March 2014


  1. 1 March 31, 2014
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  2. 2 March 30, 2014
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 2.2 Bubbling springs weak to zero - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  3. 3 March 29, 2014
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  4. 4 March 28, 2014
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  5. 5 March 27, 2014
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 5.2 High capacity wells issue goes much deeper - The Guardian Commentary by Peter Bevan-Baker
  6. 6 March 26, 2014
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  7. 7 March 25, 2014
    1. 7.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 7.2 More remediation needed on streams - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  8. 8 March 24, 2014
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 8.2 Crews Try to Contain Oil Spill in Galveston Bay - Associated Press article by Christopher Sherman
  9. 9 March 23, 2014
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 9.2 Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts - The Star Guest Opinion by Thomas Duck
    3. 9.3 Small Island canʼt risk wells- The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 9.4 A longer fry really the key - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  10. 10 March 22, 2014
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 10.2 P.E.I. Potato Board heralds environmental record -The Guardian article
    3. 10.3 True impact of wells remains to be done - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 10.4 Protection from pesticides? Afraid not - The Guardian Commentary by Joan Diamond
  11. 11 Farmers' Markets are open today.
  12. 12 March 21, 2014
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 12.2 Causeways back then, deep-water wells now - The Guardian A Reader's View by Bob Crockett
  13. 13 March 20, 2014
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 13.2 Watershed groups call for extension - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 13.3 Irony abounds in toilet flow - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 13.4 Chicago confronts dirty bonanza of Canadian tar sand boom - Financial Times article by Neil Munshi
  14. 14 March 19, 2014
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 14.2 Province needs water management plan - The Guardian A Reader's View by Fiep de Bie
    3. 14.3 Testing Energy institute to spend $500,000 over two years to develop water quality baselines in four areas in southern New Brunswick that are earmarked for possible shale gas development -  Telegraph-Journal article by John Chilibeck
  15. 15 March 18, 2014
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  16. 16 March 17, 2014
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 16.2 Mother Earth in danger from deep-water wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 16.3 Potato danger all-consuming - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 16.4 Potato processors bargain through blackmail - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    5. 16.5 Three things spark our pride - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    6. 16.6 LAND GRABBING - The Carver Commission report (pages 30-32)
  17. 17 March 16, 2014
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  18. 18 March 15, 2014
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  19. 19 March 14, 2014
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 19.2 CETA: Yet another threat to democracy - The Guardian Commentary by Marie Burge
    3. 19.3 New coalition in Prince Edward Island concerned over Canada- Europe trade deal - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  20. 20 March 13, 2014
    1. 20.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 20.2 Potato processors enter water debate as stakes increase - The Guardian Lead Editorial
  21. 21 March 12, 2014
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  22. 22 March 11, 2014
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 22.2 Province commits up to $212,000 to bring company to Prince Edward Island - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  23. 23 March 10, 2014
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 23.2 Will common sense trump misleading scientific claims on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Kevin J. Arsenault
  24. 24 March 9, 2014
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 24.2 Deep-water wells will spray radon into air - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  25. 25 March 7, 2014
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  26. 26 March 6, 2014
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  27. 27 March 5, 2014
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 27.2 Unique approach to selling wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  28. 28 March 4, 2014
    1. 28.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 28.2 Get this right the first time - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  29. 29 March 3, 2014
    1. 29.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  30. 30 March 2, 2014
    1. 30.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 30.2 Listen to people, not big business - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 30.3 West Prince facing danger - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  31. 31 March 1, 2014
    1. 31.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 31.2 Government must build trust on deep-water well issue - The Guardian Letter to the Day

March 31, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A reminder that  there is a Rally today on Monday at 12:10PM, at Room 207, Murphy Community Centre, Charlottetown to protest the end of the Health Accord and call for a New Health Accord.  Speakers, open mike, tea and coffee.  The Rally is sponsored by the PEI Health Coalition.

I have mentioned before what a gem the monthly magazine Rural Delivery is (it's found at feed stores and stores with a good selection of good magazines) published by DvL Publishing in Liverpool, NS. (It published Jack MacAndrew's article on fracking recently.)  It's about "Farm, Country and Community....Since 1976."

The letters often bring up and start conversations.  One realizes we are facing a lot of the same issues in the Maritimes. 

Here is an excerpt from a letter by Brianne Whiteside of Canning, Nova Scotia:

"Firstly, thank you for such a great magazine. The articles are great, always engaging. I also very much appreciate how you take a political stance on some very serious environmental issues (fracking and fish farming).  It astounds me how the government is allowing and funding such unethical practices.  It's got to stop.

"Secondly, with regards to your question Jan.-Feb. reader survey, if you live in in the country, a rural area, what do you see as the greatest need?  It's about being part of the solution, not continuing to be part of the problem.  I am just an organic gardener. I'm not attempting to feed myself full-time, let alone others as farmers do.  Yet, I know there are alternatives -- many excellent, environmental, and profitable alternatives -- to the spray-ridden monocultures here in he Annapolis Valley. 

"I'm not interested in shaming anyone.  What I'm trying to say is farmers need to get together and figure out new ways, better and hearlthier ways, of bringing food to our tables.  The old ways have got to change.  This planet, the earth, the soil, can no longer sustain such permaculture..."

We'll be checking things at some spots along Plan B with all the rain.

March 30, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here is a look at a recent letter to the editor.  There is a lot of information in it, and I took the liberty of adding a few definitions, some bold and italic, and spacing, to make it easier (I hope) to read.  The headline from the paper is rather silly.

Bubbling springs weak to zero - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 25, 2014

The confined aquifer (CA) of P.E.I. is a self-regulating system. To make this explanation simpler, go back in time before wells were drilled and assume that the CA is primed and flowing. In terms of groundwater, the CA is a volume whose boundary is a closed surface but for our purpose the only active hydrologic surface is the upper surface, the aquitard.  (note: the US Geological Service calls an aquitard "a leaky confining bed")

There are three water fluxes (or discharges) which cross the aquitard.
(1) Infiltration, a negative flux driven by gravity downward into the CA at higher elevations. (so negative adds to the aquifer, I guess)
(2) Exfiltration, a positive flux upwards out of the CA at lower elevations. Exfiltration is driven by pressure.
(3) Bubbling springs, a positive flux out of the CA in the offshore ocean.

In times of drought
 infiltration will decrease, the CA pressure will drop, hence the region of infiltration will move to lower elevations thereby increasing water input and building the pressure back up
thereby maintaining the positive fluxes of exfiltration and bubbling springs.

In times of heavy rain
infiltration will increase, hence pressure will rise; the region of infiltration will move to higher elevations
thereby decreasing water input thereby maintaining the positive fluxes of exfiltration and bubbling springs at a near constant value.

Thus the CA can be said to be self-regulating system.

Enter deep-water wells, and in particular, the Winter River wells which daily remove 20,000 cubic metres of water from the CA. (A cubic metre is 264 gallons, so 5.3million gallons)  The wells are a positive flux out of the CA, hence the region of infiltration will move to lower elevations.

Effectively, the wells will be viewed by the CA as an extreme prolonged drought.
Finally, after many years, the CA has consumed the bogs and ponds around Stanhope and even the Campbellʼs Pond cranberry bogs next to the sand dunes on the North Shore.

From the preceding note: (1) the only negative flux is infiltration, (2) a breach of the CA into marine waters is not far off, (3) the bubbling springs flux will be weak if not zero, and (4) the shrinkage of the region of exfiltration will be found to be associated with, if not the primary cause of, anoxia.

Tony Lloyd, Mount Stewart

A bit more about changes to Canada Post.  (More than a bit more.)
Someone mentioned about realizing there were no "P" stamps sold recently.  The day the changes to Canada Post were announced in December 2013, most postal outlet workers were notified to stop selling P or permanent stamps immediately, and only sell stamps with a value printed on them.  Many had not had any 63cent stamps delivered to them to prepare for this change.

The postal rate was supposed to rise from 63cents domestic to 65cents in January, but Canada Post said they were extending a grace period until March 31st when rates were going to change again.  When the rates rise March 31st (12:01AM?  midnight?  Local time or Greenwich Mean Time?), you can either buy books of domestic 85cent stamps or individual domestic stamps for $1.  I wonder if there will be 22cent stamps so your 63cent ones will be easily usable at branches tomorrow.

To find out, I have to get to my postal branch when it's actually open, for now on the 31st, "new hours" are going into effect.  A few branches, including Bonshaw, are having hours deemed less busy cut each day, so it's changing opening from 9AM to 10AM and closing at 1:30PM instead of 2PM, weekdays; and going from those same hours to 10AM to 12:30PM Saturday.  There was, of course, no consultation.  Just a letter from the Mr. Hurley (the Local Area Manager mentioned yesterday) to the community council chair in late January saying they were thinking of trimming hours a bit.  The Council and WI wrote letters back requesting consultation with community and Canada Post.  Another letter from CP saying the hours would be cut, followed quickly by an announcement of new hours. (None of these letters from CP, by the way, had a return mailing address on them.)  Needing to be fiscally responsible, "according to its charter" was citing as a big reason.  Hmm.  Yes of course volumes of mail are reduced with electronic communication, but that doesn't mean the service is unneeded.

The trimming of rural hours was not mentioned when the much, much larger scale cutting of urban home delivery and stamp price increases were announced.  That was bad enough, as summed up by Torquil Campbell's commentary on Q Radio here.

The postal union has had a couple of events on PEI, but citizens carrying flaming torches hasn't happened.  Why?  Don't people care?  Of course they do; most are buffeted by blows to what seem like normal Canada institutions every week now for the past few years, and it's hard to maintain energy and find all the facts and do something.  With issues happening or being announced without real consultation both federally (CETA, Veteran Services cuts, the Asian Free Trade agreement, stuff hidden in the Omnibus Bill -- including to disband the ACOA Board soon) and lucky-for-us Islanders provincially (Plan B, HST, PNP, the lifting of the moratorium on high capacity wells, the wind farm in Hermanville, Adrok, etc.), it's hard to know where to start!

Plus, it is hard getting the word out effectively to all the "channels" about these issues -- it's hard to rely on regular media, and they often pick an unflattering and tangential angle to the story -- in the case of a rally, the article I saw focused on the lack of numbers. 

So what to do?  Yes, it's a done deal, as far as prices; but while they seem to be moving inexorably towards cutting mail service in urban areas and cutting workers, we can keep paying attention, see where this is really heading (some think to get the company ready to sell to the private sector, which may or may not be good for Canadians), and perhaps act in any of these ways: sign one or all of the petitions out there:
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers website.  Petition, a window sign to download (I saw one on Prince Street yesterday),
Join the Facebook page, Save Canada Post. (not too active right now),
Write your MP (no stamp needed any day!!). I should say that Wayne Easter, Malpeque MP, is a staunch defender of Canada Post and rural delivery, and I am sure most other Island MPs would say the same thing.)
So express your opinion. 

That's enough hot air on an impending storm day!

March 29, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few changes/additions to the events listed yesterday:

Not Sunday: The Bonshaw ceilidh scheduled for Sunday at 2pm has been cancelled due to the predicted bad weather.

Not Monday: The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry has changed the date of the last meeting before the Spring Sitting of the Legislature from Monday to Tuesday, April 1st, at 9AM, at the Pope Room of the Coles Building.  It is likely to go until 1PM at least, but one presenter is not on the revised notice  (Minister Webster).   I only received the notice Friday afternoon and have no explanations for the change in time or change in presenters.  Please check to see if you can pop in for a bit.

Monday: March 31st, 12:10PM, Murphy Centre Room 207, A Rally to mark the end of the Health Accord and demand a new one, sponsored by the PEI Health Coalition.  There will be speakers, an open mike, and coffee and tea.

Today and tomorrow: 10AM to 4PM,  weekend "moving sale" at the former Bonshaw Breezes Bed&Breakfast, 293 Green Road, with household and outside items.

Farmers' Markets are open today in Summerside and Charlottetown, and you can ask the vendors to put you in touch with other farmers with CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) shares available to describe the program, as most programs have sign-up dates around April 1-15th.

Bread (10AM to 1PM) and Gardening (2:30PM) workshops are on today at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown.

Canada Post's rate increases go into effect Monday.  So it you have 63cent domestic stamps kicking around, why not use them this weekend?  Send a little note to your aunt or grandkids. Or to Mr. Brian Hurley,

Mr. Brian Hurley,

Local Area Manager – PEI

Canada Post

200 Maple Hills Avenue

Charlottetown, PEI  C1C 0S9

mentioning you feelings about all the changes to Canada Post. 

The new rates are:

or visit their splashy but not very helpful website here:  The information on rates is on the right hand side of the page.

Well, sorry to end on a grouchy note!

March 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

What a busy, but also quiet, couple of days. Hats off to, among others, the guys working for Island Coastal on the plows and loaders who are trying to clear out the roads around many small communities.
Once things get back to normal...

The Farm Centre is hosting back-to-back workshops Saturday.

Reviving the Tradition of Making Bread Workshop
Saturday, March 29th, 10AM to 1PM, Room 107
Anne Mazer rises to the occasion sharing her 42 years of bread baking experience to facilitate this workshop.
"It is really a part of my life, a habit, just one of those life sustaining activities that I DO," says Anne.
Enjoy the fresh bread with a lunch of gypsy soup....
In partnership with the PEI Farm Centre PEI Food Exchange and PEI2014

Admission free or by donation
RSVP by joining the fb page.

Introduction to Vegetable and Fruit Gardening
Saturday, March 29th, 2:30-4:30PM
Join Heidi Riley and Stephanie Dewar for an introduction to growing fruit and vegetables. How does one start a vegetable garden? Learn about cold weather and warm weather crops, how to plant popular vegetables, growing vegetables in containers, growing herbs (annuals and perennials) garlic, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and currants. This lecture will also introduce gardeners to using the right garden tools, and how to start seeds indoors.
Heidi Riley is a Master Gardener, a teacher of gardening and blogger ( now supporting the Farm Centre's Legacy Garden project. Steph Dewar is your local Urban Farmer! Steph will be managing a production and demonstration garden at the Prince Edward Island Farm Centre.
Join this workshop to help realize your food growing ambitions.

Sunday, March 30th is the Bonshaw Ceilidh from 2-4PM, at the Bonshaw Hall,
admission by donation, proceeds to the PEI Cancer Society
Facebook link

Monday, March 31st, 12noon to about 5PM
Standing Committee meeting on Agriculture, Environment, Energy, and Forestry
Coles Building, main floor in the Pope Room, open to the public anytime.
The folks specifically addressing the high capacity well issue include UPEI's climate change expert Adam Fenech and the Atlantic Chapter of the PEI Sierra Club, AND the PEI Potato Board, Ag Minister George Webster, and Cavendish Farms. 

Two art events:

Our Reality: Living in Poverty on PEI, with photographers Kat Murphy, Regina Younker, and others

Concourse (outside Memorial Hall, downstairs level, Confederation Centre)
I am not sure if they are going to extend this exhibit due to things being shut down for part of this week.  I hope so.  Very thought-provoking images.
Women's Network article

Seniors College Art Exhibit, curated by Marion Copleston and others
Opening Wednesday, April 2nd, 7-9PM, Arts Guild
The show will run from April 2nd to April 12th.
The Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 5PM with extra hours during East Coast Music Week April 2-6
Facebook page

and next weekend:
Vinland Society Lecture, Sunday, April 6th, 7:30PM, Irish Cultural Centre (BIS Hall)
"A New Vinland Voyage", lecture by Geoff Ralling, about his planned replication of Viking voyages to you-know-where.
Facebook page

March 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Not sure if the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry meeting scheduled for noon will be held today -- once the Legislature starts sitting (next week), MLAs don't have as much time for meetings.

An announcement to postpone or go ahead should be here.

In yesterday's paper, there was this letter by Peter Bevan-Baker, about the Big Picture (bold mine).
It was placed in the middle bottom of the far right editorial page, under a charming article that had a photo with a Big Bird puppet, that space that's easy politely to ignore....but it says so much.

High capacity wells issue goes much deeper - The Guardian Commentary by Peter Bevan-Baker

Published on March 26, 2014

If you have been promoting green ideas for a quarter of a century, as I have, you almost expect your warnings of imminent crisis to be politely ignored or gently ridiculed. Such was the case last week when Darcie Lanthier and I made a presentation to the standing committee which is receiving submissions on the high capacity well issue.

It is clear that this matter has struck a chord with Islanders who fear for the safety of their water, but this issue goes much, much deeper than the underground aquifer at the centre of the debate. Prince Edward Island is on the cusp of an important decision: one that will shape the agricultural, social and economic future of our
province. For many decades, when it comes to agriculture, P.E.I. has followed the conventional industrial pattern of consolidation, monoculture, dependence on fossil-fuel inputs and competing in a global market place. Successive Island governments have welcomed, aided and abetted this model, embracing the economic activity and jobs which flowed from it. But we have also paid a high price. Rural Prince Edward Island has been decimated, farmers bankrupted, farmland damaged, drinking water contaminated, rivers and estuaries spoiled, and Islandersʼ health compromised. Somehow we have accepted all these problems as a tolerable cost of doing business. But for how much longer should, or even can we do this?

We have other options: choices which promise not only to reverse the ills of the current model but which will forge a future for P.E.I. which is safe, prosperous and sustainable.

