June 2015

June 30, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The rally outside the Coles Building today for teachers and parents, organized by the PEI Teachers' Federation, has been cancelled; the Province said it would review the teaching cuts.

The English Language School Board met last night and passed these resolutions:

Three motions passed:

The English Language School Board of Trustees passed the following three motions at a special meeting held Monday night:

- Request the education minister confirm that the curriculum delivery division remain under the jurisdiction of the board for the long term.

- Formally request that the education minister reverse the cuts to teaching positions in the English Language School Board.

- Send a letter to the education minister seeking commitment to engage the board of trustees in regular discussions regarding the school board's priorities in preparation for the department's budgeting process.

(from on-line The Guardian story on the meeting)


Things move quickly, but Education Minister Hal Perry op-ed piece in this morning's The Guardian is still there, justifying the cuts.

Back to yesterday's paper, a letter by Grade 5 student Molly Doyle:


Class sizes more important than Wi-Fi - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Monday, June 29th, 2015, in The Guardian

The hot topic in education right now is all about putting Wi-Fi in our Island schools. Wi-Fi is not important right now. What is important is the increase in class sizes on P.E.I.

What our government should be focusing on is class sizes. All four grade five English classes here at Stratford Elementary School have more than 25 students. That is not OK. The more advanced students in these classes will slowly go down to average because the teacher will be mainly focusing on helping the kids who struggle.

In my math class, there are 29 kids. I know that our teacher spends most of her time with the kids who need more help because that is where she is needed most. I see reasons why, but I believe there should be more support in classrooms challenging the stronger students to help them improve at their own speed.

Class sizes are becoming a serious problem in some schools. At Stratford Elementary, the average class size in grade five this past year was 27.6 students.

What Premier MacLauchlan needs to do is to get more teaching jobs in our Island schools. Wi-Fi will cost a lot. Invest that money in teachers. What do we need more? Mr. MacLauchlan has to prioritize.

Class sizes will slowly increase over the years to come. In kindergarten, there is a maximum number of eighteen students per class. I think there should be a maximum number of students in every class, at every grade. I believe a reasonable amount at every grade (kindergarten as an exception) would be around twenty-one students.

Most kindergarten classes at Glen Stewart Primary are at that 18-student limit. When class sizes are smaller in primary and elementary school, students are more successful in the long term.

Class sizes grow by two or more students between primary and secondary schools. If classes in elementary schools have around 30 students, growing by two or more students going into secondary school is a crazy thought!

The average amount of students in classes in Finland, (highly regarded as number one school system in the world) has an average of twenty students per class.

Smaller class sizes will benefit everyone. That is why our government should reconsider Wi-Fi and re-think cutting teaching jobs.

Molly Doyle is a Grade 5 student at Stratford Elementary School who wrote this letter as part of her class for the unit on persuasive writing.


Another letter, not by an 11 year old, but by regular contributor Gary Walker, related to this government and decisions affecting families:


Island Liberals ignore important debate - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Monday, June 29th, 2015, in The Guardian

In Premier MacLauchlan's first throne speech he declared that "The path to our goals begins with governing well, engaging Islanders in the decisions that shape their future (and) holding government and especially leaders to high standards of ethical conduct and accountability. Well put, one could say.

In Friday's Guardian we read that a group of concerned Islanders trying to draw attention to a bill regarding child welfare was completely ignored, and debate was cut short by the few Liberals actually half-paying attention to a personal account by a caring parent.

Where are these "leaders (with) high standards of ethical conduct and accountability?

Liberal government MLAs 1, engaged Islanders 0. We're off to a great start.

Gary Walker, Charlottetown


The Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM. Last week, Minister Heath Brown (whose motion cut the debate) said some of the government's time this afternoon would be to continue discussion on the original motion (No. 30, "Supporting Island Children with Complex Physical Needs", sponsored by Opposition House Leader and Health Critic James Aylward, and seconded by Leader of the Third Party Peter Beven-Baker), then presumably back to estimates (Heath Brown's Department of Economic Development and Tourism, I think); and tonight is Opposition time. The motion is printed here:


The Legislature can be watched here:


Today's Global Chorus is by Mark Plotkin, who is an ethnobiologist and president of Amazon Conservation Team, which protects "the Amazon in partnership with Indigenous People" Good information and a short video here: http://www.amazonteam.org/

Here is an excerpt:

"But even after so much depredation, some four-fifths of the original Amazon forest remains. There is still time, and moreover, there is new awareness: awareness of the remarkable synergy that occurs when increasingly novel technologies are integrated with traditional knowledge regarding forest management; awareness of the value of that knowledge, amassed and preserved over thousands of years; and awareness in classic Margaret Mead terms“ of the large-scale changes in conservation and consciousness that can be leveraged from relatively small grassroots groups and communities working passionately with the generous support of those with financial resources. These groups exist in multitudes, and thanks in part to those new technologies, their voice is being heard ever louder on the world stage. -- Mark Plotkin

June 29, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Here is an in-depth article on fracking, one town in Utah's horrible infant death rate, and willful blindness: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/fracking-whats-killing-the-babies-of-vernal-utah-20150622?page=2


"In most places, detecting a grave risk to children would inspire people to name a street for you. But in Vernal, a town literally built by oil, raising questions about the safety of fracking will brand you a traitor and a target.">>

Lots of food for thought in it, on many levels, for us.

It's a tough read, though.

Ubi satis rationis animorumque in hominibus erit?

(translation: When will there be enough reason and courage in human beings?)

Some lyrical observations and thoughts, in the Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet essay for today, by Chinese environmentalist Wen Bo. Here is an older article about him:


"In the Planet’s voyage through time and space, we humans are passengers who get on and off.

"The defenders of the Earth, like captain and sailor, see through the mist and far into the horizon. They know we have only this Planet Ark and have to maintain it well.

"When we enslave other people, we end up enslaving ourselves; when we wipe out other species, we lead to our own demise; when we exploit Nature, we will have it hitting back on us.

"We all should answer the call of the Earth guardian and follow the light of the guiding star. And the sail of Planet Ark must go on." -- Wen Bo

June 28, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A Catch-up Day:

UPEI history professor Richard Raiswell commented on the released provincial budget on Monday's CBC Radio Mainstreet political commentary. He brings up some excellent points, including questioning the sustainability of a plan to sell more Island food off-Island to combat our trade deficit. Audio, 4 minutes:


The education cuts dominated the political panels by week's end:

Friday's CBC Radio Island Morning (with more of a partisan bite to it as compared to the Compass one, below, about 19 minutes, audio):


and the suppertime Compass political panel, which also talked about not only what government decided on education but how it failed to communicate the message wrong (a focus which is interesting, but not the big picture for children's sake):

(video and audio, 4 minutes)


Home and School Federation president Peter Rukavina wrote this letter to the editor yesterday, focusing on the big picture


All involved in education must sit down together, focused on students, learning - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Peter Ruvavina

Published on Saturday, June 27th, 2015, in The Guardian

If I have learned anything in my eight years of involvement with Home and School, it’s that public education is a complicated system with many moving parts: issues that appear simple “let’s extend the school day by 30 minutes,” for example are, in truth, a complex thicket of issues ranging from bus routes to union agreements to after-school childcare to the provincial budget.

What gives me great hope is that when all of the partners in public education parents, guardians, teachers, administrators, unions, boards, department work together, great things are possible.

We have only to look at the introduction of kindergarten to the public school system for an example of where a Herculean task was accomplished in a short time. And it worked. New classrooms were constructed. Policies established. Teachers trained. Buses adapted. It worked only because everyone involved was around the same table, helping to make it work, in a co-operative, collaborative spirit.

That spirit is at the core of what Home and School is about: a recognition that effective public education demands an ongoing dialog, focused on the total well-being of every child.

The last week has seen much discussion and debate, both in the political realm and elsewhere, of the education budget, of the number of teachers in the schools, and on the proper roles of the Department of Education and the school boards.

The role of Home and School in this discussion is not to cry foul or fair about the specifics of these issues, but rather to work to ensure that all discussion is focused on ensuring the best possible education for every student, and to ensure that all of the parties involved in making that happen are working together toward that goal.

There is ample evidence to suggest that in the last week we have lost sight of the co-operative, collaborative spirit that has, in the past, allowed us to achieve great things together: our boards of education, the Department of Education, our public officials, and our unions are speaking through the media, appearing as combatants rather than as allies focused on the common good.

As the leader of the P.E.I. Home and School Federation, representing, through local home and school associations, more than 30,000 parents, guardians, teachers, administrators and staff in the Island’s English-language schools, I call upon all parties to sit down around the same table, minds open and focused on students and learning.

In 1968, Minister of Education Gordon Bennett convened a broadly-based Consultative Committee of all those involved in education, characterizing the role of his department thus: “The policy of the Department will be to provide leadership by defining the objectives of education and to work out plans - to study, to define, to foresee needs and to make decisions at the provincial level. At the same time, change that is imposed seldom is effective. We tend to change merely the packaging and not ourselves. As initiators of change, the Department and its co-partners, must study together the needs of each region and find practical solutions.”

It is to that spirit that we must return; our children deserve nothing less.

Peter Rukavina is president of the P.E.I. Home and School Federation and the parent of a 14-year-old son attending Birchwood Intermediate School.


Focusing on education and the cutting of teachers:

There is a rally on education planned for 4PM outside the Coles Building Tuesday. Teachers, parents and concerned Islanders and invited to go. I am assuming the Legislature will be sitting Tuesday 2-5PM and 7-9PM as a normal Tuesday, but not Wednesday afternoon, as it is Canada Day.


The Legislative Assembly website is a treasure trove of facts and records about government. This page, on committees, shows the names of the committees reorganized with this new Legislative Assembly. Only the two final ones have met yet (the rest probably once the Legislature closes for what will be left of summer).


The Bonshaw monthly ceilidh is tonight form 7-9PM, admission by donation, with all proceeds to the Crohn's and Colitis PEI Chapter.

Spencer West, more about him here: http://www.metowe.com/speakers-bureau/, has overcome more challenges than many, and here is his complete Global Chorus essay for June 28th:

"Am I a world-problem solver? Well, if the topic is overcoming obstacles, it’s pretty safe to say I’ve got some 'hands-on' experience. Yet, when it comes to tackling the current global environmental and social crises we all face, some may feel the issues are too colossal to consider on par with personal challenges. It’s a valid point. But don’t all obstacles seem insurmountable when we face them alone? I’m certain it’s how we approach our challenges and not their scope that holds the key. And it’s my profound belief that when we come together as a community to tackle issues – no matter how daunting – and support one another, anything is possible.

I just might be living proof of this. I was born with a rare disorder that rendered my legs essentially useless. The doctors said that I would never sit up or walk, let alone become a functioning member of society. Sure, there’s no denying that I felt discouraged at times, but I was determined to get the most out of life (and, more importantly, put the most back into it!). And it has been the unwavering support of my family and friends – an ever-growing community that believes in me – that has fuelled this conviction, obliterating any doubt that my chosen path is, in turn, to instill belief in others.

"Today, I travel the world as a motivational speaker, meeting thousands of young people each year. All over this planet, I see that same belief in their eyes, and I hear it in their voices. They’re saying, we can redefine what’s possible. And every last one of those voices will echo in my ears later this year when I climb Mount Kilimanjaro with my two best friends to raise funds and awareness for water projects in drought-affected communities in East Africa. No one climbs a mountain by themselves. Because what’s incredibly difficult to face alone diminishes when me becomes we. We are a generation who evens out the odds and defines impossible as possible. There is no can’t or won’t, only how. Let’s not get discouraged. Let’s get together. And let’s get the world to where we know it can be.-- Spencer West

June 27, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

More Farmers' Markets open up each week now that the growing season is here.

Charlottetown's and Summerside's are open, Stratford's is open at Robert Cotton Park from 9AM to 1PM, and Cardigan's is open today, at the Train Station, starting at 10AM.


Regarding food, and with the shutting down of the Queen Street Co-op Food Store closure yesterday in mind (though it will open briefly for folks to buy what's left), here is a thoughtful piece by journalist Ian Petrie, originally written for The Island Farmer.

When Big is Too Big - The Island Farmer article by Ian Petrie

Mark Bittman is a longtime food/agriculture writer for the New York Times. While writing late last month about local efforts in the U.S. to raise minimum wages, he bluntly summed up the role played in food marketing by the largest food retailer in the U.S., Walmart: “It’s…. a corporation whose labor- and farmer-crushing techniques are world renowned. Walmart specializes — indeed, is the leader — in driving down supplier prices regardless of true costs and in under-employing workers for a variety of deplorable reasons….”

Harsh words for sure, but anyone who reads this column knows I fully agree that large retailers “drive down supplier prices (and here’s the most important part for me) regardless of true costs.” In many ways Walmart is doing just what their customers want them to do, give them low prices regardless of how that happens. The arm twisting and threats that go on between suppliers and food retail buyers happen well behind the curtain. We just get to see the result: cheerful happy-face icons knocking back prices on TV ads, and supermarkets that to most in the world are nothing short of food palaces.

Several farmers have told me that there’s been a significant change in their relationship with the marketplace. Most had close working relationships with buyers (brokers or wholesalers), people they had done business with for years. The thing about relationships is that both sides need to feel they benefit and over time that they’ve been treated fairly. Depending on market conditions, buyers have the upper hand some years, sellers in other years, but both realize that they need each other prosper.

That has all changed.

Some farmers say when they call to make a sale often they’re just talking to a computer voice that tells what current prices are and whether the farmer wants to make a sale. Pretty hard to develop a relationship with digital hardware. If it’s not a computer it’s a buyer usually in Toronto who has access to produce from all over the world, and isn’t in the mood to do any bargaining. In fact their job depends on constantly beating back prices. What’s made this situation even more difficult for farmers is that the numbers of buyers has shrunk to a handful. This is what happens when Sobeys and Loblaws gobble up wholesalers and retailers, it gives them more buying power.

Perhaps the most challenging thing for primary producers is that there’s not a chance in hell that governments will do anything to change this. There are many, many more consumers than producers, and consumers (voters) wouldn’t want anyone to change a system that delivers such extraordinary value to them.

But here’s the thing. We do pay a price for all of this. When the marketplace demands cheaper constantly, farmers can respond in only one way, get bigger, and that's when corners get cut and bad decisions made. The crop that could be walked on a Sunday looking for and roguing out trouble early becomes too big, and all of it gets sprayed. Crop rotations require another cash crop rather than a forage that could add organic matter. The sprayer gets hauled out on a windy day because there’s just too much land to cover to wait.

One man who understands all of this is new Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac. His father Leo was a farm leader who fought for years to ensure that farmers were treated fairly. For more than 30 years McIsaac himself milked cows, and was in various leadership roles in the dairy industry. It’s one of a handful of farm businesses that benefit from supply management, the regulated marketing system that does start with “true costs”, and ensures that an efficient farmer can make some money.

Supply management is now in the cross hairs of big business, and the media elite. There’s tremendous pressure to give it up so Canada can benefit from what’s called the Trans Pacific Partnership. If that happens expect to see the number of dairy farms shrink, and PEI’s 60-70 dairy cow herds double or triple in size to try to compete. Again, as in other commodities, consumers would benefit from cheaper butter and cheese, and farmers will be left to “meet the price” or lose the sale.

Let’s end on something more positive. As farmers’ markets fill up with local produce this summer and consumers can look a farmer in the eye, enjoy the moment, know that’s it’s the most constructive thing you can do as a consumer and a citizen. Just make sure you overpay because farmers never ask for enough. You want them around next year too.

Credit: The Island Farmer

I misnamed the federal Riding yesterday for the four candidate (Billy Cann -NDP, Teresa Doyle -Green, Lawrence MacAulay - Liberal, Julius Patkai - Conservative) now named - -it is Cardigan, of course.

Sara Oldfield was the secretary general of Botanical Gardens Conservation International, which "provides a global voice for all botanic gardens, championing and celebrating their inspiring work. We are the world's largest plant conservation network, open to all." from:


"The fascination of plants caught me early in life.

