CaNews Archive‎ > ‎

December 2016

Contents

  1. 1 December 31, 2016
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 1.2 Political naughty and nice of 2016 - The Eastern Graphic article by publisher Paul MacNeill
  2. 2 December 30, 2016
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 2.2 EDITORIAL: Damage control by premier - The Guardian Editorial
  3. 3 December 29, 2016
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 3.2 Open door needs key code - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  4. 4 December 28, 2016
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 4.2 Democratic renewal can be ‘messy,’ premier Wade MacLauchlan says - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  5. 5 December 27, 2016
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 5.2 A Carbon Tax Will Be Coming to Prince Edward Island - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  6. 6 December 26, 2016
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
  7. 7 December 25, 2016
    1. 7.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
  8. 8 December 24, 2016
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 8.2 THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Facebook post by David Weale
    3. 8.3 Big hopes fuel voter disappointment - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill
  9. 9 December 23, 2016
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 9.2 Is It Compost, Waste or Recyclable?
  10. 10 December 22, 2016
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 10.2 JOSH UNDERHAY: Carbon tax necessary to force action - The Guardian Opinion piece by Josh Underhay
    3. 10.3 Carbon Tax – Revenue Neutral or Fiscally Neutral? - Facebook blog by Brad Trivers
  11. 11 December 21, 2016
    1. 11.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 11.2 Poll numbers not a surprise - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 11.3 ALAN MACPHEE: Sickness-free on weekends? - The Guardian Opinion piece by Alan MacPhee
  12. 12 December 20, 2016
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 12.2 TERESA WRIGHT: Dear P.E.I. government: please answer the question - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
    3. 12.3 Nourishing the Common Good - Facebook post by Michael Redmond
  13. 13 December 19, 2016
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
  14. 14 December 18, 2016
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 14.2 GERRY HOPKIRK: Double dose for P.E.I - The Guardian Opinion piece by Gerry Hopkirk
    3. 14.3 Manipulating PISA scores is not excellence - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill
  15. 15 December 17, 2016
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 15.2 New bypass highway to barge through therapeutic horse farm on P.E.I. - The Guardian article by Dave Stewart
  16. 16 December 16, 2016
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 16.2 DIANE GRIFFIN: Combatting climate change - The Guardian Opinion piece by Diane Griffin
  17. 17 December 15, 2016
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
  18. 18 December 14, 2016
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
  19. 19 December 13, 2016
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
  20. 20 December 12, 2016
    1. 20.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 20.2 THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Facebook blog post by David Weale
  21. 21 December 11, 2016
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 21.2 Tories should embrace PR opportunity - The Eastern Graphic Lead Editorial by Paul MacNeill
    3. 21.3 ‘Lift her up’ campaign launched to counter ‘Lock her up’ chant - Global News article by Allison Bench
    4. 21.4 Trump changed everything. Now everything counts - The Guardian UK article by Barbara Kingsolver
    5. 21.5 The Lesson from Standing Rock: Organizing and Resistance Can Win - The Nation article by Naomi Klein
  22. 22 December 10, 2016
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 22.2 Islanders display long memories - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 22.3 Bright meteors herald winter's arrival on P.E.I. - The Guardian article by Glenn Roberts
  23. 23 December 9, 2016
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
  24. 24 December 8, 2016
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 24.2 New Brunswick’s Climate Action Plan Lays the Foundation for Clean Job Creation - The Conservation Council on New Brunswick online article
  25. 25 December 7, 2016
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 25.2 A tragic day for Islanders - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  26. 26 December 6, 2016
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 26.2 Please say it isn’t so - The West Prince Graphic Letter to the Editor
  27. 27 December 5, 2016
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 27.2 The future of Lilliput the Great - The Eastern Graphic article by Allan Rankin
  28. 28 December 4, 2016
    1. 28.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 28.2 Good old boys claim the day - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  29. 29 December 3, 2016
    1. 29.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 29.2 The Process is Damaged - The Guardian column by  Russell Wangersky
  30. 30 December 2, 2016
    1. 30.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News
    2. 30.2 NFU Unsuccessful in Meeting Premier - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 30.3 Dangers of Broken Electoral Systems - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  31. 31 December 1, 2016
    1. 31.1 Chris Ortenburger's CA News

December 31, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Happy New Year's Eve!

It's Saturday, and many people will be shopping both for any festive gatherings over the weekend, and for staples for the coming week. Farmers' Markets are open in Summerside and Charlottetown and have vegetables, breads, seafood, meat, eggs, cheeses and coffees, of course, and special foods like pastries, dips, tourtieres, tortillas, chocolates, pierogies, local beer and spirits, egg rolls, and so forth. Just give yourself time to deal with crowds and people taking the time to chat, and take care with all the ice.
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Also, as it is the last day of 2016, you can give to any registered charities or political parties and receive a tax receipt for this year.  Perhaps you are on some list and are getting near hourly requests from particular organizations?  Or here are some others (not complete or being endorsed in any way).  But they all emphasize that any amount is helpful and greatly appreciated.

Some places you could consider:

ECO-PEI -- http://www.ecopei.ca/donate/

Sierra Club  -- especially for the PEI Wild Child Nature Immersion Program https://secure.sierraclub.ca/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=2 (with 'PEI Wild Child' in the Comments box) or contact Tony Reddin (902) 675-4093 or <tonysierraclub@gmail.com>  to make sure your cheque dated December 31st gets a 2016 tax receipt.
More details on the program: http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/wild-child

Island Nature Trust --Canada Helps Donation page

Nature PEI (Natural History Society of Prince Edward Island) -- https://naturepei.ca/donate/

Political Parties on P.E.I.

Green Party PEI --  https://greenpartype.nationbuilder.com/donate

Liberal Party of P.E.I. -- http://www.liberalpei.ca/get-involved/donate/ 

NDP-PEI -- http://www.ndppei.ca/
and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page

PC party of PEI -- http://peipc.ca/donate

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Regionally/Nationally:

Council of Canadians -- https://canadians.org/join

David Suzuki Foundation -- https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/donate.aspx?eid=57832

Greenpeace Canada -- http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/home/

Nature Conservancy of Canada -- http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-you-can-do/

Samara, promoting citizen engagement -- http://www.samaracanada.com/

Federal Political parties 

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Paul MacNeill's column this week in The Graphic publications -- I think the Premier labeled him as being "paid to criticize" and that's not such a bad thing, perhaps.
http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_87ccd036-cd08-11e6-bd64-5fca95212f11.html

Political naughty and nice of 2016 - The Eastern Graphic article by publisher Paul MacNeill

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016, in The Graphic newspapers

How quickly time flies. A year ago Wade MacLauchlan was the fresh face of Island politics, now on many days he looks like the captain of a ship with a very tired crew. But this time of year is all about rejuvenation, renewal and recognition. So with that spirit in mind we offer a few honours for naughty and nice behaviour over the past year.

Most Improved MLARobert Henderson, or Rob25 as he calls himself, is an able debater in the legislature but has in the past presented a dishevelled appearance. No more. His tie is always properly knotted and the gum chewing often caught on camera appears a thing of the past.

Most In Need of A Shuffle Doug Currie was charged with ‘reforming’ PEI’s beleaguered education system. What he delivered is nothing more than a shuffling of the deck. Same people, different job titles. Then he and his senior bureaucrats called a press conference to release results of international PISA tests. It was full of glowing praise for the great job they are doing, including from Island students. But the minister hid a vital detail. Our improved results were attributable to PEI having the highest exemption rate in the world. That’s right ... the world. We excluded more students from taking the test than every Canadian province and all 72 countries that participate in PISA. It took less than 24 hours for government’s deception to be caught. Our goal should be the best education system in the world, not lead the world in manipulating PISA results. As the face of change Currie’s credibility is shot. He needs to find a new seat in cabinet or be handed a timeout on the backbench.

Art of Distraction Award – When interim Tory leader Jamie Fox stands to ask a question he is earnest, deliberate and serious. But in the run up to the holiday season he took to wearing a Christmas themed tie in the legislature. We should all embrace the spirit of the season, but Fox’s seasonal style led legislative followers to focus on the tie, not the question. Maybe that was the point.

Politics First Award – Minister Responsible for the Status of Women Paula Biggar refused to honour plebiscite results that would lead to an increase in the number of female MLAs (we have only elected 26 women in 95 years). Enough said.

Grand Prix Wrestling Award – Many Islanders grew up watching Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling. No Class Bobby Bass, Killer Karl Krupp and the Cuban Assassin are as known to many as Sittler, Lafleur and Gretzky. Speaker Buck Watts imposed his own version of a match time limit when he ordered questions to be answered within 40 seconds. Brevity is rarely a politician’s strong suit, but the rule worked. We either got a straight answer, or more often than not, a shorter dodge of the question.

No I Really Mean It This Time Award – Politicians love to announce things. Sometimes they like a project so much they will announce it twice. But it takes immense gall to keep promising new manors for Tyne Valley and Montague virtually every year since 2009. Welcome to the Twilight Zone of Liberal election promises. Once again construction of these vital pieces of infrastructure is delayed. Once again government is promising next year. Once again residents are left without an adequate explanation why. And in both cases Liberal MLAs, Paula Biggar and Allen Roach, sit meekly by and let it happen.

Hardest Working Man in Show Business – Admiration for Frank Lewis’s tenure as Lieutenant Governor crosses all political lines. He has done a remarkable job opening the doors of Fanningback to the general public and is a frequent visitor to events big and small across the Island. While still not official, it seems the federal government is set to honour this commitment by extending his term for an extra year. It is a gesture all Islanders should applaud.

Influencer of the Year – Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker managed to both make Premier Wade MacLauchlan lose his cool in the fallout over results of the electoral reform plebiscite, and also convince Tories and Liberals to support introduction of a universal basic income. That’s a combination that requires a deft touch.

Question of the Year: Whose emails were deleted? No, seriously, Islanders deserve to know. Whose emails were deleted?

Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at paul@peicanada.com

December 30, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today is the suggested deadline for input regarding federal electoral reform (the www.mydemocracy.ca website survey) or call 1(844) 690-8363.

Here, from the NDP via Electoral Reform committee member Nathan Cullen, is a very quick survey about what is important to you on this issue.
http://yourdemocracy.net/

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Perhaps such long interviews with P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan with both the political reporter for The Guardian and the anchor on the local CBC news are a bit too much of a free platform, or perhaps they do let the Premier reveal a lot. Last night was the first of two segments on the nightly CBC TV news show Compass (with an excerpt on the morning show)

Thursday night, about 52 minutes in.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/cbc-compass-december-29-2016-1.3916087
It is a bit head-shaking to hear the Premier give a version of his complete mishandling of his own electoral reform initiative by using such language as he was "grossly disappointed" and it was "the crookedest thing" --  the efforts of Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker and Democratic Renewal Member Sidney MacEwen in using the scant Opposition time in the Legislature to promote and gain passage of their Motion No. 54 to honour the plebiscite results. 

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But being able to see through this spin are Islanders and the writer of The Guardian main editorial from Thursday, December 29th, 2016:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/editorials/2016/12/29/editorial---damage-control-by-premier.html

EDITORIAL: Damage control by premier - The Guardian Editorial

Premier Wade MacLauchlan put his sunniest spin on the fallout from the electoral reform plebiscite during his year-end interview with The Guardian. On three key issues of 2016 that were discussed in the second part of the series – plebiscite, school review and e-gaming - the premier was in full damage control.

Mr. MacLauchlan says Islanders are sending a message they want an open process on electoral reform and expect movement on this issue in 2017. Government is seeking more engagement to find the right solution – “by showing leadership and listening.”

It’s unfortunate the premier wasn’t as engaged or showing leadership in the months, weeks and days leading up to plebiscite. After issuing a white paper on democratic renewal in mid-2015, the premier played almost no subsequent role and virtually ignored the entire process. But he was quick to step in to dismiss the results when he didn’t agree with them.

If he and his party had been more involved in the campaign then we would have gotten a stronger turnout and perhaps an accepted winner. The province could be on its way to using a form of proportional representation in the next election.

It seems the work by an all-party committee of the legislature, the campaign, the plebiscite, the letters, op eds and public meetings were all just a preliminary round for the real contest that government intends to control and direct starting next year and though to a referendum in 2019.

The premier was quick to gloss over the significant drop in his party’s polling numbers from August to early December. He is underestimating Islanders’ anger about the government’s refusal to honour a democratic vote.

Premier MacLauchlan is reluctant to accept that this sudden drop in party support was largely related to his government’s decision to ignore the plebiscite result. He remains firm that a second vote on electoral reform is needed to ensure the province and residents can have confidence in the results. This issue could have been fully addressed in 2016.

Government had its own agenda on electoral reform so why should we expect anything different on the school review process? No one will be surprised if the solutions presented from the first two phases of public consultations don't find their way into the final report to cabinet.

The premier is adamant no decisions have been made – which is somewhat reassuring – and says trustees will have the final say. But many believe a master plan for closures, rezoning and use for existing schools has long been ready for the printers.

The premier took a similar public position on the issue of missing e-gaming emails – trying to distance himself and his government from that hornet’s nest – and leaving the decision to identify the owners of deleted emails to Auditor General Jane MacAdam.

She will identify people if asked by the public accounts committee but is it really her job to do the government’s dirty work? She may have to clean up the rest of this mess herself.

Government seems to be abandoning its post.

December 29, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Two additional commentaries regarding the Premier MacLachlan's year-end interview.  The first is a letter to the editor from Boyd Allen, a clear-eyed decoder of what the Premier is actually saying among all the timing and spin.  The second, a piece by Walter Wilkins, is a wonderfully funny, droll translation (with links!) on what the Interview "really" said.  The first we need to keep in mind and continue to call out as we start 2017, and the latter is to be enjoyed over a cup of coffee or tea (perhaps with a May 2015 spring of Rue in it), to make us wince-smile, and remember.
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http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/2016/12/28/open-door-needs-key-code.html

Open door needs key code - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Wednesday, December 28, 201

Wade MacLauchlan recently reneged on his promise to eliminate corporate and union contributions to political parties here on PEI. No doubt this was a result of his party’s anxiety over its projected war chest. In his year-end interview with Teresa Wright he used a vague reference to getting feedback from the “public domain” to rationalize this reversal. I see Wade’s portal into the “public domain” as a rabbit hole into some magical land. In this land, meanings of words change. Some examples of this:

“Manors” become “liquor stores”

A "promise" is not a promise. It is a misunderstanding.

A “binding referendum” is a non-binding referendum on a yet-to-be –announced voting option.

“Accountability” is accountability as long as it doesn’t embarrass or implicate or impugn party members and governments past or present.

An “open door” means it opens only to those who have the key code.

“Transparency” is a one-way window from the fifth floor. Magical Indeed.

There is a remarkable disconnect between Islanders and their government. We need to give our collective head a shake and address this. Whose domain is it really?

Boyd Allen, Pownal Bay

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From Walter Wilkins, and he notes (and I completely agree) that: "<snip>  despite our premier's penchant for obfuscation, I'd like to voice my respect for Teresa Wright's effort to ask good questions."

In an effort to keep down my food and my temper and enter into 2017 in better humor, I have re-cast Teresa Wright's year end interview with Wade MacLauchlan'. To be clear and transparent, this isn't the interview that was . . .  

Q&A

The economy

Q: You have said P.E.I.’s trade deficit is the biggest challenge that faces our economy. Is it possible to ever reach a balance?

A: Well, I'd usually say something like like it depends on what one means by "balance" but my honest answer is . . . no. 

Q: You’ve also said some of these gains can be attributed to the low Canadian dollar and cheaper fuel prices this year. So do you think that’s sustainable?

A: No, not really. Next?

Growing the population

Q: One of your stated priorities this year has been growing the population. What are we going to do that we haven’t done before and see measurable improvements?

A: Let me say that we are seeing our population strategy working for those for whom we want it to work - PNP enabled our good friends to become more wealthy, connected lawyers and real estate agents are doing very well..   

Q: It’s almost of a rite of passage for young people to leave P.E.I. to make their way in the world. How do you counter that?

A: Teresa, my dear girl . . .  I will never get in the way of a rite of passage - especially yours. After all, it is a rite, something each and every Islander deserves! Next question?

Electoral reform

Q: The recent plebiscite on electoral reform saw a majority of voters choose Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Were you surprised?

A: You can bet your corporate "contributions" I was surprised, but not as surprised as the backroom boys. Wow, they almost messed their pants! However, they said to me, "Wade, buddy you better pump the brakes hard boy!" Gosh, we had a good laugh over that one!

It wasn’t high enough to implement change and that we need a second vote. Why should Islanders vote a second time when you are not acting on the results of the first vote?

A: Great question Teresa, why would they vote again? Aside that being the point of the delay, let me make this perfectly clear and transparent, we are acting - we've always been acting and we will continue to act; the people expect us to act, so we will continue to do just that - act!   

Q: If there were a voter turnout of 36 per cent in a provincial election, wouldn’t we implement the results?

A: Teresa, to answer that question honestly would betray those who have enabled me to hold this position. So, I'll answer you in a way that does not betray their trust in me. No, unless the courts forced us to do so, if 36% turned out in a provincial election, we wouldn't implement the results.

Q: You’ve said this referendum will have two choices - Mixed Member Proportional and a second unknown option. What will be the precise criteria for determining the second option?

A: Teresa, if I have learned anything from the plebiscite farce it's that Islanders are simple folk. Truly - that's not only what I believe, it's what I believe Islanders want me to believe.. So, we'll keep it to two simple choices: 1) Keep it the same or 2) Keep it the same but make it look different. 

Q: You’ve said the final decision on what the referendum will look like will be made by the MLAs in the legislature. MLAs don’t decide their pay increases, we have an independent commission for that. So why should MLAs be involved in deciding how they will be elected?

A:  Remember Teresa, the MLA's that really matter also want to keep it simple: 1) Keep it the same or 2) Keep it the same but make it look different. 'Nuff said, next question?

Carbon tax

Q: You recently met with the country’s premiers and the prime minister and signed on to a framework that will see a new carbon tax in P.E.I. But many Islanders are already struggling to make ends meet. Can Islanders afford another tax?

A: Struggling wealthy Islanders  - citizens - have told me over and over again - it's very important to act like you care for the poor, but tax the less wealthy. I have listened to this Teresa, really, I have listened. 

Q: - What will you do for low-income Islanders who cannot afford to pay more for a carbon tax?

A: I'd say, "Let them buy windows and doors" but I'd be paraphrasing one of my heros. 

Q: How will you do that?

A: Home retrofits! I'm told that money is flying out the doors and windows of poor Islanders. And Teresa, this is not hard to do; simply by eating at the food bank will allow them to buy windows, doors, and maybe even new energy efficient cars! 

Q: Do you really think putting in insulation and helping people retrofit their homes will offset increased prices they will see for home heating fuel, for gasoline? Will that go far enough?

A: Yes. Next question?

Q: You have said you will continue exempting home heating fuel from HST but doesn’t this just give Islanders an incentive to continue to rely on carbon-based fuel?

A:  Teresa, Teresa, isn't that the point? Thank you for asking that question. 

School review

Q: There has been an ongoing review of schools across P.E.I. with the aim to correct an imbalanced distribution of students in Island schools.
What do you hope will be the outcome of this review?

A: We hand picked or appointed the trustees, there is no reason to expect them not to do what they are told to do.  

Q: Some people say that certain schools will definitely close and others will see their students rezoned. Have those decisions already been made?

A: Teresa, Teresa, of course decisions have already been made. If it isn't made, it wouldn't be a "decision" now, would it? The real challenge is to convince Islanders this is genuinely in the hands of the people, the communities. We'll use the time tested strategy we used for dubious multi-dollar roads,  voting on the plebiscite, PNP scams, e-gaming corruption, rigging the PISA results, granting " loans" then writing them off without approval. . . you know, if it works, why fix it?  To be perfectly honest Teresa, we are counting on you and the CBC and other mainstream media to help us move this forward. 

Q: A recent consultant’s report to government recommended amalgamating P.E.I.’s small and underused schools to make better use of resources. How does closing smaller, less populated schools make the education system better, when it means bigger class sizes and children travelling for longer on buses?

A: With all due respect Theresa, if the media would do its work properly, the attention would be redirected to the person who leaked that report to Islanders -  isn't that the real issue? 

Q: If government does decide to close some schools, where is the overall strategy to make sure those rural communities remain economically viable?

