January-February-March 2014


  1. 1 March 31, 2014
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  2. 2 March 30, 2014
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 2.2 Bubbling springs weak to zero - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  3. 3 March 29, 2014
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  4. 4 March 28, 2014
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  5. 5 March 27, 2014
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 5.2 High capacity wells issue goes much deeper - The Guardian Commentary by Peter Bevan-Baker
  6. 6 March 26, 2014
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  7. 7 March 25, 2014
    1. 7.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 7.2 More remediation needed on streams - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  8. 8 March 24, 2014
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 8.2 Crews Try to Contain Oil Spill in Galveston Bay - Associated Press article by Christopher Sherman
  9. 9 March 23, 2014
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 9.2 Echoes of Walkerton in Environment Canada cuts - The Star Guest Opinion by Thomas Duck
    3. 9.3 Small Island canʼt risk wells- The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 9.4 A longer fry really the key - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  10. 10 March 22, 2014
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 10.2 P.E.I. Potato Board heralds environmental record -The Guardian article
    3. 10.3 True impact of wells remains to be done - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 10.4 Protection from pesticides? Afraid not - The Guardian Commentary by Joan Diamond
  11. 11 Farmers' Markets are open today.
  12. 12 March 21, 2014
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 12.2 Causeways back then, deep-water wells now - The Guardian A Reader's View by Bob Crockett
  13. 13 March 20, 2014
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 13.2 Watershed groups call for extension - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 13.3 Irony abounds in toilet flow - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 13.4 Chicago confronts dirty bonanza of Canadian tar sand boom - Financial Times article by Neil Munshi
  14. 14 March 19, 2014
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 14.2 Province needs water management plan - The Guardian A Reader's View by Fiep de Bie
    3. 14.3 Testing Energy institute to spend $500,000 over two years to develop water quality baselines in four areas in southern New Brunswick that are earmarked for possible shale gas development -  Telegraph-Journal article by John Chilibeck
  15. 15 March 18, 2014
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  16. 16 March 17, 2014
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 16.2 Mother Earth in danger from deep-water wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 16.3 Potato danger all-consuming - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 16.4 Potato processors bargain through blackmail - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    5. 16.5 Three things spark our pride - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    6. 16.6 LAND GRABBING - The Carver Commission report (pages 30-32)
  17. 17 March 16, 2014
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  18. 18 March 15, 2014
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  19. 19 March 14, 2014
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 19.2 CETA: Yet another threat to democracy - The Guardian Commentary by Marie Burge
    3. 19.3 New coalition in Prince Edward Island concerned over Canada- Europe trade deal - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  20. 20 March 13, 2014
    1. 20.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 20.2 Potato processors enter water debate as stakes increase - The Guardian Lead Editorial
  21. 21 March 12, 2014
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  22. 22 March 11, 2014
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 22.2 Province commits up to $212,000 to bring company to Prince Edward Island - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  23. 23 March 10, 2014
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 23.2 Will common sense trump misleading scientific claims on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Kevin J. Arsenault
  24. 24 March 9, 2014
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 24.2 Deep-water wells will spray radon into air - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  25. 25 March 7, 2014
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  26. 26 March 6, 2014
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  27. 27 March 5, 2014
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 27.2 Unique approach to selling wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  28. 28 March 4, 2014
    1. 28.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 28.2 Get this right the first time - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  29. 29 March 3, 2014
    1. 29.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  30. 30 March 2, 2014
    1. 30.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 30.2 Listen to people, not big business - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 30.3 West Prince facing danger - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  31. 31 March 1, 2014
    1. 31.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 31.2 Government must build trust on deep-water well issue - The Guardian Letter to the Day
  32. 32 February 28, 2014
    1. 32.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 32.2 Activists raise raise concern over deep-well irrigation to P.E.I. MLAs - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
    3. 32.3 Protecting P.E.I.'s groundwater is not debatable - The Guardian Commentary by Alan Hicken
  33. 33 February 27, 2014
    1. 33.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  34. 34 February 26, 2014
    1. 34.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  35. 35 February 25, 2014
    1. 35.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  36. 36 February 24, 2014
    1. 36.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 36.2 Chan deserves better treatment -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 36.3 Leave pools out of water debate - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  37. 37 February 23, 2014
    1. 37.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 37.2 Processors benefit from more potatoes - The Guardian Letter to the Editor 
    3. 37.3 Exxon CEO Joins Lawsuit Against Fracking Project Because It Will Devalue His $5 Million Property - By Rebecca Leber
  38. 38 February 22, 2014
    1. 38.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 38.2 Man should not drill into aquifer - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  39. 39 February 21, 2014
    1. 39.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  40. 40 February 20, 2014
    1. 40.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 40.2 New Brunswick seeks Atlantic Accord of its own for unexplored offshore - The Canadian Press by Kevin Bissett
  41. 41 February 19, 2014
    1. 41.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 41.2 Farmers split on Agricultural Growth Act National: Farmers Union opposed to restrictions on seed use - CBC News website article
  42. 42 February 18, 2014
    1. 42.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  43. 43 February 17, 2014
    1. 43.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 43.2 CETA trade deal still shrouded in tight secrecy - The Guardian Commentary by Scott Sinclair
  44. 44 February 16, 2014
    1. 44.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 44.2 Corridor soars on TSX after deal inked - The Chronicle-Herald article by Brett Bundale, Business Reporter
    3. 44.3 Cuts to science affect environmental protection - The Guardian Guest Opinion
  45. 45 February 15, 2014
    1. 45.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 45.2 Thirsty producers always want more - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 45.3 No decision has been made on deep-well irrigation: Sherry - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  46. 46 February 14, 2014
    1. 46.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  47. 47 February 13, 2014
    1. 47.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 47.2 More pressure on environment - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  48. 48 February 12, 2014
    1. 48.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 48.2 Questions remain on deep-water wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  49. 49 February 11, 2014
    1. 49.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  50. 50 February 10, 2014
    1. 50.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 50.2 Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing - The Guardian Commentary by David A. McGregor, Stratford
    3. 50.3 Alewife makes ‘crystal clear’ commitment to destroy the environment - The Daily Glove Puppet.com
  51. 51 February 9, 2014
    1. 51.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 51.2 Minister should not give in to potato lobby - The Guardian Letter of the Day by Roger Gordon
    3. 51.3 Debate not needed on deep wells issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  52. 52 February 8, 2014
    1. 52.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 52.2 TOO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK: THAT IS THE QUESTION - Rural Delivery magazine by Jack MacAndrew
  53. 53 February 7, 2014
    1. 53.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 53.2 Pave will wave so pave the wave - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  54. 54 February 6, 2014
    1. 54.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 54.2 Call for lobbyists to testify leads to fiery debate - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
    3. 54.3 Using more water wonʼt help matters - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  55. 55 February 5, 2014
    1. 55.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 55.2 Industry reports of deep-water wells still "opinion, not science." - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie
    3. 55.3 Deep-water wells in province's hands - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt
  56. 56 February 4, 2014
    1. 56.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 56.2 Rocky "Plan B" road only temporary, province says - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross
  57. 57 February 3, 2014
    1. 57.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  58. 58 February 2, 2014
    1. 58.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 58.2 Deep water well issue may go to public consultation - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt
    3. 58.3 Canada must keep door-to-door postal delivery - The Guardian Guest Opinion By Herb Dickieson
  59. 59 February 1, 2014
    1. 59.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 59.2 No reason yet to trust industry - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  60. 60 January 31, 2014
    1. 60.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 60.2 Why should we support request where resource put further at risk? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Mike Durant
  61. 61 January 30, 2014
    1. 61.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 61.2 Deep wells, fracking draw heritage farm ire - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 61.3 P.E.I. potato industryʼs grab for more water doesnʼt pass smell test - The Guardian Commentary by Todd Depuis
  62. 62 January 29, 2014
    1. 62.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 62.2 Sherry tips her hand on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 62.3 Ag federation faces decision on deep wells - The Guardian Editorial
  63. 63 January 28, 2014
    1. 63.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 63.2 CSAs a Way to Connect Directly with Local Food Producers - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay
  64. 64 January 27, 2014
    1. 64.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 64.2 Canada Post eliminates P.E.I. postmarks -The Guardian Opinion by Andy Walker
  65. 65 January 25, 2014
    1. 65.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 65.2 Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 65.3 Bermuda provides lesson on water use - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 65.4 Innovations needed to aid transparency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  66. 66 January 24, 2014
    1. 66.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  67. 67 January 23, 2014
    1. 67.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 67.2 Time for responsible farmers, citizens to step up - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Dale Small
    3. 67.3 Will tourists still visit our fair province? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  68. 68 January 22, 2014
    1. 68.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 68.2 Deep-water well issue more than sufficiency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  69. 69 January 21, 2014
    1. 69.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 69.2 Premier Ghiz has everything in hand - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  70. 70 January 20, 2014
    1. 70.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 70.2 The fracking debate - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross
  71. 71 January 19, 2014
    1. 71.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 71.2 Deep-well irrigation not well understood, says professor - The Guardian article by Nigel Armstrong
    3. 71.3 Does potato board have the mandate? - The Guardian letter to the Editor
    4. 71.4 Whatʼs the difference with deep-water wells, or aquifier fracking? - The Guardian Editorial
  72. 72 January 18, 2014
    1. 72.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 72.2 Liberals must support water -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 72.3 Charlottetown getting Walmart Supercentre - The Guardian article by Dave Stewart
  73. 73 January 17, 2014
    1. 73.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 73.2 Short-term pain, long-term pain? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  74. 74 January 16, 2014
    1. 74.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 74.2 Deep-water wells jeopardize supply - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 74.3 Defining difference in promise vs. lie - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    4. 74.4 CETA trade benefits grossly exaggerated - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  75. 75 January 15, 2014
    1. 75.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  76. 76 January 14, 2014
    1. 76.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 76.2 Deep water wells already an issue? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  77. 77 January 13, 2014
    1. 77.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update:
  78. 78 January 12, 2014
    1. 78.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  79. 79 January 11, 2014
    1. 79.1 14 Food Resolutions for 2014 - by Danielle Nierenberg
  80. 80 January 10, 2014
    1. 80.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  81. 81 January 9, 2014
    1. 81.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 81.2 Acreage disappears in farming statistics -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 81.3 Family farm in spotlight by UN decree - The Guardian Editorial
  82. 82 January 8, 2014
    1. 82.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 82.2 Reinventing Progressive Politics - by Murray Dobbin, rabble.ca
    3. 82.3 Nuclear power best option for reliable electricity - The Guardian Letter of the Day
  83. 83 January 7, 2014
    1. 83.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 83.2 Farm Centre Associationʼs planting seeds of a Legacy Farm - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay
  84. 84 January 6, 2014
    1. 84.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 84.2 That was the year that was…2013’s highs and lows - Elizabeth May's blog
  85. 85 January 4, 2014
    1. 85.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 85.2 Electoral democracy, salesmanship, or the games people play - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Marie Burge
  86. 86 January 3, 2014
    1. 86.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 86.2 Why Ruin a Good Thing - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  87. 87 January 2, 2014
    1. 87.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 87.2 Let's celebrate the gifts of winter - David Suzuki's blog
  88. 88 January 1, 2014
    1. 88.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 88.2 Task Force interested in Islandersʼ viewpoints - The Guardian Letter of the Day
    3. 88.3 Sorry, but that’s all for 2013 folks - The Eastern Graphic "The view from Here" by Jack MacAndrew 

March 31, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 30, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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


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

Published on March 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony Lloyd, Mount Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 29, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few changes/additions to the events listed yesterday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Brian Hurley,

Local Area Manager – PEI

Canada Post

200 Maple Hills Avenue

Charlottetown, PEI  C1C 0S9

mentioning you feelings about all the changes to Canada Post. 

The new rates are:

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

Well, sorry to end on a grouchy note!

March 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two art events:

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

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

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

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

March 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

An announcement to postpone or go ahead should be here.

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

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

Published on March 26, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 26, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

New PEI Road Atlas and closeup

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

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

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

screenshot of DRAFT agenda

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

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

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

From the website:

Register as a Stakeholder (bold mine)

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

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

March 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

Published on March 24, 2014

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

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

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

David MacCallum, Charlottetown

And some more events:


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

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

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

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

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

Have a great pre-storm day!

March 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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


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

March 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A usual (long) Sunday mixture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from Friday's Guardian,  from Ralph MacDonald:

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

Published on March 21, 2014

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

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

Ralph MacDonald, Borden-Carleton

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

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

Published on March 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Carl Mathis, Charlottetown

Upcoming event:

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

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

Great to see groups with similar interests working together!!

Have a good Sunday,
Chris O.,

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

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

March 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

Link: Guardian heralds Potato Board

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

image copyright PEI Potato Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethany Doyle's letter:

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

Published on March 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Published on March 21, 2014

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

Joan Diamond is a rural Islander who lives in Fairview


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

Farmers' Markets are open today.

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

March 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on February 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Crockett, Charlottetown

March 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A letter on the high capacity well issue, from last week:  http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-03-10/article-3643218/Watershed-groups-call-for-extension/1

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

Published on March 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

Another letter, short and observant:

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

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

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

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

Katie McInnis, Stratford

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

Financial Times, March 19, 2014

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

By Neil Munshi in Chicago

Published on March 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

News and letters:

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

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

Published on March 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiep de Bie,
Island Nature Trust,
Board of Directors

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

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

Impact of shale gas development on groundwater to be studied

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


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

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

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

Published on March 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


And an event I forgot to mention:

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

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

more details:  https://www.facebook.com/events/765235563487949/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

March 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Lots going on this week!


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

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

It's World Water Day:

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

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

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

March 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

Published on March 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Published on March 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Wayne MacKinnon, Marshfield

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

Published on March 12, 2014

A Readers View

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

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

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

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

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

Carol Capper, Summerside

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

Published on March 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melvin Reeves, Kensington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was from pages 30-32 of the Commissioner's report, found at http://www.gov.pe.ca/lpa/ The link to the report is around the middle of the page.

Happy St. Patrick's day!

March 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

Oh, so it's OK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Amazingly clear analysis and strong words. 

March 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

Fairyland culvert, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water Issues, about all that "recharge" --

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published on March 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marie Burge, Cooper Institute

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

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

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

Published on March 06, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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


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

Published on March 12, 2014 in The Guardian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and tomorrow is also:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

It is a familiar lesson.

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

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

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

Woo, what a line-up!!  
Of course, do consider attending if you can.
This page has the listing and link to the agenda.  As soon as I hear anything about the meeting being postponed, I will pass it on.  http://www.assembly.pe.ca/meetings/index.php?shownumber=332

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

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

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

March 11, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Many different topics:

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

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

Published on March 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

Kevin J. Arsenault is one of these people.


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

Published on March 06, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

He writes (bold mine):

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

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

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


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


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

More about those Environmental Exemptions tomorrow.

March 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Letters regarding the high capacity well issue

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

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

Published on March 06, 2014

A readerʼs view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony Lloyd, Mount Stewart

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

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

Their recommendations to the committee include that the government:

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

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

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

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

Compass, lead story

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


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

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

Also, on Thursday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Project Trade Show 1:30 - 2PM

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

Friday, March 14th

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

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

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

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

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

March 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few dates to keep in mind:

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding the Lands Protection Act recommendations from Horace Carver:

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

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

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

March 5, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

Published on March 04, 2014

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

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

Carol Capper,  Summerside

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

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

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

March 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

Published on February 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to the Land:

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

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

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

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

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

CETA News:

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

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

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

March 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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

from http://www.gov.pe.ca/lpa/  page 18

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

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

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

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

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

March 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

Published on March 01, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Prince facing danger - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on March 01, 2014

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

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

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

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

Nitrates leached into our drinking water. Then what?

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

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

Gary A. O. MacKay, Birch Hill

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

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

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

Carver also outlined shared values he determined and felt all parties, whether for increases in land holding or not, would agree with:
from  http://www.gov.pe.ca/lpa/
page 16 and 17 (quoted in blue)

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

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

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

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

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

March 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rob MacLean, Lewes

Happy March!

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

To recap (and my errors are my own), Horace Carver is a Charlottetown lawyer, background here: http://www.peildo.ca/fedora/repository/leg:27472  who was a Conservative MLA from 1978 to 1986, during which time Alex Campbell, Bennett Campbell, Angus MacLean, and James Lea were Premier.

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

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

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

OK, more tomorrow on it

February 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

What an interesting 24 hours it has been!

The presentation from the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water was well (ha) received at the Standing Committee yesterday, and it was great to see so many concerned Islanders in the guest section.

From Friday's Guardian (article below):

Compass from last night had a bit on the standing committee and on the forum Wednesday night, about 3:30 into the program:

Attached is the submission to the Committee.

The Standing Committee decided to extend its meeting hours to 1-5PM for Thursdays March 6th, 13th and 27th, to fit in the number of concerned groups.  If people are able and interested, they could consider attending other presentations.  Next Thursday the four groups presenting are the National Farmers Union, the Watershed Alliance, the Central Queens Wildlife Federation/West River Watershed Association, and Innovative Farms Groups, the last of which presented for lifting the moratorium at the Watershed Alliance workshop in November.

Alan Hicken, who was the chair of the Environment Minister's Environmental Advisory Council, writes about keeping the moratorium in yesterday's paper (also in full below):

[As an aside, I wrote to Mr. Hicken and the Environmental Environment Council (EAC) in spring of 2012 about Plan B's environmental concerns, including the shale pit that suddenly appeared; and weeks later I got a letter from the new chair Robert Davies saying the EAC didn't do any investigative work and they were looking forward to the EIA report on Plan B.]

And you may have noticed another "Lesson" from the P.E.I. Potato Board on the subject of high capacity wells in yesterday's Guardian on page A-5.  It reads so sweetly. (we'll try to get a scanned image if you haven't seen it)

Activists raise raise concern over deep-well irrigation to P.E.I. MLAs - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Guardian on-line on February 27, print edition Feb 28th, 2014

A coalition made up of 16 groups and over 200 individuals from across P.E.I. urged MLAs Thursday to keep the current moratorium on deep-well irrigation in place.

The newly formed Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water made an impassioned presentation Thursday to a provincial standing committee currently holding hearings on the issue of deep-water wells.

Coalition spokeswoman Catherine OʼBrien told the MLAs on the committee more extensive public consultation and review must take place Protection of P.E.I. Water make a case against before any move is made to allow more of lifing the moratorium on deep-well irrigation to these wells to be drilled.

“It is imperative that respect for protecting fresh water be at the forefront of these discussions,” OʼBrien said.
“P.E.I. is one of only a small number of placed entirely dependent upon groundwater, prompting the need for careful, diligent deliberations.”

Over 50 supporters and members of the coalition packed into the normally empty public gallery of the committee chamber to show their support.

The issue has sparked a heated public debate over water use in Prince Edward Island, and whether the province has enough groundwater to support industrial irrigation of potato crops.

The P.E.I. Potato Board and Cavendish Farms argue some Island farmers need access to more water in order to keep pace with competitors in the mid-western United States.

They also point to data compiled by the provincial Department of Environment showing P.E.I. has a high annual recharge rate and that increasing the use of groundwater for irrigation of crops would use only a fraction of available groundwater resources.

But the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water says this data is incomplete and should be peer-reviewed by scientists, experts and the public to ensure all relevant information has been included.

This was one of five recommendations presented to the standing committee Thursday.

The coalition also wants a comprehensive water policy developed for Prince Edward Island, suggesting perhaps a commission could be struck for this purpose.

It further wants government to determine and publish the full environmental, agricultural and environmental costs of lifting the deep-well ban.

“This is a time when we should be exercising particular care about the use and protection of our water,” OʼBrien said.

“We canʼt afford the risk of being wrong.”

Miʼkmaq Keptin John Joe Sark also shared his concerns over the effects the wells could have on P.E.I.ʼs water resources.

He said he would be the first to launch a court action should P.E.I.ʼs water be contaminated as a result of the wells.
“I strongly recommend that the moratorium on high-capacity, deep wells for potato field irrigation not be lifted until we are damn sure that these deep-water wells will not harm the quality of fresh water in this province,” Sark said.
The committee has a busy schedule of meetings planned on the issue as more and more individuals and groups continue to request the chance to lend their voice to the growing debate.

Next week, the National Farmers Union, the PEI Watershed Alliance, the Central Queens Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation and Innovative Farms Group will have their chance at the committee table.

Protecting P.E.I.'s groundwater is not debatable - The Guardian Commentary by Alan Hicken

Published February 27, 2014 

                                                                                                                             Photo by The Guardian
For almost six years, I volunteered on the P.E.I. Environmental Advisory Council (EAC). I always appreciated the many presentations made to the EAC by staff and experts from the Environment Department and other federal and provincial public servants.

My final two years on the EAC were as chair. My objectives were to be fair, objective and engage the EAC council to participate objectively in debate on the many issues that concerned the environment on P.E.I.

Finally, we respectfully advised the P.E.I. ministers of environment in accordance of the terms of reference for the EAC. When I began volunteering the EAC had just released the report “Upstream Downstream” and unfortunately many of the reportʼs recommendations still have not been dealt with.

I believe our greatest work was our foundation document on a Conservation Strategy for P.E.I. Retired judge Ralph Thompsonʼs report, Commission on Land and Local Governance, gave the EAC the direction in his second recommendation to create a Conservation Strategy for P.E.I.

Our objective was to develop a discussion paper towards such a strategy. This document was finished just as the Plan B protests began and public meetings on a P.E.I. conservation strategy were stalled. We had begun a broad, open conservation strategy to protect P.E.I.ʼs natural capital, including our groundwater. This must include all the stakeholders which rely on P.E.I.ʼs ground water. Every Islander, scientists, industry representatives and all levels of government need to be at the table. An adequate supply of quality water is our life.

The issue of fracking, deep wells and the seriousness of protecting our ground water need to be addressed. Recent public comments on deep wells have caused me, and many others, great concern.

“Protecting our ground water is not debatable” was Environment Minister Janice Sherryʼs first comments to me as chair of the EAC. How times have changed after watching the recent CBC interview where Minister Sherry said the “P.E.I. Potato Board will educate Islanders about deep wells.”

I am sorry but that is not acceptable for any environment minister to say. If she or any government were concerned then they would make public the data they have on all public wells to show the conservation and quality of the water. Bring the scientists, agronomists and the data forward, let their peers and all Islanders judge what quality of water we want to drink.

I have not spoken to any farmer yet who wants to pay for an expensive irrigation system they donʼt need, donʼt want and certainly none want to damage our ground water.

I havenʼt heard that producers will get any extra dollars for a hundred weight of potatoes produced with an irrigation system. I also donʼt expect Island taxpayers will want to pay for a subsidy scheme to pay for this equipment to sit in a field for all but one in 10 years.

During my six years on the EAC, we had the opportunity to bring in scientists and experts to explain many issues about the P.E.I. environment, including ground water.

One particularly graphical presentation was made by a provincial hydrologist, Mr. Yefang.

His research showed the levels of nitrates found in test wells deeper into P.E.I. wells over a 20-year period. This data was taken from an area of high irrigation and agricultural production. Surely this data was made available throughout the government. What else are they not telling us? Why wonʼt they release this presentation and other data? The public needs to see all of the science.

I encourage all scientists and agronomists to step up to the plate and make your data known. Protecting our environment is about our health, life and prosperity where we live today.

Alan Hicken of South Pinette is the former chairman of the P.E.I. Environmental Advisory Council.
(bold added by me)
As another aside, I am sorry the Plan B protests had to happen and it somehow is associated with the conservation strategy public meetings being stalled!

February 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It was a packed room at the Rodd Charlottetown last night to hear Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians, and Reg Phalen, organic farmer and member of the National Farmers' Union, John Joe Sark, and biologist Daryl Guignion speak.  CBC reported 200 but it was actually closer to 300.

Maritime News from last night:
about 5:45 into the broadcast.

Earlier in the day, Maude spoke with the media about the issue of high capacity wells and the formation of the Coalition:
4:45 into the broadcast

Keptin John Joe Sark spoke first about the importance of water and presented an eagle feather to both Maude and to Leo Broderick.  Reg and Daryl each spoke after that (I can summarize their thoughts another day soon).

The author of several books, including the most recent Blue Future, Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, Maude has seen water issues in many parts of the world.  She talked about the "myth of abundance" and that "lifting the moratorium would be the worst thing that could happen to PEI."

She said this is a "watershed moment" that can lead to a province-wide Water Act, based on a "water ethic":
 (reporting errors are my own):
1) Water is a human right -- there is an obligation to prevent third party destruction of water sources.
2) Water is a public trust, with a "hierarchy of use" being made, and government as the trustee ("Don't laugh," she said.  "It is working in other parts of the world.")
3) Water has rights, too -- important to keep the Precautionary Principle in mind (basically, if it could cause harm, don't do it)
4) Water can teach us how to live together.  Like other scarce resources, it can be the source of conflict, violence, war, but also turned into water being a peacemaker (she gave examples).

At the end of a long but very pleasant day, Maude Barlow, Leo Cheverie and Cindy Richards, February 26, 2014.

A huge wave of appreciation to Leo Broderick, vice chair of the Council of Canadians, who along with many volunteers made the day's events happen.

And what can people do now?:
  • attend, if you can, the Standing Committee meeting today where the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will present its submission calling for the moratorium to stay in place. 1:30PM (the Coalition is presenting after a committee welcome and a greeting by Keptin John Joe Sark, so probably between 1:50 and 2:30PM).  Coles Building, Richmond Street, next to Province House.
  • write a letter to your MLA List is here:  http://assembly.pe.ca/index.php3?number=1024555&lang=E
  • and send it to the papers:
            The Guardian  letters@theguardian.pe.ca
            The Eastern (and West Prince)Graphic  editor@peicanada.com
            The Journal-Pioneer

February 26, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Regarding water issues and especially the high capacity wells, there are three events happening in the next two days that you are most welcome to attend:

  • the first is a press conference with Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians, and the Coalition today, Wednesday, February 26th, at 11AM, at the Rodd Charlottetown (Provinces Room).  Corner of Kent and Pownal in Charlottetown.  There will be people there from many of the groups on the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water. Boyd Allen will be representing the Coalition (see statement, below), and Cindy Richards on behalf of the Citizens' Alliance.
  • Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians Chair, and author of many books), biologist Daryl Guignion and organic farmer Reg Phalen are part of a forum on water issues tonight, 7PM, Rodd Charlottetown. It's co-sponsored by the Council of Canadians and the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, and emceed by Catherine O'Brien.  Definitely be a great public event you can tell others about, if they don't know about it already.  https://www.facebook.com/events/394497057360643/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
  • Thursday afternoon (1:30PM) is a government standing committee meeting, where the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will be presenting a submission. Catherine O'Brien and Boyd Allen will be representing the Coalition.  **People in the Gallery (the seating at one side of the room) really make an impact on the Committee as far as gauging public interest**, if you can be there at all, even for ten or 15 minutes.  It is in the Pope Room of the Coles Building. The Coles Building is the pretty old block building to the other side of Province House (Confed Centre on the other side).  You go up the stairs to the main floor and check in with a concierge, and go down the hall to the Pope Room, where there are chairs for the "gallery" (spectators).  We will likely be speaking at about 1:45-2PM or so for a half hour or so. (People can come and go as their schedules allow.)

And, if you live in the Brackley area, tonight is the public meeting with Minister Vessey about plans to move the "government garage" from Riverside Drive by the Civic Centre and the Wendy's/Tim's to a piece of land that was a 100-acre farm just outside Charlottetown city limits on Route 15.  If you want to decide for yourself if this is a good use of government money and farmland, I believe it is at the Brackley Community Centre tonight.

Have a great day, and hope you can come out to any or all of these events!

Members of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water to-date include (and I am sure I am missing some):

Citizens’ Alliance of PEI

Cooper Institute

Council of Canadians

Don’t Frack PEI

Environmental Coalition of PEI

Green Party PEI

National Farmers Union, District 1, Region 1

New Democratic Party of PEI

PEI Watershed Alliance

Pesticide Free PEI

Save Our Seas and Shores

Sierra Club PEI

Winter River – Tracadie Bay Watershed Association

individual members

And the statement that will be read by Boyd Allen today at the press conference from the Coalition (with thanks for sharing that):

By mid-January, 2014, PEI residents had some time to examine the proposal to lift the moratorium on high capacity irrigation wells brought forward to Government by the processing industry and the PEI Potato Board. This became the catalyst for a groundswell of thoughtful and informed opinions which flooded an array of media across the island.

The Citizens' Alliance of PEI sent out invitations island-wide to engage people and organizations to meet and address this issue. From this, and subsequent meetings, The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water emerged. Our organization is composed of concerned citizens and includes The Citizens' Alliance of PEI, the PEI Watershed Alliance, Pesticide PEI, District 1, Region 1 of the National Farmers Union, Green Party of PEI, Environmental Coalition of PEI, Don’t Frack PEI, Cooper Institute, Several Watershed Groups, Council of Canadians, New Democratic Party of PEI, Sierra Club PEI, Save Our Seas and Shores. Among the coalition members are a number of physical, natural, and social scientists. The aim of this community-based organization is to share resources, skills and time to offer an informed, unified public voice in a process in which this voice traditionally has limited access.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water strongly opposes any lifting of the moratorium on new high capacity irrigation wells.

We feel that the monitoring and enforcement component attached to the existing high capacity wells is inadequate.

We feel that the data compiled to support the lifting of the moratorium is incomplete.

We recommend an opportunity for peer review of the water extraction policy, the data and the models used to support it.

We recommend the establishment and funding of a transparent, inclusive public consultation process to examine all aspects of this policy.

We recommend the establishment of a multi-disciplinary commission to develop a comprehensive, integrated water policy for PEI.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will be presenting our position on maintaining the moratorium on high capacity wells to the standing Committee of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry 1:30 pm tomorrow, Thursday 26 February at the Coles Building.

February 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some updates:

On Democratic Reform:
The Federal Liberals held their policy convention last weekend in Montreal, and one of the resolutions (among many!) passed was Resolution 31, the very last part of which opens the door to some sort of proportional representation.
At least, if elected, they will explore options and report back within 12 months.  I think this means all the major federal parties save one (!) recognize that our current electoral systems need improvement.

and on environmental issues:

From Don't Frack PEI website news http://dontfrackpei.com/web/ :

Help save Anticosti Island
It looks like Anticosti Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence will be opened up for fracking. There is an Avaaz petition, with 34,000 signatures, asking the Quebec government to reconsider. If you’d like to sign the petition, it can be found at

 (It's in French but the content is easy to understand.)

