January 31, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Saturday, February 4rh:
Silent Walk in Solidarity with Muslim Communities, 11:30AM, Charlottetown Waterfront (meet at red "2017"numbers).
Forum: Progressive Alternatives to the "Free Trade" Agenda, 7PM, UPSE Board Room, 4 Enman Crescent, Charlottetown. The first of a series of interactive forums on this issue. All welcome.
Public School review meetings begin tomorrow:
Wednesday, February 1st:
Charlottetown Rural and Colonel Gray families of schools, Colonel Gray High School, gymnasium
Thursday, February 2nd:
Kinkora family of schools, Kinkora Regional High School, gymnasium
Tuesday, February 7th:
Montague family of schools, Montague Regional High School, cafeteria
Wednesday, February 8th:
Morell family of schools, Morell Regional High School, cafeteria
Thursday, February 9th:
Westisle family of schools, Westisle Composite High School, gymnasium
And More consultations that we hope are listened to ;-)
Pre-Budget Consultations are 2-4PM the next few Thursdays
Thursday, February 2nd, Charlottetown
Electoral Boundaries consultations start next week
Water Act draft consultations will start very soon, once the draft is released.
Alan Buchanan, a Lion in Winter, writes about schools and communities:
ALAN BUCHANAN: Community, with a capital ‘C’ - The Guardian Opinion piece by Alan Buchanan
Belfast area displays leadership, far-sightedness for more than 45 years
Published on Monday, January 30th, 2017
It seems unlikely, but here I am, once again at odds with a Liberal government. This time, the issue is the closing of schools. More specifically, I’m concerned about the closure of the Belfast school and the message that such an initiative sends to similar communities.
When I say similar communities, I don’t use the term loosely. Belfast is not a small cluster of houses, stubbornly clinging to an antiquated model and notion of place. It is a community with a capital 'C,' established under the Municipalities Act and governed by an elected Community Council. It is a regional community, consisting of 1,637 residents representing some 20-odd former single-room school districts, which amalgamated in 1972.
The boundaries of the community are virtually identical to those of the school catchment area. In short, Belfast has 45 years of experience doing precisely what the government is desperate to have other communities do: amalgamate, consolidate, and take greater responsibility for the governing of its own affairs and the shaping of its own economic future.
And how is the community rewarded for its leadership and far-sightedness? By having its school closed. Adding further insult is the fact that neither of the schools to which the Belfast students are being transferred is within an incorporated community.
This latter fact is particularly puzzling. It is a well-known practice within public administration to use public investment as an enticement to achieve certain policy objectives. For example, many jurisdictions will only construct social housing or government buildings in incorporated communities. Such a requirement has the benefit of encouraging municipal amalgamation and providing additional protection to taxpayers. Under such rules the message is clear: If a community wishes to benefit from public investment, it must demonstrate responsibility in planning and managing its own affairs.
The MacLauchlan government is also sending a clear message with its proposal to close schools. To communities like Belfast, which decades ago took the initiative to amalgamate, the message is summed up in two succinct words: Thanks, suckers!
I’m confident this is not the message the Premier wishes to send. But it is clearly the message that his educational bureaucrats have delivered.
We can almost imagine how it unfolded. Officials within the Department of Education looked at a map and quickly recognized that Belfast is conveniently located between two other underutilized schools. Imagine the ”eureka” moment: “Let’s just take some from the bottom of the Belfast district and move them to Southern Kings, and take some from the top and move them to Vernon River”.
This, of course ignores all kinds of other factors, including the presence of a supportive community and active Community Council and Development Corporation, an excellent and cost-efficient building, and superior educational outcomes to name only a few. It also ignores the fact (contained within the Department’s own projections) that at least one of the schools to which Belfast students will be bussed will be at-or-above capacity within five years. What will happen then? Any of the marginal savings gained from closing one school will be wiped out if an addition has to be built to another.
But that’s of no concern to the educational bureaucrats. Constructing or expanding schools is a capital cost. That’s someone else’s budget. And as for building community capacity, accountability and economic vibrancy? That’s someone else’s budget and worry too.
Even if the educational bureaucrats aren’t concerned about communities, the Premier should be. Given his background and commitment to rural development, he won’t want to move ahead with an approach that eviscerates community. I feel certain our Premier will insist on exploring other, less disruptive models. Certainly the “hub” model, which would make the school the location for other public services, has all the promise of a practical alternative. But exploring other models takes time, and that isn’t something the educational bureaucrats wish to share. Their minds are made up, and they want to get on with the job. They want to make the necessary staffing changes before the April deadline required by union contracts. Understandably, they are looking through the single lens of budgetary efficiency.
But I’m hoping that the Premier will look through a kaleidoscopic lens. I’m hoping he will look through the lens of community development. I’m hoping he will be open to exploring other models that will keep schools like Belfast open, by making them instruments of community growth and development. I’m hoping he will recognize it’s not right to punish communities who have taken responsibility for their own governance, planning and economic development. I’m hoping he will realize that the efforts of his educational advisors are at cross-purposes to his own efforts and aspirations for communities.
Most importantly, I’m hoping he will wisely recognize that the time allotted for review and feedback is not adequate for an issue of this importance and consequence.
- Alan Buchanan is a former Liberal MLA, Belfast-Pownal Bay
Alanna Mitchell is a journalist, playwright, and author of Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis
Here’s an idea. Let’s reframe this question. Let’s acknowledge that what we face is not a lack of science or technology; the recipe for triumph is right here, within grasp.
What we face is a faulty narrative. We’ve become mired in a story whose end we fear is already written. The science tells us, correctly, that if we keep going down the track we’re on, we will impair the planet’s ability to support life as we know it. Not all life forever. Just the creatures we know, almost certainly including us. It’s incredibly scary. The stakes are as high as they can be.
But what if we quite fiercely choose hope and then zero that hope in on the task of rewriting the story’s end? It will take sacrifice, loss. We will have to relinquish some of our fear, a lot of our anger and blame and guilt and despair about the state our species has put the planet in. But those emotions are the stuff of paralysis anyway. They suck up good energy, driving it into a black hole of helplessness.
What if instead we use that power to feed the highest human superpower: forgiveness. What if we forgive ourselves and each other and our species for having really screwed up? What if, instead of a story of disaster for humanity, we write a tale of magnificent redemption? And then just get on with making something better.
— Alanna Mitchell
January 30, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Working backward through some dates:
School reorganization issue:
**A correction -- Thursday, February 2nd, the Public Meeting is at Kinkora Regional High School, not Kensington, 7PM.
The meeting is hosted by the Public Schools Branch in the third round of consultations, this time for input on the school review recommendations. Many in the local community want any and all concerns citizens to come to this meeting (as many non-Georgetown residents went to that elementary school and formed a new human chain around the school yesterday). People know that this issue is about more than this small school or that small school, as that results in those planning school closures to divide and conquer. The school review is an Island issue, about our future and the vision we have for rural communities and the place for schools in the community.
Wednesday, February 1st:
Colonel Gray Family and Charlottetown Rural Family of Schools public meeting, 7PM, Colonel Gray gymnasium, Charlottetown.
More on the school review and public consultation at the Public Schools Branch website.
Tuesday, January 31st:
Forum Trade Justice, 7PM, UPSE Building Boardroom, 4 Enman Crescent, Charlottetown, all welcome.
Trade Justice PEI will be launching a discussion on:
"What are the key components of a progressive alternative to the neo-liberal 'free trade' agenda for PEI and everyone else?"
The evening will begin with an update on the new context and the status of the Canadian government's trade policy (CETA, TPP, TISA and NAFTA renegotiation) by Scott Sinclair (Director of the Trade and Investment Research Project of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).
We will then begin our discussion." More here:
From Thursday, January 26th, 2017, on the National Farmers Union website
Op-Ed: Free Trade, Rural Canada and How to keep Canada from being Trumped - National Farmers Union website post by Jan Slomp
Over the decades since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and later, NAFTA, was signed, Canadian agriculture has undergone a significant shift. There was once a multitude of diverse local and regional economic drivers, but now we have a “one size fits all” export-driven, low-priced commodity production model. Farm capital needs have sky-rocketed as illustrated by the massive $90 billion farm debt. Off-farm investors control more and more of Canada’s farmland. Production – per farm, per acre and per worker -- continues to go up. And that production became increasingly export and transport dependent as NAFTA-driven deregulation accelerated consolidation and transnational ownership of handling and processing facilities. Farmer numbers are ominously declining, yet governments, and most farm commodity groups and agri-business corporations remain euphoric over each signed trade agreement and growing exports.