Proponents of the industrial model like to talk about how it is such a sophisticated approach to food production. The Federation of Agriculture repeatedly talked about conventional agriculture as not simply the only hope to grow food for an expanding population, but also the most precise, efficient, refined approach. On both counts they are absolutely wrong. Growing more Russet Burbanks of consistent size has nothing to do with feeding the world, and everything to do with feeding a voracious corporate master that cares nothing for the land from which their product comes, nor the well-being of those who provide it for minimal return. And there is nothing sophisticated about planting a single variety of crop over thousands of acres and then continuously dousing it in chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides so that it survives to maturity. Real sophistication in agriculture comes from developing systems over hundreds of generations that work with nature, not war against it; building up soil health; planting multiple varieties of different crops in long rotations; practising mixed farming using natural, home-grown inputs; and producing high-quality, safe, nutritious food.

In our presentation, we cited several global systems which are showing signs of overwhelming stress energy, water and food supplies, and climatic and economic stability. If any one of these parts of our human support system were to collapse, we are in deep trouble. Following our submission, there was not one question from any committee member related to this central part of our presentation. As I said, you get used to being ignored. Less than a week later, a report commissioned by NASA, based on concerns in exactly the same areas as Darcie and I had highlighted, stated the following: “closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid." It is less easy for members of the standing committee and Islanders in general to ignore these sorts of warnings when they come from institutions such as NASA, and writers like Jared Diamond, whose book “Collapse; How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” written in 2005 predicted many of our current day problems.
P.E.I. has an enviable opportunity: to be ahead of the rest of the world, and to embrace a future that will provide us with more jobs, more prosperity, better products and rejuvenated rural communities. This is about more than water, it is about choosing the future of our province we prefer; one that will succeed.

- Peter Bevan-Baker is leader of the Green Party of P.E.I.

March 26, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Many different bits of news for a snow day; the good, bad, ugly and interesting.

When Catherine O'Brien
isn't facilitating the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, or helping figure out the structure of the Citizens' Alliance as it changes from Stop Plan B, she is working with Young at Heart Theatre.  Young At Heart Theatre brings musical theatre productions to manors and other seniors' homes.  The new production is Dr. Magnificent's Traveling Musical Medical Show and will play in some public locations on April.
The main page is here and the list of public showings in found by clicking the right-hand sidebar on the page.

A blog that examines new Finance Minister Joe Oliver in a critical light
from the Huffington Post

A new PEI Road Atlas! The print edition is available for purchase, and the on-line version is available from the TIR home page here.  **The sidebar on the right** "Road Atlas" -- it's a big file.
The cover has space for the six most stunning road-related photos on PEI.  The cover centre small photo is of....Plan B over Hemlock Grove. Not stunning.  If you check a big dictionary, you might find a picture of the Premier, his Transportation Minister and a few others in the heading under "hubris".

New PEI Road Atlas and closeup

With just a few days before the Spring Sitting of the provincial Legislature, it's hard to imagine how the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry could reschedule Thursday's meeting, but I will keep you posted.
The meeting announcement webpage is here

Please drop in when you can-- you can see the last word is giving to Cavendish Farms.

Thursday, March 27th, 12noon - 5PM, Coles Building

screenshot of DRAFT agenda

And, finally, (and this is really interesting, especially for its transparency and invitation for public participation):

Nova Scota struck an expert panel to review all aspects of fracking recently.  They are planning to produce a series of papers on many topics.  The primer has just come out.
Cape Breton University Independent Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing home page

The primer is available for download at the top of the page, and the address to write to be put on the list for additional sections is towards the bottom of the page.  I think any of us qualifies as a interested out-of-province person. 

From the website:

Register as a Stakeholder (bold mine)

For anyone interested on keeping up to date on the review process you can:

  • Follow us on twitter @HFReview_CBU
  • Email to be added to our stakeholder correspondence list. Please e-mail your name, mailing address and preferred email address to, note your status as either a Nova Scotia based stakeholder or out-of-province stakeholder and your selection of one of the following categories of stakeholder that you wish to join:
    • Interested Citizen
    • Environmental Group/Civil Society Organization
    • Industry
    • Consultant
    • University/Affiliate
    • Government Departments/Agency
    • Municipality
    • Aboriginal Community
    • Other (please specify)

March 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The Guardian's best editorials are from wise Islanders writing in: David MacCallum's thoughtful letter here:

More remediation needed on streams - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 24, 2014

There have been many letters and opinions in this forum lately on the deep-water irrigation wells controversy. Iʼm not going to add my two cents worth on that subject here, but on a related matter: the deterioration of our rivers and streams over the years. What brought this to mind was an opinion piece by Bob Crockett (“Causeways back then, deep-water wells now,” The Guardian, Feb. 14). Mr. Crockett referred to a “raging debate of years gone by on the provincial governmentʼs decision to replace bridges with causeways over the North and West rivers.”

We know now the resulting restriction of water flow seriously affects the ecology of river systems, and that very expensive remedial work had to be done to those causeways years later to improve the flushing action. What Mr. Crockett didnʼt mention, though, was that there were many other causeways and bridges with narrow spans built across the Island years ago with the same results. One can only conclude the reasons for installing these structures were mainly political and economic, with little regard for scientific research into the possible environmental consequences. Many of those bridges/causeways have since been remediated to improve water flow (at great cost to the tax payer) — e.g., Vernon Bridge Causeway, South Pinette Causeway and the Cardigan Bridge, to name a few. No doubt there are many more that need to be fixed in the same manner.

Of course, there are other major factors contributing to the deterioration of our rivers and streams such as siltation from heavy rains and runoff from agricultural fertilizer and pesticides. Like Mr. Crockett, I remember going fishing as a boy in my own community of St. Peterʼs Bay. You didnʼt have to go very far back then to find a good spot to cast your line and come home with a nice “gad” of trout. Now, those streams and rivers have either been choked off with weeds and overgrowth, dried up, and/or become anoxic from agricultural runoff and other contaminants. I guess the lesson here is that when you mess with Mother Nature you had better be prepared for the consequences.

David MacCallum, Charlottetown

And some more events:


A Leadnow local information meeting (Connect Meeting) will be held (tonight!!) at 7 pm, on Tuesday, March 25th, at the Haviland Club in Charlottetown.

"Leadnow is a national social activist organization that brings generations of Canadians together for progress through democracy. Leadnow was founded in 2010 by a group of young people who care about a wide range of issues and wanted to create a new way for people to participate effectively in our democracy.....Through local gatherings and online surveys, the community has decided to focus its long-term efforts on strengthening Canada's democracy, doing its part to stop runaway climate change, and building a fair economy that reverses the trend of growing inequality.  For more information go to or call 626-4364."

Thursday, March 27th, 12noon to 5PM, Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry, Coles Building, next to Province House.  In addition to some other agriculture-related business, there will be several presentations related to the high capacity well issues, including from the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, and from the PEI Potato Board, Ag Minister George Webster, and Cavendish Farms.
Please try to stop in and sit for a while.  It is a long afternoon and not many people can commit for the entire time, so it's great to see people come in for as long as they can.  It's the last meeting before the Spring Sitting of the Legislature and it's interesting line-up or presenters.

Next Tuesday, April 1st is a talk at the NaturePEI (Natural History Society of PEI) by aquatic biologist Mike van den Heuvel.

The effects of unsustainable land use on our streams, estuaries and coastal environment is the topic for a presentation at the April meeting of Nature PEI. It takes place on Tuesday, April 1st, 7:30 pm at Beaconsfield, the Carriage House, corner of West and Kent Streets. Admission to the presentation is free and all are welcome.  Mike van den Heuvel is the Canada Research Chair in Watershed Ecological Integrity at UPEI.

Have a great pre-storm day!

March 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It has been 25 years today since the Exxon Valdez tanker struck a reef in Alaska.  It spilled at least 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound.

Money from a big civil suit is being managed by a public council, the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. Home page:

A 12 minute video made a few years ago is an overview of the spill and the Council's work, here:
The film is a bit of rah-rah for the Council, but they don't sugar anything; the images still haunt.  Those winsome sea otters -- at least their populations have recovered. It's a recap for those who forgot a lot of the details or who weren't born then.
from the film:
"The oil is still in the ecosystem and still toxic....once oil gets in the water and washes up on the beaches, it is very difficult to clean up and will likely persist for decades."

Sadly, the Exxon Valdez spill has fallen off the list of top 50 oil spills in the world.  One thing I noted was that there was no mention of working on other sources of energy, though, that I remember the video discussing.  Just that spills happen and we have to be prepared for them.

And if to mark the occasion, this weekend saw a tanker collision and spill near Texas city, southeast of Houston, where the Galveston Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico, by Bolivar Island (a barrier island).

Crews Try to Contain Oil Spill in Galveston Bay - Associated Press article by Christopher Sherman

March 22, 2014

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

Booms were brought in to try to contain the spill, which the Coast Guard said was reported at around 12:30 p.m. by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said the spill hadn't been contained as of 10 p.m., and that the collision was still being investigated.

The ship collided with a barge carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker, that was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan, the Coast Guard said. It didn't give an estimate of how much fuel had spilled into the bay, but there was a visible sheen of oil at the scene.

Officials believe only one of the barge's tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons.

"A large amount of that has been discharged," Kidd said. He said a plan was being developed to remove the remaining oil from the barge, but the removal had not begun.

The barge was resting on the bottom of the channel, with part of it submerged. He said boom was being set up in the water to protect environmentally-sensitive areas and that people would be working through the night with infrared cameras to locate and skim the oil.

The barge was being towed from Texas City to Bolivar at the time. The Coast Guard said that Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the tow vessel and barge, was working with it and the Texas General Land Office at the scene.

The Coast Guard said six crew members from the tow vessel were in stable condition, but it offered no details about their injuries.

Jim Suydam, spokesman for the General Land Office, described the type of oil the barge was carrying as "sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff."

"That stuff is terrible to have to clean up," he said.

Mild weather and calm water seemed to help containment efforts, but stormy weather was forecast for the area on Sunday. Suydam said almost every private cleanup outfit in the area was out there helping out under the coordination of the Coast Guard and General Land Office.

Bruce Clawson, the director of the Texas City Homeland Security, told The Daily News in Galveston that the barge sank, but that there is no danger to the community, which is about 40 miles southeast of downtown Houston. Suydam said he could not confirm whether the barge sank.

Tara Kilgore, an operations coordinator with Kirby Inland Marine, declined to comment Saturday.

On its Facebook page, Texas City Emergency Management said the dike and all parks on the water are closed until further notice. And the Coast Guard said that part of the Houston ship channel was closed to traffic.

Richard Gibbons, the conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society, said there is very important shorebird habitat on both sides of the Houston ship channel.

Audubon has the internationally-recognized Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary just to the east, which Gibbons said attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat. He did not know how much oil had been spilled, but said authorities were aware of the sanctuaries and had practiced using containment booms in the past.

"The timing really couldn't be much worse since we're approaching the peak shorebird migration season," Gibbons said. He added that tens of thousands of wintering birds remain in the area.

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Suydam said that spill spurred the creation of the General Land Office's Oil Spill and Prevention Division, which is funded by a tax on imported oil that the state legislature passed after the Valdez spill. The division does extensive response planning including pre-positioned equipment along the Texas coast.

March 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A usual (long) Sunday mixture:

Sharing Island Green Saturday evening --  it was wonderful to have the chance to show the movie to those of you near and far.  It was still hard to see Raymond Loo on screen alive and so healthy, but it brought smiles amid the tears.  Smiles, as one realizes that more and more people are shifting between the two groups of people journalist Ian Petrie identified as those being concerned about where their food is coming from, and those tied up in the other details of living.  Certainly in the past year alone you can see more people thinking about this issue.

The film can go on the road and be the program for an community group anywhere -- a Women's Institute, garden club, church group, small gatherings! -- just contact director Mille Clarkes at, or me, or the National Film Board, to arrange things. 

Here is an: Ecojustice map of fracking accidents "fraccidents" in the US and Canada.
Some states are completely covered with records or incidents, especially Pennsylvania and North Dakota....

By way of Ellie Reddin, with thanks: link and pasted below: Op-ed piece on Effects of cuts to Environment Canada

Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts - The Star Guest Opinion by Thomas Duck

Health and safety of Canadians is at risk with latest slashing of Environment Canada budget.

Albert Einstein’s well-known definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is unsettlingly relevant to a new round of federal government cuts. The latest slashing of Environment Canada, which by 2016 will have half the budget it had in 2007, calls to mind a series of deep cuts to environmental protections in Ontario in the late 1990s. Some of the players are even the same, so they cannot reasonably claim to be ignorant of the tragic consequences.

In May 2000, the water system of Walkerton, Ont., suffered an E. coli outbreak that left nearly half the community’s 4,800 people ill. Seven died. In the uproar that followed, a commission of inquiry was struck by the government of Ontario to determine what happened. The resulting report, written by Justice Dennis O’Connor, makes for interesting reading. The Walkerton Public Utilities Commission was blamed for improper operating practices and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment was blamed for providing insufficient oversight.

Underlying the failures of the Walkerton PUC and the MOE, however, were government of Ontario cutbacks. How deep were the cuts? In the years leading up to the Walkerton tragedy, the MOE’s budget was reduced by 68 per cent and its staffing by 40 per cent. These numbers are comparable to what Environment Canada is experiencing today. Consider, for example, that Environment Canada’s climate change and clean air program is having its budget reduced by an astonishing 77 per cent. The cuts are so deep that they appear designed to break Environment Canada once and for all.

O’Connor’s report on the Walkerton tragedy is scathing in its assessment of the provincial government’s role: “Before the decision was made to significantly reduce the MOE’s budget in 1996, senior government officials, ministers and the cabinet received numerous warnings that the impacts could result in increased risks to the environment and human health . . . The decision to proceed with the budget reductions was taken without either an assessment of the risks or the preparation of a risk management plan.”

It is the same with the current cuts to Environment Canada. Since the cuts began in earnest in 2011, scientists have been sounding the alarm. Their warnings have fallen on deaf ears. And, as was the case in Ontario, it appears that the federal government has not assessed the risks. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, famously sued the federal government in 2012 in an attempt to obtain information on how cuts to government departments would affect programs — including environmental protection. Canadians are still waiting for answers. In the meantime, evidence has emerged that Environment Canada’s capacity to crack down on polluters has been compromised.

It is interesting to note that three members of that Ontario government have played key roles in Stephen Harper’s federal cabinet: Jim Flaherty (the outgoing minister of finance), John Baird (minister of foreign affairs), and Tony Clement (president of the Treasury Board). Flaherty, Baird and Clement were there when Ontario’s cuts were made and witnessed the result. Surely they must see the parallels now. So why haven’t they spoken out about the dismantling of Environment Canada?

Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is a key responsibility of the federal government. Investment in environmental protection — Environment Canada’s job — is only prudent. University of Ottawa professor Scott Findlay likens the collection of evidence by federal departments such as Environment Canada to an insurance policy: a comparatively inexpensive yet effective way to ensure others will not have to shoulder the burden of undesired and unanticipated consequences of avoidable mistakes. Cancelling that insurance is quite simply irresponsible.

The cost of the Walkerton tragedy was estimated at the commission to be between $64.5 million and $155 million. It remains to be seen what the cuts to Environment Canada will ultimately cost us — both financially and in human terms.

Thomas J. Duck is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University.

And from Friday's Guardian,  from Ralph MacDonald:

Small Island canʼt risk wells- The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 21, 2014

I donʼt think most of us know enough about the deep-water wells issue in this province but I do think that you donʼt have to be a trained scientist to realize that these proposed wells would be detrimental to our ground water for years to come. Betty Howatt said it well: “weʼre sitting on a sandbar surrounded by water” and with that itʼs very obvious that this small piece of land, surrounded by water, cannot sustain deep wells without dire consequences. Is it a point of greed, is it something the growers are putting a deaf ear to, the list goes on?

If the deep water wells come to pass it could cause irreparable damage to groundwater, do we want to risk it? All the streams that get contaminated every year, and this is ground water, with runoff is sufficient to contend with. Once again, do we want to risk it?

Ralph MacDonald, Borden-Carleton

And Saturday's, a Carl Mathis moment, reminding us that smiling is good for us in such absurd times:

A longer fry really the key - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 22, 2014

Well, well, finally, the great light has come on. If it were just for the size of the potato crop, the processing plants would not need the deep wells. They have fired workers because there is a world glut of fries. There was a movie, wasn't there, called "The Longest Fry?"

The solution, without any deep wells, is to get the Food Technology Centre to come up with potato glue, so they can glue fries together to make the longest fry. Whatever the serving size at McDonald's, that would be one long fry. Super size that, and it would be one longer fry. Really biggie that, and build the longest fry.

People would be called back to work as fry gluers. They could work in teams, several people to a fry. The plants could be expanded, adding very long, narrow rooms to have the spaces to glue up these longest fries.

New long fryers would be needed in every fast food restaurant, and they would need new packaging, giving us another industry. The county fairs would have long fry eating contests, announcing how many yards of fries the winner ate.

Share a fry with your sweetie. You start at opposite ends and eat until you meet at the middle. Mmmmmm.
All would be well, then, but not deep wells. 

Carl Mathis, Charlottetown

Upcoming event:

A second Connect Meeting (nationwide groups with local branches working on electoral reform):
"Join us for the second Connect Meeting held by island members of Leadnow on
Tuesday, March 25 at 7:00 pm at the Haviland Club (2 Haviland Street in Charlottetown). is an independent advocacy organization that is working to build a stronger democracy that protects our environment, creates economic opportunity while increasing equality, and guarantees that everyone receives the care they need.

Leadnow is launching its 2014-15 Plan and we’re inviting Fair Vote members and other interested parties to join us in the planning process for the leadup to the next federal election. Our current focus is electoral reform. Hear about Leadnow’s current campaigns and how you can help. For more information go to or call 626-4364."

