August 2014


  1. 1 August 31, 2014
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  2. 2 August 30, 2014
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 2.2 Mount Polley: A Wake-Up Call to the Realities of Tailings Ponds - Ecowatch article by David Suzuki
  3. 3 August 29, 2014
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 3.2 Justin Trudeau wrong on fracking, NB Premier David Alward says - CBC news
    3. 3.3 N.S. fracking moratorium should continue, panel recommends - CBC news
  4. 4 August 28, 2014
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 4.2 Tawdry Private Sponsorships Hang Over Premiers' Conferences - The Ottawa Citizen article by David Reevely
  5. 5 August 27, 2014
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 5.2 Memories of a Good Farmer - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 5.3 Verbal Attacks are Unjustified - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 5.4 Pattern on Water a Concern - The Guardian Lead Editorial
  6. 6 August 26, 2014
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 6.2 Documentary Shows Fish Kill Impact - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay
  7. 7 August 25, 2014
    1. 7.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 7.2 Council of Canadians, CUPE Plan Town Hall Meeting on Health - The Guardian article
  8. 8 August 24, 2014
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 8.2 Costs of using pesticide less than benefits of ridding lawn of chinch bugs - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Roger Gordon
    3. 8.3 Comments unfair against Diamond - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  9. 9 August 23, 2014
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  10. 10 August 22, 2014
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 10.2 Sierra Club supports call for pesticide-free buffer zones on P.E.I.- The Guardian Guest Opinion by Tony Reddin
    3. 10.3 California offers drought example - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  11. 11 August 21, 2014
    1. 11.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 11.2 Irvings will walk off into sunset - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 11.3 Another fish kill, another ministerial failure - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill
  12. 12 August 20, 2014
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 12.2 Is industrial farming acceptable as necessary economic engine? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 12.3 No one cares about dead fish? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  13. 13 August 19, 2014
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  14. 14 August 18, 2014
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  15. 15 August 17, 2014
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 15.2 The Good News on National Honey Bee Day - Bayer CropScience Celebrates Positive Trends in Bee Health
    3. 15.3 It costs a pile to grow a potato - The Guardian columnist Alan Holman
  16. 16 August 16, 2014
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  17. 17 August 15, 2014
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 17.2 It all starts from maintenance of a healthy planet - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Peter Bevan-Baker
    3. 17.3 McCains closing sign of the times - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 17.4 Recent application part of strategy - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  18. 18 August 14, 2014
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 18.2 Minister Launches Offensive - The Guardian Editorial
  19. 19 August 13, 2014
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 19.2 If want votes, then earn them - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  20. 20 August 12, 2014
    1. 20.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 20.2 Federal finance minister endorses shale gas development in N.B. - CBC online news
    3. 20.3 What we know we don’t know about fracking - The Coast article by Geoff Davies
  21. 21 August 11, 2014
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  22. 22 August 10, 2014
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 22.2 P.E.I. residents using social media to challenge farm activity - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt
  23. 23 August 8, 2014
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 23.2 Cavendish Farms warns it faces same challenges as McCain Foods - The Guardian article
  24. 24 August 7, 2014
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  25. 25 August 6, 2014
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 25.2 P.E.I. guidelines much too lenient - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  26. 26 August 5, 2014
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  27. 27 August 4, 2014
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 27.2 Moratorium Needs to Remain - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 27.3 Morell River Heating Up - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  28. 28 August 3, 2014
    1. 28.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  29. 29 August 2, 2014
    1. 29.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  30. 30 August 1, 2014
    1. 30.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update

August 31, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

"Bees at the Brink", a series of two articles by a Minnesota paper, The StarTribune, about the state of honeybees in North America.
Both were written by Josephine Marcotty, and published this summer.

Part 1 ("America's Dying Migrant Workers") focuses on bees used as migrant workers, pollinators for hire for almond trees in California, and the concerns about the detrimental effects of neonictinoid pesticides.

Part 2  ("Bee Battle Seeks Hearts and Minds") is about lobbying the general public - a young business woman wearing bee antenna on her bike helmet vs. Bayer's new Bee Health Centre in North Carolina.

Excellent photos and graphs -- worth a look just for those.

Tonight is the Bonshaw Ceilidh at the Hall at 7PM.

August 30, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Farmers' Markets open today in many locations.  It's great to see the change of colours, as one farmer put it -- now the reds and yellows and purples are there, too.
Many Island performances concluding this weekend -- tonight is the closing for The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, in Summerside, in case you want to go in an opposite direction from Charlottetown tonight, or north to the Watermark in Rustico, or over to the opening of The Best Brothers in Victoria.

David Suzuki writes on the tailings pond blowout in British Columbia:

Mount Polley: A Wake-Up Call to the Realities of Tailings Ponds - Ecowatch article by David Suzuki

August 26, 2014

When a tailings pond broke at the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in south-central B.C., spilling millions of cubic metres of waste into a salmon-bearing stream, B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett called it an "extremely rare" occurrence, the first in 40 years for mines operating here.

He failed to mention the 46 "dangerous or unusual occurrences" that B.C's chief inspector of mines reported at tailings ponds in the province between 2000 and 2012, as well as breaches at non-operating mine sites.

This spill was predictable. Concerns were raised about Mount Polley before the breach. CBC reported that B.C.'s Environment Ministry issued several warnings about the amount of water in the pond to mine owner Imperial Metals.

With 50 mines operating in B.C. — and many others across Canada — we can expect more incidents, unless we reconsider how we're extracting resources.

Sudden and severe failure is a risk for all large tailings dams — Mount Polley's waste pond covered about four square kilometres, roughly the size of Vancouver's Stanley Park. As higher-grade deposits become increasingly scarce, mining companies are opting for lower-grade alternatives that create more tailings. As tailings ponds grow bigger and contain more water and waste than ever before, they also become riskier. The average height of a Canadian tailings dam doubled from 120 metres in the 1960s to 240 metres today. Alberta writer Andrew Nikiforuk likens increasing mining industry risks to those of the oil sands.

Open ponds of toxic slurry aren't the best way to manage mining waste. Although there's no silver-bullet solution, and more research funding on alternative technologies is needed, smaller underground mines are finding safer ways to deal with waste by backfilling tailings. Drying tailings or turning them to a paste before containment are two other options. Safer solutions cost more, making them less popular with profit-focused corporations. But surely B.C.'s $8-billion mining industry can afford to pay more for public and environmental safety.

The government allows the mining industry to choose the cheapest way to deal with waste, and companies often lack adequate insurance to cover cleanup costs when accidents happen. Imperial Metals admits its insurance will likely fall far short of what's required to repair the damage at Mount Polley.

The mining industry and provincial and federal governments must do a better job of managing risks. But how can this happen when we're facing unprecedented dismantling of Canada's environmental regulations and decreased funding for monitoring and enforcement?

Although the B.C. government rightly appointed an independent panel of three top mining engineers to review the cause of the Mount Polley breach and report back with recommendations, the lack of an environmental or cultural perspective on the panel makes it unlikely we'll see meaningful industry reform. And even the most thorough reviews remain ineffective without implementation commitments — a point made clear by the federal government's failure to act on the Cohen Commission's 75 recommendations on the decline of Fraser River sockeye.

Canada's mining industry must also work more closely with First Nations, some of which are challenging industrial activity in their territories. The Tahltan blockaded Imperial Metals' nearly completed mine in the Sacred Headwaters, and the Neskonlith Indian Band issued an eviction notice to an Imperial subsidiary, which proposed an underground lead-and-zinc mine in Secwepemc Territory in the B.C. Interior. With the Supreme Court's Tsilhqot'in decision affirming First Nations' rights to land and resources within their traditional territories, we're likely to see more defending their lands against mining and other resource extractions.

The Mount Polley tailings spill threatens two of B.C.'s most valued resources: salmon and water. As one of the largest sockeye runs enters the waterways to spawn, we must wait to find out the long-term repercussions for Polley Lake, Quesnel Lake and aquatic life further downstream.

This disaster has eroded public trust in the mining industry and regulations governing it. If risks are too high and long-term solutions unavailable or too expensive, the only way to ensure that toxic tailings are kept out of our precious waterways and pristine landscapes may be to avoid mining in some areas altogether.

August 29, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Lots of things to mark on the calendar:

Today, Rally for Health Care, noon, beginning at Trinity United Church, corner of Prince and Richmond Streets, marching to Convention Centre. 

Sunday, August 31st, Bonshaw Ceilidh, 7PM, Bonshaw Hall, Bonshaw
With performers Emma Doucette and Diane Adams, and locals Jolene Willis, Phil Pineau, Tony Reddin and Herb MacDonald.  Proceeds to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Monday, September 1st, 11AM to noon, PEI Federation of Labour's Labour Day Picnic, Joe Ghiz Park, Charlottetown

Saturday, September 6th, Environmental Rights Legislation Organizing Workshop, 9AM to noon, Farm Centre​, 420 Univeristy Avenue, Charlottetown
This isn't a public information session on environmental rights legislation, but a chance for those interested in moving forward on this concept to find out what it is about and ways to advance it.  Jamie Simpson from East Coast Environmental Law Association will be presenting, along with Cindy Richards and Richard Baker.  If you are interested in being a part of this, contact me or Cindy Richards < >
There will be a public information session at a later date.

Monday, September 29, Blue Dot Tour with David Suzuki and Friends, Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside, 7PM, Also featuring Shane Koyczan, and tentatively, Catherine MacLellan and Paper Lions, along with David Suzuki.
"Be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join David Suzuki, a singularly inspiring speaker, on his last national tour. It’s all in celebration of a simple yet powerful idea, and it starts with you. During this special evening, David Suzuki will share the wisdom of a lifetime full of action as he and other Canadian icons and thought leaders celebrate the capacity of Canadians to protect the people and places they love."

Saturday, October 11th, Our first Citizens' Alliance annual general meeting and Plan B social, 7PM, Farm Centre
featuring guest speaker Todd MacLean, with a social, music, refreshments afterwards.  All welcome, of course.

And two news stories regarding fracking in the Maritimes:

Justin Trudeau wrong on fracking, NB Premier David Alward says - CBC news

Takes issue with federal Liberal leader's call for freeze on development of shale gas

N.S. fracking moratorium should continue, panel recommends - CBC news

More reasearch, implemneting public concerns into fracking considerations needed

A link to the study, a little weekend reading:

August 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Wonderful entertainment you have to pay for:
Several plays are finishing up runs this weekend -- The Ballad of Stompin' Tom at Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside, the plays at the Watermark Theatre in Rustico, and A Community Theatre production's of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing  is at:
Robert Cotton Park
tonight, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 6PM
and a Labour Day Matinee 2PM
Tickets are  $18/$16

Not-so-wonderful entertainment you and *somebody else* are paying for:

David Reevely writes for The Ottawa Citizen and wrote on how in addition to money taxpayers spend for the costs of the Premiers' meeting, corporate sponsors are obtained for all the more lavish events.   And representatives of these groups get to go meet the premiers at these certain events.  A list of "sponsors" is included, and it included companies like Merck pharmaceuticals.

Tawdry Private Sponsorships Hang Over Premiers' Conferences - The Ottawa Citizen article by David Reevely

Published on August 26, 2014

Canada’s premiers have raised $450,000 from corporate sponsors for the politicians’ annual summer meeting in Charlottetown this week.

This is money the companies couldn’t legally give in such quantities to the leaders’ election campaigns when they were only trying to become premiers, but apparently now that they’re in office and actually have power, it’s OK.

The sponsors are a who’s who of corporations whose interests are closely regulated by provincial governments. The most generous, at the $150,000 “Fathers of Confederation” level, is the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada — modern-day Macdonalds and Tilleys and Tuppers. Platinum sponsors ($50,000 each) are Bell and Manulife.

Some selections from lower on the list:

The breweries that own the Beer Store in Ontario, Labatt and Molson and Sleeman’s, whose anachronistic near-monopoly Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa isn’t interested in breaking.

Pipeline company TransCanada, whose multibillion-dollar tubes run through almost every province. Perhaps you’ve heard of Energy East (from Alberta to New Brunswick) and Keystone XL (from Alberta to the United States).

Merck and AbbVie, which make drugs that might, or might not, be covered under provincial health-insurance plans, a distinction worth many millions of dollars.

Borealis Infrastructure, an investment arm of the Ontario municipal workers’ pension plan. Among other things, Borealis has or had pieces of private nuclear company Bruce Power, the Confederation Bridge, school buildings in Nova Scotia, the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and Ontario’s land-registry system.

The Canadian Labour Congress, Unifor and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represent numerous workers whose salaries are paid in one way or another with provincial money.

unable to upload :(  Please check our facebook page for the photo.

Many of these companies and organizations have sponsored premiers’ meetings for years. In the most benign interpretation, it’s because they want premiers and their senior aides to think kindly of them and their public-spiritedness. More harshly, they’re buying face time that’s otherwise difficult to get with so many important people at once.

“I think there’s such a variety of different sponsors that do this and it sort of takes away from saying there’s single access, things like that,” said Guy Gallant, a spokesman for P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, the conference’s host. “They sponsor some social events during the week, and end of the day that takes away from taxpayers having to spend for that. And, you know, the access they do get is limited. They attend a few functions where there is quite a large gathering of people.”

Functions like receptions, he said, where a couple of representatives from each sponsor get to mingle with the 169 official delegates. (When the 13 provincial and territorial premiers met in Niagara-on-the-Lake last year, they accepted “in-kind” donations from the Jackson-Triggs winery, Spirits Canada and the Wine Council of Ontario. Juice, no doubt.)

It’s not a wholly unique circumstance, though it’s arguably the ickiest of its kind in Canada. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario had its annual meeting in London last week and sold sponsorships worth as much as $20,000. That event is combined with a trade show featuring something like 100 exhibitors, a somewhat odd assortment that includes everything from streetlight-vendors to asphalt-makers to provincial ministries, all of which pay to take part.