What is missing in this picture is a few very sobering facts.
The once mighty farmer cooperative handlers and processors have been dismantled and absorbed into a handful of transnational corporations. 80% of Vancouver’s terminal capacity used to be owned and operated by prairie Pools. Now the private trade owns it all. With the Canadian Wheat Board gone there is no real economic participation by farmers beyond the farm gate, nor any referee to discipline the railroads. Prairie farmers, who once ran the majority of Canada’s grain industry, no longer have a direct connection to the customers and end-users that pay the real market value for their product.
Under NAFTA, Canada’s regulatory system facilitated North American integration of pork and beef slaughter, processing and marketing at the expense of regional and local processors, marketers and the jobs they provided. Despite trade agreements, Canadian exports are still disadvantaged due to transportation costs
Apart from supply management sectors and a brief spike after 2009, overall inflation-adjusted net farm income is dismal. Farm communities across Canada are suffering from chronic economic decline. This was camouflaged by off-farm manufacturing jobs in Central Canada and resource sector jobs in Western Canada, but those jobs are no longer easy to get. The decline of Canada’s rural economy is not often discussed, but four decades of loss -- of elevators, rail service, machinery dealerships, manufacturing, processing, input suppliers, essential community services and retailing outlets -- has steadily diminished the quality of rural life. Government cutbacks to agricultural research facilities, public plant breeding, the PFRA and government extension services have further aggravated prospects. The decline of rural Canada is stark and given little attention compared to the rural quality of life in other developed countries.
Canada’s growing dependence on food imports is another sobering fact. We can grow many of these products, but have lost our own market because trade agreements help integrated food companies operate across borders, depressing prices for producers while controlling the consumer price. Trade agreements also reward over-processing of foods by substituting basic ingredients with cheaper fats, vegetable oils, soy lecithin, corn starch, fructose and modified milk ingredients, hence North America’s infamous over-consumption of processed foods. If free trade facilitates efficiency, as claimed, why is the spread between prices at the farm gate and the grocery store constantly getting larger?
President Trump vilifies Mexico for the loss of US jobs, but fails to mention the American companies that flocked to the Mexican maquiladoras to take advantage of low labour and environmental standards. NAFTA allowed the US to flood Mexico with its heavily subsidized corn, pork, chicken, beef and dairy, destroying the livelihoods of millions of Mexican farmers. Many subsequently migrated (often illegally) to become super-exploited labour in American fields, factories and meat packing plants.
President Trump will likely find reasons to reject Canadian product coming across the border, so it is very important that Prime Minister Trudeau is prepared for the worst and applies the utmost diplomacy in dealing with the Trump administration.
It is important to understand that NAFTA was never the golden egg its promoters pretended it to be, and neither are the other free trade agreements signed since. NAFTA has caused a lot of damage to the Canadian rural economy and President Trump is likely going to add more trouble. The last thing rural Canada needs is more give-aways to the US in an attempt to persuade the Americans not to back out of the deal. It is time for our Prime Minister to stop trading away the livelihoods of Canadian farmers and to start repairing the damage these deals have done so our domestic and international markets can function in a way that will make farming profitable again.
The decline of the Canadian rural economy must be turned around. If Prime Minister Trudeau wants to prevent the election of a Trump-like Canadian leader in three years he will have to start fixing things in rural Canada. We need an agenda for agriculture that makes rural quality of life and viable family farms the priority.
Jan Slomp is President of the National Farmers Union. He farms near Courtenay, BC.
The January 30th Global Chorus is by Maria Fadiman, an America who studies plants with medicinal and cultural significance in the Ecuadoran rainforest. She is a National Geographic "Emerging Explorer" and an ethnobotanist, studying the scientific relationship between people and plants. Her is an excerpt:
"Whether in the rainforest or the city, awareness of our disconnection and the possibility for reconnection is the first step.
We can each take it from there."
-- Maria Fadiman
More info on Dr. Fadiman:
January 29, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Georgetown Elementary School, 1PM, Participate in a group hug around the school. All welcome.
The Bonshaw Ceilidh is today from 2-4PM, it's normal winter schedule for January, February and March. Proceeds go to the PEI Chapter of the Council of Canadians (yesterday I had the time wrong).
Thursday, February 2nd:
Forum and Rally at Kensignton School, 7PM. Concerned parents are organizing a forum at Kensington Intermediate High School, about the school review process and the importance of rural schools. Speakers will include educator Gerry Hopkirk, historian David Weale, and MLA Peter Bevan-Baker.
from Thursday, January 26th, 2017, in The Guardian
EDITORIAL: Alarm bells ringing loud - The Guardian Main Editorial
Full details of the contract between the province and Bell Aliant suggest what most people had feared - it was a sweetheart deal, rife with mistakes from the very start. And even more alarming, those mistakes were repeated when the contract was twice secretly renewed.
The contract has been criticized since 2009 when government signed an untendered, multi-year deal with Bell Aliant for government phone services, and to extend high-speed Internet across P.E.I. At the time, it drew an angry attack from communications rival Eastlink.
Despite assurances from the province and Bell, many rural customers never received their promised high-speed service - so important today for businesses and residents.
Taxpayers spent millions for a service that many are not receiving. The deal will cost Island taxpayers $23.3 million when it expires in 2020 - a staggering sum for a contract awarded without tender or scrutiny.
The province argues that Bell was the only company at the time with the network infrastructure, technical support and know-how to supply the contract. Eastlink might dispute those points since it also had an Islandwide network in place for cable television and phone service.
The province put a positive spin on the story, ‘relieved’ that it could finally release full details. In reality, the government was as anxious as Bell to keep details secret – out of embarrassment.
Pressure in the legislature finally saw an edited version of the contract released – minus financial details – and it took an order by the information and privacy commissioner to finally see the full document released.
Government claims that it had intended to release the contract from the beginning and blames the delay on Bell. Right. And on cue this week, the government cited the release of the contract as helping to fulfill its mandate of improving transparency and accountability. It’s a made-in-P.E.I. example of alternative facts.
The government also claims the release of the contract will allow it to work with Internet service and telecommunication providers to ensure Islanders receive the best and most reliable service possible.
How? The contract with Bell remains intact for another three years. And although taxpayers paid for it, Bell Aliant retains exclusive ownership of every portion of the fibre optic network. It positions Bell in an unfair advantage for the next contract.
In addition, government continues to have no authority over the manner in which Internet services are provided. And most irksome of all, Bell Aliant is free to downgrade broadband services after 2020. After years of substandard service, Bell can reduce that inferior product even further? It’s unbelievable.
There seemed little accountability for Bell to deliver what was promised. Where were the checks and balances to deliver on what was promised?
The government says that all future contracts between province and private companies will be negotiated through a competitive, open process.
It always seems to require some flagrant misstep - like e-gaming, loan write-offs, deleted emails, PNP or the Bell contract - for this government to take long overdue, corrective measures.
Kevin J. Arsenault connects the dots of the current and recent Premiers/telecoms/insurance company loops of power and wealth in his recent blog.
Today's Global Chorus is by Jonathan Legg, who produces and hosts The Road Less Traveled (YouTube clip here).
There is no doubt our world is full of environmental and social crises, but there is more hope than realized.
As a travel show host I ramble around the planet turning over stones and looking for good narratives. I find that most people live in the bubble of their communities, largely oblivious to global issues. In Calcutta and Iloilo there are always plenty of fish at the market, so the understanding that ocean stocks are extremely depleted hasn’t been realized, and probably won’t be until the day the market grinds to a halt. On the other side of the coin you’ll meet a few individuals in these towns religiously reading the papers and watching international news who believe the planet is going to hell in a handbasket.
The truth is somewhere in between.
Harvard psychologist Stephen Pinker reminds us that the world is safer than ever before, and part of the reason is because of expanded awareness. We believe it’s worse because of the flood of stories on the nightly news, but this light shining in the corners and cracks has actually made it better. I believe the same effect will galvanize the world’s communities into combating other issues, but don’t count on standard media to do the job. Violence may be contrary to everyone’s agenda, but curbing consumption probably isn’t a priority for state- and corporate-run news.
This is where the traveller and social media will fill the gap. Through Twitter, blogs, short online videos and other devices, information is being shared like never before. A common person with a concern or a cause can now reach anyone on the planet who has an Internet connection. Cataloguing vacation and life experiences online allows us to savour them more fully, in the same way taking a picture does, but more importantly it adds a little more clarity and a little extra contrast to the collective understanding.