A: If schools do close, we hope rural communities will blame the hand picked and appointed trustees. After all, we can always appoint more trustees!

E-gaming

Q: One of the many findings in auditor general’s report on e-gaming was that emails of former government officials were deleted. In Ontario, people who did this are now facing criminal charges. Why is no one being held accountable for these deleted emails?

A: Darling, this is PEI, not Ontario. Next question?

Q: But she did say she found evidence of emails that should have been retained that were not as required by law. Again, why is no one being held accountable?

A: I am a lawyer, a professor of law and an academic. I can assure all Islanders that most laws are just silly opinions. 

Q:  The Opposition asked this question day after day in the legislature, and got no answer. I’ll ask you again now – whose emails were deleted?

A: The auditor general says she doesn't know whose emails were deleted, so clearly that's a question for the auditor general to answer. But I do thank you for asking that question and that you didn't ask me if I know whose emails were deleted - whew!

Q: During public accounts meetings on e-gaming, there have been attempts to get key players to appear as witnesses that have been blocked by members of your Liberal caucus. How is it open and transparent to block witnesses at public accounts?

A: With the exception of the emails and documents she needed, I gave the auditor general more than 10,000 documents and forced her alone to hold hundreds of hours of pointless interviews. If I could have, I would have given her 100 000 documents and told her to speak to every last Islander, even those who never even heard of e-gaming!! If that isn't being transparent, what is?! (At this, the premier violently jags his finger.)

Q: So you did not direct your Liberal caucus to block witnesses from appearing?

A: No, I absolutely didn’t do that - I got an appointed school trustee to that - why, does it matter?

Q: The auditor general’s report on e-gaming includes 15 recommendations for changes, but she also says the major concerns were not caused by a lack of controls, but that existing rules were just not followed. Why do you think rules were not followed?

A: Really, if the existing rules were followed they'd be no scandal and you wouldn't have a question to ask. So, win-win, no? 

CRA poll

Q: Your Liberal party saw a significant drop in the polls in the most recent CRA poll of 18 points in one quarter. What message do you think voters are trying to tell you?

A: Who cares? Like my predecessor said ad nauseum, Islanders get a kick at democracy for a few minutes one day every four years or so. At all costs, that's the message we want to get to the voters.   

Q: You’ve said many times you believe it’s important to always focus on the positive, but when does this just become political spin?

A:  I’m committed to political spin, and I must say, I do resent the word "just".

Q: 2017 will mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation, but so far it doesn’t look like PEI is on the radar for any big Canada 150 legacy investments or recognitions.   What work is being done to see that P.E.I. will benefit from Canada 150?

A: We’ll have a Big event here on New Year’s Eve, a Great BIG Beautiful Event - AND . . .  wait for it . . . we're going to make the feds pay for it! 

Q: What do you think was your biggest challenge of 2016?

A: Being credible - you know - being believed. Yes, with that and getting Island Coastal to pave my driveway again - that was my biggest challenge of 2016. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead – something we haven’t heard about yet?

A: I'm most looking forward to Islanders totally forgetting what they heard about in 2016. If I can make that happen during 2017, I'll be a very happy man. 

Walter Wilkins, Stratford, PEI

December 28, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The deadline from the federal government for comments on the electoral reform is this Friday, December 30th.  There is the "my democracy" website survey:
https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/electoral-reform/participate-in-canadian-federal-electoral-reform-consultations/mydemocracyca.html

and there are the postcards (sent to households reminding people of the website) that some people are using to send a simple message to their MP, Minister of Democratic Institutions, or Premier Justin Trudeau.

photo courtesy of Lynn Lund. You can send mail to any MP without postage.

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Speaking of electoral reform, Guardian reporter Teresa Wright revisits the topic in
the second half of her year-end interview with Premier Wade MacLauchan, conducted earlier this month but packaged in two installments on-line, in the print edition of the paper, and by broadcast tonight at 7PM and and next Tuesday on Eastlink TV.

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/2016/12/27/democratic-renewal-can-be-messy--premier-wade-maclauchlan-says--.html
The following was edited a bit for removing extra white space.

Democratic renewal can be ‘messy,’ premier Wade MacLauchlan says - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on Tuesday, December 27, 201, on-line and in Wednesday, December 28th, 2016, print edition of The Guardian

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - After seeing his Liberal party drop 18 points over the last quarter, Premier Wade MacLauchlan says he believes Islanders are sending a message they want an open process on electoral reform.

But, in his year-end interview with The Guardian, MacLauchlan was reluctant to accept this sudden drop in party support in the recent Corporate Research Associate poll was directly related to his government’s decision not to implement the results of the plebiscite on electoral reform.

He did acknowledge, however, he is hearing from Islanders who expect movement on this issue in the year ahead.  “What I believe right now from talking to Islanders is, people expect us to be engaged on this question of the next step on the path of electoral reform and democratic renewal, and to proceed with that in a way that is open – where we’re looking for the right solution and where we are seen to be both showing leadership and listening” he said.  “That’s exactly where I believe we are headed and need to be headed into the next period.”

MacLauchlan said one of the biggest challenges he believes he faced in 2016 involved ‘renewal’ on a number of issues, including democratic renewal.  “I guess sometimes that can be, some might say, messy. Sometimes that can take work. Everything takes work,” he said.

But he remains firm that a second vote on electoral reform is needed to ensure the province and all its residence can have confidence in the results.  “When we’re changing our electoral system, we have to do it in a way that we’re all together thoughtful, discerning and confident as we move forward, that we know what the decision is that we’re making today.”

Q&A

School review

Q: There has been an ongoing review of schools across P.E.I. with the aim to correct an imbalanced distribution of students in Island schools.
What do you hope will be the outcome of this review?

A: There are five phases in all and it’s moving soon into its third phase. In that process, communities, people, parents, all are called upon to take a look at the situation in their schools and communities and to provide input to this process. That’s where it is now, moving with the guidance of the trustees.

Q: Some people that certain schools will definitely close and others will see their students rezoned. Have those decisions already been made?

A: Absolutely not. When the trustees** make recommendations, those are then brought to cabinet and it’s absolutely not the case, and would be totally inappropriate if it were the case, that cabinet or anyone speaking for cabinet were to say, ‘This is the outcome.’ This is genuinely in the hands of the communities.

Q: A recent consultant’s report to government recommended amalgamating P.E.I.’s small and underused schools to make better use of resources. How does closing smaller, less populated schools make the education system better, when it means bigger class sizes and children travelling for longer on buses?

A: I think people have to be open to what these outcomes might be. You suggested it might lead to some rezoning, it might lead to a look at the transportation routes. It may indeed lead to people thinking about how technologies can add to what students are currently getting in our schools. And that’s what’s opened up by this process, so frankly I think it’s about opening up how people are thinking about or looking at or analyzing our situation and how we believe we can have the best possible, strongest, excellent, ambitious education for our students today and into the future.

Q: If government does decide to close some schools, where is the overall strategy to make sure those rural communities remain economically viable?

A: I’m not accepting that schools will be closed, that will be a matter for the recommendation of the trustees. I think one of the things we are encouraging Islanders to see is to envisage our entire province as a strong economy, we call it the ‘mighty Island,’ and to see it not as urban versus rural, but as an integrated economy where the urban centres have businesses that do well because the rural communities are doing well.

E-gaming

Q: One of the many findings in auditor general’s report on e-gaming was that emails of former government officials were deleted. In Ontario, people who did this are now facing criminal charges. Why is no one being held accountable for these deleted emails?

A: When someone leaves government or changes his or her job, the account is removed, or closed, which is normal practice in any business or government.  They (technology services) don’t have infinite capacity to keep those emails in perpetuity, or that has not been the policy up to date. In response to that, there’s quite a robust set of initiatives, investments, resources and a policy being put in place to address this more effectively.

Q: But she did say she found evidence of emails that should have been retained that were not as required by law. Again, why is no one being held accountable?

A: You’re raising a separate question now – there’s a further expectation when you work for government to say, ‘Is this something going to the archives or is this something that is for the moment?’ But… we’ve produced a five-year strategy with significant investments both in technology and people … to be sure that government is leaving behind a record that will be there for the archives in perpetuity.

Q:  The Opposition asked this question day after day in the legislature, and got no answer. I’ll ask you again now – whose emails were deleted?

A: In the case of the auditor general, she writes her report by not mentioning names, and that’s the style. So on the particular question of whose accounts she found that had not been retained, that’s a question for the auditor general to answer.

Q: During public accounts meetings on e-gaming, there have been attempts to get key players to appear as witnesses that have been blocked by members of your Liberal caucus. How is it open and transparent to block witnesses at public accounts?

A: Within nine days of becoming premier, I asked the auditor general to take on this task, which she set herself to do. She looked at more than 10,000 documents, had hundreds of hours of interviews, met with people. And it’s for the public accounts committee - as I understand it I don’t sit on or run the public accounts committee – to investigate or follow up on those inquiries through the auditor general.

And that’s what I understand the public accounts committee has chosen to do.

Q: So you did not direct your Liberal caucus to block witnesses from appearing?

A: No, I absolutely didn’t do that. They sit on public accounts, they have their own mind and their own considerations and I respect the part that they play as well as other members of public accounts.

Q: The auditor general’s report on e-gaming includes 15 recommendations for changes, but she also says the major concerns were not caused by a lack of controls, but that existing rules were just not followed. Why do you think rules were not followed?

A: I think it’s something that the auditor general brings out – to comply with policies, to put in place the right policies and to ensure there’s a commitment and a culture within government to do just that.

CRA poll

Q: Your Liberal party saw a significant drop in the polls in the most recent CRA poll of 18 points in one quarter. What message do you think voters are trying to tell you?

A: You have to look at these in the long term and not take them too much to heart. But beyond this, I think it’s important for any political leader to be always listening and learning and paying attention to how we can do better or where people have concerns. And in particular, and I’m not making a direct correlation between the poll and what I’m saying, but people expect us to be engaged on this question of the next step on the path of electoral reform and democratic renewal and to proceed with that in a way that is open, where we’re looking for the right solution and where we are seen to be both showing leadership and listening, and that’s exactly where I believe we are headed and need to be headed into the next period.

Q: You’ve said many times you believe it’s important to always focus on the positive, but when does this just become political spin?

A: You always have to, and you owe it to the people, as premier, to lead by example, to let people know that together we’re building confidence and that is fundamentally important. It’s something I believe Prince Edward Islanders see in my own leadership and that they expect from their premier. So I’m committed to that.

Q: 2017 will mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation, but so far it doesn’t look like P.E.I.is on the radar for any big Canada 150 legacy investments or recognitions.   What work is being done to see that P.E.I. will benefit from Canada 150?

A: We’ll have a big event here on New Year’s Eve, there will be a big day here on July 1st. The Confederation Centre of the Arts is the host and lead platform for a signature event that will go across the nation. There will be events in communities throughout the province that will be sponsored and funded by federal resources and where we’ll see quite a few initiatives as these are rolled out. Also the investments being made in restoring and rebuilding Province House will be to the long-term benefit of Prince Edward Islanders and Canadians.

Q: What do you think was your biggest challenge of 2016?

A: Renewal. I believe that’s our challenge as a province and I’m pleased when I see what’s taking place in immigration, in youth, in the economy and in democratic renewal – that we are seeing renewal. And I guess sometimes that can be, some might say, messy, sometimes that can take work. Everything takes work, so my challenge and for all Prince Edward Islanders is to believe in ourselves and get up in the morning and know that we can do something about it.

 Q: What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead – something we haven’t heard about yet?

A: I think you’re going to hear a lot more about what Prince Edward Island is going to do on the energy, environment and climate change front. We’re going to show some real leadership. Those transmission cables to New Brunswick… we’re going to take advantage of that transmission capacity and, if it’s not precisely in 2017 it will be in planning in 2017, to expand on our renewable energy. And where we’re going to see benefits directly to Prince Edward Islanders as we proceed with a robust program of home retrofits that are going to reduce our carbon footprint.

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(**I am not quite sure anyone is called a Trustee in the Public Schools Branch...the word doesn't appear on the website in any current context.)

December 27, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today The Guardian starts its printing of a two-part year-end interview with Premier MacLauchlan by their political reporter Teresa Wright.   Part One can be found here:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/2016/12/26/a-carbon-tax-will-be-coming-to-prince-edwrd-island.html

Part Two will be on-line and in print tomorrow, December 28th, and in two parts on Eastlink TV Wednesday, December 28th and Tuesday, January 3rd. 

Part One discusses the economy, "growing" the economy, electoral reform, and a carbon tax.  Bold is mine and I have eliminated some of the extra white space in the on-line version to make it (I hope) more readable.  While there really isn't anything surprising in the Premier's answers on these issues, it's still helpful to read what he has said for the record.

Article Feature on Carbon Tax, and Transcript (edited) of Part One of interview:
Published on-line December 26th and in print December 27th, 2016.

A Carbon Tax Will Be Coming to Prince Edward Island - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on-line Monday, December 26th, 2016

During the premier's year-end interview with The Guardian, MacLauchlan shared some details of the impending carbon tax, soon to be implemented in P.E.I.  It will come into effect Jan. 1, 2018 and will be “fiscally neutral.”  “That’s to say that it’s not going to be a tax raising measure to deal with other issues. It’s going to be very tightly part of a package that is aimed at reducing our carbon emissions,” MacLauchlan said.

The province also has a plan to soften the blow of this new tax by implementing measures to reduce Islanders’ reliance on carbon-based fuels.  Doing so will not only save Islanders money, but will mean more money in the province’s economy.  “Our situation in Prince Edward Island is that each year we spend $435 million out of the province for energy – fuel, electricity, etc. So our objective in approaching this framework is to see that we get ahead on it - that Prince Edward Islanders end up with a lower carbon footprint but in fact with more money in their pocket.”

For low-income Islanders, the premier says government will provide energy audits and retrofit grants for their homes. He says he is confident that improving insulation, windows and doors in homes will offset the increases coming to home heating fuel with a carbon tax.  “I think it will actually go further, that’s to say, if we can cut consumption, then it’s not the additional two cents that we’re dealing with, it’s the total dollar-plus per litre, in the case of vehicles, or the price per litre of heating fuel,” he said.

He believes Islanders will also come up with their own innovative ways to lower their carbon footprint. “I compare it to the war effort, and it has to be like that, where people will say, ‘This is how I can get ahead, this is where I can contribute, and this is how I can measure what I’m doing to improve the situation for my family and for my household budget.’ And that’s where the province wants to work with Islanders and bring forward programs that will see people get ahead directly in that sense.”

Q&A

The economy

Q: You have said P.E.I.’s trade deficit is the biggest challenge that faces our economy. Is it possible to ever reach a balance?

A: I’m proud to say in the two years since we started talking about this, we’ve actually reduced that trade gap by $230 million. Through a combination of buying more locally, doing more business with each other, and selling more across Canada or abroad, we have added $230 million to the pockets of Prince Edward Islanders, or to our GDP.

Q: You’ve also said some of these gains can be attributed to the low Canadian dollar and cheaper fuel prices this year. So do you think that’s sustainable?

A: Yes I do, because what is it’s really attributable to is the enterprise, the hustle, the initiative of Prince Edward Islanders to do business with each other, and then to sell our goods across Canada and outside of the country.

Growing the population

Q: One of your stated priorities this year has been growing the population. What are we going to do that we haven’t done before and see measurable improvements?

A: Let me say that we are seeing the improvements. Prince Edward Island, in the last 12 months, led the country at 13.6 immigrants per 1,000 of the population. That builds on what Prince Edward Island communities have done to see newcomers as a welcome addition as we move forward. In another very important way, we’ve put an emphasis on youth. They’re here and they’re excited and they’re doing things and they’re starting businesses and starting families. That’s where we see our population strategy at work.

Q: It’s almost of a rite of passage for young people to leave P.E.I. to make their way in the world. How do you counter that?

A: What you find as you get through this province is people really are doing things, they’re engaged, they’re proud of how they’re progressing in their own careers and enterprises and communities. And that’s where the real sustained growth comes from.

Electoral reform

Q: The recent plebiscite on electoral reform saw a majority of voters choose Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Were you surprised?

A: You could see it shaping up in the course of the campaign, where the effort was predominantly made in favour of PR (proportional representation).

I don’t think anyone, at least I, in starting out on that path and as the author of the white paper, should have gone into it with the view that I was going to be surprised. We generally went into it to determine the range of views and the preferences of Prince Edward Islanders.

Q: You’ve said the voter turnout of 36.5 per cent wasn’t high enough to implement change and that we need a second vote. Why should Islanders vote a second time when you are not acting on the results of the first vote?

A: We are acting. In looking at the plebiscite and those results, we’ve said we’ll do two things. One is to acknowledge that mixed member proportional came out ahead with 53 per cent of those who voted. And that Islanders have, though this process, expressed an interest in change.

With those two indications, you then look at it in the longer frame, which is: how important this is; how much it matters to Prince Edward Islanders… what we do next has to be done on terms that will actually express the full view of Islanders. That people will have confidence in the outcome.

Q: If there were a voter turnout of 36 per cent in a provincial election, wouldn’t we implement the results?

A: If it’s an election or a by-election, the voters can change their minds and you’ll get a different result. When we’re changing our electoral system, we have to do it in a way that we’re all together thoughtful, discerning and confident as we move forward, that we know what the decision is that we’re making today.

Q: You’ve said this referendum will have two choices - Mixed Member Proportional and a second unknown option. What will be the precise criteria for determining the second option?

A: The first criterion for it will be for Islanders, myself included, to actively engage on this precise question. And to look forward to the next window of time when MLAs, when people who care about the electoral process, when the media, when people who perhaps may have found the process confusing – I understand when they say that – up to this point will say, ‘So what have we learned about this? What could we do that would be an improvement or a way of expressing what we really care about in terms of, not only how we elect our MLAs, but what kind of government do we want for today and for future generations?’ And those are debates I look forward to taking part in and to listen to what others have to say over the next six-to-12 months.

Q: You’ve said the final decision on what the referendum will look like will be made by the MLAs in the legislature. MLAs don’t decide their pay increases, we have an independent commission for that. So why should MLAs be involved in deciding how they will be elected?

A: Ultimately the way we make laws is through the legislature. And that’s how we put in place the law with regard to electoral boundaries, to establish the plebiscite in the first place. These are all questions that ultimately have to be decided by legislators, with the benefit of an active and engaged discussion with Prince Edward Islanders.

Carbon tax

Q: You recently met with the country’s premiers and the prime minister and signed on to a framework that will see a new carbon tax in P.E.I. But many Islanders are already struggling to make ends meet. Can Islanders afford another tax?

A: Our situation in Prince Edward Island is that each year we spend $435 million out of the province for energy – fuel, electricity, etcetera. So our objective in approaching this framework is to see that we get ahead on it. That Prince Edward Islanders end up with a lower carbon footprint but in fact with more money in their pocket. The price (on carbon) is part of the package, but it’s not the only measure, because if it were, we wouldn’t be achieving the ultimate goal, which is reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: - What will you do for low-income Islanders who cannot afford to pay more for a carbon tax?

A: When that measure comes forward, and it won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2018, in our 2017-18 budget, the finance minister will bring forward that measure, along with others. And what we’ve said is that this price will be fiscally neutral, that’s to say that it’s not going to be a tax raising measure to deal with other issues. It’s going to be very tightly part of a package that is aimed at reducing our carbon emissions. And that will include particular measures that will reduce the impact of the carbon price in the case of low income Islanders.

Q: How will you do that?

A: Home retrofit is the first measure that we’ve seen. That will be coming forward in the first part of the new year with measures aimed at insulation, home energy audits that could see improvements in windows, doors, the ways in which people are currently losing energy.

Q: Do you really think putting in insulation and helping people retrofit their homes will offset increased prices they will see for home heating fuel, for gasoline? Will that really going to go far enough?

A: I think it will actually go further. That’s to say, if we can cut consumption, it’s not the additional two cents that we’re dealing with, it’s the total dollar-plus per litre, in the case of vehicles, or the price per litre of heating fuel.

But if you look at other things that will come along in terms of the efficiency of vehicles, the efficiency of homes, this is going to be something where people will really work at it in their own situations.

Q: You have said you will continue exempting home heating fuel from HST but doesn’t this just give Islanders an incentive to continue to rely on carbon-based fuel?

A: The price on carbon is coming, under the federal benchmark that will start at $10 in 2018 and will increase in annual increments beyond that. So within the foreseeable future there is indeed going to be an incentive for people to get off fuels and to go to more renewable forms of energy.