Great to see groups with similar interests working together!!

Have a good Sunday,
Chris O.,

P.S.  Moving Sale: I forgot to mention again for this weekend: as far as I know, the last day is today, from 10AM to 4PM, 293 Green Road, Bonshaw

This former B&B has been sold and will be selling major furniture, dishware, decor and linens. Also, lawn and garden items including mowers, patio furniture, tools, hot tub and much more.

March 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Apparently, the "ad-as-news-story" deal is still on at The Guardian, as evidenced by this story on A4 of Friday's print edition; it was the lead story on-line for most of the day.  The story has a "graphic supplied by the P.E.I. Potato Board" graphic, now nicely colourized from their print ad last week and a huge quarter-page in the print edition:

Link: Guardian heralds Potato Board

P.E.I. Potato Board heralds environmental record -The Guardian article

image copyright PEI Potato Board

(There is no by-line for this story, but presumably it was a staff the Potato Board....)

The P.E.I. Potato Board says itʼs time for the public to move past the history and look at what todayʼs potato growers are doing to protect the environment.

Gary Linkletter, chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board, emphasizes that “potato farmers of today have learned a lot from past challenges and are making tangible changes in production practices in order to farm in a more environmentally sustainable fashion.”

In a news release, Linkletter says P.E.I. farmers have the highest level of enhanced environmental farm planning in Canada and also farm under the most stringent environmental legislation in Canada.

“This means P.E.I. potato growers meet and often exceed both voluntarily developed and regulated standards that are higher than any other farmers in the country,” said Linkletter.

Through collaborative effort between potato growers and the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture, construction of soil conservation structures has resulted in 1.1 million feet of terraces, 2.1 million feet of grassed waterways and 270,000 feet of farmable berms.
Potato growers also use a wide range of other tools to improve environmental sustainability, Linkletter said.

The approaches include use of buffer zones and set aside of sensitive land, nutrient management, strip cropping, crop rotation and residue-tillage equipment, new and lower input potato varieties and integrated pest management.

Another initiative, Farming 4R Island, partners with other industry players to foster beneficial management practices that protect soil quality and reduce nitrate levels.

“Todayʼs grower is looking to be more efficient, more effective and be more environmental responsible. Thatʼs why weʼre interested in supplemental irrigation. The Department of the Environment has indicated that agricultural irrigation accounts for only one per cent of total water usage,” said Linkletter, as he and the potato board continue lobbying for deep-water wells in the province. 

“Some preliminary studies performed as part of the nitrate pilot project with the Kensington North Watershed Group in 2013 showed an 11.5 per cent increase in income per acre with supplemental irrigation due to increased marketable yields, while another test from the same study showed a reduction in average residual nitrate levels by 31.4 per cent. Thatʼs very encouraging information for people interested in having a viable potato industry while trying to be even more environmentally responsible.”
Two comments:
So many farmers have environmental farm plans -- great, but:  Farmers *have* to have an environmental farm plan in place to qualify for related programs and grants. 

And the pilot project being done mentioned in the last paragraph?  So, can that study be released for others to review it?

In the letters section were two letters on high capacity wells, and one on pesticides. I'll reprint the other well one tomorrow.

Bethany Doyle's letter:

True impact of wells remains to be done - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 21, 2014

In the Guardian editorial of March 12, the editor claims that if irrigation is needed, deep-water wells are the most efficient option. Since opposition to deep-water wells is pervasive and well reasoned, I believe that we need to give serious consideration to other ways of solving the problem such as improving the health of the soil.

In the same editorial, the editor refers to “other provinces or states where opposition to deep water wells is limited.” The reason opposition to deep-water wells may be limited in other places is that P.E.I. faces unique water supply challenges. Because of our soil structure and our dependence on groundwater as the sole supplier of drinking water, our water supply is uniquely fragile. We need to take great caution. And we need to find in our unique challenges incentive to work to improve the health of the soil so that there is an increase in its water-holding capacity.

The editor also says that “the standing committee and government have difficult tasks ahead as they must decide if compromise is possible to protect our water resource even if science supports additional deep-water wells . . .” This seems to imply that “science” supports additional deep-water wells while in fact many believe that credible scientific data come from peer-reviewed studies. Such studies regarding the true impact of deep-water wells on aquatic ecosystems have yet to be done.
The current moratorium on deep-water wells makes good sense and needs to be maintained.

Bethany Doyle, Charlottetown
Joan Diamond writes about (not) being protected from pesticides

Protection from pesticides? Afraid not - The Guardian Commentary by Joan Diamond

Published on March 21, 2014

As a rural inhabitant of P.E.I., I have always been concerned about the rampant use of pesticides here. So when I recently heard that potatoes would be planted this year in the field 25 feet from my doorway, I decided to do some research about what kind of protection is provided for home owners in a situation like mine. Apparently, absolutely zero is the answer. A quick look at the P.E.I. Department of Environment Frequently Asked Questions, gave this concise information on the subject. source: /index.php3?number=1040762&lang=E
2. Do farmers have to provide advance notice,
to homeowners whose property adjoins the farmerʼs field, when they plan to make a pesticide application?
No. Farmers do not have to provide advance notification of a pesticide application. However, when asked to do so, most are happy to provide this information.
3.  How close to my property line can my neighbour, or someone acting on his/her behalf, apply a pesticide?
A pesticide can be legally applied to the edge of a property line.
4.   Are there pesticide-free ʻbuffer zonesʼ around schools, parks, playgrounds, and sports fields in P.E.I.?
No. There are no pesticide-free buffer zones around these areas.
5. If I receive a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to their property, can I legally STOP this application?
No. A property owner has a legal right to apply a pesticide to their property if they wish to do so.
6. I have received a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to his/her property, but the notice does not provide the specific address of the property. Does the applicator have to provide this information to me?
No. Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act require that advance written notification must be provided to individuals who live within 25 metres of an area that is to be treated with a pesticide. The regulations do not require that the applicator provide the specific address of the property to be treated.
7. When is the wind blowing too strongly to apply a liquid pesticide, or a pesticide under pressure?
Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act set a maximum wind speed of 20 km/hr. However, even if the wind speed is below this level, it is the applicatorʼs responsibility to make sure that there is no drift of pesticide onto neighbouring properties.
One would think that with ongoing fish kills, high nitrate levels and some of the highest rates of cancer, asthma and autism in Canada, a red flag would be going up. One would think, as I did, that there would be some limitations in place to protect Islanders. Instead, farmers are looking to dig deeper wells, which will undoubtedly have further detrimental effects on our already tainted water.
Pesticides are toxins, toxins we continue dumping into our soil and air in every non-organic potato field approximately 15 to 20 times each season.
Yet Islanders continue to be surprised about hearing every day about another friend being diagnosed with cancer, or another child being born with asthma or autism.
We are allowing this to happen. It is time for change. If you care about the health of Islanders, present and future, then take action. Write a letter to the editor, contact our minister of Environment and/or our premier. Buy organic produce, locally when you can. Get involved. Make some noise.

Joan Diamond is a rural Islander who lives in Fairview


The Department of Environment webpage cited is here  and a screenshot is below:

Farmers' Markets are open today.

And tonight is a showing of Island Green, 7:30PM in Bonshaw, at the community centre up a bit on the left after you get on Green Road off our infamous Plan B highway.  (Gasland II is at 2PM at Duffy Science Building at UPEI, as is an introduction to gardening workshop at 2:30PM at the Farm Centre.)

March 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A bit of a list of some of the many events going on in the next

Movies tomorrow (Saturday) (Gasland II at the Duffy Science Building at 2PM, Island Green in Bonshaw at 7:30PM)  The Bonshaw movie could be moved to next Saturday night if it looks like we are going to get a fair bit of snow.

The next chance to see Island Green will be in Charlottetown at the Food Security AGM on Tuesday, April 15th.  Sally Bernard of Barnyard Organics will be the guest speaker.

Also, on Saturday at 2:30PM, an introduction to gardening workshop at the Farm Centre:

Seedy Sunday in Breadalbane, 1-5PM, register today as spaces are limited:
email Irene at or calling 964-2781.

Next Thursday, March 27th, is the final Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry meeting with some presenters discussing the high capacity wells for agriculture issue.  It will start at 12noon and likely run until 5PM, as there are a lot of speakers.  Other business will include an update on the Lands Protection Act by Horace Carver.  The public is welcome!!

And a very good letter from last month about the high capacity wells, that took a while to get posted on the Guardian website:

Causeways back then, deep-water wells now - The Guardian A Reader's View by Bob Crockett

Published on February 14, 2014

In the ongoing debate over deep-water irrigation wells was heard this comment: “We donʼt know what we donʼt know.” To some this comment would be profound, while to others inane.

It brought to mind a raging debate, of years gone by, over the provincial governmentʼs (of that day) decision to replace bridges and build causeways over the North and West rivers.

Avid fishers, hunters and others (my grandfather among them), voiced their strong opposition to the move, citing their great concern that such a move would kill the headwaters of these two important river systems, doing irreparable harm to the ecology of these two watershed areas.

The opposition voiced that the causeways would critically interfere with the tidal flushing of the rivers, flushings that were critical to keeping the headwaters alive and healthy, and by extension fish life and wild life alive and healthy.

The engineers and scientists, of the day, defended the governments move and voiced their ʻstudiedʼ opinions that no such harm would befall these two rivers headwaters, as the designed openings would be sufficient to allow the necessary flushing actions up the rivers.

Decades later it was determined that these headwaters were dead or dying, and something must be done to improve the flushing actions of the tides.

As a result the government of that day, acted to widen the spillway of the North River at Cornwall, and added a second bridge to the West River causeway, allowing greater volumes of water to flow with the tidal actions
As a young teenager, father, my brother, and myself would fish off the bridge in Milton, catching some large and healthy trout. Alas, today the river in Milton is but a narrow stream compared to what it was 55 years ago.

What I have learned from all of this is that we are limited in our knowledge of things and there is much we (scientists included) have yet to learn and understand about all things. And, contrary to many expert opinions on this matter, nothing is absolute.

The opening statement, to me, is profound, and I say ʻnoʼ to lifting the ban on deep-water wells.

Bob Crockett, Charlottetown

March 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A letter on the high capacity well issue, from last week:

Watershed groups call for extension - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 10, 2014

Letʼs make informed, collective decisions today instead of making apologies and restitutions tomorrow. We live in an age of global water crisis. Islanders currently enjoy an adequate supply of fresh water, but it is demonstrably threatened during extended dry seasons. We must be certain that our water supply — and the public safety and environmental health that depend upon it — are not further endangered by high-capacity groundwater exploitation. We live on an island, and islands have finite, isolated water resources. We call on our leaders to extend the high-capacity well moratorium and to create an appropriately supported workgroup of experts including scientists, watershed managers, provincial regulators, agricultural organizations, and family farmers.

We must pragmatically examine the threats and develop safeguards, including monitoring protocols. Assessment, prevention, response, and recovery are four key elements we must consider in responsible public protection and watershed management. Additionally, a clear mechanism for compensation and liability when harm is done is a duty of law. Let us create a formal dialog that centres on independent, unbiased, factual information that results in fair, safe, and environmentally sound provincial policy and law. We must make certain that long-term public/environmental welfare will not be sacrificed for short-term, commercial-scale profits arising from unsustainable groundwater extraction.

Karen Rank,
(on behalf of the Western Branch of the P.E.I. Watershed Alliance)

The PEI Watershed Alliance gave a fantastic presentation to the Standing Committee in early March, voicing their strong support to keep the moratorium on high capacity wells.  Chairperson Angela Douglas clearly explained the concerns the group has, and shed light on the countless hours of work volunteers across PEI do to improve water habitat in their area. She discussed major concerns with the extraction policy, and cited concerns regarding salt water intrusion from over extraction near coast areas.

Another letter, short and observant:

Irony abounds in toilet flow - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 17, 2014
Does anyone else see the irony of the P.E.I. government introducing legislation to regulate low flow toilets while at the same time considering lifting the moratorium on deep-water wells?

According to Steve Townsend of the P.E.I. Department of Environment: “We live in an age where water is very important to us, water quality is very important to us and we are using water at an ever-growing rate so we have to be careful with our precious resource.” I have no argument with that.

Apparently Janice Sherry and her department are not in the same game, though, as they defer to the big potato industry and their ever-growing need for more water to produce more potatoes. How can P.E.I. even remotely consider deep-water wells when our precious water is being over used right now?

Katie McInnis, Stratford

Dirty.  Canadian.  Tar Sands. 
All in one headline.  Not the international image of Canada many of us want.

Financial Times, March 19, 2014

Chicago confronts dirty bonanza of Canadian tar sand boom - Financial Times article by Neil Munshi

By Neil Munshi in Chicago

Published on March 19, 2014

A bulldozer rumbles over a mountain of fine black powder amid the abandoned shells of long-shuttered steel mills in a poor neighbourhood on the far southeast side of Chicago.

The powdery substance – familiar to locals as the black dust coating their houses, cars and, many say, lungs – is petroleum coke, or “petcoke”, a byproduct of the Canadian tar sands boom. It is stored at two terminals owned by KCBX on the banks of the Calumet River. A dust storm last autumn spurred the community to action.

“You couldn’t see across the street, it was so black,” says Carol Harris, who lives two blocks from a KCBX site. “I thought it was a tornado.”

Community activism has brought the substance to the attention of local, state and federal officials, who have initiated a flurry of legislative action, litigation and regulatory scrutiny. The recent furore has pit regulators and a poor community against Charles and David Koch, the billionaires who own KCBX. The brothers are behind Koch Industries and countless conservative causes, including groups that question the science behind climate change and challenge environmental regulations.

Petcoke is piling up from Texas to Toledo as the increase in oil production from Canada’s tar sands drives expansion at refineries throughout the country. Last year, Detroit fought for the removal of its own three-storey-high, blocks-long piles of petcoke at another terminal owned by Koch, the product of a nearby Marathon plant that has ramped up processing of heavy Canadian crude.

The tar sands boom, along with the shale revolution, has buoyed hopes of North American energy independence and bolstered support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which, if approved, will carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. But the high carbon oil has come under fire from environmentalists because of its quantities of heavy metals and toxic chemicals.

Chicago’s petcoke piles originate just over the Illinois state border, at BP’s sprawling 1,400-acre refinery in Whiting, Indiana. In December, BP brought on stream a new coker, the result of a $4bn modernisation effort designed to allow it to handle more tar sands. The coker allowed BP to increase its heavy Canadian refining capacity from 20 per cent to 80 per cent of its total 400,000 barrel a day crude capacity.

Petcoke production, which results from all oil refining, will triple, from 730,000 tonnes a year to 2.19m tonnes, making the Whiting facility one of the largest petcoke producers in the world. Petcoke is most often sold as a cheap fuel in emerging markets, which have looser emissions standards.

Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed an ordinance that would ban new petcoke facilities in Chicago and prevent expansion of existing operations. Illinois governor Pat Quinn has called for statewide rules, similar to an earlier proposal from Mr Emanuel, that would require the full enclosure of all petcoke piles. The US Environmental Protection Agency has also launched an inquiry.

The mayor’s proposal came days after the state attorney-general filed a second lawsuit against KCBX, alleging water pollution violations caused by runoff. A lawsuit last autumn alleged air pollution violations.

Since last autumn, KCBX has spent $30m on environmental monitoring, improvements and a “dust suppression system” – an industrial sprinkler system designed to dampen the coke so it does not blow away, says Jake Reint, spokesman for Koch.

The company was “disappointed by the state’s decision to file a lawsuit on a matter that we believe can be resolved outside of court”, Mr Reint says. In a letter to residents, KCBX said it would consider building an enclosure.

Scott Dean, spokesman for BP, says KCBX was responsible for complying with regulatory requirements. But, he says: “We support implementation of regulations that result in the desired effect of reducing dust emissions without imposing unreasonable regulatory burdens on industry.”

“As long as [KCBX] continue to comply with their permit and regulations, we don’t foresee a change,” Mr Dean adds.

That does not sit well with locals. At a community meeting at the East Side United Methodist Church this month, residents complained about blackened windows and houses, never being able to picnic outside and keeping children indoors when the wind picked up off the Calumet River.

The attorney-general’s office has asked locals to keep logs – and take pictures and video – documenting the uncovered trucks hauling petcoke, swirling black dust storms and other violations which are common complaints and would provide evidence for its lawsuit.

For the better part of the 20th century, the southeast side of Chicago was home to some of the most polluting industries in the Midwest. But the steel mills and manufacturing plants that employed hundreds of thousands of locals shut down decades ago.

The fact that KCBX has been storing petcoke for decades, as the company frequently notes, or that the southeast side has long dealt with pollution, is not relevant, says Kate Koval, who lives two blocks from one of the sites.

“I think it was an unwritten social contract – people were willing to put up with pollution because that pollution provided a steady job and a house and college for your kids,” says Kate Koval, a community activist leading efforts to ban petcoke. “But that’s not the case any more.”

Regarding the Lands Protection Act review, I was going to tackle part of the "Red Tape" section and the role of IRAC, but after reading that IRAC reports to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, I figured I needed a little more time to sort it all out some more.  :-)

March 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

News and letters:

In yesterday's Guardian,  from the Island Nature Trust board:

Province needs water management plan - The Guardian A Reader's View by Fiep de Bie

Published on March 18, 2014

Domestic, industrial and agriculture water use is rising across Canada, putting many rivers and lakes under increasing strain. As an organization that works to protect natural areas across P.E.I., Island Nature Trust is concerned that any increase in the number of high-capacity groundwater wells will affect fish and wildlife in the province negatively. How much water can be withdrawn while still maintaining healthy natural aquatic ecosystems? It takes the expertise of hydrologists, engineers and biologists to understand and predict the changes in fish habitat in response to altered flow regimes/water systems.