The more voices that join this global chorus, the further we will grasp how interconnected we all are and the closer we will get to grappling with the realities of our modern world.
— Jonathan Legg
January 28, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets are open in Summerside and Charlottetown today. Quite a lot of local food available, even at this time of year.
Filmmaker Mille Clarkes' short video on why Belfast School is so important in the community applies equally well to the other schools on the chopping block. Mille put it on YouTube:
Georgetown-St. Peter's MLA and Opposition Education critic Steven Myers wrote a blistering posting on social media yesterday:
Steven Myers' posting, January 27th, 2017:
I hear from Islanders everyday now that are frustrated with the Wade MacLauchlan/Robert Ghiz Government. They are frustrated by the level of corruption the two have brought to this Island. They are frustrated as they watch MacLauchlan/Ghiz friends get handed money while they don’t have a family doctor. They watch as Government covers up the details of a $23 million dollar Bell deal and they can’t find less than $500,000 to keep 5 schools open. They watch as Government give away an entire golf resort for $500,000 with a $7 million dollar kicker to help them run it. Yet they won’t build a manor in Montague after promising it for 10 years. They are frustrated with taxes, waste and corruption.
This government has brought us phrases like: “One Island Community”, “Better Access Better Care”, “Better Learning for All” and “The Mighty Island”. All lines meant to shame Rural PEI into accepting less. We don’t need to be shamed. We don’t need to accept less. I’ve heard people say recently that we have to accept that our population is changing. No we don’t. That’s Liberal apologist talk. We don’t have to accept anything less than they do anywhere else. The population of district 2 hasn’t dropped more than 1% since 2007. At a time when young families are moving back we shouldn’t accept silly lines that shame us.
The rural schools fight is about more than just schools. It’s a test from the backroom Charlottetown Liberals to see what we will accept. Come to Georgetown school this Sunday at 1 pm and stand with rural Islanders and show them we reject them and their Charlottetown shame.
Sunday, January 29th:
"Hug" around Georgetown School, 2008
Hug 2.0, Supporting Rural Schools, 1PM, Georgetown Elementary School. Concerned people from any part of the Island are encouraged to come and form a big ring around the school, as was done the last time the school was on a closure list. Refreshments and family skate to follow.
A couple of other events on Sunday:
Atlantic String Machine, winter concert, 2:30PM, St. Paul's Church, Charlottetown, admission.
Bonshaw Ceilidh, proceeds to PEI Chapter of the Council of Canadians, 7-9PM, Bonshaw Hall, corner of TCH and Green Road, admission by donation. Emerald Junction and several other talented groups to perform.
Canadian artist and environmentalist Robert Bateman writes the January 28 Global Chorus essay. Words that apply today as when they were written a couple of years ago (bold is mine):
The British economist E.F. Schumacher said, “The real problems facing the planet are not economic or technical, they are philosophical.” I completely agree. Where there is a will there is a way – where there is no will there is no way. If the various cultures and powerful entities in the world can modify their philosophies toward solving the global environmental and social crises, it is certainly possible. I have three suggestions:
1. We need a critical mass of people to pay attention to issues. Too many people bury their heads in the sand and don’t want to hear about issues. We prefer, as Neil Postman says, to “amuse ourselves to death.” To this end we need almost total transparency of the actions of people on top. What forces are behind the scenes? What are the lobbies? Where is the money? Financial transactions should be transparent. Government and corporate scientists should be allowed to be open about their work and their conclusions. No more muzzling of scientists or the media. Lack of transparency is the hallmark of tyranny such as the regimes of Hitler, Stalin or Mugabe.
2. We do not need any more studies or commissions to solve problems. We know what we have to do. All we have to do is expect to pay more for a good future. Nature is not a free lunch. There is no free lunch. We can pay now or pay later, but if we pay later it will cost more. Our society seems to say that we would rather pay later. Some have called this grandchild abuse. We must have true cost accounting of everything we spend money on. A good future likely will mean higher taxes and more expensive goods. Actually, cutting corners is too expensive.
3. Finally, a general philosophy of respect would be very helpful: respect for Nature and respect for other humans. The Golden Rule states, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Not a bad idea.
January 27, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Here is a summary of the comments at the first provincial pre-budget consultation meeting, in Montague, last night:
As you can guess, the proposed but very poorly defined Carbon tax and the potential school closures dominated the discussions.
Residents stress importance of carbon tax money going back to Islanders - The Eastern Graphic article by Kevin Curley
Published on-line on PEICANADA.com on Thursday, January 26th, 2017
“All money created by carbon pricing should go back into programs for Islanders.”
That was the message from Islander Nick Easton had for government at the pre-budget consultations in Montague today.
The consultation was held by Finance Minister Allen Roach and carbon pricing and rural school closures dominated much of the conversation.
The 15 people in attendance had a range of questions and suggestions regarding the carbon tax.
Carbon Pricing was announced in December of 2016 by the federal government. The pricing is set at $10 per tonne beginning in 2018 and will increase to $30 per tonne by 2020.
Mr Easton was among the first to speak and said the carbon tax should not be used to balance the budget. “Minister Roach you were quoted as saying you were going to try and divert all the funds back into programs for Islanders. It’s going to enable us to reach our carbon reduction goals. The only thing that bothers me in that statement is the word try. I don’t think there should be any doubt that 100 per cent of all revenues can be diverted back into carbon reduction programs whenever and whatever they may be,” Mr Easton said.
Mr Easton said he worked in energy related fields his whole career and believes strongly we need something like carbon pricing due to the crises of climate change. “The carbon tax shouldn’t be viewed as just a dis-incentive to reduce pollution but as a vehicle to fund programs and projects that promote environmental sustainability,” Mr Easton said.
Mr Easton said there are already some projects on the Island to reduce our carbon footprint and some should be created on a larger scale.
“We should continue those, but we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to Island projects if an excess of funds are available. It is a global problem.”
Mr Easton said we should continue to put money into programs like home-energy efficiency and create new programs to help with climate change mitigation.
Eastern PEI farmer Charles Murphy said he didn’t think carbon pricing was going to be the answer to all of our problems. “If they are serious about carbon pricing and serious about the carbon problem, they will limit the amount of gasoline they are allowed to sell. It’s going to be a case of the rich people will be able to buy it and the poor people wouldn’t,” Mr Murphy said.
Glenn Hynes said he works in the Alberta oil fields. He said the oil sands have been keeping the lights on in many parts of rural PEI for quite some time. Mr Hynes pointed out that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall recently said the tax was potentially unconstitutional and the federal government should be taken to court. “If Mr Wall was successful in overturning this economically harmful, job killing tax, will this government in PEI follow Saskatchewan’s lead and abolish this ill-conceived tax that had zero consultation with any of our trading partners?” Mr Hynes asked.
Local businessperson Josh Hayden asked if products being brought into PEI would have the same regulations and taxes as the products made here.
“Will it be a fair playing field for people here trying to make their own living with their own business?”
Mr Hayden said it was good to see that carbon pricing would not extend to agriculture and fisheries. “That’s great because most of that is in rural PEI and there is by no means any boom in those industries in rural PEI. Rural PEI needs something new. Those industries also shouldn’t have to pay the pay the money out and then get it back. They should be exempt from the start,” Mr Hayden said.
Mr Roach reiterated that these public sessions are all about getting input from the community on how the money should be spent. “We don’t profess to have all the answers. We think there are a lot of good ideas out there in the public and that’s why we’re here today,” he said.
The next consultation is in Charlottetown next Thursday, February 2nd, from 2-4PM.
Also from the Graphic newspapers this week, Allan Rankin's column
Abandoning small schools is unnecessary and short-sighted - The Eastern Graphic article by Allan Rankin
Published on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017, in The Graphic newspapers
For Islanders who have grown up in a rural province, whose strength socially and economically has been its local communities, it must be sad and somewhat inexplicable to watch as government, for the second time in six years, abandons small rural schools and the families whose children depend on them.
The Minister of Education and his department professionals would have us believe low enrollment demands the closure of small schools in Georgetown and Belfast, up west in Bloomfield and St. Louis, and in the crime infested inner city streets of Charlottetown.
