June 2014


  1. 1 June 30, 2014
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 1.2 Our public health care needs more protection - The Guardian Commentary by Mary Boyd
    3. 1.3 CETA will result in boost to GDP - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  2. 2 June 29, 2014
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 2.2 Complaints simply sounding on the deaf ears of entitled - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Dave Bulger
    3. 2.3 Time to resurrect PR as viable option - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  3. 3 June 28, 2014
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  4. 4 June 27, 2014
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 4.2 Irving's demands a form of progress? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 4.3 Study first, approve later - The Journal Pioneer Letter to the Editor
  5. 5 June 26, 2014
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  6. 6 June 25, 2014
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  7. 7 June 24, 2014
    1. 7.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 7.2 Environment Canada preparing to test agricultural fumigant chloropicrin - The Guardian article
    3. 7.3 Anti-shale gas group suing New Brunswick government - CBC website
  8. 8 June 23, 2014
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 8.2 P.E.I. at crossroads over ecocide threat - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  9. 9 June 22, 2014
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 9.2 Legislators must set aside Irving’s ultimatum - The Guardian columnist Wayne Young
    3. 9.3 Is the Island too tiny to embrace change? - The Guardian columnist Alan Holman
    4. 9.4 It's time to start on a new farm path -The Guardian Letter of the Day by Ellie Reddin
  10. 10 June 21, 2014
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  11. 11 June 20, 2014
    1. 11.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 11.2 A lesson in manners - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 11.3 A New Vision for Province - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 11.4 Square Fries Make Better Fries - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    5. 11.5 What's the Plan for the Pogey Flood? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    6. 11.6 At crossroads over wells issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  12. 12 June 19, 2014
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  13. 13 June 18, 2014
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 13.2 Deafening silence on Gulf drilling - The Guardian Lead Editorial
    3. 13.3 Why does government pay for new power cable to mainland? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by David A. McGregor
  14. 14 June 17, 2014
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 14.2 Irving delivers ultimatum on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Lead Editorial
  15. 15 June 16, 2014
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  16. 16 June 15, 2014
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 16.2 More Fiddling, More Burning? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  17. 17 June 14, 2014
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 17.2 Tired of receiving pesticide notices - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 17.3 Threatening government? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 17.4 Potato growers diligent with responsible pesticide use on P.E.I. - The Guardian Commentary by Gary Linkletter
    5. 17.5 Fighting fungus during off hours - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  18. 18 June 13, 2014
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  19. 19 June 12, 2014
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 19.2 Islanders Must Say Enough is Enough - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  20. 20 June 11, 2014
    1. 20.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 20.2 Group calls for moratorium on drilling in Gulf of St. Lawrence - The Guardian article by Mitch MacDonald
    3. 20.3 Oceans Day reminds us to protect the Gulf - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Colin Jeffery
  21. 21 June 10, 2014
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 21.2 Troubling comment at public meeting - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 21.3 The Hazards of Lawn Chemicals - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 21.4 Cornwall resident offering free rides to transit meeting - The Guardian website article by Nigel Armstrong
  22. 22 June 9, 2014
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  23. 23 June 8, 2014
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  24. 24 June 7, 2014
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  25. 25 June 6, 2014
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 25.2 Canada's 500,000 Leaky Energy Wells: 'Threat to Public' - The Tyee article by Andrew Nikiforouk
  26. 26 June 5, 2014
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 26.2 Children Deserve a Healthy Future - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 26.3 Action Needed Not More Talk - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 26.4 Big Debt Load Brings Dark Cloud - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  27. 27 June 4, 2014
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  28. 28 June 3, 2014
    1. 28.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  29. 29 June 2, 2014
    1. 29.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  30. 30 June 1, 2014
    1. 30.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update

June 30, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A catch-up on the most recent commentaries on CETA:

from Mary Boyd, who always has something well-thought out to share:
(link to click for story on-line)

Our public health care needs more protection - The Guardian Commentary by Mary Boyd

Published on June 24th

One of the European Community’s (EU) highest priorities in the Canada and European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations is to extend its scope to provincial and municipal levels. This will hinder federal and provincial government rights to protect universal Medicare and expand and create new public health services.

As the EU negotiators seek to weaken Canada’s protection for health care, the federal and the provincial governments need to respond by better protecting our public health care from European and U.S. corporations wanting to exploit it for profit. Our governments can do this by insisting on a strong and comprehensive reservation that protects health and social services.

The Harper government has already made a serious mistake with CETA by agreeing to extend patents for European Pharmaceutical companies by up to two years. Pharmaceuticals will be more expensive and will make Canada’s pharmaceutical patents the longest in the world. Medication costs will increase by between $850 million and 1.6 billion annually ($3-4.5 million in PEI). Canadian taxpayers, especially low income earners and seniors will pay these increased costs even if the federal government compensates the provinces.    

If CETA proceeds without a strong protective reservation for health, the provinces will be required to negotiate exemptions or rely exclusively on the inadequate Annex II reservation. We only have sketchy information on what the provinces are actually carving out. As far as we can determine, no province or territory requested reservations to exempt health or other public services.

The current Annex II would protect income security, social welfare, public education, public training, health and child care, only to the extent that these are social services established or maintained for a public purpose. Unfortunately, a few provinces are allowing some private health care delivery and some services are a mix of public and private, making it difficult to distinguish public from private services and difficult for Canada to claim it is maintaining the system purely for public purposes.

The NAFTA blueprint on which CETA is based, initially gave no protection to health and social services except for the flawed Annex II. Thanks to public pressure, enhanced protection for health care known as Annex I was added. The combination of annexes I and II gave stronger but not complete protection to Canada’s health and social services.

Now the EU is demanding that Canada abandon Annex 1 and rely solely on the limited Annex 11, a move that would weaken the current protection for health care. The public health system would have to compete with private interests seeking profits. This situation could lead to a two-tier system allowing the wealthy to jump queues and waiting lists thereby denying access to those least able to pay.

Canada needs to safeguard Medicare by negotiating a new exemption stipulating that “nothing in the CETA shall be construed to apply to measures adopted or maintained by a party with respect to our ability to expand coverage of public health care or public health insurance.” This would allow the space to create new services such as Universal Pharmacare and home care without fear of trade challenges.

Wherever two-tier systems exist in health care, the public system is diminished. Trained health-care workers are drained into the private system leaving the public system more stressed. Waiting lists become longer, especially for low-income earners and people on fixed pensions. The more complicated and costly procedures are left to the public system as private companies, wanting to profit from people’s illnesses, enhance their profit margins by performing the quickest and less costly procedures. CETA will allow these private companies to compete with the public system.  

It is clear that there are commercial interests behind the European Union’s demand to include health care in CETA. This is against Canadian values because in Canada, health care is delivered solely on the criterion of patients’ needs without regard for their ability to pay. Our public system needs to be strengthened and improved not undermined by the restrictive CETA. Left on its own the Annex 11 reservation leaves federal and provincial governments vulnerable to private Investor lawsuits under the Investment Protection Chapter.

Worse still, the final ruling in a dispute about whether something qualifies as health for a public purpose as outlined in Annex 11 would be made by a biased trade or investment dispute panel — usually three individuals  — outside of Canada and out of our control. The huge pharmaceutical company, EIi Lilly is currently trying to sue Canada for half a billion dollars for making generics from two drugs whose patents expired two years ago.

CETA and similar trade and investment liberalization agreements are undemocratic and designed to shrink government. They encourage the spread of new competitive markets where they don’t presently exist such as public health and other public services.

We don’t need corporations controlling and chipping away at public services that make society more democratic and equal. We don’t need private interests exploiting the sick by introducing profit-making in public health-care systems. We want fair trade, not CETA.  

Mary Boyd is Chair, P.E.I. Health Coalition


And the immediate response (I wonder if there are fill-in-the-blank responses all ready to go for any earnest opposing letters published)

CETA will result in boost to GDP - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 26th, 2104

I wish to respond to the article published on June 23 with regard to the historic Canada-European Union Trade Agreement (CETA).

With CETA, Canadian businesses will have preferred access to the European Union, the world’s largest trading bloc, with more than 500 million consumers and an economy with over $17 trillion of economic activity each year. We will be the only nation with preferred access to both the EU, the 300 million affluent consumers in the United States, and the over 118 million people in Mexico. In Canada, one in five jobs is dependent on exports, and more than 60 per cent of our annual GDP comes from trade.

As our government has stated, Canada trades on products, services and expertise, but we maintain direct control over our regulations and government powers.

The concerns raised by Ms. Boyd are the same spurious claims that were made by those opposed to free trade with the United States over 20 years ago. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, Canada’s annual GDP has risen by nearly $1.2 trillion, 4.7 million jobs have been created in Canada and the country’s trilateral trade in goods with the United States and Mexico has more than tripled.

CETA excludes health, public education and other social services. In addition, nothing in CETA can force governments to privatize, contract out, or to deregulate public services. Policy makers here guide these decisions in Canada. The suggestions made by Ms. Boyd are without merit and are designed to promote an anti-trade agenda.

Our government worked with provinces and territories at the negotiating table from the very beginning. In fact, there has been direct outreach on CETA to ensure it benefits Canadians in all provinces. The Canada-EU Trade Agreement is a good deal for Canadians, a good deal for Prince Edward Islanders and a good deal for jobs and long-term prosperity in Canada.

Erin O’Toole,
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

June 29, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Nice days to be outside, but here's a little bit to read and contemplate these two recent letters from The Guardian.  A great time for discussion would be next Thursday, July 3rd, at 7PM at t the Haviland Club (2 Haviland Street), at the next Connect Meeting on Thursday, July 3, at 7:00PM.  Connect is the effort of FairVote Canada and Leadnow.ca to "make 2015 the last unfair election".

David Bulger on how our individual Rage Against the Machine could be consolidated to make change happen. (Bold is mine.)

Complaints simply sounding on the deaf ears of entitled - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Dave Bulger

Published on June 24, 2014

On the last night of the Roman year, two men kept vigil on the Capitoline Hill, watching the skies for omens. They were the Consuls, the two chief magistrates of the Roman Republic. They would take office on the first day of January, would have one year in which to effect any political programs, and would retire from office on the last day of December a year away.

Think of it. How wonderful it would have been if we could have gotten rid of Bobby Ghiz in 2008 — having given him and his band of merry men and women only one year to wreak damage on the economy, the landscape and the morale of Islanders.

Well, of course, a one-year term of office may not be workable in our complex society. But limited terms, that is, terms which are actually limited — not just fixed election dates in which the same gang of clowns can be returned to office — would be an excellent idea. And the reason for that is the following: long-term occupation of office can bring notions of entitlement and delusions of superiority, if not grandeur.

One of the wisest statements that has ever been written is Lord Acton’s, “Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Now there is a issue with the word “corrupt.” We tend to think of it as meaning “morally evil,” but Acton probably meant something more political, given the context, since he would see political corruption rooted in the continued exercise of power over long periods of time, in the sense of entitlement and the delusions of superiority that come with the comfort of long tenure.

Corruption, in a political sense, involves the illusion that the office holder is right, while any opposing voices are clearly wrong. In our system, where ministers are generally not knowledgeable in the subject matters of their ministry, this illusion is shared with civil servants — especially senior civil servants — whose tenure of office is even longer than their minister’s.

Likewise, entitlement and delusions of superiority among ministerial advisers could, for example, produce the following kind of assessment of hundreds of letters to the editor opposing a remarkably stupid government highway policy: “After all, it’s only the same five or six people ... and they’re all ‘tree huggers.’”

What, of course is fascinating about this particular statement, and would confirm the “political corruption” — i.e. entitlement and delusions of superiority — of the speaker, is the lack of knowledge of the legal principle in Armadale Publishers. That decision required that editors must be able to identify each letter writer.  

“Political corruption” — entitlement and delusions of superiority — can also drive misguided expenditures of public monies. Where common sense would dictate restraint, “political corruption” by ministers and advisers will dictate “living large.”

For years, I defended our higher taxes in the face of criticism by American friends and relatives. I pointed to our universal medical care, our far less expensive post-secondary education as examples of things supported by our justifiably higher taxes. But in recent years, I have come to accept that tax dollars also go to fund out-and-out stupidity on the part of ministers and their advisers, and frankly I am tired of handing money over to the un-bright and entitled.

So, I return to a theme I have set out before. We will have no say as long as our system remains as it is. The opinion pages of this newspaper are filled with letters and commentaries which take the government to task for this action or that inaction, but, in reality, such expressions of opinion are exercises in futility.

To all those who write and comment on a variety of specific issues: what we really need are three things, namely, “initiative,” “recall” and “term limits.” Initiative will give us the right to originate legislation and have it voted on by the entire population. Recall will allow us to unseat members of the legislature and force them to run again. Term limits will end long-service and the sense of entitlement that accompanies it. As long as we do not have those things, complaints are simply sounding on the deaf ears of the entitled and those who imagine themselves superior.

To those who write and criticize the government, this advice: band together, circulate a petition addressed to the Lieutenant-Governor demanding that he withhold Royal Assent for all legislation — legally this is his prerogative — until such time as he is presented with bills establishing initiative and referendum, recall of members and term limits. Then we will have broken Absolute Power and the “corruption” that attends it.

David M. Bulger is a retired adjunct professor of political science at UPEI.


Time to resurrect PR as viable option - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 27

Now that we are hopefully all tired of talking about abortion again, how about some lighter summer reading — politics! I’m going to propose that we take proportional representation (PR) on P.E.I. out of the hypothetical realm and into the realm of serious consideration.

Sure, the Liberals look secure now, particularly with the PCs in such a mess. But what is going to inevitably happen is that one election, if not the next one, the one after that, the Liberals are going to lose, and the PCs are going to take every seat. Then we’ll have another 10-year one-party state, and so it goes, back and forth. Just like the present Liberal dynasty, they won’t take 100 per cent of the vote, but they’ll take virtually 100 per cent of the seats.

The idea is that under PR, the seats in the house would look more like the actual percentage of the vote the parties got in the election. I’m not proposing we copy a notoriously unstable model, like Italy, but something with a better reputation for stable, effective government, like New Zealand or Germany.

P.E.I. has a reputation for being slow to embrace change, but then again, we got used to single-member ridings, and we got used to roundabouts. I think we could get used to PR, too.

Stephen DeGrace, Stratford

June 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Farmers' Markets open this morning -  Victoria opens for the season, Summerside, Charlottetown, Montague, Cardigan -- and where else?  I can't find a good list on the Department of Agriculture's website.  I think the PEI Flavours map is included with today's Guardian.

This map might be useful for seeing where organic farmers are located on PEI:

A few weeks ago, I attended the keynote address by Joanna Kerr, Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada, at the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation.

She had great slides, was very inspiring, but talked fast (ha!).  I think I got her ten points:

How to be Courageous in a Planet in Crisis:

  1. Talk about the renewable energy transformation -- and talk, and talk, and make it *normal*
  2. Get organized -- the town of Kitimat organized a plebiscite about the Northern Gateway (a memory lane trip:  the Plan B Plebiscite was going on exactly two years ago today)
  3. Get Creative -- using fun or humour instead of fear -- it gets people moving from apathy
  4. Use Consumer Power -- talk to store managers about organic/local/seasonal food.  Greenpeace has an App to help when you shop for paper towels, toilet paper, and such (and a version for those without smart phones is here.)
  5. Use Technology:  big data, stand up to stuff like our monoculture (OK, I don't remember what she meant here)
  6. Start a petition -- using a clipboard and pen like Kathleen Romans did starting the insulin pump awareness, or ones through sites like Avaaz or SumOfUs.  The web-based ones are easy, easy, and the numbers do influence politicians' and the public's thoughts.  You might consider looking at and signing Larry Cosgrave's petition at Avaaz.ca that "asks Premier Ghiz to ban GMOs and Roundup, phase out pesticides, and promote organics."
  7. Feel good that Canadians have are listed their deepest concerns
    1. the decline of democratic institutions
    2. being unable to care for our elderly
    3. environmental degradation
  8. Bear Witness -- selfies and other citizen documentation with trash, with environmental badness -- and send it to politicians
  9. Do some citizen science -- create a narrative to shift power and have some fun
  10. Remember Maya Angelou's quote:  "Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without it, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."