Conservation practices such as longer crop rotations that include forages, better residue management and strip cropping increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil. The presence of organic matter enhances the soilʼs structure, thermal, and nutritional regimes; and decreases wind and water erosion. Healthy soils hold moisture better than those with low organic material. In other words, soils with high organic matter need less water for healthy plant growth.

Withdrawing water from existing ground water supplies at times of the year when those water levels are at their lowest and at a time when 100 per cent of the surface water flow is from groundwater (springs) will further reduce the volume of ground water flowing into springs, streams, rivers and estuaries. Reduced water flow coupled with high levels of nutrients currently found in the very potato-rich watersheds to be irrigated in central P.E.I., will lead to increased over-nutrification of water systems and then to an increase in anoxic events.

Wildlife in all parts of waterways will be affected by less water and by the associated issues such as eutrophication and anoxia. Extracting more groundwater from P.E.I. is about so much more than simply water volume issues. The permanent loss of high volumes of water in an already fragile aquifer at a very sensitive time of year will have negative impacts on aquatic animals and plants, including those harvested by humans.

Human health is important, and the high nitrate level found in groundwater in many wells in high potato production areas is a serious concern to the health of Islanders. However, wildlife and natural areas often take a back seat to human needs and health issues. In many jurisdictions fish and wildlife management agencies sit on the sidelines of important water management decisions.

On behalf of the health of our natural systems, including springs, streams, rivers, their riparian zones and estuaries we strongly encourage the P.E.I. Government to adopt a provincial water management plan to effectively integrate water quantity, quality and wildlife management and to maintain the existing moratorium on high-capacity deep water well construction.

Fiep de Bie,
Island Nature Trust,
Board of Directors

The paper printed it in the lower right page under the heading "A Reader's View" when of course Ms. de Bie is representing the views of the organization. 

At first glance, from New Brunswick, this headline sounded at-least-not-bad:

Impact of shale gas development on groundwater to be studied

New Brunswick Energy Institute investing $500K in two-year study, set to begin in April

but then I received this comment from Bradley Walters in New Brunswick, who finds and sends out news about the fracking issue in New Brunswick with another article (blue is his, bold is mine):

Here are more details on the proposed NB study. It sounds like this intends to be little more than an assessment of baseline conditions of well water, with a focus on naturally-occurring methane contamination
In itself, that is not such a bad idea, but it is hard to see what good would come of this given they will presumably not be establishing baseline measurements for the various toxic chemicals actually used in fracking and/or liberated from deep underground as a result of fracking (e.g., heavy metals, radioactive elements, etc.). Also troubling is that this will likely be used to distract us from the many other risks and impacts associated with a shale gas industry (air pollution, habitat damage, surface water pollution, noise pollution, waste water pollution, etc.).  --Brad

Testing Energy institute to spend $500,000 over two years to develop water quality baselines in four areas in southern New Brunswick that are earmarked for possible shale gas developmentTelegraph-Journal article by John Chilibeck

Published on March 18, 2014

FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick Energy Institute plans on spending more than $500,000 on research looking at well water quality in areas where industry wants to develop shale gas.

   The institute, under fire for being funded by a pro-development Tory provincial government, said Monday the research would go toward establishing a proper baseline before any more wells are drilled.

   It will take place in four areas of southern New Brunswick where exploration or development of the controversial industry is underway: Sussex-Petitcodiac, St. Antoine-Shediac, Harcourt-Richibucto and Boisetown-Upper Blackville.

   Kerry MacQuarrie, a civil engineering professor at the University of New Brunswick, was selected as the project lead for the two-year study on about 500 private wells.He said it was important to find out the water quality before any further development takes place because sometimes people don’t realize there’s naturally occurring pollution with no human cause.

   “This will be totally voluntary and it will be up to the homeowners that we contact whether they want to be involved”MacQuarrie said in an interview. “I would assume that people would be interested to know what the quality is for their drinking water, but there won’t be any obligation for anyone to take part.”

   MacQuarrie is well aware of the controversy surrounding the industry and the institute itself. Between opinion polls and the province’s two major political parties, New Brunswick society appears to be split on the merits of shale gas development, which relies on hydraulic fracturing. The long-term consequences of fracking are still not completely understood,with critics,such as the Liberal opposition, saying a moratorium should be in place until more studies can be carried out, whereas the Tory government and other shale gas supporters argue that development, with certain safeguards, should go ahead to create more jobs and wealth.

   “This is a research study, and it’s not really linked to any particular interest group or industry group,” MacQuarrie said. “I have no links with the shale gas industry or anything like that. I’ve been doing ground water research in the province for over 20 years and I publish that in peer-reviewed scientific formats. People probably will take issue that it’s related to the shale gas issue, but I think it’s something worthwhile to do because it seems a lot of the concerns that have been raised are related to ground water quality and the potential impacts on that.”

   Stephanie Merrill,freshwater program director with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, works for the environmental organization that has campaigned heavily to stop shale gas development. She welcomed the idea of further study Monday, though she qualified her support by saying she would have to first see a detailed work plan and explanation of the research methods.

   She agreed that baseline studies were important, all the more reason, she said, for a moratorium on exploration and development.

   “There should be a decision made right now to halt the further work of companies’ with exploration leases and licences while this kind of work is undertaken. That would go a long way in providing an increased level of trust with the public, so they can put aside the question of whether the work is supporting the industry versus having information for providing good solid information for whether the industry should go ahead”

   MacQuarrie acknowledged the researchers would have a bit of trouble with their baseline data if the industry continues to develop over the next two years.

   “I have no idea to predict what the industry might do in the next couple of years,but I’m guessing it would only be a handful of wells, perhaps, that might be drilled. But again, I have no inside information or any clue about that.”

   The team, which will consist of MacQuarrie and as many as eight research students, will send mail-outs or hold meetings to pick about 500 private well owners in the select areas. To ensure their results are not contaminated, they want to establish their baseline using wells that are at least one to two kilometres away from any existing oil or gas wells or seismic tests that have already been conducted. Natural gas is currently extracted at the McCully fields near Sussex and dozens and dozens of different hydrocarbon wells have been drilled since the 19th century,most of them now abandoned.

   The researchers want to look at newer private water wells built within the last 20 years when provincial regulations became stricter and data was collected on the wells. They also want sites that are nicely spaced apart with different geology so that they get a better variety and breadth of data. The study will run from April 2014 to April 2016, when a final technical report will be submitted.

   The project will be the first large-scale examination of natural methane gas occurrences in private water wells in the province, with the objective to collect and report baseline domestic water quality data. The focus is on groundwater quality parameters that are most relevant to the potential impact on shallow groundwater from unconventional shale gas production.

   Early results from the project will be provided in an interim progress report on the institute’s website. It is intended on being the beginning of a series of water studies that the institute will be funding relating to energy development.

   MacQuarrie described the work as labour intensive and requiring a good deal of expertise to properly obtain and analyze samples.He said they’d probably work in concert with researchers at Université de Moncton, who have already begun work on collecting data on wells that might be contaminated by radioactive materials caused by deposits such as uranium.

   The institute plans on spending $532,000 overall on the study.


And an event I forgot to mention:

SEEDY SUNDAY! A Seed saving and sharing workshop
Sunday 23 March, 1-5 PM

Brought to you by the Breadalbane Environment Committee, Breadalbane Library and PEI Seeds of Community.
This workshop is for you if:
• you are or want to be a gardener;
• you find it depressing that the cost of buying a wide variety of seeds is high and packets always give you more than you can ever use;
• you are concerned about the preservation of heirloom and heritage plant varieties;
• you want to support seed and food security in your community
Come on out to our FREE workshop! You must pre-register - spaces are limited - by emailing Irene at or calling 964-2781.

more details:

March 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Lots going on this week!


Wednesday, March 19: Green Drinks
starting at 7PM, Old Triangle, 89 University Avenue

Saturday, March 22: 
 A stalwart Bonshaw couple opposing Plan B who ran a Bed&Breakfast has sold the business and is moving away to be closer to adult children elsewhere.  They are having a moving sale Saturday and Sunday, from 10AM to 4PM, 293 Green Road.  Items will include major furniture, dishware, decor and linens, and outside stuff including mowers, patio furniture, a hot tub, and tools

It's World Water Day:

Afternoon Movie: Gasland Part II   2PM,  UPEI Campus, Duffy Science Building
Sponsored by Cinema Politica and Don’t Frack PEI, admission by donation
Gasland II is a follow-up to Gasland, the documentary by Josh Fox. This is a deeper look at the dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
For more information, call Cooper Institute at 894-4573 or visit ‘Cinema Politica Charlottetown’ on Facebook

Evening Movie : Island Green, 7:30PM, Bonshaw Community Centre, 25 Green Road
Sponsored by the Citizens' Alliance of PEI, admission by donation
Island Green by Mille Clarkes is a 30-minute documentary that explores the question of PEI moving to organic agriculture.  It's beautifully filmed with segments of poetry by Tanya Davis and interviews with Raymond Loo, Mark and Sally Bernard, Margie Loo, and Ian Petrie.!island-green/cwuq
It'll be followed by a social and refreshments.

Tuesday, March 25th:  Connect Meeting, 7PM, Haviland Club, 2 Haviland Street
The Connect Meetings are held by Island members of, an independent advocacy organization working to build a stronger democracy, working in the planning process for the leadup to the next federal election, with a focus on electoral reform. "Hear about Leadnow’s current campaigns and how you can help. For more information go to or call 626-4364."

March 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some meaningful letters addressing the high capacity well issue -- these were printed on just one day, and was "balanced" by the editorial the next day and the Potato Board ad the next.....

This is from John Joe Sark's address to the Legislative committee on February 27:

Mother Earth in danger from deep-water wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 12, 2014

I can see great damage being done to Mother Earth if the moratorium on deep-water irrigation wells is lifted.

There is enough damage caused by the use of poison pesticides and herbicides used by the large corporations to grow potatoes. It saddens me to see and hear about thousands of fish floating dead in our streams and rivers after a heavy rainfall.

This has been happening year after year for too many years. If these chemicals can kill our fish, then how safe are they for the human population?

We hear of illness and death caused by these chemicals in our human population, among our brothers and sisters, in the animal kingdom and among birds of prey that depend on these fish to live.

Water is one of the most sacred elements of the Miʼkmaq People. The water, air and Mother Earth are all sacred elements, without anyone of these all life on Mother will die. All of these sacred elements are so interconnected that whatever we do to the water will affect the land and will affect the air.

I, along with many others, am against the drilling of deep wells for irrigation of the potato crops, as I believe it will only add to the problem of more water from the potato fields flowing into our once pristine rivers and streams and seeping down into our water table.

As keptin of the Miʼkmaq Grand Council for the District of Epekwitk, I strongly recommend that the moratorium on high- capacity deep wells for potato field irrigation not be lifted until we are sure these deep-water wells will not harm the quality of fresh water in this province.

To date, there is no evidence that we can be sure.

We have no idea what happens to our underground water, which flows under the surface. We have no idea how much of that water is available to us and what could happen to it if more deep wells were dug for the purposes of those who appear to place profit over the needs of the greater population and future generations of Islanders.

The present model of industrial agriculture cannot be working for P..E.I and it is time we faced this and built the alternatives needed now and in the future. We need to realize that corporate and industrial agriculture has had its day and that trying to rescue it will inflict great damage on Mother Earth.

She is already too wounded by this model of agriculture, which has resulted in destruction of land, water, trees, human and animal life.

Organic farmers are not asking for deep wells. They donʼt need them because they have environmentally friendly agricultural methods, which are building up the soil, treating water responsibly and enhancing human and animal health.

As Prince Edward Islanders we have to come together and demand that the government of P.E.I. maintain the moratorium on high capacity deep water wells. Set up monitoring systems on the wells that are now operating, and create legislation with teeth, so that these wells can be shut down if they are endangering our water table, our clean water supply, or causing harm to our soil.

Dr. John Joe Sark LLD is keptin of the Miʼkmaq Grand Council for the District Of Epekwitk (P.E.I.).


Potato danger all-consuming - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 12, 2014

First of all I would like to say this deep-water wells venture is too risky and could destroy our Island with the protocol we are using to determine the facts needed to make such a monumental decision. The very future and existence of P.E.I. is at stake here. No water . . . nobody can live without water. The process to determine this needs to be more scientific.

Without proper tests to assess the quality and quantity of the available water on P.E.I., this request should be turned over to an independent committee to ensure the proper research and studies are completed. When the data is available, an informed decision can be made. Careful consideration is required to determine potential damage to our drinking water and environment.

Secondly, my research indicates health-care scientists are studying the health problems associated with eating foods that spike our blood sugars. More and more people are becoming insulin-sensitive and developing diabetes, cancer and heart problems with the spike in insulin created from eating foods like potatoes. How much longer will people consume potatoes? French fries are even worse considering they are fried in canola oil.

The misinformation regarding the P.E.I. potato industry contributing $1 billion to our micro- economy is not accurate. The majority of the money ends up off-Island and does very little to grow our economy or create a tax base to pay for the health-care problems it creates. Nor does this industry compensate adequately our education requirements.

Finally, I would like to leave food for thought: “Mankind will not destroy Mother Earth, man can only destroy our ability to live on Mother Earth.” Mother Earth is a living cathedral, with real feelings and needs. She must have harmony and balance, she can shake mankind off her back like a dog shaking ticks off their back. She has many ways to do this, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and tidal waves. Think about it.

Wayne MacKinnon, Marshfield

Potato processors bargain through blackmail - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 12, 2014

A Readers View

I have lived on the Island for almost 19 years. For those 19 years, anytime the Irvings or McCains think that they are not going to get their way, they threaten to pull out and take their jobs with them. It is a bargaining tool of theirs. This is not a good debating point, it is blackmail.

Showing “candid” photos of hard-working farm families is a bit like a defence lawyer pointing to a murder suspect and saying to the jury does this person look like a murderer. Again this is not a good debating point for or against deep-well drilling. We all know and respect that farmers only want to make a living and do not want to harm the environment. The trouble is past farming practices have not been good and perhaps growing potatoes for the french fry factories is not good, sustainable farming practice.

When I first moved to P.E.I., my late husband and I rented out cottages for the summer. Our property backed onto a potato field. Late one fall, the field was plowed. We thought it was rather late to be plowing and then planting a cover crop. One night we had a terrible windstorm. The next day our lawns, cottages, in fact, the entire property was covered in red dust. So were the properties across the road, there was even soil in the cottages. We called the farmer, talked to him. He said he was putting in potatoes the next year, and because the growing season for this type of potato on P.E.I. was too short they had to plow in the fall.

He also stated that usually the ground froze over and there was snow cover so it did not matter. At the time I thought why are they growing a type of potato that requires a longer growing season than they naturally have. Of course these potatoes were for french fries. It seemed to me t was neither scientific or good farming practice that one should hope the ground froze before the winds came.

It was a terrible mess to clean up in the spring and I wondered whether the farmer was hoping the wind would blow the soil back onto his field. In Australia, which is a continent not an island, they have been irrigating for years, especially for the wine industry. Now their rivers are drying up. So please no pictures or threats, a proper debate is needed.

Carol Capper, Summerside

Three things spark our pride - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 12, 2014

There are three things Canadians seemingly take great pride in — hockey, our Medicare and our vast supply of fresh water. With that being said it appears the only thing thatʼs thriving is our hockey after another gold performance at the Olympics.

Prince Edward Island has seen a disintegration of our health care and our fresh water supply. With wait times increasing and residents having to incur expensive trips or even hitchhike to Halifax for health services itʼs hard to believe we live in Canada.

Our health-care system is falling fast as well. The download of health- care costs from the feds to the provinces makes it hard for any health care to function. Itʼs made even worse by a provincial government that doesnʼt seem to understand spending wisely versus spending foolishly.

When thinking of fresh water, many will remember another summer of water problems for the city of Charlottetown as well as continuous river closures due to runoff in the summer and fall over the last few years. Itʼs hard to believe P.E.I. with all its fresh water faces these problems.

Recent calls for deep-water wells set a dangerous precedent as it opens up the already fragile Island water table to more pressure. Itʼs time we as Islanders take a stand against this and work to protect and preserve our Island water for future generations. Problems in Charlottetown over the last two summers with the Winter River Watershed should serve as a wake-up call and remind us that without proper care and protection of our water resources — we will run out. There was a time when I was growing up that buying bottled water was unheard of but nowadays this has become the norm.

I love P.E.I. with all my heart but itʼs becoming hard to live here. Itʼs time for accountability and transparency, wise spending not wasteful spending and care for the citizens of the province. Perhaps then even our politicians will be worthy of a gold.

Melvin Reeves, Kensington

And the website for the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water:
And the last recommendation in the section of The Carver Commission report dealing specifically with Aggregate Land Holdings discusses "Land Grabbing".

It's an excellent section and I found it hard to trim it, so here is most of it:

LAND GRABBING - The Carver Commission report (pages 30-32)

The term ‘land grabbing’ refers to the contentious issue of large-scale land acquisitions, primarily the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals. While used broadly throughout history, land grabbing as used today primarily refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the 2007-2008 world food price crisis.
On Prince Edward Island, the chief concern has been the purchase and control of land by non-residents, primarily shore frontage. The Commission’s research into the question and consultation with Islanders indicates that non- resident ownership is not as great a concern as it was when the Lands Protection Act came into force. The real estate industry provided valuable insight on this subject. Their experience shows that following the 2008 global financial crisis, demand for property here slowed considerably.