The gathering of councillors and mayors is more like an industry convention than a summit of leaders, at least. The premiers bill their collective selves as the Council of the Federation. That’s a name they made up in 2003 to make ganging up on the federal government sound dignified, but if they’re going to title themselves grandly they should live up to the standard that implies.

When the prime minister meets with the premiers, which hasn’t happened in five years because Stephen Harper doesn’t like being ganged up on, the taxpayers pay. There’s even a whole national agency, the lugubrious-sounding Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat, that organizes these things and will help out even if the feds aren’t going. The provinces have used it for dull-but-important meetings of agriculture ministers and ministers responsible for local governments, just in the past few weeks. Those lack the exquisite glamour of a premiers’ conference, though.

When our political executives meet to do the people’s business, it should be on the people’s dime. If they can’t afford to have receptions, or don’t want to be seen paying for them with public money, they shouldn’t have them. The way the premiers have grown accustomed to doing it is tawdry.

There is a rally for health care, starting at Trinity United Church tomorrow at noon and heading towards the Convention Centre were these meetings are taking place.

August 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Two good letters and a pleasantly cogent editorial in The Guardian:

Memories of a Good Farmer - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Saturday, August 23, 2014
I can remember growing up on the farm; my father worked very hard when it came to cultivating crops. Often, the neighbors would come help out. We picked potatoes by hand to take to our root cellar or for sale at the warehouse. We had 13 cows, and he milked them and separated the milk from the cream. It was a great place to grow up as a child. We were not rich but we were never hungry. At one point, the government approached my father to expand his farm. They offered him a large loan to build a milking parlor for his cows, buy more cows and plant more potatoes. Now, my father never had much use for politicians, so he told them where to go.

Even with a Grade 6 education, my father had the sense that this was not a good way to run his farm.

So why is it that my father had the good sense not to get in debt over his head to expand his farm the way the government wanted. Yet our well-educated politicians and farmers cannot see the damage they are doing. It is all about money. Politicians are supposedly the leaders of our society yet how can you lead a society when you just don’t listen to the people they represent. So since our politicians are not listening, I am appealing to the farmers. If you are a young man or woman who is inheriting your father’s potato farm, take a second look at what you are doing. Are you going to expose you sons and daughters to the harsh chemicals their whole lives? Are you going to continue the legacy of killing thousands of fish?

Look beyond the money and the politics at the future of every child on P.E.I. What legacy are you going to leave behind? Farmers are good people and most of them caught in a mess of corporations and government politics. Take charge of your farm and stop polluting for the sake of money.

Anne Gallant, Kensington

Regarding the backlash to Joan Diamond's concerns about pesticide drift and exposure:

Verbal Attacks are Unjustified - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pesticides in the media have been a hot topic lately, arguably even more so than in previous years. I found the story ‘Under the Microscope’ to be an interesting one. I specifically liked her quote about not blaming farmers and understanding they need to make a living like everyone else. Her stance was very objective and fair. She was not attacking anyone, and I admire that position.

The way forward is through dialogue, not each side (the citizens and farmers) blaming each other. At the end of the day, we have the same goals. We all want a stable economy. We all want a healthy population. We all want a healthy environment. Even those of us who would not identify as being ‘environmentalists’ would agree with that. The farmers have nothing to farm without good soil, and we at large have nothing to eat. We are on the same side of this issue.

As such, I was quite disappointed to see a letter from Reginald Walsh. No part of what she said indicates she has a ‘problem with the farming community.’ Nor do I see a quote that would insinuate in any way that she feels she is a ‘chemical specialist.’ Moreover, one really doesn’t need to be a chemical specialist to read the studies that are extensively available on the harm of being exposed to endocrine disrupters or carcinogens.

There are 1,000 dead fish in North River, and I don’t need to be a specialist to know this is a problem. Considering the fact that the article was about people using social media to voice complaints about pesticides, I’m not sure why you think your family should have been interviewed. I think every single person who reads your letter to the editor is wondering if you might be the person who owns the field next to Ms. Diamond.

Because we all want to have healthy lives if we worked together and were objective and fair we would all be better off. There is no need for attacks on people who simply want to see positive changes.

Ateesha MacLeod, Summerside

Pattern on Water a Concern - The Guardian Lead Editorial

Published on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lack of information suggests province busy trying to keep details from Islanders

Government and the agricultural sector are breathing a sigh of relief with no reports of fish kills following a series of torrential downpours across P.E.I. early last week. Many people were expecting the worst — news that some stream was affected by pesticides from a heavy runoff. To date, remarkably, nothing has happened.

Early in August, isolated thunderstorms had dumped heavy showers in various areas of the province and the result was 1,000 dead fish in the Springvale area. It is the only reported fish kill this year. The province argues that conservation and protection measures are working and the lack of dead fish last week would support that conclusion.

While Environment Minister Janice Sherry said the obvious goal is zero fish kills a year, there have been a series of troubling developments within the department that makes environmental lobby groups in particular, and Islanders in general, suspicious of government motives. A pattern of secrecy is developing.

To date, there is no information from an investigation into the North River fish kill which happened almost three weeks ago. The report would indicate if the fish kill resulted from pesticides contained in a flash runoff, or some other cause. The clamour is already out for charges against those responsible.

There is additional focus on that watershed because of water safety concerns raised by Charlottetown city council since the North River is a sub-watershed area adjacent to the city’s new wellfield being developed in Miltonvale Park.

In response to that fish kill, the province’s former chief conservation officer wrote a scathing letter to the editor critical of the province’s lack of support and resources to prevent fish kills.

Besieged farmers now have to deal with a citizens-on-patrol group which has announced plans to take photos and submit reports of any suspected spraying or farming infractions.

Water safety and supply have been in sharp focus since the issue of lifting a moratorium on deep-water wells convulsed the province for the past two years. Most Islanders view those wells as a threat to the province’s groundwater supply.

Ms. Sherry didn’t help matters when she refused to divulge the recommendation on the moratorium from an advisory panel. Media recently obtained a government document on the wells through access to information. But officials blacked out significant portions of the report such as all comments and draft policies on irrigation wells, which the document says the government supports.

While government continues to wrestle with the moratorium issue, McCains announced plans to shut down its major french fry plant in Borden-Carleton, throwing more than 120 workers out of a job. Cavendish Farmers has hinted any decision to follow suit could be affected by a favourable decision on lifting the moratorium since it is pushing hard for those wells to increase potato yield and assure size and quality.

The provincial government also didn’t help its case when it refused to release the location of groundwater test sites, including those that show increased levels of pesticide contamination, a fact confirmed by an environment official.

Cosmetic pesticide spraying inside municipalities is now an election issue, and continues to dominate the agenda in both Charlottetown and Stratford. City mayoral candidate Philip Brown is supporting a complete ban on cosmetic pesticides in Charlottetown while countless letters and opinion pieces to the editor also support a total ban.

Despite assurances there is no cause for alarm, there is a general perception the province is withholding important information on water issues from Islanders. The government must put the health of its citizens first. Secrecy only makes Islanders more suspicious.

Local farmers' markets are open in Charlottetown and Stanley Bridge today.
And the Pesticide Free P.E.I. meeting is tonight, 7:30PM, Sobey's at University and Allen Street, community room.  All are invited!

August 26, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Yesterday's Guardian has a green Page story about the 35-minute documentary, Fish Tales P.E.I.,  which can be seen here in its entirety:
and plans are to have some public screenings and discussions in the next couple of months.

Here is the article:

Documentary Shows Fish Kill Impact - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay

Published on Monday, August 25th, 2014

Fish Tales P.E.I. is a short documentary produced about Island rivers.

After a third fish kill in as many years, a quartet of creative and environmentally attuned Prince Edward Islanders decided it was time rivers had a voice.

Now after a year in production and a film launch at Macphail Woods Nature Centre in Orwell last week, Fish Tales P.E.I. is available to watch online for free on Vimeo.

This short documentary, shot on Prince Edward Island in the summer of 2013, captures how Islanders interact with rivers and also their perspectives on the future of the province's watershed heritage.

"It's been very much a labour of love over the past year. We really just want people to see it, talk about it and go from there with their own ideas and hopes and plans," says Connor Leggott, who co-produced Fish Tales P.E.I. with fellow volunteer filmmakers Adnan Saciragic, Ashley Prince and Hanna Hameline.

Last year's fish kill spawned the idea for a video that would explore how local rivers and waterways influence Islanders' views on social and environmental issues.

"We basically wanted to tell stories about the human impact of fish kills and then to go beyond that as well because if you want to talk about a problem we don't want to just hit someone over the head with a hammer with bad news," Leggot says.

"I think for socially-conscious PSAs that's a trap they can find themselves in. If you just give bad news-bad news it's something people get tired of hearing, so we really wanted to explore what are Islanders historic connection with rivers and what are people's really personal stories and connections. . . whether it was family, work or volunteering.

"And then we got into what do you see in rivers today, what are the challenges you see? And what can you see looking forward?"

The film crew team interviewed people who derived their living from the waterways, such as shell fishers and watershed group staff, representatives from the agricultural industry and others.

"We also talked with people who had really strong family connections (to rivers). One story that opens up the documentary that is one of my favourites is a PhD candidate at the university who studies rivers and river habitat but he talks about as a kid walking along rivers and using a pussy willow branch as a fishing rod, how he learned that from his dad and it was passed down. That's something really special," Leggott says.

"He really typifies what Fish Tales is all about. . . someone who has a really personal connection, but someone who is also today really passionate about the scientific aspect of rivers: protection, studying fish habitat, fish spawning patterns and things like that."

In co-producing the film Leggott got to delve a little deeper into the subject of "fish kills."

"People described fish kills as a big high-publicity event that the media really goes for, then after a couple of weeks the talk about it dies off, but the effects of fish kills lasts longer than that," he says.

"And there are also other connected problems; the biggest one people mentioned was sedimentation, which is dirt, especially topsoil from road construction, from agriculture that runs into the rivers. And there are different problems from that that people discuss; one of that is it disrupts the habitat of the trout, for example, they need to lay their eggs in a gravel bottom bed and if there's too much sediment going in then that disrupts their habitat and reduces their ability to spawn for future generations."

The other river-destroying culprit that goes along with the sedimentation is nitrogen fertilizer - nitrates - that washes from fields into rivers as well.

"That's when we get things like anoxic events and nitrification where the nitrogen causes a lot of plants like sea lettuce, which grows and blooms in the water, and when it dies off it sucks a lot of the oxygen out of the water. You get these stinky white milky green estuaries and then you also have fish, shellfish and other critters that are living in the water that die off from that as well," Leggott says.

"Another interesting point that a lot of people brought up was that people talk about fish kills but the more appropriate term is river kills because it's not just fish that are affected. . . ."

One common thread throughout, Leggott says, whether the interviewees lived in watersheds areas, were farmers or with the Federation of Agriculture, was that they all recognized topsoil can't be leaving the fields and that better crop rotation and soil management practices are needed.

Leggott hopes the film puts the spotlight on rivers as being an important part of our heritage that needs to be appreciated.

"And part of that appreciation means knowing more about what's going on and caring about what is being done with rivers, caring about the direction they're going in, and whether that means just continuing the conversation and fostering that understanding or whether it means speaking up to government or industry or watershed groups or any other player in that, speaking up with them to let them know what people want with their rivers."

August 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tomorrow, there is a forum on health care coinciding the the provincial and territorial health ministers' meeting:

from Friday's Guardian:,-CUPE-plan-town-hall-meeting-on-health/1

Council of Canadians, CUPE Plan Town Hall Meeting on Health - The Guardian article

As the Canadian premiers meet in Charlottetown from Aug. 26 to 30, the Council of Canadians and Canadian Union of Public Employees will hold a town hall meeting on the current state of Canadian health care and why Canada needs a new Health Accord.

The meeting is set for Tuesday, Aug. 26, at the Rodd Charlottetown in Charlottetown, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Speakers will be Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians; Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees; and Michael McBane, national coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition.

I am forwarding this from Ellie Reddin and Save Our Seas and Shores (SOSS)  PEI, which has been working tirelessly to keep tabs on proposed drilling and other projects which could affect PEI.

She wrote it to the SOSS members, but if anyone else is interested in writing a quick e-mail to Mr. Scott Tessier about the Old Harry Project:

Scott Tessier <>

Below are the note from Ellie to the SOSS group, and three letters with background (hers, one from Sylvain Archambault from the St. Lawrence Coalition, and the final one is the one she refers to as an attachment in her note but I put it as a cut-and-past). Bold is mine.

Hello SOSS PEI group,

I am writing to ask each of you to take a few minutes to send an email to Scott Tessier, Chair and CEO of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, urging the Board to initiate an extensive public consultation on Old Harry before making a decision about this project.  To give you some ideas about what you could say, I am forwarding a short email I just sent to the C-NLOPB, as well as an email Sylvain Archambault sent on June 30, and the attached letter Colin Jeffrey sent recently on behalf of SOSS-PEI. 

The Old Harry issue is becoming urgent.  Stopping the Old Harry project before it is approved is our only hope to keep oil drilling out of the Gulf.  Please add your voice at this crucial time.



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ellie Reddin
Date: Fri, Aug 8, 2014 at 4:15 PM
Subject: public consultation on Old Harry
To: Scott Tessier <>
Cc: Dave Burley, Sean Kelly, Elizabeth Young, Ed Williams

Scott Tessier 

Chair and CEO

Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board

Dear Mr. Tessier:

I realize the C-NLOPB is considering how to proceed with a public consultation on the Old Harry project.  I urge you to initiate an extensive public consultation, preferably by means of a well-publicized independent review with open public hearings providing opportunities for meaningful input in each of the five provinces bordering the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It is very important that the public consultation be held prior to any draft determination on the Old Harry project.