Minister Currie claims his latest school consolidation efforts are intended to create fairness and equality, to rebalance the system and the children going to small schools will be afforded greater learning opportunities in bigger schools down the road. He also talks of the need to reduce operating budgets and save money when the operation of the small schools being targeted requires a mere pittance.
Firstly, any decision to close schools should come only after province-wide rezoning and a transportation review both of which have been promised for a decade or more but never undertaken. Government doesn’t want to unsettle or inconvenience Islanders, or the Teacher’s Federation, or the bus driver’s union, to rejig the system. That would be the right thing to do for public education in the province, however the political risks are deemed unacceptable. Far easier to make ad hoc changes, close a few vulnerable small schools and minimize public dissent.
As demonstrated throughout the world and in other Canadian jurisdictions, the quality of education in small schools, especially at the primary grade level, often exceeds what can be achieved in bigger schools, despite the broadened curriculum and services offered in the bigger schools.
In closing small schools like Georgetown Elementary, the minister is taking away the advantages children enjoy in that school such as small class size and proximity to home and local community, and burdening those same children with longer bus rides, larger classes, and an overcrowded school environment where social and emotional problems are more likely to occur.
The fairness and rebalancing Minister Currie is talking about is an illusion, fed by a doctrine of public education that prefers consolidation and centralization, and an approach to learning that has turned our classrooms into department stores where focusing on core curriculum has become almost impossible.
The approved Grade 1 curriculum in Island schools includes everything from communications and information technology to French immersion. When you add other subject areas like health, social studies, and physical education, it’s a wonder any class time exists to teach the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy.
When it comes to teaching core curriculum, properly resourced small schools can provide all our younger children need for their early education. I challenge the minister and his department to show otherwise.
The current school closure debate has been driven by concern for community and while I am truly saddened by the continued erosion of rural life in Prince Edward Island, our main defense of smaller, local schools should be mainly about their educational merits and their potential as little engines of learning for little people.
We should be careful not to fight the battle for the wrong reasons. It is true that rural schools have always been vital community institutions, but the structure of rural community has changed drastically over the years, and not every small rural school easily identifies with a community, other than the community of families and students who use it.
Nevertheless, I believe the community hub model for small schools being proposed by the Leader of the Green Party, Peter Bevan-Baker, is innovative and could have application in traditional communities like Georgetown.
In Nova Scotia, there are dozens of schools at present with enrollments of less than 100 children. The Nova Scotia Small Schools Initiative has harnessed academic expertise and public support to put small schools at the heart of rural revitalization.
In our province, so rural and local in character, it is astonishing government and the educational establishment have ignored the virtues of smaller schools, and lacked the imagination and creativity to foster and sustain them. Where is the innovative thinking? Where is the willingness to move away from the current orthodoxy? And where is the leadership that pulls educational policy out of its stagnant silo and integrates it with a purposeful, effective rural development strategy?
Other than possibly Lucy Maud Montgomery, the Island’s most famous writer was Sir Andrew Macphail of Orwell, a professor of history and medicine at McGill University. His autobiographical book The Master’s Wife, published in 1939, is a beautiful portrait of rural life in Prince Edward Island at the turn of the 20th Century.
Macphail received his early education at the two-room Uigg Grammar School, which I am certain had an enrollment far below what Minister Currie would deem viable today.
Sir Andrew clearly missed out on educational opportunities.
Public education in Prince Edward Island needs a new vision and direction. That vision and direction won’t be generated by a professional bureaucracy resistant to new ideas and change. Abandoning small, local schools in rural parts of the province is both unnecessary and short-sighted, and sacrifices their inherent qualities on the altar of bigness and pretended opportunity.
Lauren Bush Lauren, who happens to be the niece of ex-U.S. president George W. Bush, married an heir to the Lauren clothing line, and has spent much of her life working with poverty action. She is co-founder and CEO of FEED Project.
When I was a student in college, I had the amazing opportunity to travel the world with the UN. It was a life-changing experience to visit places of extreme poverty and meet people who did not know where their next meal was coming from. I would return from my travels feeling inspired to make a difference, but not knowing where to begin.
I knew others would want to help too, if given an easy way to do so without feeling overwhelmed. It was from this premise that I came up with the idea for FEED, a social business with a mission to create good products that help feed the world. The idea is simple: buy a tote bag and help a child. For every product we sell, we make a donation to give meals to people in need. Using this model, we are able to make a positive impact on the world while empowering consumers to get involved. By harnessing people’s will to make the world a better place, I have seen first-hand how FEED and other social ventures can serve as conduits for individuals and businesses to make a difference and get involved in helping solve big world issues.
Ultimately, I believe the foundation for real and lasting global change is universal empathy. If our world is connected through a shared Earth, it must also be connected through a shared compassion and common sense of human dignity. It really boils down to the Golden Rule: “treat others as you would like to be treated.” If the world could abide by that simple rule, many of the daunting challenges we face today would go away. But in the meantime, it is up to each of us to come up with our own ideas and solutions.
If a simple burlap tote bag can feed nearly sixty million children, I am excited to see what your ideas will do.
— Lauren Bush Lauren
January 26, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The provincial pre-budget public consultations begin today for the next four Thursdays in four locations. They run from 2-4PM.
TODAY: Thursday, January 26, Montague (storm date January 27)
Thursday, February 2, Charlottetown
Thursday, February 9, Summerside (French translation provided)
Thursday, February 17, Tignish
You can comment anytime at:
Regarding the "MyDemocracy.ca" survey on electoral reform:
From Nathan Cullen (NDP Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, BC), wrote yesterday on social media:
Liberals spent $3 million dollars on a useless and vague survey about our democracy and got ... useless and vague results.
Electoral committee (ERRE Committee) actual asked questions about voting systems and found 88% of citizens and 90% of expert witnesses wanted a proportional system.
Let's get it done. Because it's 2017.
Peter Bevan-Baker, MLA, has a YouTube video on his Facebook page with his thoughts
on the importance of schools in a community, and sums it up: small schools revitalize rural regions.
Paul MacNeill writes in his weekly editorial for The Graphic newspapers:
Rural PEI must stand with Georgetown - The Graphic newspapers article by Paul MacNeill
Published on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 in The Graphic newspapers and on-line
Everyone remembers the catchy children’s song Dem Bones: The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone, now shake dem skeleton bones!
It’s anatomy 101. The same approach applies to growing communities ... health care is connected education, education is connected to job creation, job creation is connected to community vibrancy.
If these connections exist trust is built. But that is not the case when decisions are imposed by a faceless and feckless bureaucracy. Rural PEI is the backbone of the Island economy, but is not treated as such.
The MacLauchlan government makes decisions – be it health care, education or economic development – in isolation of everything else. This flawed logic may fly in the Liberal cabinet room and bureaucratic management sessions, but it doesn’t fly in the real world.
When the Liberal government promises replacement manors in 2009 (with the same number of beds as 50 years ago) for Tyne Valley and Montague but eight years later still has not delivered, we notice.
When Health PEI’s bureaucracy habitually impedes physician recruitment in Souris, we notice.
When a flawed and biased education restructuring calls for the closure of five schools but does nothing to reduce and refocus a bureaucracy that squanders millions in its drive for systematic mediocrity, we notice.
When government says there is no connection between school closures and local efforts to merge rural governments, we notice.
We notice because the disconnect is glaring. In the 2015 election Liberals promised school board elections and not to close schools. Both promises are broken. We notice.
We notice a process that does not deal with massive holes in the provincial curriculum and school day structure and the ensuing impact on our children and economy. Rather government picks up the Ghiz torch from 2008 and follows a road that leads to a predictable bureaucratic recommendation to close schools. Instead of an elected board, the premier appoints his deputy minister to lead an unelected, unaccountable three member board of directors. We’re supposed to believe the process is independent and credible.
We notice when the deck is stacked against us by a broken and biased process.
And we notice when the MacLauchlan government throws a rural PEI leader under the bus because his common sense allows him to see what the administration does not – a connection between one action and another, in this case education cutbacks and a provincially supported effort to create a regional government.
Georgetown Mayor Lewis Lavandier is among the best mayors I’ve seen in 30 plus years covering politics. He is not prone to overblown rhetoric, is courageous and not scared to tackle big challenges. There would be no push for regional government among seven eastern communities if Lavandier was not involved from Day 1. The effort is important and needed. It is also rural PEI’s strongest bargaining chip because the MacLauchlan government wants to use Three Rivers as a model across the Island.