Bluebell woods, ragged robins, scarlet pimpernels,

brilliant red garden poppies and degraded minesites

– all exerted their influence. When I went on

to become a botanist, in becoming acutely aware

of the dangers faced by plant species worldwide, I

became increasingly filled with concern – and have

in turn committed my life’s work toward sustaining

their existence on this planet. But now I know that

we can save plant species from extinction, restore

damaged ecosystems and fundamentally change the

future – if we choose to.

There is a plan, the Global Strategy for Plant

Conservation, signed by governments worldwide.

We need to shout about this, raise the profile of the

Strategy and make sure that it is implemented. We

need to raise funds to secure the basis of our oxygen

and food supply. Wild plant diversity is essential for

the future of the planet. Degraded habitats can be

restored using our accumulated knowledge

of collecting and growing wild plants. Around one-third of

all plant species are cultivated in botanic gardens or

stored in seed banks providing an insurance policy

for the future. Botanic Gardens have formed a new

Ecological Restoration Alliance to use this stored

material together with the knowledge of where and

why species grow in the wild. Combining this with

local and indigenous knowledge provides

a tremendous opportunity to restore natural habitats

– the repositories of wild crop relatives, medicinal plants

and other species of livelihood value for millions of

people who depend directly on natural resources –

and to sequester carbon, using the power of plants.

Save a plant – save the planet!" -- Sara Oldfield

If you are in the Bonshaw area this morning, there is a "painting bee" for the exterior trim outside the Bonshaw Hall, which is right off the highway at Green Road, 10AM until about noon or 1PM. Brushes and such provided.

June 26, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News


Event today Friday, June 26th:

Shoreline Clean Up, Oyster Bed, 8:30AM to noon, sponsored by the Wheatley River Improvement Group and PEI Aquaculture Alliance. Meet at 8:30AM at "Camp Road off of Route 6 at the bend in the road before the Bayside Travel Park." Other shore cleanups are being sponsored across the Island.


Yesterday, Teresa Doyle announced her intent to run for the Green Party in the federal riding of Egmont.

from the CBC website:


P.E.I. musician Teresa Doyle was nominated Thursday to represent the Green Party in the federal riding of Cardigan. Doyle is a sixth-generation Islander from eastern P.E.I., who grew up on a family farm and earned a political science degree from the University of Prince Edward Island. "I care deeply about this Island, about our country and our democracy, which is in a state of crisis," said Doyle in a news release. Doyle will attempt to take the riding from Lawrence MacAulay, who has held it for the Liberals since 1988.

She joins Billy Cann for the NDP, Julius Patkai for the Conservatives, and incumbent Lawrence MacAulay for the October 19th vote.

In the P.E.I. Legislature yesterday afternoon, Question Period questions concentrated on the cuts to the Department of Education and resulting loss of teacher positions.

Thursday afternoon, like Tuesday evenings, is Opposition time, and they worked on motions, the first being No. 30, found here:


about supporting children and families with complex physical needs. It was brought forth by James Aylward (Opposition House Leader and District 6 Stratford-Kinlock MLA) and seconded by Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker. Both told brief, touching stories of families going through hardships and big gaps in help, and Health Minister Doug Currie also spoke to the motion. Then Economic Development and Tourism Minister Heath MacDonald (MLA District 16 Cornwall-Meadowbank) said he wasn't sure of the wording and made a motion to end debate, and having a majority, debate ended with the usual confusion of exactly what motion was being voted on. (fortunately, the Clerk helps get everything untangled in these instances). The Government had a majority in the room, despite, apparently, several government members showing clear inattention to business, as mentioned in The Guardian article this morning, infuriating the parents of affected children and their supporters in the Gallery. It appears that the Government realized how bad this looked and have scheduled to bring debate about the motion back up Tuesday afternoon.


Evening session was back to the Budget Estimates. Opposition House Leader and District 6 Stratford-Kinlock MLA James Aylward was incredibly well prepared and had good questions. He actually had to ask the Chair (Deputy Speaker Sonny Gallant) to remind the Government MLAs not to rush through approving the sections and galloping to the next. Considering the time crunch since the election and Cabinet assigning, Communities, Land and Environment Minister Robert Mitchell is showing alacrity understanding and leading his department.

Also paying attention were Brad Trivers (PC MLA District 18 Rustico-Emerald) asking good environmental questions, and Darlene Compton (District 4 Belfast-Murray River) had an administrator's eye for changes in budget numbers. Some interesting details they brought out where the purchase of a drone and of an ATV last year for recording information and for delivering supplies (respectively), figuring out administration and salaries, and grants. Brad remarked how little the totals going to watershed groups compared to the whole budget, and James talked about helping constituents understand the difference between deep water wells (depth) and high capacity wells (high volume sucked out).

Peter Bevan-Baker and other Opposition members asked about the cost of testing home water for bacteria and chemicals, and even though it is more costly in some provinces, the Department got the message this is a health issue, not a revenue generating endeavor.

Pat Murphy, Liberal MLA for District 26 Alberton-Roseville, jumped in when environmental monitoring was mentioned about the strawberry transplant production facility in the town limits of Alberton, and its use of formulations containing the very-concerning pesticide chloropicrin. The Minister reiterated that he will meet with MLA Murphy and town officials very soon.

The Communities, Land and Environment section finished and a part of Economic Development and Tourism started last night.

The Budget Estimates booklet can be downloaded or viewed here (the middle document):


The Legislature sits this morning from 10AM to 1PM, and will have Question Period and such, and then likely resume Budget Estimates. Video link is on this page:


Global Chorus for today is a poem by Summer Rayne Oakes, activist and model, http://www.summerrayne.net/

Here is an excerpt:

"Realize this:

The extent of our challenges

are now far too vast

for our silver bullets …

The target has grown,

but so has our understanding

and our appetite for

changing our world

in which we live,

For as history has shown,

it is the enduring

and incredible strength

of the human spirit

and ingenuity

that will engender

to overcome,

to survive,

to thrive."

— Summer Rayne Oakes

June 25, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The Legislature sits today from 2-5PM and from 7-9PM. After Welcomes, Statements and Question Period, the rest of the afternoon is Opposition Time, and the PC MLAs set the agenda. Opposition time is also Tuesday evening. Usually during their time, they discuss motions they have proposed for the Legislature to vote on. So far there has been one (No. 6) urging the government to "develop a funding mechanism" for the shingles vaccines for seniors (which was defeated); the complete list of Motions (from both Parties) are listed here:


Tuesday night, Brad Trivers, District 18 Rustico-Emerald and Environment Critic, was discussion Motion No. 5 regarding preparing for Climate Change. Not all motions pass, especially ones the Opposition sponsors, but they usually bring up important issues.

The Opposition is taking their job seriously (for the most part; there is still hooting that is not effective in getting more answers), and the eight-member group can nicely divvy up portfolios and ask some in-depth questions. Notable are the tenacity of questions about Energy from Jamie Fox (District 19 Borden-Kinkora), cool and tough questions regarding Finance by Darlene Compton (District 4 Belfast-Murray River), and Brad Trivers on Environment. Sidney MacEwen (District 7 Morell-Mermaid), one of the younger MLAs, sincerely asked Government members not to be snitty (my words) about the Opposition's questions during these budget estimates, as the questions were not always on the items on the page that the committee was on.

Live Video of the Legislature starts a minute or two after 2PM here:



Paul MacNeill, publisher of the Graphic newspapers, really hits the bull's-eye:


New Premier, Same Old Do Nothing Budget - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill

Published on Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, in The Graphic newspapers

The provincial budget lacked one key ingredient – the vision Islanders expect to see from new Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

During both the Liberal leadership coronation and provincial election the former President of UPEI positioned himself as a man ready to lead a province on the precipice of financial disaster, a reality driven by the fact we spend too much sustaining the public service and too little on ever shrinking frontline services.

Finance Minister Allen Roach called the budget a forward thinking document. It is not. It lacks both vision and courage. A decade ago Tory Premier Pat Binns delivered virtually an identical budget based on optimistic revenue projections and a belief that the burgeoning public service, which accounts for 70 per cent of the $1.6 billion budget, can be reined in through attrition.

It cannot. Pat Binns and Robert Ghiz proved it.

Initially the size of government did shrink. But any gain was short lived and unwieldy. There was no logic to staffing reductions. Under Ghiz staffing returned to not only traditional levels, but swelled to record highs. At the same time taxpayers shell out unprecedented amounts for contract services.

Roach claims he is delivering the budget Islanders demanded. It’s clear the Liberal government was not listening during the provincial election. It’s absolutely true that Islanders expect our government to get its fiscal house in order. But that is not a one-dimensional wish. We want frontline health. We want a world-class education system. We want proactive environmental protection. We want modest and efficient economic development.

Most importantly we want government to put us on the road to long-term sustainability. This can only be achieved by reimaging government and by engaging our fellow Maritime Provinces in substantive sharing of services. It is a subject our elected leaders only tepidly embrace. Health PEI has made great pronouncements about a deal to batch purchase generic drugs, but why not take it a step further and create a single Maritime drug formulary?

We would lead the country.

Three liquor commissions is merely a recipe for patronage, waste and unacceptable financial returns. Why not one?

We would lead the country.

Fifty years ago Alex Campbell called for the Maritime Provinces to adopt a single process for automobile registration and licensing.

It’s time. We would lead the country.

Each of the Maritime Provinces is throwing tens of millions at the sinkhole that is electronic health records. PEI has spent more than $80 million and the budget estimates hide the annual capital costs of maintaining the system. We send at least $4 million annually to the United States corporation that sold naïve bureaucrats and politicians on the necessity of a Cadillac Island specific system. Over and above that we spend $5 million sustaining the system (indicative of a health bureaucracy that is 3.5 times the national average) that nine years on still does not deliver a province wide solution.

Wade MacLauchlan claims to stand for openness and transparency, and to his credit has made some strides to improve basic disclosure. But the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is a national joke. We are the only province where the act prohibits release of provincial employees, their salaries and job titles. Appeals routinely sit in the chronically under-funded commissioner’s office for more than four years. This reality will remain. The FOIPP office does not even warrant its own line item in the provincial budget. Yet Communications PEI, the propaganda arm of government, maintains its $4 million budget.

Education Minister Hal Perry claims the department’s top priority is ‘student achievement.’ The minister does not know what he is talking about.

We spend $1.6 million every year on standardized tests - no budget cut here - that do not improve the education of our children. We adopt yet another standardized test, this one mandatory for graduation, that will only force more students out of music and other programs that offer a fully rounded education.

We adopt a ‘Certificate of Achievement’ for students who complete a general program in high school. Many jobs require high school graduation, but these students will not graduate with their Certificate of Achievement. If they don’t graduate we’ve merely succeeded in giving them more reasons to quit. How is giving any student justification for quitting school an achievement?

It is a policy driven by education bureaucrats, many of whom have not seen the inside of a classroom for years, who routinely ignore the advice of frontline teachers and administrators.

The premier talks of the ‘Gift of Jurisdiction’; as a province we can set our own rule book. But this gift will only last as long as PEI is a province. Merely achieving a balanced budget is a political milestone that does nothing to stop our inevitable march toward insolvency. When that happens union with another province will be forced upon us. This is why picking true Island priorities is so vital. What’s the point of shuffling department titles if the guts of government remain unchanged?

And that is the real story of budget 2015. Missed opportunities.

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


I appreciate what Paul is saying regarding that amalgamating some administration regionally would actually protect us from forced Maritime Union; the knee-jerk reaction is to resist all such overtures as those speeding up the process.

Event Tomorrow, Friday, June 26th:

Shoreline Clean Up, Oyster Bed, 8:30AM to noon, sponsored by the Wheatley River Improvement Group and PEI Aquaculture Alliance. Meet at 8:30AM at "Camp Road off of Route 6 at the bend in the road before the Bayside Travel Park."


Today's Global Chorus is from John Ralston Saul, well-known Canadian author:

"The history of change is clear about this. Those who don’t believe in global warming have gone out and occupied as much power as they can. Power and therefore politics is the mechanism of change. That is how we got public education and public healthcare. We can lobby all we want, but if environmentalists do not seek real power, change will not come." -- John Ralston Saul


Yesterday a Dutch court ruled that the government has to act on climate promises:


June 24, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The Co-op Food Store on Queen Street is set to close next month, part of restructuring that the Atlantic chain is undertaking. The Walker Street Co-op in Charlottetown (with its plum of a gas bar) and the Rustico store are staying open and converting to something in the Sobey's chain (and the rest of the Co-op food stores are truly independent co-ops). But Queen Street Co-op food store is closing (it is currently cutting its hours and is only open 8AM to 6PM for the time being). It's a done deal, as far as I can tell; no options for a new local co-operative to form, or no interest from the large local pharmacy outlet adjacent to help it stay a grocery store for local people. Anyone --including the local MLA (Jordan Brown) or other politicians -- who shrugs and says, "Well, the Sobey's at Allen Street is just around the corner" is encouraged to walk to that other store and back amongst summer traffic now, keeping in mind hauling groceries, pouring rain, winter sidewalks, intersections, bringing along children, being older or more mobility challenged. Many places -- even on P.E.I. -- can be" food deserts". Consider supporting the store (and its ever-pleasant staff) while you can -- it still is quite stocked.

The Charlottetown Farmers' Market is open today from 9AM to 2PM if you are looking for local food or lunch, another great way of supporting Island food producers (if you can get there).

Last week, a local newspaper did a story on a researcher who spoke to a select audience, where he minimized the links between cancer and pesticides. Bringing in experts to P.E.I. happens often enough, when seemingly independent scientists come over and claim authority on a topic (this happened during the Plan B highway project a couple of years ago with an "engineer-from-away" on the front of The Guardian). It's often "called out", as demonstrated in the letter (below the article).

Guardian article (Thursday, June 18th, 2015):



Dr. Len Ritter, professor of toxicology, says non-Hodgkin lymphoma rates, the cancer most often associated with pesticides, are lower in P.E.I. than anywhere else in the country.

There is no evidence that the safe application of agricultural pesticides causes cancer, says a toxicology professor from Ontario.\Dr. Len Ritter, a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph, was in Charlottetown recently to speak to the P.E.I. Potato Board about his research into pesticides.<<snip>>

Guardian letter:


Len Ritter, key supporter for pesticides - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015, in The Guardian

Len Ritter is part of a steadily shrinking cadre of professionals with close ties to the pesticide industry who come out of the woodwork and defend pesticides at the beck and call of Croplife Canada. They parlay their modest academic credentials into a semblance of scientific credibility, usually by a selective use of the scientific literature, limiting their selection to those favourable to the continued sales of synthetic pesticides.

Such individuals ignore the weight of evidence - the broad reach of science on a particular subject - and attempt, as industry always does, to create an appearance of uncertainty and confused evidence, coupled with feigned earnest concern. This technique was perfected decades ago by the tobacco industry, and is now widely used by corporate players world-wide. It masks a fundamental reality: that such players are interested in one thing only, and that is protecting their bottom line.

Pesticides are associated with distinct harms, to human health and to the environment in which we live and on which we absolutely depend. Cancer is only one problem associated with their use. Non-target species destruction, as well as hormone disruption and neurological disease (e.g. Parkinsonism) in humans are other adverse ecosystem and human health effects for which evidence is strong.

When Len Ritter says, "My role is not to advocate the use of pesticides," he is being disingenuous in the extreme, as his past record clearly shows.

Dr. R. Warren Bell,

President, Canadian Association

of Physicians for the Environment

CBC journalist in Quebec, Bernard St-Laurent, recorded his last weekly radio show, C'est la vie, this week, and The Word Lady Johanne Blais surprised him with a recording of national broadcasters and politicians telling him how much they admire him. This 15 minute video clip is from a stationary studio camera.


University of California-Santa Cruz physics and astrophysics professor Joel R. Primack writes this for today's Global Chorus:

"If we can learn to value our beautiful planet and the other things we share higher than the conflicts that divide us, we can create a long-lived planetary civilization. Such longevity will be necessary for ambitious space travel that will require many human generations, but which could make humanity the source of intelligence in the ultimately visible universe." -- Joel R. Primack

The provincial library system has his most popular book, The View from the Center of the Universe, written with Nancy Ellen Abrams.