Suzuki – Trading water for fuel is fracking crazy

"It would be difficult to live without oil and gas. But it would be impossible to live without water. Yet, in our mad rush to extract and sell every drop of gas and oil as quickly as possible, we’re trading precious water for fossil fuels." More here:

February 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Not at all related to Plan B, but good words, from one of the most honest, caring elder this Island claims:

Chan deserves better treatment -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 20, 2014

Iʼm looking at the front page of Saturday (February 15th)ʼs Guardian of photo of Patrick Chan with headline “Look out!” showing him falling. Then I turn to page B5 and beneath headline is written “Canadian skater puts in disappointing performance in free skate.” Further down the column heʼs apologizing “I love you guys. Iʼm sorry.” The reaction by people who follow figure skating shows clearly what a shallow critical society we have become.

I think that to win a silver medal at Olympics is a tremendous accomplishment. The pressure thatʼs being put on these athletes by the public is beyond what is reasonable because they put so much pressure on themselves. Patrick Chan has nothing to apologize for. Heʼs a fine athlete, an outstanding skater. I went to his website and sent him an e-mail to tell him not to give up his dream.

Heather Moyse did win gold, and she can be very proud of herself for everything sheʼs accomplished, and most important of all, what a great role model she is for young people.

I think that photo of Patrick Chan with his silver medal should have been on the front page, not one of him falling. For any athlete to make it to Olympics is an amazing accomplishment, even if they donʼt win a medal.

Janet Gordon Gaudet, St. Catherines

More about related to calculating "recharge of aquifiers", using swimming pools as a visible analogy.

Leave pools out of water debate - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 20, 2014

Like most regular readers, I have been following with interest, the numerous articles and letters in The Guardian on the issue of deep-water wells. In the headline article of Fridayʼs (February 14) paper, “ No decision made on deep-water wells: Sherry,” there was an assertion attributed to Mr. Bruce Raymond (manager of watershed and subdivision planning for the province), that is worthy of pause and re-examination. Mr. Raymond is quoted, saying, that the rate at which P.E.Iʼs groundwater is replenished every year is “equal to 154 Olympic-sized swimming pools for every square inch of the Island”.

According to Wikipedia, an Olympic-sized swimming pool contains 2.5 million litres of water, with a volume of 88,0000 cubic feet. It is easy to determine that one cubic foot of water would be 144 feet in height on a single square inch of P.E.I. soil. It follows that 88,000 cubic feet would be 2,400 miles high! That is for a single Olympic-sized swimming pool. For 154 pools, this tower of water would reach an amazing 369,600 miles in height, which is 1.5 times further away than the moon. Hmm. That would be one wicked replenishment rate.

According to Island information, however, “the average yearly rainfall is 1125.8 mm and the average yearly snowfall is 318.2 mm” on Prince Edward Island. That translates to approximately 1.5 meters (or 5 feet) of precipitation per year.

Comparing 369,600 miles to 5 feet, we can determine that the Olympic-sized pool reference is out by a factor in excess of 390 million. Clearly, either Mr. Raymond was misunderstood or he misinterpreted the data. Either way, it seems clear — it would be better to simply disregard any future reference to swimming pools.

Mel Gallant, Charlottetown

at least until the Summer Olympics.

February 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Odds and Ends:

On the last day of the 2014 Olympics:
    the Gold Medal for Best Moguls Course goes to.....Plan B!!!

(Another mogul course:

A reason for the bumps, perhaps:

Photo of future road bed of Plan B taken October 17, 2013, near the old TCH.  Traffic was driving on it two weeks later.

from Wikipedia -- good advice:
"Skiers (Drivers) absorb the impact of the bumps by bending at the knees and hips. In a good run, shoulders remain parallel to the finish line, turns should be quick and short, and skis (tires) should not leave the snow (road) surface."

If I have sent this around before, it is worth a second read:

Processors benefit from more potatoes - The Guardian Letter to the Editor 

Published on February 07, 2014

I am puzzled by the P.E.I. Potato Boardʼs request to lift the moratorium on deep-water wells. Their main argument seems to be that they need more water to increase potato production and become more competitive. I recall a concerted effort on P.E.I. to decrease the acreage of potatoes in an effort to increase prices.

As recently as last fall, American production was down six per cent, a reduction the president of the United Potato Growers of America said was needed to balance the market. So, it seems lower production equals higher prices, and higher prices benefit growers.

This makes me wonder who stands to benefit from higher production and, presumably, lower prices. The answer would seem to be those who buy potatoes - the processors — rather than those who grow them.

Shannon Mader, Charlottetown

and a bit of irony:

Exxon CEO Joins Lawsuit Against Fracking Project Because It Will Devalue His $5 Million Property - By Rebecca Leber

As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.

The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.

The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.

Though Tillerson’s name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said his concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically.

When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”

In shale regions, less wealthy residents have protested fracking development for impacts more consequential than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting spills not only sinks property values, but the spills have leveled homes and destroyed regions.

Exxon, which pays Tillerson a total $40.3 million, is staying out of the legal tangle. A company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal it “has no involvement in the legal matter.”

February 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Despite the imperative headline given to it (it was different in the peicanada.com website as "Deep water wells risk turning ocean into salt water desert"), it is an interesting letter to contemplate:

Man should not drill into aquifer - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 20, 2014 in

On the basis of groundwater, the sandstone of P.E.I. is considered to be composed of two zones: an upper zone, highly fractured having significant near-vertical fracturing and a lower zone, below about 35 metres, much less fractured and having few near-vertical fractures. Below the first aquitard layer the lower zone is known as the confined aquifer. An aquitard is a material like claystone and siltstone that has low permeability but transmits water at low flow rates.

The water flow in the confined aquifer is referred to as the ʻdeeper circulationʼ and is on a regional scale and not restricted to watersheds. Once the confined aquifer enters under the ocean it is called the confined submarine groundwater discharge (CSGD) aquifer. This deeper circulation through the CSGD affects directly the productivity of the ocean and has been and is being impacted in P.E.I. by human activities of the surface.

The proper jurisdiction of the confined aquifer should be the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The CSGD aquifer is driven by the deeper circulation of the confined aquifer on land, gravity in the end. Man should not be drilling into the confined aquifer on land and withdrawing its water. Municipal wells are not excluded. The deep water wells that have been drilled are removing water from the deep circulation and are reducing the productivity of the fisheries. We are killing the ocean. Existing deep water wells should be sealed off at where they puncture the confined aquifer. The confined aquifer should be sealed off and truly deep geological exploration wells should have casings to 300 meters at least.

We should thank the persons who had the wisdom to place a moratorium on deep water drilling in 2003. We must restore the deeper circulation; otherwise, we run the risk of turning the ocean into a saltwater desert.

Tony Lloyd, Mount Stewart

February 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Events coming up this week and beyond, a bit inconsistently reported:

The Bonshaw monthly ceilidh is this Sunday afternoon (2-4PM) at the Bonshaw Hall, right off a certain highway.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1377258265874379/  Admission is by donation, and this month it goes to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

This Sunday (February 23rd) is a lecture on the "Vinland Map", by Richard Raiswell, sponsored by The Vinland Society.
7:30PM, Irish Historical Society (BIS Hall), North River Road, Charlottetown.

Next Wednesday (February 26th), 7PM, is a forum on Water, with special guest Maude Barlow:

From the blog by Brent Patterson, on the Council of Canadians website, on the event and high capacity wells issue:

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be speaking in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on Wednesday February 26 on the future of deep water wells in that province. Along with Barlow, biologist Darryl Guignon and National Farmers Union representative Reg Phelan will speak. Keptein John Joe Sark will give the welcome and the event will be chaired by Catherine O'Brien of the Coalition for Protecting PEI's Water. It will take place at the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel on Kent Street starting at 7 pm.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will be presenting to the Standing Committee of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry the next afternoon, Thursday, February 27th, some time during the meeting, which runs from 1:30PM to a bit after 3PM.  It would be great if you could be there in the public gallery to support Catherine and the rest of the Coalition.  It is in the Coles Building, which is next to Province House further down Richmond Street.

(Very interesting is that on the radio news story, the reason Cavendish Farms has justified the recent layoffs of people at their plant is overproduction of potatoes in North America.)

February 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

In yesterday's Guardian, there was a syndicated article titled "N.B. seeking Atlantic Accord for unexplored offshore".  It's not on the Guardian website, but I found it in several places on the web:


The web versions had three paragraphs more that The Guardian presumably had space for.  I have the link and pasted the full article below.

N.B. is hitching its financial future on revenues from any type of fossil fuel production it can persuade companies to come find.

A longish article, USA focused, but interesting:

New Brunswick seeks Atlantic Accord of its own for unexplored offshore - The Canadian Press by Kevin Bissett

FREDERICTON - The government of New Brunswick is seeking an Atlantic Accord of its own as it looks offshore to reverse its economic decline.

The province's Progressive Conservative government has set its sights on natural resources with the hope that oil and gas can pump some revenues into its coffers.

While the government has been focused on developing a shale gas industry, it has recently turned its attention to its largely unexplored offshore fields. Premier David Alward told a business audience three weeks ago that talks to draft an offshore accord have begun with the federal government in order to ensure New Brunswick can reap the benefits of any future development.

It's not known whether there is a commercially viable reservoir of oil or gas under New Brunswick's 2.3-million hectare offshore. Some seismic exploration work was done from the 1960s into the early 1980s, but that's as far as it went.

But that hasn't stifled the provincial government's enthusiasm.

"There's potential there," Energy Minister Craig Leonard said in an interview.

"When you look around and see what has taken place in the offshores of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Quebec, we're not that far away from those locations that work is being done. So you would think that there might be some potential there."

Leonard said new technology will be applied to the existing data in an effort to get a clearer picture on potential petroleum resources.

Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada manager for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said New Brunswick has plenty of groundwork ahead before it can arouse industry interest.

"More certainly needs to be done and packaged up and marketed to industry before I believe industry would consider doing work there," Barnes said.

"That area seems to have some prospectivity to it, but it's at the very early stages as to whether there's enough interest for companies to do any activity."

The Atlantic Accord has been pivotal to Newfoundland and Labrador's economic turnaround. The agreement allows that province and Nova Scotia to tax offshore resources as though they are the owner, even though that falls to the federal government.

The deal also shelters those provinces from offshore resource revenue clawbacks in equalization, though Newfoundland and Labrador stopped receiving payments from the federal wealth-sharing program in 2008.

The agreement has funnelled more than $5 billion to Newfoundland and Labrador and about $1.1 billion to Nova Scotia.

"Newfoundland's economy is doing extremely well because of their offshore agreements and Nova Scotia is starting to come into that area as well," Leonard said.

Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore industry dwarves Nova Scotia's, boasting the Hibernia, White Rose and Terra Nova offshore oil platforms. The Hebron offshore project is in development and aiming to come online in 2017.

But Nova Scotia has seen the Deep Panuke natural gas project come on stream last year and two major exploration projects could be on the horizon. Shell Canada (TSX:SHC) completed 3D seismic imaging off the province's southwestern shore last year and could begin exploratory oil drilling late next year. BP plans to acquire seismic data this year and next about 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

Wade Locke, a professor of economics at Memorial University in Newfoundland, said an offshore accord is also important because it can remove uncertainty that could block development or cause arguments over ownership and revenue allocation.

"Without that, you will lose half of your money in equalization now and you will also not have the ability to strongly suggest to people that they should be doing economic development with local New Brunswick companies," Locke said.

Have yet another nice snowy day

February 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some information on yet another issue affecting farming: when agriculture, emphasis on "culture", is being affected by agri-business, which sounds so trendy and organized, but is it in the best interest of people growing food for people? 

An article on CBC's website:
(The comments, as usual, are entertaining and a bit informational)

Farmers split on Agricultural Growth Act National: Farmers Union opposed to restrictions on seed use - CBC News website article

CBC News Posted: Feb 18, 2014 6:54 AM AT Last Updated: Feb 18, 2014 8:29 AM AT

Two major farmers' groups in Canada are split on whether restrictions on seed use in the federal government's Agricultural Growth Act are good or bad for farmers.

'You have to ask the question, who is this benefiting?'- Steven Mackinnon, National Farmers Union

Members of the National Farmers Union on P.E.I. are fighting against Bill C-18. They believe part of the bill will take away farmers rights to save, reuse, exchange and sell seeds.

"There is a lot of things in it that would either hinder or hamper farmers in the future from saving their own seed. Farmers and people around the world have been saving their own seed for 10,000 years. You have to ask the question, who is this benefiting?" said Steven Mackinnon, district director of the National Farmers Union on P.E.I.

"Also, if you leave it in the private, multinational corporations, the government will do a lot less public research on different seed varieties and etc. So there will be less and less varieties probably to choose from."

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, however, takes a different view. It believes the bill will better align Canada with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, and strikes a good balance between ensuring variety developers have the ability to see a return on investment for their plant breeding research efforts, while also preserving the right for farmers to save and condition seed for their own use.

Ottawa maintains the bill will encourage investment in plant breeding in Canada and improve accessibility to foreign seed varieties for farmers. It says farmers will have the right to save and clean or treat seed for replanting on their own land.

Other areas of the proposed legislative changes would make it easier for farmers and industry to meet government requirements, by reducing red tape and delivering programs more effectively, government representatives say.

NFU members on P.E.I. are holding a meeting Wednesday night in Cornwall to develop a strategy to defeat Bill C-18, or at the very least have changes made.

This notice was in the Island Farmer newspaper and on peicanada.com's website:
The National Farmers Union is holding a public meeting Thursday, February 19th to discuss the impact of Bill C-18 on the farmer’s right to save, reuse and exchange seed.  The bill, which is currently before the House of Commons, would move Canada to the "UPOV 91" standard. The NFU is strongly opposed to the bill and invites farmers to share their ideas on how to defeat the measure before it becomes law.  The meeting will be held at the Dutch Inn starting at 8 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, the meeting will be held the following day at the same time and location.

And what is UPOV? 

from: http://www.upov.int/portal/index.html.en

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization with headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland).

UPOV was established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The Convention was adopted in Paris in 1961 and it was revised in 1972, 1978 and 1991.

UPOV's mission is to provide and promote an effective system of plant variety protection, with the aim of encouraging the development of new varieties of plants, for the benefit of society.

Have (another) great snow day

February 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

I had reason to be on Plan B last night while it was flurrying.  Of course I am biased, but it was bad -- poor visibility, very hard to see where you were on the road, lights or not, snow blowing up from the steep hillside over the road, etc.  It appears difficult to manage resources of salt and snowplowing effectively on such a wide road bed.

The snow was even one of those flurries that's usually not too bad on the highway.  Trees, homes, cats-eyes, and a sensibly-sized road used to be the markers.  Now it is just wide, snow-covered guard-rails marking the outline, and occasional blasts of streetlights showing more guardrails.

The bumpiness was kind of a good thing -- I knew I was still on Plan B.  As long as I stayed somewhere on the road, I would eventually get to the village of Bonshaw, where the road was fine.

Plan B may be Bumpy, but I am here to report that not all the asphalt laid in 2013 is problematic.  There is a beautiful section of pavement  in Elmwood along Route 9 in front of the District 17 MLA's house and property.  Smooth dark road surface, not bumpy at all.   There was a culvert that was likely repaired this summer, and now there is plenty of new pavement in both directions.

Plan B in December 2013, Churchill.

February 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Hope you will enjoy the different pace of things today as some people have an Islander Day vacation day.

Horace Carver titled his Lands Protection Act (LPA) review "The Gift of Jurisdiction", which was the title of one of the submissions to his commission, by Peter Bevan-Baker, who was quoting former Premier Angus MacLean, who may have been quoting Cornelius Howatt. ( I suspect I have the lineage messed up a bit.)   The point is, it is an evocative description.

(Aside:  I do plan to go over the LPA report in the near future.)

Local control of our affairs is something we do take for granted, and several thoughtful individuals have raised serious concerns about the "CETA" (Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) agreement and what it means for Canada and for PEI.  If you can pour yourself a cup of something warm and have a chance to contemplate this letter, please do:

(bolding and italic comments are mine)

CETA trade deal still shrouded in tight secrecy - The Guardian Commentary by Scott Sinclair

Published on February 12, 2014

After nearly five years of negotiations, the details of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) remain shrouded in secrecy. In October, Prime Minister Harper, eager to deflect attention from the Senate scandal, went to Brussels to announce an agreement-in-principle. Since then, federal ministers have fanned out across the country to proclaim the alleged benefits of the deal. Yet, months later, the text is still a closely guarded secret.

Last week in Ottawa the new EU ambassador to Canada, Marie-Anne Coninsx, confirmed that technical negotiations on the CETA are still underway and that the text may not be publicly released for another six months, or longer.  Nor has the P.E.I. provincial government publicly released its list of reservations - the exceptions that might shield key policies, such as P.E.I.ʼs non-resident land ownership policies, from challenge under the CETA.

By the time the federal and provincial governments provide the details, it could be too late for citizens to have a proper say or to correct mistakes.

There is no question that international trade is vital to the P.E.I. economy.  Trade between Europe and Canada is already very open. EU tariffs on Canadian products average just 2.2 per cent. In any case, tariffs and trade are only a small part of the treaty.
The CETA is a constitutional-style document that will hike provincial drug costs, erode supply management in the dairy industry and undermine the authority of provincial and local governments to boost local economic development.

Canada has caved in to EU demands to extend monopoly patent protection for brand-name pharmaceuticals by up to two years. This step will delay the introduction of cheaper, equally effective generic medicines, costing Canadians an estimated $800 million annually. This CETA provision is simply about transferring millions of dollars from consumers and taxpayers to already extremely profitable multinational drug companies. The increased costs to Islanders would be more than $3 million a year.

Corporate agriculture could also profit from the CETA. The EU has agreed to eliminate its 17 per cent tariff on frozen French fries, making it cheaper to ship to European markets (although as the recent layoffs at Cavendish Farms attest, there is already a glut of processing capacity worldwide.)
But, in return, Canada agreed to nearly double the quota of European cheese entering our country, seriously eroding the supply-managed system, which the federal and P.E.I. governments had pledged to defend. The influx of subsidized European cheese will harm local dairy farmers, cheese-makers and rural communities.

The CETA will also make it harder to support small-scale, local, organic alternatives. Encouraging public hospitals, nursing homes or other public institutions to give priority to locally grown produce in their food purchases will be banned by CETA.
(This news really disturbs me, as getting local Island food in local Island institutions is a key to encouraging local food to be more than a boutique choice.)

Similarly, as a condition for dropping its high tariffs on fish (averaging 11 per cent) the EU has insisted that Canada eliminate all restrictions on the export of unprocessed fish. P.E.I.ʼs inshore fishermen should also be aware that the CETAʼs investment rules are more intrusive than those in previous treaties. Fleet separation and owner-operator policies are considered illegal investment restrictions that must be exempted. While safe for now, these vital policies will be targets for elimination in future trade negotiations.

In the past, P.E.I. has shown good sense by linking wind energy development to creating local benefits. Unless the province takes ironclad reservations, such policies will be prohibited under the CETA. The agreement protects foreign investors from obligations to provide benefits to the community whose resources they are exploiting.

The CETA also includes an investor-state dispute mechanism, which gives unaccountable tribunals the power to order governments to compensate foreign investors allegedly harmed by public policies or regulations. Policies aimed at protecting the Islandʼs water supply, preserving coastal or environmentally sensitive areas, and moratoriums on fracking or offshore oil exploration could all be targets for investor challenges under this appallingly anti-democratic process.

P.E.I.ʼs best leaders have always stood up against outside trends that threatened to erode Islandersʼ control over their own destiny. Governments led by Angus MacLean, who championed rural renaissance, and Joe Ghiz, who opposed the Canada-U.S. FTA and NAFTA, instinctively recognized the need for action.
Our current provincial leaders need to find the backbone to ensure that self-government and the ability of communities and working people to gain a greater share of the economic pie are not sacrificed on the altar of a reckless free trade agenda.

Scott Sinclair is director of the Trade and Investment Research Project with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He lives in Georgetown Royalty.

If you want a reminder of what the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is, here is their website and a Wikipedia article:

February 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

There was to be an interesting illustrated talk about "The Vinland Map" by Dr. Richard Raiswell at the Irish Cultural Centre tonight, sponsored by The Vinland Society --**it has been postponed for one week until Sunday, February 23rd, 7PM.  More details later this week.

A keen-eyed watcher sent this article to me.  It left me punch-drunk:

Corridor soars on TSX after deal inked - The Chronicle-Herald article by Brett Bundale, Business Reporter

Published February 14, 2014

Corridor Resources Inc. was one of the top gainers on the TSX Friday following its $100-million joint venture deal to develop oil and gas on Anticosti Island, Que.  The Halifax junior resource firmʼs stocks soared over 23 per cent or 40 cents to close at $2.12 Friday, after hitting a 52-week low of 60 cents last spring.  Macquarie Research analyst David Popowich said that if the exploration plans pan out, Corridor could be a $5 to $10 stock. “The company has some interesting blue-sky potential,” he said in an interview Friday. “But thereʼs still a lot of risk associated with this play.” Corridor has signed a letter of intent with the Quebec government, junior resource firm Petrolia Inc. of Rimouski, Que., and French mid-tiered oil outfit Etablissements Maurel & Prom S.A. Quebec will have a 35 per cent stake in the partnership, while Corridor, Petrolia and Maurel & Prom will each have a 21.67 per cent interest.

The joint venture will explore Anticosti Islandʼs Macasty formation, the lateral equivalent of the Utica formation in eastern Ohio.
The resource has an estimated 35 billion barrels of oil, although, if successful, only five to 10 per cent could be extracted.
The shale deposit is in the “liquids window,” which means itʼs expected to yield a mixture of gas and liquids, including oil, condensate and butane.  Corridor president and chief executive Phillip Knoll said the wells on the Gulf of St. Lawrence island would need to be hydraulically fractured. 

“These formations absolutely have to be fracture stimulated,” he said in an interview, referring to a technique used by the oil and gas industry to stimulate a well by injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground.
The Quebec government has banned fracking in the St. Lawrence River Valley and a moratorium is in place in the rest of the province.
However, given Quebecʼs majority position in the exploration partnership, it appears the moratorium could be lifted to develop resources on Anticosti Island.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has voiced conditional support for oil exploration in the province. She has cited both Anticosti Isla and Old Harry, which Corridor holds a 100 per cent stake in, as key exploration opportunities subject to environmental impact assessments. (Old Harry is a geological structure located in an undersea area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.)

“The government has been very clear, that even within this moratorium, they want to undertake a small program to fully evaluate how it all works,” Knoll said. “They recognize itʼs about science and that is the important thing. If you undertake it properly, you can mitigate environmental impacts.”  Knoll has been critical of fracking opponents, who say that the method can contaminate groundwater, pollute the air and industrial landscapes.   “The government of Quebec wisely wants to own some of their resource potential and this is a way for them to do it,” Knoll said. “How, in the Maritimes, are we going to pay for our programs if we donʼt develop our economy?”

Nova Scotia commissioned an independent review of hydraulic fracturing last year. Meetings and public consultations are expecte to wrap up this spring. The review panel will then issue recommendations, which the provincial government is expected to adopt.
Popowich said itʼs not very common for governments to partner with the private sector to develop oil and gas. However, he said itʼs positive development for Corridor.
“You couldnʼt have a better endorsement than the province of Quebec,” Popowich said. “The fact that they are committing to participating in Anticosti exploration is a big positive because it says that this project is going ahead.”

Although the Macasty formation holds significant potential, he noted that itʼs still risky.  “Itʼs definitely a big resource,” Popowich said. “Even if only a small part of it turns out to be commercial, itʼs not difficult to get to some pretty big numbers here.
“The issue really is unconventional oil can be a very tricky business; there are a lot of different things that could go right or wrong.”
While Anticosti is likely the most remote unconventional oil play in North America, Popowich said it could be an ideal location to shi oil from.  “One of the big themes in energy right now is that there is too much light oil in the continental United States and Canada, so if Corridor produces it, they can literally put it on a boat and ship it anywhere in the world.”

And some sobering Sunday reading:

Cuts to science affect environmental protection - The Guardian Guest Opinion

Published on February 11, 2014

Cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) reduce Canadaʼs ability to do science and our ability to protect the natural world.

Seven DFO libraries, including the Eric Marshall Library of the Freshwater Institute at the University of Manitoba and the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, are being closed down.

Burt Ayles, former regional director for freshwater, described the Marshall library as “world class” and “the best in Canada.”
The government is also closing Environment Canada libraries from Calgary to New Brunswick.

Gail Shea, Minister of DFO, claims that closing libraries is value for taxpayers, yet the St. Andrews Station is brand new, and cost several million taxpayer dollars.

Minister Shea has also said that research is now done on-line. However, Dr. Peter Wells, of the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University states that much of the DFO library material was never available digitally.

The holdings of the shuttered libraries go back decades, and provide baseline data upon which to record and evaluate changes brought about by the introduction of chemicals, invasive species and long term processes, like climate change and the acidification of the oceans.

DFO has defunded world-class research laboratories, including the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), the only whole-lake freshwater lab of its kind in the world; the marine contaminants program, led by Dr. Peter Ross, who revealed PCB contamination of killer whales; and the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab (PEARL), the furthest northern arctic research lab in the world.

These programs, said Dr. Ross, allow us to keep “our finger on the pulse of whatʼs happening” in the natural world and enable scientists to advise governments on how to maintain vibrant economies and minimize hazards to human health and to the health of the land, fish and animals.

These labs are living libraries, for taking samples, recording and creating data available now and to future generations of scientists from across the world.

About the threat to close ELA, Israeli oceanographers and lake scientists said, that the government “is stamping out the ability of the world scientific community to conduct the research required to formulate sound environmental policies.”

They are right. Protecting the natural world requires a global, co-operative effort. Canada has the scientists, the labs and a track record of global contributions. Let us continue to fund science and create real value for Canadians.

Peter King, Kenora, ON
Jim Johnson, Keewatin, ON
Dave Schwartz, Kenora, ON

February 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Yesterday's Guardian story on the Standing Committee meeting with Minister Sherry:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2014-02-14/article-3615107/No-decision-has-been-made-on-deep-well-irrigation%3A-Sherry/1  (full text at end)

It contains an unfortunate error in that the oft-quoted "154 Olympic swimming pools of water is the recharge rate" is listed for a square inch, not kilometre. If it were inch, then perhaps we could support dozens and dozens and dozens of wells, or be waterlogged like poor Great Britain. 

I believe, quoting Mr. Raymond another time, it is:

"An Olympic size pool holds 2,500 cubic meters.  The average annual recharge to groundwater on PEI for a square kilometer is ~385,000 cubic meters each year. 385,000 / 2,500 = 154 pools".

Note that the figure quoted is an average for the entire Island.  I am not sure how extensively they measured across the island to be so absolutely confident of that average.  But taking that number, one can divide the amount by the area to get the total depth that represents and it is 38 cm (or a little over a foot) of "recharge" over any particular point of land over the course of a year. (I think)

CBC has a poll on their website:
"Should the moratorium on deep-water irrigation wells be lifted?"   You can participate here (it is in the middle of the article):

A letter from yesterday:

Thirsty producers always want more - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 14, 2014 in

Potato producers wish to drain the water on P.E.I. They are thirsty with greed with no respect for the residents who expect to live off the ground water we already have.

They are selfish.

Their own desire for wealth must come first. They are not satisfied with the rain the good Lord sends. That proves their attitude.
No doubt they are in the minority on P.E.I. I am sure most growers using common sense are satisfied. No one can change the weather patterns. Our water is too important to fool with.

Brendon Flood, South Melville

and the lead article from yesterday, with a few things in bold by me:

No decision has been made on deep-well irrigation: Sherry - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on February 14th, 2014

Environment Minister Janice Sherry, centre, spoke to a committee of MLAs on the issue of deep-well irrigation Thursday. Joining her were the provincial director of environment Jim Young, left, and Bruce Raymond, right, manager of watershed planning for the province.

Environment Minister Janice Sherry says government has made no decisions on deep-well irrigation and the moratorium will not be lifted unless itʼs proven it will not diminish the quantity or quality of P.E.I.ʼs groundwater.

Sherry was in the hot seat Tuesday at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.
She said the question of whether to lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells for irrigation has become a leading issue and that she has received a lot of impassioned feedback from Islanders.
She said she welcomes a “lively debate.”

“As a government, we are listening to what Islanders have to say on this issue. We are listening to what the agricultural industry is telling us,” she said.  “You will hear that we have more than enough water to meet our needs. However, that supply must be carefully monitored and managed, That is the issue when it comes to issuing permits for high-capacity wells.”

The issue has become a topic of heated debate, especially after industry giant Cavendish Farms and the P.E.I. Potato Board mounted a full-scale lobby effort several weeks ago. They are pushing for access to deep-water wells to supply potato fields with water for supplemental irrigation.

But environmental groups are raising serious concern over the impacts large-scale agricultural irrigation could have on P.E.I.ʼs groundwater levels. They also worry about potential nitrate contamination.

The committee meeting Thursday saw a packed crowd of concerned Islanders in attendance — a rare occurrence for the normally empty public gallery of the committee chamber.  A technical briefing was presented about how P.E.I.ʼs groundwater is managed and scientific data about recharge rates, compiled by the Environment Department.  Bruce Raymond, manager of watershed and subdivision planning for the province, said provincial data shows the rate at which P.E.I.ʼs groundwater is replenished every year is quite high.

This recharge rate is equal to 154 Olympic-sized swimming pools for every square inch of the Island, he told the committee.
Raymond also said only seven per cent of water available for extraction within environmental regulations is being used.

But when the time for questions came, Opposition MLAs were mainly interested in the politics of the issue.
Opposition Leader Steven Myers asked Sherry who first suggested the moratorium be lifted.
She said the request came from the potato board. “Whatʼs been told to me by many, many people, too many to think itʼs not true, is that

government went to the potato board and said, ʻHey you should ask for this because weʼll probably give it to youʼ,” Myers said.
“Absolutely not,” Sherry replied.

Agriculture Critic Colin LaVie questioned Sherry on the involvement of the premierʼs former chief of staff, Chris LeClair, and former Liberal MLA Cynthia King. The two were hired to help the potato board lobby in favour of deep-water wells.
He asked whether the Environment Department paid them.
Sherry firmly denied this, saying Cavendish Farms hired LeClair and King to educate people** about high-capacity wells.

“I donʼt have a role to play in that, thatʼs totally a private business hiring someone to provide a service for them. Thatʼs got nothing to do with government,” Sherry said.

“When you talk about educate, is this process already done?” LaVie asked.

