used by researchers and you can guess contained a wealth of information:
http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/12/09/Dismantling-Fishery-Library/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=091213

Tonight:

Cinema Politica Charlottetown and CUPE PEI will host the screening of the film, Capitalism is the Crisis: Radical Politics in the Age of Austerity,
tonight:
Wednesday, December 11 at 7 p.m., at Murphy's Community Centre.

from Facebook:
Capitalism Is The Crisis: Radical Politics in the Age of Austerity examines the ideological roots of the austerity agenda and proposes revolutionary paths out of the current crisis. The film features original interviews with Chris Hedges, Derrick Jensen, Michael Hardt, Peter Gelderloos, Leo Panitch, David McNally, Richard J.F. Day, Imre Szeman, Wayne Price, and many more. The 2008 “financial crisis” in the United States was a systemic fraud in which the wealthy finance capitalists stole trillions of public dollars. No one was jailed for this crime, the largest theft of public money in history. Instead, the rich forced working people across the globe to pay for their “crisis” through punitive “austerity” programs that gutted public services and repealed workers’ rights. Austerity was named “Word of the Year” for 2010.This documentary explains the nature of capitalist crisis, visits the protests against austerity measures, and recommends revolutionary paths for the future. Special attention is devoted to the crisis in Greece, the 2010 G20 Summit protest in Toronto, Canada, and the remarkable surge of solidarity in Madison, Wisconsin.

December 10, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A look back:

They are coming: From late October, 2012, the excavator appears in upper right corner.
Planted Acadian forest in foreground gets first cut.


from December 2012.  "Bulldozing right through the centre of the Bonshaw Hills." (Excavating, but you get the point.)
Looking west from Peter's Road over Crawford's Brook towards Churchill. (CO photo)

And this is worth a re-read:

We can stop Plan B

Published on September 25, 2012, in The Guardian

Editor:

I am not a tree hugger. In fact over the last 25 years, I have clear cut hundreds of acres of woods on this Island. It is general practice not to cut pine, hemlock, and oak. They are left to hopefully seed a new generation.  

I can honestly say I have cut maybe 12 in total of these species over my time. Plan B will destroy more of these ancient trees than I have cut in my whole career. The larch, hemlock and pine in the path of Plan B are rare, born in the 1800s. They may be as old as Canada. I challenge the silent majority to walk this planned highway. Stop and relax under these trees, linger there, think, then walk out and let them be dozed; or speak, say no, and stop this plan.

There are many reasons to stop Plan B. This one is closest to my heart. If I can help save this unique part of this Island, I would be glad to be called a tree-hugger.  

Dana Jeffrey, Long Creek

Dana and his wife Deb are heroes of Plan B, dedicating many, many hours to environmental monitoring and building Camp Vision.

December 9, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

On Friday the 29th of November, after some heady praise of the group that made up the Bonshaw Hills Public Lands Committee, the Premier announced that Cabinet had accepted the recommendations of the Bonshaw Hills Public Lands Committee including the formation of a "wilderness park".  (By the way, the word "wilderness" does not appear in the draft document, found here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/tir/bonshawhills )

Opposition Leader Stephen Myers immediately made the following response (bolding mine):
"I also want Islanders to remember that the only reason that this is happening is because the transportation minister drove a bulldozer through the centre of Prince Edward Island.   His Plan A was to drive a bulldozer through the park. His Plan B was to put a bulldozer through the centre of one of the most scenic drives of Prince Edward Island that his own tourism department used for their pictures for some of their advertisement.  Now the Premier is going to try to save the transportation minister’s reputation here today.  I know he’s doing it because he wants him to be the next leader.  But Islanders will not forget Plan B and they will not forget the bulldozers going through the centre of Prince Edward Island."

Well, hats off to Stephen for that!

He also had an exchange later with the Finance Minister about the costs of upgrading the computers used by Island schoolchildren.  He asked if the free and open source operation system Linux had been considered, which it hadn't.  So he offered some information about it.

Leader of the Opposition: Can I give you a suggestion, in all seriousness, and it’s a place where you could actually save money?
Have some people have a look into Linux because it’s free, it’s fast, it’s built by IT professionals who want to see an operating system that’s flexible and fast. I know my young fellow runs it at home. You wouldn’t know it from any other operating system. It does all the same things and it has –
Mr. Sheridan: Who uses it?  Which companies use Linux now?
Leader of the Opposition: You do, in treasury. 

Three cheers for the interim Leaders, like Stephen Myers, like James Rodd for a while with the NDP, and like Darcie Lanthier, who did a fine job as Leader of the Green Party of PEI last year.  These are the the standard-bearers at a time when their party needs somebody to keep things going.

The caring and funny Darcie Lanthier, October 30, 2013, at a talk about the myths of fracking.  Darcie was reminding the audience that the first R of the "waste hierarchy" stands for reducing what we use, and increased energy efficiency would reduce the amount of fuels we need to heat our homes.