Ellie Reddin

Cornwall, PEI


From: Sylvain Archambault
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2014 9:24 AM
To: Tessier, Scott
Cc: Kelly, Sean; Burley, Dave; Williams, Ed; Jean-Patrick Toussaint; Danielle Giroux
Subject: Old Harry public consultation

Dear Mr. Tessier,

Subject: Old Harry "extensive public consultation"

The Old Harry drilling project has been under environmental assessment for more than three years now, and the draft screening report is probably close to being released. The St. Lawrence Coalition wants to share with you some of its concerns related to the "extensive public consultation" that has been recommended by ex-minister Peter Kent.

1. The recommendation for the addition of an "extensive public consultation" in the screening process has been reiterated many times by the Environment Minister.

2. The CNLOPB has also reiterated that a public consultation will indeed be done on the old Harry project.

3. The CNLOPB has mentioned many times that the format for this consultation has not been decided on, but that an "independent review" is still being considered.

4, The CNLOPB has mentioned that it will take a decision related to this public consultation after the end of the SEA Update.

5. The legal 365-days deadline for the production of the screening report seems to be over since late-May  

As this "extensive public consultation" has been waited for by a large number of groups/communities/First Nations around the Gulf, could you confirm to us that there will soon be a positive announcement on this "extensive public consultation" prior to any draft determination on the Old Harry project?

We are in the process of submitting an op-ed on the subject to several major medias in the Gulf provinces early next week​, as can be seen in the attached file. Of course, this op-ed would be substantially modified, or ​perhaps even dropped, depending on any comment or announcement you would provide.

Thank you very much for your attention on this important matter.


Sylvain Archambault
St. Lawrence Coalition

Save Our Seas and Shores, PEI Chapter
c/o Voluntary Resource Centre
81 Prince St.
Charlottetown PEI 
C1A 4R3
August 1, 2014

Scott Tessier
Chair and Chief Executive Officer
Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board
5th Floor TD Place, 140 Water Street
St. John's, NL A1C 6H6

Dear Mr. Tessier,

I am writing on behalf of Save Our Seas and Shores - PEI Chapter to request information on the anticipated public consultation for the Old Harry environmental assessment.  In 2011, then Minister of Environment Peter Kent requested that the C-NLOPB include “extensive public consultation” in the screening environmental assessment for an exploratory well at the Old Harry prospect.  Since then the C-NLOPB has indicated several times that it will undertake significant public consultation during this environmental assessment.  It appears that all involved federal departments completed their review of Corridor Resources’ Environmental Impact Study by the end of 2013.  However, the C-NLOPB has still not indicated how and when “extensive public consultation” for this environmental assessment will take place.  We would like to be informed as soon as possible of the nature of this public consultation and be given sufficient notice to adequately plan and prepare for its occurrence.

Save Our Seas and Shores - PEI Chapter would like to be specific about our expectations for “extensive public consultation” as requested by Minister Kent.  The public consultation undertaken during the SEA Update was completely inadequate and there is no indication that the comments made by Atlantic Canadians contributed to the conclusions of this document in a meaningful way.  Inadequacies include a lack of opportunity for citizens to voice their concerns on the public record at the open house sessions and biases observed in the invitation of organizations for private meetings.  We do not therefore believe that public consultation for the SEA Update was conducted in a rigorous, meaningful or democratic manner and expect a much improved process for the Old Harry environmental assessment.  To ensure that extensive public consultation on the Old Harry environmental assessment is conducted in a rigorous, meaningful and democratic manner we call on the C-NLOPB to resume the Independent Review it initiated in 2011.  We now believe that an independent third party is required to determine if there are social or environmental issues of a serious nature in the Western Newfoundland offshore. As you must remember, the C-NLOPB itself recommended that the Old Harry environmental assessment be referred to a mediator or review panel due to the unprecedented level of public interest and concern expressed over the scoping document for this project.  We thank the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board for considering our requests and look forward to receiving further information on the public consultation for this environmental assessment.


Colin Jeffrey

On behalf of Save Our Seas and Shores - PEI Chapter

Edward Williams - Vice Chair
David Burley - Director, Environmental Affairs
Sean Kelly -  Manager of Public Relations

August 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Today the Town of Stratford is hosting a tour of naturally beautiful gardens, 1-3PM:
from the website:

Natural Stratford Tour

It’s time to hop on the bus gus! The Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group and Town of Stratford are hosting an exciting bus tour of beautiful places within the municipality. The Town of Stratford has been asking residents to be more natural when it comes to their lawns and gardens and now we would like to show these natural spaces off. On Sunday, August 24th from 1-3pm, we will be touring several chemical-free gardens and natural areas throughout the town, ending off at the Stratford Community Garden for refreshments and mingling. Please meet at the Stratford Town Hall by 12:45pm, located at 234 Shakespeare Drive.
We will be riding in style in a luxury 44-person bus; however, this means space will be limited!
Please contact Kelley at 367-3605 or at, to book your spot(s). Reservation recommended but not necessary if seats are available.
This event is open to all members of the Stratford community and Stratford watershed area. We look forward to seeing you on the 24th.


(It took me a second to figure out the reference to the 1975 Paul Simon song as in "Hop on the bus, Gus, you don't need to discuss much...", and to sigh at another example of the loss of the Comma for Direct Address.  ;-)

The idea and tour sound like a great idea, and it appears people interested from outside Stratford would be welcome if space allows.

See resident (and hosts of one of the gardens on the tour) and retired scientist Roger Gordon's letter, below

Costs of using pesticide less than benefits of ridding lawn of chinch bugs - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Roger Gordon

Published on Friday, August 22, 2014 

As I’ve been walking around my neighborhood, I’ve noticed that some homeowners (thankfully, a minority) have had their lawns sprayed with Sevin (chemical name, carbaryl). The lawn spraying companies use it primarily to control the chinch bug, though it is secondarily targeted at the June beetle grubs. On a cost-benefit analysis, danger to human health and the environment versus the much ballyhooed “perfect lawn,” this seems to me to be a no brainer.

Carbaryl is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme present in the nervous systems of all animals, from a jelly fish to an Albert Einstein, that is essential for proper nervous system functioning. This means that all animals to varying degrees are affected by a compound such as carbaryl. It is non specific and therefore detrimental to the ecosystem, let alone human health. The acute symptoms of exposure to carbaryl, as declared on the Material Safety Data Sheet  (MSDS) supplied by the company that produces it, reads like a witches’ brew: burns skin and eyes, causes nausea, cramps, diarrhea, salivation, vomiting, sweating, blurred vision, lack of coordination, convulsions. Yet, it’s the longer term effects of carbaryl exposure that are even more concerning.

In a landmark 2001 study done by a group of French and American scientists, it was determined that carbaryl caused damage to the DNA of human liver cells. In that same year, a study of 4,000 farmers in four midwestern U.S. states revealed that those who had used carbaryl were 30-50 per cent more likely to contract Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer, than those who hadn’t used it.

Then, a group of U.S. scientists in 2010 concluded from studying 56,285 pesticide applicators,  that people who applied carbaryl on a routine basis were 1.7 times more likely to contract skin melanoma than those who didn’t. I wonder why P.E.I. has the highest rate of skin cancer in the country?  

Two excellent, highly analytical (2010, 2012) reviews of the literature by Canadian and U.S. scientists, respectively, concluded that maternal exposure to insecticides (e.g. carbaryl) during pregnancy, whether in an occupational or residential setting, significantly increased the chances of the offspring developing childhood leukemia, as was also the case if the children were exposed post partum. In the second of these reviews, the authors concluded that “there is a growing body of literature that suggests that pesticides may induce chronic health complications in children, including neurodevelopmental problems, birth defects, asthma, and cancer.”

The Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. considers carbaryl to be “likely to be carcinogenic in humans.” Even the company’s own MSDS states “this product contains ingredients that are considered to be probable or suspected human carcinogens.” The EPA also deems carbaryl to be toxic to a wide array of animals. Of greatest concern to P.E.I. would be fish, oysters, and honey bees. No wonder that several countries have banned carbaryl: United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Iran and Angola.  

The costs of using carbaryl cannot be seen to be greater than the benefits of ridding a lawn of chinch bugs. Most lawns, kept in good condition by natural methods, recover from chinch bug damage. I use a mild detergent solution to treat the chinch bug brown areas on my lawn. Then, I overseed. For natural ways to combat this insect, go to the Nova Scotia website (

But, don’t spray with carbaryl.

Roger Gordon, Stratford, is a retired biologist and former Dean of Science at UPEI who has published extensively on biological methods for controlling insect pests.

On-line media articles instigate a variety of comments, and one that pops up in stories about any loss of some animal or plant life is that "it is only a small number."

Regarding the incident in the North River, it was reported that the episode:

<<killed more than 1,000 rainbow trout, brook trout, stickleback and Atlantic salmon">>
and several on-line comments were about it being *only* a thousand fish. 
To which a knowledgeable person later wrote:

more than 1000 fish were found but productive Island streams like this one may have fish populations of over 300 fish/m2 of multiple age classes from young of the year to adult 3-4 years old or more.  It is safe to assume many more (10's if not 100's of times what are found) were killed in the North River fish kill.  It is too bad the focus is always on the ones that are collected.  A thousand fish, that diminishes extent of the loss, and lets people say so as some do, "It is only a thousand fish."  

and a letter worth repeating:

Comments unfair against Diamond - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on August 22nd, 2014

An article in The Guardian last week, ‘Under the Microscope’ has been under criticism. I recently met Joan Diamond right before the article came out and I was very impressed with all that she had to say. She was so diplomatic, and understanding of the issues multiple sides have to face. It was quite obvious that she was not against farmers.

She said she felt many had no choice with the way agriculture is structured. I feel the comments made in regards to her are unfair. I applaud Joan Diamond and anyone who speaks up. It’s not easy to do. Everyone knows a farmer and it’s difficult to discuss agriculture without mentioning farming practices.

The farmers that I know are good people. Some are family. Some question the effects as well. They have a job to do which they are forced to do a certain way. These issues will never be discussed in government if the public isn’t paying attention.

I also find the “You should have thought of that before moving to the country” rebuttals very frustrating. It’s such an ignorant response we all commonly hear. We live in the country and were naive to think fields were only sprayed a few times a year. Once I was actually out here every day working from home, I realized each field is sprayed once a week or more.

We are surrounded by three different fields with more next to those, and they are often sprayed on different days. I hate that part of living in the country but I figure it doesn’t matter where you live. The big ubiquitous sprayers driving back and forth in the fields next to our house every other day, and the occasional glimpse of many workers dressed in white suits and gas masks by night, just makes the sprays and their toxicity perpetually visible to us country folk.

We are only a six-minute drive from Summerside, there are also fields next to subdivisions in town and I know people getting several cosmetic pesticide notices a summer. It doesn’t matter where you live. We’re on a very small Island with wind farms because it’s windy 75 per cent of the time. It’s everywhere.

Virginia Doyle, New Annan

August 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A lovely swath of farmers' markets are open today (Bloomfield, Summerside, Victoria-by-the-Sea, Charlottetown, Stratford, Morell, Cardigan, Montague, and Murray Harbour).

I think real Island-outside-grown tomatoes are available, and peppers. 

The town of Stratford posts its vendor list on its Facebook page:
A very interesting article came out this week from the U.S.-based Organic Consumers Association titled "What's Holding Back the Organic Revolution?" by Ronnie Cummins.

Here are some excerpts, heavily snipped; full article link here:
and link also at bottom:

But it’s not just the impact of organic foods on personal health that concerns consumers. Organic consumers express rising concern over the destructive impacts of industrial agriculture and factory farms on the environment, climate, animal welfare, farm workers and rural communities. Increasingly, consumers are coming to understand that industrial agriculture and factory farms are the leading cause of water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, wetlands destruction, desertification, reduced biodiversity and, most important of all, climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas emissions.

Good news: Organic farming and ranching can regenerate soils and reverse global warming
Bad news: Organic and climate-friendly food and farming are still a relatively small niche market
The life or death question is this: If the overwhelming majority of U.S. consumers say they prefer organics and would like to buy and consume healthier and more sustainable food, then why aren’t they doing so?

There appear to be several systemic, deeply embedded reasons why most Americans are still buying and consuming junk foods rather than “going organic.” These include the addictive nature and omnipresence of “chemically engineered” processed foods; lack of money and time; rampant nutrition and cooking illiteracy; and labeling fraud.

Let’s take a closer look at these problems.
Chemically engineered foods and consumers. According to recent studies, including the best-selling book by New York Times columnist Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, the bulk of the nation’s processed foods, beverages and restaurant fare have been deliberately “chemically engineered” (i.e. laced with addictive, unhealthy combinations of sugar, salts and fats) by a network of food technologists employed by large food corporations determined to turn us into food addicts.
Lack of money and time.
The majority of Americans are victimized not only by a powerful, shadowy network of food technologists, chemical companies and mass media propagandists, but also by a corporatized and inequitable economy. Even if you want to feed yourself or your children organic food, and serve up healthy home-cooked meals, in today’s “Fast Food Nation” consumers face a host of major obstacles, including the high cost of living, lack of free time, lack of cooking skills, cultural distractions and sub-standard wages.
Nutrition and culinary illiteracy.
Most Americans say they’d like to eat healthier foods, and cook more at home, but typically have learned little or nothing about proper nutrition, the superiority of organic foods and grass fed or pastured meats and animal products, or how to affordably purchase healthy ingredients and cook tasty and nutritious meals at home.
How do we move from ‘Fast Food Nation’ to ‘Organic Nation’?
rest of article:

Have a good day, and remember Art in the Open later this afternoon
and the final day of the Jazz and Blues Festival

August 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A reminder that the first part of the Transition Movement workshop is open to the public tonight at 6PM, for a suggested $5 donation (lunch) included, at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown.