In the fallout of the recommendation to close the Georgetown School, Lavandier’s council passed a motion forcing the town and mayor to step away from all regionalization discussions. It’s easy to see why – why help the provincial government when government won’t help Georgetown.
The premier is refusing to meet with the mayor and council on the education file and the minister responsible for regionalization, Robert Mitchell says the process will press on without Georgetown.
At least that is what government wants.
An attitude that proclaims ‘we will use you as long as you are of benefit to us’ doesn’t fly. Lavandier and Georgetown deserve better. Rural PEI deserves better.
Part of the argument for regional government is strength of voice. The Liberal administration wants to break our unified voice by employing the same conquer and divide strategy it opposes in the Trudeau government’s health funding initiative.
It is offensive to suggest the regional initiative can continue without Georgetown. This is not a one-sided discussion. We have a say. It is about trust and respect and the provision of basic public services such as manors, hospitals and small schools.
If the province can so easily drop Georgetown, the Capital of Kings County, it can drop any community. If government wants regionalization, earn it. Protect small schools, build modern health care facilities and treat us as more than an annoyance.
Our power is our collective voice. If we need to prove it by walking away from regionalization, so be it. Government will be to blame for being blind to the reality that dem bones do connect.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at email@example.com
The Global Chorus essay for January 26th is written by chef and healthy eating activist Jamie Oliver. Food Revolution Day was May 20th in 2016, and Jamie's website is here.
True, sustainable, radical transformation of individuals, families or communities doesn’t come from one action – everything has to change, everyone has to contribute and everyone needs to be openminded to change, which makes it tough. But that doesn’t mean people can’t lead the way, set examples and give people hope. Of course governments should step up and big, responsible organizations should set an example, but there’s no reason why change and making better choices can’t start with individuals and be fun.
I believe that even the best governments can only think short-term – as far as the next election or, at best, the one after. Big problems that will take decades to solve are overwhelming, and the likelihood is that by the time things get REALLY bad, the other guy will be in power. So I’m pretty sure a lot of them think that big solutions can wait. They can’t.
It’s not too late to make a difference. As a campaigner and a food lover, but most importantly as a father (and hopefully one day a grandfather), I cannot stand by and watch this global health disaster unfold. That’s why I believe passionately in food education and the power of people and communities all across the world to get together to make positive changes.
And that’s why I’ve started Food Revolution Day – one day each year where people all over the world who care about food education can stand up and raise awareness. It’s the ultimate expression of people power. It started in 2012 and it’s not specifically designed to send a message to governments – most don’t listen anyway – but to be the start of a grassroots movement. With not much time to pull it all together, the first Food Revolution Day had 1,000 events, big and small, in 664 cities around the world, all hosted by passionate, brilliant people who care. The second in 2013 had even more. Big change starts with little changes, on a local and personal level. Before you know it, you’re part of something huge.
-- Jamie Oliver
January 25, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Public Account Legislative Standing Committee Meeting, J. Angus MacLean Building, corner of Great George and Richmond Streets, has been cancelled for today, and will be rescheduled. At that point, the e-gaming report will be discussed and the Auditor General will likely by scheduled to appear.
The home page for the Legislative Assembly will have the rescheduled date announcement in the news section on the right-hand side at some point.
Water quality of the Island's Rivers has been assessed for the 2015 year. Here is a CBC article summarizing the report and the actual report is here:
Today is a mental health awareness day with some sponsorship by Bell, which will be donating five cents for social media postings with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk
Dr. Stan Kutcher from Dalhousie University was recently on the Island talking to some high school classes and parent/community audiences. He mentioned not only talking about mental health, but tweaked Bell's initiative to be "Let's Talk Smart" -- using accurate terms and keeping communication open all year long. A website recommended by Dr. Kutcher with lots of information is Teen Mental Health. org http://teenmentalhealth.org/
The Global Chorus essay for January 25th is by Mark Reynolds, who was executive director of the Citizens' Climate Lobby Canada.
Here is a YouTube (42 minutes long) of a talk "The Way Forward" by Mark Reynolds at a 2014 "Carbon Fee Prosperity"Conference:
(I haven't had a chance to watch this)
and the current Citizens' Climate Lobby Canada website.
Current political winds are blowing in other directions; the more we need to be inspired to act on words like these from Mark:
We can restore the climate of the 1980s by 2070. It won’t require a miracle or big sacrifices, just the will and policies to do it. Top climate scientists confirm this is possible. They haven’t proposed it before because it has appeared that we, as a society, would never muster the courage to do it.
Restoring the climate requires that we switch to carbon-free energy by 2030–2050, as described by Stanford’s Mark Z. Jacobson, and let the ocean continue absorbing the carbon dioxide we’ve emitted.
In 1961, President Kennedy declared: “We will send a man to the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade.” At the time, we had just sent a man into space for 15 minutes. We did not have the rockets, the navigation or the life support systems for a moon trip and most people, including my parents, thought it was complete folly. Seven years later we
had developed and demonstrated the technology – ahead of schedule. We had a clear, ambitious goal and a deadline, and we rose to the occasion.
Twenty years is plenty of time to develop the missing links such as batteries, smart grids and domestic manufacturing capability. Compare that to the five years we spent building the 300,000 aircraft that helped us win the Second World War using 1940s technology, or the seven years developing the technology for the moon program with 1960s technology. We now have Google, computers, 3D printers and millions of highly educated engineers connected by the Internet.
Tell your children, your nation’s leaders and your representatives which legacy you want to give to our grandkids: restore the climate by 2070. That is our moon shot. Let’s commit to it.
— Mark Reynolds
January 24, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A bit on the federal electoral issue, from Maude Barlow and the Council of Canadians:
Barlow calls on Trudeau government to move on proportional representation - The Council of Canadians blog post by Brent Patterson
Published on Sunday, January 22nd, 2017
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has called on the Trudeau government to move forward with proportional representation.
The Every Voter Counts Alliance open letter states, "The report on the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform was tabled on December 1, 2016. The parliamentary committee recommendation is for a voting system that maintains the link between Canadian citizens and a locally representative MP while eliminating the risks posed by majoritarian systems (such as First past the Post and Ranked Ballots under FPTP) of severe electoral distortions of the will of the voters. We congratulate the newly appointed minister, the Hon Karina Gould, and urge her to move to implement the key recommendation of the parliamentary committee and move to a system of proportional representation for the next federal election."
The Ottawa Citizen reports, "Earlier this week, the indefatigable proportional representation proponents who make up the Every Voter Counts Alliance released an open letter signed by a pantheon of 'prominent Canadians' — including, among others, Neil Young, Ed Broadbent, David Suzuki and Maude Barlow.”
The Globe and Mail adds, "It’s time for the federal government to hit the gas pedal on electoral reform, now that there’s a road map for replacing the current first-past-the-post voting system, say former elections chief Jean-Pierre Kingsley and a group of prominent Canadians."
That article highlights, "Trudeau promised during the last election campaign that the 2015 vote would be the last held under first-past-the-post, although he has since shown signs of backing away from that commitment. During a town-hall meeting in Kingston, Ont., last week, Trudeau described electoral reform as “a complicated issue” that brings out a wide spectrum of opinions. Asked by a woman in the audience whether he believes a proportional voting system would be best for Canada, Trudeau said while he prefers a ranked voting system, he’s open to a broad range of perspectives. Gould has also so far refused to say definitively whether she’s committed to ensuring the federal Liberals honour their campaign promise."
The Liberals had promised to introduce electoral reform legislation by this May.
If proportional representation had been in place for the October 2015 federal election, the Liberals likely would have won a minority government with 134 seats (rather than 184 seats, 54 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons with just 40 per cent of the popular vote), the Conservatives 109 seats (rather than 99), the NDP 67 seats (rather than 44), the Green Party 12 seats (rather than 1), and the Bloc Quebecois 16 seats (rather than 10).
The next federal election will take place on October 21, 2019.
Here is The Guardian article on the Bell Aliant contract, and CBC is discussing it in detail on radio after the 8AM news.
$23 million Bell Aliant contract with P.E.I. government revealed - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
Published on Monday, January 23, 201, in The Guardian
The 11-year, sole-sourced Bell Aliant contract with the P.E.I. government is worth $23.3 million, according to the full document, released under freedom of information Monday.
The contract between the company and the province has been the topic of heated debate and criticism over the years, notably because government hailed it as a means of providing provincewide high-speed Internet, yet many Islanders remain without true high-speed service.