And in the Fun Category, a group at the website http://www.shd.ca/ realized the URL for the term "economic action plan" wasn't taken, so they got it and made some scathing commercials  (lower screen shot) lampooing the Action Plan signs (a local one, below) and commercials.

Signs in Bonshaw put up in January of 2013.
temporarily unable to upload :(  Please check the facebook page for photos.

Screenshot of lampoon of Economic Action Plan website, from http://www.economicactionplan.ca/ with more commercials.

June 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

An event tonight:
Roger Gordon, who blends his scientific knowledge with common sense and a passion for protecting our children and grandchildren, has been explaining how pesticides work on both insects and humans.  In his spare time, he has been writing his memoirs, excerpts of which will be read at the Haviland Club tonight (7PM) with others from TWiG (The Writers in Group).
A second group has launched a lawsuit against the provincial and federal governments, and the company planning to frack in New Brunswick, The People's Lawsuit:

A few of the very good letters recently:
Boyd Allen's letter commenting on Saturday's The Meddler column:

Irving's demands a form of progress? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

published June 26th, 2014

I am puzzled by Alan Holman’s Meddler column on the 21st of June. He characterizes Islanders as being “very resistant to change,” and that “opposition to progress is part of our history."

 He somehow considers maintaining the moratorium on high-capacity wells for agricultural irrigation and developing a comprehensive water act as evidence of these perceived flaws.

He goes on to present Robert Irving’s recent demands as some form of progress, and that we should bolster Cavendish Farms’ market share in the french fry industry.

Islanders do have long memories. Shipbuilding, fox ranching, and tobacco farming were once primary industries in the Island economy of the day. Changing markets and the march of time made them obsolete. Fortunes were made and lost. Islanders adapted to the collapse of these industries and new enterprises emerged to take their place.

If Mr. Holman considers placing corporate profit above the creation of an enforceable and inclusive water policy, it appears to me that he is unable to embrace any change that disturbs the status quo.

Boyd Allen, Pownal

Shirley Gallant's in The Journal-Pioneer (and today's Guardian, I think):

Study first, approve later - The Journal Pioneer Letter to the Editor

Published on June 25, 2014

Why is it okay to dump highly toxic chemicals on our land without proper studies being done? I don't consider it a proper study when the chemical companies themselves have their own scientists give the, "okey dokey" on the results.

Multi-billion dollar companies can afford to buy science, so the results are in their favour. Remember the tobacco industry? These highly toxic chemicals are marketed as being safe and everyone believes it, because convincing people is what marketing is all about. Years later we end up with revelations like those of DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, rBGH, nocotine, and many other chemicals that were never properly studied.

It doesn't make sense to continue to use these products first and then have independent studies done. I suggest the studies be done first. I also suggest we enact policies locally to protect our Island.

The Pesticide Control Act needs to be amended to ensure that independent studies conclude that what is being sprayed is safe for humans and wildlife. We can't afford to risk losing the bee population while we wait for industry, science, and politicians to duke it out over whether or not neonicotinoids are destroying the bees.

We need to have the Act amended now to protect Islanders, our soil, water, and wildlife from the products produced by chemical companies who are concerned for nothing more than profits.

Recently a California study found that pesticides exposure during pregnancy increases the likelihood of autism in children. Particularly for mothers who live near farm fields. Another five-year study done by a European task force on systemic pesticides, (neonicotinoids), concluded that these chemicals are harming bees and other pollinators like Humming Birds and butterflies. (We kind of need them if we don't want a steady diet of porridge.) At minimum we should at least get started by banning cosmetic pesticides. Can we really afford to continue saturating the earth with these, known to be dangerous, chemicals?

Shirley Gallant,


If you want to help David Suzuki explain and popularize the idea of environmental rights, among other things, consider signing up to make a monthly automatic donation to the David Suzuki Foundation before June 30th.  (Apparently a donor is going to make a large donation if a certain number of people sign up to donate.)  David Suzuki is recruiting "Radical Canadians"!   :-)
David Suzuki Foundation request

June 26, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Many friendly but concerned faces in the public gallery of the meeting Wednesday afternoon of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.   It reminds the committee that the public is interested in the issue and paying attention to what they do about it.

The committee members do like experts, and gave Dr. Cathy Ryan 30 minutes, which she used to give the presentation she made at the water forum last month at UPEI, with a few corrections as pointed out by that audience.
She assured them there was abundant groundwater -- if the wells were dug deep enough, and cased all the way down through bedrock.  She feels this will tap into older but abundant water that would be part of the flow that goes to the ocean anyway.  She does acknowledge that there will likely be effects from climate change and those should be taken into account (though she said she is not an expert on that and wouldn't want to comment further); and that deep wells, actually, are not the answer (it's multifaceted with conservation needing to be a big part).

Ann Worth, Executive Director of the PEI Aquaculture Alliance, urged communication and cooperation, and asked for the formation of a Task Force on Land and Sea, which sounds evocative, but the idea is likely displaced by preparations for a Water Act, I think.

Mr. Bill Trainor described the how he sees our land and waterways changing over time.  (It is not for the better.)  His quiet voice was worth the effort to hear, as he had observations and fantastic recommendations.  Cindy and I merely could have said, "What Bill said," to the committee, and have been done sooner.   As soon as his talk is printed in the Committee records, I will pass it on.

The fourth speaker was Reverend Karen MacRae, who had many concern, many more comments, and was generally just airing a few opinions, mostly about the importance of potatoes to Islanders, and about protecting our water.

Cindy and I focused on reasons to keep the moratorium on high capacity wells, and then went into some components of a good water act.  We mentioned briefly about our agricultural system needing changing.  (Which they could pick up and explore.)  The slideshow of the talk and a copy of the presentation about it will be on the www.peiwater.com website.   It was hard to keep the committee's (and most of the media's) interest, though it was good to provide some closing comments on the process.  I am not sure committee members had figured out from whence the Citizens' Alliance came, as we were not sopping wet, fragrant with woodsmoke,  and carrying signs; but likely figured out where our efforts are going. 

Compass was only on-line Wednesday night due to the World Cup soccer matches, but had a short article, mostly focusing on the first two presenters; at 2:40 into the broadcast.
In response to one of those happy, shiny advertisements for Suncor that was shown at movie theatres in other parts of Canada, the organizing group SumOfUs made this two-minute parody, which hits home pretty hard:


The Ballad of Stompin' Tom starts tonight at the Harbourfront Theatre (previews) and runs until the end of August.  The director is Catherine O'Brien, the chair of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water.  Best wishes (or whatever one is supposed to say) to her and the whole cast and crew!

June 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Yesterday, CBC reported on a large study that points the finger causing kill-off in bees squarely to agricultural use of certain neurotoxin pesticides, the neonicotinoids,.  This article is very good and is from The (other) Guardian:

I think there are a lot of factors affecting bees right now; this is a big one we could do something about.
Events today:

This afternoon!  What's likely to be the last Standing Committee meeting (Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry) on the high capacity well issue.  Five presenters are appearing: Dr. Cathy Ryan, who spoke at the water forum at UPEI last month, the PEI Aquaculture Alliance, Mr. Bill Trainor, Rev. Karen MacRae, and the Citizens' Alliance which is last.  Cindy Richards and I will be speaking on behalf of the Alliance.  The start time is 1PM, at the Coles Building, next to Province House.
Come by anytime you can, and show your interest in the issue of the wells and in beginnings of the formation of a water act.

Tonight, some very concerned Islanders have an event planned to help Guatemalan farmers.
Starting at 6:30PM, at Timothy's World Coffee Shop (I almost wrote World Cup), 54 University Avenue in Charlottetown
"Breaking the Silence, (BTS) a Maritime-Guatemala Solidarity Group is launching a unique partnership with Timothy’s World Coffee Shop. Timothy’s Coffee Shop will start serving a ‘Breaking the Silence’ Fair Trade coffee blend later this month and Islanders will have the opportunity to make a donation with each cup of coffee bought.
The Fair Trade label ensures that the small farmers who grow the coffee are paid a fair price for their product. This higher price enables the coffee famers to increase their income as well as invest in services in their communities.
BTS and Timothy’s are offering Islanders a unique opportunity to support solidarity work in Guatemala. Timothy’s will have a special urn for ‘Breaking the silence’ coffee and for every cup of BTS coffee you buy customers are invited to pay an extra looney which will go to supporting the BTS projects in Guatemala.
BTS is pleased to have a special guest speaker for the Launch, Leocadio Juracan. For the past 25 years, Leocadio Juracan has been the National Coordinator of the Comité Campesino del Altiplano – CCDA (Highland’s Committee of Peasant Farmers). The CCDA farmers grow fairtrade organic coffee which is brought to Canada by Just Us! Coffee Roasters in Nova Scotia.
The evening will be rounded out by the music of Mike Mooney and Laurie Brinklow."

June 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Small but deeply-felt victories, or at least changes in the wind:

Malcolm Pitre from western PEI, who among others has persistently brought up the issue of the chloropictrin "study" on a test plot of strawberries in West Prince, reports that he got a e-mail from the Environment Canada person that the study is being put on hold. "Further to discussion with PEI officials last week, the study has been put on hold until the results of the special review of chloropicrin by the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency's are known." (communication from Lucie DesForges of the Chemical Production Centre at Environment Canada). 

Unlike the United States, Canadian strawberry growers do not have access to methyl bromide, and conventional strawberry producers are looking for other fungicides. 

And just a reminder about what chloropicrin is (and some other pesticides), from the North American Pesticide Action Network:

And The Guardian story from March 2014:
(text below)

Environment Canada preparing to test agricultural fumigant chloropicrin - The Guardian article

Published on March 02, 2014 ALBERTON – Environment Canada plans to allow a West Prince farm operation to test the fumigant chloropicrin on a small test plot in Ascension this year to determine whether the fumigant poses any threat to groundwater.

The decision to test the chemical follows an application by Alberton-based Westech Agriculture to use chloropicrin on its strawberry fields in place of the fumigant methyl bromide (MB), which, in accordance with the Montreal Protocol, has been prohibited in Canada under the Ozone-depleting Substances Regulations, since 2005.

An Environment Canada official said, because of no technically and economically feasible alternatives to MB for growers, Canada requested an exemption under the Montreal Protocol, yet remains committed to phasing it out.

Reached at the farm Friday, Westech Agriculture owner, Nora Dorgan, said the farm simply made application to use chloropicrin, that the actual testing is being conducted by Environment Canada.

The provincial Department of Environment is permitting the federal department to test the product on a small plot of strawberry plants.“We saw that it is used in other parts of Canada, so we put an application in,” Dorgan said of the farm’s application to use chloropicrin. “What the powers that be decide beyond that is beyond my control.”

According to Environment Canada, the application of chloropicrin will be done in accordance with the product label. The area to be fumigated during the test will not exceed five acres.

Monitoring wells and lysimeters will be installed in order to collect groundwater and surface water samples, respectively, and samples will be tested by accredited laboratories in accordance with approved testing standards, an Environment Canada official confirmed.

The official indicated chloropicrin has been used in combination with other active ingredients since at least 2005.

Westech Agriculture did have an incident involving the use of a fumigant in 2001. Water testing by the P.E.I. Department of Environment at that time found four wells to be contaminated with dichloropropene, an active ingredient in the fumigant Telone C-17. The Province subsequently covered the cost of installing a small water system to supply five homes in town.

Mayor Michael Murphy expressed surprise that no one from either Environment departments contacted the town with regard to testing of chloropicrin, indicating he learned about it through a newspaper story.“We are waiting for more information on when it’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen, but we will be voicing our concerns and asking questions about it,” he said.

He questioned the common sense in putting a fumigant in the ground to see if it will go into the water table.

“If it does go into the water table, what steps are they going to take to keep it from going any farther, and how are they going to get it back out of the water table?” he wondered.

Wayne MacKinnon with the P.E.I. Department of Environment pointed out the test will not be taking place anywhere near Alberton.

“It’s on Westech land that is away, quite far, from any residences,” he said.


And an interesting development yesterday:

Anti-shale gas group suing New Brunswick government - CBC website

Statement of claim alleges Charter violations over lack of public consultation, calls for moratorium

Published June 23rd, 2014

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance and three citizens are suing the provincial government over plans to develop the industry in New Brunswick.

The alliance, which represents 22 community organizations, and the three other plaintiffs, filed a notice of action and statement of claim with the Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John on Monday, alleging Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations.

They are calling for a moratorium on the development of "unconventional oil and gas exploration" until the government can establish "beyond a reasonable doubt and with scientific certainty … that it will not contribute to climate change, nor to the contamination of the water, air and land use which causes harm to the health of the plaintiffs and their future generations."

Meanwhile, they contend the government should divert the social, political and economic resources currently at its disposal for unconventional oil and gas development into an energy supply system that is based upon renewable energy sources instead.

The provincial government has 20 days to respond.

The group hinted during a news conference in Moncton on Monday that additional lawsuits against the province by other groups may on the horizon, but declined to elaborate.

The documents filed with the court cite concerns about hydraulic fracturing, alleging the process causes "serious harm to both the environment and human health," including "permanently contaminating and depleting finite clean water and air supplies for both present and future generations."

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydro-fracking, involves injecting a mixture of water, air and chemicals into the earth under high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas trapped within the rock formations.

Opponents of the shale gas industry have long argued the hydro-fracking process can cause water and air pollution.

"All life, including human, animal and plant life is impossible without clean uncontaminated water and air," the alliance, James David Emberger, of Taymouth, Roy L. Ries, of Harvey, and Carol Ann Ring, of Rothesay, state.

The 16-page statement of claim also outlines concerns about leaks, spills, illegal dumping of waste water, and a disruption to rural life.

"The cumulative, negative effects on rural people's mental health, due to increased stress, anxiety, fear and depression, leads to physical health problems," the document states.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Lawsuit last resort

Emberger says the group has tried everything to get the attention of the provincial government, including petitions, demonstrations, debates and meetings.

But the Alward government has rejected repeated calls for a moratorium on shale gas, he said.

The group has now raised $100,000 through individual donors and hopes to prove to the province that shale gas extraction can cause cancer, birth defects and respiratory problems.

Larry Kowalchuk, who represents the group, says the government has violated the Charter rights of New Brunswickers to life, liberty and security by moving forward with shale gas exploration without consulting citizens.

"This is a free and democratic society. The Charter is important. These topics are critical now," he said.

SWN Resources Canada intends to drill four exploratory wells next year in the next phase of its exploration program for potential shale gas development in New Brunswick.

Two of the exploratory wells are planned for Kent County, in Saint-Charles and Galloway. The other two are planned for Queens County, in the vicinity of Bronston Settlement Road and the Pangburn area.

Last month, a report by 14 international experts, commissioned by Environment Canada, concluded "data about potential environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive."The prospect of shale gas development in New Brunswick has sparked protests across the province.