June 23, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The P.E.I. Legislature sits today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM. The afternoon may start the process of reviewing the budget estimates. The Legislature must go through it pretty much section by section, in a committee of the whole house; the Speaker heads out, leaving another MLA to chair the session, sitting at the table the Clerk and Assistant Clerk usually sit at. It's a bit more informal and the Opposition, the third Party, and government members are allowed to ask questions on the numbers, and then each section is approved.

As far as who is on first, if the departments go in alphabetical order (like calling the coin toss for that tied District seat!), then Agriculture and Fisheries, with Minister Alan ("Flip") McIsaac and Deputy Minister John Jamieson (or another staff person who can explain the budget numbers) will be there.

Three documents are available on-line: the address that Minister Roach read Friday, the 169-page Estimates, and Highlights (which is four very pretty pages):


screenshot from pdf file of "2015 Budget Highlights", from government website above

My understanding is that Tuesday evening is Opposition Night and the Tories will set the agenda, likely going over motions they have proposed, which are listed here with all the motions:


There is the talk on Barn Swallows and Bobolinks, at North Milton Hall, 7:30PM, tonight.

Today's complete Global Chorus essay:

"When we stop the CO2 going into the air we will stop: the Earth warming, the climate changing, the Arctic and Himalayan ice melting, the seas rising, the catastrophe for all species and the present financial crisis. In order to achieve these goals we will have to follow some of the actions carried out in 1939. It is a different war, but a greater emergency.

The actions are as follows:

1. The federal government declares a “State of Emergency.”

2. Government parties form an “All-Party Cabinet.”

3. All deniers and skeptics are given two weeks to declare their loyalty to the country or will be interned until the emergency is over.

4. A carbon tax of $50 per tonne is declared.

5. All defence forces are required to plant several million trees per year, starting with riparian corridors on rivers and highways. No Wars!!

6. No more felling forests.

7. All schools spend one day per week learning how to grow food in school gardens.

8. No more new highways until emergency is over.

9. All possible manufacturing is converted to building alternative energies, and access to the patent office is granted to the energy commission.

10. All coal and coal seam gas to be phased out over five years.

11. All men and women discouraged from increasing the population. Baby bonuses diverted to alternative energies.

12. Funds for alternative energies should flow from superannuation funds: we had the best standard of living while creating the problem.

13. All new houses must have solar panels – mandatory.

14. All lawns should be growing food or trees – not wasting fuel.

These actions may seem draconian to some, but were accepted without delay by the people of Britain, Canada and Australia in 1939. Knowledge of the present conflict was available 30 years ago and still little or nothing is happening. Will we be known as a bunch of wimps by those who may survive?" — Des Ritchie, president of Woodford Folk Festival, a mid-summer (in Eastern Australia) cultural festival with an amazing sense of environmental duty.


Good plan.

June 22, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

An event this week:

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 23rd:

Presentation: "Bobolinks and Barn Swallows", 7:30PM, Milton Community Hall, 7 New Glasgow Road, North Milton. Public information session, to raise awareness for these species. Free.

The P.E.I. Legislature does not sit on Mondays, but Saturday's paper has a short article on Buck Watts, MLA for District 8 Tracadie - Hillsborough Bay, who was elected Speaker of the Legislature by his peers on June 3rd.


Buck stops here - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross

Published on Saturday, June 20th, 2015, in The Guardian

He’s been a fisherman, a lobster buyer, a tugboat operator and a restaurant owner.

As of June 3, Buck Watts can add Speaker of the P.E.I. legislative assembly to his resume.

Watts, whose real name is Francis, is heading into his third-term representing the district of Tracadie-Hillsborough Park.

After eight years on the backbench, the soft-spoken Liberal MLA with a reputation for steering clear of partisan sniping said he thought he paid his dues and wanted to take on a bigger role in the house. “I felt that I probably had something more to add than I had been doing in the last eight years.”

Watts takes the Speaker’s chair as one of the legislative assembly’s most senior MLAs in more ways than one. He turns 71 in November, the same month he celebrates his 50th anniversary with his wife, Margie. It’s also when he starts collecting his MLA pension, which will be going to charity.

And while he said he knows some people think he’s too old to be an MLA, it didn’t keep him from running in the last election. Despite the recent election being his fourth, including a failed bid for a seat in 2003, Watts said he tested the waters and felt he had a good chance of winning again. “I felt I’d done as good as I could to look after my constituents.”

Before becoming an MLA, Watts spent 40 years on the water, including a stint as the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association president in the early 1990s and later as the group’s managing director. It was that introduction to the political world that he said led him to run for a seat in the legislature. “It just stuck to me.”

More than 20 years after becoming president, Watts walked through the doors to the legislature for the first time as Speaker, looked around and thought to himself that he made it. “I looked for this job, I’m in this Speaker’s chair, I gotta try and prove I’m worthy of being here,” he thought at the time.

Now that he is Speaker, Watts said he plans to prove he is worthy by keeping proper decorum in the house. It’s something he thinks has gotten a little worse during his time as an MLA and he doesn’t like when his colleagues shout over each other when someone is speaking. “That’s showing disrespect.”

Although it had its challenges, Watts said fishing was his life and he loved it. It also taught him to respect the sea, which is a lesson he said carries over to his role as Speaker. “You have to have respect for the Speaker and if you do I’ll have respect for you."


The article was accompanied by two charming photos, one of the Speaker in his hat and robe last week; and the other from 1976, of Buck on his fishing boat going through an inspection, in a photo taken to help public relations with DFO, with inspector Florian Bryan.

Buck Watts, Speaker of the Legislature, June 2015 (left) outside of the Coles Building, where the Legislature meets.

Buck in a DFO photo, 1976 (right), with inspector Florian Bryan. Photos from The Guardian website.

Saturday also had a column by Alan Holman on electoral reform, the first of several, he hints:


Democratic renewal: How many MLAs doth a Legislature make? - The Guardian column by Alan Holman

Published on Saturday, June 20th, 2015, in The Guardian

When the Island, and indeed Canada, had two political parties vying for office, elections were much simpler. Whoever got the most votes had a majority and won. But with the addition of third and fourth parties to the race it became possible to win without the support of the majority of voters.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan plans to release a white paper on democratic renewal as part of a plan to strengthen the role of the legislature and the electoral process. That review should also examine the number of MLAs and the boundaries of the provincial ridings.

Representation by population is an inherent element in a representative democracy, but like everything else in life, there are exceptions to the rules.

Federally, P.E.I. is a classic exception to that basic rule. There are single ridings in major cities across Canada that have nearly as many, or more, voters in them as there are on the entire Island. This is a result of the deal made when the Island became part of Canada. At one time, when P.E.I. had 2.5 per cent of the Canadian population, the Island had six MPs. Now with less than a half a per cent of the population the Island is down to four MPs, but, only because of constitutional guarantees. The only places in Canada with fewer people per riding are; Yukon, Nunavut and Labrador. In the rest of Atlantic Canada the ridings average about 80,000 people.

The federal electoral boundaries commission makes an effort to evenly distribute the number of people in each of the Island’s federal ridings, the result is the ridings each have between 34,500 and 36,000 people. When looking at provincial electoral reform, Premier MacLauchlan might bear this in mind.

During the last election campaign, NDP leader Mike Redmond suggested the Island has too many MLAs and they cost too much. Like a lot of populist ideas, his proposition seemed to be based more on emotion than on reason.

If Mr. MacLauchlan is going to strengthen the legislature there has to be enough MLAs to do the work. It’s doubtful reducing the size would necessarily be beneficial.

If the Premier were to use the four federal ridings as a template, he could perhaps get a certain symmetry with say, seven MLAs per federal riding. This would allow for provincial ridings with roughly 5,000 people each, which could vary, plus or minus 1,500. This isn’t a big change, there are now seven MLAs in both the Egmont and Cardigan ridings, eight in Malpeque and five in Charlottetown.

But there are districts that seem illogical. Tyne Valley-Linkletter, Tracadie-Hillsborough Park, Morell-Mermaid and Vernon River-Stratford. All of these ridings have large rural areas with large suburban populations that are used to beef up the district numbers. The people of Mermaid are closer to Stratford than Morell. Linkletter, St. Eleanor’s and Sherbrooke are suburbs of Summerside and all four communities could easily be divided into three provincial ridings. Hillsborough Park, now in Tracadie-Hillsborough Park should be part of a Charlottetown riding.

The suburban parts of these ridings have little in common with the rural areas. It should be possible to join the suburban elements, around Summerside and Charlottetown, in a way that reflects their common interests and realign the rural areas into more cohesive districts without dramatically upsetting the existing rural-urban split.

As to the total number of seats in the legislature, this should be determined before redistribution takes place. If the federal data is used to evenly distribute the provincial seats, whether it be six, seven or eight per federal riding it doesn’t make a lot of difference. The Island has had 32 MLAs in the recent past, but a 24-seat legislature seems a little skimpy.

(More on electoral systems in another column.)

- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca

Sarah van Gelder is the founder and editor-in-chief of the quarterly YES! magazine.

from: http://www.yesmagazine.org/ :

"YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, we outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world."

She writes for today's Global Chorus:

"It takes humility to recognize that 'progress' isn’t always for the better and that our future relies

on learning Nature’s original ideas:

  • Nature works in cycles. Every kind of waste nourishes something else.

  • Nature is a network of relationships capable of generating yet more life and relationships, in unimaginably diverse forms.

  • Nature uses current energy (mostly from the sun), and it doesn’t draw down the principal of the Earth’s largess. It lives off the interest."

-- Sarah van Gelder

June 21, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

This afternoon, likely before too much rain, is the Native Trees and Shrubs workshop at Macphail Woods in Orwell, 2-4PM. Meet at the Nature Centre. Free, but I suspect donations to the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project are always appreciated.


Some views on supporting farmers, and figuring out what's happened in the past 70 years or so:


Roger Greaves explains it well:


Pesticide Free P.E.I. supporting farmers - The Guardian Letter to the Editor by Roger Greaves

Published on Thursday, June 18th, 2015

At the end of the Second World War, the arms industries, (described by President Dwight Eisenhower as the military industrial complex), needed to diversify from arms manufacturing to peacetime manufacturing.

Many of these corporations chose to manufacture chemicals and pesticides for agriculture, very little of which existed prior to 1946.

Agriculture was revolutionized. Governments embraced this new approach to farming and so farmers had very little choice but to comply with the new realities.

Each year the amount of chemicals sprayed on our Island, in order for our farmers to survive, increased.

The toxicity of our environment increases each year. Agricultural chemicals are starting to appear in our ground water. Soil erosion is increasing each year. Anaxica algae are creating dead zones in our waterways. Most people agree that this level of chemical use is unsustainable. But no one seems to know what to do about all this. The stability of our Island’s economy is tied to the use of these chemicals.

If we wish to protect our environment for future generations, a majority of Islanders would like to see a reversal of this trend by:

- Financial incentives to farmers who reduce the amount of chemicals they use;

- Research into agricultural products that require less use of chemicals and financial incentives to farmers to start growing these products;

- Financial supports to farmers who wish too start less toxic farming practices;

- A new government department or ministry or private research company with a mandate to achieve these goals;

- Plus any innovative ideas that we come up with.

There is no blame here, least of all our farmers.

If there is any blame it’s on the corporations, who for the sake of profit forced this new unsustainable model of agriculture on us all.

Roger Greaves, Stratford


From David Weale, looking at the big picture:


Friends of farmers depends on scale - The Guardian Letter to the Editor by David Weale

Published on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Here’s something to consider for those defenders of the way we are farming on P.E.I. – those who consider themselves ‘friends’ of farmers.

Most of us, of course, have friends who are farmers, but looked at from a broader view, what does it actually mean? Ponder this if you will.

You cannot be a both defender of industrial farming and a friend of farmers. Why? Because large-scale farming destroys farms. It has been responsible in the last fifty years for eliminating approximately 75 per cent of the farmers in Canada, and an even higher percentage on Prince Edward Island.

The truth is, industrial agriculture loves big machinery and big corporations more than it loves farmers, and is always moving in the direction of getting rid of as many of them as possible. It’s part of the formula.

It might be a hard pill for some to swallow, but the folk opposing the current model of agriculture are the true lovers of farmers, and the culture of growing food.

So to all those party-faithful MLAs who recently defended the status quo in farming I say, “what sand dune have you had your head stuck into the last few decades as farmers were being forced off the farms in droves by the very system you’re supporting?”

If you really do love farming then for God’s sake be willing to enter into a serious discussion about how we can increase the number of farm families on the Island and avoid eliminating the diminishing number that are left.

David Weale,

Vision P.E.I.

Global Chorus is written today by Paolo Soleri, who is founder of the Arcosanti, which is: "an urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability. Our goal is to actively pursue lean alternatives to urban sprawl based on Paolo Soleri's theory of compact city design, Arcology, (architecture + ecology)." Quoted from: https://arcosanti.org/

An excerpt:

"Our responsibilities as habitat makers are great. Eventually every single one of us must respond to his or her conscience: will we be makers or breakers of a sustainable civilization, a coherent ecology on our planet?" -- Paolo Saleri

June 20, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today, farmers' markets are open in Charlottetown and Summerside, and I am sure more are opening soon (if not already open). Charlottetown's will be open on Wednesdays, too, and it is a great place to go if you want to see it a little less crowded, or go for lunch or a snack.

Pauline Howard has put together a wonderful list of CSAs (community supported agriculture groups), here on the PEI Food Exchange website:


if you are interested in seeing what's still available close to you in the way of shared vegetable (or other) boxes. Many vegetable CSA box deliveries are starting around now.

You really just have to look at a pie chart of the 2015-2016 P.E.I. provincial budget to see that interest payments on the debt -- which generates nothing but maybe the job of a few money managers -- is almost the same amount of money as the entire education department, which employs our Island's teachers, etc. It is interesting to note that agriculture, fisheries and environment only accounts for 3% of the budget.

screenshot from The Guardian's website, June 19th, 2015

Yesterday's Guardian carried an op-ed piece about last week's forum on electoral reform, and thoughts for the future; the complete article is here:


Islanders indicate willingness to support electoral reform - The Guardian Letter to the Editor by Matt Campbell and Jesse Hitchcock

Published on Friday, June 19th, 2015, in The Guardian

More than six weeks on, Islanders are still talking elections.

No, not the results of last month’s May 4 vote - but the next one.

Last Thursday, Premier Wade MacLauchlan committed to studying electoral reform as part of the government’s wider commitment on strengthening our democracy. “It’s quite reasonable to expect that reform of the electoral system would be part of the examination,” he said in the legislature, referencing the White Paper announced in the Throne Speech.

Is Prince Edward Island finally ready for electoral reform?

That’s the question we asked at The Guild last week, where more than 100 islanders gathered for a panel discussion on the topic.

The discussion was lively and engaging, and although there were a few sparks, consensus quickly emerged in a few areas. Perhaps this can give the drafters of the White Paper something to work with.

First, the coin toss. “I haven’t met anyone who thought that was the right way for the tie to be decided,” said Mary Ellen McInnis, the defeated PC candidate in Vernon River-Stratford. There was a general agreement both on stage and in the room that ties should be settled through byelections, not currency.

Next, Bobby Morrissey, federal Liberal candidate for Egmont, argued against lopsided legislatures, noting that a government with 26 members and one lonely person in opposition isn’t good for democracy. Again, a general consensus that more diverse voices in the House is a good thing.

Finally, Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker took aim at our current first-past-the-post voting system, likening it to haggis. He made the case for reform, arguing that if we had the option, wouldn’t we rather have ground beef or steak?

Luckily Islanders have a choice.

There are two main routes to improve our first-past-the-post voting system.

The first, ranked-choice voting, has voters rank their choices in order of preference instead of marking an ‘x.’ The idea is that if our first choice does not win, your vote is then transferred to your second choice, and so on, until a winner is declared.

Ranked ballots would solve the problem of vote-splitting and strategic voting, giving us the chance to vote for our preferred candidate without having to worry about whoever “has the best chance.” It also forces candidates to work harder, reaching beyond their traditional base and fosters a more positive political culture. This would be a major improvement on the status quo.