Sherry stressed that nothing has gone before cabinet on this issue and that all opinions and data are continuing to be assessed.
“We need informed discussions. We need facts. We need science. We need to build a consensus around this issue and I can assure the members of this committee that the views of all Islanders will be taken into account before a decision is made.”

twright@theguardian.pe.ca Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

**I guess the MLAs getting private meetings are the ones who are getting educated?

February 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Regarding the government's acknowledgement of concerns about high capacity wells:

The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry met yesterday for the first of several meetings to hear about this issue.  Their first guests were the Environment Minister and two of her staff, the division of Environment chief Jim Young, and the person in charge of Watershed and Subdivision Planning, Bruce Raymond, who it appears presented some of the powerpoint presentation he gave to the Federation of Agriculture a couple of weeks ago (and is found here:  Water Extraction Policy and Background  http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment/water-extraction  )

From Compass, last night, 4:15 into the program:
Minister Sherry says the agriculture industry needs to explain why they want the water.  (This seems obvious to most of us.)
She says her department would not lift the moratorium if they thought it would be detrimental to the quantity and quality of water, or if it would have negative impacts on aquatic habitats.  "Certainly we don't have all the science in the area."

A tip of the hat to Committee Chairperson Paula Biggar being interested in this issue and making time for it and the groups that want to address it.  The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, made up of representatives of many Island Groups, will be presenting at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, February 27th, 1:30PM, if you want to attend that day.

Minister Sherry has been responding to most e-mails sent to her by Islanders and groups with concerns on the subject with this exact response (bolding mine):
(To the writer:)
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding water extraction and high capacity wells.

Islanders’ opinions on this issue are important and I appreciate your taking the time to contact me. PEI's water resources are very valuable and I believe that we must protect them, ensuring that the environment is sustainable.

Government has not made a decision regarding high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation and any decision made will be science-based, ensuring the protection of our drinking and surface water resources and aquatic habitat.

Again, thank you for your letter of concern which, along with others, will be considered prior to government making any decision on this issue.
(Minster Sherry)

I am not quite sure I understand exactly what the bolded line means as far as what government is thinking at this point.

Also, in the same Compass program, 18:30 into it, is a story about the new Thursday and Friday noontime (I think)  Farmers' Market upstairs at the Confederation Court Mall in Charlottetown. 

Have a great Friday and Valentine's Day, and get some sweet local food today or tomorrow if you can,

PS  Yes, with the rain we'll have to check the Plan B areas today for run-off.  If you are in the area and see anything, let us know.

February 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Today is the first Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry regarding the high capacity well issue.
1:30PM,  Coles Building (Pope Room).  Coles is the red brick building to the east of Province House; the doorway is off Richmond Street, the steps going up to the main floor.  There are seats for the public in the room where are right behind the committee members and presenters seated at tables.

From the notice:
The committee will receive a briefing on the subject of deep well irrigation from Hon. Janice Sherry, Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General; Jim Young, Director of Environment; and Bruce Raymond, Manager of Watershed and Subdivision Planning.

It is a little weird that the Minister and her people are coming to explain the issue to another set of MLAs, and it will be the Committee that will likely send a recommendation to lift or not lift the moratorium to that same Minister and Cabinet.

It should be interesting, and being there will show public interest in this issue, if it's convenient to get there.  The meeting is likely to go until 3 or 3:30, but the public can come and go as they please.

Margie Loo's letter was squeezed into an edition of the paper two weeks ago, and bears repeating here (bolding is mine):

More pressure on environment - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 30, 2014
By Margie Loo (a reader's view)

(An open letter to my MLA and the minister of environment)
I have been watching the discussion about lifting of the moratorium on deep-water irrigation wells with concern. I have listened as Gary Linkletter, chairman of the Potato Board, assures us there is ample water for everyone. I have also heard Daryl Guignion, a former biologist at UPEI, express great concern about taking more water from our aquifers.

Mr. Linkletter assures us the province has done an evaluation of our groundwater and that we only use an average of two per cent of the annual recharge.  I wonder what conditions that two per cent is based on.  Was it a year when the streams were drying up, and the City of Charlottetown was asking residents to limit water use?  Obviously the years when irrigation is needed are the same years that the aquifers are unusually low.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are other things that make P.E.I.ʼs environment unique. We have very sandy soil.
We all know what happens when it rains on exposed soils; our waterways turn red.  What we donʼt see is the agricultural chemicals and fertilizers leaching down into the groundwater.  We assume our deep-water aquifers have not yet been affected too much by nitrates but as this pristine deep water gets pumped out the more contaminated shallow groundwater will move down to refill them.

The spectre of nitrate contamination spreading rapidly throughout our water supply should be a great concern for all of us.
We donʼt know to what degree the shallow aquifers and the deep aquifers are connected to each other. If they were connected then we would expect that groundwater would be drawn down to recharge the deep aquifers during irrigation impacting household wells in the area. These domestic wells are in the shallow aquifers and with a dropping water table during dry summers many more homeowners will be forced to drill deeper wells. This is not a new problem as anyone digging wells can tell you. Who will be responsible for the cost of these new wells?

P.E.I. consists of fractured sandstone bedrock which creates unique challenges. This is significant because our underground aquifers do not flow in predictable ways. No one knows how drilling more deep wells will affect water moving though the bedrock.

There has not been a comprehensive study done of the hydrogeology of Prince Edward Island. Researchers from the Universities of Calgary and Guelph have only recently begun the first such study on P.E.I.

As a farmer myself I understand the challenge potato farmers face, however I also know there are other ways of solving this problem. For example it is well known that soil that has ample organic matter can withstand long stretches of dry weather.  Adding irrigation systems to land in potato production is going to increase the pressure to plant cash crops more often leading to greater depletion of organic matter, not to mention the eventual salinization of soil.  What is being proposed is really large-scale hydroponic production whereby the health of soils no longer matters at all.

Yes, potato production moves a lot of money though the Island economy. This isnʼt the whole picture. The cost to other sectors of the Island community must also be considered.

Farther, remember that deep-water irrigation wells do not ensure success for potato growers or take the uncertainty out of potato production. Potato production depends market demand, and this is something that P.E.I. producers canʼt control.
We do know however that allowing more deep wells certainly will put more pressure on P.E.I.ʼs environment.

Margie Loo of Elderflower Organic Farm, Belfast RR 3, is a pioneer in organic farming practices on P.E.I.

You can chat with her any Saturday at her booth at the Farmers' Market in Charlottetown.

February 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Martha Howatt and Peter Bower, who to me represent all the hard-working volunteers on watershed associations, made time to write this clear message:

Questions remain on deep-water wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 11, 2014

Gary Schneider, Dale Small, Daryl Guignion, Roger Gordon, Dr. Ian MacQuarrie, Shannon Mader, Margie Loo and Todd Dupuis have each written accurate, informed, and focused opinions that have appeared recently in The Guardian on the subject of deep-water wells.

These names are among those of the professionals whose expertise we seek when our watershed organizations apply for provincial funding and other grants. These are the names the government wants to see on our applications. They can make the difference between approval and rejection. These are the kinds of professionals who are in the streams and rivers observing water run off and erosion, anoxic events and associated fish kills from excessive nitrates, and estuaries dying from the spread of sea lettuce.

We cannot add any information they havenʼt provided from their many years of involvement in these issues near and dear to all of us, but we can add what they have to say is borne out by our years of work on our watersheds.

Nevertheless, we do have questions, including how will the noise, smell and sight of massive diesel pumps sitting in fields affect tourism? Will taxpayers again be subsidizing some farmers for drilling and purchasing the necessary equipment because it is doubtful that they will offset these costs by increased potato production? Is there any way to estimate the quantity of water that will be drawn from these wells?

The deep-well promoters and lobbyists maintain the farmers involved are concerned about the Islandʼs water resources. It is an understatement to point out we are all concerned, including the NFU which suggests that there may be alternatives.

We can only hope the lifting of the moratorium is not a done deal. The government must have meaningful and thorough public consultations. Letʼs take the time necessary to hold public meetings so Islanders are given the chance to absorb and understand the scientific evidence, to hear all sides, and to participate in a dialogue.

Our futures are at stake.

Martha Howatt, co-chair,
Peter Bower, chair,
South Shore Watershed Association

South Shore Watershed Association is a cooperative effort of four watersheds, west of the West River -- Augustine Cove, DeSable, Tryon and Westmoreland. http://www.sswa.ca/

In addition to all they do in meeting rooms and on the rivers' edges, they have a great website, with little jewels like this two-page leaflet about "What is a watershed?":

and this link to a charming and informative 48-page out-of-print booklet on PEI's water (it feels a bit old since it has hand-drawings, not clipart):

February 11, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Federal and provincial thoughts:

From David Suzuki, and worth sharing:

(Today) is Budget Day in Canada. It’s when the federal government lays out its plans for your money-- which programs and services it will introduce or expand and which it will cut or shut down.

Budgets are about choices--choices about what kind of country we are and what kind of things we value as a society. So while a lot of coverage will focus on what is or isn’t in this year’s budget, it’s important to look at this federal budget as a continuation in a long line of choices.  So let's ask: "What choices have been made so far?"

Clearly, the answers aren't good.
» 1.5 billion in cuts to the environment by 2016.
» 5 oil spill response offices closed across Canada.
» 8.4% cut to rail transportation safety.
» 99% of rivers and lakes now exempt from federal regulations.
» $56 million in cuts to Canada's food inspection system.
» 35 government libraries closed.
» More than 5,000 job losses at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, Fisheries and Oceans and » Agriculture Canada over the next three years.
» Over $298 million in government advertising since 2009-2010.
» » » » » All while federal fossil fuel subsidies add up to more than $1.38 billion.

These budget choices paint a picture, and it doesn't look good for the health of our communities and the people and places we love.

(The) federal budget will represent another set of choices about what kind of Canada we are leaving for our children and generations of children yet to come.

And he is only discussing scientific and environmental choices!

Later this week, the first of several Thursday afternoon provincial legislative committee meetings regarding the high capacity well issue is taking place:

Thursday, February 13, 2014 Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry
1:30PM   Coles Building   -   Pope Room

Topic: The committee will receive a briefing on the subject of deep well irrigation from Hon. Janice Sherry, Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General; Jim Young, Director of Environment; and Bruce Raymond, Manager of Watershed and Subdivision Planning.

These are open to the public as spectators, as those of you who attended ones in previous years regarding Plan B or fracking know; the public sits off to one side and is expected to be quiet.  

This committee is not meeting next Thursday, February 20th, but they are on the 27th, when the Citizens' Alliance and the group it help form regarding this issue will have a few minutes before the committee.  (The group is called the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Waters, and has representatives from most of the Island groups opposed to the moratorium being lifted.)

February 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few events to note:
Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 11th, 7PM, Lecture Theatre, Main Floor, Duffy Science Centre.
UPEI Climate Lab Lecture Series with Dr. Adam Fenech.  The lecture will include results from recent coastal erosion research projects conducted on P.E.I., how things have changed in our coastline in the last 40 years, and projections for the future.  More information: contact the Climate Lab at 620-5221 or climate@upei.ca.

Mark your calendar for towards the end of the month:
Wednesday, Wednesday, February 26th, 7PM, Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, Kent Street.
Public Forum on Water, including deep water wells, with Keynote speaker Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and world expert on water, and other speakers on issues facing Islanders with regard to water.

Regarding fracking,
David McGregor wrote last month:

Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing - The Guardian Commentary by David A. McGregor, Stratford

Published on January 23, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing has been around since 1947, when the now infamous Halliburton Corporation pioneered its use to retrieve gas
deposits from a field in Kansas. Much the same as today, the processed involved injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at high-pressure, first down, then across horizontally drilled holes in the earth (these holes can be as deep as 10,000 feet below the surface today). The pressure causes the rocks to crack and release the natural gas trapped within them. The rocks are kept separated by the sand particles, which allow the gas to flow up the well.

It sounds pretty simple, doesnʼt it? Water and sand at high pressure seem safe enough. Well, it canʼt be that dangerous. After all, they have been doing it since 1947. But what about those chemicals? I have been told some of them I can find in cleaners in my house. They canʼt be that bad? Right?

At fracfocus.org, you will see quite a litany of things on the menu. From acids and corrosion inhibitors to biocides and gelling agents, it is a very impressive cocktail. These are used to reduce friction, increase soil stabilization, kill bacteria and “winterize” the well, or as you and I would say “antifreeze.” This site, which is produced by the industry in the U.S., tells us we should not be alarmed. We should “trust them.” It is a safe and proven technology and that “they have the protection of the environment as their top priority.”

Residents of the town of Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania, would strongly disagree with that. In 2012, they reported rust-colored water flowing from a spring and two small creeks bubbling with methane gas. The incidents were among more than 50 similar cases related to the gas drilling in the state. In several instances houses exploded as a result of gas leaks and in one case three people were killed.

Workers at U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy near McKeesport found that water used to power their plant contained so much salty sediment it was corroding their machinery. An estimated 10,000 fish died on a 33-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in this area.

Furthermore, in June 2010, Vanity Fair wrote a story about the small town of Dimock, also in Pennsylvania. It states “Dimock is now known as the place where, over the past two years, peopleʼs water started turning brown and making them sick, one womanʼs water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.

You would think the U.S. Congress might want to step in and do something about this: You would be wrong!

There are no regulations for hydraulic fracturing in 21 of the 31 states where the practice has been in effect for several years. Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act in 2005.

What makes all of the above more of a travesty is that it doesnʼt even help the U.S. economy in the long run.
Dr. Richard Miller, former British Petroleum geologist and co-editor of a special edition of the prestigious magazine, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, co-authored a paper with Dr. Steve R. Sorrel, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton. In it, they state: “Greater reliance upon shale oil resources produced using hydraulic fracturing will exacerbate any rising trend in global average decline rates, since these wells have no plateau and decline extremely fast – for example, by 90 per cent or more in the first five years.”

Moreover, they deem any benefits to the U.S economy will be short lived. Shale oil production will not benefit the economy, will peak by 2020 and will never be able to replace the current 9 million barrels a day of imports.
New Brunswick is now allowing hydraulic fracturing in their province. Why would they want to? It will not meet their long term energy needs; it will not provide long term employment to local people; and it could cause a great amount of damage to the environment and local people, which can not be reversed.

The winner, of course, will be Corridor Resources, currently performing the fracking. If everything goes well, they will be able to use the water, air and land resources cheaply and any profits will go to the management.
If things go badly, and there is a chemical spill, the company can just declare bankruptcy, the management loses nothing, and the taxpayers of New Brunswick, or depending on the size of the spill, Canada will be left with the cost of the clean up.
It doesnʼt matter how rich you become if you donʼt have clean air, water or food. As many Pennsylvanians discovered, New Brunswick has made a potential deal with the devil.

and a satirical twist on what's going in New Brunswick

From the fake news release, they quote "the Premier":

"I want to be crystal clear, that we are supportive of shale gas companies, and their potential as an industry to prevent us from drinking our water. To not take advantage of our citizens would be one of the most irresponsible things a government could do,” .  

Alewife makes ‘crystal clear’ commitment to destroy the environment - The Daily Glove Puppet.com

Premier Duffer Alewife used his annual state of the province speech to reiterate his government’s “crystal clear” commitment to destroying the environment in New Brunswick, regardless of any potential political repercussions.

The government is looking to the development of unsustainable resources, such as shale gas, and a new plan for the forestry sector, to be released within days, to grow the share price of foreign energy companies, create temporary, low paying jobs, and create an environmental deficit, Alewife told the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night.

Alewife has touted the controversial shale gas industry before, but the speech was his final state of the province address of his career, with the provincial election just eight months away.

“I want to be crystal clear, that we are supportive of shale gas companies, and their potential as an industry to prevent us from drinking our water. To not take advantage of our citizens would be one of the most irresponsible things a government could do,” he said.

“I’ve had many people ask me why we are doing all these things, slow down, take the easy way out. That may be the most politically prudent approach, but I didn’t sign up for this job to stand still and not cash in on every last drop of dirty energy.”

During the 54-page speech, entitled Forgetting the Past, Destroying the Future, Alewife said he believes the province is now poisoned for an excruciating and cancerous future.

“Three years of ignoring the facts to push our ecological situation to the brink has set the stage for New Brunswick’s destruction, but only if we choose to exploit the environment before us,” he said.

February 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

So much stuff!  Here are two good letters from week before last, and the link to the presentation by the Department of Environment, Labour and Justice on the water extraction policy. 

From biologist Dr. Roger Gordon:

Minister should not give in to potato lobby - The Guardian Letter of the Day by Roger Gordon

Published on January 30, 2014

Our Minister of the Environment has shown poor leadership, not to mention patronizing attitude, by inviting the industry-inspired potato lobby group to educate Islanders on the merits of deep-water wells for irrigation purposes.

Now, Gary Linkletter has started this education remit with a treatise (Guardian, 25 Jan. - Guest Opinion) that attempts to explain the case for allowing corporate farming to access this precious water source by citing in the name of science conclusions from a government report. Is this the same report that the minister said would not be made available to the public, because it “was sent to me?”

So, it is hidden science. It is also science that obfuscates rather than clarifies. Mr. Linkletter makes no distinction between the shallower aquifers currently in public use and the deep-water source that would be accessed. We are given no information on the methodology used to form the conclusions. Respected environmental scientist Daryl Guignion believes there is insufficient scientific knowledge about the size and replenishment rate of the deep-water source to warrant lifting the moratorium. I agree.

Mr. Linkletter makes no mention of the quality of the deep water that he and his group would like to access. And for good reason.
The mindset of the agro sector toward industrial-scale production of potatoes, a low-value farm gate crop, has resulted in pesticide contamination of our rivers as well as high nitrate levels in surface and ground waters. The 2008 provincial Commission on Nitrates in Groundwater reported that as of 2007, an astounding 17 per cent of private wells surveyed were above or close to the safety limit for nitrates.

Aside from the fact most of the water will be wasted through evaporation, irrigation of heavily contaminated fields will speed up the leaching of agro-chemicals through the soil into our drinking water supply. And we are the only province in Canada totally dependent on groundwater. What is needed is not more potatoes, more pesticides, more fertilizers, but fewer potatoes, a more diversified agro-economy, with less reliance on toxicants. Water is a resource that belongs to the people of the province, not a sector of it. The minister should just say no to this irresponsible request.

Roger Gordon, Stratford, is a retired biologist and former Dean of Science at UPEI

And from Wendy Budgeon:  

Debate not needed on deep wells issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 29, 2014

I am absolutely dismayed at the debate over deep-water wells. What is there to debate? Our province depends on groundwater for life. Our children and grandchildren will be in bigger need of it than we are now.

How can our government even consider bargaining away our future for a handful of spuds? I have listened to the rhetoric on both sides and believe strongly in no more deep-water wells.

The potato industry would have us believe the science supports them. The only study I am aware of is almost a decade old. We cannot mortgage our future on 10-year-old science. Ten years ago the City of Charlottetown would have told you there was no water problem. We now know differently. Todayʼs science would have a different outcome as well I bet.

Please make your opinions known. Please donʼt believe 10-year-old science. Please save our childrenʼs and grandchildrenʼs water.

If potato farmers need more water then maybe they should be looking at desalination plants. But they wonʼt. Itʼs too expensive and the government couldnʼt help so much. So maybe there needs to be a dialog about truly treasuring the land and water not just about increasing yields and money.

P.E.I. could be a world leader in farm practices . . . instead we are just followers of dollars.

Wendy Budgeon, Charlottetown

And if you want to view the presentation from the Environment Department person given to the Federation of Agriculture last week, go here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment/water-extraction for a choice of the presentation on water extraction, the presentation with background slides, and the policy from the department.

February 8, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is an article written by Jack MacAndrew submitted to the Maritime publication Rural Delivery (DvL Publishing) and printed in the January/February 2014 issue, which I just received; and I reprint here, with Jack's permission:

TOO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK: THAT IS THE QUESTION - Rural Delivery magazine by Jack MacAndrew

          "Fracking" - No , it is not a euphemism for another "F" word not usually employed in polite company, or in a family magazine such as this.

          It is, in fact , a made-up word - a grammatical invention, so to speak, conjured up as a bit of technospeak to describe a process by which natural gas may be extracted from the depths of planet earth, to the benefit of anyone who cooks their food, drives an automobile and huddles for wintertime warmth; not to exclude shareholders in multi-national energy companies who may get unspeakably rich from this resource belonging to all of us.

          We have always had this habit of adding the letters "ing" to a noun, so as to turn it into a verb: as in fish-fishing, truck-trucking, helicopter - helicoptering.

          In the case of fracking, there is no noun. There is no such a thing as a frack; no animal, vegetable or mineral known as a frack. You can't see one, touch one or box one to send off to grandma on her birthday.  Fracking, is a total grammatical invention, invented so you don't need to keep saying - " hydraulic fracturing"- which can give you a headache if you say it often enough. 

          There is just - " fracking "; and for many ( for instance,those farmers in Ohio owning those cows whose tails began to drop off), that is fearsome enough.

          There are a lot of people in Atlantic Canada who don't want big energy companies from away to come fracking down here, no matter what economic puffery and job projections the politicians and proponents offer as bait.

          Indeed a recent poll tells us that about 70 per cent of Atlantic Canadians are ag'in it.

           In Nova Scotia , the legislature has placed a similar restriction on fracking activity, at least until an independent committee verifies "...there is no risk to drinking water, human health, the climate or communities".

          That is a very steep hill for proponents to climb. The committee will report back to government some time in 2014.

          Newfoundland/Labrador has responded with the same sort of stance; and in Quebec, a moratorium has been in place for some time.

          There's a ban in place in Massachusetts, and New York State, and in France as well.

          But not in New Brunswick, as you may have noticed in your newspaper or on television newscasts lately. 

          Nosireebob... not in your New Brunswick. The government of that fair and picturesque province ("The Picture Province", I believe it is nicknamed in tourist advertisements ) has turned over 1.4 million acres of its land mass to the subsidiary of an American owned company (Southwestern Energy) called SWN Resources Canada so it may zip about in large white trucks sinking test drills and using other seismic technology wherever it believes the underearth may secrete pockets of gas in beds of brittle shale rock.

          " Get to 'er lads...", invited Premier David Aylward, "... fill yer boots !"...all for a promise by the company to spend 47 million dollars in New Brunswick along with the unproven estimate of 1000 jobs and 1.5 billion big ones in economic activity; a price some would argue is merely a contemporary version of selling a birthright for the proverbial bowl of pottage. 

          And never no mind that more than 60 per cent of herrin'chokers of all political stripes said in a poll they did not want fracking in their province.

          That would include members of the Elisipogtog First Nation, who pointed out to the provincial government that it had no business giving SWN permission to bore test holes on their territory ,for a very simple reason-the provincial government does not own that land and has no right to do so without their consent. The aboriginal people have never ceded it to any government under any treaty.

          In November, months of peaceful protests ended and the barricades came down with massed and menacing police riot squads facing unarmed women and band elders, and according to one observer" .... shot rubber bullets at the mothers and the grandmothers, at the children".

          The protests were deemed by pundit Rex Murphy "...a rude dismissal of Canada's generosity ..." 

          The warrior societies sent in their own troops to defend their people on Indian lands.

          Then the whole shebang went south in a hurry.  

          The Prime Minister of Canada condemned the state use of riot squads to disperse and arrest peaceful protesters in the Ukraine. 

          He was so absorbed watching the massed cops in full riot gear over there, he didn't seem to notice massed cops in riot gear assaulting women and elders protesting on the Elisipogtog Reserve.               

          Police cars were burned in reprisal, and more than 40 Aboriginal and Acadien protesters were arrested.  Most have since been released . Some are still facing serious charges. 

          SWN has now packed up its gear and driven away, presumably to some place more receptive to their activity.

          But opposition to the fracking of New Brunswick has not gone into hibernation . Instead ,core groups are organizing and expanding the coalition of church groups, environmentalists, and other like minded souls to take on Premier David Aylward when he leads his government to the polls on September 14.

          And in the other three Atlantic Provinces, those independent committees will be holding public meetings and reviewing such scientific literature as exists.

          Which takes us to an explanation of what hydraulic fracturing (1.e fracking ) is, and what it does, and why it upsets so many people and makes them sick.

          Here's the recipe for what is admittedly a toxic brew.

          A slurry of so-called " Slick-water " is mixed up in a giant blender. The recipe calls for 90 per cent water; 5 percent sand ; and 5 percent chemical additives (acids , sodium chloride, polyacrylamide, ethylene glycol, borate salts, sodium/potassium carbonate, glutaraldehyde, guar gum, citric acid, and isopropanol, amongst other nasty stuff.

          It's that 5 per cent of chemical additives which can cause a lot of misery should it permeate and pollute water drawn from underground aquifers.

          The acid , by the way , is used to make the rock structure more permeable.

          That's a special fear on Prince Edward Island. If you kick a rock in New Brunswick, chances are you'll break a toe. If you kick a rock in PEI chances are you'll break the rock.  Already permeable sandstone, do you see.

          Anyhow, having mixed up your mess of slurry, you then dig a hole in the ground that could be as deep as 6000 metres ( 20,000 feet ), dump it into the hole , and then pump it horizontally into shale rock at a pressure high enough to crack the rock.The slurry then moves further into the shale , fracking away as it goes along , releasing any gas trapped in pockets along the way.

          The slurry and the natural gas then flow back up the borehole to the surface, where the millions of litres of slurry ( now termed " wastewater ") is diverted into plastic lined tanks dug into the earth's surface , and the gas is channeled into holding tanks. 

          A new study says that scientists who theorized that layers of impermeable rock would keep shallower aquifers pure are wrong in their conclusions; and that natural forces and fractures underground will allow chemicals to foul groundwater " ..in just a few years...".

          Nova Scotia has already had that experience.

          In 2007 the government issued a permit to Triangle Petroleum,  allowing the company to 

explore the presence of natural gas in Hants County.Triangle drilled five exploration wells , three of which were fracked. The company used and then stored 14 millions of litres of wastewater in artificial , plastic lined ponds.

          Millions of litres of that highly polluted wastewater remains in those ponds.

          It contains everything from known carcinogens to radio active material.  Nobody knows what to do with the wastewater. Some of it was secretly released into the environment. Some of it has leaked from one of the ponds.

          Indeed, the wastewater from fracking poses an enormous environmental problem all by itself. 

          A report on that experience, entitled " Out of Control: Nova Scotia's Experience with Fracking for Shale Gas" ,was  prepared by the Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition ( NOFRAC)and released in April of 2013.

          It said : " At this time there is no scientific evidence indicating that any method of disposal of fracking wastewater is environmentally safe ": and that , " Emerging science is exposing unexpected and serious risks".

          The report posed two choices for government ; press on with a trial-and-error learn as we go approach to shale gas development; or, slow down and look at all the costs and benefits , and especially the reality that if things go wrong , they may be unfixable.

          The report notes that some of the effects of fracking may only become evident years later ; after the fracking company is long gone, and it's responsibility impossible to prove.

          The people of Hants County know this better than anyone.

          NOFRAC recommended either a ten year moratorium, or an outright ban on fracking.

          During the months to come , both sides of the issue will undoubtedly produce volumes of documentation to prove their case .

          The anti-frackers will have a rich record to draw on .

          In Blackpool, England, a fracking company named Cuadrilla Resources admits : " It is highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing ( of a well ) did trigger a number of minor seismic events"- in other words - mini-earthquakes.

          In Louisiana seventeen cows died after an hour's exposure to spilled fracking fluid; in Pennsylvania, 140 cattle were exposed to fracking wastewater when an impoundment was breached and 70 of them died while the others got sick;in Hickory , Pennsylvania , Darrell Smitsky got rashes on his body from exposure to toluene, acrylonitrite, strontium , barium and manganese;and in Washington County , Stacey Haney's dog and goats died, while her son and daughter suffered stomach and kidney pain along with nausea and mouth ulcers. Glycol and arsenic will do that to you.

          The incidence of human and livestock ailments after exposure to fracking fluid and/or wastewater is extensive.

          The case for fracking can only be expressed in vague, ambiguous forecasts, and promises made according to complex economic models.

          The case becomes a spin doctor's challenge. 

          It's hard to convince people of an economic nirvana, when the other side counters with documented horror stories of individual suffering.

          Which by itself raises an essential question - on which side does the burden of proof rest - with the frackers ,to guarantee no harm will result to people , their animals or the environment on the road to economic benefit; or the anti-frackers , maintaining there is no safe way to exploit the reserves of shale gas under our feet; and no particular need to do so in any case.

          And this question emerges - We now know what happens when we send noxious gases skyward.  So what does it do to the underearth environment when hundreds or thousands of explosions take place underground in a few hectares of land mass ?

          We do not know with any certainty , and the penalty we would pay for challenging and changing the very foundations of planet earth evolved over eons of time - could be severe and irreversible. 

          The anti-fracking crowd will document hundreds of cases of visible harm; from benzene in the bathwater to cows without tails in the barnyard.

          There is that matter of "unintended consequences", should the energy companies frack away to their bankers' joy .

          And if they come at the expense of farmers and country people, what recourse will there have when the well goes sour and the water is undrinkable for them or their livestock?

**The one fact I am not sure of is legislation this spring in the PEI Legislature about fracking, based on Minister Sherry's comments from a couple of weeks ago.

I would also mention that Rural Delivery, if you haven't ever read a copy, is a great publication (as are the sister publications Atlantic Forestry, etc.)
The website is here, with older stories, but new monthly or bi-monthly issues are available at the feed stores and some bookstores.  It's quite a good connection about people interested in living and working in their communities.

And some Farmers' Markets are open today.

February 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Friday Fun and Games:

Sometimes charts help you see patterns.

Repeating History


Plan B

High Capacity Wells

Department and Minister responsible

Transportation, Vessey

Environment, Sherry

Minister punts to

Stantec consulting

PEI Potato Board


writes, and then retracts, *approval* of Plan B

Says it's not their job, but is part of team
with Cavendish Farms hiring former MLAs/Premier's staff as consultants

and that results in

dozens and dozens of letters
from concerned, articulate

dozens and dozens of letters
from concerned, articulate Islanders

Minister's spokesperson duties shifted to

Steven Yeo, chief engineer

Bruce Raymond, manager of watershed planning

who says

Plan B is needed for safety.
 It will meet or exceed TAC Standards

There is capacity for "dozens and dozens
 and dozens of wells."

Mr. Yeo said, "I was expecting that," when quality problems have already occurred on Plan B.  Do we want Mr. Raymond to be saying that in a few years about water quality problems?

Ultimately, Islanders know, the responsibility for both of these decisions rests with the Premier.

and the Island Successor to Suess, Carl Mathis:

Pave will wave so pave the wave - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 06, 2014

Little did we know, last October, that our chief engineer was expecting . . . on Plan B. This was consulted. You must recall the meeting where it was discussed, just as Plan B was so thoroughly disgusted. Plan Bb: The pave will wave, so weʼll pave the wave.