There were also two good letters in yesterday's Guardian:

Sierra Club supports call for pesticide-free buffer zones on P.E.I.- The Guardian Guest Opinion by Tony Reddin

Published on August 21, 2014

The national environmental group Sierra Club Canada announced Wednesday its support for pesticide-free buffer zones around key public areas on Prince Edward Island. This is a minimum standard for protection of public health. The citizens’ group Pesticide-Free P.E.I. has asked the P.E.I. government to create pesticide-free buffer zones of at least 25 metres around children’s playgrounds, schools, preschools, bus stops, hospitals, and senior citizens’ homes. We strongly support this request; and those regulations should be written to clearly apply to all pesticides, not just cosmetic urban applications.

Given the recent fish kill in the watershed for the future Charlottetown water supply, reports of cosmetic pesticide applications next to playgrounds, and reports of pesticides in many provincial test wells, Sierra Club is calling on the P.E.I. government to put in place province-wide buffer zones immediately.

The new school year will soon begin and some rural P.E.I. school properties have potato fields right next to them. There need to be large pesticide-free buffer zones to protect our children from poisoning.

Government should release the test results for those school wells, and conduct and assess tests of air quality at those schools if and when pesticides are being sprayed nearby.

Sierra Club is also calling for a comprehensive plan to be enacted as soon as possible to minimize pesticide drift and contamination of drinking water, and other unconsented exposures to pesticides.

Cosmetic pesticides must be phased out. Rules should require agriculture pesticide applicators to identify and avoid sensitive areas within range of the area being targeted, such as homes, businesses, recreation areas, water bodies, and wells. Other factors, such as weather, topography, and proximity to places of particular sensitivity, including those already mentioned, must also be considered and require applicators to take additional measures, such as wider buffer zones, to adequately protect public health and the environment.

Sierra Club believes that stronger pesticide regulations will lower health care costs by removing environmental toxins that affect people’s immune systems and resistance to diseases.

More and more Islanders are speaking out to have our health care placed ahead of the profits of pesticide corporations.

It is the responsibility of the P.E.I. government, not individual citizens, to provide leadership in promoting preventative health care and protecting public health and the environment from pesticides.

Tony Reddin is a Sierra Club of Canada P.E.I. volunteer and national board member

And on high capacity wells:

California offers drought example - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on August 21, 2014

A few weeks ago, television viewers were informed on drought problems in the state of California. Due to the scarcity of fresh water many orange groves are being intentionally destroyed. Most interesting, for me, had to do with deep-water wells being used to water and irrigate the orange groves during drought periods.

After the first lot of deep wells became available and after that drought subsided, growers decided they had an abundance of water and they increased their acreage. But this present existing drought period, which started almost two years ago without letup, has resulted in a race to drill more and more wells. Growers now realize the deepest wells take away water from the surrounding not-so-deep wells, causing them to go dry. To replace the dry wells, even deeper wells are drilled. A domino effect is occurring.

I wonder if those same problems will be allowed to develop here on our little stretch of red soil. In rural P.E.I., every residence, every business and every farm each have their own relatively shallow wells that provide for their fresh water needs.

P.E.I. doesn’t have snow-capped mountains to provide snow melt water to augment our ground water table. P.E.I. doesn’t have any large deep fresh water lakes that can be used as watershed fresh water reservoirs.

If deep-water wells are used to water and irrigate P.E.I.’s crops, what will happen to all the relatively shallow wells? How many will run dry? Will there be a domino effect? Will each well drilling company try to drill to a deeper depth every well they drill?

California orange growers didn’t look far into their future. They were excited to benefit from short-term gain. Will such ignorance, such lack of knowledge, such lack of foresight, be condoned here on P.E.I., or like the orange growers, will we go for the short-term gain.

I, for one, hope not.

D.S. MacWilliams, Montague

Here's to our little stretch of red soil!

August 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The Jazz and Blues Festival starts tonight and runs until Saturday night.   There are three main shows each night (one at 7:30PM at St. Paul's Church, one at 8PM at Brewing Company, one at 11PM at the Brewing Company), plus a bunch of other concerts popping up everywhere.  It's a really eclectic line-up.  There are a goodly number of sponsored but I will spare you the list. :-)
More details of the shows here:

and today's Guardian story here:
Friday evening all are welcome to the introductory talk about the Transition Movement:

unable to upload :( Please check our facebook page for photo.

A good letter from yesterday's paper:

Irvings will walk off into sunset - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on August 20, 2014 There is a lot of demonizing going on lately. The farmers are being demonized for their farm practices. The environmentalists for pointing out  there are many things wrong in the environment and something should be done. And the provincial government for not taking action on either side of the issue.

I must admit I am as guilty as anyone for this practice. It seems to be them or us. Maybe we should pause a minute. The farmer wants to farm, support his/her family and provide us with food. It is not his/her intention to harm the environment. The environmentalists are pointing out things that have gone wrong or could. They are not out to destroy jobs and ruin people’s lives. Not all modern advances in farming are bad, but there are canaries not singing in the mine, like the honeybees and after what happened in Toledo, Ohio, we must stop and think.

With the deep wells and Irvings, the provincial government is between a rock and a hard place. If they say no they will oversee a huge economic meltdown on the Island, if they say yes, perhaps an even bigger environmental one. The Irvings have threatened us and it is a very big threat. So now we are all fighting among ourselves. My thought is they are planning on leaving away, whatever happens and when they do, Islanders will be very busy blaming each other, and the Irvings will walk off into the sunset.

Carol Capper, Summerside

And from Paul MacNeill in The Eastern Graphic family of newspapers (which only allows six free articles a month):

Another fish kill, another ministerial failure - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 5:00 am

Once again PEI’s Minister of Environment is stumbling her way through a crisis. Janice Sherry tried to put the best spin on the North River disaster that killed more than 1,000 rainbow trout, brook trout, stickleback and Atlantic salmon. She even called the latest kill devastating. 

That is an understatement.

Janice Sherry’s description, while appropriate, will do nothing to bring back the dead fish or stop future kills. Hollow political rhetoric rarely solves anything. 

Government’s response to fish kills is a classic exercise in duck, bob and weave. Frontline resources and action never match its words of concern. Fear of alienating the farming community stops government from doing what is necessary. Its primary objective is to appease the general public while doing little to stop future kills from occurring.

This lack of urgency is the primary reason for the annual blotch on our Island reputation. What government fails to grasp is its lack of action not only enables fish kills but harms good farmers, and there are a lot of them. 

The vast majority of Island farmers are conscientious stewards of the land. Every time a fish kill occurs good farmers are convicted by association and the public’s confidence in our vital agriculture sector is reduced. There is nothing like a fish kill to provide easy ammunition to environmental zealots with little appreciation for the role agriculture plays in our economy. 

Hollow words of concern followed by a promise to investigate and, if necessary, tighten rules and regulations is as predictable as the kills themselves. 

Sherry’s tenure as minister has been a miserable exercise in mediocrity. Her handling of fish kills – and this marks the fourth year in a row – and deep well irrigation are both marked by a lack of firm leadership and attempts to dodge and mislead the public. 

CBC reported that two separate requests were made to the department for the deep well irrigation report produced by the minister’s advisory committee. One response claimed no report existed. The second response said the report existed but would not be released. 

Even if you get past the unfathomable reality of two separate answers for the same question, the department’s response is clearly titled toward secrecy. 

And Minister Janice Sherry is responsible. She is invoking a section of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that allows advice to a minister to be withheld.

Irony apparently is lost on the minister. While slamming shut the doors of accountability, she is proclaiming the deep well issue must be fully transparent. 

Transparency apparently does not extend to the office of the minister of environment. 

The credibility of deep well science is of even more importance with the announced closure of the McCain french fry plant and the ratcheting up of rhetoric by rival Cavendish Farms, now claiming access to deep wells could be a deciding factor in any decision to follow McCain out of Prince Edward Island. 

It is a serious threat. One that should not be taken lightly, but also one that government should not cave to.

While the Ghiz government has continued to grow the provincial bureaucracy, it has not invested in frontline environmental services that could increase the public’s trust of the department and the processes it utilizes.

Until the government is prepared to put money behind its rhetoric we are only left with the minister’s word and from an environmental protection perspective that is not worth much.

Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at

Two comments: "environmental zealots" is rather unkind; and would any other government member do anything differently than Minister Sherry? 

August 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight is the screening of Fish Tales, a 35-minute documentary about Island waterways, at Macphail Woods.  The event will have a walk, the film, a discussion and some entertainment by Island poet Deirdre Kessler and fiddler Roy Johnstone.

The Pesticide Free PEI meeting has been rescheduled for next Wednesday, August 27th.

Last night's CBC Compass carried a feature on a revived initiative to bring unsold produce and perishables from the Charlottetown Farmers' Market to others who can't afford or gain access to them.
It is 21 minutes into the broadcast.  Great working together by the Food Exchange, the Charlottetown Farmers' Market and manager, the Salvation Army and others.

Two letters of note in yesterday's Guardian:
From Island biologist emeritus Ian MacQuarrie,

Is industrial farming acceptable as necessary economic engine? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on August 19, 2014

I thank Alan Holman for his August 16 column “It costs a pile to grow a potato.”  He nicely describes P.E.I. agriculture for what it is: modern industrial operations more closely related to things like mining or major manufacturing than to our benign image of “family farms.” Thus, we should not be surprised that the requirements for large-scale crop monoculture mean that nothing much else can survive in the outdoor factories: bees, birds and most mammals must go elsewhere or perish. In some cases, even the soil must be killed in order to support such an industry.

I think it strange that we seem to get alarmed only when farming is linked to fish kills or anoxic waterways. Why should we worry about a few fish? Surely sports fishers can find something else to do; perhaps they could go online for virtual fishing experiences. After all, what matters is the economic engine that is modern farming, and all of the spinoffs that come from it. We willingly sacrifice much natural capital in pursuit of the ideal french fry, but I suppose our society must have some sort of measurable goals.

We thus accept industrial farming as the required economic engine without which our Island would somehow sink without trace. At the same time, we have constant worries about this — will the weather hold, will there be enough water, will the market let producers gain a profit? And there are ominous signs; some consumers are becoming restive about pesticide residues, and GMO foods, and exactly what is meant by ‘food safety.’ I have no idea where all of this is leading; I am quite content to leave the prophesying to your editors and columnists.

Good luck to all.

Ian MacQuarrie, Hazel Grove

And from former Chief Conservation Officer John Clements:

No one cares about dead fish? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on August 19, 2014

Once again the silence is deafening on P.E.I. Another rain and more red water. Why has society come to accept it to be normal to fear the rain and what consequences come from it with dead fish floating and the estuaries turning white with nutrient load?

Four years have passed since leaving my home province and every summer since it continues. While trying to lead enforcement to protect the precious water and fish in the streams and rivers it became increasingly frustrating with the inability to have politicians do anything more than lip service to the situation.

It is much easier to criticize the conservation officers who lack resources and legislation to deal with this societal plague. They are trying to save what is left with little ability or political willpower.

So as I asked Premier Ghiz and his cabinet when I last spoke to them in Tyne Valley in 2009, to explain why it was the opinion of some ministers that I was targeting Liberal supporters in our enforcement work . . . “why is it normal now that the rivers turn red and the bays turn white?” The answer I got was "thanks John for coming to speak."

Does anyone care?

John K. Clements,
Former Chief Conservation Officer in P.E.I.,
Ancaster, Ont.

August 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight is the keynote address by Art Eggleston, at 6:30PM at the Canada Pavilion at the Celebration Zone, free, related to the Atlantic Summer Institute.

This Friday is a free talk by the two folks leading the Transition Workshop taking place this weekend.

temporarily unable to upload :( please check out our facebook page for the photo

Some notes on fracking, from near and far away.

Maine, from the National Wildlife Federation:

New Brunswickers will go to the poll for a provincial election, set for September 22.   The Conservative government is basing their campaign on being very pro-resource development.  However, the government is getting sued by Windsor Energy anyway:

From Don't Frack PEI:
Windsor Energy, a fracking company which was prevented from conducting seismic testing in New Brunswick because the government believed they were breaking the rules, is suing the NB government for loss of potential revenue – for $105 million.

A story about fracking in Denton, Texas; Texas being way "ahead" of the game with fracking -- an object lesson for us?  And maybe applicable to other fields:

an excerpt:

It's a pattern of almost laughable desperation. As the industry clutches at straws - and threatens lawsuits - they are alienating more and more people. At a recent City Council hearing, with 600 people sitting in three overflow rooms, 85 percent of Denton speakers supported the ban. When you've got mothers testifying about how living at home has become a nightmare while industry representatives say we must "fully and effectively" exploit mineral resources no matter what - well, it becomes pretty clear who the real extremists are.

August 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Events this week, not in chronological order:

Wednesday, August 20th, 6:30PM, Macphail Woods, free (but donations likely accepted), sponsored by ECO-PEI
Fish Tales film premiere and event.

On behalf of the production crew of Fish Tales PEI, we would like to invite you to join us at the MacPhail Woods Nature Centre on Wednesday, August 20th, at 6:30pm for a river walk on the historic MacPhail grounds, music and poetry by Island artists and an informative evening of discussions followed by the premiere of Fish Tales.

Fish Tales is a short documentary film shot on PEI in the summer of 2013. The film explores how rivers and waterways on Prince Edward Island influence Islanders’ views on social and environmental issues. We look at current realities and challenges in our rivers, including the human impact of catastrophic events like fish kills. 

Through interviews and storytelling with experts from all sides of the spectrum, Fish Tales captures how Islanders interact with these areas, and their perspectives on the future of our watershed heritage.

We want to highlight that many Islanders, from all walks of life, are interdependent with, and have a responsibility towards, the health of PEI's historic waterways. 

To view a trailer for the film, please visit

The 1 minute trailer is utterly poignant.
(There are plans for another screening in Charlottetown in the next while, if you can't make it.)

And because there are only so many nights in the week, Wednesday is also the next Pesticide Free PEI meeting, 7PM, Haviland Club at the corner of Haviland and Water.
from the organizer, Maureen Kerr:

It's astounding to me how much pesticides have been in the paper as of late, and huge props go out to those who have put themselves out there in the media to speak out against the harm being done by pesticides, both from an agricultural standpoint and cosmetic.  It takes a lot of guts and is not for the faint of heart.