On the display in the lower right of this photo is a map regarding fracking in New Brunswick, which I think is further expanded here:
map of New Brunswick from the "No Shale Gas" folks:
http://noshalegasnb.ca/news/about-fracking/nb-fracking/

For those wishing to donate to the legal costs of those in Elsipogtog fighting fracking:
http://www.gofundme.com/Saving-Mother-Earth

December 8, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some Sunday news bits:

Whew, the company testing for shale gas near Rexton, NB, has packed up and gone away.  I don't think they were totally done, but they said this part is over and they have promised to be back; and they obviously got the message they were not welcome.
Sadly, Premier Alward seems to think that the $40+million investment will get New Brunswick out of deficit and keep jobs there.  One opponent named Ann Pohl clearly explains why that is not so (towards end of this CTV news clip).
http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1055936&binId=1.1145463&playlistPageNum=1

Passive Solar homes explained in a 90 second video (if you weren't able to make it to the workshop):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDOSxPz7228&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DTDOSxPz7228&app=desktop

Somebody unnamed at CBC put together a background story on the public sector pension situation (article):
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/8-steps-to-understanding-the-public-pension-debate-1.2453768

And I have copied the article from yesterday's Herald Magazine on Plan B.  What little background I know: the photographer (a young woman who grew up on PEI but now lives in England does some work for the Chronicle-Herald and pitched the story to them) came over in summer, the paper did some background, and sent the writer in mid-October; there were enough time lapses that I assumed that the idea was shelved.  But here it is, and it is reasonably accurate, though Mr. DeMont did "buy" the safety argument, and we'll have to clear that up with the paper.

(To recap the truth about the "the safety card": the government released several incomplete sets of data which were in no way consistent, refused to release causation until the day the hemlocks were cut, and an engineer with the department admitted to CBC Radio double-counting sections to make the figures higher.  Our government *lied* about safety to sway public opinion and justify Plan B -- utterly reprehensible. This is laid out in this 6 minute documentary from April 2012, even before all the facts were known.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IocwKp_9cyo    )

Anyway, despite the safety bit, the article catches *so much* of the real issues and what we were doing, and looks toward the future with the Citizens' Alliance, which the local media hasn't really picked up on ;-)  , and introduces it to the Maritime audience.  An early Christmas present.

Here is the link and the text of the article.
The Herald Magazine link:
http://thechronicleherald.ca/heraldmagazine/1169902-new-road-alignment-divides-islanders


New Road Alignment Divides Islanders
by John DeMont, publishes in The Herald Magazine, Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Cindy Richards sees the world differently than you and I do. Need proof? On a recent fall day, there she stood, a petite, somewhat forlorn figure next to a chunk of fresh blacktop 20 minutes west of Charlottetown.

Behind her, dump trucks rattled and hummed by on the new highway. If she looked to her right, she could see a big pile of red Island boulders. If she looked down, over the shiny new guardrail, she could see half a football field of man-made ground cover, sloping at a 45-degree angle.

“It’s hard to imagine, I know, but none of this was here before,” she says over the clatter of 18-wheelers. “There’s 100 feet of rock over what used to be just stream and trees.”

Her voice has a wistful tone. To a passing tourist, the geography — stands of beech and hemlock, low rolling hills, the occasional iconic Island farmhouse — is not inspiring, by the province’s elevated standards. Richards’ sense of loss is nevertheless deep.

She doesn’t like that a chunk of natural landscape in a tiny province where land is dear was bisected by a highway extension. But it’s the “how” as much as the “what” that turned the Trans-Canada Highway realignment into one of the most divisive issues on the Island since the creation of the Confederation Bridge.

For folks like Richards and the realignment’s other opponents, the P.E.I. government’s decision to sink $12 million into the project wasn’t just a waste of money.

“It’s plain stupid on a whole bunch of levels,” says Chris Ortenburger, who, along with Richards, was one of the driving forces behind the citizen-based Stop Plan B coalition.

The province says it had no choice. Safety is always at the forefront of any discussion about the Plan B project — as it has been dubbed — with P.E.I. Transportation Minister Robert Vessey.

After all, RCMP statistics show there were 63 crashes from 2001 to 2010 along the highway section being rerouted. That accounts for about 3.5 per cent of the total collisions on P.E.I.’s leg of the Trans-Canada during that period. More worrisome is that the crash rate along the Plan B section was 50 per cent higher than on the rest of the highway on Island soil.

Vessey says the rejigged highway will be safer because 28 accesses have been removed, along with substandard curves and slopes on the road.

“I think when people drive the alignment, they’ll realize and judge the whole process on the finished product,” he said in an interview.

The plan, though, was a hard sell to Islanders. Two years ago, the government asked the public what it thought of three Trans-Canada Highway realignment proposals put forward under the aegis of the federal government’s Atlantic Gateway Project, set up to improve transportation infrastructure throughout the region.