Since then, the trend has been toward sales by non-residents rather than purchases.
However, in the Commission’s view, this temporary trend does not mean Prince Edward Island will remain immune to market pressures in the longer term.

As presently written, the Lands Protection Act offers no protection against purchase by any resident of a large land holding of just less than 1,000 acres. Such purchases by resident individuals can be achieved without IRAC and Executive Council approval.

Since the definition of ‘resident’ is a person who resides in the province for 183 days per year, non-consecutively, it is conceivable that offshore interests could acquire large tracts of land through the use of creative planning. For example, students attending university or college here for a couple of years could each buy up to 1,000 acres of land. Or someone could assist them with the purchase. In addition, the Act offers no protection against the purchase of farmland by individuals who have no intention of keeping it in agricultural production.

The Commission heard two messages loud and clear:
1.    That the provincial government should take advantage of its legislative authority to keep land under the ownership and control of Islanders and those who want to become resident here; and
2.    That agricultural land should remain in food production, preferably under the control of resident bona fide farmers.
The Commission recommends:
As it now stands, a non-resident can acquire up to 5 acres of land or 165 feet of shore frontage without Executive Council approval. Those who want more must apply to Executive Council, and approval is usually granted.
The Commission believes the provincial government must seek the views of Islanders on the question of whether non- residents should be permitted to acquire large tracts of land. The related question of whether residents who are not bona fide farmers and who have no intention of farming should be able to hold 1,000 acres needs to be debated as well. In other words, how much is enough, and how much is too much?

5. That the provincial government use data collected under the Registry Act to monitor the sale and purchase of large tracts of farmland by residents and non- residents who are not bona fide farmers, and place restrictions on future transactions,  if deemed necessary; exceptions would be made in cases where non-residents receive land from residents via will or inheritance.

As it now stands, a non-resident can acquire up to 5 acres of land or 165 feet of shore frontage without Executive Council approval. Those who want more must apply to Executive Council, and approval is usually granted.
The Commission believes the provincial government must seek the views of Islanders on the question of whether non- residents should be permitted to acquire large tracts of land. The related question of whether residents who are not bona fide farmers and who have no intention of farming should be able to hold 1,000 acres needs to be debated as well. In other words, how much is enough, and how much is too much?

These are important questions that must be addressed, but further public discussion and debate are required.

Land grabbing is a global phenomenon. It became an issue on Prince Edward Island in the 1960s when non-residents began buying shore frontage, and it remains a concern to this day. While the global economic downturn has slowed interest from non- residents, the Commission sees this as only a temporary reprieve.
The time will come again, perhaps soon, when Island land will again come under pressure from non-resident buyers. Government should have a policy in place to deal with the demand, and devise means to protect our precious shorefront and our most important natural resource the land    from those whose interests may not be what’s best for Prince Edward Island’s land.

This was from pages 30-32 of the Commissioner's report, found at The link to the report is around the middle of the page.

Happy St. Patrick's day!

March 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Another installment of "Let the Potato Board Educate Islanders on the Deep Well Issue":
Guardian ad, Saturday, March 15th, 2014 -- a quarter page in size (with annotations):

Oh, so it's OK.

This is the The Education Plan -- take what the Department of Environment officials said ("We have the capacity for Dozens and dozens and dozens of wells.") and basically ignore scientists, watershed people, and volunteers who have looked at most of the same data and more and most certainly don't come to that conclusion.  They are attempting to reassure a public which does cares about the health and fate of these farmers, but is growing increasingly uncomfortable with how this sector does business with its effects on land and health, and with ever-increasing demands to "level the playing field."

This educational installment, point by point (any errors of interpretation are my own):
First the
point being made by the Potato Board, and then what presenters have said at the Standing Committee meetings:
"The Science" Point #1:   "Prince Edward Island has one of the highest groundwater recharge rates in Canada, with recharge rates double of those in other agricultural parts of the Maritime provinces."
Actually: A lot of rain (remember how many swimming pools per square inch or kilometer?) does not mean that the rain gets to groundwater.  This has been mentioned by several presenters at the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.

The Science Point#2: Supplemental irrigation uses a very small fraction of our water supply.
Actually: this is likely true, but only a very small fraction of our water supply is actually available for our use.  Do we know all the factors to choose that this commodity is more worthy than any other needs for our water?

The Science Point#3: Supplemental Irrigation will have negligible impact on the available groundwater supply, as water will be drawn -- at most -- a few weeks per year, and not at all in some years.
Actually:  These high capacity wells pull up about 800 gallons per minute, I think I have read.  And they can run non-stop to get to all the fields.  That's about a million gallons a day, multiplied by 18-27 days per year (Innovative Farms Groups information) -- at the driest time of year, when the streams are running on mostly basewater (groundwater input)  -- that's about 34 million gallons of water from one well, which services about 200 acres, I think they said.  Most people would not call that negligible.

The Science Point#4: New wells would be regulated so that wells would not be approved that are beyond the capacity of the local watershed.

Actually: At least three different presenters have said that the assessment of capacity to allow the draw off water is completely wrong in the provincial 2013 water extraction policy; and that the department chose to ignore or "cherry-pick" the analysis and recommendations from the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) and other sources, namely that the water could be drawn off until stream base flow (levels only from groundwater) hit 35%.  The CRI cautioned never to let irrigation happen when the baseflow is all there is -- only extracting water when there is at least a certain percent of streamflow (from rain) in local streams.

Now these assessments are my inferences from listening to every presenter to the committee after the Environment Minister and her entourage.

Last spring,
Horace Carver was criss-crosing the Island, listening to Islanders,reading every previous commission, every roundtable, every task force and action committee, and after very long and hard thought, came to his conclusions that increasing potato acreage is not going to improve soil or the bottom line.

From his report
The Gift of Jurisdiction: Our Island Province:
The Commission does not doubt, as they claim, that many potato producers are doing a good job when it comes to protecting against soil erosion and maintaining an acceptable level of soil organic matter content. However, the following facts cannot be ignored:
1.    Potato yield is related to soil quality;
2.    A significant number of potato producers do not comply with the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act;
3.    The precise number of acres not in compliance is unknown since the Department of Agriculture and Forestry does not verify compliance through field checks;
4.    There have been no successful prosecutions since the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act was proclaimed in 2002; and
5.    Soil organic matter, a principle indicator of soil quality, continues to decline.


The Commission recommends:
3. That the aggregate land holding limits of 1,000 acres of land for an individual and 3,000 acres of land for a corporation apply only to ‘arable land’ – a term to be defined in the revised Lands Protection Act – and that the maximum amount of non-arable land holdings be set at 400 acres for individuals and 1,200 acres for corporations.

The Commission Recommends:
4. That before any future increase to the arable aggregate land holding limits is considered, government and the agriculture sector must
commit to actions and report satisfactory progress to
  • Through collaborative research, identify barriers to profitability and quantify the relationship, if any, between farm size and profitability;
  • Improve compliance with the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act, improve soil quality, and reduce losses from soil erosion; and
  • Evaluate and report on the potential impact on rural communities of further farm consolidation.
The Commission believes the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act has the potential to bring about significant improvements in soil quality, crop yields, and farm profitability.
But, as the hollow instrument that it is now, the Agriculture Crop Rotation Act lacks force and will never be effective until the agricultural community itself takes ownership of the problem and required solutions. To do nothing is not an option.

As a further comment on the subject of aggregate land holding limits, the Commission realizes there are some who believe the decision on “How much land is enough?” should be left to those who currently own and control the most land. History teaches us that the Lands Protection Act was brought in for the express purpose of providing all Islanders, through their elected representatives, with a say in the matter. In this regard, the Commission believes nothing has changed.

Amazingly clear analysis and strong words. 

March 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Quite the list of presenters at the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry yesterday in the Coles Building.  It ended up going from 10AM to about 3PM, with a short lunch break.  But it was completely interesting.

On Compass, it was the top news story, a pastiche of clips:
First there was an update on the provincial hog industry by three very nice people (two producers and the executive director of the PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board). 
Hog farmers have had it rough, but they feel the cycle that was elongated into a "supercycle" of extended poor years is turning upwards. 
Hog production on the Island has such history!  (Especially the last dozen years with the local plant and such.)   I do know that the large producers left have their hogs go off-Island to be butchered (at a federally-inspected). That was just accepted as fact.  There was no mention of the small (successful) farmers who raise and sell fresh pork,fresh sausages, deli meats, and smoked hams and bacon.  By the way, these local folks are likely at a Farmers' Markets day :-).

(There was a great deal regarding other presentations I hope to address later.)

The last presentation on the moratorium on high capacity wells (the ninth!), was from the NDP PEI,  and as I got a copy of their presentation, I'll paste their closing statement here (the standing committee could just change the names and submit this to the Legislature):

In summary, the position of the NDP PEI is that the request by the corporate potato sector to lift the moratorium on deep water wells for irrigation purposes does not take into consideration the fact that access to a plentiful supply of safe drinking water is a basic human right, represents a direction in agriculture that we should be moving away from, and is not based on scientific evidence that has been properly adjudicated by either the scientific community or the public at large.
The NDP PEI recommends that:

  •  Before any consideration at all is given to the request by corporate agriculture to lift the deep-water well moratorium, a comprehensive provincial water policy be developed as a way to safeguard the public interest. Such a policy should be established using a process that involves a knowledgeable Task Force and full public consultation. Given the urgency of having such a water policy in place, this should be tackled by government in the next session, at which the Task Force should be struck and provided with a 6-month deadline to file its report.
  •  A further prerequisite to considering the request to lifting this moratorium should be a broadly based peer review process of the scientific justification for doing so. Scientists who are experts in groundwater research should be given the opportunity to debate and critique the merits of the proposal, using the precautionary principle as an overriding guideline. It is imperative that this process be open to the public. If, and only if, government wishes to pursue the request by the Potato Board & Cavendish Farms to lift the moratorium on deep water irrigation (i.e. beyond a simple: "No"), the process of exposing the data obtained by provincial employees to peer review and public consultation should be initiated by government during the next session, in parallel with the Water Task Force proceedings.
  •  The provincial government needs to develop a strategy to encourage farmers to move away from an industrialized model built around a monoculture of potatoes toward a diversified, organic, and sustainable model that is less dependent on irrigation and environmentally - harmful soil amendments. This is a long-term policy change that should have been done decades ago. It will require careful deliberation by government in consultation with appropriate experts, stakeholders, and the general public. Serious discussions should begin within government immediately.

We hope to put as many presentation papers or powerpoints on the website in the future.

Location of transcripts of these Committee meetings (not yesterday's, yet) from the Legistlative Assembly site:

March 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

March 14 (besides being "Pi Day" -- 3.14) marks an unpleasant one year anniversary.  One year ago, we had two warm days and a good amount of rain.

Every mitigation along the road construction work at the Plan B failed.

Fairyland culvert, 

Hemlock grove/Crawford's stream
Box culvert at Crawford's Brook, March 14, 2013 

The Fairyland culvert is still there, but now the bumpy Plan B goes over about 50 feet of shale.
Hemlock grove is next to a rise of about 60 feet of shale,
and the concrete boxes are covered and hidden with about 60 feet of shale.

Last year, the volunteer environmental monitors were out, though Department of Environment just, in effect, shrugged.

Cindy Richards made four videos documenting the failed mitigations: Part 1 video is here (the page will show you the thumbnails for other parts):

and more photos and written descriptions at the Stop Plan B archives:

The disconcerting thing is that we are unaware of any plan (a, b or otherwise) to deal with this spring's upcoming melt and all the skimpily-mulched dirt hillsides.  We were told right before Christmas that Department of Environment's officials were waiting for Transportation's environmental people to send something, and we have heard nothing. 

Water Issues, about all that "recharge" --

Presentations to the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry on high capacity wells, rescheduled from Thursday:

The meeting this morning starts at 10AM, Coles Building, with these groups or individuals presenting:

  • Environmental Coalition of PEI •    Todd Dupuis, Atlantic Salmon Federation •    Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI •    PEI Federation of Agriculture •    Cooper Institute •    Council of Canadians •    Daryl Guignion •    NDP PEI •    PEI Shellfish Association
Presumably it will go until about 2PM.  Drop in anytime you can!  It is sure to be interesting.  Do note the meeting will first hear from the hog board on recent issues in their industry.

The last meeting before the Legislature opens for spring will be in two weeks, Thursday, March 27th, when the Committee will have a last few presentations (PEI Potato Board, Sierra Club, others) and deal with other agricultural news. The Committee will present a report on their meetings to the Legislature in April.

There have been some excellent letters in this week's papers, and I will have a "bulletin board" of these in the next few days.

The National Farmers' Union district convention is today at the Dutch Inn, all welcome, and there will be presentations/discussions about high capacity wells, bill C-18 about farmers' ability to save seeds, and CETA.

And switching gears entirely to the CETA agreement (Comprehensive Economic Trade/Canada-European Union) is a well-crafted, "it's clear as a bell -- run in the opposite direction of CETA" letter in yesterday's Guardian by Marie Burge:

CETA: Yet another threat to democracy - The Guardian Commentary by Marie Burge

Published on March 13, 2014

Speaking about the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) and other proposed trade agreements, Dr. Jason Hichel, London School of Economics says, “If these deals come into effect, multinational corporations will be empowered to regulate democratic states, rather than the other way around.”

There is a growing awareness in our community that democracy is being undermined at every turn. Many people point to governments as the big offenders. It is a cause for widespread cynicism that the very institutions which citizens entrust with the duty of guarding democracy, namely governments, are the culprits selling out our democratic collective freedoms.

CETA is one of those sell-outs, with major negative consequences for the democratic future of Canada.

The most obvious sign of the lack of democracy in CETA is the negotiations are carried out in total secrecy, with a few gratuitous leaks. In many meetings behind closed doors, unelected, professional negotiators are creating a plan for the future of our country. This is a “... binding international treaty — negotiated in secret, with its exact terms still concealed from the public — to be agreed to without any opportunity for debate, reflection or independent analysis” (Scott Sinclair, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives). Earlier this year the Prime Minister arrived home from a European trip to announce that he had an “agreement in principle”.

Supporters of CETA say “it will improve our economy.” This is worrisome because our predominant economic system itself is undemocratic. We need to ask the question, “improving the economy for whom?” It is clear that CETA aims to “improve the economy” for the top one per cent, not the economy as it relates to the large segment of the population deprived of reliable, livable income. We already have an economy geared towards the rich and powerful. Canadians should challenge government representatives or politicians every time they present a platform of the “economy,” and ask, who controls this economy and who benefits from it? The Canadian Government should be shamed for its efforts to win over the voting population by claiming that CETA could create 80,000 Canadian jobs. This ploy has been used before. It is based on a naive belief that the corporate sectorʼs gains will result in investments in new jobs. In fact, the opposite is found to be true.

The authorities say, “Trade is necessary.” We, who oppose CETA, are not against trade. In fact, we support trade among nations, but we propose fair trade, in which we mutually benefit from the trade of goods and services of equal value and similar genre. For many years we have listened to the rhetoric of "free trade" such as that of NAFTA enthusiasts. The only thing that was freed by that agreement was the movement of capital from one country into another. It provided freedom for the transnational corporations to ignore sovereign borders and to plant their investments wherever they would produce the biggest profits.

The authorities imply CETA is just another trade deal. Others say it is merely NAFTA on steroids, which is scary enough, but not true. CETA is in a totally different framework. CETA would grant to transnational monopolies a power and control over our country never before experienced. At the same time, it will limit the capacity of democratically elected governments to create independent public policy.

Under CETA, and other agreements which are in the works, elected politicians around the world will lose the power to enact legislation or programs to protect their citizens and the environment in the face of economic disaster or the devastation of climate change.

Similar to NAFTA, the proposed CETA will give corporations the right to demand compensation from any government action that "interferes" with a corporationʼs goals, investments, and contracting interests. The Investor State Dispute Settlement, a mechanism of CETA, allows for an investor, a private corporation, to make claims against Canada, a sovereign nation, for any perceived “loss or damages.” All Canadians, including Islanders, should consider some possible impacts of CETA: it could interfere with “buy local” policies for food or any other goods and services; it could give EU monopolies full access to municipal or provincial contracts related to drinking water, sanitation and other municipal services.

Many coalitions, both in the EU and in Canada (including P.E.I.), aware that CETA is not yet signed, are taking action to influence the outcome. The first step is to demand that the contents of CETA be revealed. “There needs to be informed public debate, based on full disclosure of the treaty text. This should happen before Canadian governments, at all levels, make a final decision” (Scott Sinclair). The coalitions are creating awareness of the negative aspects of the proposed agreement, and creating forums for public debate, at the same time encouraging municipal and provincial governments to protect their communities.

There is still time for concerned citizens to mount firm and effective opposition to the CETA. Citizens with a united voice can stop this deal which has the capacity to decrease Canadaʼs democratic powers as well as those of provinces and territories, and municipalities.

Marie Burge, Cooper Institute

and underwhelming coverage of the press conference for the coalition against CETA, which was held last week:

The Citizens' Alliance, ably represented by Cindy Richards, is in the Coalition due to concerns about the lack of clear, democratic process on it, and also concerns regarding lack of jurisdictional autonomy in decisions affecting the environment.

New coalition in Prince Edward Island concerned over Canada- Europe trade deal - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on March 06, 2014

Trade, social justice and environmental groups in P.E.I. have banded together to raise concerns over the Canada-European trade agreement and how it could have serious negative impacts for the province.