Please note: The questions and answers have been edited for length.

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Many of you may have seen this cartoon, by Wayne Wright in The Journal-Pioneer, recently, from earlier in December, in case you are on the lookout for Boxing Day sales:

December 26, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Thank you for your seasonal wishes and many more to you, too.  Hope you have a great Boxing Day!  It's a great day to sit back and enjoy the overflow from Christmas, and for many to get out and perhaps visit others; and for some to participate in initiatives such as the Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by Birds Canada (website here).  The work of citizen scientists is vital in tracking bird populations and their health.

Here is a recent CBC story on the Island's other CBC (Christmas Bird Count):
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-christmas-bird-count-1.3903559

Today is the East Point Christmas Bird Count, and tomorrow the Hillsborough Area one, and Saturday, December 31st is the Montague one.  More details at:
https://naturepei.ca/

Also, the NaturePEI (Natural History Society of P.E.I.) website has details of upcoming events, including their monthly meeting next week, Tuesday, January 3rd, at 7:30PM, at Stratford Town Hall, with Sean Landsman and his talk, "Gone Wild: Photography by Sean Landsman".  Sean is a PhD student at UPEI in Environmental Studies, and a keen photographer (website is here).  He has produced a 2017 calendar with his photos and may have some left -- contact <landsman.sean@gmail.com> or send him a message through Facebook <https://www.facebook.com/SeanLandsmanPhotography/> to check if interested.

And here is a slightly related story, also from CBC News, about how forestry practices in New Brunswick affect bird populations.  This could be thought of in context for P.E.I. and changes that could take place if biomass is "ramped up" for heating government buildings (as promoted in drafts of the Provincial Energy Strategy and discussion documents of the P.E.I. Climate Change Mitigation Strategy) without very strict measures for monitoring and preventing negative effects on the Island's fragile forests.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/nb-forestry-management-1.3902378

Enjoy the outdoors and birds in whatever way you can.

December 25, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes the simplest stories have the most wondrous messages, and to many of us, children's books offer amusement and insights for any age.
 
There is so much going on this year, especially south of the border, that I hope you find comfort, good tidings and a smile in this page from Babar the King,

from Babar the King, published in 1933, written and illustrated by Jean De Brunhoff

(If the photo of the page of the book doesn't come through)
In this part of the story, Babar, the king of the elephants, is having an awful dream the night before his coronation.  All sorts of Misfortunes are causing havoc.  Then he sees:

"...graceful winged elephants who chase Misfortune away from Celesteville and bring back Happiness. --  At this point he awakes and feels ever so much better."

The Misfortunes are:
Anger, Despair, Discouragement, Fear, Indolence, Misfortune, Sickness and Stupidity.

The Graceful Winged Elephants are:
Courage, Happiness, Health, Hope, Intelligence, Joy, Kindness, Knowledge, Love, Patience, Perseverance and Work.

While I am not quite sure anyone ever wants to be compared to a "graceful winged elephant", I think our Island has many people who personify these virtues; and we need them all.

With admiration to you all, and wishing you a lovely day,
Chris O.,
Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.

P.S.  In 2017, the Citizens' Alliance News each day will revisit Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, edited by Todd MacLean, for inspiration in its daily essays.

December 24, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Farmers' Markets are open in both Charlottetown and Summerside today, as will many stores for part of the day, many wonderful, locally owned businesses.
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Guardian reporter Teresa Wright has conducted an extensive year-end interview with Premier Wade MacLauchlan that will be featured in two-parts [Tuesday's (December 27th) and Wednesday's (December 28th) Guardian (print)], on-line edition Monday, December 26th, and in two parts on Eastlink TV Wednesday, December 28th and Tuesday, January 3rd.

A short preview in yesterday's paper was about the Premier defending "his about face" regarding corporate donations to political parties. Bold is mine.
from:
 
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/2016/12/23/premier-wade-maclauchlan-defends-backtrack-on-corporate-donation.html

<snip>   As part of his annual year-end interview with The Guardian, MacLauchlan first tried to say he never truly promised this change.

“When I put something out in the public domain, it’s not a promise. It’s more to say, ‘This is proposed. Let’s find out what people think about it.’”

However, there was nothing ambiguous in his announcement on May 11, 2016, in the P.E.I. legislature, when he explicitly stated that changes would be made to “limit the source of political contributions strictly to those from individuals.”

He also said in May there would be a “fully consultative process, which will ensure all interested Islanders have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and to make constructive suggestions” over the summer of 2016.

Those consultations never happened.

Instead, MacLauchlan met privately with the other three party leaders in early November and floated his idea of simply capping corporate and union donations to political parties in P.E.I. rather than banning them entirely.  <snip>

------------------

An opinion piece on social media from last week, when the statement was made in the Legislative Assembly:

THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Facebook post by David Weale

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Another “Oops, I didn’t mean that.”

It’s not that our Premier doesn’t mean what he says, because I’m sure he does mean it at the time. He just doesn’t mean it for long.

When he said he intended to eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties he was a political newbie, and perhaps a little over-confident about the prospects for re-election. So it just kind of slipped out. Indeed, there’s many a slip between cup and lip, and now the future is not looking so rosy. Those corporate donations aren’t seeming as dispensable as a short while ago during his heady moment of reformist intent. Much as the promised electoral reform lost traction so quickly after the titillation of the political honeymoon ended.

It also seems possible that the Premier underestimated the political muscle of the shadowy figures in the Liberal backrooms; the ones for whom politics means only one thing -- winning in order to prolong the patronage. I’m not implying that MacLauchlan has anything against patronage, only that I have this picture in my head of a bunch of burly, surly and determined Grits yanking on his leash and shouting, “Smarten up professor, you can’t do that!”

It’s almost enough to make one feel sorry for the gentleman. But he doesn’t need our pity. What is needed is for us to politely show him the door. Him and the Gang of Greedy Graspers pulling on his chain.
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From some old files:  Here is a link to a CBC article Mr. MacLauchlan's announcement in late November 2014 that he would run for the leadership of the P.E.I. Liberal Party, a few weeks after Robert Ghiz announced his intention to resign.  On the page is a link to the Full Press Conference (about 30 minutes long), and about 19minutes, 30 seconds in, MacLauchlan talks about his dedication to the Party and about the assembled the selling memberships.  In case you are taking a break from watching holiday movies.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/wade-maclauchlan-announces-p-e-i-liberal-leadership-bid-1.2853405

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From this week's publisher's essay in The Graphic newspapers:

http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_f15245c2-c6e1-11e6-9bbb-6b892f6b29d2.html

Big hopes fuel voter disappointment - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill

Published on Saturday, December 21st, 2016, in The Graphic papers

The MacLauchlan government stumbled its way through the fall sitting of the legislature, not because of opposition strength but self-imposed wounds that have done significant damage with the public.

Unanimity is a rare thing in politics. But there is virtual unanimity in how people describe the MacLauchlan record. Disappointing is the word of choice from West Point to East Point and all points in between. I’ve heard it from Tories, NDP, Greens, those without affiliation and a large number of Liberals.

Islanders expected more.

Be it running away from plebiscite results, backtracking on a promise to eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties, defending the worst of the Ghiz regime, putting the interests of senior civil servants ahead of transparency and accountability or the arrogant, misleading and mediocre leadership of the education bureaucracy, the actions of the government too often run counter to the primary selling point of Wade MacLauchlan as an agent of change.

To be fair, the government has brought significant restructuring to the internal structures of government. And it has done needed heavy lifting with items like the new Municipalities Act, first promised almost a decade ago by a then new Ghiz administration.

The act will transform how PEI is governed on a local level. Currently we are a mishmash of community, town and city councils with a majority of the province being unincorporated. The act sets out minimum expectations for a sustainable community - 4,000 for a town - as well as standards for accountability and transparency, governance and the provision of services.

It allows for small rural communities to remain, but the clear objective is to see communities move forward with amalgamation. It’s a good piece of legislation and it’s important. Community boundaries were created when transportation and communication were impediments. No municipal government is sustainable without the support of surrounding communities. It makes sense to strengthen rural communities while at the same time increasing the power of the too often diluted rural voice.

A document, The Mighty Island: A Framework for Economic Growth, flew under the radar after being tabled in the dying hours of the fall session. But it is an important road map that builds on many of the themes the premier has promoted for growth: attracting immigrants and offering welcoming communities, expanding exports, growing the PEI brand globally, infrastructure investment and building capacity to fill the jobs of tomorrow.

There is much to commend and discuss in the framework. But it is silent on a key to growth too often overlooked – the quality of our public education system and its capacity to grow the economy and attract and keep new Islanders.

Our education system is top heavy and bureaucratic. If change is not suggested and championed by senior management, change is unlikely to occur. The result is a tone deaf education system that fails miserably to produce students ready to take the next step in life or see the possibilities that exist on the Island.

We know many immigrant families have made a quick exit from PEI because of the failings of our education system and our embrace of mediocrity. Our education system should be our most powerful recruitment tool. It is not.

If we want consistent economic and population growth our K-12 system must be a key component of any plan. If we aspire to the world’s best education system (rather than celebrating middle of the pack status) we will attract young families, professionals and immigrants who see potential within our shores. We will attract business drawn by our job ready workforce.

Excellence, true excellence, matters. We don’t deliver it. The premier’s framework is silent on it.

We need to do a much better job identifying potential career paths earlier on and build partnerships with industry to ensure our system is nimble, relevant and ahead of the curve. We need to do a much better job building entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge in our youth. The current bureaucracy is an impediment to this ideal. A former Islander who made tens of millions of dollars in the tech industry offered the department $50,000 to establish a pilot course focussed on computer coding – a skill vital in today’s economy. But rather than accept and provide skills our students are missing out on, the department refused.

It is one small example of bureaucratic arrogance we simply can no longer accept.

This all flows back to the word on the lips of a growing number of Islanders who use disappointment as the primary description of the MacLauchlan government. Unless we are prepared to make the real change necessary and challenge the sacred cows of society – in this case the intransigence of the education bureaucracy – any road map for growth is destined to get stuck in an old fashioned Island pothole.

And that is a recipe to make any feeling of disappointment fester and grow.

Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at paul@peicanada.com

December 23, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Some assorted notes:

Jean-Paul Arsenault has served many capacities in government, but many of us met him as the very capable moderator of the consultations with the Environmental Advisory Council for the first round of the Water Act last year.   Three years ago, he was named as the Complaints Officer after the new French Language Service Act and regulations were proclaimed.
News Release from the government in 2013
Last week (exactly three years after the press release announcing his appointment), he announced his resignation from the role, citing that the "government failed to live up to commitment to expand designated French-language services"
from:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/jean-paul-arsenault-1.3894688
(An aside that Mr. Arsenault has a blog about his life and adventures here.)
------
A few days later this article on concerns the French Language School Board president expresses about the lack of funding for construction projects supported by the school board.
Article from Tuesday, December 19th, 2016, from CBC's website

Premier Wade MacLauchlan has several roles, including Minister Responsible for Acadian and Francophone Affairs
------------------------------------------

Bill McKibben is a head of 350.org, working against climate change "building a global grassroots climate movement that can hold our leasers accountable to the realities of science and the principles of justice."
In this gentle, homemade, one-and-a-half-minute video with his dog, he talks about the year, asks for a donation, and thanks everyone for helping as best they can.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rNVSAKmrlU
and more on 350.org:
https://350.org/
----------------------------

WasteWatch has sent holiday greetings and a disposal guide.  Apologies for cross-posting, but it's a useful reminder:

an excerpt from:
https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/news/it-compost-waste-or-recyclable

Is It Compost, Waste or Recyclable?

published on December 22nd, 2016
<snip>
Have on hand a large paper bag for compost, a clear bag for waste, a blue one for recyclables, and a bag or bin for gift bags and ribbons you want to hang onto and use again.

Tips for sorting waste

Christmas cards, wrapping paper, boxes, etc

  • Wrapping paper usually goes in compost (don’t worry about a little bit of tape) but foil paper goes in waste.
  • Boxboard (gift boxes, etc.) goes in compost, not recyclable.
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes are recyclable.
  • Styrofoam, bows and ribbons are waste.
  • Greeting cards are usually compost, but go in waste if they have plastic on them.
  • Envelopes are usally paper, unless foil lined. If so, they are waste.

Do not burn wrapping paper in a wood stove or fireplace. Check out more fire safety tips

Batteries

  • Those cute musical greeting cards actually have batteries, so remove the batteries to properly dispose of them (Look for a Restore Your Batteries bin at grocery stores or a Waste Watch Drop-Off Center).  
  • As a matter of fact, any old or not working electronics and used batteries can be dropped off a Waste Watch Drop-Off Center for free disposal.
  • Did you know you should tape over the ends of lithium, lithium-Ion and small sealed lead acid batteries or individually bag each of these batteries?  This helps prevent a potential fire hazard.

Waste Watch Drop-Off Centers are located in Brockton, New London, Dingwell Mills, Charlottetown and Murray River.

January 9 to 14 is Christmas tree collection week

  • Place your tree (the one that you’ve been diligently watering) curbside by Monday, January 9. 
  • Before you drag your tree to the curb, remove all ornaments. Don’t bag it (unless it’s a compostable bag). If it’s taller than eight feet, you will need to cut it up into smaller chunks.
  • Throughout the month of January, Christmas trees may be dropped off to any Waste Watch Drop-Off Center at no charge.
  • Wreaths, even those made from living branches, are waste unless they are dismantled. If dismantled the greenery can go in compost and the metal ring in blue bag #2 for recycling (or better yet, save it to use another year).

Odds and ends

  • The wooden crates that those tasty little clementine oranges come in? They are waste, not compost.
  • Tin foil plates from meat pies, tarts and pies are recyclable.
  • Residential recyclables, waste and compost collections are not impacted by the holiday season so remember to put blue bags or compost/waste carts curbside on normal collection days.
More info at Island Waste Management Corporation's website:
http://www.iwmc.pe.ca/

December 22, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Taxing carbon to try to urge people to use less damaging energy sources (among other reasons) is a big way of fighting climate change. But it's also a tax and of course that will not only be a hard sell, if done poorly, could affect some people disproportionally.
A carbon tax was debated at various times in the last weeks of the Legislature's Fall sitting.  There is still much discussion to have.

The Progressive Conservatives are very concerned about climate change (see the comments after the bad storm and power outages in November by the Leader of the Opposition Jamie Fox  November 29th, 2016's Hansard of Debate in the Legislative Assembly here page 1865) -- no denying it -- but are concerned about it being a tax grab. See District 18 MLA(Rustico-Emerald) MLA Brad Trivers' excellent discussion below.

First, Josh Underhay writes about why this is the right move now
from Saturday's Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/2016/12/17/josh-underhay--carbon-tax-necessary-to-force-action-.html

JOSH UNDERHAY: Carbon tax necessary to force action - The Guardian Opinion piece by Josh Underhay

Published on Saturday, December 17th, 2016, in The Guardian

I would like to respond to your readers who are concerned about government implementing a carbon tax.

On Thursday, David Campbell wrote a letter which expressed similar concerns.

Mr. Campbell makes a number of points on which we both agree.

The issue of poverty is a concern which I also share. People on low incomes need to be able to work, eat, and heat their homes. Another point made was regarding an increase in taxation with no foreseeable benefit. It is important to critically assess the taxes we are paying and how they are spent.

Something to consider, however, is the urgency and severity of the climate crisis facing humanity. Mr. Campbell is echoing the lobbyists funded by oil companies in suggesting that climate change is ‘not real,’ or is not connected to humans.

He specifically focuses on hurricanes, although this is only a small part of how the Earth’s climate affects us. Mentioning that ‘carbon dioxide increases plant growth’ misses the point entirely.

Ninety-nine per cent of scientists have concluded that 1) global warming is happening, 2), there is a connection to greenhouse gases, which our civilization emits (such as carbon dioxide and methane), and therefore it is caused or exacerbated by humans.

The Arctic is melting, and global temperatures are increasing. As sea levels rise, we on a low-lying Island should be particularly concerned. Islanders who remain unconvinced should make the trek to Lennox Island and ask locals to show how much land has been lost in the past few decades.

Considering the scale of this disaster, we must incentivize efficiency on a national and international scale. As the free market unfortunately doesn’t regulate itself, a carbon tax is the only way to accomplish this.

So how do we protect the most vulnerable among us? Perhaps the tax should be implemented gradually, with savings, credits, and other incentives to transition to alternatives for heating and transportation. We should force Maritime Electric to cap electric prices. We should lift taxes in other areas, to relieve the burden on the consumer. A guaranteed minimum income would also ensure that no one would suffer the indignity of destitution.

Do we run from this challenge due to the shortsightedness and greed of oil companies, their lobbyists, and the political parties they fund? We must do everything as a civilization to mitigate this catastrophe unfolding before our eyes.

Thank you.

- Josh Underhay of Charlottetown is a social activist and an avid cyclist who is seeking to have Charlottetown, Cornwall and Stratford work closer together by implementing changes recommended in the 2012 Regional Active Transportation Plan
--------------------------
From the blog of District 18 (Rustico-Emerald) MLA Brad Trivers (whose birthday is today, by the way):
http://bradtrivers.com/2016/12/carbon-tax-revenue-neutral-fiscally-neutral/

Carbon Tax – Revenue Neutral or Fiscally Neutral? - Facebook blog by Brad Trivers

by Brad Trivers
published on Monday, December 19th, 2016, on-line


On December 13th, Wade MacLauchlan (interestingly not the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment – Robert Mitchell) made a ministerial statement regarding PEI’s role in the recently negotiated “Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change”.  It answered a lot of the questions I’d just asked, ironically, in question period that same day – just several minutes earlier – he had refused to provide the answers!

<YouTube videos -- see link>

The details of the statement about PEI’s clean growth and climate change strategy from the video statement include:

  • being a “made in PEI” solution (of course – what else would it be?),
  • being collaborative with other provinces (which is important since New Brunswick is going to get credit for carbon emission reductions if PEI buys less of their fossil-fuel generated electricity),
  • moving from fossil fuels to using electricity for home heating and transportation – i.e. electric cars
  • increasing capacity to generate electricity from wind by 35% by 2025
  • creating programs to support Islanders in making their homes energy efficient (why aren’t we offering more programs today?)
  • no change to HST policy on home heating oil (this is a big one because it doesn’t actually help with reducing carbon emissions, but it is good for low income Islanders – they also need to remove HST on the other sources of home heating – like electricity)
  • adopt the national building code (about time!!)
  • partner for “transportation innovation” with other provinces and Federal government (not sure what this means – only time will tell)
  • implement a carbon tax on PEI that is “fiscally neutral” – with additional tax dollars spent on clean energy incentive programs to help low-income Islanders
  • the carbon tax will NOT extend to agriculture and fisheries (this is a big one – does this mean the carbon tax on the rest of PEI will have to be higher to compensate?)

“Fiscally neutral” versus “Revenue neutral”

When it comes to a carbon tax, the worst thing that could happen is that people will not only be paying more, but the money will be gobbled up by government and never actually used to help lower carbon emissions.  In this context, one thing that stuck out is his use of “fiscally neutral” instead “revenue neutral”.

Here some definitions:

Revenue Neutral: Taxing procedure that allows the government to still receive the same amount of money despite changes in tax laws. The government may lower taxes for one particular group of people, but raise taxes for another group. This allows the revenue that they receive to remain unchanged (neutral).

Fiscally Neutral: Fiscal neutrality occurs when taxes and government spending are neutral, with neither having an effect on demand. Fiscal neutrality creates a condition where demand is neither stimulated nor diminished by taxation and government spending.  A balanced budget is an example of fiscal neutrality, where government spending is covered almost exactly by tax revenue – in other words, where tax revenue is equal to government spending.  A situation where spending exceeds the revenue generated from taxes is called a fiscal deficit and requires the government to borrow money to cover the shortfall. When tax revenues exceed spending, a fiscal surplus results, and the excess money can be invested for future use.

The two are quite different.

Revenue neutral means that government will give money back to Islanders directly – so that the amount of money government takes in is the same after the carbon tax is in place (for example give tax credits/rebates to Islanders).  This is what British Columbia did with their carbon tax: “B.C.’s tax, implemented in 2008, covers most types of fuel use and carbon emissions. It started out low ($10 per tonne of carbon dioxide), then rose gradually to the current $30 per tonne, which works out to about 7 cents per litre of gas. “Revenue-neutral” by law, the policy requires equivalent cuts to other taxes.