A protest along Highway 11 near Rexton on Oct. 17 ended in a violent clash with police. Six RCMP vehicles were set on fire and about 40 protesters were arrested.

And a reminder that tomorrow (Wednesday) in the Standing Committee meeting on the high capacity well issue, starting at 1PM, in the Coles Building, on the other side of Province House from the Confederation Centre and those giant "1864" numbers.

June 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A Monday mix:

In Saturday's Guardian:

P.E.I. at crossroads over ecocide threat - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 21, 2014

I have been following the growing movement to ban cosmetic pesticides on P.E.I. and I would like to weigh-in from afar. As a former full time resident of St. Georges, and someone who has family and friends living on P.E.I., I am alarmed and dismayed that the spraying of herbicides and pesticides is still rampant and seemingly out of control. The scientific evidence that these toxins are causing higher than normal cancer rates in children, is overwhelming and cannot be ignored any longer.

This is not the 1950s, when people didn’t know any better and the truth about the harm that these substances do was hard to find. Ask yourselves this: Do you believe the scientists and the parents of children with cancer, or do you believe the industry and government who profit from this ecocide? P.E.I. is at crossroads, indeed the planet is at crossroads and it is time to challenge the status quo and shift toward a healthier future. You do want that for your children, don’t you?

Mae Moore, Pender Island, B.C.

A concerned citizen who reads The Toronto Star has compiled 600 Reasons demonstrating that Stephen Harper is changing Canada.

It is a rant, of course, but interesting, nonetheless.


A quote from Ed MacDonald's 2000 book, If You're Stronghearted: Prince Edward Island in the 20th Century, is used at the beginning of Report of the Task Force on Land Use Policy:

Task Force on Land Use Policy page 2

"Edward MacDonald captured the essence of the Task Force assignment:   'On a small island, it bears repeating, land is a finite and fragile resource. Most of us have yet to concede just how fragile. Whether it is labelled environmentalism, sustainable development, or stewardship, the need to protect the land and the waters that surround it can only grow in importance.  In the process, it will pose difficult choices between freedom and regulation, employment and preservation, private gain and the public good. In many ways, those choices are already upon us.' "

June 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Many, many interesting columns and letters in yesterday's Guardian. Three related to Robert Irving's demand regarding the moratorium on high capacity well, with my highlighting some words in bold and comments afterwards.

Weekly columnist Wayne Young:

Legislators must set aside Irving’s ultimatum - The Guardian columnist Wayne Young

Living just 10 minutes from Cavendish Farms, I see every day the economic impact this processing giant has on P.E.I.

Many of my neighbours and some family members depend on the plant for their livelihoods, either by working year-round in New Annan or by working with farmers who grow potatoes for the french fry production line.

Everyone wants Cavendish Farms to succeed, but not at any cost. When the company announced it was laying off 60 people from a workforce of 700 last November, it was front-page news. A company official said it was responding to increased production from competitors in North America and Europe. Three months later, for the same reason, 23 more workers were let go.

So when company president Robert Irving appeared before a legislative standing committee on agriculture last week, it wasn’t surprising that he would argue in favour of a measure he believes will help Cavendish Farms keep pace with its competitors. He urged the committee to recommend lifting a 12-year moratorium on high capacity agricultural wells in P.E.I. The move, he said, would enable its potato growers to stay competitive and the plant to send a high-quality product to market.

Fair enough.

But Irving went farther, much farther. He pointed out Cavendish Farms is the largest private employer in P.E.I. with an economic impact of over $1 billion. It purchases more than half of all raw potatoes grown on P.E.I., he said. But because those potatoes are not meeting consistency and quality demands of the french fry market, Irving warned it might have to reduce its investment here and start growing elsewhere.

Unless, of course, government lifts the moratorium on deep-water wells and allows agricultural irrigation. That, he said, would enable growers to consistently produce the quality product the market demands.

The legislative committee must now sort through Irving’s presentation and determine what’s useful and what’s not.
Cavendish Farms, along with the P.E.I. Potato Board, offered its own scientific evidence that lifting the moratorium won’t jeopardize the province’s only source of drinking water. That’s useful. Irving’s ultimatum is not, and it should be set aside in the debate.

When then-Environment Minister Chester Gillan put the moratorium in place in 2002, he said it needed further study to determine  deep-water wells’ impact on water levels. Many feared it would pose a serious threat to groundwater. Twelve years later, there seems to be plenty of science on all sides of the debate.

But now, there are increasing calls for this science to be peer-reviewed, not only from a coalition of groups and activists opposing the deep water wells, but also from farm organizations who want the moratorium lifted. I find it encouraging that Gary Linkletter of the P.E.I. Potato Board agreed after last week’s presentation that a third party should review the province’s scientific data.
“Get someone credible, probably from another province who’s got a good record, who has knowledge of these things . . . . to review the Department of Environment’s data, do other research as needed and get a definitive answer — will this hurt P.E.I.’s environment? If it won’t, then continue on.”

Like most Islanders and certainly like the politicians who will have to make the final decision, I don’t have the expertise to definitively say yes or no to lifting the moratorium. Opinion isn’t fact, and rhetoric does little to advance the debate on an issue as important as our water quality and supply. Only when all necessary scientific data has been gathered, independently reviewed and proven accurate can a final decision on the deep-water well moratorium be made.

In the meantime, developing a comprehensive water management policy may help. Environment Minister Janice Sherry promises to consult widely with Islanders and experts in coming up with the new water act. Skeptics say it will take too long, probably until after the next election when it will be easier for government to lift the moratorium.

We’ve waited 12 years and can surely wait a few more, if necessary, to get a new water act in place — one that ensures our precious water resources are sustainable for today and future generations, and for an assurance that a decision on deep-water wells will be supported by the best peer-reviewed science available.

As important as Cavendish Farms is to the Island’s economy, its demands can and must be trumped by a safe and sustainable water supply.

We want the jobs, yes, but we want the water more. The final decision on the moratorium must be based on good peer-reviewed science — not ultimatums from huge corporations.

Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

This was likely submitted and the layout done before Minister Sherry made her announcement about forming a water act and presumably keeping the moratorium in place; and Mr. Young is perhaps putting a bit too much faith that there is one, single solitary answer to the question.  Sadly, the government could easily sway the peer-review process by picking a sympathetic reviewer or selecting only parts of the review to release to the public.

On the other side of the page, the column by Alan Holman ("The Meddler") column was a head-shaker.

Is the Island too tiny to embrace change? - The Guardian columnist Alan Holman

If Prince Edward Island were a Canadian city, rather than a province, it would be about the 22nd or 23rd largest by population; approximately the same size as Kelowna, B.C. or Sherbrooke, Que..  In other words, not very big.But, The Island is not a city, and as a province we have powers that are not possessed by Toronto, Montreal or any of the large metropolises of the country. The Island has the jurisdiction to make its own laws and set its own standards, and as a province we can influence, and in some instances even veto constitutional change in the country.

Except in the area of land ownership The Island hasn’t really exercised its jurisdictional rights, it has rarely flexed its jurisdictional muscle.

Quebec recently used its jurisdictional prerogative and brought in a law that allows physicians to assist terminally ill patients who are suffering, allowing them to die with dignity. Another example of progressive programs that make Quebec unique. In the United States, Oregon, Washington and Vermont also have similar laws, but with different criteria. And, of course, Colorado, recently used its jurisdictional rights to allow for the legal consumption and sale of marijuana.

Some might suggest that P.E.I. has used its jurisdiction to ban abortions in the province, but, it hasn’t passed any laws making abortions illegal. It has just made them very difficult and unnecessarily expensive to obtain.

When statistics show that there are 22 people in the job market for every job that is available on The Island, one wonders why someone hasn’t come up with a way to use its jurisdiction to encourage economic development.

Collectively, Islanders tend to be very conservative. As a people, Islanders are very resistant to change. With the possible exception of consumer goods, Islanders are not generally open to new ideas or concepts.

The government, all Island governments regardless of their political persuasion, find they have to walk a fine line between this resistance to change and the demands for economic development and the jobs that often ensue.

This week the Ghiz government chose to bring in new legislation governing the province’s water resources. As an exercise this is expected to take a number of weeks. It is an exercise that will further delay a decision on a request to lift the moratorium on pumping water from deep wells to irrigate potatoes being grown for Cavendish Farms. For the proponents of deep water wells, the issue is not about job creation, it about job preservation.

Robert Irving makes money by providing his customers with products they want. Recently he pointed out that irrigation is needed to produce potatoes of the size and quality required to create the french fries his customers demand. And, he added, if he can’t provide the french fries from The Island, he’ll produce them somewhere else. For his honesty he’s been labeled a bully.

Based on the reportage of the issue, letters to the editor and anecdotal stories, the opposition to the lifting of the moratorium seems to be based on a fear of the unknown, coupled with a inherent distrust and dislike of both big corporations and government.

This inherent fear and distrust also extends to the issue of the fracking process being used in the recovery of oil and gas. Islanders have already held demonstrations and protests against fracking even though there hasn’t been a proposal to use fracking on the Island, or in the waters around the province. 

But, Islanders, by the thousands, go to the west to reap the economic rewards that come from oil and gas development.

Opposition to progress is part of our history. A hundred and fifty years ago, when the idea of forming a new country by uniting the colonies of British North America was being discussed it was deemed too radical a concept for Islanders. We took a pass.  At the turn of the century the introduction of the automobile was strongly resisted. For years there were a lot of silly regulations before the motor car was fully accepted. More recently during the 1990s there was a lot of wild and ridiculous rhetoric heard before the Confederation Bridge was finally built. Since its completion the hordes of evil have, generally, remained on the mainland.    

Perhaps students of political science or psychology at UPEI could conduct some research to see if it’s because The Island is geographically small and demographically insignificant that this somehow leads Islanders to be afraid of progress and averse to risk.

Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca
I usually find his opinions insightful; I was disappointed to see him play the "Islanders Are Afraid of Change" card, especially when his "change" is actually the old paradigm: gambling our remaining natural resources for short-term old-school economic gain. He is saying we are so tiny and backwards we won't embrace change, and why are we being silly enough to demonstrate against fracking, when there is no proposal now, and people go west for jobs in the oil and gas sector.  (I think Don't Frack PEI needs to send some information to him.)

The changes we are afraid of, because they will be hard and they are scary, are converting to renewable, less carbon-based fuels, and converting (back) to more diversified farming.  But I think we are brave enough to do this for our children and grandchildren.

My sentiments are expressed much more clearly by Ellie Reddin:

It's time to start on a new farm path -The Guardian Letter of the Day by Ellie Reddin

Published on June 21st, 2014

Letter of the Day

As reported in The Guardian on June 12, 2014, Cavendish Farms president Robert Irving, appearing before a provincial legislative standing committee, said the company might reduce its investment in P.E.I. and start growing elsewhere if the P.E.I. government does not lift its moratorium on deep-water wells. He also said Cavendish Farms would likely not enter into contracts with growers without irrigation if the moratorium were lifted. Installing irrigation equipment on a farm is estimated to cost $200,000.

Why does Cavendish Farms insist on irrigation? To meet the “stringent consistency and quality demands of the french fry market.” So Islanders are expected to put our water supply at risk and our farmers are expected to go further into debt to meet the onerous demands of Cavendish Farms, all to provide French fries for McDonalds.

Studies conducted by Environment Canada in 2006 found extremely high levels of airborne pesticide and fungicide readings in the Kensington area and found the presence of fungicides “likely to be ubiquitous throughout the atmosphere of P.E.I. during the potato-growing season.” A Globe and Mail article that year focused on the very high rates of unusual cancers among children in western P.E.I. and concern among physicians and parents about the link between these cancers and heavy pesticide use by potato growers.

Will P.E.I. continue on its current path of industrial agriculture with heavy pesticide and water usage in order to satisfy the demands of the french fry market or will we seek an alternate future with smaller, diversified family farms?  A decision to start on a new path is not easily made - transition is difficult - but our quality of life and the lives and futures of our children and grandchildren depend on it.  

Ellie Reddin, Cornwall

If you have about ten minutes, this week's CBC Radio political panel (the last one until September), was very interesting.  It features Jordan Brown, Wayne Collins (former PC MLA and former Island Morning Radio host), and publisher Paul McNeill.

Island morning political panel
June 20th, 2014

June 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

There will be a wonderfully damp walk through Macphail Woods looking at native plants this morning, starting at 10AM.

Farmers' Markets open today in Summerside, Charlottetown, and now in Cardigan.  What others are open this weekend?  Consider making the extra time, paying a little more than grocery-store-prices, but supporting local food.   Eggs, greens, rhubarb, baby root vegetables like radishes, well-stored vegetables from last year, transplants for your garden, breads, chickens and other meats and more are available.

People who signed up for CSAs (community supported agriculture, or farm-share programs) are going to get their first boxes in the next couple of weeks.  It never quite worked out this year, as far as I know, to create one website with locations and availability of Island CSAs, but some farmers still have space or have a flexible by-the-week system.  If you are looking for a CSA, let me know and I can direct you to some great farmers who may know what's available in your region.

Buying from local farmers is truly one way you protect the land by creating demand.  A more regulated way is through Land Use policies.

Remember the Land Use Policy Task Force???  They were a group of five individuals, three farmers and two planners, who were "tasked" with the job of talking to Islanders and organizations and coming up with ideas for Land Use Policies, as recommended in the New Foundations-- Report of the Commission Land and Local Governance ("Judge Thompson's report").

temporarily unable to upload :(  Please check the facebook page for photos.

The Task Force, from the just-received Report of the Task Force on Land Use Policy

Last fall, the Citizens' Alliance encouraged public participation in the Task Force's survey with this public service announcement,
here , 2 minutes.

The Task Force's report, which they handed into government in January of this year, was released by government yesterday.  Minister Sheridan said that they would work on some of the recommendations.
Link to the report:

And, just a bit, from the section on Statements of Public Interest (expanded on from their draft from last year):

Task Force on Land Use Policy 19

SECTION 1: Protect the Natural and Built Landscape


Water is one of our most valuable public resources - the basis of all life, food, communities and industry. Groundwater is of critical importance on Prince Edward Island, as it is the only source of drinking water.

Goal 1: Protect the quality and quantity of the Island’s water and ensure it is healthyand sustainable for current and future generations

1.1 Ensure policies, development proposals and projects improve or maintain the quality or quantity of groundwater and surface water; the capacity of the ecosystem must not be exceeded;

1.2 Ensure the natural recharge areas are preserved in development projects;

1.3 Establish targets for percentage forest cover in watersheds to meet water quality goals, recognizing that different watersheds have different needs: incorporate watershed management plans when available;

1.4 Identify well-head protection areas; develop sites and protection plans for future municipal water sources;

1.5 Identify high nitrate areas, where national standards for safe drinking water and healthy aquatic systems have been compromised, and implement appropriate corrective actions.

It is in the Provincial Interest to protect the quality and quantity of the Island’s water and ensure it is healthy and sustainable for current and future generations.


The Citizens' Alliance is going to  present to the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry this Wednesday, June 25th, on the high capacity well issue.  The meeting starts at 1PM, and the CA presents  last in a line-up of four or five presenters that day, we are told, but it will be a shorter meeting than the others.  Hope you can pop in to the meeting, in the Coles Building.

June 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Just a few of the good letters in The Guardian recently on the high capacity well issue and Robert Irving's presentation to the Standing Committee, and tomorrow's native plants and trees walk at Macphail Woods.

A lesson in manners - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published June 19, 2014

Dear Robert Irving. I can’t stand a bully. They pop up everywhere, in school boards, milk board, church boards, etc. I have no tolerance for them.