At first, the province opted to spend the Gateway funding from the feds on a new stretch of highway that would have bisected Strathgartney Provincial Park, the island’s oldest, known for lovely stands of beech trees.

The outcry was loud enough to drive the Robert Ghiz government back to the drawing board. Eventually, it returned with what became known as Plan B, going around the park instead of through it.

That sounds simpler than it is. The top-ography in the area, though gentle, is complex. In some places, heavy machinery had to dig into hills in the road’s path to bring the route down to the right grade. In other areas, hundreds of tonnes of rock had to be used to fill in valleys and build the route up.

The upshot: a stretch of highway that sometimes runs between thick walls of rock and at other times features long slopes leading down into deep valleys.

On the busiest days, construction crews moved 1,000 loads of dirt and stone. All in all, it’s estimated that trucks hauled more than 70,000 40-ton loads by the time the new highway opened for traffic this fall.

Projects like this don’t happen every day in Prince Edward Island, a province with a population of about 145,000 but a debt load of nearly $1.4 billion.

The provincial government split the $16-million cost of building the six-kilometre stretch of highway with the feds.

That doesn’t include the estimated $4 million the province spent on buying more than 25 properties that stood in the extension’s way.

“Plan B,” says Ortenburger, a mother of four, “is an expensive overreaction to fix a couple of curves in a small, indebted province.”

It’s not just the suggested lack of fiscal prudence that raised hackles. Plan B’s opponents say the property owners — many of them older matriarchs and patriarchs of the community — felt they had no choice but to sell. Then there was the lack of public consultation throughout the planning process. And last but not least, the environmental fallout: the way the government blasted through some old-growth forest during the construction phase, and the silt run-off that sometimes appeared when it rained.

The opponents haven’t taken it sitting down. Placard-waving protesters picketed the legislature. More than 4,000 citizens signed a petition against the project.

On a rainy afternoon in October 2012, Richards was handcuffed and in tears as the RCMP cleared out protesters from a camp that was in the road’s path. They weren’t done yet. A teepee was erected on land overlooking the highway construction, and from the encampment — dubbed Camp Vision — Richards and a rotating crew of others kept a year-round watch on the work site.

Deep bonds were forged during those long days and nights.

“It seems more real than a lot of friendships,” says Larry Cosgrave, one of the group. “Especially the teepee life. You get right down to the basics of survival, and if you can relate and get along that way, I think it’s pretty solid. It’s morphed into ‘Plan Beyond.’”

In October, with the entire stretch of new highway open, the teepee came down. The issue, though, lives on. A small group of environmental monitors shows up when it rains to check for sediment running from the construction site into rivers and streams.

Equally important, in the view of some of the project’s opponents, is that Plan B has spawned a new enough-is-enough attitude on the Island. As proof, they point to the way that Stop Plan B’s successor, the Citizens Alliance of P.E.I. — described by its organizers as “advocating and organizing for environmental rights and improved democratic process” — seems to be gathering steam on the island.

“First, it was Stop Plan B,” says Island environmentalist Daphne Davey. “Now it is Watch Plan B. Then it will be Remember Plan B.”

With files by freelance writer Ryan Ross.

(jdemont@herald.ca)

John DeMont is senior writer and columnist for The Chronicle Herald.

Have a great Sunday, and don't forget the Plan B Christmas Party is Friday, December 20, in Bonshaw (details to follow):

December 7, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Yesterday, Cindy Richards posted a mini-documentary video summarizing what the public heard from government and the actual efficacy of mitigations resulting from the rain December 3rd and 4th (3 minutes):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOBoXjpUjys&feature=youtube_gdata

A Little Legislature Math:

The 4th session of the 64th General Assembly ended yesterday, a bit after 11AM. You could tell Thursday that these people were getting ready to head home for the holidays in that things went into what could be described in football as the three-minute warning -- everybody starts playing very focused and fast. Friday morning when some MLAs started thanking their staff, the real work was done.

The Legislature sat from November 12th until December 6th -- that was 16 days (four days a week) and about 63 hours total (five hours Tuesdays and Thursdays, three hours Wednesdays and Fridays)

Question Period (QP) is the one major time each day the Opposition (and Independents and Government members) can challenge the Government with inquiries.

Question Period lasts about 45 minutes, but a few of those minutes are devoted to questions from Government members that tend to be "kissy questions" -- a thinly disguised question to a Minister which elicits an announcement which is greeted with great thumping and cheering.

So that leaves about 40 minutes times 16 days, or about 15 hours, for serious one-on-one questioning, No, we didn't factor the ratio of specific questions to rhetorical questions, as that resulting number would be *really* low ;-)

But that's it -- no more direct, accountable questioning by Opposition members to the Government in a public setting. Answers to questions which couldn't be answered in previous QPs were just handed in yesterday like late homework, with the citizen having no idea what the answers were.