But ranking candidates wouldn’t guarantee more seats for third and fourth parties. That’s where proportional representation comes in.

Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) is a proportional system that would have constituency as well as party seats in order to balance out the legislature. It maintains regional representation, while ensuring the share of the vote a party receives roughly reflects the number of seats it holds in the legislature. MMP would also eliminate the lopsided legislatures we’ve seen in recent decades.

A common strike against MMP is that it is too complicated for the public to understand and would lead to a string of minority or coalition governments. While some members of the panel expressed concern about the complexity of the system, noting that Islanders “don’t like change,” the audience howled in disagreement. One individual argued that if other countries and provinces can figure out how to navigate modernized electoral systems, Islanders can surely manage to do the same.

Another main point of contention is the 2005 plebiscite: Islanders voted against MMP a decade ago, so how much weight should that decision hold today? If the most recent provincial election shows us anything, it is that the political landscape has changed. With a voter turnout of 86 per cent, the first Green Party MLA in history, and a record number of votes for third and fourth parties, this isn’t your father’s red-blue dichotomy.

The good news is we do have a choice. On the way out of the panel last week we invited attendees to cast a ballot for the electoral system of their choice. After a thorough discussion of the options, including the status quo, 93 per cent of the room opted for a form of ranked-choice voting or proportional representation (the majority preferring the latter).

That so many Islanders attended - including MLAs, three of four Party leaders, and many others watching the broadcast from home - shows that the issue struck a chord.

With commitments from three of four federal parties, electoral reform is coming to Canada. Why not begin here? Whether we choose ranked ballots or proportional representation, either option would be a major step forward. But one thing's for sure: it’s time to get rid of haggis.

Matt Campbell is a policy analyst, former aide to Roméo Dallaire and Michael Ignatieff, and uprooted Islander based in Halifax. Jesse Hitchcock is an environmental science graduate student and co-founder of the Young Voters of P.E.I.. She is based in Charlottetown.

Today's Global Chorus essay is by Roman Dial, who known for his Alaskan explorations. (Sadly, last summer (presumably after he submitting this piece) had his biologist son Cody never return from a solo trip in the jungle of Costa Rica. An in-depth magazine story by Damon Tabor is here: http://www.mensjournal.com/magazine/lost-in-the-jungle-the-search-for-cody-dial-20150206 )

Roman Dial writes:

"The early, exponential growth of natural communities always levels out, unless a physical force wipes it clean. Our population will obey these laws of resource consumption, no matter what the economists and politicians claim."

June 19, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Today the Legislature sits from 10AM to 1PM, and all are welcome. The 2015-2016 Provincial budget will be introduced; and for it to pass completely, each Department's budget must be looked at line by line, and sections passed. This scrutiny gives the Opposition (in fact, any MLA) a chance to ask questions, and will likely take of most of next week. There will be interesting times to pop in and watch the proceedings.

The video link to watch is here:


Thursday night, the Considerations on the Speech from the Throne ended after several more Government MLAs spoke to it, the Lieutenant Governor came in, royal assent given and handshakes all around. Then they got into second reading of a couple of bills, including one changing some income tax rates (which was announced recently). Opposition House Leader James Aylward (District 6 Stratford-Kinlock) and others tried hard to interpret the timing of this bill, and asked if it meant HST was going up, but Finance Minister Roach just said, Interpret it as you see fit.


Many events going on this lovely weekend with its long days and short nights:

The first event to mention is a request from Kat Murphy, one of the most giving persons involved in the Plan B opposition:

Saturday, June 20th, PEI-MUMM Medical Cannabis Conference, 10AM to 4PM, Murphy's Community Centre, donations accepted at the door.

More info:



Saturday, June 20th, Tree Planting in Bangor, 1-4PM (any of that time),

More details from their press release:

Creating a natural area on the Bangor Road near Morell

Gary Schneider, 651-2575

Put on your boots, grab a shovel and lend a hand to the second phase of our Confederation Forest in Bangor on Saturday, June 20. The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, with support from Environment Canada’s Eco-Action program and the Island Nature Trust, are working to create a new four-hectare Acadian forest.

The planting area is part of a property donated to the Island Nature Trust by Jim and Barbara Munves, who have had a lifelong interest in protecting and improving our environment. It is located 8km south of Morell along the Bangor Road (Route #321) and there will be signage at the site to direct volunteers.

Islanders are invited to come out anytime from 1-4pm and help create a unique legacy of our commitment to healthy forests and communities.

Volunteers will be planting native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns, including red oak, white ash, witch hazel, yellow coneflower, swamp milkweed and blue flag iris. Throughout the afternoon, Macphail Woods staff will be teaching best planting practices, offering pruning tips and helping with identification. Be prepared to get your hands dirty.

We will also be doing more plantings during the year at this site and our other Confederation Forest sites in Fernwood and the Upton Farmland over the next two years.

For more information and a map to the planting site, visit our website (macphailwoods.org), check out our Facebook page, or call 651-2575.


Sunday, June 21st, Workshop, "Learning about Native Trees and Shrubs", 2PM, Macphail Woods Nature Centre, free.

Learning about native trees and shrubs

The public is invited to a workshop on native trees and shrubs at the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead in Orwell on Sunday, June 21. Led by staff of the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, the workshop begins at 2pm at the Nature Centre and will focus on all things related to native trees and shrubs.

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

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

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


Sunday, June 21st, 7:30PM, Small Halls (near) Charlottetown: Meghan Blanchard, JJ Chaisson and Lina Boudreau, Carrefour de I'Isle-Sant-Jean School, 5 promenade acadienne, Ch'town. For more details, see:


The whole list is here:


Global Chorus today is by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, botanist and environmental activist,

and author of The Sweetness of a Simple Life and The Global Forest: Forty Ways Trees Can Save Us. Here is an excerpt:

"A mountain of my childhood in Ireland was called Dόchus, or hope. And hope alone, braids the entire human family together. In turn, we are just one ply of Nature in a common pattern of language of life." -- Diana Beresford-Kroeger

And yesterday the Pope unveiled his encyclical on climate change; a thank-you from Global Chorus' Facebook page:

"A pivotal day in our world...Thank you, Pope Francis, for your brave and insightful encyclical of June 18, 2015: 'Laudato Si (Praise Be), On the Care of Our Common Home.' May these words help raise consciousness and promote action surrounding all that must be done in the coming years for our Earth."


June 18, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Last night, The Town of Stratford announced it will write a cosmetic pesticide by-law:


Stratford, PE – Tonight at the Regular Monthly Council meeting, the Town Council announced its intention to enact a cosmetic pesticide bylaw, effective January 1st, 2016 and released a draft bylaw for public consultation.

The bylaw is on the page of the link.

Yesterday in the provincial legislature, Environment Minister Robert Mitchell announced that a Watershed Strategy report had been finalized and was released (online here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/cle_wtrshdstrat.pdf

The press release is here:


I gather it has been a long time in the making, but will likely be of some use. It is about 20 pages long, with links to other related publications.


Environment Minister (technically, Communities, Land and Environment Minister) Mitchell was asked about the status and procedure for a Water Act, questions raised very diligently by District 19 Rustico-Emerald Tory MLA Brad Trivers, the Communities, Land and Environment Opposition Critic.

I am summarizing and will check with the written record later, so I may have something wrong, but it sounds like the process for the Water Act will be:

A "white paper" on considerations and the process will be released in the next few weeks.

The public (and interested groups) will have several weeks to look at it.

"Phase 1" Public Consultations -- several, many locations, and at "convenient times for Islanders" -- will take place on the White Paper. (early Fall, I think)

The Department will take all the considerations and go write the Water Act draft. (no time given)

The draft Water Act will be released for public consideration (no time given).

The draft Water Act will be taken on the road for public comment ("Phase 2" Public Consultations).

The Water Act will be introduced in the Legislature. (no time given)

So, what do you want to see in the process of making, and in the eventual Water Act? Grab a post-in note and start making your list.


The Legislature sits from 2-5PM, and 7-9PM today. You can watch or listen to it live here:


The afternoon, I think, is Opposition Afternoon, and after Question Period and such, the Opposition will speak to their Motions [incidentally, the longer the Spring Sitting (i.e., the longer the Considerations on The Speech from the Throne continue), the more Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons happen for the Opposition to go through their Motions, which often bring to light very important issues;the list of all Motions is here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/motions/index.php]. I don't know if the Considerations on the Throne Speech will be done this evening and then the budget tabled, or that will happen tomorrow.

Pete Hay is a Tasmanian social theorist, and he writes for today's Global Chorus:

"There is another tipping point. It is in the realm of culture, and it can effect change with unpredictable rapidity. It can prise political and economic rigidities open. If anyone had predicted in early 1989 that the Berlin Wall would be breached by year’s end we’d have laughed. Yet it happened." -- Pete Hay

June 17, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

It's been an energetic week in the provincial Legislature:

Jamie Foxx, MLA for District 18 (Borden-Kinkora) and the Opposition Critic for Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, continued to question Minister of Energy Paula Biggar yesterday about what the Island's energy plans are. He has a lot of actual figures about what the proposals will cost Islanders over time.

Monday afternoon, CBC Radio Mainstreet columnist Richard Raiswell commented on the discussions on a new generator, some cables, and the Island's energy policy (or lack thereof).


Ian Petrie, former CBC journalist, wrote this informative narrative about where we are with energy in P.E.I. It looks long but it just flows along.

from VisionPEI's Facebook page:


Anyone Want to Buy a Jet Engine?

by Ian Petrie

posted Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

“We’re always looking for ways to lower down our electricity costs but also in terms of providing more green energy for our province”. That was former Premier Robert Ghiz late last December, just after one of his final trips as premier. He had been to Quebec and had initiated discussions with Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard about PEI purchasing some of the excess hydro power Quebec is trying to find markets for. Instead the newly elected Liberal Government under premier Wade MacLauchlan announced something very different in their first energy release: a plan to finance a $50 Million dollar turbine (essentially a jet engine), to be built along side another similar turbine in the Maritime Electric compound near the Charlottetown waterfront. What happened?

For decades PEI has bought virtually all its power from the big crown utility in New Brunswick, supplied by the two underwater cables (40 years old and in need of replacement). Maritime Electric does have its own production capabilities: 5 heavy oil generators at the “thermal” station near the Charlottetown waterfront, a decade ago a diesel fired turbine generator (jet engine) was added in Charlottetown, and there are 2 diesel generators in Bordon. These are used when NB Power can’t supply, or demand is higher on PEI than expected.

Then there's one other big change, something most Islanders are very proud of: three publicly owned wind farms in the Eastern and Western ends of the Island supplying 52 MW when the wind is blowing. That’s just about the same amount of power as the jet engine turbine (rated at 50MW) supplies. (The town of Summerside also has a publicly owned wind farm just outside of town).

Many of us hope for a time when wind, solar, some small hydro and tidal production, would allow PEI to stand on its own as a renewable energy mecca. We’re not there yet. These renewable sources are intermittent (the wind doesn’t blow all of the time, the sun doesn’t shine) so utilities have to have comparable back-up power. If we all agreed to only demand power when the wind is blowing, and that a third of us would use power at any one time, we might be able to pull it off, but as we know people want to make toast, vacuum their house, watch the hockey game, run freezers at food processing plants, etc etc, whenever they want, day and night.

PEI is already at the high end of wind energy production relative to total demand (30%), and the best spots on the Island to produce wind energy are almost all taken. There are three other private wind farms mostly selling wind energy to the United States. Smart grid technology, wider use of electric cars that could be charged at night when the wind is blowing and demand is down, the new Tesla storage systems, breakthroughs in bigger storage systems, all will push PEI much closer to the renewable energy world we all want.

So here we are. Two things are driving the decision to purchase a second turbine generator for the Charlottetown plant: heat pumps, and the ability of PEI to continue belonging to a very large electricity grid that extends through New Brunswick into New England. There is a lot of evidence that heat pumps will be an important part of a renewable energy future for cold countries like Canada. Heat pumps are like refrigerators, compressing gas that then draws heat from its surroundings, and then moves, not creates, this heat from the outside of the house to the inside, either from groundwater or the air itself. In most cases they replace the burning of furnace oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels going, so that’s a plus right away. If the electricity used to run the heat pumps comes from renewable sources like wind, then the climate change advantages are even greater. Heat pumps are helping PEI move away from burning carbon.

Whether it’s concern for the environment or their pocketbooks, Islanders have taken to heat pumps with a vengeance, and that’s increased the demand for power which Maritime Electric has an obligation to supply. Peak demand used to be around Christmas at close to 200 MWH, now it’s more than 250 MWH during the coldest months in January and February. There is simply more demand for electricity.

PEI is also part of a very large electrical grid where a half dozen jurisdictions support each other’s system in case of local failures. To prevent cascading blackouts, participants like PEI have to be able to supply a percentage of its demand. Another need for more local production.

Could we get this power from a greener source? Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker has suggested looking at a proposed biomass generator, using crop and wood waste, straw, and so on. It’s certainly greener than burning diesel, but there are environmental costs from not leaving wood and crop waste to replenish the land. PEI’s Energy Minister Paula Biggar says she will explore the idea.

I think the other area worth exploring is promoting the use of solar energy. The capital costs have come down dramatically, and local companies like Renewable Lifestyles in Summerside, are setting up solar systems on farms, homes and businesses. If enough people were to do this over the next decade, it would cut down on the generating capacity needed by Maritime Electric. This could be pushed along by removing the HST on renewable energy components, low interest loans to homeowners (it’s about a 7 to 10 year payback right now) and developing what’s called a feed-in tariff for small producers, a price for power produced locally. Right now, homeowners producing power benefit only from “net metering”: they get a credit on their power bill based on the surplus power they feed into the grid.

There has always been an awkward relationship between Maritime Electric, the PEI government, and rate payers. Electricity is an essential service. Maritime Electric is a private company with a pretty sweet deal when it comes to recovering its costs, and a healthy profit. It’s guaranteed by law. It’s the cost of power that governments have focused on over the years (Islanders pay some of the highest rates in the country), but many want to see attention paid now to how the electricity is produced. A decade ago the Pat Binns government had to push Maritime Electric hard to accept power coming from wind farms. The company overcame the technical hurdles, and PEI has benefitted. We need to see leadership again from the MacLauchlan government to make sure the best choices are made. (and don’t let Ghiz’s policy initiative with Quebec get forgotten.)

Cost will again become the headline once the energy accord runs out this year, but let’s make sure that other values are at play too. PEI has a so much to lose from climate change and rising seas, let’s make sure we’re doing our part to reduce the use of carbon. If we won’t why should anyone else.

The P.E.i. Provincial Legislature only sits from 2-5PM today, and you can watch it here on livestreaming video:


On this page there are also tweets, and the buttons to watch live.

Andy Lipkis is founder of "TreePeople", which:

"is a nonprofit organization that is growing a green and climate-resilient Los Angeles, one with enough tree canopy, healthy soil, and clean local water in even our most urban neighborhoods. We work with communities to transform LA’s landscapes into living, healthy watersheds: in homes, neighborhoods and schools, in our local mountains and at our 45-acre park. We also have deep roots working with policymakers to demonstrate new green and viable infrastructure solutions for a sustainable city."

He is described as "a practical visionary who has dedicated his life to healing the environment and improving the lives of individuals and communities,"

and he writes:

"I’ve seen millions of people experience their true joy and power when they work together and devote themselves to helping. They experience that the most selfish thing they can do is what others have said is contrary to the basic human nature: they get better, stronger and happier when they co-create with other people." -- Andy Lipkis

June 16, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

There was a lot of excitement last night, and not just about Chicago (and Murray Harbour's Brad Richards) winning the Stanley Cup. ;-)

Charlottetown City Council held their monthly meeting, and on the agenda were both the Declaration of the Right to a Healthy Environment, and the second and perhaps third reading of the City's proposed cosmetic pesticide by-law.

The Declaration, based on the Blue Dot Movement as originally championed by the David Suzuki Foundation, was passed unanimously and makes Charlottetown the first community on P.E.I. to pass the Declaration. It's great news and due to a lot of work, by Blue Dot PEI and certainly the City's Environment and Sustainability Committee and staff.