I do not accept that you think you have the right to appear at a legislative committee on deep-water wells and make threats to reconsider your investing here. Lots of people have a lot invested here. This is our home. The difference is we have manners.

You will publicly apologize for being a bully to the standing committee. If you don’t like it then feel free to come to my farm and you and I will chat about manners. Blaine MacPherson knows where to find me.

Ranald MacFarlane,
NFU member,


A New Vision for Province - The Guardian Letter to the Editor


Published on June 19th, 2014

The Irvings are clearly trying to bully Islanders on deep-water wells . . .  time for them to move on. They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars off our tortured soil, while Islanders suffer from the highest levels of cancer in Canada and rates of asthma in Canadian and U.S. children. Our health-care system has paid the bills while they continue to gobble up more and more ownership and control of our lands — now that the P.E.I. Potato Board has recently and successfully helped them hack up our Lands Protection Act.

And now they are threatening us to bow down to their demands for more deep-water wells to support their increased holdings and control of farm acreage or they will leave the Island. I see a far better vision for P.E.I. without the presence of their relentless and enormous greed on our small Island, which has seen more than 50 fish kills since Cavendish Farms opened. We need a new vision for the Island. The Irvings and more deep-water wells, and tons more pesticides poisoning our air and entering our lungs are not it.

John Hopkins,  Breadalbane


Square Fries Make Better Fries - The Guardian Letter to the Editor


Published on June 18th, 2014

With regard to the potato, deep-water well issue on Prince Edward Island, what stops the consumer from demanding less then perfectly sized french fries. Not every french fry has to be exactly the same size. What is next? The development of square potatoes to fit the french fry processing equipment even better?

There seems to be no end to the quest for larger and bigger produce. It is starting to affect everything in the produce aisle. Do all these oversized hybrid products still have the same nutritional value like the original variety?

Notwithstanding all the criticism, I think that Irving basically is a good company. Yet, they too are caught up in this frenzy of bigger, but not necessarily better. Worldwide there is already a huge shortage of potable water. Eventually the wells will run dry everywhere or get contaminated from all the fracking. It is time to stop this madness. Perhaps the Irvings, already being one of the corporate leaders in our area, could become our corporate leaders to reverse this trend before it is too late?

Annet Tol, Cornwall

And something that has to be considered:

What's the Plan for the Pogey Flood? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor


Published on June 18th, 2014

I don’t pretend to represent all the workers of Cavendish Farms, upper or lower management, or even Mr. Irving. But in my opinion it’s a bit distressing to be reading people basically saying, “buzz off” to Cavendish Farms. Last week we had a writer suggest banning fries (which I guess she surmised would only affect Mr. Irving; and that fries are the be/end all of bad foods) and in the paper June 16 we’ve yet another member of the P.E.I. community basically telling Irving where he can put his money.

All I can think is, gee, it must be nice not to depend on the money Mr. Irving invests in P.E.I. annually. And how lovely it must be to not work in a sector or live in a province that would be affected by Cavendish Farms closing. Personally, I can’t wait to fight for my EI cheque and live off of less money than I’m currently making while looking for something that will pay me enough to feed myself and allow me to spend money on crazy things like child support, rent, and car payments if Cavendish Farms closes.

So while some of the citizens of P.E.I. are looking to so eagerly say goodbye to a business that helps bolster the economy of P.E.I., I’m fairly confident that the employees of Cavendish Farms, other businesses that work in close relation to C.F., and the farmers would rather not see their livelihood go elsewhere. Especially in a province with (I’m fairly certain) double-digit unemployment. Before we kick all of that money out of the province, my question is what’s the back up plan for when a couple thousand more people are drawing pogey?

Josh Hirtle, Summerside


At crossroads over wells issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor


Published on June 18th, 2014

Prince Edward Island may well be at a very important crossroads over the issue of the deep wells demanded by Cavendish Farms/Irving.

For too long this Island has relied on wealthy, powerful outsiders to ‘do economic development’ by providing a greater or lesser number of jobs for Islanders — only for as long as government largesse keeps coming in and the wealthy can take large profits out of the Island economy.

The deep wells issue, however, seems to be a bit of a turning point. For once, there are a significant number of Islanders who are decidedly uncomfortable with giving up more of our precious water for a big company’s profit. Today’s (June 16, 2014) Editorial mirrors this discomfort.

Meanwhile local initiatives — small companies like Belfast Mini-Mills and the Landmark Café which were recently profiled in your newspaper, Chef Michael’s very successful culinary enterprise, the Festival of Small Halls as well as last fall’s Georgetown Conference — are showing the way to a new direction. This is, I believe, the direction in which this Island needs to move.

We have a deep reserve of expertise here — both locally grown and imported. We have an environment and community spirit that is very easy to fall in love with and an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to ‘git ’er done’. What we need is for government to give up on the old pattern of supporting and inviting the offshore wealthy to come in for their own profit in exchange for a few tenuous jobs.

Supporting locally grown enterprise will not be simple. There will be mistakes, missteps and embarrassments, but in the long run we all know that it is the way to do it.

So if the Irvings et. al. feel they can make more money elsewhere, let them go. Put our tax money into supporting our local entrepreneurs, be they farmers, fishers, tourism operators, artists and artisans, chefs or whoever. That is the way our Island economy will grow and prosper.

Jane Dunphy, Annandale

Saturday, June 21st, 10AM, Walk at MacPhail Woods: Learning About Native Trees and Shrubs

The public is invited to a workshop on native trees and shrubs at the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead in Orwell on Saturday, June 21.  Led by staff of the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, the workshop begins at 10am at the nursery and will focus on all things related to native trees and shrubs.

Some plants, such as the American fly honeysuckle and red maple, naturally awaken early from their winter sleep.  Bluebead lilies, trilliums and starflowers are now in full bloom after a long spring.  The migrant songbirds have returned to the woodlands as well.

This is an ideal opportunity to learn how to identify native plants, attract wildlife and restore forests.  Participants will learn easy tips for distinguishing a wide variety of species throughout the year and their value to Island wildlife.  The nursery and arboretum offer a close look at different types of maples, dogwoods, elders, pines and many species of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns.  Many larger specimens of our native trees can be found along the woodland trails.

There is no admission and everyone is welcome.  Please be sure to bring clothes suitable to weather conditions.

The workshop is part of an extensive series of outdoor activities at Macphail Woods, a project of the Environmental Coalition of Prince Edward Island.  For more information on this or upcoming tours and workshops, please check out our web site (macphailwoods.org), contact Gary Schneider at 651-2575, or check out our Facebook page.

June 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

There are many things to bring up, but it'll be briefly as it rained yesterday:
Stephen Harper is coming to town today for an unknown announcement:
Didn't we teach our children not to take candy from strangers?
Minister Sherry's
announcement out of the blue that she is planning a "piece of legislation to cover all water management policies", with no plans to lift the moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture before that.  I am glad she has taken the recommendation of the Standing Committee in the pre-Sitting report to the Legislature to heart.  The Citizens' Alliance is slated to speak before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy, and Forestry on Wednesday, June 25th about the well issue.
CBC article on Minister Sherry's announcement
CBC's on-line "in-depth" articles on the well issue, still doing the "this versus that" stance on the issue, and creating a poll that splits the *don't* choice:
A 5-minute video that popped up yesterday on high capacity wells:
and its string of five others here from a channel called "PEI Clips."
Five of the videos, with simple images, text, colours and music, point out bad decisions by the Ghiz government (some appealing to young male voters more than others), and one targets Mike Redmond of the NDP PEI.
Several fine letters in the local paper to reprint, summaries of fantastic lectures and discussions, but will have to wait until another day
It's time, yet again, to document environmental mitigation failures at Plan B with yesterday's rather ordinary inch of rain.
There was less than 30mm of rain out here, most of it steady with no downpours or thunderstorms;  two ugly, chronic mitigation failures occurred:

This Crosby Ravine breach continues, and appears to be caused by poor design of the area between Plan B and the old highway near the Plan B connector (McManus Road).

temporarily unable to upload :(  Please check the facebook page for photos.
Sediment flowing into West River by former footbridge near Green Road, Bonshaw, June 18, 2014.

temporarily unable to upload :(  Please check the facebook page for photos.

Sediment pond with breached lip (not in photo), uphill from the river, in Bonshaw, Plan B up and to right, June 18, 2014.

temporarily unable to upload :(  Please check the facebook page for photos.

One view of area across new highway with the cause of runoff, between Plan B and McManus Road, Bonshaw, June 18, 2014, which flows under a culvert and in that sediment pond, and down into the river (above photos).
And near Crawford's Brook, by Peter's Road, north of the inlet to the concrete boxes:

temporarily unable to upload :(  Please check the facebook page for photos.

Sediment from Plan B ditch getting into Crawford's Brook, Churchill, June 18, 2014.

all photos by Cindy Richards, environmental monitor

June 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Enbridge's pipeline being approved by the Federal Cabinet, and these two articles about our current power system....a lot to think about regarding future choices and directions for power generation.

from yesterday's Guardian:

Deafening silence on Gulf drilling - The Guardian Lead Editorial

Published June 17, 2014

Canada - Newfoundland Labrador board OKs oil exploration, drilling in Gulf of St. Lawrence

It’s very surprising there has been little in the way of “official” reaction thus far to an April report that gives the green light to exploration and drilling for oil and gas off the western coast of Newfoundland. The report, commissioned by the Canada - Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, says there are significant environmental risks but those are insufficient to halt drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Apart from a number of environmental groups trying to draw attention to this announcement, reaction has been muted from Atlantic governments or major municipalities. There were attempts to get the issue on the agenda when Atlantic premiers met recently in New Brunswick — to no avail. There was hope the matter might at least be discussed informally but there was no apparent mention in any communiqués.

The CNLOPB report got scant coverage in regional media. It’s almost as if few people are taking the report seriously. The Newfoundland and Labrador government is already heavily engaged in deep ocean drilling — much to its immense economic benefit - and perhaps doesn’t see the big concern with drilling in the shallower and more contained Gulf off its west coast.

It’s that containment which should be striking fear and concern into provinces bordering the Gulf. An oil spill will have nowhere to go except onto our shores and beaches and into our harbours. It might not seem like a big deal for the N. L. government but it should be a very big deal for Quebec ( Iles- de- laMadeleine), P. E. I., N. B. and N. S. should there be a major spill.

It’s even more surprising how the Canada - N. L. board could make such a critically important decision without input from provinces which will be directly affected by any oil spills. One only has to look at what happened recently when a single oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing a number of workers and devastating shorelines, habitats and livelihoods for a number of Gulf coast states.

Atlantic governments are certainly cash- strapped and P. E. I. is the most resource poor province in the country. Are we taking a wait and see attitude with western N. L. drilling? Is this province hoping that drilling there proves to be safe, successful and lucrative — and that perhaps we could cash in on some revenue- generating wells close to P. E. I.? Are we hoping to reap some economic benefits that might come with drilling by our neighbour just to the north?

We are all aware of how fragile and important the Gulf is as a habitat for fish stocks and incredible numbers of marine life. It should not be up to any federal or provincial board to put our province at risk. Can you imagine what would happen if a major spill found its way to our north shore beaches? Tourism would be effectively ended for years to come. Older Islanders can still remember the panic in September 1970 when the Irving Whale barge sank off the north shore of P. E. I. with 4,200 tons of Bunker C oil aboard. It went down just over 30 miles from North Cape and remained a constant environmental threat until a salvage operation in 1996 safely raised the Whale to the immense relief of all.

Environmental groups, First Nations communities and fishery representatives from five Canadian provinces are pushing for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They argue that one well blowout could destroy the Gulf ‘s ecosystem. They’re right. Where are our provincial and municipal politicians on this matter? Is anyone listening?

Why does government pay for new power cable to mainland? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by David A. McGregor

Printed on June 17, 2014

In what seems to be an annual spring event, there is renewed talk of running a new power cable to the mainland ( New Brunswick). We are told about how old and deteriorated the present two existing lines are, how they are nearing the end of their lives, how much it will cost to run a new submarine cable and how this will improve energy security for the Island. Yet as every year passes, it never gets done.

Maritime Electric used to be a locally owned and controlled corporation, until Fortis, which according to its website is “the largest investor- owned gas and electric distribution utility in Canada with total assets of approximately $ 18 billion and fiscal 2013 revenue exceeding $ 4 billion,” purchased the struggling firm in 1994. This led me to ask the following question: If Maritime Electric is owned and operated by a private, for- profit company, why is it the government’s responsibility to pay for the new power line to New Brunswick?

In my quest to find the answer, I decided to read the P. E. I. Energy Accord and the P. E. I. Energy Commission Report, which was completed in 2012. They were very informative to say the least. They also enlightened me as to what the government gave Fortis in exchange for our 14 per cent rate decrease for two years.

Maritime Electric generates only one per cent of our power. The rest is acquired primarily from New Brunswick through a PPA contract ( Purchase Power Agreement), which is commercially confidential and government helped negotiate.

After Fortis bought Maritime Electric, it started to complain that it couldn’t make a profit. So, in 2004, the government enacted the Electric Power Act to help guarantee the company a profit ( 9.75 per cent of equity).

However, in the Commission’s report, it opined “Under N. B. Powerplus10, ( if N. B charges $ 1, ME charges $ 1.10) Maritime Electric paid marketbased prices for electricity. In theory, this approach should have enabled Maritime Electric to continue operating in a financially sustainable manner…”

I guess corporations are not allowed to lose money anymore, just the people living on pensions.

The government accepted over $ 100 million of Maritime Electric’s debt and, according to premier Ghiz ( State of Province address, YouTube) financed it at four per cent for our “14 per cent rate decrease.”

The cost of the third power cable to the mainland is roughly $ 80 million. And while Maritime Electric is a private corporation, there is no discussion about it taking on this expenditure. Furthermore, Maritime Electric has a lease agreement with the province to use the current cables and will have another when the new cable is completed.

For 2011, on total revenue of $ 165.4 million, Maritime Electric paid $ 6 million ( 3.65 per cent) in taxes. Furthermore, it had total earnings, after taxes, of $ 23.5 million. And remember: This was during our “14 per cent rate decrease.”

The Energy Accord now completed, M. E. / Fortis is no longer obligated to spend a penny on renewable energy creation on P. E. I. At the same time, it is only contractually obligated to use 30 per cent of its power from the farms, at a cost of $ 78 per hour ( The provincially-owned wind farms operate at a profit).

If we are taking on and financing Fortis’ debts, helping them negotiate contracts, accepting the cost of a new mainland cable, the responsibility for renewable energy ( wind) and changing laws to guarantee it a profit ( 9.75 per cent of equity), why did the government sell Maritime Electric in the first place?

The Summerside utility is municipally owned, turns a profit and had none of the above benefits given to Fortis. However, government is forcing its customers to foot the bill for Maritime Electric.

I say get rid of the middleman and take back what should never have been sold to begin with.
David A. McGregor (BA, UPEI) of Charlottetown lived in South Korea for 11 years trading with Daishin and Hana Securities. He is a graduate of IFSE Institute Mutual Fund Dealers Program.

June 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight, something for everyone:

Charlottetown, 7PM, Climate Change presentation by Joce Plourde, Farm Centre, 520 University Avenue, admission by donation ($5 suggested).

He writes: "I will be giving a talk about climate change - what it is, how it works, how it affects us, what we can do...."