After the theatrics of losing two members of the Opposition, the remaining three worked very hard. Steven Myers enjoys the sparring but still gets to the point and listens and responds to the answer he is given -- kudos to him for his work as Interim Leader. Olive Crane continues to ask very pointed questions nobody else will. Hal Perry of the Liberals was cosseted like a wobbly new puppy.

When the house was winding down today, Steven Myers was doggedly following a trail asking about the Transportation Department's acquisition of an 88-acre farm in Brackley (for half a million dollars over the assessed value). He obviously knew where and exactly how much it was bought for, but he wanted Minister Vessey to explain. Perhaps this is the site where Transportation will move "the Government Garage" that is currently by the Hillsborough Bridge? (This new location is not that centrally located, but it is in Mr. Vessey's district). Well, this kind of illumination with government members being put on the spot by Opposition and media right there won't continue until April when the Legislature resumes sitting.

It is worth considering how some kind of representation by proportion could improve discussion and accountability when our current system often results in lopsided majorities that do not accurately reflect the voters' concerns.

Last year Santa greeted the MLAs on the last day of the Legislature and gave the Premier a photo of the beautiful woodcut (below) , but this year, especially after the announcement that the Liberals are pushing the provincial election back six months until Spring 2016, perhaps a visit by Krampus would have been more appropriate (Sinterklaas's elf-like helper who catches the children who misbehaved).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus


Island craftsman Gary Loo's woodcut, depicting the Fractured Flag after Plan B.

December 6, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A year ago today CBC got the results of survey they commissioned that showed over half of Islanders were against Plan B.  It was a bit
tardy that they commissioned a poll a couple of months after construction started, but they wanted their own proof of the numbers, which of course echoed those from the citizen-initiated plebiscite and other measures; all of which government chose to ignore.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/45-opposed-to-trans-canada-re-route-poll-1.1129650

Continuing to highlight poor decision-making skills of elected representatives in the PEI government, we have a Transportation Minister who likes the wardrobe, the smart buddies, and the office...

Screenshots taken this week of Minister Vessey at Plan B from the TIR website, with Chief Engineer/pitchman for Plan B Stephen Yeo (above) and a clip from a recent Compass TV interview about the Cornwall Bypass plans (below).  I don't think the charming photos of slashed land behind Mr. Vessey are from Plan B.

....
but who spent a packet of money we don't have and justifying it by safety claims (when cheaper options were offered).

Minister Vessey stood in the Legislature a week ago and read out the numbers:


Mr. Vessey: Thank you, Madam Speaker. The summer and fall –
Some Hon. Members: (Indistinct).
Speaker: The hon. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has the floor.
Mr. Vessey: The summer and fall are busy times for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal as it is the height of our highway construction season.
As minister responsible for building and maintaining Island highways and bridges, I would like to provide the House with a brief update on the work we accomplished during the 2013 construction season.
Government has paved a total of 92 kilometres of roadway throughout the province, including the 6.3 kilometre Trans- Canada Highway realignment between New Haven and Bonshaw. Approximately $12 million in highway projects was tendered, which, combined with $5 million in matching funds from the federal government, amounted to a total of $17 million in contracts that were awarded.
Some of these projects were completed this season and others will be finished next year. We also completed other critical jobs during the season that are important to maintain and improving our road infrastructure, such as installing culvert liners and storm sewers.
We replaced or repaired nine different bridges in our province including the Canoe Cove, Crapaud, Emerald, Kentyre Road and Marie bridges.
Six more contracts were issued for bridge maintenance, or a total of $5.2 million that was tendered during this past season.
As some of you may know, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is responsible for maintaining
5,338 kilometres of roadways on Prince Edward Island. We also look after 1,389 bridges and highway structures throughout our province.
It is important for the safety of every motorist that travels our Island’s roadways that our highways are in the best possible condition.
To report a problem on one of our roadways, such as a knocked-down road sign or traffic light, a pothole, or a shoulder or bridge wash-out, visit our website at government.pe.ca/tir. You can also visit 511.gov.pe.ca or call 511 on a touch-tone phone to check on current roadway conditions.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Some Hon. Members: Hear, hear!
Speaker: Responding to the ministerial statement, the hon. Leader of the Opposition.
Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Madam Speaker.
I did honestly believe that the minister was going to get up and announce (Indistinct) there but it didn’t happen.
Anyway, I know that there’s a heavy capital burden on the transportation department, and I know when the capital budget comes down we’re going to be looking for a lot of different projects to see if they’re in the capital budget or not. <snip>

Minister Vessey got in another CBC article yesterday, explaining "recycling":
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/rocks-from-plan-b-highway-to-protect-shoreline-1.2452580
It's meant to be a feel-good story -- some "good" coming out of project, and even Minister Vessey admitting the rocks are surprising unyielding. 
“The sandstone out there is very hard, probably the hardest sandstone I think the contractor has ever run up against." 
(Yes, I think the excavator operators who replaced the worn teeth -- estimated at costing $10,000 per week --  would confirm this.  This hardness could have been tested beforehand and factored into rejecting Plan B.)