The coalition of 23 local groups held a news conference in Charlottetown this week, calling the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) the most intrusive that Canada has ever signed.

Lori MacKay, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) for P.E.I., says one key concern is around local procurement policies.

“Thereʼs not too many things that are more significant to the private sector in Prince Edward Island than access to local government contracts, but the European demands would make it impossible for provinces and municipalities to use government spending as a job creator or a local economic development tool,” she said.

“This would mean that when awarding contracts, a local government would not be able to put provisions on a contract, like minimum Canadian or local content...or even buy-local campaigns.”

Other areas cited as potentially threatened by CETA are the provinceʼs agricultural industry and health-care system. The coalition also believes the deal will limit or remove the governmentʼs ability to create jobs, support local businesses and negotiate benefits for Islanders from companies investing in the provinceʼs resources.

Speakers at the news conference addressed topics such CETAʼs negative effects on the dairy industry, supply management, the cost of drugs and the fishing industry.

The coalition emphasized it was not against trade but expressed concerns over the nature of free trade agreements such as CETA and NAFTA.

Coalition members stated their belief that these agreements are mainly about expanding the rights of multinational companies, while reducing the ability of provincial and municipal governments to pursue policies that benefit local communities and everyday citizens.

Thatʼs why they have written to the premier, asking him to champion the idea of a review of this agreement. They would like a standing committee to examine the CETA and engage in public consultations across the province.

They also would like to see the Canada-European trade deal debated in the provincial legislature.

Theyʼve asked the provincial government to outline what exemptions, or reservations as theyʼre called in CETA, P.E.I. has designated to protect important policies from the effects of the agreement.

“This network of groups came together about concern about the secrecy, concern for the erosion of democracy, concern about our government having itʼs hands tied and not being able to govern as we want it to,” said Cindy Richards of the Citizenʼs Alliance of P.E.I.

“Islanders deserve to know what is in the deal and in particular need to know what reservations that Ghiz government has taken to protect important policies such as renewable energy, owner/operator and fleet separation and public transit.”

It sounds like a first good step is writing both federal and provincial representatives about your concerns regarding CETA.
A partial list of contacts is here:

March 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Yesterday it was discovered that if you buy two ads in a local paper, you get an opinion piece printed like a news story.  But, wait, there's more: the special really is:

Buy two big ads, get one editorial free.  This is the same package which the Department of Transportation got regarding Plan B!

Potato processors enter water debate as stakes increase - The Guardian Lead Editorial

Published on March 12, 2014 in The Guardian

The stakes are being raised in the divisive debate on deep-water wells for supplemental irrigation of potatoes on P.E.I. Now, itʼs about processing contracts, the ability of growers to fulfil those contracts and the future of our two major french fry processors. Last week, the spectre of Cavendish Farms or McCains Foods reducing their contracts or even remaining in the province was raised publicly during a meeting of a legislative standing committee.

There have already been warnings from processors that the demand for P.E.I. french fries is decreasing because of additional competition and supply from other market areas. There are suggestions that contracts will be reduced while processors are starting negotiations with a lower price offer over last year. This doesnʼt bode well for contractors who grow over 60 per cent of the Islandʼs potato acreage.

Outside of the agricultural sector, there is almost universal opposition to lifting a 10-year moratorium on deep-water wells. Even inside the farming community, the NFU is opposed to any changes. Other farmers, including some potato growers, are either opposed or neutral on the issue.

Like Daniel thrown into the lionʼs den, three farmer representatives from the Innovative Farm Group (IFG) appeared before the standing committee. IFG represents eight family farm operations in central P.E.I. who grow 4,000 acres of potatoes on a rotational production of 12,000 acres. Some of the farms already have deep-water wells, others use ponds fed by wells and the rest use a pond and surface water mix. If irrigation is needed, deep-water wells are the most efficient option, IFG representatives told the committee. Without the ability to guarantee quality, farmers risk losing processing and table markets where even one dry week can have a significant impact on yield. If Island growers cannot supply a certain quality and size of potato, processors have options with growers and plants in other provinces or states where opposition to deep-water wells is limited.

P.E.I. potato growers suggest the industry would be in jeopardy without some relief from deep-water wells, with catastrophic economic results for farmers, rural communities and the province in general. Irrigation will provide an important tool to help sustain family farms for the next generation and beyond. Farmers said all the right things to the committee. “We live in rural P.E.I. with our children, our families, our friends and neighbours, in and around the farms that we would be irrigating. Thus we are very committed to managing this resource to be as gentle on our environment and as beneficial to our environment as possible. Better plant growth from irrigation means less fertilizer and fewer pesticides due to less stress on the plant.”

The standing committee and government have difficult tasks ahead as they must decide if compromise is possible to protect our water resource even if science supports additional deep-water wells and thus offers farmers a chance to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The "Daniel in the lion's den" comment is peculiar.  First, the editorial doesn't credit that one of the presenters from IFG when starting his presentation used the reference to a lions' den.  Second, the spectators were a bit taken aback by the allusion, as the atmosphere had been one of respect (and perhaps concern for the situation these farmers are in), and Chair Paula Biggar immediately and forcefully said no one would be treated disrespectfully in her committee room as she welcomed them.

As a very observant woman said to me last night, "They (the Ghiz government) didn't realize that the high capacity wells were going to be the thing that made many Islanders sit up and realize that the French fry sector of the potato industry is in terrible shape -- and more acreage, French fry promotion, irrigation wells, just not going to fix it.  It's not good for our environment nor our health.  But we can't vilify farmers --  we do need to start the transition away from this before the market does."

Today's weather is likely to have an effect on the Standing Committee meeting.  This will be the fourth meeting with presenters regarding this issue.  (Minister Sherry, Environment Director Jim Young and Watershed/Subdivision planner Bruce Raymond on February 20th, Catherine O'Brien with the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water and Mi'kmaq Keptin John Joe Sark on February 27th; the National Farmers Union, PEI Watershed Alliance, Central Queen's Wildlife Federation/West River, Green Party PEI, and Innovative Farms Group last week on March 6th.)

If today's meeting (scheduled for 1PM) is postponed, it should be listed here:
and be rescheduled for Friday, starting at 10AM. 

If you are storm-stayed with a bit of time, check out the archives put together by the tech-savvy member of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, Maureen Kerr:

Unfortunately, if the Standing Committee is postponed until tomorrow, it crams into other planned events:

National Farmers Union District Convention which is being held this Friday, March 14 at the Dutch Inn.  Registration is at 9:30 a.m. with the meeting getting underway at 10:00 a.m.  Our guest speaker is our National President, Jan Slomp who will be speaking on building alternatives for a better farming and food system.  As well, we will have a panel discussion on high capacity wells and fracking.  Reports and resolutions will be considered during the day with adjournment about 4:00 p.m.  Everyone is welcome to attend.  Registration fee is $20 per person which includes a hot and cold buffet at noon.

and tomorrow is also:

"My Island, My Heart" conference - Friday, March 14

A short conference entitled “My Island, My Heart” will take place March 4, 1:00-3:00 pm, at UPEI’s Chaplaincy Centre. The conference, led by UPEI arts student Faith Robinson, focuses on three themes: island fragility, island sustainability, and island community.

Special guest speakers include: Deirdre Kessler, writer and UPEI professor; Laurie Brinklow, accomplished poet and UPEI professor; and Millefiore Clarkes, filmmaker to name a few. A short docu-film Island Green, about organic farming on PEI, will also be featured as part of the conference.

Today, it is more important than ever to realize the limitations and magnificence of our environment, so keenly felt by Islanders worldwide. It is crucial that we not forget the roots from which we ourselves grow, to envision a better future.

For more information on the conference, contact Faith Robinson at Admission is free, and snacks and beverages will be provided. All are welcome to attend.

The Healthy Eating Alliance newsletter, with lots of local food events and information, is here:
It is the second download link -- March 2014

And nothing about the Lands Protection Act, except as I delve into them, my admiration for the amount of research and rumination that went into these recommendations.

March 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here was a little article in Monday's Guardian, page A3.  Perhaps the paper has a deal that if your organization buys two half-page ads you get an opinion piece published as if it were a news article?  The red arrows for extra special clients, maybe?

It is a familiar lesson.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is the next meeting of the Standing Committee on Ag/Env/Energy and Forestry, at 1PM in the Coles Building.

**If weather cancels the meeting, it will be rescheduled, I am told, to Friday morning at 10AM.**

There is some other business first (from the Hog Board), then:
Atlantic Salmon Federation (Todd Dupuis)
PEI Federation of Agriculture
Cooper Institute
Council of Canadians
Daryl Guignion
Mi'kmaq Confederacy of PEI
PEIS Shellfish Association
and the Committee has to consider a request from Cavendish Farms

Woo, what a line-up!!  
Of course, do consider attending if you can.
This page has the listing and link to the agenda.  As soon as I hear anything about the meeting being postponed, I will pass it on.

For an archive of letters and posts about this issue, including footage from Maude Barlow's talk at the water forum last month, go to:

Besides the land limits, the Commission on the Lands Protection Act also explored the concern about "double-counting", where farmland "leased out" (rented to someone else to farm) is counted and so is the same land "leased in" (somebody rents it).  The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission, but pretty much no one else, liked the system.  So:

The Commission recommends:
2.    That the provincial government amend subsection 1(3) of the Lands Protection Act to remove the double-counting provision so that only land leased in is counted as part of the aggregate land holding; that the amendment include a sunset clause that would expire in six years, unless specifically extended before the expiration of the six-year time limit; and that a cap be instituted to limit the amount of land an individual or a corporation can
lease out to 50% of arable acres owned.

March 11, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Many different topics:

Pesticide Free PEI meeting tonight, Stratford Sobey's meeting room, 7PM. All welcome.
Adrok company coming to PEI:
Though this deal had obviously been in the works for a while, I hadn't really noticed until the announcement yesterday.  I agree with the clip from radio and TV quote from one of the owners that coming to PEI is the "gateway".

Province commits up to $212,000 to bring company to Prince Edward Island - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on March 10, 2014

A Scottish company with technology that can find underground minerals and energy resources has decided to make Prince Edward Island its Canadian home.

Adrok uses electromagnetic beams to penetrate rock, seawater and earth in order to survey for natural resources.
This patented technology offers companies the ability to search for oil, gas and minerals without the damaging effects of exploratory drilling.

On Monday, Adrok announced it has chosen P.E.I. as its Canadian base of operations.

“We were in Alberta last week and there were a lot of eyebrows raised when we said we were based in P.E.I. because they all thought theyʼve got the oil so we should be there, but actually the province of P.E.I. has got everything we need to grow as a company,” said Alan Goodwin, vice-president of operations for Adrok.

“Weʼve had lots of support, the people here have been fantastic in terms of setting up our economic plans and our financial plans, so thatʼs been very supportive,” said managing director and co-founder Gordon Stove.

The provincial government has committed $11,000 as part of a rental incentive together with a labour rebate that could reach $201,000 if the company reaches its target of hiring six Island employees by the end of 2015.

Innovation Minister Allen Roach said the province is excited by the work that Adrok performs and was only too happy to help the company set up shop in Charlottetown.

“We see that thereʼs great opportunity for that type of business here in North America,” Roach said.
“Theyʼve proven their product in other countries around the world. They came to Canada, they looked at various locations, they chose to come to Prince Edward Island and weʼre extremely pleased with that.”

Adrok will provide a base to service existing clients in the region as well as developing business within Canadaʼs booming mineral exploration industry.

The new base will create six jobs for geophysics (sic) and field technicians who will gather and analyze data on site before sending it back to the companyʼs Edinburgh headquarters for further analysis.

There will also be a sales and marketing function in order to build a client base in the region.

Stove said his companyʼs low-power multi-frequency radio wave technology allows it to probe subsurface areas offers prospective developers the ability to identify lucrative underground or underwater resources in more environmentally sensitive way.

It also costs significantly less than normal drilling costs for test wells.

Adrokʼs decision to base its headquarters in the province was not necessarily linked to a desire for oil or gas surveying in Prince Edward Island.

But Stove did say the company would be willing to do some exploratory work here.

“We plan to develop our offshore capability here in the Maritimes. In the east coast of Canada thereʼs great opportunities to find more sources of energy,” Stove said.

“I think certainly that Minister Sheridan will be interested in what this company has to offer, and if we do look for things in P.E.I. then we have the company here,” Roach added.

Adrok conducted its first commercial exploration in 2007 in Morocco and has since used its patented technology to assist energy and mineral exploration in the North Sea, Europe, North America, Australia and Asia.

Coverage from Compass, about 2:10 into the broadcast:

Through the gate:
The Grapevine  is a publication out of the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, and this issue looks at fracking.  It's not the easiest to read on-line, but contains many interesting articles.

And a bit about the Lands Protection Act review:
Mr. Carver contemplated the issue of where the agriculture industry is today and would increasing the land holding size actually help matters.  He also was charged with looking at the "red tape" involved in accounting for the amount of land a farmer (or corporation) owns.  The regulations regarding renaming some land as environmentally sensitive (so overall holdings could be increased) were scrutinized.  (Once the regulations were modified in 2009, and in 2010, farmers wanting to get some of their lands exempted this way have to play a game of pickleball back and forth between IRAC and the Department of Agriculture to hear if the exemption would be granted.)

from the Prince Edward Island LPA Exemption Regulations (page 22-23):

35. (1) For the purposes of this section, “environmentally significant class of land holding” means any land holding other than a “natural area class of land holding” that
(a) the Department of Agriculture has certified as being (i) agricultural land that is identified in the PEI Sloped Land Inventory that is verified as having been converted from row crops by the owner through tree planting, (ii) land that is being utilized as an erosion control structure approved by the Department of Agriculture,
(iii) land on which there is a hedgerow that meets the Department of Agriculture’s criteria and standards for hedgerows, or (iv) land that is verified to be a permanent grassed headland that does not include any land that is required to be used as a buffer under the Environmental Protection Act Watercourse and Wetland Protection Regulations; or
(b)the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry has certified as being
(i) land that is identified in the PEI Wetlands Atlas as designated wetlands, (ii) land that is identified in the PEI Corporate Land Use Inventory as forested land, or
(iii) land that is required to be used as a buffer under the Environmental Protection Act Watercourse and Wetland Protection Regulations or land that is required to expand a required buffer onto marginal agricultural land.
(2) All land holdings that are certified to be in the “environmentally significant class of land holding” are eligible for exemption from the section 2 aggregate land holding limits contained in the Act up to a maximum of 40% of current aggregate land holdings, to a maximum of 400 acres for a person and 1200 acres for a corporation, of which no more than 80% (320 acres for a person and 960 acres for a corporation) shall be forested land. (EC645/09)

And without further ado, the first recommendation from the Commission tidies this up:
1.    That the provincial government do the following: repeal Section 35 of the Regulations in its entirety; modify Section 2 of the Lands Protection Act to make it clear that the 1,000 and 3,000 acre aggregate land holding limits apply to arable land only; and accept as proof of compliance the farmer’s signed declaration of the acreage of arable land owned and leased.

March 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

During the Plan B opposition, so many caring, brilliant people on this Island made the time to speak out on something so wrong.  That's what is happening now.

Kevin J. Arsenault is one of these people.

Will common sense trump misleading scientific claims on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Kevin J. Arsenault

Published on March 06, 2014

Allen Hicken recently informed us in a guest opinion to The Guardian that Environment Minister Janice Sherryʼs first words to him as Chair of the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) were: “Protecting our groundwater is not debatable.”  Sounds like a “zero tolerance” policy against damaging the environment; however, and sadly, provincial agricultural policy has for decades supported an industrial model of agriculture that relies on massive applications of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides which have already seriously damaged the quality of our groundwater, estuaries, food, and Island environment.

Mr. Hicken also questions why the government has not made public certain groundwater research studies. In particular, he cites high-capacity well research conducted in P.E.I. by Dr. Yefang Jiang.  I couldnʼt locate that study, but found another study co-authored by Dr. Jiang titled “Modeling effects of nitrate from non-point sources on groundwater quality in an agricultural watershed in Prince Edward Island, Canada” which was enlightening.

The abstract for that article states: “Intensification of potato farming has contaminated groundwater with nitrate in many cases in Prince Edward Island, Canada, which raises concerns for drinking water quality and associated ecosystem protection . . . while it would take several years to reduce the nitrate-N in the shallow portion of the aquifer, it would take several decades or even longer to restore water quality in the deeper portions of the aquifer.

“Elevated nitrate-N concentrations in base flow are positively correlated with potato cropping intensity and significant reductions in nitrate-N loading are required if the nitrate level of surface water is to recover to the standard in the Canadian Water Quality Guidelines.”

Numerous scientific studies I easily found clearly show that irrigation significantly increases chemical leaching and groundwater contamination. Why? Because leaching has to do with how much fertilizer and other chemicals are moved below the root systems of crops, and irrigation increases the amount of chemicals moved below the root system. If these chemicals arenʼt taken up by the plants they inevitably move through the soil into the ground water.

A 1991 Nitrogen Action Plan developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states: “Fertilizer use in irrigated agriculture has been identified as the chief source of nitrate contamination of ground water in the agricultural valleys of California, central Nebraska, eastern Colorado, and in the sand plain region of central Wisconsin (Keeney, 1986, p. 280).

Another study (Pucket et al., 1999) concluded that the groundwater system in west-central Minnesota was receiving “ . . . three times as much nitrogen as would be expected under background conditions” as a result of irrigation. Why? Again, because “Irrigation accelerates the movement of nitrates, other soluble constituents and percolating water to the groundwater (Mossbarger and Yost, 1989).”