In this declaration, rather than the community declaring that the province and federal governments promote these rights, Charlottetown changed this to the less punchy asking the Federation of Municipalities to request that local councils and Federation of Municipalities delegates consider the Declaration.

The draft Declaration wording is at the end of this News.


The discussion about the cosmetic pesticide bylaw was confusing, people who were there reported. Here is an article on it:


Charlottetown city council hits the brakes on cosmetic pesticides - The Guardian article by Dave Stewart

Published Monday, June 15th, 2015, on The Guardian's website

They asked for the power. Now they may be giving it back.

Less than a year after Charlottetown city council asked the provincial government for the right to enact a bylaw regulating the use of cosmetic pesticides (which the province granted) there was an effort on Monday night to give it right back.

Council was set to give the pesticide bylaw second reading when Coun. Bob Doiron, chairman of the environment and sustainability committee, put a motion on the floor to send the issue back to the province.

Before a vote could take place, Mayor Clifford Lee stepped in asking to defer the matter to a committee of the whole meeting. That’s where council meets behind closed doors. He was successful although Lee stressed Monday night the actual vote will take place in public. “The ban we were given by the province is like a 25 per cent ban,’’ Doiron told the media following council’s June public meeting. “It doesn’t ban golf courses, it doesn’t ban farms and it doesn’t ban the average person going to Home Depot or Canadian Tire and buying their pesticides and spraying.’’

Doiron said what it does do is prevent professionals from spraying product, leaving it in the hands of the average resident. “We need strong legislation from the provincial government.’’

A group of residents in favour of pesticide restrictions were at the meeting and were not pleased with the outcome. “I’m surprised because I wasn’t expecting this,’’ said Roger Gordon, a retired biologist and former UPEI dean of science, who was asked by the residents at the meeting to speak to the media. “I’m appalled at what council has done. It is my understanding municipalities wanted to have the authority to regulate these pesticides so I feel they have abrogated their leadership.’’

Gordon said council is playing “footsie’’ with products that harm the health of residents.

"This is just outrageous that council would do something like this.’’

Council seems divided on the issue.

Coun. Eddie Rice isn’t handling the issue right at all. <<Chris note: not sure this is what they mean but it is sic as in "thus it was written"!>

“I was quite shocked with the process that, all of a sudden, we had a resolution where we send it back to the province. I hadn’t heard one word until a couple of minutes before,’’ Rice said. “We went to the province and asked for this. The province didn’t bring it to use.’’

Lee said it only makes sense that the province deal with it so there aren’t 74 different rules for 74 P.E.I. municipalities. But . . . “I’ve asked the province for the authority to deal with this issue and that’s because the province is not dealing with the issue,’’ Lee said. “I think everybody would be happier because you would have one set of rules for everybody.’’

Lee said council needs to decide what it wants to do, pass a bylaw or hand it back to the province, very soon. Doiron said he’s already spoken to Robert Mitchell, minister responsible for communities, about it. “He had concern with giving us jurisdiction in the first place,’’ Doiron said. “(The province) has the resources, expertise (and) economic ability to enforce it.’’

Doiron added that Halifax asked for the power to regulate cosmetic pesticides and then handed it back to the province. The same thing, he said, happened in New Brunswick and other provinces.

Tonight is the NDP nominating meeting for the federal district of Malpeque, at the home of Leah-Jane Hayward, who is putting her name forward. All are welcome. More details here:


And the P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM today. You can watch it here:


Global Chorus today is by Leila Connors, who started Tree Media. http://www.treemedia.com/ which is "a production company with a mission to use stories and media to encourage an open society based on wisdom and informed, positive action."

"Much of humanity is currently living in a somnambulant state because we have been raised (since the industrial revolution) to depend on centralized processes and large-scale corporations that create great distances between us and the realities that support our way of life. We have given over the responsibility for much of our lives to forces that make us feel infantile and powerless. It is in this distance and in this lack of responsibility where the destructive forces live." -- Leila Connors

<<Charlottetown wording of Declaration: DRAFT


WHEREAS the City of Charlottetown understands that people are part of the

environment, and that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the well-being

of the community;

WHEREAS the City of Charlottetown’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan

provides a strong policy foundation and outlines the City’s vision, goals and actions

to develop a more sustainable, healthy future;

AND WHEREAS the City’s goals to pursue actions and initiatives that contribute to a

safe, healthy environment align with the global campaign for the right to live in such


BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the City of Charlottetown declares that:

1) All people have the right to live in a healthy environment, including: the right to

breathe clean air; the right to drink clean water; the right to consume safe food; the

right to access nature; the right to know about pollutants and contaminants

released into the local environment; and, the right to participate in decision making

that will affect the environment.

2) The City of Charlottetown has the responsibility, within its jurisdiction, to respect,

fulfill and promote these rights.

3) The City of Charlottetown will consider objectives, targets, timelines and actions

within its jurisdiction to fulfill its citizens’ rights to a healthy environment.

4) The City of Charlottetown shall consider costs to human health and the

environment when evaluating reasonably foreseen costs of proposed actions and


AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Charlottetown forward this

resolution to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) requesting favourable

consideration by local councils and by FCM delegates.

June 15, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Happening today:

Charlottetown City Council Meeting, 4:30PM, City Hall (corner of Queen and Kent streets) to discuss the amended cosmetic pesticide ban. A declaration regarding "The Right to a Healthy Environment" may also be on the agenda! The meeting is open to the public.

Norman Russell critiques current events, including actions by the Harper government, in his blog, HopeCanada. Unlike some posters on social media (including one on the Citizens' Alliance Facebook page), he manages to express his ideas quite clearly without shouting (typing in all capitals) or posting inflammatory photos plucked from somewhere on the web.

This essay is on the firing of Evan Soloman from the CBC:


It was a week where Bernard St-Laurent announced his retirement set for June 26th from the CBC, including hosting the English program on French language and culture, "C'est la vie", too. Sigh.

"Ideas" is still alive on CBC, and recently there was an interesting three part series; I have not listened to them completely, but here is the description from Bradley Walters, professor of environmental studies at Mount Allison in New Brunswick (who shares news on shale gas issues, also):

I highly recommend this excellent, 3-part radio series, produced by CBC’s highly-regarded “Ideas” program. Links to podcasts and brief descriptions of each episode can be found below. While there is some emphasis on recent Canadian examples, coverage is quite broad and so this program will be of interest to anyone curious about the relationship between science and politics throughout history and in contemporary times. --Brad

Science Under Siege - CBC 3-part series (each one about an hour long)


Are we living through an Anti-Scientific Revolution? Scientists around the world are increasingly restricted in what they can research, publish and say -- constrained by belief and ideology from all sides. Historically, science has always had a thorny relationship with institutions of power. But what happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? And how can science lift the siege? CBC Radio producer Mary Lynk looks for some answers in this three-part series.

Science Under Siege, Part 1: Dangers of Ignorance - airs Wednesday, June 3

Explores the historical tension between science and political power and the sometimes fraught relationship between the two over the centuries. But what happens when science gets sidelined? What happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research?

Science Under Siege, Part 2: The Great Divide - airs Thursday, June 4

Explores the state of science in the modern world, and the expanding -- and dangerous -- gulf between scientists and the rest of society. Many policy makers, politicians and members of the public are giving belief and ideology the same standing as scientific evidence. Are we now seeing an Anti-Scientific revolution? A look at how evidence-based decision making has been sidelined.

Science Under Siege, Part 3: Fighting Back - airs Friday, June 5

Focuses on the culture war being waged on science, and possible solutions for reintegrating science and society. The attack on science is coming from all sides, both the left and right of the political spectrum. How can the principle of direct observation of the world, free of any influence from corporate or any other influence, reassert itself? The final episode of this series looks at how science can withstand the attack against it and overcome ideology and belief.

A very sobering Global Chorus essay today, printed in its entirety, from Will Potter, an American journalist who writes about threats to free speech, and about the labeling of environmentalists as extremists and terrorists. His website ("Green is the New Red") is here: http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/

He writes:

"I have been struggling to write something about hope and perseverance in this space, because today, like many days, the weight of the challenge ahead of us makes me feel quite dark.

It strikes me, though, that the greatest danger of that darkness is that we always convince ourselves that it is unique to us and we are experiencing it alone. Far from it.

Whatever doubts and despair you may feel as you read these passages and engage with the state of our culture and our planet, know this: you are not the only one feeling it. I am here. So are millions more. I say this not so we can take solace in each other’s despair, but because I think there is an untapped power in coming together and acknowledging that we are all, to varying degrees, stumbling along in this fight against dark days.

Our path forward must involve a concrete response to unsustainable lifestyles and an economic system driven by greed – for together they have created a culture of death.

In order to do that, we are going to have to remind ourselves and each other of something whenever we feel that darkness begin to creep: we are not alone." -- Will Potter

June 14, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Considerations on Considerations of the Speech from the Throne ;-)

Usually, the Spring Sitting of the Legislature opens in April and ends in late May. But the past six months have been a bit unusual -- from November 13th, the day after the previous Speech from the Throne was read, Robert Ghiz' announcement that he was resigning ASAP, the stepped-up leadership races for the two bigger Parties, the major media stories on the E-gaming attempt and recurring flashback nausea of PNP (though there are deniers of any irregularities), the election campaign when the ground was snow, slush, and mud, the election with its greater than 20% vote for the third parties, Peter Bevan-Baker's win, Flip for another District, Tory leadership struggles... and now a June sitting.

All MLAs can comment, or have considerations, on the Speech from the Throne; but when that is completed, it looks like the Legislative sitting will run as these puffed-up but hollow majorities do: The Opposition may raise questions here and there, may bluster and shout, and insinuate, may put forward Motions (or proposals) to point out something; but their power is quashed early and often. So you can see the reasoning for Leader of the Opposition Steven Myers to take his time, calmly getting his points across, almost paragraph per paragraph, regarding the Speech.

The other thing that Myers and Opposition whip and MLA from Souris-Elmira Colin LaVie have been doing (as they are the only two Opposition members who have spoken --Colin isn't done yet) is talking about their regions of the Island. It sounds silly, but in a way, their introductions to their stomping grounds might be the only way other Members hear what's going on in and what's important to residents of other Districts. The only MLAs that have been to all points of the Island recently were James Aylward (District 6 Stratford-Kinlock) and Darlene Compton (District 4 Belfast - Murray River) in the Tory leadership race, and Premier MacLauchlan and Green Party Leader and District 17 MLA Peter Bevan-Baker, too.

After listening (via the internet) to Colin talk Friday morning about managing the Souris rink and its importance to the community, among other things, much to the lamentations of his peers on the other side of the aisle, I thought: these are good stories, just not the best of storytelling or the best time and location.

Thursday night, the Leader of the Opposition was actually quite interesting, as Myers was critiquing the environment and agriculture bits in the Speech. He reiterated that the speech is just words."Being 'stewards of the land' means more than just saying it." "Don't tell me you'll be. Be." He indicated regarding the high capacity well issue, that while he and his Party wants innovation and risk in entrepreneurial endeavors, "we don't believe in taking risks when it comes to the environment."

He praised committee work and how much he has learned, and wants them to have a stronger role. He feels it'll be a good place to get up to speed with energy, renewables, etc. (He doesn't remember that a young man named Matthew McCarville spoke to them within the past couple of years about this, but perhaps he can be invited again.) He talked about Climate Change and about engaging young people, about a vision of excellence.

My favorite line was: "P.E.I. is not just a BIC lighter, that you can use and throw away."

He only started shouting when describing how expensive it is for new people to get into small farming. (He even gave a shout-out to people raising some of their own food.) For most of his talk Thursday night, while most MLAs were in attendance, the Premier was not in the room. Environment Minister Mitchell was there for most of it, but perhaps not for the most pertinent parts. (You can't really tell too much about who is in the room paying attention unless you are sitting there in the gallery, for the camera only shows the person speaking and a few people around him or her.) Many MLAs were half-listening but tapping away at their tablets; some MLAs were playing musical chairs, the "best" being Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning Richard Brown, who plays a version of Goldilocks and the 26 MLAs, trying out other empty chairs (and chatting loudly with the people adjacent) until the rightful owner returns and he sheepishly ends his conversation, grabs his cup and moves on.

I am not canonizing the Leader of the Opposition; he can put on his "game face" as he calls it, and be ruthlessly political, and spend a lot of time on seemingly superfluous issues. But this is just a consideration.


Tuesday at 2PM, after the traditions of the House, it will resume with more considerations.


Global Chorus is very heartfelt today, and here is an excerpt:

"Quite soon those (climate change) changes will be evident to all, and eventually many parts of the planet will change in ways we can only begin to predict. But in a strange and wonderful universe, the most boundless thing we have yet observed is the scope of the human mind, the strongest is the human spirit, and the most hopeful, the sound of our children learning what we do not yet know.

"I am optimistic that as a species we will eventually find ways to repair our damaged planet, and build ourselves a truly sustainable future. But building that future will take time and many brave choices: if we are not brave enough to begin, let’s raise children who are." -- Professor David Vaughan, director of the Antarctic Survey.

June 13, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A few events today:

(Inside) Yard Sale to support CLIA (Community Legal Information Association), 9AM - 4PM, 40 Enman Crescent (Royalty Centre, old PVI, next to Charlottetown Rural High School). More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/110486015954405/

Medicinal Herbs workshop, 1PM, Macphail Homestead. I am not sure if there is still space, but more info here: https://www.facebook.com/sirandrewmacphailhomestead.ca?fref=ts

Book signing, Roger Gordon's memoir Starting to Frame, 11AM - 1PM, Indigo Bookstore, University Avenue. Roger grew up in England, taught biology at UPEI, and is currently working on communicating the risks of cosmetic pesticides.


Sunday, June 14th:

Bob Bancroft "Birds of Prey in the Maritimes" talk, 2PM, Macphail Woods Ecological Centre.


Thursday, June 18th,

Canadian Water Network research group meeting, 8:30AM to 4PM, Kelly Building Room 237, UPEI, on "Origin, Occurrence, and Fate of Nitrate in Sedimentary Bedrock Groundwater in the Maritimes", 20-minute talks on various topics of research including the "4Rs" nitrogen use strategies in potato production, groundwater flow, etc. The public is welcome.

Don't Frack PEI has placed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Executive Summary on fracking online:


Sylvia Earle is a 75 year old American ocean explorer, who founded Mission Blue after being awarded a TED Prize in 2009. From:


Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance, a 501c3 organization, which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle's 2009 RED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people “to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”

Currently, the Mission Blue community includes 100+ respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations – from large multinational companies down to individual scientific teams doing important research.

*501c3 means a tax-exempt non-profit organization

"Even luckier will be those who follow, if our knowing leads to caring, and caring inspires actions to secure an enduring place for humankind within the living systems that make our lives possible." --Sylvia Earle

It's a wet morning, but there will be lots of good local food, coffee and conversation at the Farmers' Markets today.

June 12, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Slowly, the slate of federal candidates is being filled for the (presumed) Fall Federal election.

Tuesday, June 16th, 7PM, Federal NDP Malpeque Candidate Nomination meeting, 1549 Route 225, North Wiltshire. Leah-Jane Hayward has announced her intention, and nominations will be accepted from the floor. A note said: "All folks are welcome to attend. Do not have to be a member but if swayed to join there will be an opportunity to join!" Leah-Jane ran for the NDP in District 18 Rustico-Emerald.

As attention is turning to the candidates who will run for Parliament, (and to the length of time Opposition Leader is taking to comment on the Speech from the Throne -- more on that tomorrow), it's a good time to thank the 100 or so people who ran in the recent Provincial election for their time and efforts. Even in such a short election time, with such challenging weather and travel conditions, it brought a whole new dimension to the discussions.