"The coastline of Prince Edward Island is characterized by easily erodible sedimentary rock, composed mostly of sandstones and claystones.  Erosion is the natural wearing away of soil by the action of water, wind, and ice."
from The Department of Environment's website on Shoreline Erosion
Hard to break or not, neighbours have heard that already Plan B rock sent to shore up around a lighthouse location isn't rising to the challenge.

Tomorrow at the Confederation Centre Public Library from 2-4PM is a "Seedy Saturday":
https://www.facebook.com/events/420471678079263/
"A public seed swap will take place on December 7th at the Confederation Centre Public library from 2-4pm. Come along and learn about seed saving and sharing initiatives in PEI and around the world. Bring in seeds that you have saved from your own garden, or extra seeds you have left over from this year's planting season. Please make sure that your seeds are labeled with the variety and the year they were harvested and/or purchased."

December 5, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The Legislature met yesterday afternoon, even though government offices were closed.  While several MLAs who are ministers drive taxpayer-funded SUVs and pickup trucks, and some may have stayed in town, it was still surprising they didn't close for the day with the state of the roads.  It's likely government has a plan for closing the Legislature this week (someone suggested that "important people" must have holiday travel tickets bought).  Today and tomorrow the Legislature sits, starting at 2PM today and 10AM Friday morning, if you would like to attend.

Sometimes the Premier says things that could make anyone question his decision-making:
from Hansard's debate in the Legislature (the discussion was about insulin pumps), Thursday, November 21st, 2013
"A couple of things that I just wanted to talk about, and I don’t want to question anybody here, and I probably said it before when I’ve sat down and we’ve been at the meetings in the past, because I go to so many meetings any everybody says: Fund this and we’ll save you money. Every meeting I go to I hear that exact same line. I say: If I funded everything that everybody told me we were going to save money on, we wouldn’t need a budget in the Province of Prince Edward Island because everything would be free, whether or not it’s tourism says spend more money here, agriculture and health care I hear."

OK, so our Premier has just admitted he pretty much turns a deaf ear to people who attempt to justify a particular idea with the rational argument of prevention.   He admitted this same disregard a while back in relation to criticism of "50cent dollars" of federal money for Plan B -- anyone who said they were a bad idea was tuned-out.

From yesterday's "pan-Plan B" mitigation failures:

Some mitigation failure locations that were documented yesterday.

Striking failures allowing sediment from Plan B to flow into the watercourses, morning of December 4, 2013; all photos and video from Cindy Richards and Dana Jeffery:

Crawford's Stream both upstream and downstream:

Hemlock Grove (Crawford's Stream) up and downstream of arch culvert

Crawford's Brook is especially troubling as the water cascaded into the concrete boxes, dissipates, and resurfaces mid-box:
Top of Crawford's Brook going into box culvert, yesterday morning.

(looking towards entrance) The water and sediment going into the boxes from above picture and dissipating

(looking towards the exit downstream) The water and sediment reappear and continue out the box (right picture)

Across from Crosby's ravine, the fill-storage area released sediment into the West River alongside Green Road by the little footbridge:

"Crosby ravine" sediment from flowing in near little footbridge, Bonshaw, clearly contributing to the sediment load in the river.

Sediment-rich water was flowing into the (Bonshaw) West River at the Bonshaw TCH bridge and into the Church.
video here:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10153559905565557&set=o.220834614673617&type=2&theater
(I"ll try to get a non-facebook version if you can't access it)

December 4, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

My power was out this morning for a bit, so everything is a bit delayed.

Cindy and Dana have been out checking Plan B, and sadly but as expected, *every mitigation* has failed.

Sediment is running in under the little footbridge in Bonshaw (from the "waste" fill area), at the Bonshaw West River Bridge at Plan B (apparently the little church is pretty much surrounded by run-off coming from up the hill by the equestrian park), the upstream end of Crawford's Brook at the box culvert is swamped and undermining the boxes, sediment from where the old highway was cut is making its way to Crawford's Stream.....it's nauseating and infuriating.
Minister Vessey asserted Plan B was on time, but perhaps he was referring to the asphalt; certainly not the stabilization of the exposed hillside where a handful of old hay isn't going to cut it.  This falls back in the Environment Minister's hands.

More on fracking, since folks in New Brunswick are still protesting the "thumper" trucks using seismic testing to scope out sites for the potential for drilling.