We are also grateful to Earth Action who has announced Operation Pesticide Watch across PEI and on days like today, is encouraging people to monitor the waterways for dead fish.  

Very alarming is the news about the pesticides showing up in wells throughout PEI: and as scientist Roger Gordon says: Another way of expressing the Envt Dept data: 

The latest sampling showed 43 out of 44 groundwater sites contaminated with pesticides. The # of pesticides detected in each site ranged from 2 to 6. In all, 15 different pesticides were detected among the 44 sites.

I know it's still summer, but we would love to have your support so please let me know you if you can make it. The more the merrier.  I think we're getting somewhere!

I think, but can't find the details, that the public information meeting is tonight regarding the Tryon TCH work. 
Tuesday  -- something different at the Celebration Zone:
Tuesday, August 19th, 6:30PM, the Canada Pavilion, Keynote address by Art Eggleston.

The Atlantic Summer Institute on Health and Safe Communities is having their conference in Charlottetown next week.  The theme is "Renewing Democracy Though Social Justice: Adding New Voices"

and Art Eggleston, a non-flamboyant former Mayor of Toronto, former MP, and current Senator, is giving the keynote address on "The Great Divergence: Income Inequality".

FairVote and LeadNow Canada will be having a booth there, and you are welcome to stop by.

August 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here is a cute video "Gives Bees a Chance", from "GreenBees".  It's about a minute long.
It uses humour to make a point, but it also makes me sad.

GreenBees is attempting to counteract "information" from the likes of this:

from April of this year:

CORNERSTONE TO HELP BAYER’S BEE PROBLEM: Bayer Corporation has signed Cornerstone Government Affairs to help “pollinator health and habitat promotion” after a growing campaign, which includes reports from the European Union, has accused the chemical company of causing large-scale harm to the bee population with its pesticides. The company opened a $2.4 million North American Bayer Bee Care Center in Durham, N.C., on Tuesday, to match a similar center in Monheim, Germany. Bayer is one of three companies to sign with Cornerstone this week. American Traffic Solutions is having the firm lobby for traffic cameras, and Brynwood Partners is seeking work on supplemental nutrition programs for women and children.

And rather creepy pages about the lobbying company:


Apparently, we missed this celebration on Thursday:

The Good News on National Honey Bee Day - Bayer CropScience Celebrates Positive Trends in Bee Health

<<snip>>   The fact that neonicotinoids can help control destructive pests while protecting our needed pollinators, such as honey bees, is what makes them so essential to pest management programs. There have been more than 100 studies investigating neonicotinoids and pollinators, and, under conditions of practical field use, these products are not harmful to bee colonies.

You can do your part too! Plant a bee-friendly garden to give honey bees food to eat and share the importance of honey bees with your neighbors and friends. Keeping bees healthy takes everyone working together to find solutions.>>
Bayer Canada also gives generously to 4-H Canada.

I liked the Mousey columns better.

It costs a pile to grow a potato - The Guardian columnist Alan Holman

By Alan Holman (printed on the right-hand columnists' page of the paper)

Published on Saturday, August 16th, 2014 

Following the announcement that the McCain french fry processing plant in Borden-Carleton was closing, there was a plethora of letters to the editor offering any amount of gratuitous advice. A lot of it leaned towards abandoning the way potatoes are grown and turning P.E.I. into a million-acre organic farm.

This may be a good idea. But, on the surface it seems a tad idealistic and it ignores what many people forget, or wish to ignore; farming, first and foremost, is a business, not just a way of life.

Organic produce is available in most Island supermarkets. But, it is not a main stay. Most shoppers buy regular, non-organic produce for a variety of reasons, including price and appearance. Island potato farmers grow in excess of 2 billion pounds of potatoes a year, even if they could grow 2 billon pounds of organic potatoes, finding a market for them would be a challenge, and a huge gamble.

It is doubtful many Islanders understand what a capital intensive business potato farming is. With exception of seed, and some speciality growers, the rule ‘go big or stay home’ applies in spades to potato farming. Hence, in the last 20-30 years there was a tremendous consolidation in the industry. Fewer farmers are growing more potatoes today than were grown on the Island 30 years ago.

A farmer growing 500 acres of potatoes isn’t unusual on the Island. To grow 500 acres of potatoes requires a minimum of 1,500 acres, because of the need for crop rotation. Depending where it is, good potato land sells for between $2,000 and $3,500 an acre. The means the cost of the land for that size farm is somewhere between $3 million and $5 1/4 million. Even if the farmer leases a portion of his land those leases will be based on the value of the land.

There is also the cost of equipment. Modern equipment requires large tractors which sell for approximately $1,000 per horsepower. Most tractors of potato farms are in the 150 to 200 horsepower range and about a half dozen are needed. Another million dollars. Then there are plows, disc harrows, planters, tillers, sprayers, diggers, wind rowers, harvesters, escalators, a fleet of trucks with potato boxes, graders, baggers, fork-lifts, etc, etc. Easily another million or so. For the sake of argument lets say $2 million for equipment.

A modern storage facility with computerized climate control to hold 10 million pounds of potatoes will cost between a million and a half, and two million dollars.

So without planting a single spud, the land, the equipment and storage for the crop will cost approximately seven or eight million dollars. Then add another million dollars or so, every year, to cover the costs of seed, fertilizer, sprays and labour.

If you include the cost of land, equipment, seed, chemicals, fuel, labour and the cost of money for working capital, people involved in the potato industry feel that $3,000 an acre is a reasonable ballpark figure to estimate the costs of planting, growing, harvesting, storing and selling a crop. Costs for table potatoes may run a bit higher than potatoes grown to supply the french fry plants.

If everything goes right and a grower is able to produce a crop of 300 hundredweights, or 30,000 lbs., to the acre, he would need to be paid 10 cents a pound, just to break even. But, yields vary from approximately 250 hundredweight to 320 hundredweight per acre, depending on the grower and on the variety of potatoes being grown.

And then there’s disease. Diseases can effect the yield and the storage capability of potatoes. Because of soil conditions, in some instances caused by poor rotation practices, and because of our damp climate, potatoes grown on the Island need a lot of chemicals to deal with blight and other problems.

The money potato farmers have tied up in their land, storage facilities and equipment is a long-term investment that won’t be paid off for years. But, they’re the ultimate optimists. If they don’t have a contract with a plant, they don’t know what price they will get for their crop. Even if a grower has a contract this year, it doesn’t mean he’ll have a contract next year, as the growers that supplied McCain’s found out a few weeks ago. But, the bank still expects to be paid.

Economics will dictate how the industry evolves. However, the chances of P.E.I. becoming an organic garden won’t happen soon.

- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at:

August 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Farmers' Markets open in Bloomfield, Bunbury/Stratford, Cardigan, Charlottetown,  Montague, Morell, Murray Harbour, Summerside, Victoria this morning.
Someone mentioned there is an organic farmer who sells his produce in Fort Augustus from noon to 6PM on Saturdays, proceeds going to charities.

Photographer and blogger John Morris is going to be at the Farmers' Market in Charlottetown with copies of his new book and scenic 2015 calendar.  He filmed some footage at Plan B.
Index of his YouTubes here:
Videos 36-57 appear to be some of his Plan B footage.

The one that makes me smile (with rue) is here:
In early October 2012, Cindy Richards asking straight questions of The Environmental Department Guy while others comes and go, and the project manager smiles behind his beard.
Other happenings:
This morning:  Island Nature Trust is hosting a shorebirds identification workshop, gathering at 9AM at St. Eleanor's Community Centre.  from:

Saturday, August 16th, 9:00 AM
St. Eleanor’s Community Centre, Summerside
The annual fall shorebird migration is one of nature’s greatest events!
In late summer and early fall, large flocks of shorebirds are seen along PEI shorelines. This diverse group undertakes some of the longest migrations in the natural world – sometimes flying non-stop for days to reach a destination!
Dwaine Oakley (expert birder and learning manager for the Wildlife Conservation Technology Program at Holland College) will lead a shorebird identification workshop followed by a field trip to test out your new ID skills! The field trip will highlight surrounding Important Bird Areas.
The workshop will begin at 9:00 AM.
Please bring your own lunch!
This is a free event! Everyone welcome!
For more information, please call (902) 892-7513

August 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Three recent letters in The Guardian -- the last one from Kevin O'Brien is *very* interesting.


Provincial Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker took notice of the editorial last  Saturday criticizing the federal Green Party:

It all starts from maintenance of a healthy planet - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Peter Bevan-Baker

Published on Thursday, August 14, 2014 I remember the days when the political party to whom I have devoted my life rarely got a mention in any political discussions, never mind being referenced in an editorial, so it was with a certain degree of delight that I read The Guardian editorial of Aug. 11 which was entirely about the Greens.  That delight was tempered as I read a version of the ole and entrenched misconception that the Green Party is a "single issue" party.  As the editorial stated "(The Greens) are now trying to convince Canadians there is much more to the party than meets the eye"

Combatting the myth that we are nothing more than an environmental organization is an ongoing battle for those of us who have spent decades talking about the economic and social policies of the Greens. Finally it seems that Canadians are accepting that we are indeed a fully fledged political party, worthy of wide support and representation in legislatures across the country.

Certainly our federal leader, Elizabeth May is in part responsible for this, as she has spoken eloquently and thoughtfully on every issue before the House of Commons. Indeed she has stood out as an MP who has, through her industry and integrity, won the respect of her peers in Ottawa (twice in a row being voted as hardest working MP), and solidified support in her own riding. It is now up to other Greens across Canada to carry this message of a new and better way of doing politics to the public.

I have remained a Green Party devotee because I have a deep belief that the values the Party espouses and the policies we have developed represent a clear and welcome departure from politics as usual.

So many critical support systems upon which human societies depend are in peril. Food, water and energy supplies are becoming increasingly vulnerable; our climate and global economy more unstable; our vulnerability to disease and social unrest increase yearly. Politics as usual, far from alleviating these problems, seems more often than not, to make them worse.

A new approach with a long-term vision and a deeper understanding of our place within, and reliance on the natural systems which make life for us all possible is desperately needed. Underlying the unravelling of all these economic, social and environmental systems is one thing — the health of our planet.

There is no economy and no society without clean air, water and soil. So in a sense there is only one issue that really matters when it comes to our continued successful inhabitation of this world, and that is the maintenance of a healthy planet.

Maybe the Greens, as our name suggests are a one issue party after all: the only political party with a full understanding of our dependence on a robust and healthy environment. With increasing support for the Greens, it appears that more and more Canadians are getting this too.

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


And Martha Howatt is clear:

McCains closing sign of the times - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Thursday, August 14, 2014

I am not a farmer. I have a veg garden, flowerbeds and plant lots of trees. I grew up with an extended family that farmed but that is the extent of my knowledge. I have, however, managed my own business successfully. One of the things I learned throughout that process is that the market is continually changing and if I didn’t change to meet the demands I would become obsolete quickly.

In my opinion the closing of McCains is an indication that the market is changing. They have commented that the french fry market is declining. Perhaps this would be a good time for farmers to look at greater crop diversification. The weather is changing, as is the cultural dynamic. Both of these indicate the need to investigate new and different crops and markets. Perhaps this would also decrease the use of pesticides, herbicides and neonicotinoids. It may also halt the need for deep-water wells and the reliance on large corporations to buy Island products.

Martha Howatt, Summerside


A final, sober analysis and a real "moving forward together" idea.

Recent application part of strategy - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The end of a recent uni-gendered focus group convinced me that Cavendish Farms was considering leaving P.E.I. One of the other nine men was convinced that Moosehead was leaving the Maritimes. The only other corporate names mentioned were Hershey and McCain’s.

We were not asked to remain confidential so I can tell you that the discussion was moderated by an intelligent young man with excellent people skills who walked us through a variety of scenarios in which it became abundantly clear that some major corporation was examining how to protect its brand image while exiting a community of operations traditionally associated with their brand.

And so I am given real cause to wonder if the recent application to lift the moratorium on deep wells isn’t part of a strategy. I see it two possible ways: perhaps they plan to leave regardless and hope their application is rejected which gives them “cause” or  a reason to complain, or conversely, the focus group was intended to create a rumble so that the application would have a better chance of approval. After all, for $100 (cash) — rumoured to have been $75 for women’s groups — I can’t imagine any of us would have refused a non-disclosure. Or, perhaps, Saint John, N.B., is headed for heartache.

If we, everyone, can stop denying that chemical residues in the air (food, water, etc.) are causing real harm to health in P.E.I., and that agriculture is part of that picture, and agree to face the problem together, and do it with respect for our farmers, and if additionally we have unfettered** access to the science about water resources, and if we have a hearty discussion for a year or two, then perhaps we should consider Irving’s application. Otherwise I think they should make do with their 33,000 pounds per acre. What besides water gets us to that ridiculous 60,000-pound figure they have? I’ll bet there are chemical companies seeing this as an opportunity.  

Kevin O’Brien, Cornwall


**I'll mention that fettered or not, there just is not much water research done in this area that is recent, relevant and comprehensive. 

Cardigan Farmers' Market is open today, and in Charlottetown, the Farm Centre is hosting a post-Gold Cup Parade barbecue with musician Mike Biggar, noon to 2PM, $15, rain or shine.

August 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

If you didn't see last night's Compass, it was full of short segments of interest, on-line version here:

At about 5minutes, an update on plans for the McCains' plant (right now they are talking retraining workers, not anything innovative like encouraging the workers to offer up plans for converting it to something else),

then there is a string of stories showing hard-working Islanders protecting the land:
at 6min, coverage of Earth Action's Sharon Labchuk and Lynne Lund's press conference regarding Operation Pesticide Watch, which will provide on-line resources where people concerned about spraying and wind speed and buffer zones can get more information.  The report also talks with one of the hardest working government workers on PEI, manager of investigation and enforcement Wade MacKinnon.
(Guardian story here.)