Fiscally neutral means government gets to take in additional tax revenue and they are just saying they will spend all of the additional tax they take in – no more – no less.

The Premier is an academic, and very careful with his words, so I think this is a deliberate attempt to make Islanders think we are getting something like BC has, but instead it is a thinly disguised tax grab.  Make no mistake about it – this government plans to put a new carbon tax in place that will take additional money out of Islander’s pockets – and they have no intention of making sure that this is offset by other tax breaks.

Now, the MacLauchlan government does claim that they will spend all of this additional carbon tax revenue on projects and incentives that will encourage Islanders to use less fossil fuels, generate less greenhouse gases, and lower carbon emissions.  However, I have grave concerns that, just like so many other government programs, much of this carbon tax money will end up being spent on government administration, and/or will be hard to qualify for, will end up being funneled as pork barreling into the FOG (Friends Of Government), or will simply end up in general revenues.

I just can’t help but think that the implementation of a carbon tax that is “fiscally neutral” is just another way to squeeze more tax from Islanders to be used for political gain, instead of helping stop global warming for the good of all Islanders – and the world.

-- Brad Trivers

December 21, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Some mixed items:

Here is Richard Raiswell's political commentary on the Fall Sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature, about five minutes long, recorded Monday:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/programs/mainstreet/richard-raiswell-fall-sitting-1.3904846
---------------------------
A short commentary from F. Ben Rodgers:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/2016/12/19/polls-numbers-not-a-surprise.html

Poll numbers not a surprise - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Monday, December 19th, 2016

Plummeting poll numbers are not a big surprise to the majority of Islanders considering the actions of the MacLauchlan government since being elected.

Disregarding the plebiscite, HST increase, trying to cover up the e-gaming scandal etc. It appears these things have now come home to roost. One can only say democracy in this province has all but disappeared under the present Liberal rule.

I'm still pondering the shameful actions of the newbie Liberal recently elected in Summerside-Wilmot. Remember his campaign slogan, "Let me be your voice in government." Yet when his district voted in favour of Proportional Representation (MMP), their "let me be your voice in government" remained mute? This must be the biggest decline in a government’s popularity in recent island history. The plummet will surely continue until the people are heard or the premier resigns.

F. Ben Rodgers, Abram-Village

-----------------------

Alan MacPhee from Souris has continually fought for health care access in that part of the Island. This is from a couple of weeks ago, but worth sharing, and points to reduced local input caused by reorganization by Health PEI: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/2016/12/5/-alan-macphee--sickness-free-on-weekends-.html

ALAN MACPHEE: Sickness-free on weekends? - The Guardian Opinion piece by Alan MacPhee

Budget restrictions halt walk in clinics, locums at Souris hospital

Published on Thursday, December 5th, 201, in The Guardian

Health P.E.I. is consistent - when one thinks management can’t get worse, it gets worse.

Despite patients with no doctors, long wait times for doctor appointments and long lines at walk in clinics; there are doctors wanting to work in Charlottetown but cannot get a license. It is not accurate to call this a doctor shortage; it is in fact an obstruction of doctors. It is a dilemma created out of a concoction of both the representatives of the doctor’s financial interests and Health P.E.I.

In Souris it is even more bizarre. Recently Health P.E.I. has decided to disallow walk in clinics at the Souris Community Hospital and also to not rehire locum doctors for Souris hospital.

This decision, despite the Souris region has the worst doctor patient ratio in the province, and the province has the worst ratio in the country. This summer a locum doctor in Souris requested to have walk in clinics on the weekend but was told he was not allowed to advertise or hold the clinics due to budget restrictions.

Budget restrictions on when one is allowed to be sick illustrates that the centralized bureaucratic committee management style of Health P.E.I. has reached madness.

Furthermore when the doctor volunteered his services for free his offer was turned down because of the cost of clinic support staff. When clinic support staff volunteered to work for free with the doctor, the request for weekend clinics was still denied.

Why the obstructions on doctor practice in Souris?

Our own inquiry to HPEI management as to why locums were being discontinued was responded, “The only path forward is the optimum treatment of a full complement of permanent doctors regularly seeing patients.” We share the long-term vision but after a decade of mismanagement we have had to rely on locums to see anyone at all.

People with cancer or other serious ailments or sick on weekend or evening would rather have a locum doctor to care for them than have no doctor at all. This is not the case in the land of Health P.E.I. management that continually achieves higher levels of incompetence while lowering the standards of health care on P.E.I.

The HPEI decision to eliminate walk in clinics and locum coverage in the Souris Community Hospital Region is not supported by one medical study showing this leads to better health outcomes or lower system costs. Actually the HPEI decision to obstruct doctors leads to worse access, worse care, worse health outcomes and higher costs – medical studies show this.

The HPEI restriction on doctors is exactly opposite to the much-touted One Island Hospital mantra of ‘Better Access, Better Care’ and it is opposite to the public commitment Premier MacLauchlan made to have four doctors in the Souris Community Hospital region (our population requires a minimum of five doctors).

Centralized decision-making is not delivering higher levels of healthcare. P.E.I. needs local elected hospital boards.

We can do better.

- Alan E. MacPhee is Chairman, Island Wide Hospital Access (IWHA).

December 20, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today:
Webinar: "The Push for Proportional Representation:  After ERRE, Where Do We Go From Here?", 1-2PM,
with Nathan Cullen and Elizabeth May (NDP and Green members, respectively, of the the Federal Electoral Reform Committee -"ERRE").
The link may show my name, but you should be able to delete it and sign-up with yours if you are able to make it.
Link:  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/116029642401090819

------------------------
Two excellent pieces of writing from Islanders yesterday.  Guardian Journalist Teresa Wright gets the chance to write an opinion piece every so often:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/2016/12/19/dear-p-e-i--government--please-answer-the-question.html

TERESA WRIGHT: Dear P.E.I. government: please answer the question - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Why do cabinet ministers think it’s OK not to answer questions about e-gaming or anything else in question period?

by Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on Monday, December 19th, 2016, in The Guardian

Whose emails were deleted?

This became a familiar refrain during the recent fall session of the legislature when the Opposition Progressive Conservatives resorted to asking this same question day after day.

It was an effective tactic to highlight the non-answers coming from the MacLauchlan government.

But given that debate over these deleted emails took up so much time in the legislature this session, I think it’s important to fact-check a few points on this.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan and Doug Currie, whose department oversees records, have taken to saying that no one in government did anything wrong regarding these deleted email accounts, because it is normal practice to overwrite someone’s email account once they’ve left government employment for one year.

Fair enough.
But that’s not what happened when it came to e-gaming.

Auditor general Jane MacAdam clearly spells out the process about how government is supposed to handle records in her e-gaming report.  One of the things government employees are supposed to do is regularly print off any emails that detail important government transactions and keep proper files of these records.

What MacAdam found was that certain key players on e-gaming file either did not ever save important emails in paper files, as they were required to do, or their paper files somehow disappeared. Because, as she says in her report, “We requested information and were not provided with any email or other records for these individuals.”

She goes on to say this was not a case of these people simply not having any relevant records to share.  “We concluded that government records existed at one time in these email accounts because we received relevant government records from other public bodies and sources external to government that should have been retained in accordance with legislation and policy.”

This means that emails and records did exist and were not properly kept, as is required by law.

This is serious. We, the public, have to be able to trust that government officials are not shredding or deleting documents, even if they may be compromising.

The premier and Currie refused to name the missing email account holders. It’s frustrating, but it wouldn’t be the first time a premier or cabinet minister dodged questions in the legislature.

And it’s probably one of my biggest concerns as a legislative journalist – when politicians jokingly say, “It’s called question period, not answer period.”

The public is becoming increasingly cynical about politics, and this is exactly why. People who come to the public gallery or who tune in online are baffled to see cabinet ministers asked direct questions who will brazenly avoid any real reply.

If we want to restore public trust in government, cabinet ministers must stop dodging questions and trying to sweep past bad behavior under the rug.

The emails should not have disappeared. People who destroyed them did do something wrong. The public has a right to know who these people are, because we, the public, were paying them generous salaries when these events occurred.

And finally, cabinet ministers should show more respect for question period. It was created in our Parliamentary democracy to ensure government could be questioned on their decisions and policies and be held to account.

It’s called question period because the public expects and deserves answers.

----------------------------------------------

"Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are."
 -- James W. Frick (1924-2014), vice-president at University of Notre Dame

----------------
from Michael Redmond, leader of the Island New Democratic Party, writing yesterday on social media:

Nourishing the Common Good - Facebook post by Michael Redmond

Monday, December 19th, 2016

by Michael Redmond

Posted on Facebook

While the sitting of the legislature ended with more of a winter
howler than with a flurry of legislation, the growing need to address poverty continues to be a massive miss for all twenty-seven MLA’s in the province’s house of representatives. A unanimous all-party support for a pilot project Basic Income Guarantee is a wonderful initiative, but such a project requires federal support along with federal dollars. That will take time and a real push from our
Liberal MP’s on PEI.

The question remains, " What are we doing right now, today, to address the issues of poverty and food insecurity on Prince Edward Island?".During the recent five or six- day power outage in Eastern PEI, the Premier clearly showed his lack of compassion and understanding when he told Kings County residents to “use your insurance to cover food loses”. This demonstrates how far removed he is from hard- working, every-day Islanders. He is not alone, however; his cabinet is equally in the dark with these issues.

We face the following increases: increase in the HST (one percent), increases in the prices of food (approximately $420.00 per family in 2017), increases in the prices of rent and everyday fees (banking, insurance, etc.). Meanwhile, approximately half of working Islanders live on $11.00 per hour, a poverty wage. This wage means that basics are not met (bills unpaid, debt increasing, downward debt cycle). Fewer people spending fewer

dollars is bad for our economy. Concurrently, in the House of
“unrealities”, our twenty-seven MLA’s will get a two percent raise in 2017. Yes, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

It is nothing short of disgraceful that a province whose two major industries are fishing and farming refuses to feed its people. We can produce an abundance of vegetables, meat, grain, dairy, and fish; yet people go hungry. We are not suffering a drought as in the prairies in the dirty thirties, nor an industry-wide fishing collapse where food is scarce. Food is abundant yet people go hungry. Drive by any farm, apple-orchard in the fall; and you will see food left on the trees or in the fields. The issue lies in harvest cost outweighing sales opportunities.

Solutions:
We do have the opportunity to ensure no one goes hungry in this province; in fact we could move legislation to ensure kids go to school well-fed and ready to learn. We should have a universal breakfast and lunch program. Canada remains the only G7 Country in the world that does not have one. A universal program would create jobs, while ensuring 20,000 kids everyday
eat a balanced nutritious meal. This program could expand into hospitals, seniors' homes and jails, guaranteeing that a sustainable, small- scale agricultural opportunity exists on PEI (a movement away from industrial, large-scale farming). The “cost” certainly is minimal compared to the current social cost of NOT feeding our most vulnerable-our working poor. This would cost far less than the $17,000,000 dollar loan write-offs recently granted by the Liberal government.

We could immediately adopt the Nova Scotia Farm Tax Credit program that allows farmers to donate leftover crops like apples, berries, and vegetables to food banks and NGO’s while receiving a 25% tax credit for the market price. Why not extend this to fishermen as well?

http://www.cbc.ca/…/nova-scotia-farmers-tax-credit-donating…

We could also ensure that grocery- store chains stop throwing out perfectly good foods before their best -before dates. Food that can be used at soup kitchens, food banks and for NGO’s(non governmental organisations) to help feed the hungry. Follow the model established in France (“Food waste supermarket law”). Under a law passed unanimously by the French senate, large shops will no longer be allowed to throw away good quality food approaching its best-before date. Charities will be able to give out millions more free meals each year to people struggling to afford to eat.

https://www.theguardian.com/…/french-law-forbids-food-waste…

Let’s tax plastic bags and coffee lids and put the money back into education, music, art, and sport for young people: a small move protecting the environment, while raising money to fund much-needed programs for youth.
Replacing plastic bags with reusable and durable cloth hemp bags will also help
with diversification in farming

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/britain-banishes-plastic-bags…/

All of these measures help change our mindsets around food: its
production, retention and disbursement. It will complement what we already have: Canada’s Smartest Kitchen and the Food Tech Department at UPEI. We should build on exceptional programs like the food exchange program, learn from what we have in small-scale successful farm models and expand farmers markets and buy-local campaigns. We have the ability to make PEI the first ever poverty-free province in the country. This would be an important first step, along the path of offering affordable and social housing, and creating a living wage strategy. Our size and demographics are our greatest asset, but we need the political will to push the agenda forward, the agenda that represents all people, nourishing the common good.

“Hunger is not an issue of charity, it is an issue of justice”- Jacques Diouf

Mike Redmond
Farmer, Father, Social Justice Activist

December 19, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today, postponed from last Monday,
Monday, December 19th:
ACORN PEI Organic Forum: 2020 - An Organic Vision for PEI, 3-7PM,
Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., Charlottetown. Registration requested (as there will be soup and bread at the end), free, but donations accepted. 
More info: http://www.acornorganic.org/events/calendar/pei-organic-forum-an-organic-vision-for-pei

--------------
Having our Premier and provincial legislators acknowledge many Islanders wishes about electoral reform and #Honouring the Vote has been challenging enough; now as Canadians we are also attempting to hold the Federal government accountable to its promises about electoral reform. 

You may remember, last Tuesday, December 13th, Federal government MPs were visited across the country by their constituents about the Liberals' electoral reform promises, and all four Island MPs' offices had some people visit, despite the weather and time of day.    If you were unable to go, you can send them a note (e-mail addresses below).
------
A couple of weeks ago, the federal Liberal government launched a voting preferences nationwide survey called MyDemocracy.ca.  It's been easy to make fun of its similarities to "clickbait" surveys such as those assigning you to a House at Hogwarts like the Sorting Hat does in Harry Potter does:

The Sorting Hat ponders which House at school Ron Weasley belongs to...
------

But it's true that the government IS using this to gauge public opinions about electoral reform, so it should be taken seriously.
Leadnow.ca has been working on electoral reform for quite some time now, and offers the following advice regarding the survey, which sounds like is only open until Friday, December 30th. Here are some excerpts from their e-mail to their list members:

Many of you have asked us about the government’s new online survey on electoral reform at MyDemocracy.ca. 
We won’t mince words - it’s a flawed survey and is biased against proportional representation. It looks designed to avoid producing real answers to the question of what should replace first-past-the-post. It doesn’t give a clear way to express your preference for proportional representation over other voting systems.
Unfortunately, it will likely also influence the government's final decision on voting reform. 
Fortunately, our friends at Fair Vote have created a guide to filling out the survey that lets you come as possible to expressing support for PR.  <click the link below>
<snip> The government’s survey is flawed but it is another way to inform their final decision on electoral reform. If we can show the results of the survey reflect the public’s desire for more fairness in our voting systems, we have one more piece of evidence that PR is the way forward.

The e-mail continues, but the link is to:
http://mycanadiandemocracy.ca/
which discusses each question and gives rationale for answering in ways that show support for electoral reform via proportional representation.  It takes some time but it worth it.
The letter continues:

If you already did the survey or just want another way to send a strong message to the Liberals, there’s another option. Remember those postcards about the government’s survey that some people received in early December? They looked like this:

We are encouraging people who got a postcard to write a personal message on it and mail it back to the government. For example, you could write “Your survey didn’t ask, but I support PR”.


An example of what one Islander wrote on hers, in this case sending to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

(more of LeadNow's posting:)

Take a picture of your postcard before you mail it, and tweet it using #keepthepromise. Then you can send it postage-free to Prime Minister Trudeau. 

The PM’s mailing address is:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A2

Remember - you don’t need to include postage on letters sent to MPs!

If you didn’t get a postcard, consider instead sending an email about the flawed survey directly to Justin Trudeau and Maryam Monsef through our ‘send a message’ feature at www.votebetter.ca.

We hope this is helpful! We’ll be in touch in the new year to talk more about the next phase of the Vote Better campaign.

Best wishes,
Katelynn and Rachel on behalf of the Leadnow team

---------------------
Of course, letting your MP know your wishes and about the postcard if you can is very helpful, too.

Island MPs and their contact info:
Sean Casey (Charlottetown)   sean.casey.C1D@parl.gc.ca
Wayne Easter (Malpeque) wayne.easterc1@parl.gc.ca
Bobby Morrissey (Egmont) Robert.Morrissey@parl.gc.ca
Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan) lawrence.macaulay.c1@parl.gc.ca


-----------------------
This quote resonates on many levels with current events both very local, very national and very international --

"Tyranny begins in many ways, but always through the actions of people who care more about preserving or gaining power than about their fellow citizens or the institutions of government."  -- Robert Reich, American political commentator, former Secretary of Labour for part of Bill Clinton's presidential administration, December 17th, 2016

December 18, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A piece on PISA

Earlier this month, the results of Island 15-year-olds on a standardized test called the "PISA" test were released, and P.E.I. students did better than the last time.   Education Minister Doug Currie made the announcement in the P.E.I. Legislature, with much fanfare, and pointed out a group of students in the Gallery.  He left the Chamber soon after, not staying the couple of minutes to listen to the comments from the Opposition Party representatives to his Minister's Statement.  PC Education critic Steven Myers -- who has been earnestly critical of poor education choices his entire time in the Legislature -- still questioned the test, and Peter Bevan-Baker said while the improved scores sounded like a success, education was much more than simply what this test measures.

The Statement by Minister Currie and the responses are on page 2103 of the December 6th, 2016, Hansard transcript.
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/sittings/2016fall/hansard/2016-12-06-hansard.pdf

FYI/notes:
PISA is the Programme for International Student Assessment,"a worldwide study by the OECD in member and non-member nations of 15-year old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science and reading."
OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  http://www.oecd.org/about/
Here is a pdf of a Guide from 2009 written by the OECD with sample questions.
https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/Take%20the%20test%20e%20book.pdf
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Now, here is a real picture of the situation, by Island education leader Gerry Hopkirk:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/2016/12/16/-gerry-hopkirk--double-dose-for-p-e-i.html

GERRY HOPKIRK: Double dose for P.E.I - The Guardian Opinion piece by Gerry Hopkirk

OECD and PISA tests damaging education, students worldwide

Published on Friday, December 16th, 2016

In 2014, more than 80 renowned academics and scholars from around the world wrote a lengthy letter to Dr Andreas Schleicher, director Programme for International Student Assessment, (PISA).

In that letter they express deep concern about the damaging effects of PISA tests on education worldwide, and called for a halt to the next round of testing. They raise serious questions about reliability and validity of the tests as well as their narrow focus.

The authors of the letter claim, “Unlike United Nations (UN) organizations such as UNESCO or UNICEF that have clear and legitimate mandates to improve education and the lives of children around the world, OECD has no such mandate.” Regardless, OECD, an organization whose mandate is economic development (not education) strides boldly on while realizing huge profits from the testing.

In order to “… carry out PISA and a host of follow-up services, OECD has embraced public-private partnerships and entered into alliances with multi-national, for-profit companies, which stand to gain financially from any deficits - real or perceived - unearthed by PISA. Some of these companies provide educational services to American schools and school districts on a massive, for-profit basis, while also pursuing plans to develop for-profit elementary education in Africa, where OECD is now planning to introduce the Pisa programme.”

“Finally, and most importantly: the new PISA regime, with its continuous cycle of global testing, harms our children and impoverishes our classrooms, as it inevitably involves more and longer batteries of multiple-choice testing, more scripted "vendor"-made lessons, and less autonomy for teachers. In this way Pisa has further increased the already high stress level in schools, which endangers the wellbeing of students and teachers. “The full letter can be read by logging on to:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/06/oecd-pisa-tests-damaging-education-academics

So what about P.E.I.?

PISA scores do nothing to improve student learning. Our yearning for numbers, statistics and ‘certainty ’causes us to try and make meaning from such measurers where none exists.

A very small number of people in the Department of Education have been pushing the testing envelope for many years and have mislead the public and politicians about the utility of PISA and the increasing number of other pseudo standardized common assessments that have been forced on schools. The vast majority of educators in this province, including most in the Department of Education, know very well how this approach creates pressure for very narrow one size fits all outcomes. Students and parents know this as well.