The real question we should be asking our government is why is it not taking immediate action to reduce the extensive chemical pollution of our ground water and environment which is already happening from intensive agriculture?  We urgently need policies to move our food production system away from growing potatoes for McCain and Irving french fries and growing an increasing number of genetically-modified soybeans and corn for export.

Shouldnʼt a more important aim for our government be to help farmers reduce chemical applications to undo some of the damage being done from excessive chemical application and (as Dr. Jiang reminds us) recover water quality in P.E.I. to the standard in the Canadian Water Quality Guidelines?

Letʼs hope that the ministerʼs statement “Protecting our groundwater is not debatable” was indeed sincere and that the government will ensure that good science and common sense will trump misleading scientific claims that more irrigation will not harm ground water.  It will.

Kevin J. Arsenault, Ph.D., Fort Augustus

Here is how Kevin was described a few years ago in a commentary about another issue:

Kevin J. Arsenault of Charlottetown obtained his doctorate from McGill University in social ethics. He has served as a former executive director of the National Farmers Union, and has worked as an agricultural consultant for more than 20 years. He was also a presenter to the standing committee investigating whether P.E.I. should become a GM-free zone in 2005.


Here is a 13-minute clip from Maude Barlow's talk at the Water Forum on February 26th at the Rodd Charlottetown, regarding the four principles of water:

Some more background from The Gift of Jurisdiction: Our Island Province:

The last thing Horace Carver discussed before presenting any of his recommendations was what the Lands Protection Act is actually trying to do:

He writes (bold mine):

Bearing in mind the purpose of the Lands Protection Act  as stated in Subsection 1.1:

The purpose of this Act is to provide for the regulation of property rights in Prince Edward Island, especially the amount of land that may be held by a person or corporation. This Act has been enacted in the recognition that Prince Edward Island faces singular challenges with regard to property rights as a result of several circumstances, including:
(a) historical difficulties with absentee land owners, and the consequent problems faced by the inhabitants of Prince Edward Island in governing their own affairs, both public and private;
(b) the province’s small land area and comparatively high population density, unique among the provinces of Canada; and
(c) the fragile nature of the province’s ecology, environment, and lands and the resultant need for the exercise of prudent, balanced, and steadfast stewardship to ensure the protection of the province’s ecology, environment, and lands,

the Commission offers the following observations regarding its strengths and weaknesses.


  • The aggregate land holding limits of 1,000 acres for individuals and 3,000 acres for corporations were unique among Canadian jurisdictions when they were introduced in 1982. Since then, the Lands Protection Act has only been successfully challenged in court once.
  • The reporting requirements under the Act and Regulations provide important data on land holdings, trends in non-resident ownership, and other matters of interest to government and the public.
  • From time to time, the Act and Regulations have been amended in response to threats to the intent and purpose of the Act.
  • The features which tourists continue to find most attractive are the province’s rural character and the visual quality of its landscapes.
  • Without the Act, significant amounts of land would probably have been bought by non-residents, and there would likely be larger farms.


  • The 1,000 and 3,000 acre limits have not evolved in response to increasing farm size and the number of operations approaching the aggregate land holding limits; the only exception is the 2009 Environmental Exemption Regulations that allow up to 40% of land holdings to be exempted.
  • The Act has not kept pace with the evolution of corporate structures, for example, farming operations consisting of multiple corporations, family trusts, and corporations involving voting and non-voting shares.
  • The Environmental Exemption Regulations are poorly understood and underutilized; according to farmers, the provincial government did little to publicize the initiative or to assess reasons for the poor rate of uptake.
  • The need to count land leased in and to count land leased out as part of an individual’s or a corporation’s aggregate land holding does not meet the test of common sense, and it undermines the credibility of the Act.
  • Indicators of environmental health and well-being, including soil and water quality, have declined since the Act came into force.

More about those Environmental Exemptions tomorrow.

March 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here are two upcoming social events, each with a primary concern:  democratic reform and environmental issues:

Tonight, Sunday, March 9th, 7:30PM, the Haviland Club Downtown.
LeadNow Connect Social

from their website:
" is an independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy.
We're working together to build a stronger democracy that protects our environment, creates economic opportunity while increasing equality, and guarantees that everyone receives the care they need."

"The core idea is simple: if we work together, we can help hold this government accountable at the ballot box by mobilizing thousands of people to get out and vote for action on democracy, climate, and inequality in key ridings across the country." 
So they are planning socials across the country this week (which will presumably become regular events).

(I sometimes get LeadNow and FairVote Canada mixed up.)

Wednesday, March 19th, 7PM, The Olde Triangle, 89 University Avenue.
Green Drinks, a new (for PEI) monthly gathering to chat about green ideas.
 From the website:

  • Green Drinks is mostly for people working on environmental issues, but anyone can come -- people from environment groups, business, government, academia and as individuals. There is no 'us and them'.
  • Organisers and all attendees actively welcome newcomers and introduce them to others in the group.
  • All attendees commit to meeting new people at every session and not just sticking with people they already know.

So I think you can drink whatever color drink you like. 


This is from American cable company MSNBC.  I honestly don't know much about "The Ed Show" but this video clip is about 15 minutes of a very loud American guy (Ed Schultz) who at the beginning shows even louder conservatives shouting about needing the Keystone pipeline.  Then he tells you he used to be in favour of the pipeline, but *has changed his mind and why*.  It's actually very interesting, especially to see how the Canadian government and business leaders look from the American perspective.

Letters regarding the high capacity well issue

This one raises an issue about radon, but has anyone actually heard about his concern?  Perhaps we all need to start asking about it.

Deep-water wells will spray radon into air - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 06, 2014

A readerʼs view

P.E.I. groundwater contains radon as a dissolved gas. Have the deep-water wells in Prince and Queens counties received a radiological assessment? For I believe there are meteorological and health consequences to their operation. Specifically, what are the activities of radon, 86Rn222, in these wells? How does it compare with shallow water wells? What is the airborne maximum permissible concentration (MPC) of radon on P.E.I.?

If you irrigate with P.E.I. groundwater by spraying, in the flight of the water droplets through the air, radon will evaporate out of the water droplet, effectively what is called an air stripper; now a radon stripper. Some radon evaporates (stripped out), some doesnʼt. The radon stripper effect will form a radioactive radon gas cloud, a radon plumb. The radioactive half-life of 86Rn222 is 3.8 days, and a significant concentration of radon may occur near the spraying source in light winds as well as down wind.

When radon decays it emits an alpha particle of 5.5 million electron volts, very energetic.

Electrons are stripped off diatomic oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the air and it takes about 30 electron volts to create one ion pair. This is referred to as ionization or ionizing radiation. Do the math: divide 5.5 million by 30 and you get ~183,000 ion pairs from one alpha particle.

There is a background level of ionization in the atmosphere caused by cosmic rays and background radiation. Airborne irrigation will add to this considerably; so much so that the resistance of the earth atmosphere is decreased, the electrical field of the earth arcs over, and you have thunder and lightning.

Last summer I heard thunder over Hunter River or Cavendish and there wasnʼt talk of any electrical disturbances on the newscast nor were the clouds thunderheads. I believe now this thunder most likely was caused by the deep-water wells spraying radon in the air in Prince and Queens counties of P.E.I. Friends say: “I heard that too.”
Health Canada should also look into the health consequences of the deep water wells.

As a public health matter, it will also prove useful to know the MPC of radon for groundwater, as municipal wells are also involved, at least indirectly.

Tony Lloyd, Mount Stewart

And a bit on the Lands Protection Act review:
from the Commissioner's Report, page 21, with my inserts and deletions:

Questions Regarding the Strategies (those documents cited a few days ago that looked at farming issues and the future):
The 1,000 and 3,000 acre limits were by far the dominant issue in public meetings held by the Commission.  Calls for increasing the limits came mainly from the potato industry, through the Federation of Agriculture and the Potato Board. Not all farmers and not all agricultural organizations    called for increasing the limits however.  The National Farmers Union opposes any change to the Lands Protection Act and Regulations.   Among non-farm groups and individuals, the vast majority favoured the status quo.

Two other points of view were expressed:
1. There still needs to be a limit on how much land a person or a corporation can own and control; and
2. The door should be left open for someday lowering the aggregate land holding limits.

Bearing all this in mind, the question must therefore be asked: If none of the provincial    and    industry    strategies mentioned above calls for increasing farm size as a way to improve farm profitability, enhance rural development, strengthen tourism, or promote environmental sustainability, on what basis can increasing the aggregate land holding limits be justified?

In this regard, the Commission sought answers to the following questions:
1. What is the relationship between potato acreage and profitability for a potato farm?
2. What is the evidence that the present aggregate land holding limits are having a negative impact on the profitability of individual potato farms?
3. If further consolidation occurs in the potato sector, what impact will this have on employment and contribution to provincial Gross Domestic Product?
4. If further consolidation occurs in the potato sector, what impact will this have on rural communities?
5. How does the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act fit into the picture? To what extent is it being enforced? In other words, how many potato producers are in full compliance?
6.    Given current aggregate land holding limits under the Lands Protection Act, has the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act become a deterrent to future growth of the potato sector?
7. Should the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act be changed, or can ways be found to use it, in combination with the Lands Protection    Act    and    government programs, to encourage better land management practices?
8.    What is the impact of the ‘double- counting’ provision that requires landowners to include both land leased in and land leased out as part of their aggregate land holdings? What would be the benefit, if any, of removing the requirement to count land leased out?
9. What are the problems with the Environmental Exemption Regulations introduced in 2009 as they are currently written and enforced? Can they be changed to better reflect the needs of the agriculture industry, or should they be abolished?
So onto the what he actually recommended next.

March 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The Standing Committee On Agriculture and Environment meeting yesterday regarding high capacity wells meeting was full, which as you know makes an impression.

Today I'll focus on the presentation by one of the five groups: the National Farmers Union, with the admirable Edith Ling presenting the brief.    Reg Phalen and Steven MacKinnon were with her to ably answer questions.

They hit all the points of concern regarding lifting the moratorium and focused on the farmer in all this, reminding the members that not all farmers want the moratorium lifted, but neither should farmers, especially potato farmers, be vilified.  They are concerned about nitrates and groundwater, as even if, as the argument could be made, that more water one year would mean that year's fertilizer better utilized, there is still plenty of nitrate and contaminants that will be dissolved in the water and taken down to the water table with it.

Their recommendations to the committee include that the government:

  • "steadfastly maintain" the moratorium on new high capacity wells
  •  recognize and value ALL farming,
  •  promote mixed farming to transition from to protect and improve Island soil and water
  • develop a true water protection policy, including preparing for climate change
  • create a commission on water to involve all Islanders

The last echoes how effectively Horace Carver visited and listened to Islanders (and about whose work I am skipping discussing today).

MLA Buck Watts mentioned he thought these meetings were a form of public consultation, and I hope by the answers he understands yes, but there needs to be more to really say the Legislators consulted with the public.

(MLA Kathleen was quite focused on how many members are in the NFU.  When not given a specific number, she persisted and even asked other presenters if they knew.)

Compass, lead story

Some events coming up (not complete in the least):


Tuesday, March 11, 7PM
Pesticide Free PEI Meeting
, Sobey's in Stratford

Thursday, March 13th, 1-5PM
High Capacity Wells presentation, Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry, Coles Building
Presenters (I think) include Todd Dupois of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Council of Canadians, The Cooper Institute, and the NDP-PEI.

Also, on Thursday:

PEI ADAPT Council AGM/Conference
"Celebrating the International Year of the Family Farm"
AGM 9AM, Conference: 10:30AM
Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
10:30 Conference Welcome: Elmer MacDonald, Chair, PEI ADAPT Council
Presentations from Family Farmers
Matt Dykerman, Rose and Dave Viaene, Don and Christine MacDonald, Alexander Beattie
Questions and Audience Discussion

ADAPT Project Leader Presentations
Farm Centre - Future of the Farm Centre & 2014 Legacy Garden Project
International Sustainable Communities - Roster of Skills
Organic Beet Production and Mkt Opportunities

Potato Marketing by Usage & Wireworm Control , PEI Potato Board
Questions and Audience Discussion

Report on PEI Agriculture Trade Mission to Taiwan - Issues and Opportunities
Phil Ferraro, Executive Director PEI ADAPT, PEI Agr. Trade Team Member

Project Trade Show and Nutrition Break
• GEC - DON Wheat and Future Mkt Opportunities
• Sea Spray Coop - Pickling/Fermentation,
• Fed of Agr/CMEG - Temporary Foreign Workers,
• Hort Assn. - Ethnic Veg Mkts., Club Root Resistance in Broccoli Varieties,
• Hometown Pork - Pork Value Chain,
• Soil Foodweb - Compost Tea as Fungicide, Storecast, Biochar Field Trails,
• Soil and Crop Improvement Assn. - Sea Lettuce Compost,
• Island Forest Foods - Diversified Permaculture Orchard,
• PEI Dairy Farmers - Bovine Leucosis and Johnnies Disease,
• PEI Brewing Company - Malt Barley Value Chain,
• PEI Cranberry Growers - Powder Cranberry Marketing,
• Omega Holdings - Safe Quality Food Planning,
• Certified Organic Producers Coop - Organic Products Field Trials,
• PEI Sheep Breeders - Genetic Enhancement,

Lunch with Keynote Speaker (12:30 - 1:30 pm.)
Reg Porter, ‘Historical Perspectives of Island Family Farming’

Project Trade Show 1:30 - 2PM

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION IS FREE and open to anyone with an interest in the future of agriculture and agri-food production on Prince Edward Island. Pre-registration is necessary as space is limited. To register call: 368-2005 or email:

Friday, March 14th

A short conference entitled “My Island, My Heart” will take place March
14, 1:00-3:00 pm, at UPEI’s Chaplaincy Centre. The conference, led by UPEI
arts student Faith Robinson, focuses on three themes—island fragility,
island sustainability, and island community.

Special guest speakers include: Deirdre Kessler, writer and UPEI professor;
Laurie Brinklow, accomplished poet and UPEI professor; and Millefiore
Clarkes, filmmaker to name a few. A short docu-film Island Green, about
organic farming on PEI, will also be featured as part of the conference.

Today, it is more important than ever to realize the limitations and
magnificence of our environment, so keenly felt by Islanders worldwide. It is
crucial that we not forget the roots from which we ourselves grow, to
envision a better future.

For more information on the conference, contact Faith Robinson at Admission is free, and snacks and beverages will be
provided. All are welcome to attend.

(Also note that) Saturday, March 22nd, Island Green screening, 7:30PM, Bonshaw

March 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few dates to keep in mind:

TODAY -- drop in any time you can -- these are interesting speakers!

Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry
Thursday, March 6, 2014   1PM - 5PM (it is likely to end a bit sooner)     Pope Room, Coles Building
AGENDA (subject to change order)
1.    Call to order and welcome by Chair
2.    Adoption of the agenda
3.    Briefings on deep well irrigation
    •    PEI National Farmers Union
    •    PEI Watershed Alliance
    •    Central Queens Branch, PEI Wildlife Federation
    •    Green Party of PEI
    •    Innovative Farms Group
4.    Additional request to present on deep well irrigation •    PEI Shellfish Association
5.    New business
6.    Adjournment

There is a Pesticide Free PEI meeting next Tuesday, March 11, at the upstairs room of the Stratford Sobey's, 7PM.  Yet another great group of smart, funny Islanders working for something that seems so basic (stopping cosmetic pesticide use).  But they need other interested Islanders to join them.

Saturday, March 22nd:
Movie Double feature -- in different towns.....
Saturday, March 22, 2PM, UPEI campus,    Gasland 2 (on fracking)
7:30PM, Bonshaw Community Centre -- Island Green (30 minute documentary followed by a discussion and a social)

Seedy Sunday, March 23, Breadalbane! --- seed sharing and learning how to store!

Regarding the Lands Protection Act recommendations from Horace Carver:

The media pretty much reported that in Mr. Carver's recommendations the acreage size limits weren't really increased and red tape should be reduced.   But there is a lot more in his discussion, of course.  It appears he read everything about land and rural development that government and other organizations have produced for the last decade or two.  He concludes that the "aggregate" land holding limit is primarily a concern of the potato industry, and has to decide if raising the limit would "fix" the industry.

One report he cites (page 20) that I hadn't really remembered much about was the 2009 Report of the Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Agri-Food, entitled Growing the Island Way ( mmofagri.pdf ).  This commission was made up a group of farmers, including Rory Francis, Raymond Loo, Randall Affleck, and Cynthia Frizzle.

In its conclusion, the 2009 Report of the Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Growing the Island Way, put it this way:
“A ‘vicious circle’ has taken hold, characterized by declining profits, consolidation, and an intensification of operations that is causing negative environmental impacts and losing farmers the respect of the community. Without profit or pride, the next generation of farmers, or ‘new entrants’, is turning away from the industry.”

March 5, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A Standing Committee meeting tomorrow, starting at 1PM, at the Coles Building next to Province House, with presentations (I think) from the National Farmers' Union, The PEI Watershed Alliance, Central Queen's Wildlife Federation/West River, The Innovative Farms Group, and the Green Party PEI.  If you can drop by for a little bit, that will support (most of) these groups and show the politicians that people are interested in this issue.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water has put together a website with current news and archives of articles and commentary:

Wit, clarity, a warning to us all:  In yesterday's Guardian:

Unique approach to selling wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 04, 2014

I would like to congratulate the P.E.I. Potato Board on their information ad, Thursday, Feb 27. I did not realize that by allowing deep-well drilling it would be a solution to the nitrate problem on P.E.I.