The P.E.I. Legislature sits today from 10AM to 1PM. You can be a part of the Public Gallery, or watch on Eastlink or on-line:http://www.assembly.pe.ca/video/video.php

Global Chorus is by the current Minister of the Environment of Peru, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal:

"Inadequate leadership is assumed on the actions necessary to take to combat change; bad practices that generate biodiversity loss are not confronted with courage; and we still think in terms of territorial or individual interests instead of as a community, as humanity. Should this lead us to pessimism? No. Nature will continue to demand action from us, our survival instinct will guide us to take the lead, and our sense of responsibility will cause us to think of the future generations that we must be keeping in mind, for they will inherit the consequences of our actions and omissions." -- Manuel Pulgar-Vidal

June 11, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Macphail Homestead and Macphail Woods in Orwell is lovely any time of year but especially now -- put a bug shirt or repellant is useful if you are going to ramble around.

Two events this weekend:

Saturday, June 13th:

Medicinal Herbs Workshop at Macphail Homestead, 1-4PM.

"An introduction to using medicinal herbs will be offered at Macphail Homestead in Orwell on June 13th from 1:00 to 4:00. This workshop will be an introduction to using medicinal herbs including growing, wildcrafting (gathering them in the wild), harvesting, storing, and using them. Participants will be encouraged to bring any herb books they have and to share their experiences with herbs." The facilitator is Jeanne Maki, an experienced herbologist. More information/registration: http://www.macphailhomestead.ca or call the Homestead (902) 651-2789


Sunday, June 14th:

Presentation by biologist Bob Bancroft on "Birds of Prey in the Maritimes", 2PM, Macphail Woods Nature Centre, free.

From the press release:

"Bob will be speaking about his life-long interest in birds of prey as a biologist, naturalist, wildlife rehabilitator and forest steward. He has been studying nature with a passion for almost forty years and is a tireless advocate for maintaining and rehabilitating forests, their wildlife habitats and waterways. In 2007, he published “Wild Nova Scotia”, and is well-known throughout the region for his work on CBC’s Radio Noon as their resident wildlife expert.

On their own property across the Strait in Pomquet, Bob and his wife, artist Alice Reed, have worked to bring back many native plant species, constructed a large pond full of wildlife and improved habitat for everything from barred owls to spotted salamanders.

Bob has earned dozens of awards both locally and nationally for his work on behalf of wildlife and forests and is a member of the Nova Scotia Forestry Hall of Fame last spring. He also serves as President of Nature Nova Scotia.

There will be lots of time for questions after Bob’s talk. Admission is free and registration is not required. The workshop is part of an extensive series of activities at Macphail Woods. For more information on this or upcoming events, please call 651-2575, check out our website at macphailwoods.org, or look us up on Facebook."



I wasn't able to get to the electoral reform discussion last night, but would appreciate any comments attendees or viewers had. The audio on the livestream wasn't the easiest to hear, but great to have it recorded. You can watch here, I think: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/livediscussion or through the link from the Facebook event, here: https://www.facebook.com/events/955254201162364/

Monday, June 15th

City of Charlottetown Council Meeting (public), 4:30PM, City Hall (Queen Street, corner of Kent).

"Charlottetown City Council will be voting on a precedent setting municipal cosmetic pesticide bylaw, the first for PEI."




Public well-being tops perfect lawns - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

A great many thoughtful people on P.E.I. are concerned about the application of cosmetic pesticides, and the potential harm that may come from exposure to the chemicals involved.

Given that several municipalities are (or recently have been) in the process of discussing this with their citizens, and two are considering the potential of a ban within the limits of their jurisdiction, Vision P.E.I. would like to take this opportunity to encourage all Islanders to consider the importance of a fully comprehensive province-wide ban.

One of Vision P.E.I.’s primary founding principles is the promotion of a healthy environment. Hence, we believe a ban, based on the precautionary principle, is advisable. The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in.

This would go a long way towards creating a healthier environment for all Islanders, including those potentially most vulnerable to exposure.

Vision also encourages consideration of the word “cosmetic,” which implies correctly that the application of these chemicals serves no other purpose than to create the appearance of a pristine lawn. Why allow the use of potentially harmful substances whose purpose is solely cosmetic, when there are viable, less harmful alternatives?

In our view, public well being should trump property owners fine-tuning their image of a perfect lawn.

Jill MacCormack,


Member, Vision P.E.I.

Today's Global Chorus is by Ravi Ravindra, who teaches comparative religions at Dalhousie University.

"In our individual or collective hubris we forget the obvious – that we do not know all there is to know, and that neither the physical nor the spiritual universe is centred on any individual or on humanity or on the Earth. We need to search for our contribution to the continuing unfolding of the Mystery, not so much from ignorance, but from innocence, open to unexpected voices and solutions."-- Ravi Ravindra

June 10, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Tonight, two interesting events:

Forum: Heads or Tails: Is it time for electoral reform in PEI? 6:30-9PM, Arts Guild. Free admission. Drinks available for purchase.

Speakers include Don Desserud, UPEI; Peter Bevan-Baker, Green Party MLA; Mary Ellen McInnes (she lost that coin flip to McIsaac); and Bobby Morrissey, Liberal Candidate for Riding of Egmont. This is being sponsored by Youth Vote PEI and the PEI Student Union, in a really nice location.

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/955254201162364/

Livestream if you cannot make it: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/livediscussion or follow the link on the Facebook event page.

Breaking the Silence Gathering with Crisanta Perez, 7PM, Murphy's Community Centre, Room 109.

"Join us as we welcome Crisanta Perez, a human rights defender from Guatemala. Following the talk given by Crisanta Perez, will be a discussion on the common struggle for water- led by a member of the PEI Water Coalition."

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1429892960652150/

Alan E. MacPhee, responding to a previous piece by Don Mills, says so much:


Bigger not necessarily better for rural P.E.I. - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Alan E. MacPhee

Printed on Monday, June 8th, 2015, in The Guardian

Once again we suffer the prejudiced views of Don Mills or Corporate Research Associates Inc.. I was present at the Georgetown Conference when Mr. Mills made a similar pitch against rural areas and he expounded on his own rural youth and how rural communities were filled with alcoholism and hard times. Mr. Mills was the only speaker that took the stage with the announcement that he would not entertain any questions – a cheap hit and run.

Later that night when I arrived at my shore front home and could see the lights at sea of the herring fishermen heading out to their hard and dangerous work, I wondered what they would think if they knew the perception that was being promoted of a rural lifestyle that the majority of Islanders live and the disdain for their economic contribution.

The P.E.I. Development plan wanted to support eight central communities but the federal government forced urbanization as a condition of funding. Mr. Mills advocates that the solution to Maritime Canada’s economic woes is to urbanize the region. This is a position that has been pushed upon us for 50 years by the federal government policy and supported by advocates such as Atlantic Provinces Economic Council and academics such as Donald Savoie.

If change is really wanted then we need to change our thinking and we need to change the ‘leading thinkers’ — a radical idea is to revitalize rural areas so that their economies can continue to subsidize the urban areas with rural taxes. We need strong cities, and strong cities need strong rural economies. Think Switzerland, think education, think technology.

Mr. Mills ignores that rural areas live cheaply, and have less services, less municipal debt, less government economy, less government spending. Want $250 000 to support marketing for rural lobster fishery – nope. Want $250 000 for an urban shellfish festival – no problem. Want $25,000 for a rural summer festival, nope. Want $30 million for a summer long free music festival – no problem. Want money to pay for rural town snow removal - nope. Want money to help clear snow in the city, no problem. Seasonal work in rural areas is a problem, government pensions in urban areas is wonderful. Close rural hospital emergency room temporarily is OK, in the city, unthinkable; and on and on it goes.

Both urban and rural citizens want strong vibrant cities, however there is a class of people who want to blame rural communities as the reason for our current debt, Mr. Mills is among them. This class of people see the elimination of rural communities as the only way to perpetuate the party that is going on within the cities and they are dead wrong.

Centralization thinking leads to Maritime Union and bigger is not necessarily better – Ontario’s debt situation is challenged? Is Maritime Union really the answer to P.E.I.’s future? What we need is a rebalanced, infused province with healthy and strong urban and rural communities. We need to grow the pie and a good start is a change in the tired old thinking and the tired old thinkers that have led us to our current unsustainable and difficult debts.

Alan E. MacPhee of Souris is Chairman, Islandwide Health Access

Jeffrey Hollender co-founded Seventh Generation cleaning products, and also the American Sustainable Business Council. He writes for the June 10th Global Chorus:

"We absolutely have the ability to solve our current global environmental, social and economic crises. For me the question is, do we have the will? The challenge is not about technology but about consciousness, values and priorities. Me vs. We. Quantity vs. Quality.

With two million NGOs working to save the world, the challenge is to co-operate rather than compete. Each one thinks that their issue is the most important issue. They compete for resources and attention. "Together they could make rapid progress. Alone they will all fail.

Pension funds, foundations, not-for-profits, educational institutions, credit unions and other socially and financially responsible entities control huge financial resources. They don’t use their leverage, let alone co-operate with each other to insist on change. They could. It's about will and commitment. Our system is broken. We are headed at 90 miles an hour into a brick wall. So far, all we do is tap gently on the brakes and celebrate as our speed slows temporarily down to 89. he brakes work. We can stop the car and change direction. The question is, will we?

"The alternative is ugly. Likely billions of casualties as we let disaster and pain force a change in consciousness." -- Jeffrey Hollender

June 9, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The PEI Legislative Assembly sits today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM, if you wish to go to the Coles Building to sit in the Gallery. Otherwise, it is on Eastlink Cable, and livestreamed, here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/video/video.php

Some additional notes from last week, probably Thursday:

Robert Mitchel, from District 10 Charlottetown -Sherwood, is the Minister of the Department of Communities, Land and Environment, and he mentioned that included in his department are the divisions of Municipal Affairs, and Forests, Fish and Wildlife, now returned to Environment (it had been with the Department of Agriculture).

He mentioned that the Island land is pristine, and that his duties will include implementation of a Water Act and of the Thompson Report. He said they have to move quickly to deal with the long-standing Thompson Report issue, which leads to question: what is the hurry now? It's been years since that report was published, could we actually open it up and discuss it before legislation is likely to be tabled early next year? More on this later, I am sure.

From Steven Myers, Leader of the Opposition, while twitting the Premier, said that the Premier is waiting for a book to be writing about him, but the title has already been used in a book about former Liberal Prime Minister John Turner (that book is called True Grit, by the way). We'll see how the decorum of the Legislature works this week.

Some events this week:

Wednesday, June 10th:

Forum on Electoral Reform, "Heads or Tails: Is it time for electoral reform in P.E.I.?", 6:30-9PM, Arts Guild, sponsored by UPEI Student Union and YouthVote PEI.

Panelists are: Dr. Don Desserud, Professor, Political Science, UPEI; Mary Ellen McInnis, former PC Candidate District 5 Vernon River-Stratford; Peter Bevan-Baker, MLA District 17 Kellys Cross - Cumberland and Green Party PEI Leader; and Bobby Morrissey, Federal Liberal Candidate for Egmont Riding. The moderator is author and UPEI media relations person, Dave Atkinson.

Sunday, June 14th:

Lecture/slide show: Bob Bancroft on "Birds of Prey in the Maritimes", 2PM, Macphail Woods Ecological Centre, free. Bob Bancroft is the wonderfully knowledgeable and approachable wildlife biologist who has been a regular guest on CBC Radio's Maritime Noon for many years.

An excellent letter (sent to the Premier, just shared with me and the newspapers, and likely published later this week):

June 8th, 2015

Hon. Premier,

I have to agree with your statement in the legislature that our industrial potato industry is a ‘way of life’. The Collins English Dictionary definition of ‘way of life’ is “the behaviour and habits that are typical of a particular person or group, or that are chosen by them”.

The behaviour of the Irvings, and that is who we are talking about when we refer to the ‘potato industry’ (as opposed to our potato farmers), is to blackmail their own growers and the people of PEI into allowing high capacity wells. The behaviour of the Irvings is to exert total control over their growers, so that the Irvings become ‘the company store’. This is not healthy behaviour.

The habits of the industry, and here I am referring to those growers who have no choice but to do what the Irvings tell them, are to push the limits of all our environmental rules to the breaking point – resulting in fish kills, pesticides in school drinking water, clusters of rare cancers, toxic levels of nitrates in many wells, damage to our aquaculture industry, stinking anoxia in our tourist regions, extirpation of salmon from our rivers, and the constant degradation of our Island soil.

Collins says correctly that this ‘way of life’ is chosen by them. This is so revealing. It is the Irvings who run things – not the people and their elected government. Somehow the Irvings and their PEIFA and Potato Board partners have managed to convince our elected representatives that they are acting in the best interests of the Island. This is so not the case. We really should have a ‘way of life’ that is chosen by Islanders, not by a few corporate interests.

This behaviour and these habits are not chosen by our farmers. I, like all Islanders, totally support our farmers. But I don’t want to see them corralled into having to destroy our Island in order to satisfy the profits of an off-Island corporation. I want to see them thrive, employ more local people, restore the natural balance in our environment and, most of all, grow food sustainably rather than being forced to exploit the land while increasing their debt to the company store.

There are many groups out there with the solutions to our environmental problems. There are many excellent reports, gathering dust on government shelves, with the solutions to the problems that industrial farming causes. There are many farmers out there with solutions to how we can increase farm productivity while restoring the natural balance of our environment. Our government needs to implement these solutions. In no way can we afford to keep supporting the Irvings and their industrial potato production here on PEI. We can’t afford the cost, we can’t afford the environmental damage, we can’t afford the health issues, we can’t afford the bad name that the industry brings to our Island. We the people should choose our way of life, and industrial farming does not form a part of that choice.


Andrew Lush,

Hunter River

Please note: These statements are my personal opinion and do not represent those of the Hunter-Clyde Watershed Group or any other organization of which I am a director or member.

Global Chorus is by Beth Doane, who is the founder of Rain Tees, which is a green business

specializing in tee-shirts, and they plant trees for tees sold, and provide school children in developing countries with

school supplies when their totes are sold.

An excerpt:

"If we can see just how connected we really are to each other and our Earth and remember all the wisdom we have forgotten through centuries of abuse of our planet and each other, we can indeed overcome the issues we have created, and do so very quickly.

"The Earth can heal itself remarkably well when we stop the devastating harm we are doing, but it’s up to us to end the trauma we have caused and remind each other, as the Native Americans so wisely stated, that we don’t have to wait for the last river to be poisoned, the last fish to be caught and the last tree to be cut down to realize that we cannot eat money." -- Beth Doane

June 8, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Please note this is more so commentary from Chris O. today than official news from the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.

First and foremost:

1) potato tampering (any kind of food tampering) is reprehensible.

2) agriculture is a huge component of P.E.I.'s economy,

3) Island farmers need our support, and have our support

Saying that, it doesn't mean the potato industry is not without issues, and needs help and support *and input from farmers* on what challenges are happening, and the right directions to go. Read any sort of work from CassandraPEI:


to see where the future lies on our present course.

Instead of rational discussion on this in our Legislature, we are getting chest-thumping potatriotism.

Potatriotism (noun) -- /poh-TAY-tree-ah-tism/ - love that people feel, akin to patriotism, for the potato industry.

OK, I made that up.

Now I don't mean to be flip (that's someone else), but this sitting of the Legislature -- for which a coin-toss was done instead of considering a lengthier run-off election, in which the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment says that funding for watershed groups is on hold until the budget is approved, and that the Legislature needs to move along and get it done -- is already, after two working days, more about hours of waving the flag of the current agri-industry model than anything else. (One MLA clocked over 25 minutes Friday morning speaking to one motion, referring to just about everything under the sun.) The message is that any criticism of the model of agriculture is criticism of decent, hard-working Islanders.

We don't need polarization. We are all in this together, farmer and eater. We need leadership, not opportunities for elected representatives to perform loyalty tests.

Teresa Wright does a good job explaining last week's commotion with the motion (no. 19, on food tampering) discussed in the House Thursday afternoon and Friday morning:


Coming up this session are Motions on the "Canada's Food Island" branding (no. 20), dealing with agricultural threat caused by wireworm (no. 16) and an Opposition motion on Island Food First (no. 3), so food production discussions will continue to happen this session.

The Legislature is closed on Mondays, but you can look at the video archives for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday here:


The transcripts of debate, Hansard, is only available from Wednesday right now, but will soon be posted for the remainder of the week.