Children are unique. They have different needs, interests, learning styles and learning rates. They also have unique dreams and goals, which cannot blossom in a setting that values standardization over nurturing. P.E.I. was one of the last educational jurisdictions in North America to get involved in this testing frenzy and should be the first to end it. Now that would be inspiring leadership.

- Gerry Hopkirk, PhD (Educational Leadership), has taught at all levels of school and university and has worked extensively with educational leaders and schools in six Canadian provinces and seven other countries.

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Here is a YouTube clip (from the "PEI MLA Special Edits" channel) from a week later when Steven Myers was questioning the Minister during Question Period about the number of student exempted from taking the test.  It's about 8 minutes long.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu9QIb9nJEg  He's been sharing concerns he's heard about teachers converting way too much time teaching to the test, and about being quietly counseled to exempt certain students from taking the test, etc., for a while.

(A note that the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly has its own YouTube channel with clips of statements and such:)
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdjcb2yJDV-Xmb3nzmCNnmw

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And a blistering editorial from P.E.I. Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill,
http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_ad2df22c-c16b-11e6-8432-6fa024014f2e.html

Manipulating PISA scores is not excellence - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill

Published Wednesday, December 14th, 2016, in The Graphic publications:

We should have known PEI’s surprising vault up international educational test scores was too good to be true. It took less than 24 hours to prove it.

Education Minister Doug Currie and his senior bureaucrats put their best spin forward, painting our leap from the bottom of Canadian performers in PISA tests as attributable to hard work and investments made by the provincial government since 2007.

We now know that is not true.

Our improvement is largely attributable to demands by the education bureaucracy to teach to the test and revelations uncovered by CBC that PEI excluded three times the allowable number of students from even writing the exam. In short, our marks improved because of a politically motivated bureaucracy that once again put itself ahead our students.

You’ll remember the last time Island children participated in PISA in 2012. Held every three years, the international test compares 15-year olds in 72 countries in math, science and reading. We were the only Canadian province to fall below the medium international test score in all subjects. It was a major embarrassment to the education bureaucracy.

Then Education Minister Alan McIsaac did what virtually every recent Minister of Education has done – panicked and allowed himself to be led down a wrong-headed path by a failed bureaucracy. Rather than being bold and ask tough questions about our continuous systematic failures, a far less disruptive plan was developed: Teach to the test, and manipulate the test to artificially inflate our standing.

The former English Language School Board urged teachers to in effect teach to the test in emails distributed in September 2014. It offered practice tests, questions and answers. And it strongly suggested teachers incorporate this into an already bursting curriculum. In short, the senior bureaucracy put pressure on teachers to put artificial focus on PISA.

There was another important change. Unlike 2012 when all 15-year olds participated - and thus offered a full picture of where we stand - the number was dramatically reduced in 2015. Participation was further culled by the department’s refusal to let a staggering 14 per cent of eligible students write the exam. Of those not allowed to write, 85 per cent were deemed to have an intellectual disability, which if true is 2.5 times the national average. Or in other words a provincial crisis that should have every bureaucrat screaming for help.

But that is not the case.

Students were excluded for political reasons. On top of all of this there are unsubstantiated reports of individual schools further reducing who could write.

What is clear is the government and education bureaucracy manipulated the system to artificially inflate our provincial performance. It is a decision that could only have been made at the ministerial and senior bureaucrat level and it demands accountability - the level of transparency the premier continually speaks of.

To put the exclusion in context. PEI exempted more students than every other Canadian province, and more than every one of the 72 countries that participate in PISA.

It is impossible for government to declare any victory in these results. Currie crowed about the equitable education – separation between high and low achievers - students receive in the province. He is reading something into PISA results that does not exist. How is it possible to determine whether the system is equitable when we refuse to let those deemed less academically gifted from writing?

Not only are the results manipulated, but government - despite the millions spent on standardized tests - has yet to implement accountability systems to measure the effectiveness of one investment over another or whether changes actually improve or decrease the quality of education. Government thinks its investments are improving the system, but it can’t prove it. For an administration that is forever talking about data driven decisions the lack of accountability is a staggering question of competence. We have squandered tens of millions of dollars on provincial standardized tests that still lack the proper systems to interpret results.

Most egregious is the decision of government to use Island students as unsuspecting pawns in their manipulative spin. Currie and his minions trotted out high school students for the cameras to promote a narrative of excellence he and the bureaucracy knew to be deceitful.

The Department of Education is without shame. And now Premier Wade MacLauchlan must wear it. Once again he is left to clean up a mess that occurred prior to his becoming premier, with one big difference. The premier had the opportunity to bring a fresh face to education. He didn’t do it. Instead, he brought the failed bureaucracy of the former PEI English Language School Board into the new Department of Education.

The actions of the minister and the department are at best ethically challenged and at worst government sanctioned cheating.

The premier needs to clean house.

Wade MacLauchlan promised to bring credibility and focus to PEI’s beleaguered education system. Instead frontline teachers and students are stained yet again by the actions of the bureaucracy and their political master.

It needs to stop.

The actions of Doug Currie and the education bureaucracy are an unforgivable insult to parents, teachers and students that demands accountability. If the premier attempts to defend the indefensible, and protect those at the top of PEI’s education system, it will only further erode the dream of excellence in education and slip us further into a bureaucratic abyss.

Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at paul@peicanada.com

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Repeating from the Hopkirk piece: 

"PISA scores do nothing to improve student learning. Our yearning for numbers, statistics and ‘certainty ’causes us to try and make meaning from such measurers where none exists.  <snip>   Children are unique. They have different needs, interests, learning styles and learning rates. They also have unique dreams and goals, which cannot blossom in a setting that values standardization over nurturing. P.E.I. was one of the last educational jurisdictions in North America to get involved in this testing frenzy and should be the first to end it. Now that would be inspiring leadership."

December 17, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Farmers' Markets are open today, busy but worth the wait to get local food and products.
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During yesterday's storm, when everything was closed, Islander Darcie Lanthier wrote a social media posting about buying local, and others added to it.  Of course, none of the businesses named are being endorsed or paid anyone for endorsement :-)
Darcie wrote: "Having spent many years in retail, I know December is the make or break month. You want some snow to get people in the mood but for small downtown merchants these closures are devastating. When you get yourself dug out, please go and support a small business."
She started a list:
The Bookmark,
The Comic Hunter,
Norton's,
Moonsnail,
Back Alley Discs,
Wright's,
Northern Watters...
(Other chimed in:)
In Good Taste
ColourBlind
Dow's Fashions
Luna Eclectic Emporium
Nessya
The Chameleon's Hanger
JEMS Boutique
Proude's Shoes
all the art galleries
Cafe/coffee bars with gift items like: Kettle Black, Receiver, Now and Zen, Timothy's, Beanz
used bookstores (Book Emporium and Bookman)
The Root Cellar
 plus many other independent craftspeople and sellers
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Today, Saturday, December 17th:
Pony Rides at Hughes-Jones Centre, 10AM to 1PM
, 271 Cornwall Road, by donation, proceeds to Anderson House,
Facebook event details:
https://www.facebook.com/events/296855757354527/
You may want to check just in case they would postpone due to weather.  Here is there website:
http://www.thehughesjonescentre.ca/

Here is a recent article on they struggle to find some land and plan a seamless transition for their animals and their business, dealing with government and Transportation land management departments:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/2016/12/16/new-bypass-highway-to-barge-through-therapeutic-horse-farm-on-p-.html

New bypass highway to barge through therapeutic horse farm on P.E.I. - The Guardian article by Dave Stewart

Cornwall centre, that uses animals to help people with anxiety, uncertain about its future in face of difficult negotiations with government

Published on Friday, December 16th, 2016 in The Guardian

CORNWALL, P.E.I. – The owner of a therapeutic horse farm that uses animals to help people with anxiety is hoping a fundraiser set for Saturday isn’t the last hurrah.

Every year, the Hughes-Jones Centre for People and Animals helps out Anderson House in Charlottetown by providing pony rides. That event goes from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., but the future is somewhat uncertain for the farm.

Ellen Jones is currently negotiating with the province on a sale price for her farm. The province needs the land for the Cornwall bypass highway. Jones is hoping to have an appraisal done of the property before Christmas.  “We are very aware that our value in the community is going to be one of the things that is hardest to place a monetary value on,’’ Jones said Wednesday.

The centre also works with at-risk youth by teaching them to care for the animals. 

Saturday’s fundraiser for Anderson House is expected to be busy. It’s a popular spot. More than 400 people showed up at the farm during Open Farm Day in September.

Jones said they don’t want to get in the way of the bypass project. The plan is to relocate, but their ability to do that depends on what they get in the sale.  Jones wants to stay in the area, hoping to maintain the quiet rural environment she has now. It doesn’t make sense to locate next to a four-lane highway, she said, when they work with kids who have anxiety disorders.  “The real story for us is whether we’ll be able to keep doing this kind of thing for the community down the road or if this will be the last kick at the can.’’

The pony rides are free, but donations are accepted for Anderson House.  “We dress the horses up like reindeer and we have a horse dressed up as Santa and we even have a Mrs. Claus.’’  A group of Holland College alumni work as volunteers to make sure the day goes off smoothly.

The proposed bypass has plans to cut right through Jones’ property.

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The Guardian article has a map of the property area, too.

December 16, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

As you may have already heard, the P.E.I.Legislature closed last night, right before 9PM. The last piece of legislation was the Municipal Governance Act (MGA), and it should be noted that most MLAs with unincorporated areas did ask questions  about it.  After spending several hours over several days going through it, it was passed in the House (Liberals and Green members voting for it, Progressive Conservatives voting against it).  How it will all work out in the next five years, will be seen.   

"Rearranging local governance should not be a mystery novel." -- Dr. Ryan Gibson, geography profssor at St. Mary's University, at the Institute of Island Studies forum on local governance in February 2016

The MLAs (with PCs Brad Trivers, Jamie Fox, Darlene Compton and Sidney MacEwen asking most of the questions along with Bevan-Baker) requested that several things be examined and adapted, which Communities, Land and Environment Minister Robert Mitchell said he would.  Soon after the Bill passed, the Lieutenant Governor appeared, proclaimed the bills, and said his usual benediction:
"I wish all Members good health and prosperity and that peace and freedom for all people shall be more nearly achieved."
And everyone left. The winds were starting to pick up.

Morell-Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen shared this photo he took of Province House last night:

Province House, December 15th, 2016, photo taken by Sidney MacEwen, via Twitter, reprinted with permission.
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In this observer's opinion about this Fall Sitting:

The Progressive Conservative Official Opposition did very well, asking hard hitting questions (which may or may not have been answered) and they worked as a team.  Their individual sincerity and attention to matters did not go unnoticed.

Peter Bevan-Baker as Leader of the Third Party brought his compassion and long-term thinking to every comment, sometimes agreed with the Official Opposition and sometimes not.  One standout was the unanimity for his motion to move towards a basic guaranteed income.

The Liberals, having the false majority of 39% of the May 2015 popular vote giving them 18 out of 27 seats, could lead with a confidence more apparent as smugness in some.  Most are working hard, though going through rhetoric to list accomplishments rather that answer questions and debate real issues.   The bills passed were good and useful, like "Hannah's Bill", regarding improving accessible parking; but none was really exemplary.  Frankly, even the MGA is really just cookie-cutter way of organizing larger groups of population and potential tax revenue to achieve efficiency of standards.  Not really an island solution or a cohesive vision.  The e-gaming mess was always there, and always indirectly pointing to greater get-rich-scheming of the Robert Ghiz government, with some of the same people sitting at those little desks.

The handling of anything associated with the lofty goals of democratic renewal or electoral reform was vapid.  The Lobbyist Registry is good, but the backtracking and subsequent weakened promise for future legislation on campaign financing (a cap verses a ban on corporate donations) makes one smirk.  Premier MacLauchlan seemed to be affected by his own appaling decision to ignore the plebiscite and insist we go through all this all over again --  what Peter Bevan-Baker last night remarked, that we are seeing the “great unravelling of Wade MacLauchlan.” (quoted from this Guardian story )

The Premier may not be loving his job anymore, as was evidenced by his frustrated schoolmaster demeanor many times, lashing out at criticisms by any members of the Opposition, sneering at others, and sending a flick of a whip of sarcasm at genuine questions.  In addition to the dearth of vision in our island's future, the lack of environmental stewardship, refusal to clean house about past scandals, and the tenacuous refusal to acknowledge good ideas like a child advocate, his demeanor is surprisingly inappropriate at times and a sure waste of an opportunity to work toward achieving our Island's "peace and freedom."
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Something similar but different, from new P.E.I. Senator Diane Griffin:

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/2016/12/10/diane-griffin--combatting-climate-change.html

DIANE GRIFFIN: Combatting climate change - The Guardian Opinion piece by Diane Griffin

Bringing spirit of co-operation to table, helping to keep environmental policy a focus

Published on Saturday, December 10th, 2016

When it comes to the future of our environment, we want to do the right thing for ourselves and for our children, but human nature being what it is, taking action can prove to be difficult.

 Never has the concept “think globally, act locally” been so absolutely necessary and urgent. And that applies as much to governments as it does to individual Canadians.

To do everything possible to reverse or even slow down climate change, all levels of governments need to work together with other partners for everyone’s benefit.

In the 1970s and 1980s, while I was working for the Alberta Department of Energy and Natural Resources, I witnessed the beginning of serious interest in renewable energy. These were the days before climate change was on everybody’s radar.

Once we became aware of the Green House Effect and climate change, it was still amazing how long climate-change deniers were working at the decision-making levels. Meanwhile, staff was working away on solutions to problems our higher-ups hadn’t even officially acknowledged.

Of course, things have changed, as we see all levels of government now working on the issue of climate change.

Canadians tend to focus on the federal government when thinking about setting environmental policy, but it’s at the provincial and municipal levels where much of the heavy lifting gets done.

There are initiatives like those I saw while working for the Prince Edward Island government.  About 14 years ago, thanks largely to the initiative of then Environment Minister Jamie Ballem, the Island signed on to wind energy to get as much power as possible from renewables.  It is a great way to turn our well-known wind into a source of electrical energy.

Then there are the municipalities - the level of government that is closest to the people - where important services such as sewage, water treatment and recreational services are managed.

Consider the local example of the collaboratively-run Stratford Community Energy Plan that is being drafted to help address local environmental concerns related to town-owned infrastructure while encouraging residents to become greener on their own properties.

This plan will be a roadmap towards a cheaper, brighter future for both businesses and residents, while lowering the amount of Green House Gas emissions.

It is a great partnership of the Town, Maritime Electric and the Stratford and Area Watershed Improvement Group.  Funding from the Green Municipal Fund of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities made it all possible.

While most of us in P.E.I. heat our homes with oil, the use of heat pumps has increased greatly.  On the leading edge, there are some model houses being built based on European designs that have passive solar generation and improved insulation. These innovations dramatically reduce the amount of oil the homeowner has to burn. 

We should encourage the construction of more houses like these with grants or rebates for would-be builders, resulting in a reduction of a homeowner’s yearly fuel bill to as low as $100 a year.

The net result is less oil being burned, fewer greenhouse gases being emitted, and homeowners saving money.

“Don’t waste what you have.” That’s conservation, and it is still my favorite tactic in dealing with the amount of energy use.

As a new member of the Senate, I’ll be bringing this spirit of co-operation to the table and helping to keep environmental policy a focus in Ottawa.

With no time left to waste, now’s the moment to work together.  

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So much to talk about, and reach consensus on, regarding climate change -- lots more to discuss.

December 15, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

An observer's notes from yesterday in the P.E.I. Legislature:

Perhaps the P.E.I. Legislature will close its Fall Sitting today. 

The Municipal Government Act continues its inexorable path through Second Reading.  Yesterday, the Committee of the Whole House went through pages at a much faster rate at times.  Chairperson Jordan Brown (D13: Charlottetown-Brighton), called out pages like an auctioneer, and any Members who had questions on a particular page had to raise them then. The actual Bill part is 130 pages long (the rest is short explanations of the Sections, which in a way is way they *should* be using as a guide while actually going through the sections of pages). It doesn't appear that debate is being discouraged, but all the major questions have gotten answered (satisfactorily or otherwise) and a majority government can get it passed.

Opposition MLA Brad Trivers (District 18:Rustico-Emerald), mentioned that he is working hard to make that the entire Legislature, not just the Minister, has the authority to make some of the significant decisions, such as disbanding a council or creating a community.  He pointed out that the legislation reminds all the members that they are responsible for the unincorporated areas, who really haven't had much voice in this matter, and whose lives are going to be affected in the next five years or so by the changes resulting from this Bill (both tangible things like tax rates and intangibles like community identity).  He proposed a couple of amendments shifting power from the Minister of Communities to the Legislature, but they were defeated.

Regarding the Bill, "Really, Executive Council can pretty much do whatever it wants." Trivers reiterating what Third Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said.

The entire Opposition has brought up many concerns, but at some point the answers from the Municipal Affairs staff person (seated next to the Minister) just kept repeating about efficiency and standards.   Perhaps there is a lot of pressure on Communities, Land and Environment Minister Robert Mitchell to get this thing through now and deal with any little bumps later.  It doesn't sound like a great way to do business for all Islanders.

Current draft of Bill 58, Municipal Government Act:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/bills/pdf_first/65/2/bill-58.pdf

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There were two notable things in the Legislature Wednesday afternoon before the Bill's debate.  (OK, three, if you count Jordan Brown (D13:Charlottetown-Brighton) apparently working on Christmas cards with a glue stick earlier in the afternoon.  Now, multitasking, especially as the session draws closer and closer to Christmas Day is useful, but reporter Teresa Wright spotted him and she was quite shocked.)

The notable things were Steven Myers yet again asking Minister of Education (and in charge of some aspect of information) Doug Currie his usual "Who deleted the e-mails?" and Minister Currie basically saying he was would not answer that and instead repeated lines about student achievement. Not even attempting to answer a question in Question Period.

Most dismaying was the exchange between Sidney MacEwen (D7:MOrell-Mermaid) and the Premier, asking him about the Plebiscite.

MacLauchlan first insulted MacEwen on his math skills, as MacEwen had commented on how many years of his son's life will go by while we wait for electoral reform. (Others, including myself, have brought this same observation of our children's lives going by to the Premier in letters urging him to Honour the Vote.)

"Maybe the honourable member's son could give him a lesson in mathematics.  I don't know how he ever got to eight years on the timetable that he's talking about.  But in any event, Madam Speaker," {Kathleen Casey, former Speaker from 2007-2011, is filling in for Buck Watts this week} "the timetable that I think every one of us and all Islanders should have in mind is the next 12 months, to have a rich, discerning, informed and engaged discussion about what the referendum can do, and I would say in particular, to look for a chance to give Islanders an opportunity to express a clear choice." (Premier MacLauchlan, from Question Period text)

In an earlier answer, MacLauchlan shouted to him that MLAs have "to get to work" and learn about electoral reform and get Islanders to tell them  what they feel about electoral reform.

Now, didn't we just spend the last 18 months doing that?  Didn't the Premier himself initiate the process with announcing the White Paper on Democratic Renewal in the first throne speech in 2015, define it in his White Paper released in July of that year, shape it in his naming of the Special Committee (with MacEwen, GlueStick Brown, Paula Biggar, Peter Bevan-Baker and the now-retired Janice Sherry), allow reading and approving their two reports and recommendations to the Legislature in November of 2015 and May of 2016? 
Now he wants to do this all over again?  As someone said, what, keep spending a million dollars until the public's time and energy is exhausted and they give him the answer he wants?

The exchange is on Page 510 of Wedbesday's Question Period, which the hardworking elves in the Legislative Assembly actually get transcribed and on-line the same day.  (The rest of the day gets transcribed to Hansard, the official record, within a few days.)

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The Legislature is scheduled to meet today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.  Being Thursday afternoon, the Opposition is supposed to set the schedule after Question Period and such, and go over Motions Other Than Government.  But they could just do Government business, too. If the MLAs would decide to extend the hour to finish the session, they might.  (It's always confusing to the mere spectator, and suddenly the Lieutenant Governor appears and the session closes.)

Watch at:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/video/video.php

The Citizens' Alliance is on Twitter at:
https://twitter.com/PECitizens
and I retweet useful ones from the media and add comments, and try to correct any misstatements I make that Sidney MacEwen informs me about.  :-)

December 14, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Several groups visited  the constituency offices of their Island MPs yesterday, to remind them of Justin Trudeau's promise during the federal election last year that it would be the last done by First Past the Post.  Despite the weather and other factors keeping many people (like me) away, it sounds like a good, effective nudge.  The Egmont MP office of Bobby Morrissey actually had him on the phone from Ottawa to listen to his constituents.