Too bad they did not come forward sooner with this approach. Their perspective that this is a lot of storm about a very small issue, that it will not take much water, and letʼs just trust them and the government to do the right thing is a little hard to take.
As many letters to the editor have pointed out both the industryʼs and governmentʼs track records on this have not been good. We have been though all this before with Plan B and I see the same outcome. In fact I will wager money that the government will approve this plan. Then we can wait for the ads about how great fracking will be for the island.

Carol Capper,  Summerside

A quick Lands Protection Act note: 
from page 11 of Mr. Carver's report (spacing mine):

While the purpose of the Act is clear and easy to understand, the legislative framework, consisting of the Act and the Regulations, is very complex and difficult to understand, even for those who deal with it on a regular basis. Few individuals and corporations make application, or even complete mandatory reports, without help from accountants and lawyers.

The legislative framework consists of a total of 88 pages:
the Act itself is 13 pages long
( 05.pdf);
the Forms Regulations, 47 pages
( &05-2.pdf);
the Exemption Regulations, 22 pages
( pdf/L&05-1.pdf);
and the Land Identification Regulations, 6 pages
( law/regulations/pdf/L&05-3.pdf).

March 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Most letters to the editor published in The Guardian get posted on their website, but occasionally one or two don't make it. Often an e-mail from a reader will point it out to them.  Sometimes it takes a few reminders.

Get this right the first time - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 21, 2014

If the volume and sentiment of recent letters to the editor are indicative of Islandersʼ feelings, a vast majority of us breathed a sigh of relief to read that Minister Sherry remains open-minded, and that any decision on high capacity wells will be based on  “. . . informed discussions. We need facts. We need science.”

It appears as if the potential lifting of the moratorium on high capacity wells for irrigation of potato fields may be — excuse the pun — a watershed issue on P.E.I. The crux of Minister Sherry and the potato boardʼs shared position is that “the science” supports a lifting of the ban. But science is not a package of carefully filtered information presented as a final, incontestable truth; it is a dynamic, continuously unfolding process. Science is the ongoing clash of differing ideas from which the light of truth temporarily shines, until newer and better information illuminates the issue further.

When it comes to ground water on P.E.I., we know so very little. As the saying goes, itʼs not that we donʼt know all the answers, we donʼt even know the right questions to ask. The complexity of Island hydrology, and the importance of water in our lives insists that we proceed with extreme caution.

Many informed experts have already expressed grave concern about lifting the moratorium, and most “ordinary” Islanders with generations of accumulated knowledge seem to be saying that the lifting of this ban represents a line in our red soil that we must not cross.

Unlike some other issues, when it comes to our water, there is no Plan B. We must get this right first time. Islanders have an important decision to make; we need farming — indeed I believe that our provinceʼs economic future will depend perhaps more than ever before on farming. But it must be a type of farming that will rebuild our soil, not denude it, will protect our water, not threaten it.

I am not anti-farming — quite the opposite — but I am anti-screwing up our water. 

Peter Bevan-Baker,
Leader, Green Party of P.E.I.

Back to the Land:

More background that popped up about background on revising the Lands Protection Act (blue text are quotes from Mr. Carver's Report, bolding is mine):

There has been a lot of tinkering with the Act  in the last fifteen years or so, trying to straighten out burrs in system:

Since 1995, leased land is deemed to be in the possession of both the lessor and the lessee, and it is counted towards the aggregate land holdings of both. This is the so-called ‘double-counting’ or ‘lease-in-lease-out’ provision.

There have been several suggestions that the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) should be in charge of decision-making in addition to investigation and enforcement. However, it usually is decided:

Executive Council retained its authority for decision-making and delegated investigation and enforcement of the Act to IRAC.
In December 2009, the Commission on Land and Local Governance 
("Judge Thompson's Report") released its final report. It made a similar recommendation to the 1998 Standing Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Environment: that individuals and corporations be permitted to own or lease 1,000 and 3,000 acres, respectively, of arable land, meaning land in agricultural production.
Government responded by amending the Lands Protection Act Exemption Regulations. These Regulations allow an individual to exempt up to 400 acres and a corporation to exempt up to 1,200 acres of land that is certified by a government agency to fall within an environmentally significant land holding classification, as defined in the Environmental Exemption Regulations. It is the same approach as that applied to the Island Nature Trust under the Natural Areas Protection Act.

CETA News:

Before the high capacity well issue came to light, groups were trying to find out more about the ramifications of that comprehensive trade deal announced by the Harper government with the EU.  Turns out there are a lot of concerns about more than cheese (though that is not to be sneezed at).

Today, at 11AM, at the Murphy Centre on Richmond Street in Charlottetown (Room 207), is a news conference open to the public about the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement.
from the announcement:

"With the recent agreement in principle on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), some of the details related to the proposed deal are beginning to filter out.  As a result, a coalition of 22 local groups has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday, March 4, to outline what they see as the dangers and pitfalls of the arrangement."  The group will also explain what course of action it is requesting of the provincial government in this situation.

March 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This Thursday afternoon, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry continues its meetings to hear from groups concerned about the high capacity well issue.   The meeting starts at 1PM and will go as late as 5PM if needed.  Consider dropping in for any amount of time if you can, since interest from the the public on issues is certainly noted, plus it is important to hear what these groups are saying when they say it, since the media only has so much time to report it, and the Hansard (transcript) takes some time to get completed.
The Thursday, March 6th, 1-5PM list includes:
National Farmers Union,
the PEI Watershed Alliance,
the Central Queen's Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation, 
the Innovative Farms Group, and
the Green Party PEI. 

This list may not be accurate or complete, but we will check later in the week.
The second to last group (the Innovative Farms Group) had a presentation at the Watershed Alliance workshop on this issue in November, supporting lifting the ban, and their slide show is the *fourth* one down on this page if you would like to see their rationale (you would have to download it, but it is short):

The Committee is meeting on March 13th and 27th with a similar format to hear from others about the high capacity wells and other issues related to agriculture and environment. The meetings are in the Coles Building, next to Province House, off Richmond Street.

Regarding the Report of the Commission of the Lands Protection Act, June 30, 2013
 Day 3
Changes in farming practices and the calls to review the Act:

The Commission heard that "...the dominant issue remains, as it was in 1982, land ownership for the purpose of agricultural production."

from  page 18

In 1981, the year before the Lands Protection Act came into law, there were 3,154 farms on Prince Edward Island, comprising a total land area of just under 700,000 acres.   Average farm size was 222 acres. In the same year, 819 farms reported some acreage in potatoes. Just under 64,000 acres of potatoes were grown in 1981, an average of 78 acres per potato farm.

Fifteen years later, in 1996, there were 2,217 farms, comprising a total land area of 655,000 acres, and average farm size had increased to just under 300 acres. That year, 652 farms grew 108,000 acres, or an average of 166 acres per potato farm. Also in 1996, figures show that 77 farms were larger than 1,120 acres. Maximum potato acreage was recorded in 1999 at just less than 113,000 acres.

In 2011, the most recent year for which comparable figures are available, the number of farms had declined to just under 1,500,
comprising a total land area of 595,000 acres; average farm size had increased again to almost 400 acres. The number of farms reporting potatoes had declined to 300, and total acreage to 86,500 acres, resulting in average potato acreage of 288 acres per farm. In 2011, the number of farms reporting acreage greater than 1,120 had grown to 120.

What changed between 1981 and 2011?
1. Total acreage in agriculture declined 15%;
2. The number of farms declined 53%;
3. The number of farms reporting potato acreage declined 63%;
4. Average farm size increased 80%; and
5. The average acreage grown by a potato farm increased 269%.

None of this is a surprise, but it gives some idea as to the pressures many farmers are under and some factors behind the request for the acreage limits (or aggregate land holdings) to be raised. Lots of "food for thought" regarding farming on PEI.

March 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

In yesterday's Guardian were two letters regarding our groundwater, the first by this thoughtful Islander:

Listen to people, not big business - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 01, 2014

I am not a scientist, nor am I a farmer, but I am interested in what happens on Prince Edward Island. And I am puzzled.

Wednesday night I sat in a room with a few hundred other people concerned, as I am, with what is happening to this Island. I listened to John Joe Sark speak of how sacred the four elements are to the Miʼkmaq; I heard Reg Phelan discuss farming practices; Maude Barlow talked about the global water situation and Daryl Guignon explained how simple it would be to change and, in fact, reverse what is happening to our valuable resource — water.

Each of these people was able to explain in clear simple terms what needs to happen to improve our farming practices, halt anoxic events, prevent erosion and reduce the need for deep water wells.

How is it that I understood and yet our politicians canʼt? Apparently there are stacks of studies that have been completed by qualified people explaining all this and more. Studies that are sitting on shelves being ignored.

It is about time that our government listened to its people as opposed to the large corporations. When the streams dry up, the fishing industry dies, the soil is depleted and P.E.I. is a desert, the potato giants will have moved on to “greener pastures” and we, the people, will be left to sweep up the sand.

Martha Howatt, Augustine Cove
And the second about various threats to our water:

West Prince facing danger - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 01, 2014

The P.E.I. government regulates pesticides. Environment Minister Janice Sherry is paid to preserve and enhance the quality of our natural environment, including water, air, soil, flora and fauna. Her department is supposed to enforce environmental laws.

A federal study confirms that after years of dumping oilsands tailings into holding ponds in Alberta, there are tailings leaching into groundwater and seeping into the Athabasca River, a source of drinking water. They estimate each pondʼs seepage at 6.5 million litres a day.

What about our Waste Watch containment area in West Prince? Are heavy metals being leached into ground water? The potato industry has a problem with wireworm. Some producers want to fumigate (sterilize) the soil with Vapam (metam sodium), which is a carcinogenic or cancer-causing compound.

The strawberry industry also has a disease virus transported by an aphid. A contract between our P.E.I. government and Environment Canada has supposedly been signed and Westeck will fumigate strawberry runner fields in West Prince this summer. Wayne MacKinnon, a government spokesman, claims this is only a pilot research program for experimental purpose to see how much leaches into the groundwater.

Nitrates leached into our drinking water. Then what?

West Prince is about to become guinea pigs for the federal Conservative and P.E.I. Liberal governments. Chloropicrin, a carcinogenic, will be applied. This pesticide is highly toxic, may be fatal if inhaled, can harm the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs and eyes. If ingested it can cause colic and death. It is toxic to fish.

Fumigants are inherently dangerous pesticides. Each year groups of us travel to West Prince strawberry fields and spend hundreds of dollars harvesting their fruits. Personally I will not be picking and purchasing strawberries from West Prince anymore.
Minister Sherry, are you going to do your job and stop this project, or sit on your hands as usual and watch the demise of a West Prince industry? What is the stance of all elected federal MPs on this atrocity?

Gary A. O. MacKay, Birch Hill

Regarding the Commission on the Lands Protection Act:
An Island Wise Old Owl reminded me:
"The term "Gift of Jurisdiction" is in fact taken from the work of the Institute of Island Studies -- first coined, I think,
by political scientist David Milne, and then a focus of the Institute's work on small-island jurisdictions."

Horace Carver named his report The Gift of Jurisdiction: Our Island Province,  and the title captures the lyricism and intensity of our relationship to the land.  In the first part, he reminds us that if PEI were part of Maritime Union, there would be no Lands Protection Act.  He also refers to a statement he made in 1980: "The most valuable resource on Prince Edward Island is not the possible oil and gas off our coast....but the top ten inches of our soil.  That is the most valuable aspect to us in how we are going to survive in the years to come."

He sketches the history of land ownership since European settlement, of the absentee landowners and the money from Confederation in part being used to buy back part of Island land from the absentee landowners in England, and of various forms of some sort of LPA, always trying to figure out who wanted land and for what, and keeping some control in the matter, whether the rules were enforced or not.

Carver also outlined shared values he determined and felt all parties, whether for increases in land holding or not, would agree with:
page 16 and 17 (quoted in blue)

At several public meetings, the Commissioner expressed the hope that farmers and the farm organizations that represent them could agree on many of the issues that led to the current review of the Lands Protection Act.

A list of ‘shared values’    what could also be described as the founding elements of a balanced approach    was presented to the annual meeting of the National Farmers Union on April 11, just as the Commission neared the end of its public meetings. The ten shared values were drawn primarily from what the Commissioner perceived to be
common points of agreement between the National Farmers Union and the Federation of Agriculture, and they have been endorsed by both organizations.

It is simply not possible to achieve consensus on all issues that fall within the Commission’s mandate. The positions of the two general farm organizations are diametrically opposed on the issue of aggregate land holding limits. However, there is broad agreement in the agriculture community on the shared values outlined below.

Farm organizations and the Commission believe it is important to present these shared values to government and to all Islanders to let them know where these two farm organizations stand in agreement:

1. The land is a public trust and, because of this, all Islanders have an interest in its stewardship;
2. The water, the soil and the air are also public trusts, and all who own land have a responsibility to protect them;
3. The stated purpose of the Lands Protection Act is still relevant today, and there is a continuing need for this type of legislation;
4. Some form of government-supported land banking system is needed to enable more individuals to get into farming;
5. Environmentally-sensitive lands ought not to be farmed, and they must be excluded
from the aggregate land limits under the Lands Protection Act;
6. Farmers must be encouraged to adopt better crop rotation practices, through technical and financial assistance and better enforcement of the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act;
7. New ideas are needed to deal with the difficult succession issues which farmers and farm corporations routinely encounter;
8. The rural vistas and viewscapes which Islanders and visitors enjoy must be protected and preserved;
9. Large-scale purchase of land, also known as ‘land grabbing’, would be harmful to the interests of Prince Edward Island and must be guarded against; and
10. Farmers need to educate non-farmers on why farming is essential to our everyday lives and to life itself.
(Now, that last one can get stuck a bit in one's craw, as we see it is all to easy to manipulate the word and its purpose.) But a lovely and constant set of values.

March 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

From the very impressive front page article in yesterday's Guardian:

Headline:"We can't afford the risk of being wrong."

Caption: "Front, from left, Boyd Allen, Catherine O’Brien, and Don Mazer of the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water make a case against lifting the moratorium on deep-well irrigation to a provincial standing committee Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014."  Guardian photo by Heather Taweel, I think, who was allowed to take photos (unlike the mere spectators).  The rest of you know who you are, including the couple of P.E.I. Potato Board people in the back row  ;-)

And the articulate Rob MacLean, son of former Premier Angus MacLean, closes the front section in Friday's Guardian:

Government must build trust on deep-water well issue - The Guardian Letter to the Day

Record on complying with regulation is not good if one considers the Crop Rotation Act

Before we discuss deep-water wells, we need to face our record on the Crop Rotation Act.

Thatʼs the 2002 law which mandates a three-year crop rotation in potatoes. This is our history, itʼs where promises meet performance and the record is not good.

About a quarter of potato operations are in violation of the act. This is a big reason people donʼt trust government to regulate the industry. It didnʼt have to be this way.

Imagine what the public atmosphere would be like if, instead of only 75 per cent of potato operations complying with the act, we were close to 100 per cent compliance. What if, instead of our soil organic matter getting worse province-wide, it was holding steady or even improving? What if the potato industry could point to those accomplishments? What if the government could say, “You can trust us to regulate wells because of how well weʼve regulated crop rotations?”

If that was the situation, people would still be cautious, they would still want to proceed slowly, if at all, but they would also appreciate farmersʼ efforts to take care of the soil and they would be more inclined to believe governmentʼs assurances.

As it is, the two camps on this question have very little basis for trust. Comprehensive science is only part of the solution. There was a time when science told us there were plenty of cod in the sea and plenty of big trees on the land. The scientists were right, but we mismanaged those stocks and now theyʼre gone.

Regardless of how much water is under our feet, it will be possible to ruin that resource too. Whatever policy we arrive at regarding deep-water wells will have impressive language around regulation, but those words will be empty if we canʼt trust the regulator to enforce them.

Itʼs up to government to build trust, and what they need to do is take strong action on the Crop Rotation Act. Until they do, the old saying applies, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Rob MacLean, Lewes

Happy March!

I have been meaning to dig up and go through Horace Carver's Report of the Commission on the Lands Protection Act, especially since at the end of March, Mr. Carver is speaking to the March 27th Thursday meeting of the very same Standing Committee of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry; and I think there may be legislation in the spring sitting of the Legislature, which begins in April.  There are 29 recommendations, so with some background and perhaps a day off for reader-fatigue, let's march ahead.

To recap (and my errors are my own), Horace Carver is a Charlottetown lawyer, background here:  who was a Conservative MLA from 1978 to 1986, during which time Alex Campbell, Bennett Campbell, Angus MacLean, and James Lea were Premier.

He represented PEI in the Constitutional talks in 1981.  He fought for the right for PEI not to be guided under property rights guaranteed at the federal level and have the right to a provincial Lands Protection Act, and worked drafting the first LPA in the 1980s.

Carver was appointed in November 2012, when Plan B was just getting cleared and bulldozed, and in early 2013 started consultations.  He set the bar high as far as reaching out, appearing in the media often and having several public events, and then basically doing a whistle-stop tour of the Island (if we wistfully still had trains), making sure to reschedule meetings due to bad weather, and have lots of info on the website.

The sessions, as you may remember, were long and he pretty much let people talk.  Then he scooped up all his papers in May and his small staff and wrote his report, submitting it a day before the deadline in late June.  It languished a bit (out of his hands) and was finally released in late Fall. 

OK, more tomorrow on it