Until now, only a redacted version of the Bell Aliant contract was available to the public, with all financial details blacked out by the company.
But, thanks to a recent ruling by the province’s privacy commissioner, the contract has now been released in its entirety.
It shows that by 2020, the P.E.I. government will have paid Bell Aliant $23.3 million for telephone services.
It also shows the province agreed in 2013 to give up more than $1.4 million in previously negotiated discounts to its telephone rates in exchange for Bell Aliant expanding its DSL and fibre optic networks in rural areas of the province.
The original 2008 agreement saw Bell Aliant commit to build a broadband network for a list of 56 rural communities in P.E.I. at a cost of $8.2 million.
The company agreed to shoulder these costs and, in exchange, government handed Bell Aliant its telephone services contract, locked in for five years.
No public tender was issued for this deal.
This drew criticism from other telecommunications companies at the time who said they would have welcomed an opportunity to bid on the lucrative government contract.
The agreement was extended twice without public announcement, first in 2010 and again in 2013. Both extensions involved Bell Aliant expanding its fibre op and DSL networks in exchange for extending the length of its exclusive telephone contract with government.
It was the second extension that saw the pricing structure for the province’s telephone bills altered.
Bell Aliant proposed to expand its fibre op services to 5,000 additional homes and businesses in Souris, Montague, Georgetown, Kensington, Miscouche, Alberton and O'Leary by the end of 2014.
In exchange, government agreed to extend its telephone contract to the year 2020 and also agreed to lower discounts for its telephone bills, which were part of the original 2008 contract.
This was done “in order for the province to fund Bell Aliant’s FibreOp and DSL expansion on Prince Edward Island,” the contract states.
However, despite the fact taxpayers funded it, Bell Aliant retains exclusive ownership of “each and every portion” of the fibre optic network infrastructure.
The contract also says government “shall not have any authority over the manner in which services are provided,” and that Bell Aliant is not barred from downgrading broadband services once the contract is up in 2020.
Economic Development Minister Heath MacDonald was reluctant to share his opinion of this deal Monday, noting it was negotiated under the previous Ghiz administration.
But he did say all future contracts between government and private companies will be negotiated through a competitive process.
“Everything that we do will be (requests for proposals) and every company will have an opportunity to bid on the services required.”
MacDonald also stressed his support for the public release of this document, pointing out it was Bell Aliant that fought the release of the unredacted contract.
“If you’re doing business with government, the public and the taxpayer should be aware of it at the end of the day,” MacDonald said.
Today's Global Chorus essay is by Carl Honere, a Canadian journalist (now residing in London), an advocate of the Slow Movement, author of In Praise of Slow, and Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-ParentingUnder Pressure
His very entertaining website is here:
There is always hope. If we work together and channel our better angels, we can fix this mess.
The first step is to forge a radically new definition of success. Consuming more should cease to be the measure of a good life. Instead, we must build a culture that prizes meaning and connection, that places on a pedestal those who make the world a better place.
The most powerful way to bring about this
cultural revolution is to slow down. When we live in fast forward, we struggle to look beyond our own selfish, short-term desires. Decelerating can help us see the big picture. When we take time to live each moment fully, we start to notice and cherish other people and everything else around us.
Bottom line: the only way to save this fast world is to slow down. -- Carl Honoré
January 23, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Winter Woodlot tour Saturday was a great chance for people to get outside and enjoy nature in the winter, and it sounded like a great time for families and kids. One MLA changed his Facebook profile picture to share his encounters with nature. Perhaps it could also be a poster for his District in a Dual Member Proportional Representation system.
Getting out and seeing all the stuff that's going on outside in the winter is wonderful. And sharing it with kids is really important.
Other initiatives related to kids and nature certainly include the Sierra Club's Wild Child program in P.E.I., and the fantastic coordinator, Hannah Gehrels.
Here is an article from CBC earlier this month:
Sierra Club hopes to expand Wild Child program - CBC PEI News online article by Kevin Yarr
Forest school would develop 'greater understanding and curiosity'
CBC News online, posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017
The Sierra Club is aiming to open a forest school on P.E.I.
The group currently operates a free Wild Child nature program on the Island. Volunteers visit child care centres and take children outside to learn more about the natural world. They learn about trees, and spend time looking at bugs.
"Sometimes it just takes someone to lead someone into an experience outdoors that takes away the fear," said Wild Child Project co-ordinator Hannah Gehrels.
"They now don't have that fear anymore and have a greater understanding and curiosity about the natural environment outside, and I think that makes a really big difference."
Gehrels would like to see an expansion of that experience, and she's looking for partners and a place in the woods to run a forest school.
The expanded program would have a charge attached to it. It would likely operate for a few hours on Saturdays in the spring and in the summer would go five days a week.
The forest school would need funding for staff, because there would be a high staff to camper ratio.
Anyone who wants to help fund the school can get more information on Sierra Club Atlantic webpage.
Macphail Woods Ecological Centre near Orwell offers wonderful summer programming nature camps for kids of all ages; here is a link to the program:
The January 23rd essay in the book Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet is by Cheryl Charles, who started the Children and Nature Network. It started in Minnesota in response to the 2005 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, with author Richard Louv being on the other founders.
Lots of interesting information at their website:
They are having a conference this year in April in Vancouver, details here.
Here is her essay:
We face an urgent need on a worldwide basis to reconnect people of all ages with Nature, beginning with children. That connection with Nature is at the heart of what I call “the ecology of hope.” By reconnecting people with Nature in their everyday lives, we will have helped to create the necessary nutrients for the health and well-being of children, families, communities and the whole of the Earth.
Worldwide efforts to bring peace, prosperity, health and well-being to all of the Earth’s people, wildlife and habitats are interconnected. Just as in Nature’s ecosystems, all parts are connected. They form an ecology of hope.
Among humans, hope derives in part from the exercise of will. Success in exercising will, on whatever scale, helps to develop a sense of efficacy – that is, a perceived belief that you or I can make a difference. Combine the exercise of will with the experience of efficacy and hope is the result.
Ecologies don’t talk about hope; they demonstrate it. So can we humans. Our actions will inspire and support others. We can exercise the will, we can make conscious choices, we can cultivate a sense of efficacy in ourselves and others – especially in children and youth – and we can create a positive, healthy and life-sustaining future.
If you are already among those helping to reconnect children with Nature, I thank you. If you are not yet doing so, please join the cause. Connecting with Nature is good for all of us and is a vital key to a healthy, peaceful and life-rich future. We can be the generation that left a legacy of leadership and an ecology of hope.
— Cheryl Charles
January 22, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Just a couple of the many photos of the Charlottetown March in Solidarity with Washington, D.C. from yesterday. This was organized by Susan Hartley and was a fine, short-and-to-the-point event.
This one from Stephanie Kelly at CBC News, John A. MacDonald wearing a cat headband:
This and other great photos in the story from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/maritimes-rallies-women-s-right-march-on-washington-1.3946570
And this by me, with the future of Canada bouncing around in the foreground:
Crowd of people in from of Province House, Saturday, January 21st, 2017.
From David Suzuki earlier this week:
Anthropocentric view ignores crucial connections - Online article by David Suzuki
Published on-line on Friday, January 20th, 2017
For decades, scientists have warned that we’re on a dangerous path. It stems from our delusion that endless growth in population, consumption and the economy is possible and is the very purpose of society. But endless growth is not feasible in a finite biosphere. Growth is not an end but a means.
Humans are one species among countless others to which we are connected and on which we depend. Viewed that way, everything we do has repercussions and carries responsibilities. That we are part of a vast web is a biocentric way of seeing that we’ve followed for most of our existence. But in assuming the mantle of “dominant” species, we’ve shifted to thinking we’re at the centre of everything. This anthropocentric perspective leads us to imagine our needs and demands supersede those of the rest of nature.
The failure to see our interconnectedness and interdependence is most striking in the way we manage government affairs. Forestry, environment and fisheries and oceans ministers’ priorities are not to protect forests, the environment or fish and oceans, but to rationalize our actions and ensure that whatever we do benefits us.
In an anthropocentric world, we attempt to manage important factors through separated silos, shattering the sense of interconnection. We draw arbitrary lines or borders around property, cities, provinces and countries and try to manage resources within those boundaries. But salmon may hatch in B.C. rivers and migrate through the Alaskan panhandle along the coasts of Russia, China, Korea and Japan before returning to their natal streams. To whom do they “belong”?