Outside of Malpeque MP Wayne Easter's Office, Brenda Oslawsky (right), Terry Pratt (far left), Jennifer Shields and another constituent deliver a "Promissory Note" about electoral reform. Tuesday, December 13th, 2016, Hunter River, P.E.I.  (Photo sent by Brenda.)

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The P.E.I. Legislative Assembly is starting to canter through some legislation that government wants to get passed this session.  Yesterday afternoon, two highway traffic act amendments were passed (Bill 50, and Bill 51).

Bill 51 is about toughening up the impounding of vehicles.  Bill 50 was nine different sections, a mix of items including defining electric bicycles (Green Party MLA Peter Bevan-Baker asking questions to make sure the definitions were clear), air or "jake" brakes legislation, etc.  The last section deals with the very serious issue of young impaired drivers.  Bill 50 -- once proclaimed and affected, which could be several months -- will raise the current age from 19 to 22 where a person must has a blood alcohol level of zero. (This will affect new kids entering the graduated licensing system, not anyone already in the process.)  Apparently some MLAs like Sidney MacEwen did ask questions about this beforehand, and presumably (as it is currently the law in some provinces) legal ramifications have been checked out.  This is quite significant change that some of us would have liked to have seen more public discussion.

In the very late afternoon -- with about seven minutes left to go -- the Municipal Government Act was picked up. Opposition still has a lot of questions about it. 
Information about Bills is here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/bills/index.php
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The evening session was about several Motions from the Conservatives, two of which were defeated (Requesting a Child Advocate and Removing HST from all forms of home heating).  The PCs and Green Party MLAs supported these, but both were defeated.  There was also a motion which had support from all parties on the importance of Province House and keeping tabs on it during these renovations.
Motions text can be found here for No.  47 (HST), 39 (Child Advocate), 81 (Province House):
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/index.php
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P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM today.  The Premier is going to table a letter about his government's plan for election financing changes, including going from an announcement last year of a ban to what sounds like now a cap on corporate donations.
Link to watch the Legislative Assembly:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/video/video.php
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CBC today on-line has chosen rather eye-brow arching angles for two stories -- on how a carbon tax will raise gas prices by 12-14cents a litre (possible, but that would possibly be in six years or so) and how provincial electoral reform advocates have turned their attention to federal efforts.  In the former, there is so much to discuss about carbon pricing that it's not quite complete reporting to just focus on one potential price.  And in the case of electoral reform, it's not quite an either/or.  In both cases the simplification of the issue can lead to some false assumptions, but perhaps it's good to get people talking about these things one way or another. 

December 13, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today:  Visits to MPs' offices at noon to remind them of the Federal Liberal campaign promise of electoral reform:
Notes:  The Cardigan Riding visit is in *Montague* (correction from yesterday), and if driving conditions are poor, the organizers will make a decision to postpone and it can get updated by e-mail here, and on the Citizens' Alliance Facebook and Twitter accounts.

  • Cardigan - MP Lawrence MacAulay (551 Main Street, MONTAGUE) for further information contact Teresa Doyle - teresa@teresadoyle.com
  • Charlottetown - MP Sean Casey (75 Fitzroy Road, Suite 201, Charlottetown) for further information contact Devan England - mail@devanengland.com
  • Egmont - MP Robert Morrrissey (263 Heather Moyse Drive, Summerside) for further information contact Patricia Altass - patriciaaltass@gmail.com
  • Malpeque - MP Wayne Easter (4283 Route 13, Hunter River) for further information contact Brenda Oslawsky - brenda.oslawsky@fairvote.ca
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It's very disappointing about how both our federal liberals and provincial ones spoke loftily of democratic renewal and embracing more collaborative democratic ideas, but when they realize that means sharing "power" and working together, they edge away.  It's like a similar but slightly off-time dance.
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The P.E.I. Legislature sits today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.  There are some pieces of Legislation (some Highway Safety, the Municipal Government Act) that will probably be dealt with.  Electoral Reform and the Plebiscite?  Not sure.  The evening session is business other than government.  It's assumed the session will end in the next few days, and Kerry Campbell on CBC Radio is going over things so far before 8AM.
The watch live link, and much information on Members and House Records, is here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/
--------------------------
Macphail Woods in Orwell sends a message of thanks for support (in the link below), and has a way to donate money to the organization through this link.  It would make a nice and very helpful gift for both the recipient and for Macphail Woods.
http://us8.campaign-archive2.com/?u=10ed71ce69f92e7a9d6b6782e&id=9f795e6a3b&e=2a745309a8

And more about ECO-PEI here: http://www.ecopei.ca/

December 12, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Here are the details about tomorrow's "Day of Action" to remind our federal Members of Parliament about their Party's promise that the 2015 election would be the last one under First Past the Post, if you might be able to go to your MP's office (or the closest MP's office, depending on where you are) at 12noon, Tuesday, December 13th.

from Brenda Oslawsky:

Liberals are sending clear signals that they may break their promise to make every vote count.
We need to show them that people across the country -- including the progressive voters who helped elect them -- won't let them get away with backtracking on their promise.
On Tuesday at 12 noon, people across the country are holding emergency actions at Liberal MP offices to demand that the government keep their promise on voting reform. 
On this Make Every Vote Count Day of Action, there will be 4 events on the island - one at each Liberal MP Constituency office. Can you join us at your MPs office?

  • Cardigan - MP Lawrence MacAulay (551 Main Street, Cardigan) for further information contact Teresa Doyle - teresa@teresadoyle.com
  • Charlottetown - MP Sean Casey (75 Fitzroy Road, Suite 201, Charlottetown) for further information contact Devan England - mail@devanengland.com
  • Egmont - MP Robert Morrrissey (263 Heather Moyse Drive, Summerside) for further information contact Patricia Altass - patriciaaltass@gmail.com
  • Malpeque - MP Wayne Easter (4283 Route 13, Hunter River) for further information contact Brenda Oslawsky - brenda.oslawsky@fairvote.ca

We’ll be gathering outside our MP’s office, and then going inside to deliver a copy of the Liberal’s campaign promises on voting reform. Signs and banners are encouraged.
Brenda Oslawsky,
Fair Vote PEI team

----------------------------------------------

If weather changes either the ACORN Symposium (3PM, Farm Centre) today or the MP Offices' Visits tomorrow, we will send an e-mail and post it on the Citizens' Alliance of PEI Facebook page and the Citizens' Alliance Twitter account.

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From Island writer David Weale's personal Facebook account, and shared on VisionPEI and through others:

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Facebook blog post by David Weale

Just Answer the Questions

It seems necessary to keep reminding this Government who they are serving, and whose wishes they are bound to respect. The Premier and Honourable Ministers are working for us: for all Islanders. And decisions made and actions taken to further the fortunes of one party, or special interest groups within that party, are anti-democratic and sufficient reason for censure.

It is also necessary to remind this Government that the Opposition MLAs - including the Liberal backbenchers - are also working for us. That means that when they ask questions in the House they are asking those questions on our behalf. We have given the Premier and other members of the Executive Council the right to govern, but we have also given the other elected members the right, and responsibility, to question the Ministers, including the First Minister. Their questions are our questions, and when they are ignored disdainfully, as they have these past few weeks, it amounts to contempt of the people.

The recent drop in support for this Government is due in large measure to that contempt. And rightly so.

Peter Bevan-Baker, Stephen Myers, Sidney MacEwan, Darlene Compton and the others are duty-bound to ask questions, and though the Premier and his ministerial colleagues might not like the questions they are receiving, they are duty-bound to answer. When they fail to provide those answers they are failing us, by subverting due process.

The Speaker of the House does his best to ensure that questions are relevant, and asked respectfully, but he also has the responsibility to see that they are answered. Unfortunately, more than in any other House I have ever witnessed this Government has ignored, deflected, stonewalled and, overall, made a mockery of Question Period.

Our message to Premier MacLauchlan and his Ministers is clear: just answer the questions. We are appalled and angered by your evasive shenanigans.

-------------
Soon after, Ron Kelly wrote this very helpful addendum:
Ron Kelly, Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Excellent commentary on the basic functioning of democracy under the Westminster model of governance.

I would also put extra emphasize on the responsibility of the Speaker to ensure that legitimate questions are answered truthfully and fully. It's one thing for government representatives to try to avoid answering legitimate questions but it's another thing entirely for the supposedly-neutral Speaker to allow them to evade their responsibilities.

Also strongly support the underlying message here: that elected representatives are working for us, the public -- not the other way around. Too often, I've seen people elected to form a government who then start to act like they're the bosses instead of realizing that WE'RE the bosses AND the owners of the government. They are only hired on a temporary basis to MANAGE the government, while reporting back to us and being responsible and accountable to us (and, dare I say it -- being TRANSPARENT in their dealings while in government).

------------------

This link is to the blog of former Nova Scotia NDP MLA Graham Steele, who now writes for his own blog and also does some commentary for CBC.  The most recent entries are called "A Citizens' Guide to the Nova Scotia Legislature."   Of course, there are many differences (and I would be very happy to have someone be able to list those to highlight the differences), but for now it has a lot of interesting information.
https://grahamsteeleblog.wordpress.com/

December 11, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The Artisans Market is at the Charlottetown Farmers' Market today, 10AM to 3PM), in addition to other fairs going on.

Monday, December 12th:
ACORN Public Symposium: "2020--An Organic Vision" for P.E.I., 3-7PM,
details here

Tuesday, December 13th:
Gathering at MPs' offices re: Electoral Reform,  12noon,
each P.E.I. federal Riding, details to follow tomorrow.  This is a nationwide initiative sponsored by LeadNow, I think.
-------------------

A mixed bag of reading for a chilly day:
http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_020a1710-bbc9-11e6-a931-cf08c94396a0.html

Lead editorial from Paul MacNeill:

Tories should embrace PR opportunity - The Eastern Graphic Lead Editorial by Paul MacNeill

by Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill

Published on Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Liberal math is often a feat of mental gymnastics.

Liberals win 18 seats based on just 40 per cent of the popular vote and that is fine. But one seat for the combined 22 per cent earned by the NDP and Greens is tough noogies. It’s how democracy works.

Twenty-six females elected in 95 years is unfortunate but no reason to throw out our male dominated mixed member proportional system.

The 37,040 votes cast in a provincial plebiscite is too small a sample to credibly adopt Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Yet government routinely makes decisions based upon poll results of 300 or less (less than the number of protesters who loudly demanded government #HonourTheVote)

Twenty-two of 27: The number of ridings that voted by majority to adopt MMPR, meaning the vast majority of Liberal MLAs are ignoring the will of the constituents they claim to represent.

In short, Liberal math is too often hypocritical and self-serving.

Wade MacLauchlan became premier on the promise of doing business differently. On many fronts he is delivering. But on issues that people vote on – trust, credibility - he is lacking. His decision to ignore the plebiscite result and send MLAs on some undefined consultation process to decide what the second option will be on a future binding-in-name-only-referendum is an insult. It is a made on the fly process with only one goal: Create minor incremental change that does not interfere with the perceived right of Liberals to govern.

It is a door of opportunity swung wide open for Island PCs. But so far the party, which has wandered in the political wasteland for almost a decade, seems incapable of seeing it, let alone taking advantage.

And the potential advantage for the next election is real. If the party seizes electoral reform as an opportunity, the next election will include not only a referendum on electoral reform but also Liberal arrogance, transparency and accountability with the premier’s mishandling of the plebiscite and items like e-gaming front and centre.

Since 2007 Tories have been looking for something to differentiate themselves from Liberals. Electoral reform is one major way of doing it. Supporters of PR have taken to mocking MacLauchlan’s catch line “It’s Time” from the 2015 election. Well, it is time for change. We saw it in the last election. We saw it in the plebiscite. We see it in the continued, and growing anger, with government’s attempt at status quo survival.

What we don’t see from the Official Opposition is leadership. At least not at the party level.

MLA Sidney MacEwen deserves great credit for rising above partisanship and seconding Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker’s motion to accept the plebiscite results, which five of eight Tory MLAs voted to support.

But there it sits. Not another word from the Official Opposition. The government has turned its nose at the Island electorate and there is not a peep from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Why?

Well maybe it is has to do with interim leader Jamie Fox’s failure to see the plebiscite as a provincial issue rather than strictly a local riding issue. He voted against the Green motion. Maybe it has to do with the party and its belief voters will eventually return them to power regardless. If either is true it shows Tories are not the change agents Islanders crave.

Why accept the premier’s timeline that a referendum be held in concert with the next provincial election? Sure it will increase the voter turnout, but it will also dilute the public’s focus. If you want to distract the debate fold it in with a general election as Premier MacLauchlan suggests.

If the Liberal government were to show respect for the wish of voters a referendum is unnecessary. But since the government has decided to ignore the will of the people why wait? There is ample time to hold a referendum and bring about change for the next election which is still three years away.

The Liberals have stuck their stake in the sand. They will live or die by it. The Tories have not even wiggled a toe.

If the party ever hopes to gain power it needs to be seen as a credible alternative. Standing up for the will of Islanders is a good place to start.

Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at paul@peicanada.com

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----------------------------
From Global News, yesterday, about a response to the episode of chanting against Alberta Premier Rachel Notley at a rally featuring PC leadership hopeful Chris Alexander.

http://globalnews.ca/news/3119436/lift-her-up-campaign-launched-to-counter-lock-her-up-chant/?campaign_id=A100

‘Lift her up’ campaign launched to counter ‘Lock her up’ chant - Global News article by Allison Bench

Published on-line Saturday, December 10th, 2016

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters has launched a campaign in response to the chants of “lock her up” against Rachel Notley at the Alberta legislature last weekend.

The Lift Her Up campaign was launched Friday. It calls for Albertans to stand up against bullying rhetoric and sexist or violent language towards women.  “It’s really a response to what we saw happen on the steps of the legislature last weekend,” said Jan Reimer, executive director of Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.

The “lock her up” incident happened last weekend at an anti-carbon tax rally organized by Rebel Media, an online news outlet.

Shelter directors in Edmonton made the decision to launch the campaign after discussing concerns about the effect these messages have on the province’s boys and girls.  “[We] realized how devastating that could be. For women who have left domestic violence, because sometimes their partners do threaten or do lock them up,” Reimer said.  “We don’t want to feed those kinds of chants and call-downs of women in positions of power.

“We think it accelerates other types of behaviors that are totally creating unsafe places for women.”  The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters is inviting people to help “lift up” women by speaking out against bullying behaviors by using the hashtag #LiftHerUp.

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An opinion piece from late November by the brilliant American essayist and novelist Barbara Kingsolver, on Americans dealing with the Trump presidency, for your interest:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/23/trump-changed-everything-now-everything-counts?

Trump changed everything. Now everything counts - The Guardian UK article by Barbara Kingsolver

Published on-line in The Guardian (the UK one, not the P.E.I. one) on November 23rd, 2016

Millions of Americans are starting to grasp that we can’t politely stand by watching lives and liberties get slashed beyond repair. What are you going to do?

An excerpt:
"Wariness of extremism doesn’t seem to trouble anyone young enough to claim Lady Gaga as a folk hero. I’m mostly addressing my generation, the baby boomers. We may have cut our teeth on disrespect for the Man, but now we’ve counted on majority rule for so long we think it’s the air we breathe. In human decency we trust, so our duty is to go quietly when our team loses. It feels wrong to speak ill of the president. We’re not like the bigoted, vulgar bad sports who slandered Obama and spread birther conspiracies, oh, wait. Now we’re to honor a president who made a career of debasing the presidency?"
<<Rest of article on the link>>

---------------------------
And from Naomi Klein, about how the situation in Standing Rock ended up:
https://www.thenation.com/article/the-lesson-from-standing-rock-organizing-and-resistance-can-win/

The Lesson from Standing Rock: Organizing and Resistance Can Win - The Nation article by Naomi Klein

Indigenous water protectors are showing us how to fight back—and how to live again.

Published on Sunday, December 4th, 2016, in The Nation

excerpt:

<<snip>> " The climate movement already knew that mass organizing could get results. We learned it, most recently, in the Keystone XL fight and the resistance to Shell’s Arctic drilling. Victories usually come incrementally, however, and at some delay after mass action.

Standing Rock is different. This time the movement was still out on the land in massive numbers when the news came down. The line between resistance and results is bright and undeniable. That kind of victory is rare precisely because it’s contagious, because it shows people everywhere that organizing and resistance are not futile. And as Donald Trump moves closer and closer to the White House, that message is very important indeed."

<<snip>> rest of article at the link

December 10, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The Charlottetown and Summerside Farmers' Markets are open today.

Tomorrow, December 11th:
Artisans' Market at the Ch'town Farmers' Market, 10AM-3PM.

--------------------
The P.E.I. Legislature did not close yesterday, as some speculated, but will reopen Tuesday at 2PM.  Question Period Friday focused on educational and psychological needs of children in mental health and addictions, autism and other issues.
There were a few updates, including Environment Minister Mitchell mentioning that the Water Act draft should be coming out in January for public consultations, and that there is a three-year agreement for watershed group funding.  The Minister was reminded about the illogic of making the groups pay government for trees that they are planting.
A bill on payment for medical services was debated for a while, then there was some time to continue with the Municipal Government Act.  The Tories and Peter Bevan-Baker are looking quite critically at this Bill, as it is so huge and sets up that all communities will meet some set of standards for operation on some sort of timeline. 
For instance, Steven Myers voiced concerns for unincorporated areas, and Brad Trivers about the immense Ministerial powers in the legislation.

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A short and to the point letter from last week:

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/2016/12/2/islanders-display-long-memories.html

Islanders display long memories - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Friday, December 2, 2016

I attended the rally for "Honour the Vote" in front of the legislature. I estimate there were approximately 200 people in attendance.

It was a good representative of the island population . . . in age and work experience. The premier spoke about getting a definitive answer on the PR vote that will take place in the next election with a binding referendum.

Firstly Mr. Premier, you got that answer with the plebiscite vote. Secondly, you will not be re-elected in 2019 so you will not be able to make a change in the way this Island elects it’s government. One only has to remember how a previous Liberal government broke contracts and took 7.5 per cent from the civil service. Islanders do have a good memory and will prove it in 2019.

Leah-Jane Hayward, North Wiltshire

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And the December astronomy guide:

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/community/2016/12/6/-glenn-k--roberts--bright-meteors-herald-winter-s-arrival-on-p-e.html

Bright meteors herald winter's arrival on P.E.I. - The Guardian article by Glenn Roberts

Published on December 6th, 2016

As December opens, Venus, shining at magnitude - 4.2, sits quite high in the darkening SW sky one hour after sunset.

This bright planet is often referred to as the evening star, since it is the first object, other than the moon, to appear in the evening sky. Venus will continue to climb upward from the setting sun throughout the month, moving closer to the planet Mars. By month's end, Venus shines a brilliant - 4.4 magnitude and sets four hours after the sun.

Mars, shining at a faint magnitude +0.8 (100x dimmer than Venus), sits high in the SW sky above Venus as the sky darkens this month. By month's end, the distance between the two planets will have diminished considerably, and will continue to do so into January 2017. From our latitude, Mars will set between 9-10 p.m. As Earth pulls away from Mars in its orbit around the Sun, Mars will continue to diminish in brightness and size in the evening sky.

Having passed behind the sun in late October, Mercury will finally climb out of the sun's glare to put in a brief appearance in the evening sky this month, though you will only have a small time window to view it. Weather permitting, around mid-month, look for Mercury low in the western sky about 45-60 minutes after the sun disappears below the horizon. Try scanning this area with binoculars to spot Mercury shining as a bright star-like object near the point of sunset.

Just as Venus dominates the evening sky this month, so Jupiter reigns supreme in the pre-dawn sky. Shining at mag. -1.8, Jupiter rises above the eastern horizon around 2 a.m. The best views of this magnificent planet come about one hour before twilight begins, when Jupiter is at its highest point in the sky. Watch for the waning, crescent moon near Jupiter on or near Dec. 22.

Jupiter's four largest moons - Io, Europe, Ganymede and Callisto - are easily viewed in both binoculars and telescopes.