Today is the last day to comment on the Environmental Impact Assessment report for the fertilizer holding facility in New Annan. The actual description of what is proposed is about 30 pages long -- the bulk is in data sheets of all the substances that are proposed to be housed there.


Yesterday, on part of this CAN list, I flipped ;-) the first and last name of the Global Chorus contributor. It is Holmes Rolston III. Sorry.


Michael Dowd, a Christian progressive minister, author and

eco-theologian, writes today's Global Chorus, and here is an excerpt:

"If we continue to see Nature as an 'it' to be exploited rather than a 'thou' to be related to, we condemn future generations to hell and high water." -- Michael Dowd

June 7, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Tomorrow is the last day to comment on the Environmental Impact report for the fertilizer holding facility in New Annan. Details here:


Political commentary on P.E.I. usually means heaping servings of publisher Paul MacNeill, but these are interesting, filling and probably good-for-you servings:

CBC Political panels this week:

Friday morning,

CBC Island Morning political panel with Paul MacNeill, Mary Lynn Kane, Wayne Collins and Roy Johnstone (audio file, 18 minutes):


Friday afternoon, Rick MacLean and Paul MacNeil (Compass TV, four minutes)


A good line is Paul saying, regarding the nice parts of the Speech from the Throne, "You never know, until they get into the Legislature and start putting substance behind their words."


Paul's column in the week's Graphic newspapers about putting those noble words into action, or not:

So Much for Protecting Whistleblowers - The Graphic column by Paul MacNeill

Published on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015, in The Graphic newspapers, "Against the Tide" column

During the provincial election candidate Wade MacLauchlan swatted away opposition assertions that PEI needs whistleblower legislation, contending creation of an atmosphere of openness is more effective than a legislative hammer. It’s a nice notion. Problem is less than a month after MacLauchlan’s election it is clear the government of Prince Edward Island is not interested in having employees spill its ugly secrets.

Take the troubling case of Beth Nichol, a registered nurse with 23 years experience. In the middle of a dreadful winter, the worst in recent history, she had the audacity in a CBC interview to raise alarm bells about Health PEI staff scheduling procedures. At her place of work, Prince Edward Home, employees were forced to work double or triple shifts to cover for co-workers storm stayed at home.

Health PEI was not amused.

CBC has confirmed through multiple sources that Nichol was suspended for three months because she failed to first win approval for her interview through government’s centralized communications bureaucracy. Doug Currie put on his best Ghiz-era hat and defended the suspension saying although there may be no formalized policy forbidding media interviews there is an ‘understanding’ that such requests must first be vetted through government spin doctors.

While it may seem harsh, the reality of the minister’s defense of the status quo is that he places a greater premium on protection of some non-formalized process than ensuring the highest quality of care possible.

Prince Edward Home is already six nurses short of a full complement. Nichol is not even technically a fulltime employee. She is retired but continues to work to help offset the chronic shortage. Her complaint is far from unique. Talk to any casual Health PEI employee and they will speak of being effectively on 24-hour call in the hope of landing a shift. Those that do not show this type of around-the-clock enthusiasm often find themselves on the outside looking in at scheduling sheets.

What is lost is the very real issue raised by Nichol. She felt obligated to go public because it is an issue of safety and quality of care. For her courage Beth Nichol is treated with a degree of harshness rarely seen within the public service.

No bureaucrat who aided in ramping up the Provincial Nominee Program, where rules were intentionally broken and the system manipulated for political gain, was ever punished, save the three women who raised alarm bells about how the Ghiz government was running the program.

No politician caught fudging the truth is ever suspended.

Nichol is being treated more harshly than any Health PEI bureaucrat who pushed through one of the biggest boondoggles in Island history; creation of electronic health records, an $80 million and counting fiasco that still does not provide a province-wide solution. To this day Health PEI refuses to offer full transparency by withholding key figures like annual operational costs.

No, those bureaucrats were promoted.

Showing its own self-interest, the PEI Nurses Union would not comment to CBC or offer any type of support. Instead it suggested complaints be brought first to the union.


Insights from those directly impacted are far more powerful than union talking heads. It avoids issues being lost in a maze of union bureaucracy or the sanitized tripe of hired communications experts. Doug Currie missed an opportunity to put substance to a key promise of the new premier. Instead the minister walked lockstep with the status quo.

One of the major issues with Health PEI is its bloated bureaucracy – Statistics Canada data show it is 3.5 times the national average - is tone deaf. A single brave nurse is paying the price for stepping around government’s protective communications bubble to alert Islanders.

For her bravery the health bureaucracy is treating Beth Nichol as if the May 4th election never occurred. Through its actions the MacLauchlan government is telling Islanders spin is more important than substance.

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


In the same issue is a delightful interpretation of the Coin Toss election by Allan Rankin, a former member of the Ghiz executive team (bold is mine):

Democracy Reduced to a Coin Toss - The Graphic article by Allan Rankin

Published on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015, in The Graphic newspapers, "Thinking About It" column

Long ago, when my friends and I chose teams on our ballfield on the outskirts of Summerside, we’d launch the wooden bat into the air, catch it on the way down, then place one hand over the other until the top of the bat was reached, and that’s how we decided who picked first. It seemed fair to a bunch of kids having fun in the summer.

But in a supposedly adult world, tossing a coin to decide the provincial election in the District of Vernon River-Stratford, is an absolute embarrassment, and does not even come close to satisfying the basic standards of fairness or reasonableness.

Nevertheless, our Election Act clearly states that equality of votes is to be decided in this manner, and some American States as well as other countries also employ the coin toss as a grand arbiter of democracy.

It’s an old Roman tradition that’s come through the ages.

The Wright Brothers of Kitty Hawk fame flipped a coin in 1903 to see who would take that first flight.

It may come as a surprise but the odds of a single coin toss are not 50/50, according to researchers at Stanford University. It’s more like 49/51 depending on which side is up when the coin is thrown into the air, the heads side being a little heavier than the tails side you see.

If you truly want a 50/50 chance then the coin should be what’s called a “fair coin”, and it needs to be thrown many times.

That would have been a circus act given the apparent difficulty Justice John Douglas had executing a single toss. I must note here that Section 102 of the Election Act empowers the Returning Officer to make the coin toss, not Judge Douglas, which does raise an interesting legal question about where the authority for heads or tails flipping lies.

In all seriousness though, the coin toss makes a mockery of our democratic process, and it trivializes the right of electors to choose their representatives.

Premier MacLauchlan is of the very conservative view that a runoff between the two candidates, Liberal Alan MacIssac and Conservative Mary Ellen McInnis, would have been too expensive.

My late mother-in-law’s reaction to the preposterous springs to mind.

"Can you imagine!”

If we subscribe to the premier’s thinking, when the next provincial election rolls around Justice Douglas or somebody else could simply toss a coin to decide all 27 districts, and the candidates can be eliminated one at a time. It would certainly save a lot of money.

An element of competitiveness might even be added. In Hunger Games fashion the candidates could be set loose in the woods back of Kinross, the winner emerging to public acclaim and fanfare. The spectacle could even be televised, that is if the CBC news crew got permission to stray that far from their studios in Charlottetown.

But the inconvenient truth is that democracy is both unpredictable and expensive, and if the voters are always right, as the saying goes, then we must always respect their wishes. The voters of Vernon River-Stratford were undecided about who should represent them in the Legislature, and no Supreme Court Justice should decide for them.

Premier MacLauchlan believes it’s not a priority of electoral reform, but the Election Act should be reviewed and changed without delay, to remove the coin toss as a means of deciding an election.

Meantime, Conservative candidate McInnis is considering an appeal under the Controverted Elections Act, which does provide redress for electoral wrongdoing or error.

The bizarre outcome in Vernon River-Stratford also illustrates the weakness of the first past the post voting system.

Nearly 22 per cent of the people who voted in that district wanted neither MacIssac nor Mary Ellen McInnis. Given the inconclusiveness of the vote, would it not have been the right thing to go back to ALL the people and ask the question again?

Mr MacIssac, sworn in as Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, must now spend the next four years claiming the confidence of voters in his district, a confidence he clearly does not enjoy.

The member representing Vernon River-Stratford, or “Flip” MacIssac as the history books surely will now refer to him, sits in the Legislature by virtue of divine providence.

He put the matter in God’s hands and the Almighty delivered. Poor Mary Ellen McInnis must have gone to the wrong church, or sat in the wrong pew.

But “Flip” MacIssac should be wary of his coin toss victory.

Although he won the coin toss, Wilbur Wright stalled his little flyer and crashed, leaving his brother Orville to take the controls a few days later and conquer flight.

Roston Holmes III is an 83 year old philosopher, teaching at Colorado State University, and he writes about environmental ethics. For today's Global Chorus, he writes:

"We live at a change of epochs, a hinge point of history. We have entered the first century in the 45 million centuries of life on Earth in which one species can jeopardize the planet's future. From this point on, culture more than nature is the principal determinant of Earth’s future. For some this is cause for congratulation, the fulfillment of our destiny as a species. We enter a new era: the Anthropocene. For others this is cause for concern. We worried throughout much of the past century that humans would destroy themselves in inter-human conflict. The worry for the next century is that if our present heading is uncorrected, humans may ruin their planet and themselves along with it.

Paradoxes and challenges confront and confound us. Although we congratulate ourselves on our powers, humans are not well equipped to manage the sorts of global-level problems we face in this new era. Yet, this wonderland Earth is a planet with promise. If we are to realize the abundant life for all time, both policy and ethics must enlarge the scope of concern. We are Earthlings. Our integrity is inseparable from Earth’s integrity. The ultimate unit of moral concern is the ultimate survival unit: this wonderland biosphere. We can and we ought to get humans put in their place. Our best hope lies in global convictions that for the richest human living we do not want a denatured life on a denatured planet." -- Rolston Holmes III

June 6, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

There are a couple of good and doing good events taking place today:

Community Sharing Day, 10AM - 12noon, Eastlink (Civic) Centre, Kensington. All are welcome to see what goods and services people have offered to share with you, in a very short window of time.

More details:



Farm Centre Fundraiser, "New York! New York!", 9PM, Farm Centre, 420 University Ave.

This sounds like an amazing event (and more affordable than the $1000 PEI Liberal Fundraising dinner cost which includes your guest), but I haven't heard much about it. Sounds like the Centre will be converted to a swath of downtown New York with various food, music, art and other experiences all included.

Tickets $50 plus HST in advance ($57).

$55 plus HST at the door ($62.50).

A table for six is $275 plus HST ($313.50)

(Each ticket has a $30 tax receipt)

More details:


Today's Global Chorus is by Monica Araya, who works with organizations such as Nivela.org.


"She is the Founding Director of Costa Rica Limpia, a citizen platform that promotes clean development and democracy."

Costa Rica Limpia is here (in Spanish):


An excerpt:

"Defending the public interest of the many over the vested interests of the few, that is the common agenda that will get us closer to the clean society. he divestment movement is a prime example of citizen-led actions that are making a transformative difference this decade." -- Monica Araya

There are a couple of Farmer' Markets open today, if you can get to one for crowds, conversation, (probably good coffee) and great local food.

June 5, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Please note an extension until the end of business Monday, June 8th has been made to the deadline for public comments on the Environmental Impact Report for the fertilizer holding facility proposed by Cavendish AgriServices for the New Annan area. Details on the project here:


It's been an exciting day or two, for those who like watching the Legislative spectacle, and here are a few more impressions.

Wednesday, watching the Speech from the Throne broadcast, former Premier Robert Ghiz was sitting behind Premier MacLauchlan. Many viewers expressed surprise he was there.

Screenshot from Legislative Assembly website coverage of The Speech from the Throne, Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015. Premier MacLauchlan in front, Former Premier Ghiz on left, MacLauchlan's partner Duncan McIntosh on right. Coles Building, Pope Room (new Legislative Assembly setting).

(Mr. Ghiz was at the reception or Speaker's Tea -- which was open to the public after all, but not communicated very well -- after the Speech, and conversation with some was awkward, save for gracious souls (not me) who can talk kindly to any creatures who drop in their midst.)

That evening the MLAs had dinner at Fanningbank, and true to the legend of his service, Lieutenant Governor Frank Lewis disappeared and came out in chef's clothing to bring a bit of birthday cheer to Green MLA Peter Bevan-Baker.

The Lieutenant Governor's wife her Honour Dorothy Lewis, His Honour Frank Lewis, and MLA Peter Bevan-Baker, Wednesday evening, June 3rd, 2015. Image from Opposition House Leader and MLA James Aylward's Twitter feed, with thanks.

And then some work began:

Thursday, right off the bat, Peter was granted official Third Party status and with that comes some resources (money for a staff member, etc.).

And things went from cordial to more "political":

Later in the afternoon, this motion, No. 19, "Supporting Food Safety in the Island Potato Industry" started out with long statements by Members about P.E.I. potatoes and all, very sweet:


It condemns the recent potato tempering, and supports food safety, but also:

<snip> THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislative Assembly strongly express its continued support for the Island potato industry and their ongoing commitment to food safety; <snip>

Peter Bevan-Baker offered an amendment (seconded by Liberal MLA Tina Mundy (District 22 -- Summerside-St. Eleanor's) to change the wording to remove just the "potato industry" part to something else (I cannot remember the exact amendment wording), and slowly but surely, several Members from both Government and Official Opposition spoke that they couldn't support the amendment of Peter's and spoke in strong terms that there is nothing wrong with the potato industry.

Debate on that will continue this morning, likely, and then likely some sort of vote on the amendment and original motion.

It wasn't "picked up" by the mainstream media yet, but I wanted to mention the background on it, as the angle of reporting may be that the new Green MLA doesn't support Island Farmers, etc. Transcriptions from yesterday's proceedings will be up on the Legislative Assembly website soon.

You can watch the morning proceedings from 10AM to 1PM, on Easatlink cable, in the Gallery in person, or here:


Global Chorus is by green entrepreneur Jill Boulden:

"So now it’s time for the world’s institutional investors

and legislative power brokers to step into the

driver’s seat. The 'buy now, pay later' game is over.

We know now after these financial meltdowns that

true wealth can only be created by providing solutions

for true sustainability. So not only do I have

hope that we can do it, I also have faith that our

most clever leaders – across all sectors – will show

us how to make a lot of money with 'business as

unusual.' " -- Jill Boulden

June 4, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Congratulations to MLA Buck Watts, who was elected on the second ballet by his peers to be Speaker of the Legislature. It was pretty amusing and almost cartoonish spectacle to see the Premier and Leader of the Opposition "drag" the new Speaker to the Throne, clap the tri-corn hat on his head, drape the robe on him, and give him a little push towards the steps. It was tradition with a smile.

Yesterday's Speech from the Throne was a bit like having a very pleasant announcer pick out some of the Liberal Party platform, as the Lieutenant Governor graciously and with his own brand of humour read the Speech. Regarding the two areas that the Citizens' Alliance is more concerned with (democratic reform and environment), there were many promising ideas about electoral reform, transparency and public engagement (especially in creating District Advisory Boards for more local input on schools and health care, and a bit about the Water Act).

Environment was talked about in almost celestial terms, of our beautiful natural resources; not so much about how the government plans to enhance and protect air, water, land; or balance protecting our land and supporting diverse farming versus the goals of exporting more and more.

To quote an observant and acerbic friend, the Speech talked about "markets" a lot but never once had "Farmers' " in front of it. ;-)

Today, the House sits from 2-5 and 7-9PM, and I believe there will be responses to the Speech, and then getting down to regular business of legislation based on the Throne Speech. The Legislature sits in the Coles Building (the Coles Building flanks Province House on one side, the Confed Centre on the other side of Province House), with overflow gallery viewing in the J. Angus MacLean Building on Great George Street at Richmond Street (the entrance is one near where the horse trolley parked on Great George). Or you can watch on Eastlink cable or on-line:


A couple of events, the first being organized by a friend of the Citizens' Alliance:

Tomorrow, Friday, June 5th:

The African Children's Choir Performance, 7PM, St. Paul's Church, 101 Prince Street. Free, donations accepted.