Summerside, 7:30PM, The Crisis in Democracy, a video presentation of Elizabeth May's Mallory Lecture, Silver Fox Curling Club (110 Water Street ), followed by a panel discussion iwith Rick Marleau from the NDP Egmont Riding Association, Green Party PEI leader Peter Bevan-Baker, and Leo Cheverie for CUPE.  Sponsored by Leadnow.ca

"Both Fair Vote Canada and Lead Now have called for changes to the electoral system in order to better reflect the views and needs of Canadians and prevent parties that achieve a minority of the general vote from attaining a majority of the power. The event is free and all are welcome. Call 902-836-4745 or email brenda_o63@hotmail.com for further information."



Monday's lead editorial in The Guardian:


Irving delivers ultimatum on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Lead Editorial

Cavendish Farms president Robert Irving, left, and Blaine MacPherson, company vice president of agricultural affairs, speak before a committee of MLAs probing the issue of high capacity wells. Irving says his company may be forced to look for potatoes elsewhere if P.E.I. does not lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells. (Guardian photo)

Cavendish Farms threatens cutbacks unless government ends moratorium

If Prince Edward Islanders and its government had any doubts beforehand, they were erased Thursday inside the Coles Building. In the shadow of historic Province House in the heart of urban Charlottetown, a blunt warning was issued that could have dramatic ramifications across rural P.E.I.  

Two senior executives for Cavendish Farms told a legislative committee that the company may downsize its operations in P.E.I. if the government does not lift a moratorium on deep-water wells. It has taken a while for the company to finally lay its cards on the table, but there they were last Thursday for all to see.
Cavendish Farms president Robert Irving might have wished it hadn’t come to this, but the company is apparently frustrated and its patience running out while waiting for a decision on the wells issue. Ever since the P.E.I Potato Board first approached government in late 2012, it was believed that Cavendish Farms was the driving force behind the request to lift the decade-long moratorium.
As the news circulated, the vast majority of Islanders seem opposed, based on countless letters and opinion page submissions to this newspaper. They warned that lifting the moratorium would threaten the Island’s water supply, which is solely dependent on the groundwater table.
The Potato Board tried its best to convince Islanders that only a very small percentage of the water supply would be tapped and the annual recharge would more than adequately sustain any increased pressure.
The board then was forced to defend itself against mounting criticism of spraying, trying to justify that careful application of pesticides was essential to produce a healthy crop. Potato growers are facing relentless pressure on all sides — from processors to produce the perfect french fry potato through irrigation and pesticides use — and from Islanders opposed to both. Growers argue that if they don’t spray for weeds, blight or the Colorado potato beetle, they won’t have a crop.
So what has pushed Mr. Irving to take a threatening and bullying posture in front of MLAs on the agriculture standing committee, which had earlier recommended no changes pending presentation of  compelling evidence or argument.
The company has done well financially by P.E.I. and vice versa. It has contracts for some 60 per cent of Island potato production and has a stranglehold on fertilizer sales.
First and foremost, the Irvings are shrewd businessmen. With them, it’s always business. If they cannot get their potatoes at a certain price and guaranteed quality here, they will get them somewhere else. That philosophy dictates company policy, not the loyalties of yesterday.
The Irvings want to know where the P.E.I. government stands — with them or against them. The threat of downsizing must be taken seriously. This is a $1-billion industry in play here.
Do opponents of wells and pesticides think such an enormous loss of revenue can ever be replaced?
This year, Cavendish Farms forced its contract growers to accept a three per cent reduction in price, despite higher costs for fertilizer, diesel and everything else. Was this a signal to government and industry that the company intends to play hardball from now on unless there are concessions on the well issue?
The potato board is desperately trying to find a solution and has suggested getting an independent group to assess the water supply issue and provide irrefutable scientific proof that limited deep-water wells are sustainable. It might be enough to placate Mr. Irving and keep everyone in business.
If not, the government may be forced to decide what’s more important — science supporting the well issue or potato processing supporting the basic economic structure of this province.

For those of you who know your old movies:

Henry F. Potter, "the richest man in Bedford Falls", from It's A Wonderful Life, 1946

George Bailey to Henry F. Potter: "I don't need 24 hours. I don't have to talk to anybody. I know right now, and the answer's no. No! Doggone it! You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money! Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter! In the, in the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider! And... [turning to his aide] And that goes for you, too!"


June 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

From someone who can see through the fog, hype, smoke and mirrors better than most of us:

Re: Irrigation:

Irving bases everything on making money. 

We base everything of keeping our drinking water plentiful and uncontaminated.

Our government is basically uneducated and doesn’t know what to do. They base everything on re-election.

We are all not discussing the same thing, since there are three different agendas.

Carlo Hengst, Summerside



Movie: "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hackivists", 7PM, WhYLoft#1, 252 Prince Street, Charlottetown, admission by donation.

"(The film) takes us inside the complex culture and history of Anonymous. The film explores early hacktivist groups like Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theater, and then moves to Anonymous’ own raucous and unruly beginnings on the website 4Chan."


Tuesday night there are two fantastic events; luckily, each is in a different city, so at least that could help people choose:

The Crisis in Democracy, a video presentation of Elizabeth May's Mallory Lecture, 7:30pm, Summerside, Silver Fox Curling Club, 110 Water Street (beyond the intersection at Harbour Drive and Epteck Centre).   The video will be followed by a panel discussion including Rick Marleau, NDP Riding Association President for Egmont; Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party PEI; and Leo Cheverie for CUPE.  Sponsored by Leadnow.ca

"Both Fair Vote Canada and Lead Now have called for changes to the electoral system in order to better reflect the views and needs of Canadians and prevent parties that achieve a minority of the general vote from attaining a majority of the power. The event is free and all are welcome. Call 902-836-4745 or email brenda_o63@hotmail.com for further information."


Climate Change presentation by Joce Plourde,7PM, Charlottetown, Farm Centre, 520 University Avenue, admission by donation ($5 suggested).

He write: "I will be giving a talk about climate change - what it is, how it works, how it affects us, what we can do...."


Wednesday, June 18th:

Pesticide Free PEI meeting, 7PM, Haviland Club, corner of Water and Haviland Streets, Charlottetown. 

June 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some news stories and a letter you might find interesting:

Scary, but we knew it:
Natural Gas (via fracking) was touted as the Bridge to Cleaner Energy.
But it is the Bridge to Nowhere and we're getting there fast:
full article:
an excerpt:

" 'Carbon dioxide is only one greenhouse gas and the public tends to focus on it, and scientists as well,' (Cornell University professor Robert) Howarth told Boulder Weekly. 'Methane is also a potent greenhouse gas. The latest information from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in the last seven or eight months, says that global methane emissions from human-caused sources now equal carbon dioxide in their effect on global warming.'

Howarth’s study arose from his examination of about 60 studies published since 2011. He spent so much time analyzing because he had heard natural gas propaganda for much of the previous two years, praising it as a bridge to a cleaner energy with a path away from foreign oil dependence. After teaming with Anthony Ingraffea and Renee Santoro, also of Cornell, he realized that natural gas actually a bridge to nowhere. His latest research drives that point home."


Really scary, but we knew it:
On Harper's big projects, by Linda McQuaig
full article:

"Much has been said about Stephen Harper’s paranoia, his ruthlessness, his Nixonian tendencies, his quickness to dump even the most dedicated loyalist who gets in his way — and other assorted qualities that make him, at the very least, an undesirable person with whom to have a beer.
Relatively little has been said about his grandiosity. Only months after becoming prime minister in 2006, he showed it off in an overseas speech that attracted surprising little attention in Canada. Outlining his plan to turn Canada into an 'energy superpower,' he told the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce in London that developing the 'ocean of oil-soaked sand' in northern Alberta would be “an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the Pyramids or China’s Great Wall. Only bigger.”


Silly, but sadly true:
from Thursday's Guardian:

More Fiddling, More Burning? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Thursday, June 12th

What the heck, forget education; school is almost out for the summer. It’s party time on Prince Edward Island. I can’t understand why people keep complaining about my government, we are throwing a huge party for islanders. No expense spared. We are spending millions of dollars we actually don’t have just to make Islanders happy. Does this really prove that the Ghiz government thinks we Islanders are all dumb?

Has anyone taken a good hard look at the education system on P. E. I. lately? Two years ago we lost an organization called Volunteers for Literacy, more recently we have lost 200 Island teaching positions. In the last election a Liberal promise to build a K- 12 school in Souris never happened. We have government friends and relatives holding jobs in the premier’s office, the English Language board offices, and a principal’s office in an Island school.

The minister of education assures us the system is working. Strangely, many parents do not agree. I guess the plan to party through 2014 is not working, Mr. Ghiz. Sadly this is only the tip of the education iceberg.

We have a president of the teachers’ federation more interested in seeking the Liberal nomination for the upcoming federal election than education. Would it be wrong to question his judgment? Would it be wrong to think this was the reason he was so quiet when 200 teaching positions were slashed? Would it be wrong to ask why this man has not stepped down in view of his political ambitions?

If you think this is the worst, just wait a minute, there is more. Now the Island group for literacy has had its funding cut, rural P. E. I. is alive with rumours of more school closures. We have the lowest education rating in the entire country. But hey, no worries, Ghiz is throwing a party. Unfortunately this only reminds me of the Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burned.

F. Ben Rodgers, Abram Village


A couple of nice events:

Today is the Hillsborough River's Eagle Festival in Mount Stewart. You may be able to catch up with the early bird walkers on their way back....

"Early morning bird walk on Sunday June 15th from 6 am to ~8:30 am. Meet at the Hillsborough River Eco-centre in Mount Stewart at 5:50 am. The restaurants will be open at for those who wish to get a breakfast.
Guided eagle and marsh bird viewing was be offered from 12 noon to 4 pm at the viewing station on Pigot's Trail at the Allisary Creek Impoundment and Shaylyn Wallace of the Island Nature Trust will be doing interpretation on Bobolinks.
At 1:15 to 2 pm, Gerald MacDougall will be offering a new eagle presentation"

Also, this afternoon biologist Bob Bancroft will be speaking at Macphail Woods, in Orwell, starting at 2PM at the Nature Centre.

Take care, Happy Father's Day,

June 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tired of receiving pesticide notices - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 13, 2014

Editor: There have been many letters in The Guardian over the past few months regarding the spraying of harmful chemicals for cosmetic purposes. Many of these letters have called for Islanders to say enough is enough. Well, I would like to lend my voice to this cause. Enough is enough.

I am a cancer survivor, and I am very concerned about the poisonous chemicals that are being used in my neighbourhood and surrounding community. I am tired of receiving notices on my doorstep, telling me that my neighbours will be spraying carcinogenic chemicals on their lawns — all for the sake of a few dandelions.

What I find especially disconcerting is that my neighbours in question (they know who they are) know that I have had cancer, and know that I lost a young daughter to cancer. They also know that our other neighbour across the street lost her husband to cancer and that another surrounding neighbour was diagnosed with pre-cancers. I cannot fathom how someone could disregard this information and continue on in such a callous way.

I believe my fellow concerned citizens are correct — the Government of Prince Edward Island must better protect the citizens of this province by banning all lawn poisons. In the long run, such a ban would likely save our hospitals and palliative care unit a lot of money (and many families a lot of heartache).

Perhaps those who insist on using these poisons will think twice about spraying cancer-causing chemicals on their lawn when one of their loved ones or close friend is stricken with this terrible disease. Those dandelions won’t matter at all as you watch your loved one endure pure hell during chemo treatments, or when you are sitting at a funeral home greeting their friends because they lost their battle with cancer.

Wake up people — while you still have a chance. Being a good neighbour is about making good choices, caring about each other and having some respect for your fellow human beings and environment.

Nancy Zahavich, Winsloe

Regarding Cavendish Farms presentation to the Standing Committee on Thursday:http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-06-13/article-3762886/Threatening-government%3F/1

Threatening government? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on-line June 13, 2014, and in today's print edition (June 14, 2014) of The Guardian

If this current government is seeking an opportunity to reset the economic future of our Island, the Cavendish Farms appearance before the Provincial Legislative Standing Committee (PLSC) on Thursday presented an ideal catalyst. There are two very strong messages contained within the Guardian’s Friday report. It is clear that Cavendish Farms’ strategy against the moratorium on irrigation wells is to threaten and bully our government. It is also clear that our current economic dependence upon the management of Cavendish Farms must be reduced. If the farming of potatoes is to be a partnership between the growers, the processors and the Island representatives, how can such a partnership survive if one partner attempts to dictate and pursue its self interest?

The Guardian article does not provide details on the MLA committee’s questions, but how dare the Irving management attempt to fool Islanders that the core question is their continued investment/expansion in P.E.I.? We all know that the french-fry business has problems and there will be no significant new expansion for P.E.I. We also know that any business, including Cavendish Farms, will not purposely devalue its current capital investment here. The Irving arsenal of threats is also apparently aimed at another partner - our farmers. The message “if you don’t intend to invest up to $200,000 in a new irrigation well, you may not get future Cavendish Farms contracts” surely has to be rebuked by our farmers!

Commercial businesses have long tried to avoid the major risk of dependence upon a single product or service; successful businesses have all realized that the key to continued prosperity is strong and open partnerships between all players in the supply chain. It must be very clear to our Government (and the PLSC committee MLA members) that on Thursday, Cavendish Farms displayed all the wrong business partnership characteristics and it is now time to reset to a strategy of dismissing economic threats and building upon our strengths and opportunities with new business partners.

Roger & Jan King, Hope River

Good points, but our vulnerable little Island needs to be careful with future business partners -- look at the concerns about the "Hampton Mystery Project."
The transcripts of the Standing Committee will be available soon on the Legislative Assembly website.

And this commentary from P.E.I. Potato Board chairperson, Gary Linkletter, in Thursday's paper here brought the commentary below it:


Potato growers diligent with responsible pesticide use on P.E.I. - The Guardian Commentary by Gary Linkletter

Published on June 12, 2014, in The Guardian

There have been a number of letters to the editor in recent weeks which express concern regarding the application of pesticides in Prince Edward Island, including pesticide use by P.E.I. potato growers. I would like to take this opportunity to try and dispel some of the myths relating to agricultural pesticides as well as to ensure that Islanders have accurate information on how pesticides are responsibly used. Pesticides are generally defined as a natural or synthetic product used to control fungal diseases (fungicide), insects (insecticide), or weeds (herbicide).

Readers have no doubt seen large agricultural sprayers in Island fields or on the highways. Many of these sprayers hold up to 4,000 litres of water, enough to spray 40 acres of land, or the equivalent of 30 football fields. At first glance, that may appear to be a lot of pesticides going on fields; however, it is important to note that for a routine fungicide application (the most common pesticide used on P.E.I.), less than 1 kg of actual pesticide is applied to each acre of land, diluted in a large tank of water. This is roughly equivalent to spreading a 1 kg bag of sugar over an entire football field. For most herbicides and insecticides, the levels of active ingredient per application are much lower, with some products being measured in grams per acre.

The majority of pesticides used on Prince Edward Island potato fields are contact fungicides which protect potato plants from contracting late blight, the same potato disease that caused the Irish potato famine in the 19th century and led to many of our ancestors to immigrate to Canada. Potatoes grown in wetter climates like P.E.I. are susceptible to infection by the fungus causing late blight, so all commercially-grown potatoes in P.E.I. (both conventional and organic) use protectant fungicides to prevent infection. There is no cure once a plant is infected, so if potato growers did nothing to address late blight, our potatoes would rot in the field or in storage and our province would not have a potato industry. Additionally, it is important to add that these contact fungicides are not absorbed by the plant itself and do not make contact with the potato tubers growing under the ground. 