Saturn, lost to view behind the sun for most of the month, puts in a brief appearance in the dawn sky during the latter part of the month. On Dec. 25, shining at magnitude +0.5, the famed, ringed planet rises about one hour before the sun, staying in bed an extra half hour before rising by the end of the month. Look for the waning, crescent moon just above Saturn in the eastern sky as dawn brightens on Dec. 27. You'll need binoculars to find the near-invisible, crescent moon to Saturn's lower left the following morning.

The famed Geminid meteor shower (radiant in Gemini - the Twins constellation) is due to peak during the pre-dawn hours of the 14th. Known for its numerous (120 plus per hour) bright meteors, the Geminid shower this year will, unfortunately, be washed out by the bright full moon, with all but the very brightest meteors lost from view. Still, if you can get out under a dark sky away from urban lights, and place the moon behind a nearby building or other high object during the pre-dawn hours (when the Moon will be closer to the horizon), you might spot a greater number of meteors streaking across the sky overhead.

The Ursid meteor shower (radiant in the constellation of Ursa Minor - the Little Bear) is up next, peaking during the night/pre-dawn period of Dec. 21- 22. The waning, crescent moon will rise just after 1 a.m., so the best time to see the Ursids will be between midnight and moonrise. Though not as numerous (10 plus per hour) as the Geminids, the Ursids make up for it by their brightness.

Winter arrives on the morning of Dec. 21 at 6:44 a.m. Known as the winter solstice, this officially marks the beginning of winter here in the northern hemisphere, and the beginning of summer for the southern hemisphere. It also marks the longest night and shortest day of the year.

Early North American settlers often referred to December’s full moon on the 13th as the Yule Moon or Long Night Moon. It is also the last "super moon" of 2016.

Until next month, Merry Christmas to all and to all a clear night.

Glenn K. Roberts lives in Stratford, P.E.I., and has been an avid amateur astronomer since he was a small child. His column appears in The Guardian on the first Wednesday of each month. He welcomes comments from readers, and anyone who would like to do so is encouraged to email him at glennkroberts@gmail.com

Events (AST):

Dec.  7 - First quarter Moon; 5:03 a.m.

        12 - Moon at perigee (closest to Earth); 7:29 p.m.

        13 - Full moon; 8:06 p.m.

        14 - Geminid meteor shower peaks; pre-dawn

        20 - Last quarter moon; 9:56 p.m.

        21 - Winter solstice; 6:44 a.m.

        22 - Ursid meteor shower peaks; pre-dawn

        25 - Moon at apogee (farthest from Earth); 1:55 a.m.

        29 - New moon; 2:53 a.m.

The Charlottetown and Summerside Farmers' Markets are open today.

December 9, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Tonight:
"Home for the Holidays" final performance, in Summerside
at the Harbourfront Theatre. Tickets still available. A lovely mix of holiday songs (in various combinations by Catherine O'Brien, Joey Kitson and Caroline Bernard) with stories by Hank Stinson.  Music by The Reindeer Express (Don Fraser, Perry Williams, Deryl Gallant and Alan White). more info: <www.harbourfronttheatre.com>

Island Nature Trust Online Auction Deadline, ENDS 10PM, Friday, December 9th.
Proceeds for nature education.  More info:  http://islandnaturetrust2016.eflea.ca/
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Monday, December 12th:
ACORN PEI Organic Forum: 2020 - An Organic Vision for PEI, 3-7PM,
Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., Charlottetown. registration requested, free but donations accepted.  More info: http://www.acornorganic.org/events/calendar/pei-organic-forum-an-organic-vision-for-pei
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Here is an article in yesterday's The Globe and Mail about the climate change talks with the Prime Minister and the Premiers:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/power-lines-between-provinces-among-feds-plans-to-cut-carbon-emissions/article33267047/
------------------------
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 10AM to 1PM today.  The video link and links to House Records are here.
-----------------------
The Capital Budget (usually released in Fall, usually for planned infrastructure projects) for 2016-2017 for the province of P.E.I. passed last night in the evening sitting of the Legislature. 
There was discussion of the Cornwall Perimeter Extension, mainly that a lot of options were looked at and it's a great way to use federal matching funds available, and that the version from the Pat Binns government would have a new bridge going over the North River closer to the Warren Grove area, and that would be very expensive and have its own set of environmental issues. Opposition members (Official and Third Party) tried to get more specifics and made good comments.  One thing Peter Bevan-Baker mentioned was having the year's projects on a government webpage with approximate dates of start-completion.  It would require upkeep, but then all Islanders could see the scope of road construction for the year.

After the capital budget, the discussion of the Municipal Government Act resumed.  In response to earlier questions from Brad Trivers questioning the need for the Minister to have such powers (as opposed to the Legislature), the municipal affairs person said the judicial advice had said the Minister needs the powers to be able to make sure the municipalities do their jobs, and the power to things if a municipality was not doing its basic responsibilities.   Then it was 9PM and the House closed for the day.

Earlier in the afternoon session during Question Period, the questions were mostly aimed at Minister Robert Mitchell.  Many of the questions from the Official Opposition in the afternoon sitting of the Legislature were about a Carbon Tax and how it could hurt Islanders.

After Question Period was Motions Other Than Government focused on Motion 7 ("Incentivizing a Lower Carbon Footprint for Prince Edward Islanders" and text of motion in link found on this page).  There are some very good concerns about implementation of a carbon tax and how it would affect less-well-off Islanders, and not a lot know about how it would be collected and whether it could be crafted to protect Islanders but still stimulate less fossil fuel use, etc.  This motion encouraged government to work on incentives only.  However, in the end the Motion was voted against, by the Liberals who felt they were doing the right thing anyway, and by leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker, who feels we need to get this going as Climate Change is not waiting around.  (Bevan-Baker went through the motion clause by clause, pointing out all the points it made discussing the imperatives of Climate Change.) The actual vote prompted a few jeers by the Tories directed at Bevan-Baker, that he wasn't being very "green".  It was one of those politicky times. 

The next motion was Motion 8, calling on government to enact the recommendations of the Auditor General about contaminated dump sites and public environmental impact information access about the sites.  The Opposition made excellent points, and Minister Mitchell spoke to the motion that his department has been working on these recommendations and are in agreement.  Opposition's time ended and debate was "suspended" for the supper break.

--------------------------

"We don't have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment." -- American actor and environmentalist Dennis Weaver

December 8, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Yesterday in the Provincial Legislature, the Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment tabled a report of their work since Spring of this year, and made recommendations.  Chairperson Kathleen Casey said the very first item was to recommend the Government keep its suspension of any bottle water for export.

from: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/sittings/2016fall/reports/18_2_2016-07-12-report.pdf

or  http://www.assembly.pe.ca/committees/getCommittees.php?cnumber=18

Recommendation #1:

1. That the Department of Communities, Land and Environment continue its suspension of any new developments for bottled water until the Water Act consultations are complete and the new Water Act is passed by the Legislative Assembly.  Your committee welcomes the recent announcement by government to suspend any new development of bottled water until the new Water Act is introduced.  This issue was one of the committee's top priorities on its work plan this fall.

---------

It is a very hardworking committee -- all the very good things that legislative committees can and should be doing.  Other members are Peter Bevan-Baker, Sonny Gallant, Sidney MacEwen, Brad Trivers, Pat Murphy and Hal Perry.  I have to admit, I only sat in a couple of these meetings, but this committee was engaged and seem to work together well. It was noted before that some committee members seemed more engaged and asked more questions of their presenters and participated in discussions more than some other committee members.

-----
The Legislative Assembly sits today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM. 
Legislative Assembly home page

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The government of New Brunswick announced its Climate Change Action Plan yesterday.  Here is reaction from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick:

https://www.conservationcouncil.ca/new-brunswicks-climate-action-plan-lays-the-foundation-for-clean-job-creation/

New Brunswick’s Climate Action Plan Lays the Foundation for Clean Job Creation - The Conservation Council on New Brunswick online article

December 7, 2016

Fredericton – The Government has listened to New Brunswickers and delivered a credible Climate Action Plan that has all the elements needed for effective implementation: commitments to Premier-led governance, target-driven policies, and sources of funding to support programs for low-income families, homeowners, and industry.

“This is a significant milestone for the province that will set the stage for cutting waste and pollution, and help our province make the transition to a clean energy economy,” says Louise Comeau, Director of Climate Change and Energy Solutions. “What matters now is ensuring full implementation of this plan over the next year. The Conservation Council will be working with the Government, industry and stakeholders to make this plan happen in ways that work for all New Brunswickers.”

Plan highlights that were called for by the Legislative Select Committee on Climate Change, as well as the Conservation Council, include:

  1. Cabinet committee on climate change, chaired by the Premier;
  2. Climate change legislation to regulate our greenhouse gas reductions and energy-efficiency improvement targets, and establish carbon-pricing mechanisms, including revenue recycling to greenhouse gas reduction programs;
  3. Phasing out coal from electricity production and phasing in more renewable energy like solar, wind, biomass, and hydro; and
  4. Ensuring that climate change and adaptation requirements are incorporated into all government spending, particularly on infrastructure.

“This is a good day for workers because this climate plan means more dollars spent to retrofit our buildings, to expand telecommunications networks, and to install and manage renewable energy technologies,” says Comeau.

------------
It's not perfect, and does "punt" a few things down the road, and there is their emphasis on natural gas, but it moving in the right direction. Here is a CBC New Brunswick article and contains a clip from Green Party MLA David Coon's reaction, too. " 'It gives hope to our young people,' Coon said, his voice cracking, 'hope that is really positive.' "

We await the P.E.I. Energy Strategy to be tabled in the Legislature and made public soon.  It will be connected to the Climate Change strategy.  Premier MacLauchlan is going to the First Ministers' meeting, leaving today, I think.
-----------------------------------------------------------

This is a bit unrelated to anything else, but perhaps helpful.  Bulk Barn in Charlottetown is a reusable container test store.  I tried it out yesterday and have some comments. (Of course, I am not endorsing the store and their lack of country of origin labeling and such is not great at all.)

Here are the standards from their web site:
http://www.bulkbarn.ca/en/Reusable-Container-Program-Minimum-Standards

Customers are required to verify to a Bulk Barn cashier, on each store visit, that their container meets Bulk Barn minimum standards for use. Bulk Barn minimum standards are as follows:
  • The container must be made of a material (e.g. plastic, glass, metal, ceramic, cloth) that can be cleaned, washed or sterilized.
  • The container must be reusable and of a type that is ordinarily used for food products.
  • All containers must be sealable (e.g. jars need to have an accompanying lid, bags must have a drawstring or clip closure, etc.).
  • Plastic and paper bags (including, but not limited to, Bulk Barn convenience bags, coffee bags and spice bags) are not considered to be acceptable reusable containers.
  • The container must be intact, sturdy and capable of being filled with product, with no holes, tears or cracks.
  • Glass or ceramic containers must not be chipped in any way.
  • The container (and accompanying lid) must be visibly clean. The container must not contain any food or other residue, indicating that it has not been cleaned after its prior use. The lid must also be clean. Metal lids should not have any visible rust on them.

We reserve the right to reject any containers that do not meet our minimum standards.

-----------------------------

So it was nice to bring in jars and be able to fill them and put them home on my shelf without a pile of plastic bags in the process.  They are very particular about the clean-no-chips-in-glass-etc. inspection beforehand, but it make sense when there is food and a big concern about glass chips and when they happened.  You do have to go show your containers and get them individually looked at, weighed and tagged with their weights from a checker first, so there is some time involved. But it's a step in the right direction.

December 7, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Richard Raiswell's political column on CBC Radio's Mainstreet from this Monday is here:
http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/mainstreet-pei/segment/11045795
It is on looking at population growth, looking at potential school closure, and what appears to be alack of cohesion around these government decisions. It is about five minutes long.
-------
Yesterday, a CRA (Corporate Research Associates) poll came out, with one of the main bits of news that the government Liberals were down 18% since the last poll.  This poll was taken during the month of November.

From last week, in The Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/2016/11/25/a-tragic-day-for-islanders.html

A tragic day for Islanders - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Friday, November 25, 2016

We can all say what we want, but the democratic process is dead in Prince Edward Island.

And a disgraceful Liberal government is responsible and should be removed. Here the reason why. 

Whether any of us are happy or unhappy, agree or disagree with the outcome of the plebiscite or referendum is totally irrelevant, nor does the percentage that voted or abstained matter either. It was a democratic vote by Islanders and any attempt not to make it law is not only an insult to Islanders, but also a mockery of the democratic process on Prince Edward Island.

Pure and simple, we were given the freedom to vote; we voted, and now the government in power is clearly saying, “No, we, with the majority government will decide whether to honour or dishonour this referendum, and that folks clearly spells the end of the democratic process on Prince Edward Island at the provincial level.

Lastly, is that the kind of majority government we want? It is our choice in the next provincial election isn’t it?

Brian & Ruth Davis, Park Corner  

------------------------

The Legislature sits this afternoon from 2-5PM in the Coles Building.  All are welcome to attend or watch on Eastlink or through the internet. Legislative Assembly website is here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/
----
Yesterday afternoon, there were some good observations on the PISA educational standardized test results from PC MLA Steven Myers and Peter Bevan-Baker (though the Education Minister left the room after his statement for photos).  Bevan-Baker tabled the cycling infrastructure request petition by Josh Underhay and there was some discussion about that.
Transportation Minister Biggar was asked during question period by Bevan-Baker about highway cycling paths to make getting across the Hillsborough Bridge safer, and she prefaced her answer about all the new mountain bike trails in the Bonshaw Park.  James Aylward of District 6: Stratford-Kinlock smilingly retorted, "Long way from Stratford."
Earlier in Question Period, Brad Trivers (District 18: Rustico-Emerald), peppered Communities, Land and Environment Minister Robert Mitchell about concerns with amalgamation and the new Municipal Government Act.  CBC story here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-municipal-government-act-too-much-power-opposition-1.3884419

The evening was Motions Other Than Government, so the Opposition has a couple of motions to talk about (one on the school review, which had very interesting discussion but was defeated, and one on schools teaching some financial literacy, which passed), government backbencher Jordan Brown had one which did pass on encouraging the federal government to call Charlottetown the Birthplace of Confederation.  Then there was
Motion 83 -- Universal Basic Income
Moved by Peter Bevan-Baker (District 17: Kelly's Cross-Cumberland and Leader of the Third Party, and Seconded by Hal Perry (District 27: Tignish-Palmer Road)

The entire motion can be found on this page:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/onemotion.php?number=83&session=2&assembly=65s

The bottom part is:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislative Assembly urge government to pursue a partnership with the federal government for the establishment of a universal basic income pilot project in Prince Edward Island;
THEREFOR BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Government shall provide an update on the progress of this initiative in every session of this assembly. 

------
and many members spoke to it in a very heartfelt way about the poverty on P.E.I., and this passed unanimously right about 9PM.

December 6, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The federal government opened an on-line website with a survey for people to identify their thoughts and values on democracy, called "My Democracy"   https://www.mydemocracy.ca/
It's already been getting hoots of derision, for example, sounding like a "BuzzFeed" survey (BuzzFeed, a "social news and entertainment company" took exception to that), or perhaps like CBC Radio2 host's Paolo Pietropaolo's The Signatures Series "Musical Key Personality Zodiac" on CBC (which has its own list to help you find which "key you are")

A Twitter comment:


Screenshot of a Tweet from a news story about the "MyDemocracy.ca" survey.
----
CTV on-line article on the survey:
http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/electoral-reform-survey-sparks-online-backlash-1.3190554
------
Many non-Liberal Party members got an e-mail yesterday from Prime Minister Trudeau reminding them what a great year it's been (it is true that Harper is gone) and could they give $5?  I thought of five reasons to hang on to my money:
  • Lack of Climate Change leadership in approving pipelines
  • Electoral reform hedging, dismissing, and reneging
  • Bill C-51 residue leftover from Stephen Harper
  • Canada Post-- Playing games with the meanings of "reinstating home delivery", and showing no vision at all on Canada Post's potential to contribute to small scale rural economics, banking, and the Green Economy and help rural communities

(actually, I stopped there, but someone reminded me)

  • TransPacific Partership promotion

The My Democracy website feels like a touchy-feeling attempt to make people feel like they are being listened to and their values identified, but it may make things so muddy that the federal government won't be able to draw any logical conclusions.
One wonders if this is a glimpse into a way the second option mentioned in Motion 80 (The "Clear Question and Binding Referendum") will be determined for P.E.I.?
-------

The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.  Presumably, after all the normal business of the day, they will either continue on the Capital Budget or on the Municipal Governance Act or Transportation Department legislation in the afternoon, and the Opposition will likely determine what will be discussed in the evening session.
In the afternoon, before any budget or Bill debate starts, Peter Bevan-Baker will be tabling the petition on improving island bicycling infrastructure about 3PM.  This was spearheaded by Josh Underhay, a music teacher and avid cyclist.  Perhaps the current provincial government will want to be progressive in this area of more non-fossil-fuel infrastructure; a progress, forward-thinking government would honour the vote on the plebiscite.

Josh Underhay writes:

If you want to do more, contact your own MLA, and tell them you want to see more investment in active transportation paths and interconnectivity: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/current-members. The Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Paula Biggar, can be reached at <pjbiggar@assembly.pe.ca> 

It also wouldn't hurt for the municipalities to know that people want to see this: here's the Town of Cornwall: http://cornwallpe.ca/contact-us/, the City of Charlottetown: http://www.city.charlottetown.pe.ca/contact.php, and the Town of Stratford: http://www.townofstratford.ca/contact-us/staff-directory/.

------------------------
Tonight, in between sessions, is the annual P.E.I. Liberal Party Christmas Social from 5-7PM at the Delta/Convention Centre down Queen Street. All are welcome. More details here:
http://www.liberalpei.ca/event/p-e-i-liberal-party-christmas-social/
----------------------------
Links to watch the Legislative Assembly live, pages of House records, etc., can be found here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/
-----------------
from the sharp pen of Walter Wilkins:
http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_efc26514-b662-11e6-b9ec-23634458bc6a.html

Please say it isn’t so - The West Prince Graphic Letter to the Editor

Published on Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

So, I want to get this straight; I don’t want to misrepresent anything during my deep political conversations at Tim’s. If anyone can help me bring clarity to my understanding, this is what I think I know:

Premier MacLauchlan used hundreds of thousands of our taxpayer dollars to see if Islanders want electoral reform. The results of his plebiscite show the majority of Islanders who voted, clearly favour Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Constitutionally, the plebiscite is transparent; it clearly meets the requirements to give direction to the premier to move forward on Mixed Member Proportional Representation. So far, so good - as promised, everything’s clear and transparent.

But here’s where the fog rolls in. Premier MacLauchlan, after the clear results of the plebiscite are made transparent, claims the results aren’t clear. Based on no forewarning or any standard of transparency, he herds the matter behind closed doors where it’s decided the results of the plebiscite will be paid for by Islanders but the results that Islanders voted for will be ignored. I think this is where transparency goes poof, but there’s more, so I could be wrong.

Okay, based on what he claims to be the principle of transparency and clarity, Premier MacLauchlan brings back from behind closed doors, a motion that promises a binding referendum (his words) on electoral reform. Shunning transparency, MacLauchlan does not allow an open vote on the motion. And to be fair, he doesn’t have to because during the last election a little over 40 per cent of the votes gave him an 18 seat control about what gets done. And, a little less than 40 per cent of the votes got the PCs only eight seats. Ah, good old First-past-the-post.

But here’s where I need help. Why is around 40 per cent not good enough for an open and transparent plebiscite but it is good enough to guarantee a motion that was made, maybe even voted upon (who knows?) behind closed doors? Sorry, I did tell you I was confused.

Oh well, at least our premier, a constitutional expert, has allowed us to vote on a binding referendum. Finally, the clarity and transparency we were promised will be delivered, maybe, in 2019? Or, maybe not. It seems our dentist friend, who claims no deep constitutional expertise, had to drill our premier on, well, The Constitution. He noted that we can’t pass laws a future legislature cannot change. So, because our Constitution will not allow it, there can’t be a binding referendum - well, legally.

So, as you can see, I need help to understand the recent decisions made by the premier and those paid to follow him. I just pray you don’t tell me I’ve already got it right.

Walter Wilkins, Stratford

December 5, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

It was quite an eventful weekend, around our world:

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday evening (our time) that they were halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Here is an excerpt from :
Huffington Post article

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternative routes for the pipeline crossing.”