This is from Aljazeera America new service, and it's as complete as anything I have read on what's going on in Elpisogtog:
http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/2/canada-anti-frackingprotestersanswerinjunctionextensionwithblock.html

Some (eye-opening) observations about the potential of fracking in Newfoundland from a oil company executive who would like to retire back there.
http://www.thetelegram.com/Opinion/Letter-to-the-editor/2013-12-03/article-3527362/Some-truth-about-fracking-wouldn%26rsquo%3Bt-hurt/1


Some truth about fracking wouldn't hurt
by Syd Peters, Calgary resident
published in the St. John's Telegram, December 3, 2013

As a former oil and gas engineer and one who has managed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in Western Canada and the U.S. for 28 years, I am following the situation in your province with keen interest, having a family connection in Newfoundland. I feel an obligation to bring to your attention some facts from the industry.

I support the government with its recent decision for a moratorium on fracking.

Contrary to Natural Resources Minister Derek Dalley’s belief, the people are not emotional, but rather motivated to do the right thing for their communities.

Actually, obtaining a permanent ban on fracking would be advisable.

Although the intent of an internal government review is to gather information, it would be good practice, even best practice, to have it independent, open and based on peer-review science.

The claim by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Black Spruce Energy that 175,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured without water contamination is totally false.

From experience, companies deal with such situations by coercing landowners to sign confidentiality agreements or by promising towns and local organizations money for projects, therefore silencing them and avoiding costly litigation and protecting their public image.

Everywhere I worked in the U.S. or in Western Canada, those techniques were and are still used today to silence farmers, landowners and municipalities.

This is what is coming to Newfoundland if fracking is allowed.

Wells by fracking do leak, either during the operation or shortly after, into the aquifer, and all wells will leak over time, again, into your source of drinking water.

By the time the people are sick from the contamination and the chemicals, governments and local politicians have changed, companies gone, money is longer available, jobs are gone.

The reality of jobs related to fracking, in terms of numbers, is very different than offshore (platform) drilling exploration.

Fracking involves a lot fewer jobs at exploration and production stage.

We usually sub-contract the work to bring qualified, experienced crews for a short period of time and hire a few locals to perform low-paying jobs such as maintenance, snowclearing and security. Hardly worth the talk about an economic boom if you compare it to what the west coast of Newfoundland will be losing in tourism and fisheries revenues.

People working in the industry are people who have mortgages, kids at school and responsibilities, and often turn the other direction when they leave the problems behind. After all, it is not their town.

That is why the residents in a posh suburb north of Calgary, where a lot of oil executives live, do not want fracking next to their homes.

This has been an issue at home for me as it proves that it is acceptable and safe for others to live with flares, truck traffic, 24-hour noise, the smell of methane — but not for their families.

There is something to learn from this.

People like me want to retire to Newfoundland and not find that fracking has destroyed the communities and families we left behind.

The province is not Alberta and has more to lose than to win with fracking.

A permanent ban on fracking looks good from where I stand.

And Monday was a hastily called Day of Action to support the folks in Elsipogtog, near Rexton, NB, and a group of dedicated Islanders handed out leaflets and took a photo later:
oh, power's out again.  Take care,
Chris

PEI supporters against fracking, December 2nd, 2013, UPEI campus

December 3, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few interesting things today:

The Cornwall Bypass resurfaces:  Apparently, there has been talk by government, and $45 million needed.  Not sure which "plan" is being talked about, but the mayor has certainly been talking (Guardian letter Saturday saying "Plan B gets an 'A" " and quoted in article yesterday saying public transportation in Cornwall should be scrapped).

The same issues are here:  the real cost with "fifty-cent" dollars, no specific map shown, farmland and woodlands permanently converted to pavement, what are the real safety issues involved, etc.  So it bears watching.

But sometimes our elected officials look at the whole picture:
Standing Committee recommends a moratorium on fracking and on off-shore drilling:
Last Tuesday, MLA Paula Biggar, who is Chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry, tabled a report for this sitting of the Legislature based on what they have been doing in the past few months.

Committee Members:
Paula Biggar, Chair (District 23, Tyne Valley‐Linkletter)
James Aylward (District 6, Stratford‐Kinlock) (Opposition)
Kathleen Casey (District 14, Charlottetown‐Lewis Point)
Bush Dumville (District 15, West Royalty‐Springvale)
Pat Murphy (District 26, Alberton‐Roseville)
Hon. Steven Myers (District 2, Georgetown‐St. Peters) (Opposition)
Hal Perry (District 27, Tignish‐Palmer Road)
Buck Watts (District 8, Tracadie‐Hillsborough Park)
Sonny Gallant (District 24, Evangeline‐Miscouche) also served as a substitute member.

They have been meeting, and *listening*.  They have had presentations by Don't Frack PEI and by Save Our Seas and Shores about the concerns regarding fracking and off-shore drilling in the Gulf, pluis ones on what to do for energy when you reduce fossil fuels, and a special presentation by Sylvain Archambault of the St. Lawrence Coalition.