How do we manage monarch butterflies born in Ontario that travel through numerous U.S. states into Mexico? Grizzly bears are protected as an endangered species in the U.S. but can be shot if they cross into Canada.
This absurd disconnection was illustrated when provincial first ministers and the federal government met to discuss climate change and health in December. It was an opportunity to recognize the enormous health implications and costs of climate change. Instead, talks proceeded as if the two subjects were unrelated.
The repercussions of a mere 1 C rise in global average temperature over the past century have been enormous. In 2015, climate negotiations in Paris were meant to signal a shift away from fossil fuels to prevent an increase of more than 2 C this century. Though the Paris commitment dictates that most known deposits must be left in the ground, governments like Canada’s continue to support new pipelines and continued exploitation of fossil fuel reserves. Efforts by Canada, the U.S. and other major greenhouse gas emitters have been so minimal that scientists now openly discuss global temperature rises of 4 to 6 C this century. Because we can’t seem to curb our emissions, many suggest we must geoengineer the planet!
As top predator, our species remains dependent on clean air, water and soil and biodiversity, making our ability to survive catastrophic planetary disruption questionable. Surely that should be a top line in discussions about health.
At the December meeting, having ignored the effects of climate change on health, our political representatives simply assumed health-care costs will rise steadily (they have) without attempting to understand the cause. Instead, they focused on provincial demands for and federal resistance to annual payment increases. But health costs can’t continue to rise indefinitely.
We are accelerating degradation of the very source of our lives and well-being — air, water and soil — through massive use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and literally tens of thousands of different molecules synthesized by chemists. Scientists suggest up to 90 per cent of cancer is caused by environmental factors. It’s lunacy to ignore widespread and pervasive pollution as a primary health hazard. What we put into the biosphere, we put into ourselves.
If we want to keep health costs from rising, we should focus on keeping people healthy rather than dealing with them after they’re sick. The highest priorities must be to stop polluting the biosphere and clean up what we’ve already dumped into it. Most importantly, we have to rid ourselves of anthropocentric hubris and return to the biocentric view that we are biological beings, as dependent on the rest of nature for our survival and well-being as any other.
-- By David Suzuki
Today's Global Chorus essay reiterates this theme. It is by Sebastian Copeland is an award-winning photographer, environmental advocate and explorer. He made the film Into The Cold: A Journey of the Soul. More about him at: http://sebastiancopelandadventures.com/
Life evolves and so should we. Our planet has seen constant flux from its inception 4.5 billion years ago. Over the last 450 million years alone, the Earth has seen five mass extinction events. And today biologists believe that our period, the Holocene, is at the onset of the sixth mass extinction event, which could see upwards of 75 per cent of today’s species gone by the end of the century.
Only this time, floods and asteroids aren’t the culprits. Explosive demographic growth tied to a persistent disregard for sustainable development has placed exponential stress on the environment. Is it short-sighted? To put things in perspective, we have not been in existence for very long. In fact, it’s a miracle we are here in the first place. And the notion that we will be here forever is, from a paleontological perspective, almost absurd. Flowers appeared only 135 million years ago; anatomically modern humans, merely 175,000 years ago. This should serve to help us understand that the Earth is not here to see us through. That responsibility falls on us.
By 2050, 6.5 billion people will live in cities. A treacherous by-product of urban convenience is a false sense of security and the utter disconnect from our individual footprint. What is the actual cost of the resources we consume? How much trash do we generate? What is the environmental impact of the food we eat, and how far does it travel to reach us? We have conveniently removed ourselves from connecting with those issues by squeezing them all into a little envelope we call a bill. But paying for problems to go away does not make them disappear.
Ours is less an environmental problem than it is sociological and perceptual. More than ever our chances for survival, here in this biosphere, require an emotional bond with the ecosystem that sustains us. We need to reconnect with Nature and commit urgently to the principles of sustainability. That is the next logical phase of our adaptation cycle in evolutionary terms. Short of that, and if we’re lucky, we will end up exiting starship Earth in search of another planet to populate. And wouldn’t that be a shame: this one has been so good to us.
— Sebastian Copeland
January 21, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets open in Summerside and Charlottetown.
Winter Woodlot Tour, 452 Clyde Road, in Hazel Grove near Hunter River, 9AM-1PM. All welcome. Free.
In addition to many other scheduled activities, "Gary Schneider with Macphail Woods will be doing guided walks on improving the health of your forest and wildlife in your woodlands. The first walk will begin at 9AM; check the tour announcement board for Gary's schedule throughout the event!"
Support the March on Washington today, 1-2PM, Victoria Row, Charlottetown. Welcome for all. Gather, short march down Richmond, around Province House, back to Receiver. Observing moment of solidarity at 2PM (which people can do anywhere).
Meet at 1PM around Receiver Coffee (closer to Queen Street end of Richmond Street, wear some pink if you can, signs are welcome.
From Thursday's Guardian op-ed page:
LYNNE LUND: What is effective opposition? - The Guardian Opinion piece by Lynne Lund
Legislators need to lobby their respective parties to come up with solution
Having young boys, I bear witness to a lot of unconventional problem solving. After all, there is often more than one way to solve a problem.
A lot of wisdom is to be had in watching young children work through difficulties, as they are without the preconceived biases that adults have on what the solutions should look like. I am often left thinking that we all could benefit from looking at our problems with fresh eyes.
To close or not to close? The Official Opposition opposes the recommendation from the Public School Branch on school closures as do a couple of Liberal MLAs. I’m with them on that. There is a 60-day period for input before the government will have a formal position on this. In the meantime, the question I come back to time and again is this: What do we consider effective opposition?
It’s important for MLAs outside of cabinet to hold government to account, and to point out missteps. I’m happy to see stories in the media about MLAs from both traditional parties objecting to the recommendation to close schools. But the truth is, this isn’t enough to influence the outcome. Getting a headline in the local paper saying you oppose something certainly isn’t going to stop it from happening. To properly fulfill their role as leaders and legislators, they have to do more than promise to fight on behalf of their district: they need to lobby their respective parties to come up with solutions.
So far, I’ve yet to hear a suggested alternative from anyone other than Peter Bevan-Baker, who as you probably already know has suggested we reimagine what small schools in rural communities might look like.
He is proposing the vacant space in these buildings be seen not as a liability, but as an opportunity.
We could be thinking of these spaces as community hubs, allowing fitness programs, day care services and untold other services to be offered in the unused portions of rural schools. Instead of devastating a small community, we could solve the problem and enhance that community at the same time.
If we actually want to affect change and influence the outcome, we need to do more than just oppose. We need to look for viable alternatives and point out when solutions may exist that haven’t yet been considered. It isn’t enough to simply say we dislike a decision. We need to contribute to the solution if we want to change the course.
I’ll ask you to consider for yourself what it looks like when your own MLA stands up for your district. Do they contribute to a new solution, or do they merely point out mistakes? I think it’s time for all of us to rethink what we want from politicians. We can see the school as half empty and close it, or we can see it as half full and think of how to add to it.
If we take the time to imagine our options, we may find that politics could be something vastly different than what we are used to seeing. So often, there are more than just two choices.
- Lynne Lund is deputy leader of the Green Party of P.E.I.
Home builder and TV host Mike Holmes ("North America's most trusted contractor") writes the Global Chorus entry for January 21st.
Most people think my job is dealing with hopeless situations. But after being a contractor for over 30 years, I’ve learned no situation is hopeless.
Everyone has a home. And housing has a huge impact on the global environment – from the materials used in building to the energy used in living in them.
As builders, we have a responsibility to construct homes that are sustainable, safe and with nothing but clean air inside to breathe. Homes that will keep you warm not only at night but also during the winter – using very little energy. Homes that improve the quality of life – inside and outside.
Every home should work with its environment. It just makes sense. Use the rainwater, the sunlight, the temperature in the ground. I’ve built these homes. Why? Because when you work with Mother Nature, she works for you. You live healthier. You live happier.
I have hope because we know how to build a healthy home. We know how to build a house that respects the environment and uses it to its advantage. And the more homes we build this way, the more we will be building and sustaining our environment. It’s all connected.
How we live today will impact how we will live tomorrow. And I’m seeing more and more people realize this and do something about it.
— Mike Holmes
January 20, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Some assorted notes:
It might be a good day (if you feel overwhelmed by multiple media stories from the United States) to distance yourself from national news. As far as strengthening independent media, here are some suggestions from unabashed critic Robert Reich, former U.S. labour secretary under Bill Clinton, as it is possible the media gets sidetracked by the celebrity glare in politics. (These could apply anywhere.)