Carl Mathis, Charlottetown

February 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

From the insert in yesterday's Guardian, The PEI Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association annual insert.  The publication is devoid of bragging about Plan B (an outlook report wistfully mentions an additional $10 million from it last year for the "realignment" and describes 2014 as likely to be a "slim year").

Then there is this ad on the second to last page:

Stantec environmental consulting firm ad, in Road Builders' insert, The Guardian, February 5th, 2014.  (The red oval and green writing are mine.)  

Stantec was hired by the province to produce the Environmental Impact Assessment for Plan B, and certainly proud of their work.
I wonder how Stantec would be involved if high capacity wells and hydraulic fracturing come any closer to PEI.

Today's Guardian covers the involvement of lobbyists in the high capacity well issue.
Yesterday was a meeting of the Legislative Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.  They were just supposed to plan the schedule for requests for presentations from groups concerned about high capacity wells.  It sounds like the PC Opposition (which is different then one of them first said) *did* meet with the lobbyists, but not Mr. Chris LeClair (Premier Ghiz's former chief of staff).  The bolding is mine:

Call for lobbyists to testify leads to fiery debate - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on February 6th, 2014

A fiery meeting of MLAs on the contentious issue of deep-water irrigation wells ended Wednesday with a majority vote against calling two politically connected lobbyists to testify.

Opposition MLA Colin LaVie wanted the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry to call the premierʼs former chief of staff, Chris LeClair, and former Liberal MLA Cynthia King to appear.

The two have been hired by the Potato Board and Cavendish Farms to co-ordinate meetings with as many provincial MLAs as possible to lobby in favour of lifting the current moratorium on irrigation wells.

LaVieʼs request led to a heated exchange between government and Opposition MLAs Wednesday, especially when it came to light LeClair did not attend meetings with the Tory caucus or with Independent MLA Olive Crane, but did atend meetings with Liberal MLAs.

“They didnʼt see fit to attend our (meeting). Why?” said Opposition MLA James Aylward.

“I think this committee, Islanders in general, deserve to know what these lobbyists are doing, what their agenda is.”
Liberal backbencher Kathleen Casey argued calling the P.E.I. Potato Board to the committee would suffice, since the board was one of the parties that engaged LeClair.

Liberal MLA Pat Murphy accused the Tories of playing politics on the issue of deep-water wells, which he said is a “very important issue to the province.”

But Opposition Leader Steven Myers frequently interrupted them.

“He was the premierʼs right-hand-man, heʼs lobbying on behalf of the potato industry, letʼs have him here,” he said.

“Does having Chris LeClair involved with this give whoever it is thatʼs lobbying for deep water wells... a direct line to the decision maker of this province. Thatʼs the question.

“It just screams political interference. I donʼt know why you wouldnʼt want to know if someone is trying to directly influence the premier.”

The only Liberal MLA who supported the idea of calling the two to testify was Buck Watts, who said he felt it was the only way they could clarify their roles and not continue to polarize the committee.

“After hearing the way this meeting is starting out, I think we should bring Cynthia King and Chris LeClair in to clear their name and find out exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it... who were they hired by, who were they paid by, whatʼs their reason for doing it,” Watts said.

“Weʼre going to be into a bloody mess all through if we donʼt get this straightened out off the bat, get this cleaned up, get this off the plate.”

But in the end, the request was denied in a vote of 4-3, with Watts voting with LaVie and Aylward. Casey, Murphy, Bush Dumville and Hal Perry defeated the motion.

After the meeting, LaVie said he believes the Liberals on the committee were the ones playing politics.

“Itʼs another sign theyʼve got something to hide,” he said.

“Theyʼre making a political issue out of it, and they said in the meeting they didnʼt want to make it political – then put them at the table. Let us hear it.”

The committee did, however agree to LaVieʼs request to call Environment Minister Janice Sherry to appear. The committee will further be delving into the hot-button issue of deep well irrigation for the next two months, with weekly meetings planned until the end of March.

After that, public consultations will be held to ensure all Islanders have the chance to voice their opinions.

Environment, Labour and Justice Minister Janice Sherry is looking for a little help:

An Ad posting pointed out to me on the government's Exceutive Council Office website:

Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment, Prince Edward Island Department of Environment, Labour and Justice

An opportunity to make a real difference
Based in Charlottetown, working as an Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) with the Government of Prince Edward Island, you can leverage your leadership skills, influence, and expertise to make a real difference as the province shapes its environmental initiatives for today and future generations. You will have responsibility for a wide range of programs, services and activities related to environmental protection, land development, and inspection services.

Position Summary:
Your primary responsibilities as the ADM are to provide advice and support to the Minister and Deputy Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice, recommend and implement government policies and plans, provide leadership and guidance to related functional areas through the Director and senior management team, and manage fiscal and human resources. You will find the right solutions for the environment and the people of PEI.

And finally, in a sea of well-crafted, heartfelt letters about this high capacity well issue, this evocative one stuck with me:

Using more water wonʼt help matters - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 05, 2014

More water, more potatoes, more environmental degradation.

Since the science says P.E.I.ʼs deep- water supply can grow more potatoes, whatʼs the guarantee it will be done more safely to enhance the environment?

And why hasnʼt science disproven the theory that what weʼre growing and how weʼre growing it may be connected to P.E.I.ʼs high cancer rate?

Weʼve been told for years that growing more potatoes, like catching more lobsters, results in lower prices in the marketplace where we are a mere drop in the bucket, compared to Idaho and Western Canada where soils are rich and deep.

Using more water wonʼt change farming methods. Choosing to use more water to mitigate poor farming practices wonʼt work to enhance worn out soil, and improve the environment everyone shares.

Letʼs ask some basic questions here of our government or any other party that wants to form one:

- How will pumping more water to grow 30,000 more acres of potatoes stop environmental degradation?

- How will 30,000 acres more make P.E.I. a better place to be in 2103 when weʼre all gone and weʼve left the mess to families following us?

- What ever happened to the Liberal philosophy of Canadaʼs youngest premier in 1966 who said “the faster we go, the more behinder weʼll get”? Alex Campbell was 32 and just last month Premier Robert Ghiz turned 40. I think our premier needs to talk with Alex soon about a vision that hasnʼt become a reality to make P.E.I. stronger, and a better place to live.

We must become more than just a province where former Islanders come home to retire and then die, in a dying environment.

In this small Island heaven, weʼve got to get our furrows “straighter” before we “drift” any further.

Lorne Yeo, Argyle Shore

February 5, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

More about the high capacity wells from yesterday and Monday:

from Compass Monday night, about 6:30 into the broadcast
The executive director of the Federation of Agriculture said a resolution passed at their AGM, saying to lift the ban on these wells only if the scientific data shows that there would not affect water quantity or quality.
They want to see all the studies laid out, and meet with people who have done the work.

The Province says all the science is on the website.
In yesterday's Guardian, this news story on the front page (copied at the end with my bolding):

and here is one of the many outstanding commentary pieces (bolding mine), on the editorial page, by biologists Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie:

Industry reports of deep-water wells still "opinion, not science." - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie


The Islandʼs potato industry has prepared a position paper designed to support its request for more access to our groundwater for irrigation. We believe the industryʼs claims need a closer look.

The industry says its competitors — growers in regions such as Washington and Idaho — produce more potatoes per acre than we can here. They say that yields in the western U.S. are increasing annually, and that irrigation is the key to increasing local yields and making P.E.I. competitive with these regions.

The fact is places like Washington and Idaho have many competitive advantages such as longer growing seasons and much deeper topsoil than we have on P.E.I. Irrigation will not change this. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and others have shown that soil quality, especially organic matter, is the key factor in productivity. Because of the land management choices made by P.E.I.ʼs potato industry, our soil quality has gotten worse Island-wide and this decline continues.

The industry says science shows that lifting the moratorium and allowing more irrigation would only use a tiny fraction of the groundwater recharge and would not overburden natural groundwater resources.

The fact is there is as yet no verified science on this. Industry is quoting unpublished and unreviewed reports from a government department and one hired consultant. This is opinion, not science.

Further, it is the opinion of a small group within government. Other government staff — those with expertise in fish, wildlife and wetlands, for example — have not been consulted. Until these reports are released to the public and peer-reviewed by independent experts, they should not be regarded as science.

The industry says additional irrigation would not affect residential or commercial use of groundwater.

The fact is potato production is already affecting Islandersʼ water and additional irrigation could make this worse. In heavily farmed areas of the province — places such as Albany, Borden-Carleton, Lower Freetown, Middleton and Mount Royal, for example — many private wells have nitrate levels higher than Health Canadaʼs guideline.

This nitrate is from chemical fertilizer used by agriculture, and the contamination is getting worse across P.E.I. Additionally, pumping irrigation water from deep underground can pull contaminated water from nearer the surface into the deeper levels. In the short term, homeowners can dig (and pay for) deeper wells. As contamination moves into deeper levels, even that may no longer work.

The industry says irrigation will produce healthier potatoes that require less fertilizer and pesticides. It says that potato growers understand the need to be conscientious stewards of the land and are committed to environmental sustainability.

The fact is past behaviour predicts future behaviour. Consider the potato industryʼs track record of “conscientious stewardship” and “environmental sustainability:”

- Soil erosion rates are more than 10 times higher than those deemed acceptable for agricultural land. More than 60,000 truckloads are lost from P.E.I. farmland into our streams and rivers every year and the situation is not improving.

- Nitrate — chemical fertilizer from farmland — contaminates the majority of private wells on P.E.I., with many above the accepted Canadian drinking water guidelines. This contamination worsens each year.

- Excessive sea lettuce — caused by nitrates — chokes many bays and estuaries, with direct economic impacts on P.E.I.ʼs shellfish and other industries. The stinking conditions that this situation creates are happening earlier and in more areas each year.

- More than 50 fish kills have been reported across P.E.I., including two in the past year. Despite annual Government and industry statements that fish kills are unacceptable, they continue.

- Opposition to action that would address these problems. P.E.I.ʼs potato industry has consistently refused to accept responsibility for these issues.

It is clear that this denial of responsibility continues: their position paper clearly states that industry seeks increased access to water with no new regulatory restrictions beyond the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act. It has been publically reported that many potato producers do not even comply with this Act at present.

We call on government to implement the following before making a decision on industryʼs request:

- Open up governmentʼs opinion on water availability to peer review. This would include the water extraction policy and the models used to develop it.

- Develop a Water Policy for Prince Edward Island that clearly outlines how clean and high-quality water will be provided for current and future generations. Development of this policy requires public consultation.

- Determine and make public the true economic impact of the potato industry on P.E.I. This includes its economic contributions, as well as the clean-up costs currently borne by the public, as well as subsidies and rebates paid to it by taxpayers.

- Establish an Action Group to develop a new Agricultural Strategy which focuses on true economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie are award-winning biologists with many decades of experience in soil, water and ecology.

Deep-water wells in province's hands - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt

Published on Tuesday, February 4th

A recommendation to lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells is headed to government following unanimous support by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

The resolution by the largest agricultural organization in the province was approved in a closed-door session Friday afternoon and will seek the removal of a 10-year-old moratorium on deep-water wells for agricultural irrigation.

However, the resolution is two-fold, and insists the moratorium removal is based on quality science and a significant water management program to monitor the resource.

“The members gave support to the lifting of the moratorium for supplemental irrigation purposes provided the Department of Environment has the science to back such a step,ʼʼ said P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture executive director John Jamieson. “Our members recognize water is a public resource and we are all concerned about groundwater.”

Controversy has spiked over the issue of providing permits to farmers who are seeking supplemental irrigation wells to make up for a lack of summer rainfall.

Jamieson said irrigation isnʼt exclusive to potato farms and is sought by those in other horticultural activities from blueberries to flowers.

“Letʼs keep in mind that these irrigation wells arenʼt going to be turned on from May until harvest,ʼʼ he said. “The irrigation is only needed for the few dry spots during the growing season.”

Last year, a lack of rainfall in the central areas of the province impacted everything from carrots to potatoes and farmers say opportunities to irrigate during those dry spells would have prevented crop loss.

The federation annual meeting held Friday heard from provincial watershed manager Bruce Raymond, who said there was ample water supply on P.E.I. and adequate recharge rates as well. However, despite strong water levels, Raymond said all regions of the province could experience different impacts depending on the amount of water extracted.

“The federation resolution also insists that a solid water-extraction policy is implemented and controls where wells are dug and how much is taken ...it would have to be resourced managed,ʼʼ said Jamieson.

The resolution, along with others, was approved during a closed-door session of the meeting. In the past, federation resolutions have always been debated in an open session during the annual meeting.

February 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Quotable Quotes:

The Guardian filmed a clear cup of sloshing red juice on the dashboard of their car, while driving along the Plan B road -- pretty strong visual of how bumpy the road it. (Story below)

Steven Yeo, the chief engineer: "I fully expected this to happen." 
Why didn't he say that earlier?  Does he expect anything else we don't?

There is a cute little timeline link to some of the paper's stories about Plan B in the article.

Rocky "Plan B" road only temporary, province says - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross

Published on February 3rd, 2014

The construction process might have been a little rocky, but the drive on part of the Trans- Canada Highway isnʼt any smoother thanks to bumps on the section of road known as Plan B.

Some drivers on the new, $16-million highway, which opened to traffic along the entire stretch in the fall, have been left wondering why it is so bumpy, considering it is was only recently paved.

Steve Yeo, the provinceʼs chief engineer, said when construction is done late in the season there are often what he called "frost differentials" or heaving.

“I fully expected that to happen,” he said.

Construction on the highway began in 2012 after protests shut it down temporarily and it officially opened in October 2013 from one end of the realignment to the other.

Some drivers have since been complaining about how uneven and bumpy the road has become.

Yeo said the areas that were paved last were the worst sections near New Haven and in the Bonshaw area.

Itʼs because the moisture didnʼt have time to dry and settle so itʼs consistent, Yeo said. 

“Under the asphalt you get pockets of higher moisture content, which when it freezes raises more.”

Yeo said roads typically rise about three inches in the winter when they freeze, but when that happens itʼs usually consistent across the entire road.

Another layer of asphalt will be laid on the road this year and Yeo said when people drive on the highway next winter they wonʼt see the bumps that are there now.

“Youʼll see a consistent heave across the whole mat,” he said.
The whole Plan B episode ...a consistent heave.

George Webster, Agriculture Minister, regarding high capacity wells: "We need much more consultation with the public so they are informed.''

Once again, Consultation results in the populace being Educated.


But here is the quote we need:

"Fumigation of soil, more high capacity wells, soil erosion, nitrates in ground and surface water, fish kills (better to call them river kills) and multiple, annual anoxic events in our waterways across PEI. We have tied it all together so many times and brought it to our politicians, planners, farmers, industries, road builders and more. We will continue to do so, but we need to keep improving the awareness of the connections. Our wildlife, natural areas and our own health depend on us not making this situation worse. Do what you can to prevent future damage."

  - Jackie Waddell, Island Nature Trust

February 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Just a note about Plan B, as in Bumpity.  If you have had no other choice but to drive on Plan B in the past six weeks or so, you may have noticed increasingly wavy or just plain bumpy areas, especially at the Bonshaw and the New Haven ends of the project.  At first I thought I was being too critical of a little frost-heaving, and apparently at Transportation they have said all will be fine after the second coat of asphalt in the summer.  Listening to fairly unbiased people about road-building, it's not just a little frost-heaving.  We watched the rush in those same areas to get gravel and asphalt down so Minister Vessey could brag that the road was done before the end of October.  Packs of gravel trucks dumping on the run, and a dozen asphalt trucks lined up for quite a while behind what appeared to be a broken paver. 

From October 23rd, 2013, furiously dumping gravel at Plan B (this photo is where Plan B cut into the old TCH near Fairyland).  Cars were on this part within days.

No amount of asphalt is going to fix problems with the gravel bed over that broken up rocky sandstone -- it's not chocolate butter frosting I can use to even out a lopsided cake -- and it sounds like traffic and hot weather will likely exacerbate the waves.  In the meantime, there is still winter and spring; perhaps a "Stop Plan B" bumper sticker can be rustled up for the first photo of a pothole on Plan B.  ;-)

February 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some random notes, perhaps good for reading with a warm cup of something on a wet Sunday:

Fracking in Noca Scotia:
A Nova Scotia company says it is able to clean up fracking waste water.
Is this the water used to frack the well, then pumped out and in holding structures, or the water and chemicals that leaks through any breakdown in the concrete pipes?  (I think I know the answer.)

As of right now, Nova Scotia is not allowing fracking, but the new government has called for a review, which is evaluated here:

Regarding PEI and high capacity wells:
Yesterday's Guardian had a story about the presentation on groundwater by the Department of Environment's Bruce Raymond at the Federation of Agriculture's AGM Friday, and Agriculture Minister Webster's comments (article printed further down this e-mail):

Someone wrote me:

"It would appear that Government has ripped the (Educate the Public on the Wells) File back from the Potato Board.

The press did not note any Potato Board presentations at the Federation of Agriculture meeting.

Government is now doing the Full Sale mode (including a timely little "Environmental Update" tucked into this morning's Guardian).

It seems as though they are using the road-tested "Announce and Defend" template, sans Announcement.

Sherry has been muzzled as well, with the Premier stepping up to take the helm.

The Good News is that both Ghiz and Webster are not optimistic about getting Permits on-stream this season.

They both are talking about some form of public consultation.

This to me indicates that some Time has been bought."

Deep water well issue may go to public consultation - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt

Published on February 1, 2014

He’s not ruling it out but Agriculture Minister George Webster says the lifting of the deep water well moratorium and issuing new permits this year could be a stretch.

But that all might depend on the opinion of Islanders.

Webster confirmed at the annual meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture Friday in Charlottetown that a process is forthcoming to engage the general public and gather opinion on the controversial issue.

A moratorium on deep water wells was established 10 years ago and some potato growers are pressing the government to lift the ban and allow some new permits to be acquired this year. There are already 35 deep water wells grandfathered into the regulations, and Webster said there have been no adverse effects recorded from those wells.

“We need much more consultation with the public so they are informed,’’ he told The Guardian in an interview. “We will likely be told here today that there is adequate water available, but we want the public to be able to air opinion and hear the science.”

Watershed management director Bruce Raymond of the Department of Environment was one of the highlights at the farm meeting when he identified that — while every region is different — P.E.I. is mostly blessed with plenty of water and at a regular recharge rate.

“It works out to the equivalent of 154 Olympic size swimming pools for every square kilometre,’’ he told a roomful of farmers at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. “That’s about 70 times more than we currently use across the province.”

Raymond wasn’t suggesting there was so much water that irrigation permits should be handed out carte blanche, but he confirmed that the entire province only uses seven per cent (for everything) of the 35 per cent of the current water supply readily available.

The $1 billion dollar potato industry is looking to irrigate about 30,000 additional acres and estimates it would only take an additional one per cent of water. Raymond said the “math” hadn’t been finalized, but estimated that was a low ball figure.

“We use about seven per cent of the available level (top of the aquifer) so there is still quite a bit of water,’’ he said.

Webster said Stratford is currently using almost 90 per cent of its current water supply and irrigation permits would not be entertained from that region, but he confirmed there were certain parts of the province where the water was more than plentiful.

The minister said he expects full consultations with the public coming soon and before any decision is made by government.

“This year might be a stretch but I’m not ruling it out or saying it’s going to happen. Some could be doable, but not from coast to coast to coast.”

Opposition Leader Steven Myers attended the presentations on deep water wells and climate change and insisted public consultation was necessary.

“I won’t oppose a decision based on good science,’’ he said. “But there’s no need to rush on making a good decision. I’m asking the government to put everything on the table so we can all decide.”

Finally, regarding Canada Post's drastic plans to cut door-to-door mail delivery and raise postal rates, a commentary this week in The Guardian, by Herb Dickieson, former NDP MLA in the PEI Legislature.  Please keep writing your opinions, Dr. Dickieson.

Canada must keep door-to-door postal delivery - The Guardian Guest Opinion By Herb Dickieson

Published on January 29, 2014

It is of grave concern to Islanders that Stephen Harperʼs government decided to cut Canada Post and eliminate door-to-door delivery without meaningful discussion or consultation with Canadians.

Canada Post Corporation — an institution that predates Confederation — was created to provide a high standard of postal service that meets the needs of the people of Canada. It has done so for over 150 years, and has been profitable for most of that time, including the recent 2012 figures, and 16 of the last 17 years.

Rather than strengthening our national postal service to help keep it competitive, the Harper government has irresponsibly raised the price

of postage stamps by 59 per cent overnight and is busy slashing postal services and jobs to a level unseen anywhere else in the developed world. Once Mr. Harperʼs radical changes are complete, Canada will be the only major industrial country in the world without any door-to-door mail delivery.

The Harper government quickly attempted to downplay the massive price increases and service cuts by claiming the changes will only affect “a few wealthy downtowners.” On the contrary, it has been reported that close to four million apartment and condo dwellers whose mail is delivered to their building mailboxes will no longer receive that service, and close to three-quarter million rural residents with individual rural route mailboxes will eventually be moved to community mailboxes, along with an additional two million Canadians who live in smaller towns and use general delivery or post office boxes.

While some of these Canadians may be “wealthy downtowners”, the majority are average Canadians including seniors and the disabled who will be forced into using outdoor community mailboxes regardless of their ability to do so.

Stephen Harperʼs decision making can only be explained by his governmentʼs recent but hushed announcement that it was ordering Canada Post to delay addressing its unfunded pension liabilities until 2018 — well after the next election. By kicking the pension can down the road for another government to deal with Mr. Harper neatly passes the buck and avoids having to pay for Canada Postʼs $1-billion pension shortfall next year, something that would have sunk his plan to go to the polls in 2015 with a balanced budget. Mr. Harper seems to think it is acceptable to radically cut Canadaʼs postal system solely to improve his election prospects, putting his party ahead of the interests of Canadians.

Being fiscally responsible is important, but forcing Canadaʼs seniors and disabled to outdoor community mailboxes subject to theft, vandalism and poor weather, and denying them their door-to-door delivery of important items including medications for the sole benefit of Stephen Harperʼs electoral prospects is not only wrong, itʼs shameful.

Canadians have agreed on the services they want . . . and that includes Canada Post and door-to-door delivery. No other developed country in the world is going down this path, and neither should we.

Dr. Herb Dickieson is a family physician practising in Prince County and is a former member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.

February 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The concerns about lifting a ban on high capacity wells keeps pouring into our public forums.  The papers are full of excellent letters practically each day.   It would seem incredibly un-smart if a government didn't pay attention to the tenor of public opinion as exemplified in our dear Guardian, Journal-Pioneer, and Graphics.  Unfortunately, as with Plan B, government appears either not paying attention to this legitimate mode of public communication**,  or purposing downplaying people's opinions.
**in what seemed like a bit of a Sarah Palin moment, my MLA admitted last year that she often didn't read the paper.

Your letters definitely get the *public* thinking.

The Guardian 

The Eastern (and West Prince) Graphic

The Journal-Pioneer 


On last night's CBC Compass, reporter John Jeffery went to the Federation of Agriculture annual general meeting and summarized it pretty well, with his story about 6:20 into the broadcast.
The membership heard from Bruce Raymond of the Department of the Environment who was on CBC Radio early Thursday, saying The Science says there is plenty of water if we stay within the policy.

The Department of the Environment (to their credit) Friday placed what is likely Mr. Raymond's powerpoint presentation on this page.  The second choice has the "slides" with additional background information, and the third is the actual policy.  (Just a note that a policy is not the same as legislated "Water Act", a related issue.)
If you have time to poke around in it this weekend.

The Federation did not make any sort of public statement on the issue of high capacity wells.

Agriculture Minister George Webster did say, "Don't look at your own farm gate. Look at the Big Picture."  A statement most would agree with.

From Rob MacLean, blueberry farmer, among other things, of Lewes:

No reason yet to trust industry - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 29, 2014

If governments and the potato industry havenʼt gotten soil conservation right, why should we believe theyʼre competent to manage our common water supply?

Science is very clear that minimizing erosion by maintaining soil organic matter of at least three percent is what we should do and that a crop rotation of at least three years is the way to do it. We canʼt plead ignorance. For decades, weʼve had commissions, round tables, teaching sessions and grants encouraging this goal.

In 2002, we even passed a law mandating crop rotations. The governmentʼs own website says one purpose of the Crop Rotation Act is “to maintain and improve ground and surface water quality . . .” So, how are we doing?

According to the Report of the Commission on the Lands Protection Act (p.28), from about 2001 to 2008 organic matter dropped Island-wide. At the start of the period, roughly two-thirds of the samples met the minimum level of three per cent. By 2008, only half were making the grade. Thatʼs not all. The same report (page 28 again) says fully one in four potato farms are not in compliance with the Crop Rotation Act. In other words, theyʼre breaking the law.
Historically, governments have been reluctant to prosecute offenders under the Crop Rotation Act. Maybe it seems like piling on to someone who already has plenty of troubles. Whatever the reason, going easy on offenders has the unintended consequence of discrediting the entire potato industry in the eyes of the public.

Learning the science of the water under our feet is just the beginning of the deep-well conversation. Our history with soil conservation proves that we have a lot to learn about putting environmental knowledge into practice. Until we do, thereʼs no reason to believe the potato industry can be trusted with our water.

Rob MacLean, Lewes

January 31, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The PEI Federation of Agriculture is meeting today for its Annual General Meeting.

One of items is a presentation on groundwater and high capacity wells from someone from the Department of Environment, who has said the science supports the ability of Island groundwater to have "dozens and dozens and dozens" of high capacity wells (CBC Radio, yesterday morning after 6AM).  There is a resolution for government presumably about lifting the ban on these wells.

Here is a letter from the one of the watershed groups in Wednesday's Guardian:

Why should we support request where resource put further at risk? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Mike Durant

Published on January 29, 2014

The P.E.I. Potato Board and Cavendish Farms are asking that the moratorium on high-capacity groundwater extractions be lifted. Concerned citizens, scientists and the National Farmers Union have presented their own arguments against such action. We now learn that ex-politicians and ex-civil servants have been hired to lobby every MLA on the potato industryʼs behalf, moving the debate away from objective science and into the political realm.

The Central Queens Wildlife Federation feels that all Islanders should understand the facts of this important debate. We have sent this fact sheet to every MLA on future Islandersʼ behalf.

Did you know? The new Water Extraction Permitting Policy allows 100 metres of headwater streams to dry up entirely during the low-flow time of the year when groundwater makes up all or most of stream flow. As the flows are reduced, the pathway for water shrinks in from the banks of the river, further eliminating the downstream edge habitat that is so critical for young fishes and other aquatic life. Young fish forced into mid-stream are eaten by larger fish, reducing and potentially eliminating future generations of the population. Where will the fish come from to sustain these populations?
Did you know? There is a lag time for recovery of groundwater loss from extraction. It may be many weeks before the affected stream will return to normal levels. If this is very late in the summer, the water level may not recover until spring. Island rivers are already being impacted by low water levels and low rates of recharge in recent years, evident from Environment Canada monitoring. Will recharge rates return to the historical rates upon which the provincial extraction permitting policy appears to be based? How much will climate change affect recharge in future years?

Did you know? This issue is not just about the quantity of groundwater available to people and nature, it is also about the quality of that water. When wells pump water up to the surface for our use, it creates pressure underground that pulls water toward the well from the surrounding soil and rock.

On the Island, that means water from closer to the surface will be pulled down to the depth of deep-water wells. Water closer to the surface has higher concentrations of nitrate —nitrogen. It also contains other fertilizer components like phosphorus and water-soluble forms of pesticides. In the process of extracting water from greater depths, we will further contaminate our deepwater aquifer. What consequences will this have to the water discharging to our estuaries, and the frequency of anoxic events ?

Did you know? The guideline for acceptable levels of nitrate-nitrogen in drinking water is a concentration of 10 mg/L, for protection of aquatic life it is 2.9 mg/L. Nitrate concentrations indicating ʻpristineʼ water conditions on the Island are in the range of 0.5 -1.0 mg/L. Average nitrate values for the Wilmot, Dunk and Mill Rivers in 2008/2009 exceeded 7.1, 4.5 and 3.0 mg/L, high enough to produce anoxic events. When drinking water values climb, the only recourse for the well owner to reduce the nitrate concentration is to either install a reverse osmosis filtration system ($1,500) or dig a deeper well ($3,000). There are roughly 30,000 approved cottage lots on the Island. In some locations, they may be faced with two choices: dig a shallow well with high nitrate-nitrogen concentrations or dig a deeper well with saltwater intrusion. If someoneʼs well goes dry or is contaminated, will the potato industry be compensating them? How many Islanders can afford to front these costs themselves?  

Did you know? While the industry lobby is arguing that supplemental irrigation will improve potato yields and make Island growers and processors more competitive, the main advantages enjoyed by this industry in other regions are superior quality soils and longer growing seasons. Irrigation will not affect either of these factors. Soil quality monitoring by the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Forestry has shown that the benchmark three-year crop rotation does not prevent soil organic matter from decreasing year after year. A minimum of a four-year crop rotation with two years in forage is required to maintain organic matter in the soil. Why is organic matter important? Because it holds water! You canʼt retain water at the soil surface for plant uptake if youʼre growing your crop in sand. The potato industry has squandered their topsoil and soil organic matter for decades by operating in a manner that is not sustainable. Supplemental irrigation is not a cure for these harmful practices. If we continue in this fashion, the data shows that our soils will become inert and our groundwater unsuitable for animal or human consumption. How many more years will it really give the industry? Who will benefit in the long run from this initiative — potato producers or just the processors?

Yes, the potato industry on the Island has challenges and yes, they need to take a hard look at the long-term sustainability of their practices. But why should the public be asked to support an initiative where the longevity of the benefits to the industry are questionable and where a public resource is further put at risk?

The Island is in desperate need of strong policy on land and resource use. While the current government works on a land use policy, there is no indication that this will sufficiently protect our ground and surface waters from over-exploitation. We need a provincial water policy, similar to other provinces, which eliminates the potential for strong lobby groups with deep pockets to override what is in the best interest of Islanders.

Mike Durant is a board member of the Central Queens Wildlife Federation and West River Watershed Project.
The irony is that the photo The Guardian presumably plucked from its files to illustrate the letter is from a few years back and shows the current executive director of the Federation of Agriculture flyfishing on the West River.

The Guardian file photo

January 30, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The high capacity wells issue continues:
I heard the Manager of Watershed and Subdivision Planning from the Department of Environment on CBC Radio earlier this morning.  He said the Island could handle "dozens and dozens and dozens" of high capacity wells.