Farmers are very careful with their use of pesticides and only apply them when necessary. Most farmers practice what is called integrated pest management (IPM). This means they make use of a variety of preventative practices to avoid pest issues and when pest problems arise they make use of all available pest management tools, including mechanical, biological and cultural controls as well as pesticides. As well, crop scouting is routinely used by the majority of farmers to determine whether pest levels warrant application of control methods.

Island potato growers don’t spray pesticides simply out of habit. Pesticides are a major expense in potato production and reducing the amount of pesticides required to grow a crop of potatoes is a goal of everyone in the industry.

Nonetheless, using pesticides to control diverse pests such as late blight, wireworm, and Colorado potato beetle is necessary to grow high quality potatoes for consumers.  

Advances are being made continuously to make pesticides more targeted in effectiveness while reducing impacts on the environment and on humans. The broad-spectrum pesticides of yesteryear have largely been discontinued, with pesticides of today being designed to target only the pests that are impacting the crop.

 In addition, many potato growers are embracing new technologies such as GPS and band spraying to ensure that only the required amount of pesticides are being applied only in the right place. All agricultural pesticide applicators in Prince Edward Island must be licensed by the province after receiving training on the proper use and handling of pesticides and passing a subsequent exam. These licenses must be renewed every five years.  

The potato industry makes up almost half of the agricultural cash receipts each year and is worth over $1 billion to the Island economy annually. Regulated and safe application of pesticides, which have be reviewed and approved by Health Canada, is an integral tool in producing only the best quality potatoes for Islanders as well as our customers around the world.

Gary Linkletter is chairman of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board and is a potato grower in Linkletter


Fighting fungus during off hours - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 13, 2014
I have no doubt that Mr. Linkletter is a good person who cares about his land and his produce. He has to be in order to live the life he does and suffer endless hectoring by people like me. However, as befits the chairman of any large industry board, his commentary piece is a fine and classic example of deflection and obfuscation.

Note the use of a whopping 4,000 litres of water, 30 huge football fields and a mere 1 kg of pesticide in the same paragraph to give the illusion that these numbers are related. Throw in the comparison to a kg bag of safe, harmless sugar and suddenly it all seems too silly to worry about; a technique used by marketers and politicians since the dawn of time.

By his numbers, the 4,000 litres covers 40 acres and so will require 40 kg of actual pesticide which is a pretty hefty sack compared to a little 1-kg bag of sugar. This works o
ut to 100 litres and  1 kg of pesticide/sugar per acre at 10 g per litre. Pour a bag of sugar in your gas tank or go mix a tablespoon of sugar into a water bottle; pretty sweet and not at all as weak and dilute as suggested particularly when dealing with toxicity levels in parts per million.

Add the fact that the article only talks about fungicides without which “... (we) would not have a potato industry” and would have to relive the Irish potato famine. Fine hyperbole but no mention of herbicides for weed control, fertilizer or Reglone sprayed at the end of the season to kill all the above ground growth to ease harvest and make the potatoes pretty; all of which leach into the waterways and cause no end of problems.

There is the good news, though, that the soil faeries won’t let anything nasty sprayed on the ground get washed down to the tubers in the next rain. Perhaps they could fight fungus in their off hours.

Owen Stephenson, Morell

It's a Farmers' Market day, and the square-foot gardening free workshop is at 2PM at the Farm Centre.

June 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Media coverage from the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy, and Forestry:
As the CBC people left fairly soon after the Potato Board presented, it's no wonder the news coverage seems indicate that *was* the entire meeting, but there were other presentations. UPEI climatologist Adam Fenech indicated his research shows PEI getting hotter and drier, and both Phil Ferraro from the Institute for Bioregional Studies, and then Tony Reddin representing the PEI Chapter of the Sierra Club described better, more sustainable agriculture that PEI can strive for.

But what may stick with the MLA committee members may be the very slick PowerPoint slides with the Cavendish Farms logo and charts and graphs and GDP and demanding quality potatoes for the "quick service industry" (that's a new name for fast-food restaurants), and Irving's brilliant yellow summary boxes saying, "...must allow irrigation...." or basically, they'll leave.

Robert Irving said when questioned that they would likely make having irrigation mandatory for contracts with growers.
(text below)

The next meeting is on Wednesday, June 25th, starting at 1PM.
Last night, a big crowd showed up at UPEI to hear Greenpeace executive director Joanna Kerr's talk to kick off the Atlantic Council on International Cooperation's conference at UPEI. A mix of ages from across the Maritimes in the room, and all were encouraged and inspired.

It was perhaps a fitting antidote to the afternoon's "quick service" industry's demands, and I will summarized it in another Update soon.

Leo Cheverie, one of the conference organizers, has invited anyone on PEI working on environmental issues to join Joanna Kerr for one of the sessions this afternoon: 3:45 to about 5PM, in the Main Building, Room 211, at UPEI. (The building is very near the Visitor Parking off the University Avenue entrance.)

Also today:

"Join us Friday June 13, at noon in the Legacy Garden (of the Farm Centre) for a bring your own lunch and conversation with Dr. John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics, University of Missouri.  (He) will be the keynote speaker at the Farm Centre’s dinner in honour of the PEI Agriculture Hall of Fame on Friday evening. This opportunity to have a conversation with John in the garden is a unique opportunity to meet this pioneer of a new economics of sustainability and public advocate for a socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and economically viable food system." -- from Phil Ferraro

Sounds like a great time! CBC Radio is interviewing Dr. Ikerd this morning.


Tomorrow, 2PM, Farm Centre: A free square-foot gardening workshop

"FoodShare PEI is hosting a Meet and Greet FREE Raised Bed Gardening Workshop with Gordon and Pat Hubbard at the Farm Centre 420 University Ave Charlottetown on June 14th at 2pm.
We will be outside building and planting raised bed gardens. Bring a picnic lunch if the weather is fine.
Gardening clothes gloves and water to drink suggested as well as sunscreen.
An umbrella and rain poncho might be a good idea also.
BBQ fare from Larkin Bros, Taylor Meats and the Loo family prepared by Chef Liz Vaines of The Old Glasglow Mill and The Dunes fame.
Bring your seeds!



Sunday, 2PM, Macphail Woods Nature Centre, Bob Bancroft talk, free

Bob is a noted biologist, a wonderful, straight-talking naturalist you may know from Maritime Noon's phone-in.  It's sure to be a wonderful talk!

June 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here is a reminder about two events today that you may be interested in:

The first is the meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry today, starting at 1PM. This is the first meeting since the Spring Sitting of the Legislature ended, and they will be finding out more about the high capacity well issue, among some other things.

Specifically, presenters will include representatives from the P.E.I. Potato Board and Cavendish Farms, and from the Atlantic Canada Chapter of the Sierra Club and from the Institute for Bioregional Studies. Also, Adam Fenech from the UPEI Climate Lab will be presenting on climate change.


If you can drop in for any part of the afternoon, please do. It's important for these committee member MLAs to be reminded this issue is important to Islanders.

The meeting may run until 4:30 or 5PM. It is in the Pope Room of the Coles Building, which is the red brick building next to Province House towards Church Street and St. Paul's Church. Seats for the public are off to the side, and you are expected to treat it like the Gallery of the Legislature -- quiet, no cell phones on, no photography. But you can come and go at will, and there is often coffee and tea for the spectators, too.

(The chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board has a well-timed letter in today's Guardian explaining their pesticide use. I will be able to reprint it tomorrow if you don't see it today. I am reminded that the definition of apologist is "a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial".)


And at 7PM tonight is a free lecture given by Joanna Kerr, the executive director of Greenpeace Canada. It's titled "How to be Courageous on a Planet in Crisis," which certainly sounds timely. ;-)

The lecture is at the MacDougall Hall on UPEI's campus, Room 242, same as the water forum was a couple of weeks ago. A campus map is available here:


Parking should be available and free in most lots.


A letter from a woman who has always shown courage:


Islanders Must Say Enough is Enough - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 10, 2014

What do you do when you see someone breaking the law?

On May 15, we witnessed a crime when a farmer planted potatoes where he had grown potatoes two years ago. The Crop Rotation Act is a provincial law. It regulates when potatoes can be grown. Currently there is a three-year rotation policy. After several calls we reached a conservation officer who started an investigation after discovering this farmer has no environment plan on this leased property. Sadly, the farmer did not cease when he was informed he would be investigated for breaking the law.

The Potato Marketing Board advised us not to let one bad apple spoil all 250 potato farmers’ reputation. Wrong metaphor — this rotten potato is spoiling the reputation of hard-working Island farmers.

The Island needs stronger legislation, monitoring and enforcement. We need established mechanisms that block such irresponsible, illegal activity.

On June 12, there will be a presentation at UPEI entitled How to be Courageous on a Planet in Crisis. Islanders must stand up, speak out and say enough.

Enough deaths from rare cancers.

Enough dead fish from run offs.

Enough soil erosion in ditches and streams.

Enough loopholes in weak legislation.

Enough greed by the Irvings and McCains.

Marian White, Tracadie

June 11, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This week includes International Oceans Day, a good time to reflect on our relationship with out salty globe.
Monday's Guardian had this front page story:

Group calls for moratorium on drilling in Gulf of St. Lawrence - The Guardian article by Mitch MacDonald

Published on June 09, 2014

A newly released report has united a group of fishermen, environmentalists, First Nations and others in calling for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

The report, which also recommends an arm’s-length review and public consultations, was released by the St. Lawrence Coalition Sunday during what is considered International Oceans Week.

(Note: It is called Gulf 101: Oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: Facts, Myths and Future Outlook)
(This is the right link to the report "Gulf 101")

Jean-Patrick Toussaint, one of the report’s three authors and science project manager with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Quebec office, said the report is the end product of several years of documenting the gulf and offshore drilling.

It also highlights a number of unknown factors, questions and myths involved in exploring the complex ecosystem.

“There is a need to have a gulf-wide vision and make sure all provinces are involved in the decision,” he said. “Any spill in the gulf would directly impact many coastal communities.”

The gulf touches five provinces and draws millions to it every year, including the National Park beaches on P.E.I., and also supports a number of endangered species and fishing industries.

Ellie Reddin, of the P.E.I. chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores, said the gulf needs to be treated as a whole rather than divided into provincial jurisdictions.  “Even a routine spill could have quite an impact on the gulf,” said Reddin. “There are only two openings and they’re not all that wide.”

Part of the gulf’s sensitivity lies in the fact that it’s a semi-enclosed sea, with only six per cent of it opening into the Atlantic Ocean.  That means a major difference between drilling in the gulf and the Atlantic, which Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are both now doing.  “If there are any leakages or spills (in the Atlantic), it’s still not good but it’s kind of lost at sea,” said Toussaint. “Whereas in the gulf, it’s hitting the coastline.”

There is one main area in the gulf where seismic testing has revealed oil.  While the area, known as “Old Harry,” overlaps the Newfoundland and Quebec borders, it is located in the centre of the gulf and could pose risks for all five communities if anything went wrong.  Quebec is the only province to have a moratorium on gas exploration in the gulf, while Newfoundland has been in talks with the federal government on the possibility of exploring the area.

Toussaint said while there are unknowns in the environmental effects, there are also some “legal gaps” within the regulations now in place.  One is any company drilling in the gulf can be liable for up to $30 million in the case of a spill.  While that amount is under review to be increased to $1 billion, Toussaint said that is still a small amount when compared to the possible risk. He pointed to the costs surrounding the cleanup of the 2010 British Petroleum oil disaster, which has been estimated at $42 billion.  That spill also occurred during the exploratory process, noted Toussaint.

The report calls for a moratorium until more is discovered about exploring the gulf and if it is possible to do without devastating the environment.

Yesterday there was an excellent letter by Colin Jeffrey:

Oceans Day reminds us to protect the Gulf - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Colin Jeffery

Published on June 10, 2014 As World Oceans Day is observed this week with actions and celebrations by the United Nations and community groups around the world, Atlantic Canadians should pause and consider how we are treating the ocean in our own back yard. Of special concern is the recent push to develop oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Not content with exploiting the 85 per cent of Canada’s Eastern waters that lie outside of the Gulf, the oil and gas industry has successfully convinced provincial governments to open up parts of the Gulf for exploration and development.

However, Canadians have more to lose from petroleum development in the Gulf than outside it. With its warm, shallow waters this inland sea acts as a vital feeding and spawning ground for most of our commercially valuable marine species and contains the largest concentration of krill in the North Atlantic. In 1973, an interdisciplinary panel report led by Dr. Loutfi of McGill University described the Gulf as “biologically, the most productive Canadian marine region” and concluded that offshore development posed too great a risk to an ecosystem of such biological diversity.

Since then the health of our Gulf has deteriorated, with overfishing, land-based pollution and climate change driven impacts all playing a role in its decline. Fish stocks that once created thousands of jobs in the region are now managed with the utmost care in the hopes that they will one day increase. Given the current fragile state of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, do we really want to add the known impacts of offshore drilling to the mix?

Most worrying of all is the lack of environmental protection proposed by those overseeing oil and gas development in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Currently, planned development is concentrated along Newfoundland’s West coast. Like many parts of the Gulf, this area has an unusual abundance of fish and provides critical feeding, spawning and wintering habitat for several groundfish and pelagic fish species as well as threatened whale species.

For this and other reasons, it has been designated an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area (EBSA) by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. One would think that such high biodiversity would persuade the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) to at least place areas of vital marine habitat off limits to future petroleum development, but this has not happened.

In May the CNLOPB released an update of their Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for Newfoundland’s Western offshore, a document that is supposed to provide strategic planning for future offshore development and ensure environmental protection on a regional scale. This it does not do. Using the flimsy excuse that specific protection measures cannot be implemented before actual projects have been proposed, the CNLOPB makes no effort to place critical marine habitat off limits to oil and gas exploration and development.  

The SEA Update area also includes the “Old Harry” prospect which is expected to be approved for exploratory drilling this summer.  Located in water six times deeper than the Hibernia site and surrounded by biologically significant areas, proceeding with drilling here is as likely as anywhere in the Gulf to cause real harm.

As Atlantic Canadians, we have relatively little to gain and everything to lose from allowing oil and gas development to proceed in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The economic benefits of these industries are often touted, but increased energy efficiency and renewable energy production offer more substantial economic benefits.  

According to a comprehensive study titled Putting Renewables and Energy Efficiency to Work published in the journal Energy Policy in 2010, “all renewable energy sources generate more jobs than the fossil fuel sector per unit of energy delivered.”

Further fossil fuel production will also increase the severity of climate change, creating substantial negative impacts on our economies and our lives in the coming decades.

When you add in anticipated negative impacts to our Eastern Canadian fisheries, which contribute $3 billion a year to Atlantic economies, one really has to question if offshore drilling in the Gulf is our best option for energy development in Atlantic Canada.

 Colin Jeffrey, York, is a member of Save Our Seas and Shores, P.E.I. chapter.

Please keep in mind the talk tomorrow, Thursday night, June 12, 7PM. UPEI MacDougall Hall, Room 242,  "How to be Courageous on a Planet in Crisis," from Joanna Kerr from Greenpeace Canada.  (And the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environmental, Energy and Forestry is at 1PM that afternoon in the Coles Building, next to Province House, including the high capacity well issue.)

June 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

We need our provincial government to show strong leadership on protecting our Island's water and land; as citizens and neighbours we have our part, too. Our property lines may be distinct, but they don't stop everything.


Troubling comment at public meeting - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Saturday, June 7th, 2014

Editor: I recently attended the cosmetic pesticides forum in Charlottetown.