After that is a report on a local watershed's concern about Charlottetown's new municipal well being constructed in North Milton, and plans to continue to monitor things.  Cornwall and Area Watershed Group coordinator Karalee McAskill, dedicated and talented, describes things stream-side.

(By the way, work is being done along the TCH in Cornwall on the Hyde Creek culvert, the one that blew out a few years ago.  I am not sure what the reasons are or the plan is at this point.)

(Next is an article about new owners for the Bookmark at Confederaton Court Mall.)
Then a story about federal Agriculture minister talking tough at the Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) meeting in Charlottetown about US rules wanting (imagine!) to know Country of Origin Labeling (COOL).  The CCA feels it should be voluntary.  There is footage of how some cattle are raised for market.  I also believe the reporter says the Canada-European Union trade deal (CETA) has been approved, but I don't think that is the case.

(Back to hard-working, caring Islanders:)
After a break (just about 16 minutes), there is a story with Phil Ferraro at the Farm Centre Legacy garden on the green roof on the shed building, describing the benefits, and another roof at Holland College.

(Then there is a story about liquor stores, and the weather.)

Here is the editorial from Wednesday's Guardian mentioned yesterday:

Minister Launches Offensive - The Guardian Editorial

Sherry says fish kill devastating news; challenges farmers, watershed groups

Published Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Environment Minister Janice Sherry has decided that the best defence is a good offence. The minister says the latest fish kill discovered over the weekend is devastating news, the same response we heard from three opposition parties. Ms. Sherry has drawn a lot of criticism for her recent weak track record on the deep-water well issue and cosmetic pesticides. She now subscribes to the theory that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and has allied herself with Islanders aghast at the fish kill.

While the investigation continues into the deaths of approximately 1,000 fish discovered Saturday in the North River, potato farmers have already been tried, convicted and sentenced to new careers in organic farming. It’s likely that pesticides sprayed on nearby fields were washed into the river by heavy showers and thundershowers which impacted the Island from last Thursday into Monday. Farmers, lawns and watersheds all needed rain, just not in a sudden downpour.

This was the first kill in the river in many years, and the only one on P.E.I. thus far in 2014. Any fish kill is unfortunate, and opposition parties were quick to heap criticism onto Ms. Sherry as being personally responsible for allowing this to happen. A provincial biologist said that samples from the scene showed oxygen levels and water quality were OK so the list of suspects is rapidly narrowing to pesticides.

No one wants to see fish kills, especially farmers who know they will automatically receive most of the criticism. Ms. Sherry said: “It’s not anything any of us want to hear about or deal with.” That would be the understatement of the year.

The Action Committee for Sustainable Land Management, which was established after a 2012 fish kill in Barclay Brook in western P.E.I. made 18 recommendations, including soil conservation measures. One could argue the group has been relatively successful with just the one kill this year.

Fish kills should no longer be an annual occurrence, any more than highway fatalities or residential fires. But accidents or acts of God will happen and it’s doubtful we can ever reach the point where there are no fish kills.

Sharon Labchuk, co-ordinator of the environmental group Earth Action, thinks otherwise. She said the usual response from government to fish kills is to improve regulations. Isn’t that a good thing? Is she suggesting banning agriculture or just making the province a pesticide-free, organic zone?

Earth Action is hoping to get the public to help report pesticide regulatory violations through a new campaign it calls Operation Pesticide Watch.

Ms. Labchuk will hold a news conference today near the North River to launch that campaign. She argues that until P.E.I. becomes an organic province, the public has a right to know what pesticides are being sold and how much is being sprayed.

OPW sounds like the RCMP mantra of asking the public to provide tips on suspected drunk drivers. Spray at your own risk.

It’s obvious that additional measures are needed to protect streams and rivers from dangerous runoffs.

Ms. Sherry is placing more onus on industry to better patrol itself and watershed groups to work on solutions since its obvious that government won’t, or is unable, to do it all by itself.

It has to be a co-operative effort by all parties to reduce the risk of fish kills as much as possible.

The minister has announced she will introduce a Water Act which will address the problem, but not necessarily find the magic solution some people thinks exists to prevent these fish kills.

August 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It is almost charming to see federal and provincial representatives, from different major political parties, get together to make redundant announcements (the only new part being which pocket the  taxpayer is paying from).  It appears this smiley event took place at the CAT dealership.

from the on-line article:

"The upgrades to Routes 1 and 2 include improvements that will make it easier to make left turns along the Trans-Canada Highway near Bonshaw, while a 1,350-metre segment of the highway near Tryon will be rehabilitated to meet current safety guidelines."
It's a done deal!
In the print edition editorial in today's Guardian, (which can't be accessed on-line until later this morning), in discussing the recent fishkill and defending Environment Minister Janice Sherry, the editors write, "While the investigation <into the fishkill> continues, potato farmers have already been tried, convicted and sentenced to new careers in organic farming."

(even sarcasm fails me here)
In Monday's paper, Lynne Lund spells out where we are headed:

with a horrendous headline:

If want votes, then earn them - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on August 11th, 2014

Everything has a season, and it seems we are nearing the end of this one. No, I don’t mean summer, or at least, not exclusively summer. We are nearing the end of this phase in agriculture and you can feel it everywhere. It’s hard to deny the fact that public opinion is changing. Letters pour in.

People are speaking out who never would have done so in the past and social media is overflowing with stories, studies, images and videos on the subject. Our soil is getting depleted. More and more farmers are tired of jeopardizing their own health to meet the demands of a french fry spec.

McCain’s is shutting down, the Irvings threaten to leave and we are collectively sick of being poisoned.  The story line is clear and it all points in one direction: The current model of agriculture doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for the land, and it doesn’t work for the people. Indeed, it’s time for a bold new vision for P.E.I.  

And as we near the end of summer, we know what’s coming, right? Soon, many of us can expect politicians to be knocking on our doors. So when opportunity knocks, answer it and take that opportunity to ask your potential representatives if they will indeed be representing you, or big business.

It’s time to start asking tough questions of the people who hold seats in public office. Pesticides are a political issue and you need to know what side of it your representatives are standing on. I for one think if a candidate doesn’t at the very least take a strong stance against cosmetic pesticides, they won’t have a chance this year. We’re looking to you, candidates. If you want our votes, earn them.

Lynne Lund, Clinton


Take care -- some Farmers' Markets open today (Stanley Bridge and Charlottetown)

August 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Reports regarding fracking from our neighbouring provinces:

"Say yes to shale gas jobs and prosperity," said (New Brunswick Premier David) Alward. "As premier, I think it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of the natural resource opportunities we have before us today."


Federal finance minister endorses shale gas development in N.B. - CBC online news

Joe Oliver urges business leaders to consider industry's positive track record out west

CBC On-line news, August 7th, 2014

Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver says the national economy is in recovery and if New Brunswick wants to follow suit, shale gas may be its best bet.

Oliver made the comments while addressing business leaders at a Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday.

He spoke about negotiations for a free trade deal with the European Union and outlined his government's economic accomplishments.

But then strayed from his prepared speech to weigh in on the contentious shale gas issue, following comments by Premier David Alward.

"As the premier mentioned, New Brunswick has significant shale gas reserve potential. It's up to the province to decide whether to develop them," Oliver told the crowd at the Delta Fredericton.

Speaking to members of the media later, Oliver said that the provinces with the most prosperity are also the provinces that have natural resources.

New Brunswickers should look closely at the industry's track record in other provinces when deciding whether to pursue the shale gas industry, he said.

"Environmental safety is, of course, a precondition," said Oliver.

"If you look, however, at shale gas development in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, it's been going on for over 50 years. One hundred and seventy five thousand wells have been drilled using [hydraulic] fracking. Not a single instance of drinkable water contamination."

In January, Nova Scotia's Environment Minister confirmed a leak of between 6,000 and 14,000 litres of fracking waste at that province's only operation.

Randy Delorey said the wastewater escaped from a holding pond in Kennetcook and some of it ran into a nearby brook.

Oliver stressed that developing shale gas reserves remains a provincial decision.

"If the objective, scientific, independent analysis says that there isn't going to be damage, then we're in a position to approve it," he said.

The New Brunswick premier has said repeatedly his government plans to pursue development of the shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

He reiterated his stance during Thursday's luncheon.

"Say yes to shale gas jobs and prosperity," said Alward. "As premier, I think it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of the natural resource opportunities we have before us today."

And more food for thought for The Wheeler Commission:
This was published recently in The Coast, a local weekly from Halifax.  From Wikipedia:
"Founded in 1993, The Coast has a generally left wing editorial policy. It focuses on local issues, especially "people working for change" within the community."  The language can be a little salty at times.

What we know we don’t know about fracking - The Coast article by Geoff Davies

Before surveying the land and finding the gas, before boring the wells and breaking the shale, questions must be answered.

The practice is called fracking. The province’s two-year moratorium on it is almost up, and all the questions lie at the feet of Dr. David Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University.

Wheeler and the panel he leads---at the behest of the provincial government---are due to give their final report later this month, but Nova Scotians got a taste during a two-week public-meetings roadshow that ended July 29 in Whycocomagh.

Fans of “the good ol’ Canadian government study” were not left disappointed: true to the genre, Wheeler’s is a study calling for more study.

Study of community attitudes; study of health impacts and environmental risks; study to learn where the resources are and how much they’re worth---as Wheeler told a raucous crowd of three hundred at the Halifax consultation, a “significant period of learning and dialogue” is the panel’s prescription.

But the panel stopped short of advising any course of action for the fracking moratorium itself---whether to lift it, extend it, or ban hydraulic fracturing outright.

“It’s not our job,” Wheeler told the Halifax meeting.

So, if now’s not the time for firm answers and solid conclusions, let it be the time for pointing out answers that should be questions, and conclusions that are shakier than they seem. Here’s what we know we don’t know about fracking in Nova Scotia.

We know we don’t know whether Nova Scotian communities have enough water to frack without going thirsty.

The Wheeler panel thinks we do, stating that “water use for hydraulic fracturing would likely not lead to issues of water demand for the majority of the province.”

Meanwhile, a team of Dalhousie scientists are mid-way through a project to fix the fact we know dick all about our provincial surface water supplies.

Just this spring, the researchers and the provincial government published the Nova Scotia Watershed Atlas, calling it the first high-level assessment of the health and stressors of the province’s watersheds.

Dubbed the Nova Scotia Watershed Assessment Program (NSWAP), they’ve been working together since 2010 to fill knowledge gaps about the status of watersheds: which are the most at-risk, and what patterns are happening at the provincial-scale, and so on.

What they’ve now completed---the first of two planned stages---is the mapping and risk-factor ranking for about 250 watersheds.

What they’ve found is some of the watersheds with the highest potential to be harmed are in Colchester, Pictou and Cumberland counties---the same areas that are currently being explored for conventional fossil fuels, and have been marked as being potentially frackable.

Summarizing their work in an article recently accepted by the peer-reviewed Journal of Hydrology, the researchers specifically call out Wheeler’s review of shale gas development in discussing the limited knowledge surrounding our surface water.

The NSWAP researchers say there is a “critical need” for water budgets in Nova Scotia---essentially hydrological cash flow statements, accounting for water entering, leaving and staying in a watershed.

Until we have that, we can’t actually know how much water there is in an area, and we can’t be sure, as Wheeler and friends are, that there’s little risk of withdrawing too much.

“Without this information it is not possible to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the potential risks to surface water supplies due to large-scale water withdrawal projects,” says the NSWAP.

The researchers also note that Nova Scotia is unique for having a bunch of small watersheds draining to the coast, instead of being dominated by a few large ones---like, say, New Brunswick.

“If you include all the islands and all the small coastal watersheds, there's over 2,500 across the province ,” says Kevin Garroway, a water monitoring expert with Nova Scotia Environment, and a lead scientist on the project.

That means that not only is it misleading to think of the province as having 40-some large watersheds, as conventionally is done, but also that, due to their often small size, Nova Scotia’s watersheds could be more delicate than we think. Just as a drop of poison in a glass is more potent than one in a vat.

“In a smaller watershed a potential impact could have a more detrimental effect to that watershed as a whole, because there's less ability for that watershed to be buffered against a potential impact,” says Garroway.

Wheeler and friends are also suggesting that the province watch the example of fracking New Brunswick, which presents its own host of unknowns.

In the McCully Fields around Penobsquis, near Sussex in the province’s south, the 30 wells there make up about two-thirds of the province’s total. But, says Dr. Brad Walters, a professor of environmental studies at Mount Allison University, most of those are drilled into “tight sand” deposits---a different beast from fracking in shale, because gas is locked in low-porosity sand instead of bubbles within the rock.

Plus, underground wells from the local potash mine existed before and during natural gas development in the Penobsquis area, making it hard to disentangle the effects of the mine from the effects of the fracking. And there have been effects aplenty.

“I believe some dozen households lost their water, just like that. Literally overnight, water wells dried up, and what was likely happening was that it was emptying out into the mine, because the mine was flooding,” says Walters.

There were also reports of sewage leaking into the ground around homes, and of houses slowly sinking into the ground. This led to Penobsquis residents filing a legal complaint against the company, Saskatchewan-based PotashCorp, seeking damages.

This is tied to another unique problem with fracking in the Maritimes. As Walters explains in his written submission to the Wheeler panel, the geography of Atlantic Canada is such that shale gas deposits often co-exist with populated areas. Unlike in Northern B.C. or Texas, people here would be living much closer to fracking operations.

“All these things were happening to these people and to put it bluntly, the government just didn't give a shit, and they had to basically hire a lawyer and force the government to the table,” Walters says.

More than two years into that legal battle, most of those residents abruptly withdrew from the proceedings in 2012, with some citing an unfair disadvantage and a broken process.

There’s your Lesson Number One,” says Walters. “It’s that all this talk about having regulations in place and how the government is going to protect people's interests; the Penobsquis case is clear illustration that that is just nonsense.

“When push came to shove it was clear where the province placed its allegiance.”