From Betty Howatt of Tryon, a paragon of common sense and care of the land (bold is mine):

Deep wells, fracking draw heritage farm ire - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 29, 2014

Since cultivation began on our land around the 1770s, shallow hand-dug wells have provided all needs of man and beast. There was ample water here. I can still show the location of three wells, for watering animals, now not needed, so filled in. A fourth, producing one on our property across the road from us ran dry so a new well was drilled about five years ago.

In 2013 the shallow, hand-dug well that has supplied the needs of our farm and household for the many years Iʼve been fortunate to live here, that well dried up, with another 150- foot well needed.

The farm federation does not speak for this member family. We strongly oppose the granting of permits for deep wells. We also request a permanent moratorium on permits for fracking.

An oversized sandbar, surrounded by salt water, that is our Island, our living space. Think on that.

Betty Howatt, Howattʼs Fruit Farm, Tryon

CBC Radio is also talking to a representative from the P.E.I. Potato Board, and from Todd Dupuis from the Atlantic Salmon Federation after the 7AM news, I believe.  His very well thought-out commentary was also in yesterday's paper (full text at end):

The political panel will also discuss the issue after 7:40AM on the radio.  Presumably they'll comment on how Environment Minister Sherry has handled this, as Paul MacNeill has written in The Eastern Graphic:

P.E.I. potato industryʼs grab for more water doesnʼt pass smell test - The Guardian Commentary by Todd Depuis

Published on January 29, 2014

When it comes to the economy, the P.E.I. potato industry may be a giver; but when it comes to the environment, it is a taker and a big one at that. Donʼt forget that this industry is responsible for millions of tons of topsoil eroding from fields and into our waterways annually. This is the same industry that is responsible for the stinking dead zone anoxic events that happen annually in our estuaries. Itʼs the industry that is responsible for more than 40 pesticide-related fish kills, which happen like clockwork every year, some making national and international news. The industry is responsible for nitrate contamination of our drinking water, an issue that is only getting worse. Every person that drinks water out of his or her tap in Charlottetown is drinking chemical fertilizer.

Thanks to the potato industry, Charlottetownʼs drinking water nitrate level is three to seven times higher (depending on the government data you use) than what is considered normal background level. Remember the cityʼs water supply is in the countryside amidst potato fields. Many people living near the central and western potato belts would give their eye teeth for Charlottetownʼs drinking water, because their water is that much more contaminated. And while the potato industry is the cause of all these environmental issues, it takes no responsibility for cleaning it up. The industry does not have to consider the cost to the environment in its cost of doing business because it is allowed to freely impact the environment. If the industry were required to put the infrastructure in place to protect the environment, it certainly would not be worth 1 billion dollars.

It is no secret that Island soils are degraded from years of industrial potato production. Short rotations and high erosion rates have resulted in shallow topsoil with lower organic matter — not good conditions if you want to hold moisture in the soil. The fact is that our soils are in worse shape today than they were decades ago and there is little indication this trend will change soon. Big industry knows this. The problem is that once it is no longer viable to grow potatoes in the province because of degraded soils, this big industry will move on.

Remember — there is plenty of room to grow potatoes in Idaho and Manitoba. I can hear the industryʼs swan song now: “Thanks for your soil and water but we must be moving on. Sorry for your troubles.” I do not blame the individual farmer.

Like most Islanders, I have friends and acquaintances that are good farmers who are doing their best to be good stewards of the land. Most of them are independent and making their own decisions but, in many cases, the big corporations run the show. The growing of processing potatoes on P.E.I. can be tricky business for our farmers. It goes something like this: “Sign here please. Oh yeah youʼll need to grow what we tell you. You need to add this much fertilizer and by the way youʼll need to buy it all from us. Do what we tell you or else we donʼt buy your product.”

Now big Industry is making a push for more water. A well-orchestrated and well-funded campaign that has come out of the blue is designed to catch Islanders off guard. Thereʼs a new water extraction permitting policy written by a few people in government, seemingly with plenty of industry input. They say they used good science and that P.E.I. has a lot of water. They did not consult with the public though.

Iʼve read the new policy and, although Iʼm not a hydrologist, I do have some training in the field and 30 years of experience walking along and trying to protect Island streams and their fish. While the new policy states there is lots of water, I have lots of questions, as do many others in the conservation field.

I know governments are under pressure from big industry, but this government should not jump into deep-well irrigation until itʼs sure it has consulted with all Islanders and that their best interest is being protected. This government should ensure it is not leaving a legacy of dried-up rivers and contaminated drinking water. If industry and government are so confident in their water data and new water extraction policy, then the government should set up a standing committee so the public will have time to study the science and provide input. Why not let outside experts take a look at it? Why the rush? Remember — this is a new policy that has the potential to impact all Islanders, a policy that has had zero public input. If the science is as sound as industry contends, then let it stand the test. At the moment though, many in P.E.I. think something stinks. It smells like big industry is in the room.

Todd Dupuis is executive director, regional programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

The panel discussion after the showing of Island Green last night sounded great!  I had a bit of driveway issue that put my plans of attending "on ice," but I hope some of it will be posted on YouTube.

January 29, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight is a showing of Island Green, the 30-minute movie that poses the question of an organic PEI.
It is free, starts at 7PM at the Farm Centre, and will be followed by a panel discussion on questions the movie asks.

Yesterday, The Guardian's editorial praised Saturday's "rational" letter by the P.E.I. Potato Board chairman for not wanting "unfettered" access to water, among other things.  The editorial describes the negative reactions of those who do not want these high capacity wells, and says the Federation of Agriculture (set on Friday to pass a resolution presumably supporting lifting of the ban) is worried about Islanders getting "misinformation," and the editorial ends with, "The key word here is misinformation."  The editors do not elaborate on who is spreading misinformation or what the misinformation is.  Perhaps they too are wishing for more education from the Potato Board as with Saturday's "first lesson."
(copied below)

Cathy Grant certainly spells it out clearly with accurate information:

Sherry tips her hand on deep-water wells? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 28, 2014

Environment Minister Janice Sherry has just made a stand on deep-water well irrigation for potatoes on P.E.I. She has stated that the “P.E.I. Potato Board has to go the next step and ʻeducateʼ Islanders about deep water well irrigation.”  What the heck?
Since when does the environment minister of any jurisdiction, banana republic or potato republic, cede the “next step” to industries who will benefit from said deep-water drilling and make them responsible for ʻpublic education?ʼ

Oh yes, we have had a lot of ʻpublic educationʼ over the past several years from the government. They have informed us that decisions regarding Plan B and the HST were not popular decisions but they were right decisions according to Premier Robert Ghiz, his caucus, and the business community.

On the matter of deep-well water drilling, Ms. Sherry has previously stated she has “read all the science.”  Well I hope she will come out to share the science she has read with Islanders and not fob off another environmental disaster on an Island industry that has much to gain from Ms. Sherryʼs shrugging off her responsibility to Prince Edward Islanders and its fragile environment.
I come from a mostly Irish heritage, and though my family didnʼt settle on P.E.I. because of the potato famine, many Island families did. These statements from Minister Sherry cannot but make me think of like decisions made by English lairds when they let local Irish farmers and citizens starve rather than helping to support them and their efforts to establish more diverse agricultural practices.

Cathy Grant, Meadowbank

Ag federation faces decision on deep wells - The Guardian Editorial

Published on January 28, 2014

Meeting this week should signal support for potato boardʼs contentious request

This weekʼs annual meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture will attract more interest than usual because of the contentious issue of deep-water wells for potato irrigation. The federation has wells placed prominently on the agenda with a presentation outlining the P.E.I. Department of Environmentʼs perspective on water quantity and seasonal demands, while outlining the governmentʼs water extraction policy for groundwater and surface water.

The federation will also hear an update on the Georgetown Conference and the impact of the harmonized sales tax. The federation strongly supported the HST and said tax rebates on the cost of doing business would position Island farmers on an equal footing with the rest of the region. But the key topic Friday in Charlottetown will be wells.

Deep-water wells have drawn a flood of comment because it affects every Islander who has legitimate concerns over a secure supply of drinking water and contamination of the water table with nitrates and pesticides. Itʼs a hot-button topic that leaves government with a very difficult decision. The total economic wealth associated with close to 90,000 acres of spuds is in excess of $1 billion and that money finds its way into every Island home and business.

Environment Minister Janice Sherry has received an advisory board recommendation on deep wells but is reluctant to make that public, at least at this time. She had suggested to the P.E.I. Potato Board that since itʼs their idea to lift the moratorium, it should present its arguments in a public forum to allay the concerns of Islanders.

The board issued its argument Saturday in the form of a rational, well-crafted opinion piece to The Guardian. Its key argument was science supports a reasonable, supplemental irrigation program because all demands of water in the province today “use less than two per cent of the annual groundwater recharge.” The board isnʼt seeking unfettered approval and notes that applications would be judged by the department while considering local water sources and supply. Already, there is strong reaction to chairman Gary Linkletterʼs opinion piece, all of it negative.

The National Farmers Union has made its position known, and as expected, is vehemently against the idea. The NFU is left of centre on most environmental issues and had vigorously opposed changes to the limits on land ownership last year. The federation usually leans right of centre, and had supported the increased acreage limits. The federation is usually more concerned with the bottom line for farmers, with the belief that a farmer losing money is a farmer leaving agriculture. But it does endorse the mantra of farmers being economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible.

The federation has yet to take a public stance on the well issue. And government is surely waiting for the farm group to signal its support or opposition before going any further. Itʼs likely there will be public hearings but a decision must be made soon to have any impact on this growing season. Potato farmers would have to dig wells, buy expensive irrigation equipment and be ready for any dry weather to assist their valuable crop. It would take months to take advantage of any change to the moratorium.

It would be a surprise if the federation doesnʼt support the potato board Friday and pass a resolution recommending the lifting of the moratorium, at least in some regulated form. A release from the board on the annual meeting already signals that position. It states there has been a lot of recent “controversy and misinformation” being circulated surrounding deep-water wells and water quality on P.E.I. The key word here is misinformation.

January 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is a 2 1/2 minute "RSA Animate" about food and good eating ("How Cooking Can Change Your Life").  The script was written and read by Michael Pollen, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and the poster-writing animation charmingly illustrates the point.

The RSA looks like an interesting organization:
from their website:
"The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce): an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world. "

Today (I thought it was last Friday) is really the last day to reserve a space in the Community Supported Agriculture workshop, and here is the link for a Guardian article on

About the workshop:
The P.E.I. Food Security Network is hosting a workshop on the topic of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) on Wednesday, Feb. 5 from 4-7 p.m. at the Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., Charlottetown.  The workshop will highlight CSA on Prince Edward Island as one viable option for sustainable production and distribution. It will provide P.E.I. CSA producers an opportunity to share their knowledge and CSA customers/sharers will have a chance to share their experiences. And, it will showcase the individual CSA producers' offerings and provide sign-up options.  This event is free of charge. Supper is included, but space is limited. All are invited.
Pre-registration is required before Jan. 28.

To pre-register: Cooper Institute 894-4573 or email cooperinstitute@eastlink.ca with your name.

and the article interviewing organic farmers and all-around earth-caretakers James Rodd and Rita Jackson:

CSAs a Way to Connect Directly with Local Food Producers - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay

Published on January 26th, 2014

In a world where tomatoes can come from Mexico and carrots from California, there's an easy, simple way to connect directly to the source of the food you eat.

In fact, some Prince Edward Island farmers like James Rodd and Rita Jackson are on first name basis with clientele who have signed up for their community supported agriculture (CSA) program, which is a subscription-based service where community members support farmers by providing capital investment through share fees. This seed money allows farmers to invest in producing quality local food that picked fresh for the consumer, typically on a weekly basis.

"For me it's like having a bigger family . . . ," says Jackson, who along with her husband, James Rodd, will be at the P.E.I. Food Security Network's free CSA workshop at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown on Wednesday, Feb. 5 from 4-7 p.m.
This workshop will have a little something for everyone: food, discussion, demonstration booths.
"If you don't know a farmer, get to know a farmer. And if you can source out a CSA, try it. The difference is on the plate," says Rodd, who is now in his seventh year of being a CSA producer on their RJR 100 Acre Farm in North Milton, which was converted from conventional farming to organic in 1997.

Each CSA producer has his or her way of presenting the program to the public. In the case of RJR 100 Acre Farm, it is a 16-week program that begins around the first week of July and continues on into the fall.
As many as 42 share members have received weekly deliveries of reusable CSA cloth bags filled with produce that changes as the season goes on.

That list includes things like beet greens, Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, peas, beans, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggs, apples and a bevy of fall root crops, squash and more.

"Every week our people get an email telling them what is going to be in their (bag). We also give them suggestions on cooking and recipes because a lot of people don't know how to use some of the vegetables," Jackson says.

CSA farmers can also tailor some of the coming crop to suit the tastes of share members.

"We actually talk to them and ask "What do you like? Is there something in particular,'" Jackson says.

"We've had all kinds of encouragement to grow an herb garden this year," Rodd adds.

"We've had basil and parsley and dill (before) but we're going to gave the full gamut of herbs this year and devote a full section to that."

Many of their clientele take advantage of the open invitation to visit the farm, often helping with the weeding and harvesting of the very crops that will be in their weekly CSA delivery.

"If the consumer knows the farmer and knows that there is integrity in the producing of that crop or that livestock then that consumer can get connected to how that food is produced, and get connected to the land, which a lot of people aren't. They look at soil as being something dirty when in fact it's a living organism."

The upcoming CSA workshop showcases the benefits of a CSA program.

"We see (community supported agriculture) as one viable option to increase sustainable distribution for farmers, but certainly not the only option. It's more of a combination that's important, like gardens, markets and CSAs," says Hanna Hameline, chair of P.E.I. Food Security Network's sustainable production and distribution working group.

CSAs also help to revival the rural regions by increasing a sense of community.

"It definitely increases agro-biodiversity because the farmer isn't going to just grow carrots and sell you only carrots the entire year. So it definitely increases the selection of crops and supports mixed farming," Hameline adds.

"It creates a connection between farmers and citizens, which has been lost. It supports the local farmer, which is disappearing on P.E.I. and globally so in that sense it definitely revives the rural community."

"We have a relationship and that's an important thing with producing food for the consumer," Rodd adds.

"If the consumer knows the farmer and knows that there is integrity in the producing of that crop or that livestock then that consumer can get connected to how that food is produced, and get connected to the land, which a lot of people aren't. They look at soil as being something dirty when in fact it's a living organism."

The upcoming CSA workshop showcases the benefits of a CSA program.

"We see (community supported agriculture) as one viable option to increase sustainable distribution for farmers, but certainly not the only option. It's more of a combination that's important, like gardens, markets and CSAs," says Hanna Hameline, chair of P.E.I. Food Security Network's sustainable production and distribution working group.

CSAs also help to revival the rural regions by increasing a sense of community.

"It definitely increases agro-biodiversity because the farmer isn't going to just grow carrots and sell you only carrots the entire year. So it definitely increases the selection of crops and supports mixed farming," Hameline adds.

"It creates a connection between farmers and citizens, which has been lost. It supports the local farmer, which is disappearing on P.E.I. and globally so in that sense it definitely revives the rural community."

January 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Rally for Canada Post and other public sector workers
3:30PM, Murphy Community Centre

(I recently found out about this fascinating movie being shown tonight)

Movie: Home (2009), 7PM, AVC Lecture Theatre A, UPEI campus, all welcome, free admission with optional donations to the UPEI Environmental Society

A link to the Facebook event page (there is a map with directions to the vet college building:

About:  With aerial footage from 54 countries, Home is a depiction of how the Earth's problems are all interlinked, but with only one thing responsible: the human. The story begins with the evolution of the animal species on Earth including the human, who starts living peacefully with nature. Until the accelerating growth of population in the last 250 years and the discovery of oil changed everything.
The trailer on this website is fantastic:

Relating to Canada Post, most of us heard about the planned price hikes and phasing out of urban home delivery.  I was upset to hear about the home delivery, especially for seniors, (and found clear messages in Torquil Campbell's three-minute commentary on "Q")
and mad about the price increases and loss of sorting on Island (I mean, how stupid is it to truck Island mail off-Island and then ship it back), but will admit I also sighed with relief that rural postal service was being left alone....
....Until I heard a couple of weeks ago that another round of rural post offices on PEI is scheduled to have hours cut. (Including my local one.)  No overt warning, no public consultation at all, just quietly being whispered about one week then told it's a done deal.  Evidently, this is the second or third round of rural postal location hour cuts in the past year or so, each wave seemingly targeting random rural post offices in the Maritimes.

What to do about Canada Post cuts?
1) Contact your MP  ---there is a vote on an opposition bill about the changes TODAY in Parliament.
Lawrence MacAulay    lawrence.macaulay@parl.gc.ca
Sean Casey                 sean.casey@parl.gc.ca
Wayne Easter              wayne.easter@parl.gc.ca
Gail Shea                    gail.shea@parl.gc.ca

2) Consider heading to the rally this afternoon (details above)

A commentary from earlier this month in The Guardian:

Canada Post eliminates P.E.I. postmarks -The Guardian Opinion by Andy Walker

Published on January 10, 2014

It has been over 350 years since P.E.I. has been part of Nova Scotia but, as far as Canada Post is concerned, the past is repeating itself.
Back then, Ile Saint Jean (as it was then called) was one of the last bastions of the French empire in North America. It was under the control of Ile Royale, now better known as Cape Breton, from 1713 to 1763. Since then, Islanders have been a separate political jurisdiction.  Islanders have resisted Maritime union and took a pass on Confederation for the first nine years until a large debt from building a railway forced Island politicians of the day to take a second look at the idea. Every time the Island has been left off a map or grouped in with another province, there is usually an uproar.

That is what makes the decision by Canada Post so unusual. It did come over the Christmas holidays so maybe people were otherwise occupied. However, it could also be that “snail mail” has become so irrelevant it just doesnʼt matter.

The days of mail that was sent on P.E.I. bearing an Island postmark are soon to be in the same category as typewriters and record players. It is all part of a move by the Crown Corporation to try to survive in the age of email, social media and paperless billing.
Last year, the Crown Corporation switched from manual sorting of Island mail in Charlottetown to machine sorting in Halifax. The red mail boxes that had always been designated for Island mail and “all other destinations” are now the same.

Since the mail now all goes to Halifax, Canada Post maintains there is now no need to officially recognize P.E.I. as a separate province.

As part of the digital sorting process, the geographic postmark is being replaced by a code showing the mail is being handled by the automated sorter in the Nova Scotia capital.  The only exception to the rule is if the sender asks to have a local postmark. This happens quite a bit during the summer, for example, when tourists ask for their mail to be postmarked from the Green Gables post office.
That post office is located in Cavendish — the home of Anne of Green Gable author Lucy Maud Montgomery and the setting for the fictional village of Avonlea portrayed in her novels. There are also times when a postmark may be required — for example when a piece of mail has to be postmarked by a certain date and time. Canada Post is still prepared to provide that local postmark — at least for now.

The move to take away the Islandʼs provincial status is just one of a series of measures the Crown Corporation has implemented. The biggest is the phase-out of door-to-door mail delivery, where it still exists in the country, within five years. As well, the price to mail that letter and that takes longer to deliver will also go up to an even dollar.
While the elimination of the door-to-door service will likely save some money, the price increase will actually move Canada Post further towards extinction. The move has the biggest impact on businesses, which will now likely intensify their efforts to convince customers to convert to paperless billing.  Since new legislation passed recently by the federal government prohibits companies from charging extra for paper bills, most companies will likely go the route of providing discounts for those choosing email billing.
Losing more customers will likely mean more cost increases which will mean more lost customers until a level is reached where the service has become so irrelevant it can be eliminated with little outcry.

It is an approach that has worked before. When Canadian National wanted to get rid of rail service in P.E.I., it cut the frequency of the service and increased the price. When the number of users dropped drastically, the railway went to the federal regulator and said “nobody is using this service and we want to get rid of it.” Their request was granted with minimal opposition.

A few years ago, any suggestion Canada Post would no longer recognize mail originating in P.E.I. would have provoked a strong outcry. This time around, there is barely a whimper. Could it be the service has already become so irrelevant to most Islanders, it is simply not worth the effort of waging a campaign aimed at reversing the decision?
If the present trend continues, many of us could well be mailing ourselves a letter to show our grandchildren and great- grandchildren there was once something called a “post office” that delivered something we used to call “mail.” 

A life-long resident of Prince Edward Island, Troy Media Syndicated Columnist Andy Walker has been a writer and commentator for over 30 years. www.troymedia.com

I think this is also the same Andy Walker who is editor of Island Farmer paper (a bi-weekly publication from Paul MacNeill's company).

(Here are some other editorials from Island Farmer:    http://www.peicanada.com/category/titles_and_authors/editorial_andy_walker   )

January 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some fantastic opinions in The Guardian worth a "second reading".

This is the longest, but a systematic breakdown of the breakdown of faith in fracking:

Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 23, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing has been around since 1947, when the now infamous Halliburton Corporation pioneered its use to retrieve gas
deposits from a field in Kansas. Much the same as today, the processed involved injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at high-pressure, first down, then across horizontally drilled holes in the earth (these holes can be as deep as 10,000 feet below the surface today). The pressure causes the rocks to crack and release the natural gas trapped within them. The rocks are kept separated by the sand particles, which allow the gas to flow up the well.

It sounds pretty simple, doesnʼt it? Water and sand at high pressure seem safe enough. Well, it canʼt be that dangerous. After all, they have been doing it since 1947. But what about those chemicals? I have been told some of them I can find in cleaners in my house. They canʼt be that bad? Right?

At fracfocus.org, you will see quite a litany of things on the menu. From acids and corrosion inhibitors to biocides and gelling agents, it is a very impressive cocktail. These are used to reduce friction, increase soil stabilization, kill bacteria and “winterize” the well, or as you and I would say “antifreeze.” This site, which is produced by the industry in the U.S., tells us we should not be alarmed. We should “trust them.” It is a safe and proven technology and that “they have the protection of the environment as their top priority.”

Residents of the town of Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania, would strongly disagree with that. In 2012, they reported rust-colored water flowing from a spring and two small creeks bubbling with methane gas. The incidents were among more than 50 similar cases related to the gas drilling in the state. In several instances houses exploded as a result of gas leaks and in one case three people were killed.
Workers at U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy near McKeesport found that water used to power their plant contained so much salty sediment it was corroding their machinery. An estimated 10,000 fish died on a 33-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in this area.

Furthermore, in June 2010, Vanity Fair wrote a story about the small town of Dimock, also in Pennsylvania. It states “Dimock is now known as the place where, over the past two years, peopleʼs water started turning brown and making them sick, one womanʼs water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.

You would think the U.S. Congress might want to step in and do something about this: You would be wrong!
There are no regulations for hydraulic fracturing in 21 of the 31 states where the practice has been in effect for several years. Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act in 2005.

What makes all of the above more of a travesty is that it doesnʼt even help the U.S. economy in the long run.
Dr. Richard Miller, former British Petroleum geologist and co-editor of a special edition of the prestigious magazine, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, co-authored a paper with Dr. Steve R. Sorrel, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton. In it, they state: “Greater reliance upon shale oil resources produced using hydraulic fracturing will exacerbate any rising trend in global average decline rates, since these wells have no plateau and decline extremely fast – for example, by 90 per cent or more in the first five years.”   Moreover, they deem any benefits to the U.S economy will be short lived. Shale oil production will not benefit the economy, will peak by 2020 and will never be able to replace the current 9 million barrels a day of imports.

New Brunswick is now allowing hydraulic fracturing in their province. Why would they want to? It will not meet their long term energy needs; it will not provide long term employment to local people; and it could cause a great amount of damage to the environment and local people, which can not be reversed.  The winner, of course, will be Corridor Resources, currently performing the fracking. If everything goes well, they will be able to use the water, air and land resources cheaply and any profits will go to the management.

If things go badly, and there is a chemical spill, the company can just declare bankruptcy, the management loses nothing, and the taxpayers of New Brunswick, or depending on the size of the spill, Canada will be left with the cost of the clean up.
It doesnʼt matter how rich you become if you donʼt have clean air, water or food. As many Pennsylvanians discovered, New Brunswick has made a potential deal with the devil.

Commentary by David A. McGregor, Stratford

On squandering our water resources:

Bermuda provides lesson on water use - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 23, 2014

We assume the powers that be will look at all the science and possible results, negative and positive, in allowing increased potato yield through irrigation from deep-water wells. It would be short-sighted to have a monetary benefit today whose value would be negated in our grandchildrenʼs time.

Bermuda, during its early settlement, had artesian wells as its source of fresh water, causing the water table to drop, allowing saline to enter the well water. The consequence -- brackish well water, undrinkable, used only as grey water for toilets and washing. Drinking water is mostly rainwater collected in cisterns and water from desalination, at enormous expense, to make up the shortfall. Weʼve all seen the fish kills due to nitrates and herbicides washing from fields into our streams. Imagine the results if our groundwater was similarly affected by the over-watering of agricultural fields. The nitrate level is already quite high in some wells.

We are an island. Our resources are finite. Using deep well groundwater for irrigation may be todayʼs gain and tomorrowʼs loss, maybe not. But should we take that chance, whose to decide, and is there enough real science to justify it?

Heather Holmes, Charlottetown

If you were like me and needed to look up "artesian well", it is here:
from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/geology-terms/artesian-well-info.htm
"Artesian Well, a well in which water rises under its own pressure, without pumping. If the pressure is great enough, the water will rise all the way to the surface and flow freely from the well. The name "artesian" is derived from Artois, France, where such wells were sunk as early as 1126."

And a bit on transparency in government:
(bolding mine)

Innovations needed to aid transparency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 23, 2014

I want to thank Ken Gillis for his letter to the editor today, especially his suggestion that in government I would increase the municipal grant thus enabling increased expenditure on snow removal. It would take an independent third-party audit to sort out management problems with the public works department of the City of Charlottetown to address the snow removal problem. Resourcing of the service should be done with that information in hand.
But Mr. Gillis is absolutely correct that an NDP government would increase the municipal grant. I did commit to this position last year at a meeting of the Eastern Prince Edward Island Chamber of Commerce. For decades the provincial government has been too dominant in controlling our communities and manipulating people with patronage. I strongly advocate decentralization so communities can chart their own futures and the political parties would be weakened in terms of how they use public resources for political gain.

But municipal governments are not immune to such abuses of political power. Accordingly, for many months now, I have been advocating the inclusion of municipal governments under freedom of information legislation in line with most other provinces. Mr. Gillis suggests increased taxes may be necessary to deal with issues such as snow removal. That is not so. There are potentially huge inefficiencies in how public services are operated at this time, and the public is not permitted the information to make such assessments.
Municipalities should have more power. But everything should be out in the open. One action goes with the other. These innovations would make governance on P.E.I. more democratic, transparent, and effective.
We cannot keep doing things the same way and expect different results.

Mike Redmond, Leader, P.E.I. NDP

Have a good Saturday, and stop into a Farmers' Market if you are near one and see all there still is that is local!

January 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here are some events and deadlines that might be of interest:

Today is the deadline to reserve a spot at a workshop and meal learning about or sharing your experiences in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The workshop is Wednesday, February 5th, 4PM to 7:30PM (supper is included).  It will be at the Farm Centre,(another good fit of an event with the location), 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown.  It is free of charge! and is sponsored by the PEI Food Security Network.
CSAs are a way of sharing the bounty and the risks with a food producer.  Most on PEI are variations of paying at the beginning of the season (or some are on-demand) on weekly vegetable baskets from July to September, and now other food producers are offering foods like honey, or meat.
There will be a panel with a CSA farmer, CSA shareholder, and presenter on sustainable farm systems.  Some CSA producers will be there to showcase what their CSAs are like, answer questions, and perhaps sign up new members if they have space. 

Saturday is another PEI Food Exchange workshop, which I will be leading, on making dairy products with Island dairies' milk and cream in the home kitchen.  Yogurt, a 30-minute "mozzarella" and some cultured milk products will be demonstrated; I am not expert but enjoy sharing what I know that's simple, nutritious, and usually saves money.  There will also be a bit of discussion regarding milk in our diets, respectful of people's choices and situations.   The workshop should be interesting and is another great idea from the PEI Food Exchange; it could be a victim of its own success if there are a lot of people and seeing/doing is an issue.  I really think this is geared towards the home-dairy "beginner" -- people who haven't made yogurt, for instance, and don't know where to begin -- rather than people who already do some of this stuff.   (2-4PM, Farm Centre)

Sunday afternoon (26th) is the monthly Bonshaw ceilidh at the Bonshaw Hall, 2-4PM, admission by donation, proceeds going to the PEI Council of People with Disabilities.

Monday, January 27th,  is a "National Day of Action to Save Our Post Office" and support public services, at the Murphy Centre (corner of Richmond and Prince Streets in Charlottetown), 3:30PM.

Wednesday, January 29th, is the bi-coastal screening of Mille Clarkes' Island Green, Charlottetown (7PM, The Farm Centre) and Victoria, BC.  Free admission*, with snacks and hot beverages.
Presented in collaboration with PEI Certified Organic Producers Co-op.
A post-screening discussion will include:
Ian Petrie - Journalist
Mark Bernard - Organic Farmer - Barnyard Organics
Margie Loo - Organic Farmer - Elderflower Organic Farm
Phil Ferraro - Director, Institute for Bioregional Studies Ltd., Executive Director PEI ADAPT Council, General Manager, PEI Farm Centre Association
*Donations will be accepted to support Springwillow Farms and the legacy of Raymond Loo.

Saturday, February 1st, Winter Woodlot Tour, Mayfield, PEI, 9AM to 1PM (drop in), free
This 4th annual outdoor event, sponsored by the P.E.I. Model Forest and three watershed groups, showcases stream enhancement and forestry programs, chainsaw safety, value-added wood products, winter wildlife, birds of prey, folks from Birding P.E.I., and other outdoor stuff like snowshoeing and sleigh rides, et. al.
  There will be many people around to answer all sorts of questions, and a warming tent and hot cider, too.
The actual address is #6123, Roue 13, Mayfield, between New Glasgow and Cavendish.

That's enough for now.

January 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

On Compass Tuesday night, nine minutes into the broadcast, Environment Minister Janice Sherry is interviewed about the PEI Potato Board's demand that the ban on high capacity wells be lifted:

OK, it is up to the Potato Board to educate Islanders on the science.