The information presented by scientists Bill Whelan (Canadian Cancer Society) and Roger Gordon (former dean of science at UPEI) was persuasive. Both cited many studies and recommended making use of the precautionary principle when determining pesticide laws.

However, the Department of Environment’s Erin Taylor was a bit of a disappointment. The last hearing on pesticides saw nearly 170 out of 173 speakers push for a comprehensive ban on cosmetic pesticides, and yet it did not pass.

Taylor reminded us that the outcome was based in politics (CropLife Canada, for example, which represents all manufacturers, distributors and developers of pesticide products, objected to the ban) as opposed to a decision based in science. She offered her personal belief that the regulations are adequate, while citing no studies, research or statistics to counter the profound information previously presented. She advised that she takes her recommendations from the PMRA, who continue to state that 2,4D is safe, and yet, P.E.I. has banned it.

This suggests blind faith hasn’t been our policy concerning the PMRA, so it seems contradictory. However, the statement I found the most concerning from her was ‘The dose makes the poison’.

I could not disguise my shock. This Paracelsus quote dates back to the 1500’s and demonstrated the first early understandings of toxicology. However, more than 500 years later it’s safe to say his findings were rather primitive.

Even if we were to take this ancient observation as fact (which of course it isn’t), it leaves out of the equation the problem of bioaccumulation. And beyond that, we now know that many chemicals are more toxic at small amounts than they are in larger ones.

And that isn’t to speak of breakdown products, chemical degradation and countless other well documented realities to consider when dealing with chemicals. To simply say, ‘The dose makes the poison’ is a dangerous oversimplification, and rather insulting to the intelligence of those in audience.

Lynne Lund, Clinton

and http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-06-09/article-3756595/The-hazards-of-lawn-chemicals/1

The Hazards of Lawn Chemicals - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Monday, June 9th, 2014

Editor: In many municipalities, a sure sign of spring are the notices on residents’ doors indicating a chemical company intends to spray herbicides on a property within 25 metres.

These herbicides might be MCPA and Mecoprop (commonly called MCPP). Since the provincial government’s “ban” on cosmetic pesticides only extends to products containing 2,4-D, companies are still permitted to spray MCPA and MCPP, despite the fact that:

- The toxicity of MCPA is a topic of current research;

- MCPA has the potential to cause severe eye irritation;

- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. is requiring additional testing of the compound with regard to its potential to cause birth defects in two animal species;

- MCPA is moderately toxic to wildfowl;

- MCPA is slightly toxic to freshwater fish;

- MCPA is currently classified as a “restricted use” pesticide in the U.S.;

Regardless of whether a chemical product is “slightly” or “moderately” toxic, there is usually a certain degree of toxicity that is released through lawn spraying. Residents have to wonder whether these products are desirable in their communities, particularly where children are present, simply for the sake of having a greener lawn.

The National Academy of Sciences has reported that 50 per cent of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs in the first five years of a person’s life. Children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and their developing organs are less able to detoxify these chemicals.

In addition, the American Cancer Society has reported an increased risk for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when people are exposed to herbicides like MCPP, and exposure to herbicides for infants and toddlers significantly increases the risk of developing asthma.

It is high time that the provincial Department of the Environment began to better protect Islanders by extending its ban to cover all lawn poisons.

Peter Meggs, Cornwall


Here is a story about a kindly neighbour:


Cornwall resident offering free rides to transit meeting - The Guardian website article by Nigel Armstrong

Council to hear Wednesday if new system will replace T3 bus service

Published on The Guardian's website June 9, 2014

Nancy Riley is offering to help Cornwall residents who depend on transit get to a meeting this week about the future of the bus service.

At its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Cornwall council is expected to hear of an alternative system to keep it in the regional public transit grid.

Riley is asking residents to show up in force at the meeting to support the need for transit. She is offering to arrange a ride to and from the meeting for those that need it.

The number to call is 213-1270 to leave a message and from there some arrangement can be worked out, she said.

"It's crucial that we show the town council that we do really need a bus," said Riley.

People depend on transit "either because they don't' have transportation or are somewhat disabled and they can't drive," said Riley.

"I have a bad visual impairment and I don't have a licence either," said Riley. "I know there are a lot of other people that go on the bus that have modest income, that only have one car, or something."

Cornwall council voted last January to pull out of the T3 Transit system, which required six months notice so comes into effect the end of this month. ----------

Take care of each other,

June 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

June is a lovely month!

Two years ago, around this time, this was in Fairyland:

temporarily unable to upload :( check Stop Plan B facebook page for photo

From June 8, 2012, Ladyslipper along paths near surveyor's cut for Plan B, Fairyland, New Haven.

Last year:

From June 2013: Plan B in Fairyland (looking west).

You know what it looks like now!

Hope you can find some ladyslippers along a quiet path soon.

P.S. A lot going on tonight, between the Voluntary Resource Council's potluck and AGM,

5PM tonight, Central Christian Church Hall, 217 Kent Street. Romana Doyle, sustainability coordinator for the City of Charlottetown will be the guest speaker. All welcome. https://www.facebook.com/events/655858951175561/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

and there is a Citizens' Alliance meeting at 6PM at the Bonshaw Community Centre, all welcome to that!

June 8, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some Climate Change (or whatever it's called) articles to consider on a Sunday:

A 84-second cartoon on the history of climate change: http://youtu.be/B11kASPfYxY

Here is the text of a riveting speech made by Sandra Steingraber of Seneca Lake in New York State, a beautiful area in the gorgeous (and gorge-ful) Finger Lakes region. She gave it at the New Environmentalism Summit of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, on June 3rd. Worth a few minutes to enjoy her beautiful prose about an ugly problem. Note that the article is three pages long on the website.


From her speech, "A New Environmentalism for an Unfractured Future":

"Fracking is the problem that masquerades as a solution.

"Fracking is the deadly enabler that keeps the whole fossil fuel party going far past the time of its curfew."


This is a graphic of a map from Pennsylvania, just south of New York State, where the state motto, it seems, is "Frack, Baby, Frack" (Frange, Infans, Frange)

It shows areas of "unexpected loose gas" (methane) with accompanying explanations:



Event reminders for today:

Picnic at the beach, Cavendish, preceded by a walk at 10AM, picnic at noon to celebrate International Oceans' Day.


And a little history review tonight:

The re-launch of the book by Harry Baglole and David Weale, The end of an Era: Prince Edward Island's resistance to Confederation

7PM, The Irish Cultural Centre at 582 North River Road, Charlottetown (the old BIS)

June 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Today the Farmers' Markets are open, very likely with lots of greens, rhubarb, transplants of tomatoes and herbs for your garden, and more.

After the Charlottetown's Farmers' Market closes, from 2:30PM to 4PM, there is opening reception and talk regarding artist's Sarah Saunder's exhibit, Salt.  The gallery space is in the meeting area by the picnic tables inside, runs until July 19th, and is part of the "this town is small" project.  http://thistownissmall.com/small-town-market-gallery/

When not making intriguing art creations, or helping with a myriad of organizations and other endeavors, she was doing things like this:

Sarah Saunders (r) on an early morning in fall 2012 along the then-TCH, protesting Plan B, CO photo.


If you would rather be planting trees, volunteers at the Farm Centre will be doing just that, starting at about 2PM today.  Dress for the weather.

Tonight is the Island Peace Committee potluck, 6PM, at 305 North River Road.  Details are here:



I have forgotten to mention that next Thursday afternoon, June 12th, starting at 1PM, is a resumption of meetings of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry and will deal with the high capacity well issue, among other things.  It is in the Coles Building, next to Province House and those big "1864" numbers.

from the Legislative Assembly website:


"The committee will receive briefings on deep well irrigation from Cavendish Farms, the PEI Potato Board, the Institute for Bioregional Studies, and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club Canada; and on climate change and PEI's water supply from Dr. Adam Fenech. Other witnesses to be confirmed."

People are invited to be in the public gallery in the chairs in the back of the room.  Please see if you could stop in for any part of the afternoon, as it is good  for people to continue to show interest in this issue.


That evening at 7PM is  PUBLIC LECTURE: at UPEI, MacDougall Hall, Room 242, featuring keynote speaker Joanna Kerr, Executive Director of Greenpeace Canada, followed by an opening night networking event.

More on the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation's conference here in Charlottetown:http://www.acic-caci.org/our-work/acic-symposium-agm-2014.html

Friday afternoon (June 13th) at 3:45PM in Main Building, Room 211, Ms. Kerr is inviting those working on environmental issues to join an informal chat with her.

Contact Leo Cheverie at <leocheverie62@gmail.com> if you would like to come.

June 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

"The Ed Show" (that really loud guy with the MSNBC show who is actually more progressive than he first appears) has environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on his show to discuss the Obama carbon emissions order.
Kennedy is an environmental lawyer with the Riverkeeper organization, among other things.  Kennedy himself is a syndicated radio host (Ring of Fire); he has a laryngeal condition called spasmodic dysphonia, which you may notice in the Ed interview.

Today is the 46th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Robert F. Kennedy, Sr., in Los Angeles, after he won the California primary for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination; it is one of my earliest memories. One quote from him:

“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product...if we should judge the United States of America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
--Robert F. Kennedy, Sr., on national economic indicators

The University of Waterloo published this report, which The Tyee picked up on.

Canada's 500,000 Leaky Energy Wells: 'Threat to Public' - The Tyee article by Andrew Nikiforouk

Badly sealed oil and gas wellbores leak emissions barely monitored, experts find.

The full article is here: http://thetyee.ca/News/2014/06/05/Canada-Leaky-Energy-Wells/?utm_source=editor-tweet&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=050614

It ends with:

"Fixing leaking wellbores can be a financial nightmare for the industry. Plugging a faulty wellbore can cost $150,000, but in some problematic fields remediation costs can go as high as $600,000. One remote well in northern British Columbia cost $8 million to fix. And there is no guarantee of success.
The problem has become so extreme that report calls for better regulations, more accountable engineering and a national roadmap to "improve long-term wellbore integrity." (See sidebar.)
Oil and gas wells leak for a variety of reasons, but it's mostly a tale of about corrupted cement.
Over time, a cement seal in a wellbore can shrink, crack, degrade or be dissolved by acids. In addition steel casing often corrode as they age. Additives added to the cement by drillers can weaken the seal. Plugs used to cap abandoned wells typically experience significant degradation. In some cases local geological conditions such as shallow gravel beds or swelling clays also make cement seals difficult.
Oil prices dramatically impact the quality of cement seals on wellbores, too. During periods of high oil prices companies try to drill as many wells as fast they can with the result that "wellbore construction practices were negatively impacted." 

Yesterday's media reported that the 2014 Celebrations are costing the provincial government (and that would be us, the taxpayer) under $20million, with several more million pledged from the federal government and municipalities (also us  :-) .

from the notice:
"If you are weary of all the 1864 hoopla this could be good therapy"
Sunday, June 8th, 7PM, The Irish Cultural Centre at 582 North River Road, Charlottetown (the old BIS)
Book Re-launch:

The End of an Era: Prince Edward Island’s resistance to Confederation
by Harry Baglole and David Weale

"There will be some informative and thought-provoking talk...some wonderful music from Mary McGillvary...some snacks...an open bar...and a special $10 price on the book for those who show up. Come along...especially you former members of BSCH (that’s the Brothers and Sisters of Cornelius Howatt). Howatt will almost certainly be toasted at some point."

Have a nice damp day,

June 5, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Various news bits and letters:

The logging in Mexico isn't helping, but it's the Roundup Ready crops (and their ilk) that are killing off the monarch butterflies.

 (This is apparently due to herbicides killing all the plants -- including milkweed,  the main source of food for their beautiful larvae  -- but not the genetically modified crop.)


Very good letters in The Guardian yesterday:

A Grandfather's wish:


Children Deserve a Healthy Future - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 4th, 2014

Editor: I am the grandfather of two boys living in Stratford. As you can imagine, my hopes for them include the normal grandfather-type list of having a happy life blessed with a loving family, good friends, good education, peace and prosperity. But somewhere near the top of the list is good health.

Now I can have little control over some of my hopes for them; however, the factors surrounding their chances for good health are something that I, and indeed all of our society, have a responsibility to influence in order to ensure their health prospects are not jeopardized.

In particular, they should not be subject to the continued, government-approved poisoning of their local environment. The facts are clear. In Stratford chemical pesticide spraying increased 22 per cent in 2012 and the spraying of these carcinogenic chemicals occurs not only on front lawns, but next to playgrounds, daycares and school bus stops where children are regularly congregating.

For goodness sake, let us take some positive action. We need to follow the lead of other more enlightened municipalities and eliminate the use of cosmetic pesticides. Who really wants a green lawn at the expense of our children’s health?

Sandy Kerr, Gladstone

And focussing on several threats to water:


Action Needed Not More Talk - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Printed on June 4th, 2014

Editor: My family and I attended the recent public symposium on water at UPEI.

The raising of public awareness on steps that should be taken to protect the future of our water needs is important, but change needs to be implemented — now. Please, no more passionate discussions, debates or research projects.

We know all we need to know right now, We need to stop jeopardizing our groundwater with the annual barrage of pesticides that are applied to our land across the province.    

Pesticides are designed to kill organisms. They are toxic to many life forms and residues accumulate in the food chain.

Pesticides don’t remain on farm fields, lawns and gardens; rather runoff carries them into nearby streams, rivers and groundwater. These water bodies are the source of our drinking water. Children are especially at risk from pesticides and are much more susceptible to these chemicals than adults.  

It is time for P.E.I. to implement a comprehensive ‘cosmetic pesticide ban act’ to ban the use and sale of lawn and garden pesticides. Many other provinces, such as British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario, have lead the way in this legislation.  

For example, in Ontario the cosmetic use of 82 pesticide active ingredients is prohibited, along with the sale of 295 products containing these chemicals. The challenge for these provinces now is ensuring the effective implementation and enforcement of the ban. If Prince Edward Island follows the lead of these provinces it would be much easier to implement and enforce the ban because of the very small size of our province.

After this small step, the province can then set its sights on the more pressing issue of industrial agriculture and the use of pesticides. A P.E.I. potato destined for the dinner table is subjected to 20 applications of pesticides.  

Is it really worth risking the health of our groundwater, rivers, animal and human health so that Irving processing plants can make money selling French fries? This summer, let’s stop talking about these issues and let’s start acting.

Andrea McVean, Charlottetown

And to paraphrase philosopher George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."


Big Debt Load Brings Dark Cloud - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on June 4th, 2014

Editor: P.E.I. joined Confederation in 1873 because of huge railway debts so they faced commission government or joining Canada as a province.

When Ottawa offered loans to refinance the railway, P.E.I. agreed to join as a province and was saved from bankruptcy.

In 1966, Alex B. Campbell won a close election and discovered the province was broke and faced commission government again. Instead, he negotiated with Ottawa to stay as a province in return for the multi-million-dollar Development Plan.

The plan would upgrade Island systems and upgrade Islanders’ education and business skills. He helped bring Islanders into the 20th and 21st centuries so they learned how to compete in world markets and survive as a province.

Premier Campbell remained in power for 12 years until 1978 and established one university and consolidated more than 100 school boards into five regional school boards, but today there are only two left. The Island school system was so far behind it still hasn’t caught up to the rest of Canada.

Today, Premier Ghiz has been in power for seven years but is still unable to balance the budget due to Ottawa cuts and wasteful Liberal spending. If the government fails to balance the budget soon we may be faced with commission government again, since history does repeat itself.

David Steeves, Charlottetown

A very dark cloud:
Tiananmen Square happened 25 years ago.
Photos of the "heartbreakingly young, earnest and happy" protesters, with one distressing one after the crackdown.
I was horrified then, and still am, and find I buy way too much stuff made in China.