The very starting point for considering fracking is the notion that it’s more efficient and more effective than other means of harvesting energy. That’s the root of the much-heralded “golden age of gas,” and of that ever-tantalizing carrot---job creation.

It’s why “yes, but” can still follow the list of fracking’s potential harms---methane in the air, chemicals in the groundwater, mysterious ailments of nearby residents.

But fracking isn’t even as economical as many think. When considering “energy returned on energy invested” (how much you get for how much you put in), fracking doesn’t size up all that well.

Though it’s highly situational, and the field of study is fairly new, the average EROEI for shale gas is five-to-one. That’s a few points lower than the ratio championed by industry, and about on par with the tar sands, and of course far below the EROEI of a conventional oil play (25-to-one).

The efficiency of the whole process gives one pause, too. The resources are often concentrated in “sweet spots”, which are the first to be developed. When the wells are bored and the fracturing releases the gas, the gas comes out fast (many wells see bumper production in the first few years), followed by fast and steady decline.

To think that the United States has become a golden land of cheap, fracked gas would also be inaccurate. While there are about 30 shale plays across the country, 88 per cent of the country’s production comes from just six of them. About a third of the country’s wells are in decline, and another third have flat production.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, these are just known unknowns. What riches Nova Scotia will gain from the controversial process, and what we all could potentially lose, are still frustratingly vague. As Nova Scotians have made clear, that uncertainty isn’t good enough.

“I’m terrified,” says Eleanor Kure, who attended the volatile Wheeler panel meeting in Halifax. “[The panel is] basically just saying ‘Don't worry about it. It's going to be all right. We'll be careful,’ and unfortunately there is not a way to be careful with something that's so dangerous.”

A reminder the Environmental Impact Assessment public meeting on the proposed new provincial garage is at 7PM tonight at the Brackley Community Centre on Route 15 north of Charlottetown.

August 11, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Monday morning news in Summer:
The first "real" rain in weeks in Queens County fell last week, and while it appears most of the mitigations at Plan B held back some of the sediment, yesterday on-line news reported a fish-kill in the North River.

CBC, first about noon Sunday:

The poor fisheries biologist made a cautious quote that it is too early to tell what caused it.

Another feature on the radio this morning is the PEI Potato Board's "I (Heart) PEI Potatoes" program that's been printed on the polyethylene white hay bale wrap and placed in prominent locations.

and here is the Guardian's on-line story on the fish-kill:

The Guardian printed edition this morning did not mention the story at all, I don't think. 

But The Guardian's main editorial (usually available on-line later in the morning of the print date) is on the Federal Green Party, pretty much kicking at it for a press release the Party issued which didn't mention the environment, and deriding its goals for the next federal election.   One of those long opinion pieces on the right-hand page also takes aim at those "radical NGOs"  opposed to pipelines.

August 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

I am back after a little trip, and hopefully bellaliant and sympatico are letting all the mail through, unlike Thursday and Friday.
Yesterday's front page story by Steve Sharratt in The Guardian featured some people who are worrying about pesticide exposure, and some instances where people have documented concerns on social media in addition to calling the environmental officers:

Mr. Sharratt, who often writes about rural issues, ratchets up the rhetoric by using the terms "vigilante" and "posse"  to describe people posting concerns on social media.  A resident sees a tractor with spray drifting and shuts him or herself and family up; and has no idea what is being sprayed, nor of any real measure of wind. The person calls out for some sort of response, which some friends respond to.   If you have kids or a respiratory issue, you can imagine the concern at the lack of information.

Concern and the methods to document have produced a vesuvian reaction from some promoters of the industry.  Perhaps instead of shiny media campaigns, real public information could be shared with residents affected: perhaps notices, in the mailboxes or doorways of the adjacent properties, of the chemical and its use (herbicide, fungicide, insecticide).  That is required for applications of certain lawn pesticides in subdivisions  -- why should it be different for agricultural pesticides?

In the article, former CBC journalist and Food Matters blogger Ian Petrie, as usual, sees the whole picture and communicates it respectfully. (His blog is: )

The bold is mine.

P.E.I. residents using social media to challenge farm activity - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt

Published on August 9th, 2014

Once upon a time, people would stop along the roads of Prince Edward Island to wave and take photographs of farmers working in their fields.

They still do, but today it’s sometimes for reasons other than the pretty views and pastoral settings.

P.E.I. farmers are under the microscope, especially when the cellphones come out. Photos are taken, and routine chores like spraying the crop or even fertilizing the soil, appear on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

There’s a pesticide posse sweeping across the province these days, hunting down farming infractions and violations.

One recent incident was a video posted on YouTube, under the title “Weak enforcement of pesticide regulations in P.E.I.,” showing a Tignish area farmer spraying a crop in alleged high winds near Kildare.

The Department of Environment investigated, after the application had taken place, and found no violation.

A charge can only be laid if the pesticide officer is on site to witness the infraction, but there are only two pesticide officers covering the entire province.

According to some observers, people posting to social media sites only reflects the lack of public confidence in the province’s willingness - let alone ability - to enforce agriculture regulations.

Joan Diamond prefers life under the radar.

But that all changed this spring when she took a day off work to garden and the potato field next to her Fairview home, in rural Queens County, was sprayed.

“I had to take all my clothes off the line and go inside my house and shut the windows and doors for the entire day,” said Diamond, who lives near Rocky Point. “When I checked the government website, I discovered that I have no rights whatsoever. They protect the fish, but only because of bad publicity from fish kills, and yet there is zero protection for humans…how it that even remotely possible?”

The Island born mother - whose well water is afflicted with nitrates - is now the page master of the new Pesticide Free P.E.I. group on Facebook. It only started two months ago, but has more than 800 followers and increases daily.

“We are family friends with our farmer and we don’t blame him…farmers are stuck between a rock and a hard place and have to pay the bills,” she said. “But I’m scared for my family to go outside and even drink my own water.”

Pesticide Free P.E.I. wants government to change weak and unenforced pesticide regulations by offering incentives to farmers to phase out what they describe as a pesticide addiction “that spreads poison” on the land.

“Farmers know that people want pesticide-free food, air and water…that’s our right,’’ she said. “Times are changing and the P.E.I. government has to get behind it.”

Like police encouraging cellphone tips on drunk drivers, so goes the public vigilance squad on the prowl for agricultural infractions -- a situation farmers find frustrating.

It has been said we are farming in a subdivision in P.E.I., and with social media, farmers are subjected to all sorts of harassment and misinformation spread by people who have no clue about agriculture,” said John Jamieson, executive director of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

Jamieson said one farmer had a neighbour make three calls about spraying during alleged “high” wind conditions. The subsequent investigation revealed wind speed was only 11 kilometres an hour - well within provincial limits of 20 kilometres an hour.

“From some of the stuff you read (on social media sites) you would think that farmers are out there spraying pesticides for fun,” he said. “They also don’t realize that practically every farmer (conventional or organic) uses pesticides.”

But some Islanders insist the P.E.I. government -- through tacit approval of the status quo -- is creating the hot potato.

Former reporter Ian Petrie covered P.E.I. agriculture for decades and is not surprised at the growing public scrutiny over pesticides on social media.

“I think it is fair ball for the public to be out doing this,” said Petrie, who blogs about food matters. “Government has dropped the ball completely on enforcing such things as crop rotations. So, yes, it’s very fair to take pictures of what’s growing where and what is being sprayed.”

However, he regrets such a “vigilante” environment is festering.

“It speaks to the public lack of confidence in the province’s willingness and ability to enforce anything,’’ he said. “I have concerns because farmers have told me they feel guilty when they're out spraying and feeling judged as if they're doing something wrong.”

Petrie said there’s always been mistrust between the general public and potato farmers.

“The Ghiz gestapo is what some farmers are now calling conservation officers,” he wrote in a recent blog. “While many, many in the general public think conservation officers only swing into action once the fish are dead. This is really troubling.”

The cone of silence is so great that annual pesticide sales data has not been released since 2008. And when the public gets riled over pesticides, the complaints wind up on the desk of Wade MacKinnon.

“There is a definite increase in the number of complaints,’’ said the manager of the Department of Environment investigation and enforcement branch. “We had over 100 complaints last year primarily concerned with wind speeds and spraying, and likely just as many will come before the end of this year.”

The department was successful with two $1,000 convictions in a Summerside courthouse in 2013, and others are pending.

But with only two pesticide officers for the entire province, it’s a busy job.

“It’s a very sensitive issue from both sides,” he said. “But our job is to respond to the public…..and if we determine there is a violation, it’s our job to proceed with legal action.”

While spraying infractions do occur, the department does get some overzealous callers offering inaccurate claims. In one case, a complaint turned out to be nothing more than a farmer fertilizing a field with manure.

“To put it mildly, the public is very sensitized to pesticides now.”

When asked, MacKinnon said it was not his role to comment on whether the legislative teeth of pesticide rules and regulations in P.E.I. were little more like dentures.

“We are driven by public complaints,” he said. “And if we look at the increase of those complaints….we can only imagine there will be more in the future.”

Rollo Bay potato farmer Alvin Kennan is the chairman of the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture. He says farmers have always struggled to get their story across.

“People are trying to use social media to fit their own agenda,’’ he said. “I am concerned that we are not doing our due diligence as an industry to have the public more informed about how we are looking after the crops, ensuring food safety and using crop protection in a safe manner to prevent losses.”

Jamieson said he is dismayed at the activism and inaccuracies posted by some groups such as the P.E.I. Food Exchange.

“Their view of agriculture is extremely narrow and they seem to view any farmer who is not small and organic as a ‘factory farm’. They also like to perpetuate the notion that P.E.I. has the highest cancer rates caused by pesticides.”

Jamieson said the federation of agriculture is trying to get the real story out about agriculture and has taken on a fairly aggressive communications campaign to combat negativity. It also has its own Facebook page and Twitter account.

Back in Fairview, Diamond said her group is especially worried about glyphosate (Roundup), which was developed by Monsanto and widely used even though there are concerns about the effects on humans and the environment.

Pesticide Free P.E.I. plans to post more videos, including some with testimonials from people affected by pesticides, and is working to secure some celebrity endorsement as well.

“Islanders don’t want to offend anyone, but I’ve had my head stuck in the sand far too long…..we are going to push this as a major issue in the next election,” said Diamond. “There are plenty of examples of people growing good organic food here…the only reason we use pesticides in such quantity is to get a four-inch french fry.”

(Those supporting Plan B for various particular reasons also had "fairly aggressive communications campaign" , which didn't convince too many people, either.)   ;-)

August 8, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

I saw a notice in today's Guardian that the Environmental Impact Assessment meeting regarding the proposed $16.5 million provincial garage didn't take place last night, and was moved to Tuesday. 

Also, in today's newspaper, Cavendish Farms looks at the McCain Foods situation, and immediately calls for high-capacity wells, if Islanders want them to stay (bold is mine):

Cavendish Farms warns it faces same challenges as McCain Foods - The Guardian article

French fry giant says it is committed to P.E.I., but without deep-water wells could face an uncertain future

Published August 8th, 2014

McCain Foods’ biggest competitor in the french fry market says it is facing the very same challenges – currency, competition and costs – as its rival.

Ron Clow, vice president of Cavendish Farms, says his company remains committed to P.E.I., but he called on the P.E.I. government to ensure it has access to deep-water wells to ensure its survival.

Cavendish Farms has warned its plants on the Island could be in jeopardy if deep-water wells are not approved. The province is currently studying the issue.

Clow said his company invests in its employees and technology.

“We also need a sustainable source of water to grow potatoes,” Clow said in a statement emailed to The Guardian.  

“The fact is that the yield from P.E.I. potato fields is lagging behind the rest of North America due to a lack of certain water supply.  This means less money for the farmer per acre, and less potatoes for Cavendish to process.”

Cavendish Farms employs 600 workers and buys potatoes from 92 family farms.

Clow said Thursday’s news that McCain is leaving P.E.I. is very difficult news for many Island neighbours.

“We need to consider what this says regarding the very real challenges facing the sector and what it takes to sustain good paying food production jobs on P.E.I.”

Mr. Clow is choosing to ignore the host of other reasons brought forth during the Standing Committee meetings regarding P.E.I.'s relative lack of productivity -- a shorter growing season, lower levels of organic matter in the soil, choice by the buyer of the potato variety, etc.  

The Premier appears to be in reactive mode:  something like, "We offered everything to get McCains to stay."  It is time to think a little farther down the road then the next election....

A very positive idea I read on social media about what to do about the McCain's plant closure is to let the workers organize the plant into a organic vegetable processing facility.  Many of us in the winter would be happy to have more sources of frozen Island vegetables; Riverview Market and some of the rural convenience stores have some frozen Island vegetables for sale.

August 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A bit for everyone tonight:

Leadnow Connect meeting, 7PM, Haviland Club, is having a Connect meeting at the Haviland Cub, corner of Haviland and Water Street, tonight at 7PM.  Discussion of events for informing and engaging the public regarding electoral reform and other issues.

Island Nature Trust talk, 7PM, Wheatley River Hall
from the news release:
The Island Nature Trust will present an information session about Bobolinks and Barn Swallows  at Wheatley River Hall on Thursday, August 7th, 2014 at 7 in the evening.  Jackie Waddell and Shaylynn Wallace are conducting a summer survey about the declining numbers of these beautiful and important bird species.

Everyone is welcome to come out and view their Powerpoint presentation and hear the bubbling, metallic song of the bobolink and the twittering warble of the barn swallow.

This is hosted by the Wheatley River Women's Institute.  For more information, contact Trudy MacDonald at (902) 621-0718.
Map to Wheatley River.

Public Meeting, 7PM, Brackley Community Centre, Brackley Point Road.

The public meeting to discuss the proposed government garage project and on its environmental impact assessment (EIA) is tonight.

Here is a Guardian article on it:

The article has a pretty good map and a link to the EIA statement. 