The Guardian has been the forum of the people questioning this. Tuesday, this *excellent* commentary appeared:
Dale Small's letter:


Time for responsible farmers, citizens to step up - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Dale Small

Published on January 21, 2014

Some are saying this issue is a “fait accompli” for the Island. I, for one, certainly hope not.
During my lengthy career with DFO, I attended numerous community hall meetings where use of P.E.I. water resources was the topic. The meeting halls were packed. Obviously we Islanders are passionate about water and rightly so. Iʼve also been fortunate to have explored every watershed on P.E.I. for both work and pleasure. Iʼve seen firsthand the harm we can do.
The powerful potato lobby is pushing hard to gain access to our water resources, and I expect the government will use a (hopefully unbiased) scientific study to justify their decision to grant or deny permissions.
After many years of working directly with the scientific community on fisheries/water issues, I generally have great respect for their knowledge and expertise. That said, they are not always correct. Scientific studies are, like many other professional studies, only as good as the persons conducting them, along with the validity of the data provided or obtained.
The most misleading studies Iʼve read are those that use data appropriate on the mainland and that fail to account for P.E.I.ʼs unique soil composition, substrate and geology. Failure to do so has been and can be a disaster.
In this instance, I donʼt believe Islanders should take the risk. It is simply not worth it; especially considering the gross inefficiency of current potato irrigation methods and the dire consequences to P.E.I. from over-exploitation of our water resources.
As a lifelong reader of The Guardian, Iʼm well aware of the blowback directed at letter writers. Some will say “heʼs anti-farming.” Not true. Many of my friends and relatives are farmers. My ancestors on P.E.I. from all sides of my family have been involved in farming since the 1760s. I wish nothing but prosperity for our farming community — but always with one essential caveat: donʼt harm our fragile environment.
Although many in the farming community have recognized what is at stake and made significant efforts to farm responsibly, the record is not good. This is a perfect opportunity for responsible farmers to step up. To all other Islanders I also urge you to step up. Call, write your MLA, your friends and the media. Others I urge to step up are: Premier Ghiz, Janice Sherry, George Webster, and Valerie Docherty — my MLA, do the right thing. Whether you are an urban or rural dweller or a CFA, get involved: donʼt allow this high-risk plan to harm our precious Island.

Dale Small, Rice Point, spent his career with Fisheries and Oceans Canada on P.E.I.

And this letter ties together many points about this issue:

Will tourists still visit our fair province? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 22, 2014

It is time for all Islanders to move out of their comfort zone, do their own research on the facts this decision will be based on. There is so much misinformation regarding the benefits of the potato industry to P.E.I.'s economy out there already. How can this industry contribute $1 billion to this small economy, when Stats Canada reports total farm gate receipts from Agriculture at a little over $400 million per year.

Has anyone assessed the health care costs resulting from the by products used with growing potatoes? We are the Cancer Capital of Canada.

Irrigating potatoes will only cause these poisons to be returned to our water table in larger quantities and at a faster rate.

The annual recharge rate on P.E.I. could not possibly be the same in all areas of the province due to the different types of soils found in all parts of the province.

This is an excellent example of how the spin-doctors misrepresent the facts to confuse Islanders on what is true and what is not.

Neil Young stepped up to expose the tar sands in Alberta, do we have any credible scientists here who are willing to stand up and present the real facts? Time will tell.

Our body is made up of mostly water, we can live maybe three days without it, but cancer can take years to kill you. David Suzuki was here a few years ago talking about how interconnected our water table truly is. He is an independent scientist without any financial gain in the potato industry here, his opinion should be objective.
Let us join together once and for all to protect our children and grandchildren. 

Wayne MacKinnon, Marshfield

Take care cleaning up today,

January 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It was a fun and interesting film last night, as Occupy Love chronicled snippets and images from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, focusing on positive ideas and feelings people had instead of being negative or hateful (which is, of course, easier).  It wasn't really prescriptive, and didn't delve into many other related issues (such as land, farms and food, which truly supports everything), but was definitely worth seeing.

Thanks to Ann Wheatley for doing all the heavy lifting (and fine technical work, too) showing the film and leading a discussion afterwards.

Another movie coming up:
Island Green is going to be shown with a panel discussion afterwards, at the Farm Centre, next Wednesday, January 29th.

The is a reading from a new book called On Fracking by C. Alexia Lane, scheduled for tonight at the Haviland Club, but it is likely to be rescheduled due to the storm.

Before the movie, some people representing groups opposed to lifting the ban on deep-water wells met, and agreed to meet again to work together -- hey, kind of like the Charlottetown Conference, without the drinking.   More on that later.

(Probably these are more accurately called "high capacity wells", since depending on location a well may not be deep to pump out *a lot* of water.)

There was a lot in yesterday's paper and on Compass last night on the water issues, which I will package up later, except for eminent biologist Ian MacQuarrie's letter.

Have a great snow day,

Deep-water well issue more than sufficiency - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 21, 2014

I appreciate your recent editorial concerning lifting the present moratorium on deep-water wells. However, I believe that the issue is much more complex than just water sufficiency. We need, as a province, to look at this in a broader, more ecological way. Some preliminary questions:

Firstly: merit. Potato production has been responsible for contamination of our ground water with nitrate, of our surface waters with silt, and for poisoning aquatic life with pesticides. The industry as a whole has not accepted responsibility for this, nor has it stepped forward to pay for the cleanup.
There are examples of producers voluntarily implementing good soil and water conservation. However, many others have required legislation or compensation to get them to take even preliminary action. If there is sufficient water to meet demands for irrigation (and I donʼt know that there is), has the potato sector shown that it is a responsible steward of land and water?

Secondly: cost. The agricultural sector is heavily subsidized though both direct contributions and tax exemptions/rebates. From lowered property tax, to gas tax to HST, farmers receive much public money. Water has economic value, as residents and businesses in many municipalities know. Should this industry be entitled to it at no cost? Put another way: if — as we are told — the potato industry cannot prosper without this further public subsidy, is the sector even viable?

Finally: consultation. Groundwater is a public resource that affects all of us. We are all entitled to comment on how it is used. In particular, I believe the Crown has a specific obligation to consult with First Nations about decisions affecting water, land and wildlife. It would seem to me that allocation of a large amount of water for private, industrial use should trigger such obligations.

Ian MacQuarrie, Hazel Grove

January 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight the regular documentary screenings sponsored by Cinema Politica Charlottetown, will co-host the movie Occupy Love, with the Citizens' Alliance of PEI.  "Admission is free, but donations are accepted at the door and help Cinema Politica to cover its membership, which includes the rights to show some pretty amazing documentary films throughout the year."
It starts at 7PM at Lecture Theatre A of the Atlantic Veterinary College.  It's about 90 minutes long.

What's this movie about? 
from the Facebook event notice:
"Woven throughout the moving, action-oriented backbone of the story, is a deep exploration of the heart of the movement, the meaning of love, and concrete examples of just what “another world” could look like, featuring some of the world’s key visionaries on alternative systems of economics, sustainability, and empathy. Occupy Love is a moving, transformative, heartfelt film, featuring Ripper’s signature stunning visuals and rich soundscapes. A powerful cinematic experience that will leave audiences inspired.

OK, so what's this movie about?
"Vague as all this is, the photography is beautiful, the scenes of crowds and their signs arresting, and the interviews with individual protesters-in Tahrir Square, Zuccotti Park, teargassed Oakland, and even melting Greenland-are often inspiring."
--Excerpt from a film review in The Village Voice, full article here:

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.” -- Winnie-the-Pooh, via A.A. Milne

So come down (before the snow hits overnight) and enjoy a positive and interesting film!

Just goofing around, but perhaps the mask of the Occupy movement, from a Guy Fawkes mask, has its own doppelganger:

All joking aside, the story behind the mask is here:

"The Guy Fawkes mask is a stylised depiction of Guy Fawkes, the best-known member of the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up the House of Lords in London in 1605. The use of a mask on an effigy has long roots as part of Guy Fawkes Night celebrations. A stylised portrayal of a face with an over-sized smile and red cheeks, a wide moustache upturned at both ends, and a thin vertical pointed beard, designed by illustrator David Lloyd, came to represent broader protest after it was used as a major plot element in V for Vendetta, published in 1982, and its 2006 film adaptation. After appearing in Internet forums, the mask became a well-known symbol for the online hacktivist group Anonymous, the Occupy movement, and other anti-government and anti-establishment protests around the world."

And more entertainment:
from yesterday's Guardian, laughing but it's all sadly true:

Premier Ghiz has everything in hand - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 20, 2014

Our premier is indeed an amazing man. Just think of all his accomplishments: Plan B, hills of Borden, two pay raises for MLAs in one year, new cars for cabinet ministers (caused big increase in Island car sales), the marvelous Geo-Sweep investment of $4 millions, a record deficit, and his greatest achievement of all — the level playing field created by the HST.

Recently, at his state of the province address, he informed us he has pulled his head out of the sand to save our failing education system. He moves from one great success to the next, leaping tall buildings in a single bound. The latest and greatest objective is to save the poor potato farmers. They need to drill deep wells to draw more water for their potato crops. In order to do this safely, a wise group of lobbyists have been summoned to the house to assure us there is enough water, even if there isnʼt.

The group call themselves Policy Intel and are two unemployed Liberals who silly Islanders failed to vote for in the last election. Iʼm not sure what the Intel part of their name means, might be short for intelligence. They, along with the head of the potato board, will advise the government to allow deep wells.

The head of the potato board tells us there is plenty of water so no need for us to worry. Rivers drying up have nothing to do with drilling deep wells. In fact that could be a bonus. Just imagine with no rivers weʼd have no pesticide runoff and no fish kills. Besides, itʼs only a small majority of mean islanders who blame the potato farmers every time there is a fish kill.

So folks nothing for us to worry about, our premier has everything in hand. If our shallow wells dry up, the government will provide bottled water for a small fee, plus HST.

F. Ben Rodgers, Hunter River

January 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Another article in Saturday's Guardian was the lead story on fracking.  (entire print at end of this e-mail)  The industry trade group representative provided most of the information regarding the process and how "heavily regulated" it is.  The article gave the current status of fracking on PEI (there are expired leases for exploratory wells, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry in November 2013, recommended a moratorium on oil and gas exploration, and is writing the Environment Minister on this).


The illustration in the print edition and on-line was from the company Corridor Resources:

Photo from The Guardian, January 18, 2014, copyright Corridor Resources, of a fracking pad in Penobsquis, NB.  Quite the "little" operation.

Penobsquis, NB, is near Sussex.  It's an area with with a long history of potash mining (and subsequent issues) and now gas wells.  Here is an article by the well-respected alternative media site, the Halifax Media Co-op:

Two things came to mind:
One was a reminder in the article by Andrew Lush of Don't Frack PEI and in previous Guardian letters to the editor about the certainty of the cement casings cracking in the wrong places over time.
The second is that in the article the National Energy Board says it will ask companies to release the list of chemicals in fracking fluid 30 days *after* they finish a fracking operation.  Chemicals that the industry downplays as being in small quantities (partially true) and "common household items".  For many of us, just because a chemical is on the shelf at the store as a common household item doesn't mean we want to drink it or find it in our wells.

The fracking debate - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross

Published on January 18, 2014 in The Guardian

When is comes to natural resources nobody would confuse P.E.I. with Alberta.  There are no oil wells pumping away or gas wells flowing freely to fuel the economy and help pay to keep the government running. But there are some who worry that could change if the P.E.I. government decides to allow companies to use the exploration technique called hydraulic fracturing, which is otherwise known as fracking.

Although the province hasnʼt taken a stance on fracking, in November the members of the legislative standing committee on agriculture, environment, energy and forestry recommended a moratorium on the practice.
That recommendation came after the committee heard from groups with concerns about oil and gas exploration, including Donʼt Frack P.E.I.

Tyne Valley-Linkletter MLA Paula Biggar, who is the committeeʼs chairwoman, said based on the evidence and information provided to the MLAs there was a consensus to recommend a moratorium.

Biggar said evidence that dealt with the injection of chemicals into the ground was one of the big factors in the decision.

“Basically environmental concerns in regard to making sure our water is protected,” she said.
If the government does decide to impose a moratorium it wonʼt be alone in Canada where Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec have all put temporary freezes on new permits while they study the issue further. Nova Scotia has also commissioned a study to look at the issue.

While the committee, which is made up of six Liberal and two PC MLAs, can make a recommendation to government, that recommendation isnʼt binding.

Biggar said Environment Minister Janice Sherry hasnʼt sent a written response to the recommendation yet, but the committee will send her department a letter when it meets again in the next few months to get a formal response.
In an interview with The Guardian, Sherry said the government is still waiting for the results of studies in other jurisdictions about hydraulic fracturing before it takes a stance on the issue.

Sherry also said since she became environment minister in November 2011, no one has given her or her department any indication they had an interest in undertaking fracking in P.E.I.

“We believe itʼs a very serious issue and weʼre trying to take in as much scientific information in regards to fracturing as we can,” she said.

Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling vertically down into a shale formation, which can be several kilometres below the surface. Once it reaches the required depth the drill changes direction to move horizontally across the shale before a steel casing is inserted and secured with cement to keep the well separated from any ground water supplies.

The casing is then perforated to allowing fracturing fluid to flow under high pressure into the nearby rock and create fractures to free up natural gas.

That fracturing fluid is made of mostly water and sand with other chemicals mixed in. The sand is used to keep cracks in the rock open enough for natural gas to flow into the well.

Natural gas exploration and development is big business in Canada with Canadian Natural Gas Initiative reporting there were more than 172,000 jobs in the sector in 2010.

The group predicts that over the next 25 years, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan will collect $98 billion in royalties from natural gas. Closer to home, Nova Scotia has collected $1.6 billion in royalties from the Sable Island development since 1999, according to Canadian Natural Gas.

That P.E.I. doesnʼt benefit from natural resource development isnʼt news to most Islanders who pay some of the highest taxes in the country, thanks in part to a lack of revenues from other sources.

But even though oil and gas development hasnʼt led to stuffed provincial coffers, that doesnʼt mean there havenʼt been attempts to find commercially viable sources.

Exploration companies have been doing seismic testing dating back to 1942 when dynamite was used to look for oil off P.E.I.ʼs coast.

More modern techniques involve vibration equipment, or small explosive charges and devices called geophones, that record data from sound waves as they bounce off underground formations.

The data gathered is then used to map the layers below the surface.

Since 2002 the province has issued seven on-shore permits for seismic surveys, but none of them have ended in production wells.

Corridor Resources and PetroWorth were the last companies to do seismic testing and build exploratory wells.
The last wells were built in 2007 and all of the onshore exploration permits have lapsed without any commercial production.

Data about P.E.I.ʼs potential gas reserves is also not widely available with neither the provincial government, the National Energy Board nor the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers having any figures on how much gas might be available.

While there are opponents to hydraulic fracturing, the industry maintains it is safe.

Sheri Somerville, natural gas adviser for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said hydraulic fracturing can be done safely and the industry has been doing it for more than 60 years.

“Hydraulic fracturing isnʼt actually new,” she said.

What is new within the last few decades is horizontal drilling that reduces the surface footprint of a gas well and gives the ability to reach deposits at lower depths more efficiently, Somerville said.

“If you did it conventionally, drilling straight down vertically, your surface would probably have many, many, many wells on it. It would look like a Swiss cheese sort of thing as opposed to having one well pad and being able to drill 20 wells from there out on the horizontal.”

Somerville said the key to safe hydraulic fracturing is to maintain the integrity of the steel and cement used to encase the well.

“Thatʼs whatʼs going to protect your aquifers and what not from any possible leaks or emissions,” she said.
Many hydraulic fracturing opponents point to problems in the U.S., such as charges and a $100,000 fine against Exxon Mobile subsidiary XTO Energy for spilling more than 50,000 gallons of wastewater at a natural gas well site in 2010.

Somerville said the rules in Canada are different and more strict when it comes to regulating gas exploration through fracking.

“Weʼre one of the most heavily regulated sectors in Canada,” she said.

That doesnʼt mean there havenʼt been problems in Canada where there have been cases of fracking fluid mishaps, such as in 2011 when groundwater was contaminated near Grand Prairie when the fluids were released at too shallow a depth before anyone realized. Water testing found traces of chemicals from the fluid, including benzene and chloride.

Another concern among hydraulic fracturing opponents is what they see as a lack of information about what chemicals go into fracking fluids.

Somerville said the industry isnʼt trying to hide what is in its fracking fluids and supports disclosure of the chemicals and additives used in hydraulic fracturing.

Thatʼs already happening in B.C. and Alberta where companies use Fracfocus.ca to disclose information on the fluids they use.

The National Energy Board announced in November that it will start asking companies to disclose that information 30 days after they finish a hydraulic fracturing operation.

Somerville said regulations stipulate how much of the chemicals can be used and in what concentrations.
“Many of the chemicals that are used are found in common household items,” she said.

Some of those chemicals disclosed for one well in B.C. include ethylbenzene, which is used as a solvent, methanol, which is a form of alcohol, and polyethylene glycol, which is sometimes used in cosmetics.

As for the possibility of gas exploration leading to any significant production in P.E.I., like Sherry, Somerville hasnʼt heard of any companies planning to work in the province.

“I havenʼt even seen any estimates on what the potential is there.”

That lack of interest hasnʼt diminished the concern among fracking opponents, such as the group Donʼt Frack P.E.I., which has been pushing for a ban on hydraulic fracturing for about a year.

Leo Broderick is one of Donʼt Frack P.E.I.ʼs members and while the group was glad the committee recommended a moratorium, he said the problem is it just puts off a decision for the long term.

“Itʼs a delay tactic and we need more than that,” he said.

The biggest concern for fracking opponents is what they see as the potential impact on groundwater supplies.
Although fracking is done below groundwater levels, the casings can travel through or near aquifers and opponents worry that problems with those casings could allow toxic chemicals to leak into the water supplies.

Andrew Lush, another of Donʼt Frack P.E.I.ʼs members, said some of the well casings will eventually fail and contaminate groundwater supplies because nothing lasts forever.

“Itʼs just a matter of time,” he said.

And while the industry says many of those chemicals are found in common household products, Lush doesnʼt think that means people would want to have them in their water.

“You might find them in small quantities, but you wouldnʼt want to drink them.”

Broderick said it comes down to whether Islanders trust elected officials to make what he sees as the right decision and deny any requests for exploration permits, if any companies ask for them.

“Unless thereʼs a strong public outcry now I would say that theyʼll make the wrong decision.”

January 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The Seed Expo yesterday at the warm and inviting Farm Centre was a great chance to get many folks together to talk about seeds and spring, and new plans for the the Farm Centre with its Legacy Garden project.  It'll be great to see that as an annual event. Great job to the organizers and volunteers.

Yesterday's The Guardian, on-line and print, was quite full of interesting water issue-related stories and letters. The bolding is mine.

This article was on-line and likely to be in Monday's print edition:


Deep-well irrigation not well understood, says professor - The Guardian article by Nigel Armstrong

Published on-line January 18, 2014

Islanders must not allow corporate agriculture to irrigate with deep-well technology to cope with water problems it helped create, says a veteran university professor.

The Environmental Coalition of P.E.I. held its annual meeting in Charlottetown this week, then turned to guest presentations, including a talk by Daryl Guignion about deep-well irrigation for agriculture.  Guignion is a wildlife biologist, researcher, and retired UPEI associate professor of biology with a special focus on water ecosystems.
“It is an area that is truly unexplored in many scientific ways,” he said.

Creating a model of what might happen with deep-well irrigation is useless if there is insufficient data and science to back up the assumptions and data put into the model, he said.

“Modelling is not science,” he warned. The relationship of groundwater to P.E.Iʼs rivers and streams is partially understood.

“One hundred per cent of the water in the summertime in the streams is from springs, more or less,” said Guignion.
The springs are fed from the water table.

Rivers run red with silt that clogs the bottom and nitrate levels in streams are going up without control, he lamented.

“I think the poor land stewardship, the degradation is beyond belief,” said Guignion. “From my perspective, in the last 10 years I think we have had a decrease in soil and water conservation practices. It is just appalling.

“If we ever get to the point where we can be bullied into giving (deep groundwater) away before we know what we have, this is very, very bad for all Islanders and future Islanders,” he warned.

“We need a water policy for P.E.I. The principal goal has to be an abundance of good water, high quality and clean.
“As far as Iʼm concerned, this (allowing deep-well irrigation) is sort of a reward for poor soil and water conservation.
“We have let some of our gems of rivers degrade to the point that to me, itʼs almost heartbreaking,” said Guignion.
There is a complex network of natural factors affected by water levels in streams and rivers, he said.

When water levels go down, young fish that get food and protection from the shallow edge are forced to the deeper middle of the river where they are eaten by the big adult fish that lurk there in place all season, for example.
“If we ever get to the point where we can be bullied into giving (deep groundwater) away before we know what we have, this is very, very bad for all Islanders and future Islanders." Daryl Guignion

A recent study of water levels affecting fish just looked at those grown adult fish and showed no population change, ignoring the death of many young fish, he said.

Fish moving upstream to spawn depend on sufficient water levels to get back down, along with the new young fish at just about the time that maximum agriculture irrigation would be expected, said Guignion.

A down-stream move of tens of thousands of gaspereau fish in decades past helped sustain the lifecycle of bigger fish and human harvest further along, he said.

“Scientific knowledge of the annual water requirements of aquatic organisms is needed,” said Guignion.
“If you are going to develop government policy (on deep-well irrigation), you should have a very good handle on the organisms it is going to impact,” said Guignion.

Do not look to examples of deep-well irrigation from other areas like Idaho or Alberta, he said.

Those areas have a better climate and better soil for potatoes so P.E.I. canʼt base itʼs decisions on what the U.S. potatoes growers are doing, said Guignion.

“If you look at the damage that they are doing to their aquifers and what is happening in the United States, I would say they are going to be looking north very shortly for more water,” he said.

“You often get misleading information to suggest that we have all this water that is falling all over P.E.I., there is copious quantities available for use.

“Man, there really isnʼt copious quantities available,” said Guignion. “Most of our streams in the last two or three summers have gotten really, really low.”

Much of the water landing as precipitation on P.E.I. is not seeping back into soil and thus recharging the groundwater, he warned.

It runs off exposed agriculture land in winter and into streams, into storm sewers in urban developed areas, and wetlands that once also helped recharge the water table have been destroyed to a degree that has never been scientifically quantified on P.E.I., said Guignion.

The writer, Nigel Armstrong, deserves a lot of credit for consistently writing clear stories about environmental meetings and related issues in The Guardian.

This letter, from organic farmer Ranald MacFarlane, was in yesterday's print edition:

Does potato board have the mandate? - The Guardian letter to the Editor

Published on January 18, 2014

I am opposed to the lifting of the moratorium on deep-water wells. I am not the only one. I have been getting a lot of feedback.

Non-farmers are opposed and it turns out so are some potato farmers.

They have some compelling reasons as to why they are opposed. It is more than just about recharge rates. It would appear at this point that only the contract potato growers are the ones that want more deep-water wells for irrigation.

I question whether the P.E.I. Potato Board has a mandate from the industry as a whole to advocate for the lifting of the moratorium on more wells. The potato board should have a producer plebiscite to see if this is where the industry wants to go. Until they have done this they should withdraw their support for lifting the moratorium.

There is also a lot of talk that the lifting of the moratorium is already a done deal. Some think powerful players want the water and they will take it.

Rightly or wrongly there is a huge perception of conflict of interest by having agriculture minister and potato grower George Webster involved in these discussions. It looks bad.

Premier Robert Ghiz should recognize this and deal with it. 

Ranald MacFarlane, Fernwood

And this was the lead editorial, and good to see the editorial team take a position on an environmental issue:

Whatʼs the difference with deep-water wells, or aquifier fracking? - The Guardian Editorial

Published on January 18, 2014

Province should let science decide on answer for thirty potato sector

Itʼs surprising that someone hasnʼt tried to make a connection between digging deep-water wells and fracking. Is there much difference between the two? Itʼs widely believed that fracking would pose a serious threat to the Islandʼs aquifier and drinking water system. Drilling through aquifers to reach delusive oil and gas reserves and forcing some kind of chemical cocktail into the drill hole to fracture the mantle seems a foolhardy practice, considering our fragile, sandstone base. The province would be wise to support a recommendation from a legislative committee and place an immediate moratorium on fracking, or even better, put in place a full ban, following the example of granite bedrock provinces like N.S. and NL.

The lobby coming from the potato sector to lift the moratorium on deep-water wells to placate the thirsty industry must be thoroughly examined and decided with all factors considered.

A number of years ago, Cavendish Farms wanted to expand its operations in New Annan but also sought to drill more deep wells to get the extra water it needed. The province would love to have the extra jobs and more markets for P.E.I. spuds, but there was a threat to the water table in Kensington, Summerside and surrounding areas. It said no.

The cost to dig such wells and then put an irrigation system in place to water thousands of acres of potatoes is exorbitant. Is it really worth the expense when one year out of every five might be unseasonably dry and affect production?

Let science decide the answer. Can our water table sustain such a heavy demand?  Letʼs find out. Conservation and environmental issues for all Islanders should trump the economic wishes of the potato industry, despite its vital importance to the Island economy.
a Happy Birthday to Cindy Richards, environmental monitor from Plan B, and fantastic part of the Citizens' Alliance!

January 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

As when people wrote about Plan B, regarding the deep water wells, there have been poignant letters, funny letters, letters spare and to the point; and then a beautiful one appears that sends a punch. 


Liberals must support water -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 17, 2014

The question of the day is “Will the Liberal Party honour its tradition of at least a basic level of environmental concern or will it cave in to special interests, ignoring the will and the health of the people?” I am talking about the authorization of deep water wells that remove large amounts of groundwater Islanders depend upon.

If potato growers wish to boost productivity, they can look to the depleted and deadened soil they have created through fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides.

Not only have these high rates of chemicals killed fish, birds, and pollinators, but the resulting lifeless soil has difficulty holding on to the rainwater. Organic farmers who care for their soil can show you that once the soil has been built up and can support living things beyond the planted seed, productivity per acre increases substantially. These wise farmers will also tell you that massive mono-cropping is rarely beneficial and should not be supported.
Those few farmers who can afford the significant expense of this equipment (which, if they follow the rules, they would only need every three years) can afford to make do without. We, the people, however, cannot afford further depletion and pollution of a finite and essential resource — the water.

It is life itself and is not to be threatened for a few who stand to benefit monetarily. I challenge even one Liberal MLA to speak up on behalf of the people and the water. If you cannot, then face your children and grandchildren and tell them how you have cared for their legacy. Please show us for once that being good stewards of Mother Earth trumps special interests.

Jane Thomas, Bonshaw

The Seed Expo is today at the Farm Centre from 10AM to 4PM -- looks like a fun place to drop in!

The Farmers' Markets are also open today. But next year there will be one more thing to compete against (bolding mine):


Charlottetown getting Walmart Supercentre - The Guardian article by Dave Stewart

Published on January 16, 2014

Walmart in Charlottetown is being converted into a supercentre.

Employees at Walmart have been told that the conversion will be complete in time for January 2015, although a spokesperson with Walmart Canada said late Thursday that they canʼt confirm the date.

“I can confirm that weʼre planning to convert the Charlottetown store into a supercentre,ʼʼ said Rosalyn Carneiro, manager of public relations, “but I canʼt confirm any dates around when we anticipate construction will start or be completed.ʼʼ

Walmart supercenters tend to offer a full-service supermarket component, including meat and poultry, baked goods, a deli, frozen foods, dairy products, garden produce and seafood.

Ah, can't you taste that local flavour...well, no, I cannot either.

January 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few events coming up:

Saturday, January 18th
PEI Seed Expo
10AM to 4PM (drop in), Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue (between CBC and Sobeys), free
"This fun day-long event will offer farmers and home gardeners a chance to check out new varieties for 2014, as well as learn the value and history of some of the heritage seeds that have long been in use.
Many local and regional seed companies are planning to attend, such as;
- Vesey's, Halifax Seed, Cardigan Seed, PEI Potato Board, Agro-Coop, Johnny's Selected Seeds from Maine<<
By attending the Seed Expo will you will be able to ask the seed representatives any questions regarding growing challenges you face in your farm of garden. There will also be opportunities to talk about trading seeds, plus there will be a series of speakers throughout the day addressing issues dealing with seeds and food security."

Tuesday, January 21st
Cinema Politica movie "Occupy Love"
7PM, AVC Lecture Theater, admission is free but donations accepted
hosted by Cinema Politica and the Citizens' Alliance of PEI

I think there should be a special honor for the individuals who write to the local papers regularly.
Each one of us help keep issues talked about, bubbling up to the surface, but some people write more often and with their own style.

Carl Mathis does this with alternating droll and wicked humour.
Yesterday's reached new limits of perceptiveness and profundity.


Short-term pain, long-term pain? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 16, 2014

There are short-term advantages to irrigating from deep wells on the Island. A larger, higher-quality potato crop is desirable, and is the reason for wanting to do this, but the consequences may not be at all to our benefit.

I grew up in the Texas Panhandle, which is above a part of the Ogallala Aquifer. This aquifer is one of the largest in the world, at 450,000 square kilometres, an area approximately 80 times the area of P.E.I.. Intense use of this aquifer since about 1950, now providing over 25 per cent of the irrigation water in the U.S, as well as municipal water to 4/5 of the population in the area, has depleted this vast body of water. Wikipedia has maps and charts and this quote from the article: “Certain aquifer zones are now empty; these areas will take over 100,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.”

Some aquifer zones on the Island are threatened now. Charlottetown is being forced to look for another, as the Winter River is being dried up.

More and better spuds are valuable to the Island, but before we deplete the water beneath us, we need to see that the aquifers can replenish themselves rapidly enough to support this activity.

Carl Mathis, Charlottetown

Mike Redmond wrote a press release on this issue recently, and here is an excerpt:

Source URL: http://ndppei.ca/2014/01/16/ghiz-must-now-speak-on-deep-water-well/

<<Environment Minister Janice Sherry has not spoken publicly to the issue. Before Christmas,Agriculture Minister George Webster made  public statements to the effect that the government was considering the lifting of the deep water well moratorium. No government minister has spoken to the matter in 2014.

Government has mismanaged the communications on this file so it is likely they are mishandling
the environmental and scientific aspects of the question. They have made a mess of this so it is
time for the Premier to step up and tell Islanders what is happening,” added the NDP Leader.

In 2013, Prince Edward Islanders saw depletion of the Winter River watershed, fish kills in Prince
County and mismanaged construction activity at the Plan B site in the West River watershed area.

“While the Premier explains himself on the specific problem of deep water wells he should take the
opportunity to open public consultations for a real watershed management policy for our province.
The Liberals have gone rogue on the environment. It is time to get things back on track,” concluded

January 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

More Politics and Potatoes
Yesterday, the cover story on The Guardian was about the P.E.I. Potato Board's request for a lifting on the ban on deep-water wells for irrigation.  Part of their argument, the story suggests, is an almost 20-year old study by the Department of Environment.  The phrase that the lifting of the ban is already a "done deal" appears.