June 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

There is a lot going on in the next couple of weeks, very social almost-summery events  ---

Thursday, June 5th, 7PM, Haviland Club, corner of Water and Haviland Streets
"Connect Meeting" for Leadnow.ca, "to discuss strategy for promoting electoral reform heading into the next federal election"

Thursday, June 5th, 7PM, Mavor's, Confederation Centre of the Arts
NDP Social
Facebook event page

You can only be in one place at a time.  Maybe it could be kind of progressive pub crawl.

Friday, June 6th, 6:30PM, The Haviland Club, corner of Water and Haviland Streets
"Let Them Eat Cake! An evening of art, music and delicious cakes"
a fundraiser for the Rock Barra Artist Retreat Co-op summer concert series.  Minimum donation $10
more information about Rock Barra Retreat

"Come sample the cakes, bid on beautiful island art, and hear some great music with Teresa Doyle, Jon Redher and Larque....

Can't attend? Donations and volunteering for the co-op are always appreciated."

Sunday, June 8th, starting at 10AM, (Beach walk, picnic starting about noon), Cavendish Beach at PEI National Park.
Picnic at the Shore, hosted by SOSS (Save Our Seas and Shores)
Facebook event page

Sunday evening, I misplaced the details, I think there is an event regarding the reprinting of the book: The End of an Era -- Prince Edward Island's Resistance to Confederation by Harry Baglole and David Weale

Monday, June 9th, 6PM, Bonshaw Community Centre,
Citizens' Alliance meeting, all welcome!

Thursday, June 12, 7PM, UPEI, MacDougall Hall, Room 242
Free public presentation by Greenpeace Executive Director, Joanna Kerr
“How to be courageous on a planet in crisis”
This presentation is the opening of the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation annual symposium.

(related) Thursday, June 12 to Saturday, June 14th, UPEI
Atlantic Council for International Cooperation Annual Symposium and AGM
"The theme of this year’s conference is  “Making Connections: Cooperating for a Sustainable Future” which aims to increase dialogue and make connections not only among individuals, but also between the issues and the actions necessary to create a sustainable future, both locally and globally.   The Friday program will open with a panel discussion, continue with concurrent workshops and culminate in a gala evening event. The symposium wraps up on Saturday morning with more workshops and a closing plenary."
For more information: http://www.acic-caci.org/our-work/symposium-agm-registration-is-now-open.html

Tuesday, June 17th, 7:30PM, Silver Fox Curling Club, Summerside
Video presentation of Elizabeth May's Mallory Lecture, "The Crisis in Democracy".  "In order to expand the discussion around the state of Canada's democracy PEI Leadnow and Fair Vote Canada will host a video presentation of Elizabeth May's Mallory Lecture, The Crisis in Democracy, followed by a panel discussion....Vote Canada and Lead Now have called for changes to the electoral system in order to better reflect the views and needs of Canadians and prevent parties that achieve a minority of the general vote from attaining a majority of the power. "

June 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Yesterday, U.S. President Obama ordered cuts in carbon emission, which is something, at least.   The Canadian government's response appeared to be well-rehearsed about what a fantastic job Canada is already doing.

Here is a two minute clip from the next episode of the new Cosmos series.  Host Neil DeGrasse-Tyson explains the difference between weather and climate as part of the program on climate change.  Though a lot of people have a good idea about all that, I am glad there is someone taking on the mantle of Carl Sagan as a "The Science Whisperer":
Besides, the chocolate labrador retriever is so cute to watch frolicking around.

But what's in a name?  Are Climate Change and Global Warming interchangeable, and do people respond to one over the other?
Despite the skeptical name of this website, it is not a climate change-denier.  It understands global warming and climate change, but it is trying to interpret if one term got changed:

This is also interesting:  we all need to "Frame the Name" better:

A tongue-in-cheek (but pulling no punches) description of new names for global warming, from The New Yorker. Don't spew your coffee:
Tonight is the monthly meeting of Nature PEI (another name change! It's also Natural History Society of PEI).  Avid birder, photographer, and wonderfully humorous Sharon Clark is giving the presentation "Pretty Pictures of Birds."  Tuesday, June 3rd at 7:30 PM at Beaconsfield, the Carriage House, Corner of West and Kent Streets, Charlottetown.  Admission is free and all are welcome.

Also, on CBC Radio's national radio news and Island Morning will be discussing radon gas in Canada and PEI.  Something we could all find out a lot more about.

June 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Fine weather for being outside!  It's a nice time for hiking around, despite the blackflies. ;-)    Someone asked what happened to the plaque which was dramatically unveiled by our Premier for Prince Charles a couple of weeks ago at the Bonshaw Provincial Park (the newly sodded one).    The pedestal is still there.

Thanks to a certain birder who perhaps was also capturing the new swallows' nestbox, Bonshaw Provincial Park, June 1, 2014. (Taken from Facebook.)

Various theories abound, but perhaps the most likely it that is it being kept clean and dry until the rest of the park is ready. The unveiling of the plaque, complete with the gaggle of politicians walking a newly cut muddy trail in their Sunday Best with Royal Guest (Prize?), was just too good a re-election brochure opportunity, even if a bit premature for a trail system unveiling.

The website of the Bonshaw Hills Public Lands Committee has been updated:


and includes the information that the new committee of seven from the original group has been working on the recommendations, one of which is the amalgamation of lands for an expanding trail network.

The new subcommittee members are here:


and I got this update recently from co-chair Brian Thompson of TIR:

On 2014-05-07 9:34 AM, Brian Thompson wrote:

Hi Chris.  Most recently, members of the subcommittee provided a presentation to Provincial Deputy Ministers on the Report recommendation for NAPA protection of lands, and initial work has been done by subcommittee members on drafting NAPA management plans for the same lands.  The bio-inventory work on identified lands is scheduled to begin next week and will continue for the summer; this information will be used in preparation for developing working management plans for each property.  Negotiations have been ongoing with the owners of private lands that would be desirable to incorporate into the expanded park, and these discussions will of course remain confidential respecting their privacy.  Discussions have been ongoing within the subcommittee and with design engineers on the pedestrian underpass that will be located under the Bonshaw Bridge and will provide the connection for lands located on both sides of the TCH, as well as the replacement footbridge that will cross the river up closer to Crosby's - we are considering options for recovering and reusing Island stone that were part of the original bridge across the river in the to-be-built footbridge.  Discussions have been ongoing with Provincial Tourism regarding various aspects of the expanded park concept, as well as the "naturalization" of some areas at the Strathgartney Park property. 

We may be installing a link on the TIR webpage that will provide periodic updates on the subcommittee's progress.  

(NAPA means Natural Areas Protection Act

http://www.gov.pe.ca/forestry/NAPA  )

And Megan Harris (also on the committee representing the West River Watershed Group) mentioned on CBC Radio Friday morning about public consultations on the proposed park ideas, consultations were in the recommendations (found on the Bonshawhills link above).  Yes, area residents and the public would like to see, and of course should see, what is being proposed. 

Bringing back picnic tables, barbecues, trash cans, and some playground equipment vacuumed up for the Prince's visit to Bonshaw Provincial Park as soon as possible for this summer would be a move.

June 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Back to the Pesticide Forum from Thursday night:

The short version (with a longer version below):

Panelists Roger Gordon and Bill Whelan understand the irrefutable evidence that exposure to certain chemicals sprayed on lawns to kill dandelions or cinch-bugs causes certain types of cancer in humans. Roger, through the scientist's lens, and Bill, through the work of the Canadian Cancer Society, each described clear links between exposure to what are truly optional lawn care choices and what become optionless, life-altering, fatal disease.

The Department of Environment representative, Erin Taylor, who is listed on the department's website as Manager of Climate Change and Air Quality ,said she has complete faith in the determination of safety by the federal government's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). Complete faith. She demurred making any comment on the cancer studies, citing that she is not a health care professional; nor on the Municipalities Act, saying that is not her department.

(The PMRA is not without its conundrums and critiques. A major one is that a lot of the information about a pesticide comes from the manufacturing company. Here is a little more (from a slightly biased source, but the statements made are accurate) about the PMRA: http://www.flora.org/healthyottawa/pmra-fs-6.htm )

The province through the Department of the Environment has the right to regulate buffer zones but declines to do anything about it. They appear to be much more interested in protecting pesticide applicators (which is admirable but also tells you how dangerous the stuff is they are using) than in protecting the general public, including the more vulnerable residents like children and the elderly. Ms. Taylor also said the MPRA guidelines were reviewed regularly (but other reading suggests a very long time line between reviews), and adjusted as necessary.

It appears to be a case of "willful blindness."

Here is a link -- a worthwhile 14:39 minutes, of a TED talk about willful blindness. https://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_the_dangers_of_willful_blindness

The last panelist was Jamie Simpson, of the East Coast Environmental Law Association. He knows a great deal about the background on municipalities regarding these kinds of by-laws, and knew there is no clear answer in the law; but felt a test case was always a good way to go.

The longer notes (very haphazard, with my apologies):
The panelists each knew their fields -- Roger Gordon in his illustrated part, titled "Science and Common Sense: say 'no' to cosmetic pesticides", clearly, clearly pointed out the validated research linking pesticides with certain cancers and other illnesses; he also gave a visual primer on exactly what we mean by pesticides and who's who of what's sprayed on PEI lawns.  He provided the background that:
Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec have comprehensive bans on cosmetic pesticides,
BC and Saskatchewan have no bans but debate and heavy public support,
Alberta only bans the mixed herbicide/fertilizer combos that "weed and feed,"
and New Brunswick and PEI just ban one chemical, 2,4-D.

Right now the commonly used herbicides (plant-killer) on lawns treated are either "Mecoprop" or "MCPA", both of which are very related to 2,4-D, imitating plant growth hormones to cause out of control growth (which causes blockages of its nutrient system and then death).  The most common insecticide is "Sevin" (carbaryl, an ACE inhibitor, and we *all* have acetylcholine we may or may not need to be inhibiting....)

Short term effects are things like chemical irritations -- of the skin, lungs, but usually not long lasting.

Long term effects are most troubling,  and now that we have the technology to measure things: these pesticides can impair clotting, reproduction, or the immune system; cause genetic damage and are definitely linked to non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of lymphocyte white blood cells, and other cancers.

The "definitely linked" proof (my words) are not just cherry-picked or from biased organizations: Retrospective studies have to be used, since it is (fortunately) considered unethical to experiment on humans (though many feel that is what is happening when our neighbours spray).   (Roger described "meta analysis", where many separate but similar studies are combined to look for patterns and check their statistical significance.) These retrospectives show meta analysis of a large number of studies on cancer trends: over 11 years showed non-Hodgkins leukemia other leukemias.  Another meta analysis from 2003-2011 showed lower fetal weight and birth defects, and something about a much higher    "Odds Ratio" of 1.5or 2-- meaning a person is between 50% or 100% more likelyto get certain cancers.

            Roger reminded us that inert ingredients in commercial formulations amplify the potency of the chemical.

Finally, he ended his section with these "By the way" thoughts:
Children are more sensitive to pesticides than adults – closer to toxins, take in more per pound of body weight.

Gordon feels we need to protect our children, and finished with: “Bring in the precautionary principle, and ban cosmetic pesticides.”

Catherine O’Brien, the excellent moderator, mentioned the FAQ page on the Department of Environment website which clearly states that the province requires no buffer zones next to playgrounds, or any other public space.

Bill Whelan, a professor at UPEI specializing in  biomedical optics with a special emphasis on cancer diagnosis, and past president of the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), spoke next.
The CCS calls for complete ban on cosmetic pesticides, citing they cause no benefit and may cause harm.  They have been calling for this for the past five years.  The past five years.

CCS review of current literature focuses on human epidemiological studies.  This contrasts to regulatory studies (which focus on animals in testing situations and extrapolation done).  CCS looks at occupations, too. Prostate and kidney cancer have associations, but not as strong as links to NHL, malignant melanoma, brain tumours. 

Bill also discussed the Precautionary Principle. He reminded us of how health professionals declared no harm from smoking.

Organochlorine pesticides thought safe for a while, until effects determined, and they were finally banned in this country.   

He really feels we can’t afford to wait any longer for a ban.

He shared general tips for reducing exposure to pesticides:

Keep children and pets away from lawns for 24 hours.

All individuals stay indoors when spraying

Wash ALL fruits and vegetables.

CCS has tool kit as far as looking at alternatives for healthy lawns -- call their office at 566-4007 .

Bill finished by reminding us that it takes a while for studies to make links with these chemicals, and in the meantime a lot of people die.

(Two acronyms are treated with much reverence on the part of bureaucrats: the MDSS (Material Data Safety Sheet) tells the short term side effects.  The federal PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) says what is OK and what isn't. There are concerns from other quarters about where the PMRA gets their material on the safety studies, which I believe is from the manufacturers.)

Jamie Simpson from ECELAW (East Coast Environmental Law) spoke next.  He is a lawyer, logger and author. He reminded us that you have to
act locally to effect real change.

As the issue last night was the regulation of cosmetic pesticides – 1286 municipalities have brought in by-laws.  Jamie talked about the community of Hudson, Quebec, which in the 1990s enacted a bylaw to restrict cosmetic pesticides.  Lawn companies took the town to court.  In 2001, the Supreme Court said the town *does* have the right.  Law is not static, it evolves, so there are no clear cut answers sometimes.  A legal opinion is an opinion.  And for an opinion one way or another, the judge has to be more than 50% sure of the answer in one direction.

Courts are showing more and more deference to municipalities’ desires and wishes (the voters!).


Mike Redmond was there, Darcie Lantheir from the Green Party.  No other politicians.  Not even Richard Brown, who was Environment Minister when the provincial ban against 2,4-D was put in place.  Some environmental department officials.  No media that looked like mainstream media.

 During questions:

Erin Taylor clarified that some BC municipalities have enacted their own by-laws -- she has in her remarks made it look like only a minority of provinces were interested in banning cosmetic pesticides, which Roger Gordon spoke up to clarify.   She would not speak on the Municipalities Act but I thought she said, “We support communities that want to ask for a ban.”

 Jamie Simpson reminded the audience Squeaky wheel gets the grease,

A municipality could enact a bylaw, it could be challenged.  But people do need to ask the province to amend legislation.  The wording of the Quebec municipalities act includes the wording that municipalities can make bylaws based on a lot of reasons, including the "health" of residents.

Everyone agreed (well, maybe not the person not able to discuss health concerns) that a cancer epidemiologist  would be helpful.

As usual, questions from the audience explored more:
Gary Schneider asked the logic puzzle of why PEI banned 2,4-D when the PMRA has not restricted it.

It would seem the Faith on the Bible of PMRA is eroded.

Roger skewered government using the justification of science with other studies for other issues or reasons, and these being political decisions.

Darcie:  Risk, risk, risk and no benefit.

 Edith Perry:  We are not happy with these politics.  Real leadership is needed.  

 A young woman mentioned that the Canadian Association for Physicians for the Environment had met here recently and was all for a ban.

 She asked if cancer numbers dropped after pesticide bans in Canada?  Bill said there is no hard numbers since bans are so new.  In Europe NHL cases decreased after certain pesticides.

That's when he said: It takes decades to get those numbers but in the meantime a lot people die.

 Ifo Ikede said that he shouldn’t be part of an experiment without his persmisson.  And that we need to follow the money.


So those are the notes that stuck with me.  Lots more to discuss and plan on this one.


Take care, enjoy the dandelions,