"The Choir is a Christian non-profit organization that provides education for some of Africa's most vulnerable children. The Choir is composed of 18 children from Uganda, ages 7-11 years old. Local youth will be joining the choir during the finale of their concert. Event is free, with goodwill donations appreciated." Sponsored by Farmers Helping Farmers.

Wednesday, June 10th:

Forum: Heads or Tails: Is it time for electoral reform in PEI? 6:30-9PM, Arts Guild. Free admission. Drinks available for purchase.

Speakers include Don Desserud, UPEI , Peter Bevan-Baker, Green Party MLA, Mary Ellen McInnes (she lost that coin flip to McIsaac), and Bobby Morrissey, Liberal Candidate for Riding of Egmont. This is being sponsored by Youth Vote PEI and the PEI Student Union, in a really nice location.

"Join us Wednesday, June 10, for an exciting panel discussion on the recent coin toss in Vernon River-Stratford, problems with our current first-past-the-post electoral system, and the real possibility of alternatives like ranked ballots or proportional representation.

The discussion will be followed by a Q & A and drinks. We hope you will come out and join the conversation on how we can achieve meaningful electoral reform in our province. Free admission."

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/955254201162364/

We need a lot of discussion on this issue, so it's good to see various initiatives.

Also, Wednesday, June 10th (darnnit, two interesting things the same night):

Breaking the Silence Gathering with Crisanta Perez, 7PM, Murphy's Community Centre, Room 109.

"Join us as we welcome Crisanta Perez, a human rights defender from Guatemala. Following the talk given by Crisanta Perez, will be a discussion on the common struggle for water- led by a member of the PEI Water Coalition."

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1429892960652150/

Mikhail Gorbachev writes the Global Chorus for today, printed completely. The former USSR president and Nobel laureate is the Founding President of Green Cross International, which he established in 22 years ago in response to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit call to create a “Red Cross for the environment”. Very thoughtful.

"I always regarded environmental problems as of great urgency. That started when I was still working in my home country in the Caucasus and then when I started to work in Moscow. I learned of shocking facts regarding the mistreatment of the earth, water, soil and air in my home country. And like many people, I was ready to start working in order to revive our forests, land, rivers and lakes. And this was one reason why I gave such a prompt reply to the requests to become the founder of Green Cross International.

"Nevertheless, we are still in the process of losing our planet. We are very close to the 'red line.' Even though we have had many discussions, and many conferences and forums on water and other environmental problems, we are not even close to achieving our goal. We still see that the environment and nature are shrinking.

"The Earth will of course survive anyway, but it will be a very different Earth for those who live on it. It is not an exaggeration. I think that we feel almost physically the shrinking of the water, the air and living space.

"Remember, after WWII, there was a strong peace movement that included prominent people who created a committee to defend peace. The most credible people in the world were in that movement. I am not calling for repeating it in the same way, but we need to do more. It is very important that we have glasnost on the environment. It is very important we have organizations that work for it. But we have not achieved enough. I believe that the problem of the environment is the number one challenge for the 21st century, as well as, of course, the problem of getting rid of nuclear weapons.

"That is still the number one challenge that we need to address.

"When we ended the Cold War, we wanted to create conditions for a peaceful world. I am 82 years old but I still want to act. I still want to do something. This goes back to my youth when I was part of that same peace movement. It is still very much a part of me, this vigour, this motivation, this enthusiasm, that I would like to convey, that I would like to hand over to younger people who will fight for the future of our planet." --Mikhail Gorbachev

June 3, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Some notes:

The Environmental Impact Assessment on the fertilizer holding facility proposed for New Annan was supposed to have a deadline for public comments at the end of today (a ten day window since it was posted). The EIA office got some communications from citizens that it's unreasonable to call for the public to digest 180 pages in such a short time frame, so the deadline may be extended until Monday, June 8th. That will be decided this morning and hopefully the date posted on their website,

here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/environmentindex.php3?number=1053488&lang=E

Excusez-moi: Former Government House Leader Sonny Gallant is not considered bilingual, though I called him that yesterday. This does raise an interesting question of the French language capabilities of all MLAs, and of considering making some language instruction or review a part of their (admittedly busy) schedule. (Just a thought.)


The Legislature begins its Spring Sitting this afternoon at 2PM (The First Sitting of the Sixty-Fifth General Assembly). First, there will be an election of Speaker of the House. The Speaker must be non-partisan, and maintain order in the Legislature. It was a pretty good fit for the always positive Carolyn Bertram, and people smiled that her background as an elementary school teacher was good preparation.

The candidates for Speaker now are (former Speaker) Kathleen Casey, Bush Dumville, Janice Sherry (whose candidacy was announced yesterday), and Buck Watts. Continuing on this unusual day, there will be no welcomes or Question Period, and the Floor of the Legislature will be filled with the loved ones of the MLAs. (The public gallery which is in the same room will be open for regular public viewing starting tomorrow.)

(I am not sure what of the election will be shown on the internet livestreaming or Eastlink cable.)

The Lieutenant Governor will arrive and read the Speech from the Throne, which outlines Government's priorities. That will definitely be broadcast on the Legislative Assembly website:


and will be under an hour, I think. The media will also live chat or tweet highlights as they are announced.

After that, the whole band plus guests goes to the Murphy Centre for refreshments and a bit of a social, and that's it officially for the day (I think the public can go watch from somewhere in the Murphy Centre).

Thursday the Legislative Assembly will sit from 2-5PM and 7-9PM, and Friday from 10AM to 1PM, getting down to business.

Best wishes to all the MLAs, including my own, District 17 and first Green Party MLA Peter Bevan-Baker.

Turning to an issue from the States, this is hard to fathom -- bans of fracking bans.

Story link, from the environmental publication EcoWatch (not sure if internal links will work): Oklahoma bans fracking bans from EcoWatch news

3 Arrested in Denton As Oklahoma Joins Texas in Banning Fracking Bans - EcoEatch online article by Anastasia Pantsios

Published on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

The movement by states to block local citizen input into fracking operations in their backyards has spread from Texas to Oklahoma. With concerns rising after a dramatic increase in earthquakes tied to fracking injection wells, Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Monday a bill that would block cities and counties from enacting any restrictions on drilling, fracking, pipeline construction or the disposal of the wastewater byproduct of drilling—the injection wells that have been linked to the Oklahoma earthquakes.

According to drilling supporters such as Fallin, this bill creates consistency and avoids a “patchwork of regulations” that could inconvenience the oil and gas industry. It does allow local governments to have some say over noise, traffic and pollution caused by drilling operations.

“Corporation commissioners are elected by the people of Oklahoma to regulate the oil and gas industry,” said Fallin, referring to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which sets state energy policy. “They are best equipped to make decisions about drilling and its effect on seismic activity, the environment and other sensitive issues. The alternative is to pursue a patchwork of regulations that, in some cases, could arbitrarily ban energy exploration and damage the state’s largest industry, largest employers and largest taxpayers.”

She failed to note that the fossil fuel industry is also one of the largest donors to the campaigns of corporation commission candidates or that major players in the oil and gas industry, such as Oklahoma City-based fracking billionaire Harold Hamm, have pressured the state to downplay the link between fracking and earthquakes. The Oklahoman notes that commissioner Todd Hiett paid off a $200,ooo family loan to his campaign with contributions “mostly from donors in the oil and gas industry.” Fellow commissioner Dana Murphy received more than half of her donations from the oil and gas industry in her latest campaign with Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy her biggest donors.

Johnson Bridgwater, director of the Oklahoma Sierra Club, saw things differently than Fallin. “At the very time local governments really need to have the ability to address a serious safety issue in their communities, the state is stepping in and taking that very authority away from them,” he said.

Concern about fracking injection wells has been growing along with the number and intensity of earthquakes. Oklahoma, where earthquakes were once rare, now leads the nation in earthquakes, with three times as many quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater than California. Prior to 2009, when widespread disposal of wastewater into underground wells began, the state experienced an average of two such quakes a year; in 2014, it had 585.

Texas blazed the trail for Oklahoma when Gov. Greg Abbott last month signed a similar bill pushed by the oil and gas industry in response to a ban on new fracking operations passed by nearly 60 percent of voters in the north Texas city of Denton last November. The city is considering repealing its ban as fracking operations resumed in Denton this week.

“What began as a purely Denton issue quickly evolved into an issue impacting every city in the state of Texas—all thanks to the overreaction of the Texas legislature and their industry-purchased legislation we all know as HB40,” Denton City Councilman Kevin Roden posted on his blog. “As a result, the legal and political landscape surrounding this issue has changed dramatically. If our goal is to dismantle HB40 and restore robust local control on oil and gas development in cities, then all paths should be on the table and analyzed.”

And some Denton citizens are already fighting back. A group of activists from the Frack Free Denton movement blocked the drilling site and three were arrested Monday on charges of criminal trespassing.

“How could I sleep at night or look my children in the eyes if I was not here today to mark, with my body as well as my words, this injustice?” said Adam Briggle, one of those arrested. “I believe our community has the right to defend itself from imminent threats,” said Niki Chochrek, another of the detained protesters. “The legislature in Austin wants us to believe that we must stand aside and allow ourselves to be poisoned by this reckless industry. I refuse to stand aside, and I believe most people in Denton feel the same way.”


To Global Chorus: 365 Voices for the Future of the Planet -- much better voices than most of those politicians in the U.S.

Harvey Locke is behind Y2Y, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a joint U.S. and Canadian organization that is trying to connect and protect habitat from Yellowstone to Yukon. http://y2y.net/about-us

He writes in today's Global Chorus:

"If we were to remember Nature’s needs we would be more measured in our use of nitrogen fertilizer and carbon-based energy. We would value efficiency and avoid waste. We would let rivers run free to ensure Earth’s resilience in the wake of climate change. We would take only what we need and share the rest. We would know the liberation of self-restraint." -- Harvey Locke


Take care,

Chris O.,

Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) is a joint Canada-U.S. not-for-profit organization that connects and protects habitat from Yellowstone to Yukon so people and nature can thrive. - See more at: http://y2y.net/about-us#sthash.v55ae399.dpuf

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) is a joint Canada-U.S. not-for-profit organization that connects and protects habitat from Yellowstone to Yukon so people and nature can thrive. - See more at: http://y2y.net/about-us#sthash.v55ae399.dpuf

June 2, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A reminder that tonight is an information meeting about establishing a weekly summer children's camp at the PEI Farm Centre, 7PM, and showing excerpts from the film "Project Wild Thing." All welcome.

NaturePEI is also meeting tonight, 7:30PM, Beaconsfield Carriage House, with Julie Vasseur of Nature Conservancy of Canada as guest speaker.


Tomorrow the First Session of the 65th General Assembly will begin, and we will have a mix of old and new in our P.E.I. Legislature.

Yesterday, the Government House Leader was appointed by Premier MacLauchlan, and it is Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Alan "Flip" McIsaac, who won his tied-vote seat in District 5 Vernon River-Stratford, by a coin toss, about a week ago.

I am not sure why the Premier would give this delightful job to one of the nine MLAs who already has extensive duties, instead of one of the nine remaining Liberals who have not been selected (one of which will be elected Speaker tomorrow). The former Government House Leader, Sonny Gallant, won his District with well over 500 votes (District 24 Evangeline-Miscouche), and appeared to do a fine job -- always pleasant, timely and on the ball, bilingual, a caring individual when sharing news with his fellow members and the gallery.


On the page about members of the Legislative Assembly, this is what part of the MLA list looks like, with a note that things (like photos and new duties, presumably) will be added as soon as available:

Screenshot from Legislative Assembly website, before the listing of Government House Leader has been added:


The Assembly website is quite informative, and where one has access to livestreaming of the Assembly when they are sitting.


Premier MacLauchlan carries quite the number of files, more than everyone else.

Public comments on the Environmental Impact Assessment report regarding the fertilizer storage facility in New Annan are due by the end of tomorrow. Just in case you have some time for the 180 page report, here:


Global Chorus today is by Joel and Michelle Levey, "social architects and compassion activists", who write:

"<<snip>> As we realize that we can’t solve problems from the same levels of consciousness that created them, we realize that what is required is nothing less than a global revolution in consciousness, to transform the delusional mind states at the root of so many global crises." -- Joel and Michelle Levey

Well said.

June 1, 2015

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

The Citizens' Alliance spring social yesterday was a lot of fun -- great to get together and chat about issues, including the recent election, the proposed fertilizer plant in New Annan (and the few days left to comment on it), the spring sitting of the Legislature, and lots of completely unrelated wonderful topics. Thanks to all who were able to make it, brought snacks, cleaned up, etc. We'll plan another event in October, if not before.


Events tomorrow:

Tuesday, June 2nd

Information meeting about a Farm Camp idea, 7PM, Farm Centre.

"An information meeting will be held 7 pm Tuesday June 2nd at the Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., in Charlottetown by the International Sustainable Development Association (ISCA), to discuss the establishment of a weekly summer camp at the PEI Farm Centre’s Legacy Garden. Excerpts from the film 'Project Wild Thing', presentations by educators and program idea sharing will be part of the evening. The movement to reconnect children to the natural world and disconnect them from the video screen is arising quickly and spontaneously across North America and Europe. Development experts believe that children’s health and well-being increases as their interaction with the natural world increases." For additional information go to www.isca-aidc.ca, email David MacKay at mackaypei@gmail.com or telephone 902-940-5864

NaturePEI regular monthly meeting, 7:30PM, Beaconsfield Carriage House, guest speaker Julie Vasseur from Nature Conservancy of Canada.

A Visiony Bit from May 30th, on their Facebook site:


As Vision PEI evolves we are able with increasing precision to describe the nature of the group, and the functions we wish to perform. We are grateful for your support of this work in progress. What follows is our latest statement of who we are and what we are up to.

Vision PEI: an explanation

Vision PEI is not a party with a platform to be implemented. It is a group of individuals attempting to provide something other than the short-range political perspective by thinking about a healthy and stable long-range future for the Island.

Vision PEI encourages individuals and groups to imagine alternatives that are good for the Island in the long run, and act as they see fit to bring them about.

Vision PEI is a tool for expressing criticism of those actions that seem not in the best long-term interests of our province and our people, and support for those that are.

Vision PEI believes that the future of our Island is in the minds and hearts of its people, and that what is needed is for that wisdom to be brought forth, heeded and acted upon.

Vision PEI offers goals and ideals worthy of action, but does not attempt to prescribe the specific courses of action by which those goals might be realized. We don't pretend have all the answers, but look forward to working with Islanders to discover solutions.

Vision PEI is comprised of individuals with many different views; however, we have a shared commitment to the Island of the future as a place with a healthy and safe environment; a strong local economy that works to the benefit of all the residents; and a form of governance that is truly expressive of the wishes of the population.

--Vision PEI

A person who needs little introduction on P.E.I., Chef Michael Smith, writes today's Global Chorus, a wonderful essay printed in its entirety:

"Food is the way forward. Our relationship to our food is our best chance to catalyze systems evolution and generate ongoing hope for humanity. Current food systems contribute mightily to our global paradigm largely because of western ignorance. The environmental atrocities perpetrated on our wasteful behalf dwarf our awareness of them. Thus any solution must begin with engagement with our food. Easily done when you’re friends with a farmer!

There are more great reasons to integrate local food into your lifestyle than there are local ants a picnic but perhaps the most compelling is the opportunity to forge a personal connection with a food producer. In fact, much of what ails the global food system is a direct result of its dehumanization. As far as most of us know food is produced far away by nameless machines and blameless factories.

Time was we all knew someone who produced food, we knew exactly how much work it took and thus we respected the cost of that work. A strawberry is not just a strawberry when you know the farmer sweated all spring waiting for rain. A cow somehow tastes better when you know your farmer feeds it to their own family. Spend a day at sea with a fisherman and you’ll never find lobster high-priced again!

As we build a new sustainable food system it can help us solve an even deeper problem: our fundamental loss of connection to the world around us. We’ve taken Mother Nature and Father Time for granted for too long. Our efficient systems have eliminated our essential need to work the land, feel the weather and be in balance with ourselves. It’s balance we seek.

As humans we gather, prepare and share food. It’s human nature to do so efficiently but not at the expense of losing our connection to each other. We're at our best together, on the farm, in the kitchen or at the table." -- Chef Michael Smith