Today, the lead story (on-line) is about how the P.E.I. Potato Board and Cavendish Farms have hired a consulting firm to facilitate "lobby meetings" with MLAs about this issue.   The firm, Policy Intel Inc., is headed by Premier Ghiz's former (as of two years ago) Chief of Staff Chris LeClair and employs former MLA Cynthia (Dunsford) King.  Opposition critic Colin LaVIe wants the meetings to be open to-the-public meetings with the Standing Committee on Agriculture.

What should really be the last word on this:

Deep-water wells jeopardize supply - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 15, 2014

The government is considering lifting the moratorium on high-capacity wells for crop irrigation. I am not sure if there are any good reasons for jeopardizing the drinking water supplies of current and future generations of Islanders, but I am absolutely certain that doing so to allow for further intensification of potato production must be one of the worst.

Ian Dohoo, Flat River


A possibly useful note:
from Twitter ‏@ruk 15 May (2013)

"To prevent the Guardian paywall from tracking you, prevent your browser from accepting cookies from "http://ppjol.com ". "

A possibly funny cartoon from Wayne Wright in The Journal-Pioneer from January 11:

The JP, along with The Eastern Graphic, have Island editorial cartoonists.

And not to forget our Premier:

Defining difference in promise vs. lie - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 14, 2014

I almost gagged when Premier Robert Ghiz bragged of “bringing in the HST” was the best thing he did for P.E.I. in 2013, after “promising” prior to the last election, he would not.

Now, with help from a computer, these are the definitions of a promise and a lie. A promise is a vow to assure a person or group that something will or will not happen. A lie is a false statement made to a person or group, who knows it is not the whole truth, intentionally.

Now, in a court of law, a lie is considered a criminal offence and whoever is convicted of such, can and will receive a fine and/or jail time. Is it ever OK to break a promise? Honouring a promise is high on my list of requirements in being a person of integrity. Basically, whenever a person fails to follow through on a promise, it registers as a betrayal. How do you define “I will not be bringing the HST to P.E. Islanders?”

Bob MacLean,  Auburn

And something on the horizon, a "who will really benefit?" issue:

CETA trade benefits grossly exaggerated - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 14, 2014

Trade is important to Canada and P.E.I. But, to enter into trade agreements based on misleading information is unwise and possibly foolish. On January 10, Rob Moore, Minister of State for ACOA, once again stated the official federal government propaganda on the benefits of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) to the local Chamber of Commerce. The two commonly reported are $12 billion annual boost to the Canadian economy and 80,000 new jobs. These are simply not true. They are benefits based on computer models with very unrealistic assumptions. Everyone knows models can be made to say whatever the designers want them to say. In this case, the models were developed by a joint report commissioned by the European Union and the government of Canada to promote the CETA agreement.

The assumptions in the model include, among others, full employment, balanced trade and a perfectly functioning market place. If you can find this in the real economy, I would like to know about it. The reality is that Canada has a significant trade deficit ($19 billion in goods and services) with Europe. We import much more than we export. The same joint report also predicts that imports from the EU will be twice as much as we export therefore increasing our trade deficit. Trade deficits usually go together with overall job losses, lower GDP, and a weaker economy.

The assessment of realistic gains and losses within CETA needs to be part of the public debate. There is much in this agreement which is of concern. The secrecy in which it has been cloaked is not in keeping with our democratic processes. It must come out from underneath the covers and be subject to a sound analysis and public input.

Lou Richard, Charlottetown
Despite all of that news, have a good day,

January 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The guard rail along a part of Plan B got fixed yesterday afternoon.

Looking east onto Plan B, Bonshaw, near "McManus Road" to old TCH by Bonshaw 500, Tuesday, January 14, 2014. (The road "above" Plan B is for hauling out rocks from one of three storage areas along the Plan B.)

One diligent worker, with a small excavator, was sent to fix the guardrail along Plan B in Bonshaw where supports were damaged.

So it's still all about safety, right?
In the rush to get the asphalt laid in October of 2013, to be able to crow about Plan B being "on time" (and supposedly on budget), there was *no time or budget" to put little reflectors in the road, as there are along other parts of the TCH.  There *are* areas of intense, superbright lighting at intersections, but none of these little gems that really help the traveller at night and when conditions are wet or foggy.

Reflectors, sometimes called "cat's eyes" **, working even though swamped with road grit, Old TCH in Bonshaw, January 2014.
One side of the plastic piece reflects back light in the white ones, two sides in the yellow.

These inexpensive reflectors are an example of a way to improve safety as a small cost, and the Department of Transportation has installed them along the TCH and some other roads....except not on Plan B, which may be wide in places but it's very hard to tell shoulders and lanes when it's wet and dark.   Perhaps they will be installed when the "finish coat" of asphalt is applied next summer.

** though the original cat's eyes in England are cast iron (no snowploughing) and have two reflective orbs.

Snow and ice, snow and ice, tonight, Confederation Centre Public Library, 7PM.   Jackie Waddell of Island Nature Trust will illustrate this presentation with lots of PEI content on winter wildlife under the shelter of snow.

January 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

(Apologies for the length!)

Tonight is the Environmental Coalition of PEI's annual general meeting, starting at 6:30PM, at Holland College's Mackinnon Lecture Theatre in Charlottetown.  It is always a pleasant, informative AGM that sticks to its time frame.  At 7PM, there will be a showing of Mille Clark's documentary Island Green,  which is about 30 minutes long and explores if PEI could go organic, in a poetic framework.  Part of the movie is a beautiful, now almost-painful, time-capsule of organic farmer Raymond Loo; and there is gorgeous photography and heartwarming images of other great people on this island.
(If you are unable to make it, there is one more showing of the film that I know of:  Wednesday, January 29th, 7PM, sponsored by the PEI Certified Organic Producers Co-Op, at the Farm Centre.  There will be a panel discussion after that showing, too.)

Following the movie is a presentation by Dr. Daryl Guignion about the controversial request by the potato industry for the province to lift the ban on "deep-well irrigation" for seasonal irrigation of the potato crop in parts of the Island.

There will be a panel discussion after Daryl's talk, with him and Island Green's creative team.
Regarding this request to lift the ban n deep-water wells for irrigation:

Organic farmer Ranald MacFarlane's letter


Deep water wells already an issue? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 09, 2014

This last summer was very dry. My well failed me for water for the first time ever.

I figured it is because we keep more stock and do more things with water than before. I had to put in a new well here at Pleasant Farm. I called for a quote and the well driller from the area said a well in Fernwood would be easy to do. He said he never had to drill beyond 80 feet.

When the job got done he ended up drilling 180 feet to hit water. He was most apologetic and couldn't understand what happened.

Here in greater metro Fernwood there were already three deep water wells, and all were being used daily - two were for irrigation of potato land and one is in the industrial park.

I realize this is not hard scientific evidence that the water table is losing critical mass but I certainly wonder if there is a correlation.

I am concerned that if Premier Robert Ghiz lifts the moratorium on deep water wells for irrigation of potato land then more people and industries that need water may not be able to get it.

Moreover, if it turns into a drilling competition to secure water, how deep will my next well have to be? The last one nearly broke me.

I am opposed to deep-water well irrigation.

Ranald MacFarlane, Fernwood

The Watershed Alliance held a symposium on November 30, 2014, about this issue and have put many of the presentations on their website:

A sample slide from Cavendish Farms and the PEI Potato Board's presentation, which uses the word "sustainability" a lot throughout:

From Daryl Guignion's presentation, "Why Fish Need Cool, Clear, Abundant Water":

  • "With the new water Extraction Policy (2013), the suggestion is made that up to 35% of water in the main stem of a river may be extracted through high capacity wells (such as irrigation) without damage to sensitive species. From my 45 years of field experience on PEI, I would categorically describe this statement as blatantly inaccurate. Theoretically, this percentage could mean that the entire east branch of the Morell River could run dry.
  • The degradation of our precious water (rivers running red, sedimentation throughout watercourses, exploding nitrate levels, anoxic estuaries, shellfish closures, larvae mortality, fish kills and overall ecosystem degradation is disgusting to witness.
  • We know the solutions but even after numerous reports, commissions, and action committees, we are bullied into believing the status quo must remain."
  • Groundwater on PEI is a public resource. It is crucial to both “man and beast”. It is my opinion that water should not be allocated to ANY GROUP without public dialogue and consent of Islanders. The lack of soil and water conservation practices across PEI is appalling and the province urgently needs a WATER POLICY – one that reflects current and future desires of all our people with the principle goal of high quality, abundant, clean water for ecosystems and future generations of Islanders."

In the end, a few weeks ago (December 15th), the board of the Watershed Alliance wrote a letter to the Environment Minister (last link on page of presentations' links) with this excerpt:

But asking for tighter regulations.  

I was dismayed when I read that letter, as they seem to give it their blessing, using the justification *if it's done properly* or somesuch;  there was a well-structured and -documented letter to Minister Sherry from the Central Queens Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation (West River Watershed Project) sent a couple of weeks later:

Excerpts from CQWF letter of December 27, 2014, (bolding mine):

"The arguments presented by the potato industry favoring supplemental irrigation are based on PEI potato yields measured against yields from other potato growing regions of North America. Their implication was that irrigation will improve yields and make the Island industry more competitive; however, the main competitive edge derived by farmers from continental regions like Idaho is not their use of irrigation, rather it is that their soil quality is superior (class I soils) and that their growing season is longer than PEI’s.

"Irrigation is one factor that improves crop yields, but improved soil conservation strategies including 3 year crop rotations, winter cover crops or mulching, and retention and enhancement of organic matter in the soil are far more effective in both the short and long term for improving yields4. Despite strong evidence for the importance of these factors and encouragement through incentives to farmers to practice best management for soils, there is ample evidence across the province that many potato producers do not apply these critical soil conservation strategies. Why should the Island public allow producers to use another public resource – groundwater - when they have not demonstrated strong leadership and stewardship in their use of the public resource that is our topsoil?

"Controlled deep well extraction irrigation was presented by the farming industry as benefitting the environment since it will mean that less energy, fertilizer and pesticides will be required to produce the same total yield (in lbs) annually. However, when questioned on the specific amount of nitrogen that is required for an irrigated field vs. non-irrigated field, the representative could not provide any estimates to back up this statement. If the province is truly considering lifting the moratorium on high-capacity groundwater wells, then there must be at least an equal reduction in environmental risk, through coincidental regulated restrictions on fertilizer and pesticide use."

and finishes with:
"There must be an open and transparent public dialogue on this issue with all stakeholders before any decisions are made to change the Government’s policy. We would urge you consider this carefully and seek input from external experts about how to address the remaining information gaps before proceeding further.

If you feel you have enough information and have an opinion about this, you could write Environment Minister Janice Sherry <jasherry@gov.pe.ca>
Agriculture Minister George Webster <gtwebster@gov.pe.ca>
and your MLA.

January 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update:

Some rain, some melting; not too much, which is good.

Some mitigations are barely holding up
Sediment pond at Crosby's ravine, which flows down the hill into Bonshaw (West) River by little wooden footbridge, Sunday, January 12, 2014.

And Transportation has let its guard down:
Plan B, Bonshaw, across from the connector to the old TCH (McManus Road), Sunday, January 12, 2014.  Presumably a snowplow nicked the top of the guard rail supports.  A pretty steep ravine off to the left, that leads down to that sediment pond (above picture).

Close-up: Guard rail not attached or supported.  January 12, 2014, Plan B, Bonshaw.

January 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some rainy day reading on our fossil fuel dependence:
Crying "Peak Oil is here!", or not, and the economic ramifications:

Historical and social implications:


January 11, 2014

There is a fundraiser for the family of Ron and Anne Arvidson, who have given so much time and effort to Stop Plan B and many other causes, to help offset some medical expenses.

Beautiful things!  Raffle tickets ($5 each or three for $10) are available at various locations including the Bonshaw Hall (Post Office) and Ellen Burge's pottery stall at the Charlottetown Farmers' Market (by the smoothie bar), and from friends.  Contact me and I can put you in touch with the right people.  The last day for getting tickets is January 19th.

Here is an event (presumably with tasty local food) that may be of interest if you are in a community supported agriculture group (CSA) or especially if you are curious about it:

Community Supported Agriculture Workshop

Wednesday, February 5th,  4:00 to 7:30 p.m.
The Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown
Supper Included

"The workshop will highlight Community Supported Agriculture in Prince Edward Island as one viable option for sustainable production & distribution. It will provide PEI CSA producers an opportunity to share their knowledge and CSA customers/sharers will have a chance to share their experiences. And, it will showcase the individual CSA producers’ offerings and provide sign-up options."

The workshop is sponsored by the PEI Food Security Network: Sustainable Production and Distribution Working Group.

There is no charge but preregistration is required, before January 24, 2014.

To preregister: Cooper Institute 894-4573 or cooperinstitute@eastlink.ca

And something to consider from "FoodTank, the Food Think Tank" (bolding is theirs):
Source URL:   http://foodtank.org/news/2013/12/fourteen-food-resolutions-to-bring-in-the-new-year

14 Food Resolutions for 2014 - by Danielle Nierenberg

As we enter 2014, there are still nearly one billion people suffering from hunger. Simultaneously, 65 percent of the world's population live in countries where obesity kills more people than those who are underweight. But these are problems that we can solve and there's a lot to be done in the new year! 

2014 was declared the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Food Tank is honored and excited to be collaborating with FAO around highlighting how farmers are more than just food producers--they're teachers, innovators, entrepreneurs, environmental stewards, and change-makers! 

And negotiations are continuing around the new Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. It's our hope that the new goals will help not only reduce hunger and poverty, but find ways to improve nutrient density and improve farmers' livelihoods. 

In addition, the issue of food loss and food waste is gaining ground thanks to the U.N.'s Zero Hunger Challenge, which calls for zero food waste, as well as the good work of many organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Feeding the 5000, the U.N. Environment Programme, and WastedFood.com who are showing eaters, businesses, and policy-makers solutions for ending waste in the food system.

And youth are taking the lead in pushing for a more sustainable food system. Young people like Edward Mukiibi, who is helping Slow Food International's 1,000 Garden in Africa's program gain momentum. In addition, the Young Professionals for Agriculture Research and Development (YPARD) is helping connect agronomists, farmers, researchers, and activists around the world. Food Tank will also be announcing some exciting work around mobilizing youth in 2014! 

Through concrete action, hope and success in the food system is possible.

As Nelson Mandela said, “sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.”

Together we can be that generation and find solutions to nourish both people and the planet!
Here are 14 food resolutions for 2014:
1. Meet Your Local Farmer
Know your farmer, know your food (KYF2) aims to strengthen local and regional food systems. Meeting your local farmer puts a face to where your food comes from and creates a connection between farmers and consumers.
2. Eat Seasonal Produce
By purchasing local foods that are in season, you can help reduce the environmental impact of shipping food. And your money goes straight to the farmer, supporting the local economy.
3. End Food Waste
More than 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted each year. Tips to reduce waste include planning meals ahead, buying "ugly" fruits and vegetables, being more creative with recipes, requesting smaller portions, composting, and donating excess food.
4. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Many diseases are preventable, including obesity, yet 1.5 billion people in the world are obese or overweight. Promote a culture of prevention by engaging in physical activity and following guidelines for a healthy diet. Gaps in food governance must also be addressed to encourage healthy lifestyles, including junk food marketing to children.
5. Commit to Resilience in Agriculture
large portion of food production is used for animal feed and biofuels--at least one-third of global food production is used to feed livestock. And land grabs are resulting in food insecurity, the displacement of small farmers, conflict, environmental devastation, and water loss. Strengthening farmers' unions and cooperatives can help farmers be more resilient to food prices shocks, climate change, conflict, and other problems.
6. Eat (and Cook) Indigenous Crops
Mungbean, cow pea, spider plant...these indigenous crops might sound unfamiliar, but they are grown by small-holder farmers in countries all over the world. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that approximately 75 percent of the Earth’s genetic resources are now extinct, and another third of plant biodiversity is predicted to disappear by the year 2050. We need to promote diversity in our fields and in our diets!
7. Buy (or Grow) Organic
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that at least one pesticide is in 67 percent of produce samples in the U.S. Studies suggest that pesticides can interfere with brain development in children and can harm wildlife, including bees. Growing and eating organic and environmentally sustainable produce we can help protect our bodies and natural resources.
8. Go Meatless Once a Week
To produce 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of beef can require 6,810 liters (1,799 gallons) of water and 0.45 kilograms (one pound) of pork can require 2,180 liters (576 gallons) of water. Beef, pork, and other meats have large water footprints and are resource intensive. Consider reducing your "hoofprint" by decreasing the amount and types of meat you consume.
9. Cook
In Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked,” he learns how the four elements-fire, water, air, and earth-transform parts of nature into delicious meals. And he finds that the art of cooking connects both nature and culture. Eaters can take back control of the food system by cooking more and, in the process, strengthen relationships and eat more nutritious--and delicious--foods.
10. Host a Dinner Party
It’s doesn’t have to be fancy, just bring people together! Talk about food, enjoy a meal, and encourage discussion around creating a better food system. Traveling in 2014 and craving a homemade meal? For another option try Meal Sharing and eat with people from around the world.
11. Consider the "True Cost" Of Your Food
Based on the price alone, inexpensive junk food often wins over local or organic foods. But, the price tag doesn’t tell the whole story. True cost accounting allows farmers, eaters, businesses, and policy makers to understand the cost of all of the "ingredients" that go into making fast food--including antibiotics, artificial fertilizers, transportation, and a whole range of other factors that don't show up in the price tag of the food we eat.
12. Democratize Innovation
Around the world, farmers, scientists, researchers, women, youth, NGOs, and others are currently creating innovative, on-the-ground solutions to various, interconnected global agriculture problems. Their work has the great potential to be significantly scaled up, broadened, and deepened—and we need to create an opportunity for these projects to get the attention, resources, research, and the investment they need.
13. Support Family Farmers
The U.N. FAO has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming, honoring the more than 400 million family farms in both industrialized and developing countries, defined as farms who rely primarily on family members for labour and management. Family farmers are key players in job creation and healthy economies, supplying jobs to millions and boosting local markets, while also protecting natural resources.
14. Share Knowledge Across Generations
Older people have challenges--and opportunities--in accessing healthy foods. They're sharing their knowledge with younger generations by teaching them about gardening and farming, food culture, and traditional cuisines. It’s also important to make sure that older people are getting the nutrition they need to stay active and healthy for as long as possible.

And a savvy Charlottetown Farmers' Market patron mentioned it's sometimes easier to park at the UPEI lots close to Belvedere Avenue and cross at the crosswalks to get to the Market (especially when the snowbanks are easier to get around).

January 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some events taking place in the next little while:

Today, 12noon, Charlottetown Legion on Pownal Street, second floor:
Rally against cuts to DVA

A correction (had the date wrong yesterday):
ECO-PEI annual general meeting is Tuesday the 14th, MacMillan Hall, Holland College, starting at 6:30PM:

Saturday, January 18th, daytime:
Farm Centre hosting the first PEI Seed Expo for gardeners and farmers:
"The day-long event will offer participants a chance to check out new varieties for this year as well as learn the value and history of some of the heritage seeds that have long been in use."

Tuesday, January 21st, 7PM, AVC Lecture Room A,
Film:  Cinema Politica and the Citizens' Alliance of PEI are hosting the film "Occupy Love"

Wednesday, January 29th, 7PM, Farm Centre
Screening and discussion of film Island Green
PEI Certified Organic Producers' Co-Op and Open Cinema

And tonight on CBC TV's The Fifth Estate:
"In the past few years, the federal government has cut funding to hundreds of renowned research institutes and programs. Ottawa has dismissed more than 2,000 federal scientists and researchers and has drastically cut or ended programs that monitored smoke stack emissions, food inspections, oil spills, water quality and climate change.
Now some scientists have become unlikely radicals, denouncing what they call is a politically-driven war on knowledge. In Silence of the Labs, Linden MacIntyre tells the story of scientists - and what is at stake for Canadians - from Nova Scotia to the B.C. Pacific Coast to the far Arctic Circle."


And just a note that we are updating the Citizens' Alliance website from the www.watchpei.org website and it's not-quite-accessible right now.   Updates and other information are still up on the www.stopplanb.org website.

January 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Back to the land:

There are two chances to see the movie Island Green by Mille Clarke this month.  (This is the 30-minute movie that lyrically examines the idea of an organic PEI.) The first is at the Environmental Coalition of PEI's annual general meeting next Tuesday, January 15th, along with a summary of ECO-PEI's work this past year, and wonderful speaker biologist Darryl Guignion;,MacKinnon Hall of Holland College's  Prince of Wales (Charlottetown) campus.

and the other time is on Wednesday, January 29th, at the Farm Centre, sponsored by the PEI Certified Organic Food Producers' Co-Op.

Both events will have discussions afterwards, so after being inspired by Mille's movie you can help focus on what actually to do to make this closer to happening.
In yesterday's Guardian, David Weale paid attention to the numbers and wrote this:
Source URL:http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-01-08/article-3567640/Acreage-disappears-in-farming-statistics/1

Acreage disappears in farming statistics -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 08, 2014

Some clarification is needed on the information provided to the Guardian by the Department of Agriculture on Jan. 6, (This is the year of the Family Farm). It stated that in recent decades the number of farms on P.E.I. has dropped from 15,000 to under 1,500. It also stated that the approximate size of the 15,000 farms was 90 acres, and that the average today is around 300 acres. Do the math. That would mean there were 1,350,000 acres of ʻfarmlandʼ back when, and only 450,000 today. What happened to the 900,000 acres unaccounted for? Someone needs to go back to the drawing board.

The article also repeated the common shibboleth that, “Todayʼs farms are much more productive and efficient....” It raises the question as to whether the loss of 13,500 farm units, and the “decline, if not the decimation of many rural communities” should be described as efficient. The analysis from this perch seems rather narrow.

Surely in the big picture the transition has been hugely inefficient, and detrimental to rural P.E.I. And, predictably, there is no mention of the hidden cost of the degradation of Island soil that is the by-product of industrial monoculture.

At worst, the article was disingenuous. At best, confusing.

Having said all that, one can only hope that it represents, policy-wise, some small turning away from the present model of farming toward one that is more friendly to both the land and those who farm.

David Weale, Charlottetown

I couldn't dig up the original column written by the Department of Agriculture yet, but here is Monday's editorial on the United Nations' decree:

Family farm in spotlight by UN decree - The Guardian Editorial

Published on January 07, 2014

2014 campaign to highlight potential to eradicate hunger, preserve resources

There is another reason to consider 2014 an historic year on P.E.I. We are all aware of the 150th anniversary this year of the Charlottetown Conference which led to Confederation. And as thousands of guests and visitors flock to our province, they are sure to enjoy the pastoral country scenes all across the province. Those scenes are recognized around the globe in countless calendar pictures, postcards, advertising and photographs, all because of the family farm which has been the foundation of this province since well before Confederation.

Now, the United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. The UN has launched a campaign to highlight the potential of family farmers to eradicate hunger, preserve natural resources and promote sustainable development. The designation is tailor-made for P.E.I., probably more so than any other province in Canada because we have such a high percentage of our land under cultivation. Itʼs true that many P.E.I. family farms have incorporated for business and taxation reasons but families still own and operate those farms which have been passed down from generation to generation.

In a recent online survey conducted by the Task Force on Land Use Policy, Islanders made it abundantly clear they stand shoulder to shoulder with P.E.I.ʼs family farmers. There was a strong response to the survey indicating a keen interest in the future of land use in the province. A key finding of the survey indicated that a majority believe that the best farmland should be kept in agriculture and not open for any kind of development. They want the family farm to continue to be the guardian and custodian of the land and to pass it down to following generations largely intact.

Two little comments: The Guardian uses the editorial to mention the results of the Land Use Policy survey.  While I think any response from Islanders is valuable, it was a small number -- they call the response of about 700 Islanders "strong". (Remember that the citizen-initiated plebiscite regarding Plan B had 4,000 respondents and that number was belittled by mainstream Island media.)  They also did not use the opportunity to discuss *any* issues of farming on PEI, such as soil degradation or pressures on family farms like those faced by the Best family in Tryon, just its postcard prettiness.

January 8, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is terribly long, but interesting, if you have a chance to read it.

Reinventing Progressive Politics - by Murray Dobbin, rabble.ca

posted on rabble.ca in June of last year
Source URL: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2013/06/reinventing-progressive-politics#.UscxNLMPIxU.email

We are so accustomed to the connection between political parties and democracy that to question the relationship between the two might seem absurd. But for those who recognize the multiple crises faced by humanity -- the destruction of our environment, climate change, the ravages of unfettered finance capital, the undeniable limits to growth -- the failure of our liberal, multi-party democracies seems increasingly obvious. To many people -- the millions who can't even be bothered to vote -- they are simply irrelevant.

Of course for the elites and the corporations that feed off it, the current system is working fine. Deregulation, privatization, high-end tax cuts and the Orwellian security state now being exposed in the U.S. all contribute to wealth and political power of the 1% (actually more like the 10%). While they still have to breathe the same polluted air as the rest of us, the elites believe they can somehow achieve immunity from the global forces now in play. Of course they are wrong. But so long as they believe they are right, the crises will continue to worsen and the rest of us will continue to suffer.

The tragic irony in all this is that in most democracies the majority of people actually share values that, if they drove government policy, would begin to address the crises. But there is a persistent disconnect between what people want and what the system can deliver. The multi-party system is designed to be dominated by money and increasingly sophisticated marketing, micro-targeting and data-mining. Disengaged citizens haven't a prayer in dealing with the modern election machine.

Left-wing parties try to play this game but inevitably come up short. The "game" has been designed not to represent the needs of people or communities but to manage capitalism in the interests of the elites. As soon as you accept the rules of this game, that is what you end up doing. The electoral contest is inherently corrupting of genuine democracy.

Reflective of this decay of democracy is the recent BC election in which a totally bankrupt Liberal government won re-election against an NDP which thought it could stroll to power using the conventional machine approach to elections. But to truly draw upon people's progressive instincts you have to engage them at the community level year round. Just think of the odds against winning in the conventional BC contest: a totally hostile media which effectively operates like the propaganda arm of the Liberal Party, live-steaming neo-liberal ideology into every home every day of every year.

Elections as we experience them are themselves apolitical. People are supposed to suddenly become informed citizens -- for one month every four years. There is no substantive dialogue with the citizenry. The parties are like alien entities that suddenly arrive in your living room, not to engage you but to somehow coax you into voting for them. Even working in elections is apolitical -- the NDP insists that its callers and door knockers not talk to people -- because they fear their own members are so ill-informed about its policies that they might say something to harm the campaign.  

The inevitable result of a progressive party adopting the election tactics and operating principles of its right-wing opponents is that it has to move to the right to be competitive. If you don't trust your support base or even your members to be progressive you have little choice. At the federal level a single policy area fatally reduces the NDP's capacity for progressive positions. The NDP refuses to seriously address the revenue/tax issue. Conservative and Liberal tax cuts have lopped off between $50 and $80 billion a year in revenue without which the NDP can do virtually nothing to reverse the dismantling of the social democratic features of the federal state.

To be fair to the NDP the other missing element in national politics are robust, grassroots social and labour movements whose role it is to move the ideological and political goal posts to the left. With the aforementioned media ready and willing to trash any policy or party that steps outside the bounds of what is acceptable to Bay Street, it is not difficult to understand the NDP's reluctance to provide bold leadership on critical issues. Without social movements creating the political space an electoral machine party is vulnerable when it comes to taking bold positions.

Two recent examples of the NDP taking advantage of political space created by social movement organizations demonstrate how it should work. Last year the NDP alarmed social activists with statements suggesting broad acceptance of corporate rights ("free trade") deals, including the odious CETA deal with the EU. But recently, both Don Davies the NDP trade critic and Mulcair himself have come out clearly against the investor-state provisions of these deals -- provisions that neutralize government's capacity for legislation by allowing corporations to sue governments directly for laws that affect their profitability. That change followed effective grass roots campaigns against CETA and FIPA, the 31-year deal with China.

On the tax front the NDP has taken a strong position on the issue of tax havens. While this is an easy one to lead on (not even the Taxpayers Federation can find a way to defend crooks) the party's position is strongly reinforced by an effective campaign by the group Canadians for Tax Fairness. It remains to be seen if the party will take on tougher tax issues like increasing personal and corporate income taxes and whether the fair tax movement is there to back it up.

While these are positive signs for progressive politics they are rearguard actions aimed primarily at stopping things from getting even worse. There is another political world out there that is the elephant in the room -- the need for a steady state, low growth economy, bringing finance capital to heel and dealing with the rapidly unfolding climate crisis. The formal political scene still operates as if it is business as usual, incapable in its current state of seriously addressing the most important issues facing humanity. At some point progressive forces are going to have to come to grips with the need to change the way they do politics both at the party level and the civil society level. Both branches of progressive politics are in desperate need of fundamental change though at this point there is little appreciation of this fact.

It will require an enormous effort in both camps which have institutionalized their approaches to politics to such an extent they cannot see the need for change. It is difficult to imagine the NDP suddenly returning to its CCF roots and once again becoming a movement rooted in community. History does not move backwards and there is no grass roots push within the NDP membership for developing a movement/party that actually engages ordinary citizens on a year round basis.

Similarly, the remnants of what were once robust and effective social movements are (with some important exceptions) increasingly weak, demoralized and isolated. Small wonder. The context for the creation of these single-issue movements was the early Trudeau era when governments actually listened to citizens' groups while expanding the social and economic role of governments. The efficacy of this kind of civil society organizing has however been in a steady decline since the signing of the FTA with the U.S. What is now needed is a broad social movement which incorporates all of the issues now dealt with by hundreds of disconnected organizations.

It all has to do with recovering community and the commons. The destruction of community has been the great success of the right. When Margaret Thatcher stated there was "no such thing as society" she was not describing current reality -- she was describing her goal. It has been largely achieved in English speaking developed countries. If we are to even begin to address our share of the global crises we will have to do it by creating a political culture that reinvents the commons and ends people's isolation from each other.

It's a difficult and long-term task -- likely as long as the right has been dominant. There is at least one reason for optimism on this front: the recent coming together of the CAW and CEP unions to launch Unifor billed as a reinvention of unionism, "for the unemployed and self-employed, a union for women and young workers -- a union for everyone." That sounds a lot like a union rooted not just in the workplace but in the community. It will, we can hope, be a challenge to the rest of the labour movement which finds itself in a state of near irrelevance in the struggle for a better world.

But, how, in the next five to ten years, can civil society organize in such a way as to reverse the decline of community and transition from "silo" politics? A key to this goal is to be found at the level of civic politics. It is the level of government closest to people in their daily lives and presents a scale of politics with the most potential for community building. There are scattered efforts across the country to elect progressive councils but the left needs to focus serious resources and planning if civic politics is to become the battleground for changing the political culture.