And we will see what this exactly means in the future.  But it does show that a couple of thousand veterans arriving to stand with protestors on the day they were to be evicted might have been a scene the U.S. couldn't bare.
------
Nova Scotia public education situation:
Saturday about noontime, the Nova Scotia Liberal government of Ste[phen McNeil announced it was actually locking children out of public schools Monday and the Legislature was staring emergency meetings to legislate the teachers back to work.  The schools are closed to children since the government was concerned about their safety.
This an opinion piece by a former N.S. educator, analysing what has happened to public education in the past 20 years.  Very eye-opening for some of us.
https://www.localxpress.ca/letters/opinion-heres-why-the-education-system-is-breaking-down-480546
------

Austrian Presidential Election:
Word that the done-over election in Austria resulted in the Green Party candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen (who was narrowly edged out by the far right candidate Norbert Hofer in an earlier election this spring where counting irregularities were apparently evident) winning the Presidency.

"The runoff vote was a litmus test, since it was a re-run of a vote held in May, before Britain voted to leave the European Union and Americans elected Donald Trump as president."

from:
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-austria-election-idUSKBN13S0W0?il=0
---------

I like math.  Besides all its useful applications, the patterns are fascinating.  I was particularly annoyed to hear Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef pretty much say "Math class is tough!"* and use it a reason to disregard the Electoral Reform committee's report.  (The committee describes and uses a formula  called the Gallagher Index to assess an election's proportionality.) 
I am not sure why -- except the sudden realization that electoral reform may reduce the false majorities and their power-giddy ways -- both the provincial and Liberal governments has resorted to such poor theatrics and poorer logic to try to scuttle electoral reform requested by large groups of people.

A very good article in Maclean's magazine, and consider going to the link by the same author (link in the article) on how he explains the Gallagher Index in a series of tweets.  :-)

http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/the-problem-with-maryam-monsefs-contempt-for-metrics/
------------------------
The P.E.I. Legislature does not sit today, but will Tuesday. 
Here is a column from Allan Rankin about our little Kingdom, which he often calls Lilliput**:
http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_fa8958a2-b664-11e6-a2ca-23ce01f9e635.html

The future of Lilliput the Great - The Eastern Graphic article by Allan Rankin

Published on Wednesday, December 1st, 2016

My Island patriotism is steadfast. For most of my adult life I have trumpeted Prince Edward Island as a proud and independent jurisdiction within Canada, and coveted the belief that small is beautiful. Pondering the words “the small under the protection of the great” on our provincial emblem, I have even perversely believed the very opposite.

When the Confederation Bridge was constructed, I was among those who saw it as a terrible crime, defiling our Island identity, but now I am unsure if that icy Strait ever did separate us, or make us unique.

After suffering through the debate on electoral reform which took place in the Legislature, my faith in Lilliput the Great has been shaken, and it has caused me to question the jurisdictional future of our little Island cradled on the waves. Watching the MacLauchlan Liberals turn away from positive change, and fail to respect democratic principles, I am left wondering if Prince Edward Island’s days as a self-governing province of Canada are numbered.

The quality of a Legislative Assembly I believe is determined by its collective ability to engage the big issues thoughtfully and independently, and with a sense of purpose. It should not become a field for partisan team sports, in which elected members allow themselves to be whipped into submission, or obedience, like so many trained seals, as the Liberals did on electoral reform.

The Legislature is not group therapy either, or a place to waste time speaking of little things.

I say this after having listened to Minister Brown’s historical treatise on the American Civil War, Minister Mundy’s perplexing speech about the respective duties of soldiers and scouts, and Conservative MLA Steven Myers’ personal appeal to those who have made nasty comments about his alleged use of vending machines.

Both Premier MacLauchlan and Third Party Leader Bevan-Baker are political novices, with outstanding personal qualities and potential as legislators, but it was Bevan-Baker who distinguished himself in the recent debate. The premier looked uncertain and afraid, like a boy caught by his mother trying to hide a pet rabbit. You don’t want to say too much in that circumstance. Just keep the door closed and hope she goes away.

Proportional representation is not a panacea. But it would rebalance our system, and make it easier for women, and people of minorities, to enter provincial political life. It would allow us to achieve greater diversity. That is a good thing for all of us I suggest, at a time when our political culture is stagnant from a century or more of partisanship, producing something akin to weak tea.

In my view that weak tea, that archaic political culture, is the pet rabbit Premier MacLauchlan and the Liberal Party is desperately trying to protect at all costs.

It is no coincidence MacLauchlan’s abrupt turnaround on democratic reform is in concert with a decision by the federal government to also put on the brakes with respect to abolishing the first-past-the-post electoral system federally. Prince Edward Island has the constitutional authority to change its electoral system in whatever manner it chooses, however it appears that jurisdictional independence must take a back seat to Liberal Party interests.

I am not optimistic about the path laid out by the premier.

The mystery option for an upcoming nonbinding, binding referendum does seem clear to me. It will be a sleight-of-hand, crafty version of electoral reform that provides a scintilla of proportionality and changes nothing.

My guess is we will tinker our way forward rather than renew or transform.

If we are incapable of effecting meaningful reforms, then perhaps political union with our neighbouring provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is worthy of consideration. When old party politics has made the province dysfunctional and resistant to progressive change, and our elected representatives, with a few exceptions, lack the will or independence to strengthen our system of government, maybe we ought to throw in the towel.

Any sea captain will tell you it’s more noble to go down in deep water than founder on the shoals.

After all, that storied September 1864 meeting in Charlottetown, initially was called to discuss a union of the three Maritime Provinces, but was commandeered by the upper Canadians to put forward their greater scheme.

Meantime, I have a suggestion for our MLAs when it comes to debate. Visit the Public Archives at your leisure, just a short elevator ride to the top floor of the Coles Building, and spend a little time with “The Speeches of Hon Edward Whelan,” a book that contains all you will ever hope to know about political discourse.

Whelan was an Irish orphan with just a primary education. He apprenticed in the newspaper offices of Joseph Howe and later came to the Island.

Fighting for responsible government against the Family Compact, a group of wealthy office holders not unlike the business and professional elite that controls Prince Edward Island these days, Whelan was courageous and true to his principles.

From the pages of his weekly newspaper, The Palladium, and in the Island Legislature, he emerged as one of the foremost orators and statesmen of his era.

With the great Edward Whelan as their example, I strongly encourage our current MLAs to better inform and educate themselves, to read, think critically, and speak more freely and independently on major public issues.

Our Legislature can be a crucible of the Island spirit, and a powerful instrument of change and progress.

Otherwise, sheltering as the little saplings under the protection of the greater oak may no longer be enough, and Maritime union perhaps will be our only transformative change on the horizon.

------------------------------------

*What "Teen Talk Barbie" actually said, instead of the often misquoted "Math is hard!"  was really "Math class is tough!".  Same stereotype, though.

**More than you wanted to be reminded about the Lilliputians, from the student help website "Schmoop":

The Lilliputians inhabit the first island Gulliver visits. They all stand about six inches tall, with proportionally tiny buildings and trees and horses. The Lilliputians are ruled by an Emperor who appoints his high court officials according to their skills with rope dancing rather than their actual abilities. In other words, they're not exactly governed according to rational principles. The court of Lilliput mostly seems to spend its time plotting against one another. Gulliver, unfortunately, forms one of the primary targets of these plots. His enormous size makes him both expensive and dangerous for the Emperor to keep, so, even though he has made himself useful in Lilliput's wars against Blefuscu, Gulliver eventually has to flee the country to avoid having his eyes put out.

http://www.shmoop.com/gullivers-travels/the-lilliputians.html

December 4, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today and next Sunday, the Charlottetown Farmers' Market on Belvedere Avenue is transformed into a Artisan Market, 10AM-3PM
More details from their website:
http://charlottetownfarmersmarket.weebly.com/
and the remaining day of the Victorian Christmas events listing is here.
--------------------
from a recent Journal-Pioneer (apologies for the poor quality):

(Wayne Wright Editorial Cartoon)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From last Saturday's Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/2016/11/28/good-old-boys-claim-the-day.html

Good old boys claim the day - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Saturday, November 28th, 2016

The government’s response to the plebiscite results was so sloppy, it must truly not have had a backup plan in case FPTP lost.

Editor: In the last week, government members showcased the absolute worst of politics. Feigned outrage. Mock bluster. And that wagging finger.

It’s sick to think a party that holds a majority in the house would use Opposition tactics to stifle debate, but this is what happens when the source of one’s power is threatened. Filibuster when you’re in a corner. Whip a vote when you smell victory.

Teresa Wright’s excellent column tells me the government found this issue a distraction from the 30 other bills it wanted to pass this session. Well, pardon us. This is the only one you asked our opinion on. Imagine the audacity that the agenda of the people’s house is set by the actual people.

I was excited, for a little while, to believe that we could live in a place where we talk about ideas. And that good ones - the kinds that make people excited - might actually become something.

Good job, old boys. You win. Take your ball and go home.

Dave Atkinson,
Charlottetown

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From space we can’t see barriers between people. Space reminds us of our common bonds – let’s never forget that.
--Scott Kelly, NASA astronaut who spent a year (March 2015-2016) on the International Space Station
----------
P.S.  If you are interested, to receive e-mail notices about when the International Space Station passes overhead, go to this website for more information:
https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

December 3, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

There are many local craft and local food sales this weekend--
A grand listing is on this on-line page of The Buzz:
http://buzzon.com/index.php/whats-going-on/listings/craft-fairs-etc
Charlottetown (several), Belfast, Summerside, Murray River and Harbour, etc.

Including, the Victorian Christmas Weekend today (10AM-8PM), and tomorrow.  Queen and Richmond Streets (closed off to vehicle traffic).
Facebook page info

And tomorrow and next Sunday, the Charlottetown Farmers' Market on Belvedere Avenue is transformed into a Artisan Market, 10AM-3PM
More details from their website:
http://charlottetownfarmersmarket.weebly.com/

-------
Pauline Howard of the PEI Food Exchange wrote recently on social media:
More and more of our island farmers are trying out season extension techniques. Check out Heart Beet Organics at the Charlottetown Farmer's Market (CFM), Soleil's Farm is supplying produce through Plate It, and Jen & Derek's Organic Farm produce is included in the Schurman Family Farm winter CSA. The Schurman family provides greenhouse grown produce all year round and can be found in big box stores and at the CFM. Crystal Green Farms also has a year round CSA.

This Facebook page posting has all the links to the producers and here is the Food Exchange website.

--------------
Several days away, but worth reserving the afternoon for:
Monday, December 12th:

PEI Organic Forum: 2020 - An Organic Vision for PEI, 3PM-7PM, free but donation of $5-$10 appreciated.  Hosted by the ACORN (Atlantic Canada Organic Regional Network) and PEI Certified Organic Producers Co-op (I think the acronyms are right).  Registration requested.
http://www.acornorganic.org/events/calendar/pei-organic-forum-an-organic-vision-for-pei

-------------------------------

Speaking of supporting local food -- here is a sad story about the recent closure of a local food store in New Brunswick:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/real-food-connections-closure-fallout-1.3877512
---------------------------------
---------------------------------

From earlier this week in The Guardian and other sources, by Atlantic region columnist Russell Wangersky:

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/columnists/2016/11/29/russell-wangersky--the-process-is-damaged.html

The Process is Damaged - The Guardian column by  Russell Wangersky

Published on Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

If you ask someone to make a decision for you, and, when you don’t like what they pick and you go ahead and do something else, it’s just rude.

But if, as an elected politician, you call a plebiscite, and when you don’t like the result, you then simply throw it all out, well, that’s beyond disrespectful. Elected to govern at the will of the people, you ignore that will at your own peril.

In Prince Edward Island, that’s what has happened. In a plebiscite, voters chose to bring in a form of proportional representation instead of the traditional “first past the post” electoral result.  Why get rid of first-past-the-post? For the simple reason that support of something like 36 per cent of voters in an election can put a majority government in place, even though 64 per cent of voters actually voted against them.

Here’s the problem: only 36.4 per cent of Islanders voted. While 52.4 per cent of those who voted wanted mixed member proportional representation, 42.8 per cent were fine with the existing system.

Then, the wheels fell off.

Instead of making any kind of decision, it turns out the vote was a bit of a farce.  “The plebiscite was an exercise on representative democracy and bringing this discussion to the floor of the Assembly underscores this endeavor,” Premier Wade MacLauchlan said. He later brought in a motion to have a referendum on the subject during the next provincial election, suggesting that the turnout meant the plebiscite wasn’t representative of the public. So, in nutshell, some time in the future, something might happen. Or not.

The people voting probably didn’t think they were just “exercising.” They weren’t told in advance that their votes could be meaningless. And the people who didn’t vote? Well, they made their choice too — they had lots of opportunity, and they chose not to take part.

It’s eerily reminiscent of the federal Liberals, who promised electoral reform as part of their campaign platform. Now that first-past-the-post has put them in office, they seem curiously disinterested in changing things. The federal Liberals had said they were “committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.”

That resolve has since eroded in a way that sounds eerie like MacLauchlan’s take on “public exercise.” Here’s federal Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, on CTV’s Question Period: “We’re committed to this initiative, but we’re not going to move forward unless we have the broad support of the people of this country for whom we’re making this change.” This, after more than 700 people took the time and effort to make presentations to a special House committee considering possible changes.

If you campaign on the idea of changing the system to better represent what people want, playing around with that intention after the fact leaves people feeling betrayed.  Or worse: it can leave them so disgusted that they no longer believe the system even wants their input.  And if you’re going to ask people to vote on something, you can’t toss the vote on the trash pile — saying it’s just not good enough — not when it’s a fair, open vote where everyone has a chance to go to the polls, if they choose.

When you tell people they have a voice, and then you simply take that voice away, it’s worse than not asking for their opinions at all.  It’s all well and good for a politician to argue they are protecting democracy.  In reality, by dismissing what the people want by saying it doesn’t fit the particular structure you envision, you’re damaging the whole process.

Once bitten, twice shy holds true for voters, too.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@tc.tc

December 2, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Here are some other things going on:

The National Farmers' Union on P.E.I. has been asking for months to meet with the Premier to talk about concerns in Island agriculture. Here is a letter from a recent Guardian describing the situation:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/2016/11/28/nfu-unsuccessful-in-meeting-premier.html

NFU Unsuccessful in Meeting Premier - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published in The Guardian print edition on Saturday, November 26th, 2016

The National Farmers Union (NFU), one of PEI’s major farm organizations, is sending this open letter to Island newspapers in the hope of achieving a meeting with Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

This has not been possible through regular avenues of communication.

Since the early spring, the NFU has tried, at least six times, to set up a meeting by going through the various channels in the Premier’s Office; only to get the reply “No.  You must meet with the minister.” This goes against the premier’s own words that “his door is open to all.”

The NFU is seeking to discuss issues at the forefront of the Island’s number one industry – agriculture. Of particular importance is the land ownership issue: our land – our soil is the source of the food we produce making its ownership and stewardship a concern not only to farm families, but to all Islanders; currently and in generations to come. The government owes Islanders transparency and accountability when it comes to our land.

The premier has stated that his objective is to make PEI a food island and a major player in agriculture. It would appear reasonable to assume that the premier would hope to achieve this goal by engaging with, working with, and listening to all players in the sector. 

Thus, Premier MacLauchlan, through a public forum, the NFU respectfully requests a meeting with you; and should you so desire, jointly with Minister Mitchell. We sincerely look forward to a positive reply.

Douglas Campbell,
NFU District Director
------------------
If you wish to drop a note to the Premier <premier@gov.pe.ca>  to encourage him to meet with representatives of the Island NFU, please do.  Food Island and all.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

In the P.E.I. Legislature last night, the Legislature broke into a "committee of the whole house" to begin to examine the new Municipal Government Act.  They are going through it slowly which is good as it means some will seriously try to understand what's in it and what it means, and they will ask questions to clarify concerns.  More in the coming days.
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In the Thursday afternoon session, the PC Opposition discussed their Motion No. 47, "Urging the Province to Exempt All Forms of Home Heating from the HST". 
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/onemotion.php?number=47&session=2&assembly=65
It allowed the members who spoke to it to discuss their dismay on the HST being implemented a couple of years ago, and the recent increase. The PCs -- though concerned about any taxation and how a Carbon Tax might hurt people -- are quite concerned about Climate Change and its effect on Islanders. 

The Legislature sits today from 10AM to 1PM.  Perhaps the Municipal Government Act will be discussed more, or the capital budget.  Probably not Motion 80 (the Government's version of dealing with the plebiscite). 
The home page of the Legislative Assembly website, with pages on Bills and watching live, is here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/index.php3

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The Federal government committee on electoral reform (ERRE) released a report yesterday, and then the Liberals on the committee has their own response, so things are a bit, um, murky.  More analysis to come.  The report can be found here:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8655791&Language=e&Mode=1&Parl=42&Ses=1
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Related, and also from Saturday's print edition of The Guardian, on-line on Monday the 28th, 2016:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/2016/11/28/dangers-of-broken-electoral-systems-.html

Dangers of Broken Electoral Systems - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

A broken electoral system gave us 10 years of Stephen Harper, a party of one with disdain for parliament and democratic principles. With 36.5 per cent of the vote he had all the power. 

A broken electoral system is in full view right here on Prince Edward Island where a handful of Liberals hold democracy hostage. 37,000 Islanders participated in a democratic process in good faith. Every provincial plebiscite has been honoured by the government of the day until now.

And no, this wasn't a low turn out for a plebiscite, in fact it is second only to the one on the fixed link. Back in the 1920s a mere 28 per cent turned out for a vote on prohibition. Electoral reform is a dry subject; it is a bit of a miracle that so many participated, especially in view of the confusing options and the failure of the Elections P.E.I. to enumerate the youth. Our employees behave like our masters. The Liberals fight for the status quo that benefits the 1 per cent, the lawyers, accountants, consultants and road builders that contribute to their coffers.

It's a broken electoral system that sees a whipped vote quash the clear wishes of Islanders. Islanders are outraged and may have referendum question on the ballot to remind them of Liberal treachery. I am not sure this is a great strategy for the Liberals.

Islanders are not happy and this issue is not going away and 89 per cent of Canadians who participated in electoral reform hearings across the country want some form of proportional representation. I urge Premier MacLauchlan to champion this cause and lead the country.

Teresa Doyle, Bellevue

December 1, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Happy December!

The "Step Up to the Plate" fundraising dinner for the PEI Food Exchange was very tasty and a good time, and I hope a successful event for the group that connects farmers, extra produce, and food-preparing and -saving skills with Islanders. Congratulations and thanks to all those involved.

A few events tomorrow:
Friday, December 2nd:
PEI Farm Centre Holiday Potluck, 6-9PM,
Farm Centre, for gardeners, friends and family. More details here: 
Facebook Event Details

"Home for the Holidays"(musical Christmas show), 7:30-9:30PM, Kings Playhouse, Georgetown. Tickets are $27.  From the description:

Returning to the King’s Playhouse, Georgetown on Friday, December 2, 7:30 pm, is Home for the Holidays featuring all the best of popular Christmas and Holiday music performed by some of PEI’s finest singers : Joey Kitson, Catherine O’Brien and Caroline Bernard backed up by a great band, The Reindeer Express, featuring Deryl Gallant, bass, Alan White, drums, Don Fraser, keyboards, and Perry Williams, guitar. The icing on this special Christmas cake will be the reading of well known Island entertainer, Hank Stinson featuring Island Christmas stories.

Facebook event details

Amazing talent, including Catherine O'Brien who is the chair of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, and on the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I. Board, and many other giving projects.

(The show is also in Charlottetown on Saturday (the City gave away the tickets for that) and in Summerside on December 9th.)

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Friday, December 2nd:
Deadline for public comment on the public school reorganization process so far.  It was last night but the deadline was extended due to power outages.
Here is the link to an on-line comment form, with its rather spinny title:
https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/education-early-learning-and-culture/school-review-better-learning-all
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The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM today. 
The afternoon (after all the usual Greetings and Question Period is Opposition time, so perhaps they will talk about a motion related to the Opposition's interest.  Motions are listed here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/index.php

and the video link is here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/video/video.php

The evening may be going over the capital budget or more of government's bills.  Not sure if Motion 80 will be picked up (Peter Bevan-Baker was in the middle of speaking to it and gets to resume that if it does), or just set aside for a bit more.

The point for most of us know is we want Government to honour the results of the plebiscite and figure out some way to have Mixed Member Proportional Representation be the voting system in the next P.E.I. general election.
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Hope you have a great day despite the weather,
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