(I was at one of the earlier meeting this summer and one of the members asked a really un-bright question saying something like fracking could be done safely, right?  That's what the corporations said, after all.)

But since then they have heard more and sat around and discussed things; and tabled their report, here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/committees/getCommittees.php?cnumber=11
(under Committee Reports)


Here are the recommendations from the November 26 report (bolding mine):

1. Your committee recommends that Government declare a moratorium on high volume hydraulic fracturing on Prince Edward Island.
Your committee is very concerned that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for shale gas extraction has not been shown to be safe and is in fact a significant threat to health and the environment. Information provided to your committee indicated that the fluid pumped into the ground in the fracturing process contains numerous different combinations of chemicals, some of which may be toxic and/or carcinogenic. The likelihood of leaks from extraction wells and the permeability of PEI’s sandstone mean that these fluids can spread easily, including into the aquifers Islanders rely on for drinking water. Interaction of contaminated groundwater with surface water would threaten aquatic habitats and fisheries. Hydraulic fracturing also uses volumes of fresh water on par with the weekly usage of a city like Charlottetown just to pump one well. Heavy truck traffic is required to bring water to a well site and to remove the chemical
water waste mixture after the well is pumped, which raises the potential for spills, not to mention the question of waste disposal. It has been reported to your committee that discussions on fracking in Island communities have revealed a great deal of fear and concern over this method of resource extraction. Indeed, frackingrelated leaks, spills and accidents would be catastrophic for our province, and your committee believes it would be best to prohibit this form of underground gas extraction. Your committee also notes that Newfoundland and Labrador recently declared such a moratorium.

2.    A) Your committee recommends that Government declare a moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in Prince Edward Island’s territorial waters.
B) Your committee recommends that Government collaborate with the governments of Canada, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec to establish a comprehensive management plan for the Gulf of St. Lawrence that puts a priority on protection of the marine ecosystem.
An oil spill or blowout in the Gulf of St. Lawrence would be devastating for the Gulf’s 6,000 marine species, fisheries, coastal communities, and the tourism and seafood industries. Despite advanced technology and learning, there is still no way to guarantee that such a catastrophcan be prevented; the recent blowout in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrates that even an experienced global petroleum concern such as BP cannot negate the possibility of disaster.
At present your committee is not aware of any proposals to explore for oil in PEI’s immediate offshore area, though exploration did take place off East Point in the 1970s. A moratorium would demonstrate commitment to protect our part of the Gulf, and your committee notes that Quebec already has a moratorium in place in part of its Gulf waters. However, true protection from the effects of oil spills in the Gulf can only be gained through a joint effort of the five provinces who share it and the federal government. An environmental assessment is currently underway at the Old Harry prospect off the west coast of Newfoundland, and exploration and drilling may occur in the next few years. Old Harry is in the Laurentian trench, a deepwater area where migratory fish and whales come in out of the Gulf; a spill or blowout there would affect many species. The Gulf current patterns carry water (and any contaminants it may hold) from that area southward around the Magdalene Islands and PEI. Spills would not dissipate quickly as it takes roughly eleven months for water to flush out of the Gulf and into the Atlantic.
The environmental assessment of the Old Harry prospect is being carried out by the Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which has been criticized for its conflicting mandate of promoting oil exploration while also ensuring environmental protection. Even if it had a more straightforward mandate, the board is a oneprovince entity and should not be tasked with making decisions for a body of water shared by five provinces. For this reason your committee encourages Government to work with the governments of Canada, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec to establish a plan for the entire Gulf that minimizes threats to its sustainability and the people, animals and industries that currently depend on it.

3. Your committee recommends that the Energy Strategy and 10 Point Plan for Wind Energy documents be updated to guide action over the next five years and beyond.
These strategy documents were released in 2008 and several of the actions they called for included a 2013 deadline. The worldwide economic downturn certainly affected the capacity to follow through on plans in energy and other sectors, and it would be worthwhile to examine which actions have been completed, which need further work, and which new directions are worth pursuing.

4. Your committee recommends that updated energy policies place an even greater emphasis on promotion of alternative, renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.
It is well known that fossil fuels are major factors in air pollution and climate change. A significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels would benefit our air, water, soil and human health by removing a source of pollution. The burden on our economy would diminish as air pollution takes less of a toll on human health and we become less reliant on imported fuel. In place of fossil fuels, a commitment to renewable energy could position the Island as an energy leader among North American jurisdictions. That commitment must include all aspects of energy management, from generation to distribution to storage. But in doing so the Island
would create new economic and employment opportunity, retain our young people, strengthen our communities, attract more visitors and newcomers, and boost our image around the world.