The right has already thrown down the gauntlet. Preston Manning's Centre for Building Democracy announced this spring that it is putting major resources into civic politics to help conservative candidates take over city and town councils across the country. It's the last field of battle for the hearts and minds of Canadians. We had better show up.

Murray Dobbin is a guest senior contributing editor for rabble.ca, and has been a journalist, broadcaster, author and social activist for 40 years. He writes rabble's bi-weekly State of the Nation column, which is also found at The Tyee.

Not an endorsement, but passing on an interesting point of view, from Monday's Guardian:


Nuclear power best option for reliable electricity - The Guardian Letter of the Day

Published on January 06, 2014

Current weather conditions have emphatically shown the need for reliable and abundant electricity supply for this region, and indeed the whole country. Options for governments appear difficult. Whatever method of generating more power will encounter vociferous objection from various groups, some of it justified, and much that does not stand up to critical analysis.

A consensus among climate scientists indicates the need to quickly reduce burning of fossil fuels, particularly the dirtiest, coal. Many other forms of energy generation have their problems. The one green system that is a known technology with a very high safety record is nuclear power. It is high time for governments to bite the bullet and put in place an ambitious program of nuclear power construction across the country.

This technology has been around for a long time, we know how to do it. We have the added advantage of making all these stations thorium powered, with vastly reduced radiation hazards and waste disposal problems. Thorium is abundant in Canada and we have the excellent CANDU reactor. All we need is political will and a rising level of community understanding of the whole picture, including the risks involved.

This leads me to my one point of unease. Any system of power generation needs disciplined government oversight of safety standards. Having seen what slack safety standards can do in the Lac Megantic rail disaster leads me to think that nuclear power needs to wait until we get rid of the Harper government. This is a government which has shown a reluctance to apply strict oversight of the activities of corporations in the energy sector, and which has consistently attacked science and community access to its findings.

This is serious. 

Peter Noakes, Charlottetown

January 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Here is a round-up of some news items:

Well-water contamination confirmed from fracking in four U.S. states (article originally by the Associated Press):

A lot of e-mail bounced yesterday, so if you didn't get this list, here it is again, Elizabeth May's list of Highs and Lows from 2013:

Phil and the Farm -- it's good to see a plan for some of the P.E.I. 2014 money that sees a future for keeping things green, local and growing:

Source URL:

Farm Centre Associationʼs planting seeds of a Legacy Farm - The Guardian article by Mary MacKay

Published on January 06, 2014 in The Guardian

The seeds for a long-lasting legacy will soon be planted by a new Farm Centre Association initiative.
This spring the association is embarking upon a Legacy Farm project, which is a community-based research and demonstration farm on an eight-plus-acre parcel of land directly behind the centre in Charlottetown.

“The whole idea of the Legacy Garden will be in keeping with the theme of 2014 so it will be honouring the past, giving recognition to the present and helping to create a vision of the future for Island agriculture,” says Phil Ferraro, general manager of the Farm Centre Association, which received funding from the P.E.I. 2014 Fund.

The association, which has partnered with the Agriculture Canada Research Branch, the P.E.I. Food Exchange and The Culinary Institute of Canada, has obtained a long-term lease of the land, which is on Charlottetown Experimental Farm property.
“Our partners include the Agriculture Canada Research Branch and they will be growing lots of grains and vegetables that were actually developed on Prince Edward Island in the past 100 years. We will be including some signage and having some tours of what those crops were and what they meant to P.E.I. and Canadian agriculture,” Ferraro says.

"Another partner is the P.E.I. Food Exchange which became fairly well known this past fall for going out and ʻgleaningʼ fields.  After a farm has been mechanically harvested theyʼll go in to pick food and give it away to charity. Next year they will be growing food (in the Legacy Garden) as well as gleaning from other farm fields.”

The Culinary Institute will also have a garden plot and they will also be hosting a series of dinners at the Farm Centre, which will be coupled with events that all relate to Island agriculture and food security.

In addition to Agriculture Canadaʼs extensive field plots where they will demonstrate various crops that theyʼve developed on P.E.I. over the years, there will be community gardens and research plots where new and under-commercialized crops will be introduced to that people can see what opportunities there may be to growing some of them.
“So between the community gardens, the research trials and the demonstration plots we will also have an activities area. This agricultural research station is actually unique in Canada. Itʼs the only one that has historically always invited people to be part of it — to walk across it.  All of the other agricultural stations across Canada are more restricted,” Ferraro says.

“If you look back at past events it used to be a place bus tours came, where weddings were held, where special events occurred, so we hope to reinvigorate some of that enthusiasm around the farm by having an area where we will certainly be hosting events over the course of the year, but then in the future as the orchard and gardens mature that people will want to utilize the space for their events.”
Ferraro says the Legacy Garden has tremendous potential as an agri-tourism destination, for cruise ship passengers, for example.
“(Also) over the last couple of years is that farmers are using the farm centre as a depot for their community-supported agriculture projects, so within the garden there will be an expanded opportunity for farmers to do that,” he

The half-acre community garden will be established this spring, as will a half-acre orchard of various fruits and nuts. Shelterbelts will also be planted to present an esthetically pleasing landscape as well as a productive landscape.
Educational programming, as well as demonstration farming activities, will also part of the Legacy Farm package.
“This being an urban location in the middle of Charlottetown, urban agriculture is becoming very prominent. The vast majority of new farmers in North America are small diverse farms with direct marketing, and the younger generation of farmers tends to be closer to cities or in cities,” Ferraro says.

“So there might be an opportunity for tools and techniques for small farmers and urban gardeners.”
There is also an opportunity for horticultural therapy for the elderly, disengaged youth, and those with physical, developmental, mental, and learning disabilities; and garden-based learning for early childhood education.
“There is no design for this to be a commercial farm. Weʼre not setting out to give space for people to compete with Island farmers. Itʼs a research, demonstration, celebratory, educational space. . . ,” Ferraro adds.

“Itʼs a very exciting endeavour. If you look at the original mandate of the Farm Centre it was to be an event centre and a place to help bring together urban and rural people . . . Somehow over the years it kind of lost that vitality and became just an office building. So weʼre hoping to reinvigorate the mandate of the Farm Centre as well as the heritage of the (experimental) farm that had always been sort of a destination and celebratory site that was unique in Canada.”

January 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is a list of environmental and democratic "highs and lows", in the view of Green Party leader Elizabeth May.  Of course, some are partisan, but I have put in bold what I felt were most interesting observations:

Source URL: http://elizabethmaymp.ca/news/blogs/2013/12/31/that-was-the-year-that-was-2013s-highs-and-lows/

That was the year that was…2013’s highs and lows - Elizabeth May's blog

by Elizabeth May; (posted) by Craig Cantin | December 31, 2013 8:38 pm

I have been over the last few days, like most Canadians, getting the deluge of retrospectives on 2013.  Rob Ford’s name looms large in these reviews, along with Duffy and Wallin, Senate expenses and shenanigans.

This review will not mention those names. The highs and lows of 2013 as I saw them:

The “Lows”

  1. Greenhouse gases in the planet’s atmosphere crossed the 400 parts per million threshold. This dangerous development was marked with headlines around the world, but was hardly mentioned in Canada.  (From press clippings May10-14, 2013: New York Times:Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears, Guardian: Record 400ppm CO2 milestone ‘feels like we’re moving into another era,’ BBC: Carbon dioxide passes symbolic mark , also Le Monde, Le Figaro and so on.)
  2. Approval by “unanimous consent” of new national park when I was briefly out of the Commons.  Why would I not want to consent to Sable Island National Park?  It is the first time industrial activity has been approved in a national park.  The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) will have control of approving seismic testing for oil and gas within the park or directional drilling under the park.  CNSOPB only has to inform Parks Canada, not obtain permission or even consult.  I mourn that a blow to the integrity of all national parks was achieved by stealth.
  3. Destruction of libraries throughout the federal government.  Whole collections of archives of forestry and fisheries have been trashed, with small residual materials set to other locations. The Tyee covered this yesterday with more shocking details:

A federal document marked “secret” obtained by Postmedia News indicates the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that can be read in its entirety at the bottom of this story, mentions only the “culling of materials” as the “main activities” involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details “culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries.”In contrast, a government website says the closures are all about digitizing the books and providing greater access to Canadians — a claim federal and retired scientists interviewed by The Tyee say is not true.”


  1. The treatment of Mi’kmaq non-violent protesters in New Brunswick.  I have been shocked that the approval of fracking on unceded territory of the Elsipogtog First Nation has been so ignored nationally.  The burning police cars on the front page of newspapers has created the impression the protest was violent, but the opposition to fracking is widespread in NB and the blockade had been peaceful.  In fact, the protesters were allowing through vehicles on the blockade.  The assault by RCMP and other unidentified security forces occurred before the cars were set on fire.  There are conflicting accounts from eye witnesses, but it is fair to say, there is a dispute about the idea that the camp was responsible for the fires.
  2. The National Energy Board decision to recommend approval of the Enbridge risky pipeline and tanker scheme.  It was not a surprise.  The NEB has never said “no” to a pipeline.  But it was a surprisingly weak report, ignoring a lot of the strong arguments against the project.  Missing was any serious analysis of the claim that the project is in Canada’s economic interest.
  3. Canada’s unexpected withdrawal from the UN convention on desertification.  It was an appalling message to the drought-plagued countries of Africa.  For a small sum, less than $300,000 a year (less than the cost of feeding one panda on loan from China), Canada participated in international science and assistance to countries facing the threat of creeping deserts.  Climate projections for our Prairies in the future suggest we will need that science.
  4. Canada’s foot dragging on another global treaty attracted attention. On the Arms Trade Treaty, Minister Baird has repeatedly said we do not want to disadvantage duck hunters in Canada. Say what?
  5. Bad news on trade deals–  although we still have no text to review, the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and Europe looks like a bad deal for Canadians—especially those worried about higher drug prices.  European Greens oppose it as it introduces the Investor-State model into EU trade.  Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement also requires serious watching and detailed review.
  6. Lac Megantic.  The tragic loss of lives, the disaster of the rail crash and the mystery surrounding why crude oil blew up like a fire ball marked a low point for any nation.  As did the serious of other events that cost Canadian lives in extreme weather events – the Calgary and High River flood, Toronto ice storm, and Toronto flooding.  All have in common the price of fossil fuel addiction.
  7. Lastly, the move by the Prime Ministers’ Office, forcing Conservative motions in over 20 committees to remove my rights to put forward amendments to bills in the House itself at Report Stage, by “inviting me to submit amendments to committees.  As I am not a member of any committee (at least until we have 12 MPs) it is not a real opportunity.  But it does mean my amendments can be summarily defeated without allowing a debate in the House itself.  We fought it and will keep fighting it.

The “Highs”

  1. Michael Chong’s introduction of a private members bill to limit leaders’ powers.  The Conservative MP for Wellington-Halton Hills has dealt a real blow for democracy.  (Chris's note -- I am not sure what she means by a "real blow *for* democracy".  Perhaps she meant another word or I am misreading it.)  Now to get the bill passed!
  2. The bravery and leadership of the Hupacasath First Nation of Vancouver Island.  Thanks to this small First Nation, the Canada-China Investment Treaty is being challenged in the courts.  For all of 2013 the China FIPA was sitting ready for ratification by Cabinet.  Thank goodness it has not been ratified.  It appears the Hupacasath actions have halted ratification.  I also think many Conservatives oppose a treaty giving China’s State Owned Enterprises the right to sue Canada in arbitration for laws they claim unfairly hurt their profits. Keep an eye to block FIPA in 2014.
  3. The federal-provincial environmental review of the Prosperity Mine once again gives a thumbs down.  The company is going to court. Let’s hope Environment Minister Aglukkaq will follow Jim Prentice’s lead and also turn down the mine at Fish Lake.
  4. Shutting down coal fired power plants in Ontario.  Thanks to Premier Wynne for a rare climate win.
  5. Keeping the Experimental Lakes Area open.  But it was at quite a cost. Government scientists are being told they have to choose between research at the ELA and working for the government.  Meanwhile the deal between the Province of Ontario and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), is still being sorted out.  I was shocked to learn recently that IISD has lost all its core federal government funding.
  6. A good bill became law.  Conservative Larry Miller (Bruce Grey Owen Sound) got a private members bill, C-383, passed.  It bans bulk water exports from transboundary basins!
  7. Lots of democracy going on in Conservative back benches. I was very encouraged by Mark Warawa (CPC MP-Langley BC) pushing back when his right to free speech was denied by his party whip.  So too do I salute Edmonton MP (now Independent and former Conservative) Brent Rathgeber denouncing the extreme levels of party discipline required by the PMO. This all ties in to point 1 – Michael Chong’s bill.   We must push for MPs to be empowered to do their job – representing their constituents and not their political party spin doctors.
  8. And to help make that point – Great news for Greens as Bruce Hyer, Independent MP from Thunder Bay-Superior North joins me as the new, doubled Green Party Caucus.  I am so hopeful that our presence in the House will help raise awareness of how a party caucus should function.  With respect, good debate and the freedom to vote as your constituents would want.
  9. And more high points for Greens.  The May BC election brought in another ground-breaking moment, with the election of BC’s first Green MLA, noted climate scientist, Dr. Andrew Weaver. And a close race for BC Greens’ new interim leader, Adam Olsen.
  10. And while it is hard to describe it as a high point, the publication of the RCMP affidavit about the scandal in the PMO, the payment of $90,000 from Harper’s Chief of Staff to Mike Duffy and the subsequent cover-up, have opened a window on the very closed workings of the PMO.  My prediction is that the more Canadians learn about what goes on in PMO, the stronger the case to limit its budget and powers no matter who is Prime minister.

So Ring in the New Year!!  Let’s hope for more “highs” than “lows” in 2014!

Let's hope the freezing rain isn't too bad and the spell of warm temperatures eases the snow load on the trees.

January 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This gem of a piece by Marie Burge was in Monday's Guardian, and it is certainly worth a thoughtful read or re-read. The last paragraphs are in bold because they wrap the issue up so well.


Electoral democracy, salesmanship, or the games people play - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Marie Burge

Published on December 30, 2013

Election of politicians, though important, is not a significant measure of how well democracy is working. In fact, party politics in the current electoral system is often self-serving and does not engage citizens or communities for the long run. Democracy, meant to provide wide representation of the people, would be better served by a carefully designed system of proportional representation.

Very soon P.E.I. will be struck with election fever and many of us may even take leave of our senses and get involved in what is often called a game. Before the prospect of two major voting opportunities in 2015 and in 2016 settles on us we could reflect on democracy and elections.

Those who say Iʼm not voting: the government does nothing for me are probably more destructive to democracy than are corrupt politicians. These citizens are claiming that the role of government is to cater to the wants of individuals. Without missing the importance of the individual, we need to insist that government by its nature is a social institution meant to serve the whole society, with special emphasis on sectors which are usually left on the margins.

P.E.I. is cursed with a long history of patronage which gives us poor governments. In our country, people are silenced by a partyʼs threat, sometimes subtle, to hamper their capacity to make a living, for example. Our question is: have we made any progress from the days when a vote could be bought with a teddy of rum and a five-dollar bill?

Some say all politicians are crooked. This is untrue and unjust and can be used as an escape from responsibility. As in other sectors, we need to collectively take the time and energy, sort out whoʼs who, and then act accordingly. It is probably true that many politicians allow themselves to be influenced by the rich and powerful. If the message of power and money is what they hear the loudest, they will be influenced by it. That does not make them crooked.

It just makes them vulnerable and ill-informed. It also gives them access to easy campaign funds.

There are those who maintain that all the parties are the same. These are also irresponsible people who obviously refuse to put effort into studying the actual policies of each party. Currently we have four parties in P.E.I. and one independent. There really are five distinct policy directions.

Maybe politicians are more interested in selling their product than in giving voters policy options. The pre-election language and actions of candidates and their handlers brings some concerns to mind. Notice how obsessed parties are about establishing their brand. Party strategists seem to be more interested in advertising the brand than they are in policies. Parties often design election platforms around what they think will please the most of their potential voters rather than what will be for the good of the whole community. The real kicker is the belief that negative ads work.

Finally, and no less sobering is the image of politics as a game. It is all based on the sports model of winners and losers. Candidates are supposed to beat their opponents. And of course, our electoral model is called first-past-the-post. Statisticians love to feed us the odds to help us in placing our bets (we mean, our votes).

Our electoral history in P.E.I. gives us a grim picture of two parties vying with each other for absolute power. The winning party has frequently had a large majority with the opposition reduced to ineffectual pecking at the flaws of the governing party. We are not served well by this setup.

A major electoral mystery for me: what happened to the debate about proportional representation (PR) in P.E.I.? Those in power, have obviously decided in their wisdom that proportional representation is not an option. Sure we had a vote on the question. But what few people will dare to say is that those who long for absolute power did all in their power to discourage a yes vote. So now, is there a political party which would honestly take this on in the next federal election and the next provincial election?

We need to adopt a form of government which truly represents the make-up of our community. We should vote for a way of governing which is best for the majority, without forgetting minorities. All of us can do better. As a community we have the capacity to revive a process for gaining proportional representation. We can all be wiser in our voting.

Meanwhile, happy election fever, everyone.

Marie Burge, Mermaid, is a member of the Cooper Institute, which works with groups organized for social change.

from the description of Marie Burge when she was awarded an honourary degree from UPEI last spring:
Marie Burge is a founding member and CEO of Cooper Institute of PEI where she works to advance its vision of empowering groups and individuals who are involved in social change. For over 40 years she has served disadvantaged individuals and families and continues to motivate communities to action. Burge is an alumna of St. Dunstan’s University and has taught at UPEI as a sessional lecturer. She has also collaborated with the University on many research initiatives and projects. Burge was awarded the Order of Prince Edward Island award in 1998.

She is a wonderful person who brings strength and grace as she improves life on this Island.

January 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

As you have probably already heard, 2014 has been declared by the United Nation as the year of the family farm

Steven MacKinnon of New Argyle, with National Farmers' Union, and a huge supporter of local food and supporting family farms, has been talking about this and about issues that will affect farming on PEI (deep-well irrigation, fracking, the Lands Protection Act changes).  He was talking about it on CBC radio yesterday (I will post the link if it becomes archived).

Yesterday's Guardian had a heartfelt letter:

Why Ruin a Good Thing - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Janaury 2, 2014

Recently, it has come to my attention that we as a society are starting to neglect the obvious importance of our farmland in Canada. Without our farmers, we would be forced to eat products from foreign countries and would no longer have the option to go buy fresh products from a local Farmerʼs Market.

In Canada, we are fortunate enough to be able to eat from our own land and produce a huge variety of crops. Why ruin it?
Farmland in Canada is becoming rare and extremely expensive. This makes it almost impossible for small private farmers to earn a living anymore. Do we really want these extremely deserving people to be paid close to nothing? The cost of food is rising because the cost of producing is skyrocketing.
People need to stop complaining. Farmers canʼt afford to keep their properties and we are losing more local producers every year. These people need support, and need to make money in order to sustain their farms. Why go to the grocery store, when you can buy from someone almost literally down the road. You can then know exactly what youʼre buying and where it came from.

Agriculture is part of our heritage. It would be a shame to lose a part of our history. Today, less than two per cent of the countryʼs employment is in the agriculture sector. This means that one in 50 working people are responsible for some sort of food production. These people should be honoured. They are given almost nothing for their very important contributions. Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers and exporters in the world. This must, and I repeat must, be sustained. According to the Huffington Post, North America was losing two acres a day of farmland due to development.

Finally, buy local. I cannot stress enough the importance of farmland. Without it, Canada would be an entirely different place. We need to stop taking it for granted and support our farmers.

Rosalie OʼHara, UPEI student

The Charlottetown and Summerside farmers' markets are open tomorrow --  beef from the Loo Family farm will be available in Charlottetown, and local meat in Summerside, too; and there are still many kinds of local produce available, and always ideas on what to do with them, and how to get items in larger quantities.  Charlottetown now has vendors selling local wine and beer.   Yes, it's often a pain to park and crowded at times, but consider how much you *could* buy there that you wouldn't need to buy from off-island or through a middleman.

January 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Well, if David Suzuki says we should, then we should:

Let's celebrate the gifts of winter - David Suzuki's blog

from David Suzuki Foundation's blog of December 19, 2013, found here with working links:

We Canadians have a special relationship with snow and ice. We ski in it, skate on it, play in it, shovel it, drive through it, sometimes even bicycle through it and suffer through it for many months of the year - some of us more than others, depending on what part of the country we call home. But how much do we know about it?

Do Inuit really have dozens of words for snow and ice? Are snowflakes always six-sided? Can two ever be alike? Why is snow white? Is it a mineral? What makes frozen water so important to us? Some of the answers are more complicated than you might imagine.

Even though English-speaking skiers and snowboarders use multiple adjectives to more accurately describe different types of snow, such as powder, corn and champagne, some say the claim of numerous Inuit words for snow and ice is a myth. But is it? 

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, "the few basic words used by the Inuit to refer to different types of snow or ice do not translate everything they can say about these two natural elements." In Inuktitut, words consist of a foundational element that provides basic meaning, along with other elements "to clarify and/or modify the basic meaning. New words can therefore easily be created from another term." For example, the word siku refers to ice in general, and sikuaq ("small ice") refers to "the first layer of thin ice that forms on puddles in the fall." Sikuliaq ("made ice") refers to "the new ice appearing on the sea or on rock surfaces." Some words also have broader meanings, depending on the context. The word maujaq, for example, means "soft ground", but when referring to snow, it means "the snow in which one sinks."

So, "the total number of terms referring to the various aspects of snow and ice goes far beyond ten or a dozen," allowing Inuit to "draw very subtle distinctions between a very high number of snow or ice types." 

When it accumulates on the ground, snow appears white because, unlike many natural materials, it reflects most light rather than absorbing it, and visible light is white. And although snowflakes form in near-infinite patterns and shapes depending on temperature, wind, humidity and even pollution, each single crystal is always hexagonal, or six-sided, because of the complex way water molecules bond. When a frozen droplet or crystal falls from a cloud, it grows as it absorbs and freezes water from the air around it, forming a six-sided prism. The almost infinite variables mean it's unlikely, although not impossible, for two snowflakes to be exactly alike. 

And yes, snow can be classified as a mineral. According to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, "A mineral is a naturally occurring homogeneous solid, inorganically formed, with a definite chemical composition and an ordered atomic arrangement." Frozen water fits that description.

Snow and ice are important to life on Earth for many reasons. Both are part of the cryosphere, which includes "portions of the earth where water is in solid form, including snow cover, floating ice, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, seasonally frozen ground and perennially frozen ground (permafrost)," according to the Snow and Ice Data Center. It covers 46 million square kilometres of the planet's surface, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, and helps regulate the planet's surface temperature. Changes in the cryosphere can affect climate and water availability, with corresponding effects on everything from winter sports to agriculture.

By reflecting 80 to 90 per cent of incoming sunlight back into the atmosphere, snow cover cools the Earth. Losing that reflective protection, as is happening in the Arctic, upsets the energy balance and accelerates global warming. Snow also insulates parts of the Earth's surface, holding heat in and keeping moisture from evaporating. When soil freezes, it prevents greenhouse gases like carbon and methane from escaping into the atmosphere. When snow melts, it fills rivers and lakes.

Instead of complaining about the dark and cold of winter, we should celebrate snow and ice. The cryosphere is an important piece of the intricate, interconnected puzzle that keeps us alive. So, build a snowperson, play some hockey, get out on the slopes and enjoy the gifts that winter brings.

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ian Hanington, Senior Editor

I didn't know about the part of the Earth's surface called the cryosphere (from the Greek word  for cold/ice/frozen),  and its affects modulating climate change.  More photos of the current state of the cryosphere are here:

I think Mainstreet on CBC Radio this afternoon is talking about weather stories of 2013 with Dr. Adam Fenech of UPEI's Climate Change Centre.

January 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Happy New Year, everyone!

Boyd Allen and Catherine O'Brien wrote a great letter about citizen participation and the Land Use Policy consultations which was in yesterday's Guardian:

Task Force interested in Islandersʼ viewpoints - The Guardian Letter of the Day

Published on December 31, 2013

The Land Use Policy Task Force has published its survey results:
Less than one per cent of Islanders took the survey. The Land Use Policy Task Force travelled the Island and held several public meetings to encourage people to get involved and give their opinions on how we should be developing land use policy on Prince Edward Island. Despite the small sampling, the data derived from this survey will be reflected in any future legislation.
Although we are dismayed that more people did not get involved, we still feel it was one of the few opportunities we have been given to voice our opinion and exercise our democratic rights. We were encouraged to attend meetings, respond to the survey online, or contact the task force members.

Why did so few Islanders participate in this exercise? Were we all made aware of the opportunity? If not, why not? If we were aware and chose not to get involved, was it because of the perception that government will do what it wants and our opinions donʼt matter? In recent past that seems to have been the case.
Development of land use policy on P.E.I. is important. From our health to our way of life, land use affects us all. Decisions made now will have a profound impact on our future generations and on the land itself. The Land Use Policy Task Force would still be happy to listen to more viewpoints. Itʼs not too late to contact them (see link above).

When we are given the opportunity to interface with government we must make use of it. If not, decisions will be made for us, and will not necessarily reflect the needs or wishes of all Islanders.

Boyd Allen, Catherine OʼBrien,
Citizensʼ Alliance of P.E.I.

Jack MacAndrew's column in The Eastern Graphic, from Tuesday:
(we know it should be the Citizens' Alliance, as in more than one citizen :-) )

Sorry, but that’s all for 2013 folks - The Eastern Graphic "The view from Here" by Jack MacAndrew 

Published December 31, 2013

It is that time of year when many in the journalism racket make up lists about the best and worst of this or that, or select athletes of the year, and otherwise write stuff that’s easy to come by when the world (or at least our miniscule part of it) slows down long enough to reflect a bit about where we’ve been and what we’re headed for.
The biggest 2013 story hereabouts would have to be the commencement of the destruction of one of the most beautiful natural landscapes on this here isle, the one now entered into the halls of environmental infamy, and popularly known as Plan B.
For a dedicated band of people living in the vicinity, and with the sympathetic backing of Islanders from one end of PEI to the other, the Ghiz government’s dogged determination to plow ahead with this expensive, totally uneeded, totally unwanted piece of highway construction, was a political wonder to behold. For some it will cost the Ghizites a price they will be paying right up and throughout the election slated for 2015.

This was pissing on the leg of the body politic in no uncertain terms. It was a profligate spending of more than $20 million to build a bit of highway that will permit large trailer trucks to drive even faster, so as to cut about 20 seconds off travel time getting their loads of whatever to and from Charlottetown.
This is idiocy of a particularly pristine nature, giving the finger to rational thought and reasonable discourse.
As the leaders of the Plan B Movement (now called The Citizen’s Alliance of PEI) point out, it ain’t done yet. Just wait until spring and the heavy snowfall already upon us begins to melt on those huge unprotected banks of dirt on either side of the new Ghiz speedway.

You heard the word mitigate being used a lot by Mr Vessey and other government big shots as the natural beauty of the Bonshaw Hills was gouged away, as in, not to worry, we have plans to mitigate any environmental damage etc, etc.
Please note mitigate does not mean prevent, or make whole any deleterious effect of highway construction/destruction on the environment.

If you haven’t checked your dictionary lately, what it means is “to make less harsh, severe or alleviate” any damage caused by said construction/destruction.
It doesn’t mean make whole, or even fix it.
It may also be interpreted as locking the barn after the horse has buggered off.

All of which brings to mind a column I read recently in The New York Times. It bore the title “A Poor Apology For A Word,” and turned out to be a dissertation on the use of the word sorry, a poor excuse used by some in place of excuse me, notably by certain politicians of late.
Apparently the word is of English (as differentiated from Scots or Irish) extraction, used by middle class folks (upper class folks are not required to apologize for anything) in merry olde England an average of eight times per day, which, when applied to a lifetime, would amount to something more than 200,000 occasions for your average 70-year old.
In the opinion of the author of this diatribe, sorry is a mixture of decayed piety and passive-aggressive guile, which you must admit is a mighty neat turn of phrase. And which would immediately account for its use by Mayor Rob Ford, the embarrassment emeritus of the City of Toronto.

Indeed, sorry is a sorry apology. The only acceptable apology is action.

Shaun Atleo, a little guy with a lot of moxie and a big title as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, isn’t a bit sorry for comparing the treatment of Aboriginal people by the Canadian government through the years and continuing into the present to that of Apartheid in South Africa.

He was a member of the Canadian delegation to South Africa for the ceremony occasioned by the death of Nelson Mandela.
Chief Atleo told The Globe and Mail “to walk by and spend a moment over the casket and do a ceremony. You could feel the weight of history. There was something happening here.”
He also took an eagle feather with him, to be buried with Madiba.
Then he told the Canadian delegation, including Stephen Harper, “we must take home with us Madiba’s spirit of reconciliation ... that reconciliation requires respect on behalf of all parties, including respect for indigenous rights and recognition of indigenous peoples.”
Grand Chief Doug Kelly suggested it was “rich with irony that South Africa imposed its legislation on those peoples. Those tribes in 1948, they learned from the Indian Act of the government of Canada, that they built their apartheid system on Indian Act of Canada.”

Oops, sorry.

But it’s true. Bureaucrats from the Department of Indian Affairs met with counterparts from South Africa, and elements of Canada’s Indian Act were incorporated into apartheid, including the requirement that black South Africans required a pass to leave their town or village.
May I leave you, on this New Years, with a message for the coming 12 months
“In Praise of Failure.”
That is the title of another essay I have encountered through The New York Times.What brings it to mind at present is a reflection on one of the central themes of the Georgetown Conference - the fear of failure as an excuse for doing nothing, and the inability to accomplish much of anything unless the venture embodies the risk of failure to body, spirit or reputation and social standing.
Failure, according to Professor Costica Bradatan, “is the sudden irruption of nothingness in the midst of existence. To experience failure is to start seeing the cracks in the fabric of being, and that’s precisely the moment, properly digested failure turns out to be a blessing in disguise.”
In this context, the professor tells us, “failure also possesses a distinct therapeutic function.
“Most of us suffer chronically from a poor adjustment to existence,” he says. “We behave as though the world exists only for our sake. We insatiably devour other species, denude the planet of life and fill it with trash.”
“Failure could be a medicine against such arrogance and hubris, as it often brings humility.”
That is one of the many lessons to be learned from the life of Nelson Mandela.
It was only after Madiba failed to bring freedom to his people with violence, that he adopted non-violence and won the magnificent victory he then celebrated in the true humility of forgiveness towards his oppressors.

Happy New Year.

That’s the view from here.