Minister Vessey repeatedly uses the word "efficiency" when talking about this move, but the cost of $16.5 million (which presumably does not include the generous above-market value paid for the land) is a pretty steep price tag when there is such government financial mismanagement. 

The map shows it pretty close to the Confederation Trail and the Sherwood Cemetery, both places that people go for a little bit of solitude; there is an asphalt plant nearby already.   Whatever the purchase price, those 80-some acres of pretty nice farmland close to the city won't be growing any kind of food again.

I do wonder, at first glance, about the idea of brine tanks (somebody mentions the irony of making brine when we are surrounded by it) and where the fresh water is coming from for that; I haven't really dug into the EIA document, which was prepared by Joose Environmental and DEJardin Consulting.
Members of the public can submit comments on the EIA for the next ten days.

August 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This being Wednesday, the Stanley Bridge and Charlottetown Farmers' Markets are open. 
Tonight is the Pesticide Free PEI meeting, 7PM, Sobey's community room, Allen Street store.


From yesterday's paper, short and pointing:

P.E.I. guidelines much too lenient - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on August 5th, 2014

Health Canada has guidelines on the safe use of pesticides. They state "never spray a pesticide if wind speeds are more than eight km-h. On Thursday, July 31, 2014, they made this the issue of the day using their Healthy Canadians Facebook page.

Meanwhile, P.E.I. regulations state pesticides may be sprayed as long as wind speeds don’t exceed 20 km-h.

I’m pretty sad that P.E.I. government is willing to let farmers and cosmetic pesticide users do things that even Health Canada says are not safe.

As an Islander, I ask that the government that is voted in to represent me, you, our families, friends, farmers, farm workers, and all Islanders bring our provincial legislation — in this case regulations that fall under the responsibility of your department, Minister — in line with the safety guidelines from Health Canada, and keep our Islanders safer from the effects of pesticides!

Similarly, I request you introduce improved measures that Islanders can trust to enforce these and related limits, not people tied to the farming industry who find themselves unsympathetic to the enforcement of regulations, and regular islanders concerned for their health and that of the environment. I trust that your government has no interest, once brought to your attention, in allowing the continuation of a conflict of interest which puts the health of Islanders and our living environment at unnecessary risk.

Angela Court, East Royalty


On a completely different note:

And it's sometimes hard to justify the costs of space exploration, but it usually promotes cooperation between nations, and it's just so interesting for some of us.  Today this dear little European Space Agency probe named Rosetta (her last name, presumably, is Stone, but perhaps she answers to "Hey, Rosetta"), somewhere out around Jupiter, is finally -- after about a decade of economical flight parameters -- meeting up with a comet, which she will tail (ha!) until November, when she tosses a lander on the surface.  The comet is 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, or 67P for short.

and a CBC story:

August 5, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A bit of this and that:

Transition Information Series Talk, 7PM, Farm Centre, free

City of Charlottetown Sustainability Coordinator Ramona Doyle joins us for the last presentation in the Transition Information Series. She will be talking about the City's commitment to water conservation.

The Transition movement has become one of the most promising ways of engaging people and communities to take the far- reaching actions necessary to increase economic equality, build local, renewable energy infrastructure, support a healthy, regional food system and forge mutually- supportive connections. Thousands of people from 44 countries around the globe are now engaged in Global Transition Network activities.

There will likely be information about:

August 22-24th, "Transition Island: Training for Transition" workshop, Farm Centre, registration fee

The global Transition movement began in 2005 when groups of concerned citizens began meeting to discuss ways to encourage community resiliency and develop solutions to the economic crisis, climate change, food security and the imminent depletion of natural resources.

The Transition movement has become one of the most promising ways of engaging people and communities to take the far- reaching actions necessary to increase economic equality, build local, renewable energy infrastructure, support a healthy, regional food system and forge mutually- supportive connections. Thousands of people from 44 countries around the globe are now engaged in Global Transition Network activities.

What can you expect?
A highly interactive event that will connect you to neighbours who share your concerns for positive, effective action.

• Learn how to describe the triple challenge of resource depletion, climate instability, and economic deterioration and move people to action.

• Explore ways to create and strengthen your local community.

• Connect with others who share your concerns and are on a similar path.

• Become a part of a rapidly growing positive, inspirational, global movement.

The course teaches the fundamentals of setting up, running, and maintaining successful Transition Initiatives. The trainers will delve into the theory and practice of Transition that has worked well in hundreds of communities around the world. The training is packed with imaginative and inspiring activity intended to prepare community leaders, working group members and individuals who plan on introducing and implementing Transition Initiatives in their communities.

Who should attend? People interested in learning about the Transition Movement in depth and leaders already creating a Transition Initiative in their community.

Visit the link (above) for more information. 

James (Jamie) Larkin is running for a council seat in Charlottetown Ward 1 Councilor in the Fall.  He has taken a stand against the use of cosmetic pesticides.
from his announcement:
Larkin is concerned about the spraying of cosmetic pesticide within the City. This practice should be reduced immediately and ended through regulation and an alternative pest management program. “It is unconscionable that our seniors and young people are being exposed to these chemical pesticides”, added Larkin.


There is a Pesticide Free PEI meeting this Wednesday, August 6th, at 7PM, at the Sobey's on Allen Street, Community Room, to discuss the call for a buffer zone for lawn spraying and their other work.  All welcome.

And this Thursday, August 7th, is the regular monthly meeting of
Fairvote/Leadnow Connect meeting, at the Haviland Club, 7PM, to discuss events in the late summer where FairVote and Leadnow will have displays to discuss "nationwide civic education and electoral reform in Canada."

August 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

"Plan B was stupid enough, lifting the moratorium on deep water wells is just plain crazy."
That pretty much sums it up.

Moratorium Needs to Remain - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

I believe that those of us who love this Island and are not involved in the corporate potato industry, or have the desire to get elected/re-elected, do not want the moratorium on deep water wells lifted.

We do not want our government to allow the depletion of this natural resource or other attacks on nature for any reason, least of all personal profit.

Plan B was stupid enough, lifting the moratorium on deep water wells is just plain crazy. Given the information we have from community watershed groups, who could disagree with the fact that we need to protect and care for our limited water resources.

Honestly, I get heartsick just thinking about it.

M. Claire Arsenault, Charlottetown

Also from the weekend paper, a letter from Tony Lloyd very worth reading:

Morell River Heating Up - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Higher water temperatures on the Morell River has been in the news recently.

The Morell River watershed is a water drainage system and consists of surface streams and subsurface conduits. The water table aquifer forms the subsurface conduit, an underground river, which flows slowly downhill just as does the Morell River.

Some of the underground river flows into the Morell River as springs flowing into streams, bubbling springs in the river itself, as well as diffuse discharge through the river’s bottom sediments. The temperature of the underground water is about eight degrees Celsius and this cools the Morell River in the summer and warms it in the winter.

The above-ground river and the underground river share two properties: (1) they both flow downhill towards the ocean under the force of gravity and (2) they both have bottoms. The bottom of the underground river is exfiltration of waters flowing upward from the confined or pressure aquifer which lies below the water table aquifer. In a very real way, exfiltration is the bottom of the underground river and this is particularity true at lower elevations.

When wells are drilled into the confined aquifer its pressure is decreased and at higher elevations exfiltration becomes infiltration; wells at lower elevations are particularly harmful. The waters at the bottom of the underground river no longer move strictly laterally downhill but have a downward component into the depressurized confined aquifer. With such wells, the diffuse discharge upwards through the bottom of the Morell River is decreased hence the river will be warmer in the summer and colder in the winter, hence thicker ice; three more unintended consequences of drilling into confined aquifers with far reaching consequences to aquatic life.

For the Morell River, bogs up river, in particular Indian marsh which has a surface area of at least four square kilometres, and the plants and animals that inhabit all watershed bogs will also be at risk of extinction, another unintended consequence. The role of deforestation must also be considered a factor in the Morell River’s higher temperatures.

Tony Lloyd, Mount Stewart

August 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A hopscotch of links, none about anything directly affecting the Island, but interesting.

First, a New York Times article by Paul Sullivan from last week about a billionaire and how his yacht was actually good for job creation:
"Seeing a Supersize Yacht as a Job Engine, Not a Self-Indulgence"

This prompted economist John Fullerton to write in EcoWatch on Thursday:
full article:
<<What floored me was how he rationalized spending $34 million on his new yacht and how uncritically the author Paul Sullivan bought into that rationalization. According to Sullivan, “Mr. Jones said he wanted to encourage other wealthy people to think about how their opulent lifestyles could provide jobs just as their charity helps people in need.” The story goes on to report how his $34 million purchase order in 2013 helped revive the North Western yacht manufacturer who had been forced, out of necessity, to diversify into manufacturing wind turbines and smaller vessels. I guess until Mr. Jones got his mojo back, the mega-yacht purchasing crowd was still laying low following the Wall Street-induced economic collapse. Now that’s the leadership we’ve been waiting for!>>
He goes to describe what financial stewardship in the 21st century could look like, with climate change in mind.

And some background bits:
"Living is Easy with Eyes Closed" is a line from the Beatles' song, "Strawberry Fields Forever"; and there is a movie (same title, came out in 2013) about when John Lennon wrote the song, while acting in a movie, with the details here.

And back to Mr. Jones and his yacht.  I was wondering what his former company (Jones Pharma) manufactured to have been so successful.  One of the drugs was a form of levothyroxine, or artificial thyroid hormone. 

From an article from a UK publication for general practitioners:
Third of patients on levothyroxine have no reason to take drug, claim researchers

There are both patented and generic forms of levothyroxine.  It is manufactured as Levoxyl, by Pfizer, the giant pharmaceutical company that bought out Jones' parent company a while back. Here is a website to get a 30-day free trial of the brand-name drug:
Just to get brand-loyalty going.

August 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Unlike yesterday, I think I have today's date correct.

Today is Canada Food Day, proclaimed by Anita Stewart and others, to encourage eating foods produced in Canada. 

Here is a message on the website
from the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, (an un-tasty word) Gerry Ritz

On Saturday, August 2nd, I challenge everyone to join in the celebration of Canadian food by eating at a participating restaurant near you, or by creating your own all-Canadian meal right in your own kitchen, backyard barbecue or around the campfire.

Our farmers drive our economy by creating jobs and economic opportunities all along the value chain. I spend a lot of time on the road with industry, and we always find that once our global customers get a taste of Canada’s safe, high-quality, nutritious food, they come back wanting more.

This annual mid-summer celebration of our Canadian agriculture demonstrates what can be achieved when farmers, food processors, retailers, and restaurants come together and deliver their top-quality products to dinner tables around the world.

Congratulations to Food Day Canada for your innovative approach to engaging Canadians.

Gerry Ritz, P.C., M.P.
That seems pretty straightforward.  He could be doing a lot to support local food, all the time.

Local food in PEI today -- farmers' markets open in *Stratford* (which I forgot to mention last week), Charlottetown, Summerside, Bloomfield, Cardigan, Montague, Morell, Murray Harbour, and Victoria-by-the-Sea.

August 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Today, the Cardigan Farmers' Market is open from 10AM to 4PM, and I think the Farmers' Market upstairs at the Confederation Court Mall is open, too.

Tonight, lecture on "Islands as Wetlands" at 7PM, UPEI's MacDougall Hall, Room 243, free

from the press release:

Public Lecture: John R. Gillis, "Islands as Wetlands"

Eminent scholar and environmental historian John R. Gillis, a longstanding friend of Island Studies at UPEI, will be delivering a
lecture to which all are cordially invited:

"Islands as Wetlands"
Friday, 1 August, 7:00 p.m.
McDougall Hall, Room 243
University of PEI

Doctor Gillis is a Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University and spent time at UPEI while preparing his most recent book, The Human Shore:
Seacoasts in History
(University of Chicago Press), a provocative exploration of the rich history of humans' relationship with the the seacoast, the vital ecotone where land and sea meet.

The lecture is sponsored by the NiCHE, the Network in Canadian History
and Environment.


Sunday, August 3rd, Macphail Woods, 2PM, Forest Restoration Workshop, free
 from their press release:

Macphail Woods hosts forest restoration workshop

Are you looking for alternatives to clear-cuts and plantations?  Do you want other ideas on how to improve your woodland?  The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project can help answer many of your questions.  On Sunday, August 3, Gary Schneider will host a “Forest Restoration” slide show and walk on the grounds of the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead in Orwell.  Activities begin at 2pm in the Nature Centre.  

Forest restoration is attracting more and more attention these days as people work to reverse the degradation they see happening all across the province.  The workshop will look at the concepts behind restoring forests.  Participants will walk the trails and discuss ways to improve different types of woodlands.

As part of its work on restoring the native Acadian forest, the Macphail Woods project has been using a variety of silvicultural techniques to improve and enrich stands of old field white spruce or low-value hardwoods.  The thinnings and small patch cuts are generally followed with plantings that incorporate a mixture of native trees and shrubs to improve diversity, enhance wildlife habitat and add value.  

Rare plants such as hemlock, red oak, white ash, witch hazel and hobblebush have been planted throughout the forest, though more common plants such as yellow birch, white birch, white pine and sugar maple have also been planted.  Each area of woodland is looked at as a separate unit to assess what plants will do best in the area and what cutting practices would actually improve forest health.

The walk will provide an excellent opportunity to not only learn more about woodlands but also to share your knowledge.  While walking through the various forest types, participants will discuss the variety of techniques that could be used to improve the sites, which may involve cutting and/or planting.  Bring your ideas and your forest problems - there will be plenty of time for discussion.

Admission is free and registration is not required.  The workshop is part of an extensive series of outdoor activities at Macphail Woods.  For more information on this or upcoming tours and workshops, please call 651-2575, check out our website at, or look us up on Facebook.

The Tea Room at the Macphail Homestead is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 1:30pm, and focuses on using local produce.  Please call 651-2789 for more information.  And you can check out the website at for information on additional activities.


This is the last weekend for the Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun play at Victoria Playhouse.