5. Your committee recommends that energy policies put a high priority on conservation and efficiency.
Eliminating wasted energy is just as important as generating it in a renewable manner. Public education efforts to promote energy efficient choices at home and at work must continue. Your committee suggests that an expansion of the programs offered by the Office of Energy Efficiency should be considered.

6. Your committee recommends that Government assist however it can in the development of storage technology for wind
generated energy, and in the promotion of that technology’s usage.
PEI is now taking advantage of its capacity to generate energy by harnessing the wind. But the wind does not always blow, and sometimes it blows more than our energy needs require. Methods for storing excess energy for later use as electricity or heat are emerging. Your committee encourages Government to support municipal programs that promote the use of ceramic and hot water heaters for this purpose and to investigate the feasibility of a provincial program. Other means of energy storage, such as in large cement slabs beneath public buildings or refurbished electric vehicle batteries, have been suggested to your committee and are worth investigating for their efficacy and possible use on Prince Edward Island.

7. Your committee recommends that standards of energy efficiency for new construction be established and implemented under the Provincial Building Code Act.
Until we are able to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, we can expect the cost of heating and electrifying public and private structures to continue to rise. Establishing a minimum level of efficiency that is in line with current knowledge and technology will allow the buildings we construct today to better retain the energy put into them in the future.

8. Your committee recommends that Government assist in the development of Island
owned businesses which find innovative uses for naturally occurring resources.
Your committee thoroughly enjoyed hearing of the success that North Atlantic Organics Ltd. has achieved in developing a multi
purpose agricultural supplement out of the mixed seaweed that is commonly found on Island beaches. Island business people will provide the drive and innovation to bring creative natural products to market. Your committee encourages Government representatives to stay in close contact with these businesses so that timely assistance is available when needed, whether it is in applying for program funding, eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic delays, or providing relevant expertise and advice.

Conclusion
Your committee extends its thanks to the various individuals and organizations that shared their views in the past several months. It is reassuring to see Islanders putting so much time and energy into issues of environmental protection, renewable resources and conservation. We all have the responsibility of stewardship on behalf of our children and grandchildren.

In that last paragraph, she means dedicated, smart Islanders including Ellie Reddin, Irene Novaczek, Andrew Lush, Tony Reddin, Matt McCarville, and others. 

Ellie Reddin, from October 2013,, spending countless hours organizing getting government and the public up-to-speed about the real costs of fossil fuel exploration in our area, thinking about her children and grandchildren.

The whole report is worth looking at because it also copies the correspondence, including letters sent to PetroWorth and Corridor Resources, trying to figure out who holds what leases (to which it does not appear they have gotten any responses).

BUT, government has ignored Committee recommendations before, so people will need to keep this in mind and contact their MLAs with their opinions to see this recommendation is acted on (presumably in the next year).

And a great thing about PEI is when the happy ending of a lost dog story.  This dog happens to be owned by Maureen Kerr, who has been working like crazy to get discussions going about the risks of constant exposure to cosmetic lawns pesticides, and trying to tease out whether or not a jurisdiction has the authority to pass a ban.  Relief and happiness at your news, Maureen.
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2013-12-02/article-3527343/Doggone-good-tale/1

December 2, 2013

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It's good to be back, and apparently a lot happened last week in the Legislature which can be looked at again this week.

First, a few things seen this weekend:

Saturday, November 30th, 2013, late afternoon.  The Air Canada plane's approach from the south side of PEI welcomed me back with a view of Plan B, of all things. The two light-coloured spots in the red circle are the exposed (but hay-mulched) sides of Plan B in Bonshaw.  (The left bit is the steep cliff facing Green Road, and the right or eastern side is that wide area now used to hold unwanted "waste" fill and rock; the dark vertical Plan B line bisects the mulched part.) (photo by CO)

Yesterday we had an inch or so of snow, and much salt was spread, and the plows were out.

Unfortunately, the little island at the corner of Green Road and the TCH didn't fair so well:

Concrete island with now-bent sign separating right-hand turn lane from TCH onto Green Road, Bonshaw Hall in background, late afternoon, Bonshaw, Sunday, December 1, 2013. (The right-hand turn lane is useful and likely better than their original plans for an extra lane in the opposite direction.)

And a closeup of the island after one little snow:


Cracked concrete curb, Sunday, December 1, 2013, corner of Green Road and TCH, Bonshaw.
A bit of damage after an inch of snow.  I am sure the Transportation Association of Canada guidelines** recommend this kind of island for this kind of intersection, but this kind of island on this kind of (snowy) Island is going to be pretty beat-up by plows by spring.  Broken chunks will undoubtedly end up on some of the roads...hey, that's not safe.

But it was nice to be home.

** The TAC Guidelines were apparently referenced for Plan B, due to the federal money component.  We never saw the Guidelines, as we and the Opposition members were told at the beginning of all this by a member of the Department of
Transportation that it would cost us over a thousand dollars to get a copy of if we wanted to see it for ourselves.
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