Robert Reich, on social media, January 19th, 2017. Edited slightly for length:
Four principles for how the press should treat Trump, starting (now): He has tried to divide the press – seeking to punish individual journalists and intimidate media outlets that criticize him. To guarantee the public's right to know the truth, the nation’s press must fight back with a united front:
1. When he shouts down or ignores a reporter at a press conference who has said or reported something he doesn’t like, other members of the press must tell him to answer that reporter’s questions.
2. When he disparages a particular media outlet, other outlets must publicly criticize him for such disparagement.
3. When he or his surrogates say or tweet lies, media outlets must tell the public they're lies and give the public the truth – and do so repeatedly.
4. When he insists on unreasonable rules for press access – holding few if any press conferences, granting access only to “friendly” reporters, giving prime seating in the press room to “friendly” media outlets -- all reporters and media outlets should strike back, asserting that the public needs unbiased access.
Federally, CTV news featured a story about "prominent Canadians" urging the Justin Trudeau government to get moving on electoral reform (bold is mine):
Prominent Canadians call out the PM on commitment to change electoral system - CTV News online article by Terry Pedwell
Published on-line on Thursday, January 19th, 2017
by Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA -- It's time for the federal government to hit the gas pedal on electoral reform, now that there's a road map for replacing the current first-past-the-post voting system, say former elections chief Jean-Pierre Kingsley and a group of prominent Canadians.
The 26-member group, including artist Robert Bateman, singer-songwriter Neil Young and former Harper government strategist Guy Giorno, is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get on with changing the way people choose their government.
With just 34 months before the next federal election, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould should introduce legislation within months to ensure a new system is up and running on time, Kingsley told a news conference. "The earlier the government tables its proposal, the greater the opportunity for Canadians to consider it, to debate it and to understand it," he said. "The leadership of minister Gould is essential in this endeavour, as is that of Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau himself."
Kingsley, who was chief electoral officer from 1990 until 2007, said the government needs to get serious about the plan for so-called proportional representation, the system that was recommended amid much controversy by a special Commons committee last month. "The government has said it would be introducing legislation ... by May," said Kingsley. "I'm expecting that to be respected."
Trudeau promised during the last election campaign that the 2015 vote would be the last held under first-past-the-post, although he has since shown signs of backing away from that commitment. During a town-hall meeting in Kingston, Ont., last week, Trudeau described electoral reform as "a complicated issue" that brings out a wide spectrum of opinions.
Asked by a woman in the audience whether he believes a proportional voting system would be best for Canada, Trudeau said while he prefers a ranked voting system, he's open to a broad range of perspectives.
Gould has also so far refused to say definitively whether she's committed to ensuring the federal Liberals honour their campaign promise. Her spokesman was equally non-committal Thursday. "We are grateful to the special committee for their work and we are reviewing it closely," John O'Leary said in an email. "We will carefully consider their recommendations as we move forward with electoral reform."
Starting in early December, the government encouraged Canadians to take part in an online survey about how best to change the electoral system. The portal for that survey, called MyDemocracy.ca, has since closed, but the government has said the findings will be released in the coming weeks. Kingsley filled out the survey himself, and said he found it useful, although somewhat incomplete.
Gould was appointed minister of democratic institutions earlier this month, replacing Maryam Monsef, who stunned opposition MPs when she complained that members of the electoral reform committee had failed to do their jobs by not presenting the government with a specific new voting system proposal.
The committee's report recommended that the federal government hold a referendum on some form of proportional representation. But that recommendation was not unanimous.
As well, some committee members who supported the option questioned the need for a referendum, which the Opposition Conservatives insist is necessary to ensure that the will of Canadians is properly respected.
A number of opposition MPs have also raised concerns that the Liberals plan to create a voting system that will favour their party. The current voting system elects one MP in each of 338 ridings across the country. For years, critics have complained that MPs can be elected with less than half the votes cast when more than two candidates are running.
Proportional representation would produce a House of Commons in which the popular vote is more accurately represented, with some MPs representing a geographical region instead of an individual riding.
An excerpt from yesterday's P.E.I. CBC news:
Georgetown mayor Lewis Lavandier says he's stepping aside from efforts to amalgamate seven municipalities in eastern P.E.I. to focus on trying to save Georgetown School from closure.
Georgetown is one of five Island schools recommended for closure by the Public Schools Branch.<snip>
The P.E.I. provincial government Standing Committee on Public Accounts has been working very hard over the past couple of weeks on the e-gaming issue with the appearance of Auditor General Jane MacAdam. Opposition members including Chair James Aylward, members Peter Bevan-Baker and Darlene Compton, and "Members in Attendance" PC interim leader Jamie Fox, Steven Myers, Matt MackKay and Brad Trivers have been paying attention and asking questions. To augment what was in the news, the transcripts are here for January 11th, here for January 18th.
The Committee home page (with a notice for next Wednesday, January 25th's meeting)
The January 20th Global Chorus essay is by race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter, who can be found at the website simply titled: Leilani.Green
Here is an excerpt:
<snip> Today is an exciting time to be alive, because we are the generation that must push the human race forward to solve our environmental crisis. Because we are witnessing the direct consequences of climate change, the urgency of changing is becoming clear. With every season that passes, this truth is more obvious. Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” This generation has been called upon to answer to the most noble of duties: to ensure the survival of future generations with the most basic of survival mechanisms – adaptation. <snip> --Leilani Munter
January 19, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Many parents and community members are showing support to all island residents for by standing together for what they feel is really being threatened if small schools close: community.
Here are several essays that touch on issues related to this report (or reports, found here on the "Better Learning for All" website), and how completely short sighted this is. Hope you can find time to read them over the next little while.
The first from Paul MacNeill, publisher of The Graphic newspapers:
More at risk than rural schools - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill
Published on Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
Once again the MacLauchlan government is stumbling under the weight of self-inflicted wounds, this time fallout of a predictably visionless education reorganization calling for the closure of five schools and long overdue urban rezoning.
In a replay of past efforts, the Liberal bureaucracy is recommending cutting extremities while refusing to look for innovative ways to deliver a world class education (which PEI does not provide). But this time around government may pay a high price for its narrow vision.
The public does not trust the process established by the premier. Consultation involves holding more than meetings. It means taking earmuffs off so you can actually hear what is being said. It means stepping out of your silo.
The next phase in the drive to closure, under the direction of the three member Public School Branch board of directors, is no better. The board is chaired by the Deputy Minister of Education. At best it creates a perception of conflict of interest. Few believe the deputy will go against fellow bureaucrats or the Minister of Education, her boss, who has all but endorsed the report.
What was delivered last week is the institutional bias toward a bigger, centralized and standardized education system. It is a structure that is failing our children, our communities and our economy.
But the report also corners Premier Wade MacLauchlan in a far more troubling dichotomy. He proclaims to understand the importance of rural revitalization but as premier creates a process that pits one community against another and accepts a report from an education bureaucracy that stubbornly refuses to look at options it does not endorse.
Government knew it was dynamite.
The report was not even tabled before government’s spin machine set in motion. In an attempt to distract the public and media, it first announced the sale of the former McCain french fry plant. Then as opposition grew – including from two West Prince Liberal MLAs - the administration rushed to announce the ‘sale’ of the Mill River Resort including golf course, hotel, campground and water fun park.
If the premier thought the announcements would convince rural Islanders he has their back, he thought wrong.
It got worse.
The Mill River sale smells of a sweetheart boondoggle. The new owner, legendary businessman Don MacDougall, will pay $500,000 for the whole lot. He is guaranteeing to invest $1 million more. In return the province will invest $7 million over 12 years to cover operational losses (artificially inflated due to traditional patronage staffing levels) and capital investments. If you are in the tourism or accommodation business there’s a high probability you are not happy with government’s decision to pick a winner by using tax dollars to fund direct competition.
Government will argue MacDougall is the only operator to respond to a request for proposal. We don’t know what interest there would be had government said it will pour $7 million plus into the resort after the sale.
If you are leadership of the Mi’kmaq Confederacy, you are insulted. The premier has built close ties with native leaders, but ignored constitutional requirements to engage in sincere consultation when divesting Crown Property, in this case roughly 400 acres.
The argument for the sale is West Prince needs a tourism anchor. It is compelling. The resort is dated and struggles to attract visitors. Regardless of investment it will have an uphill road. Rural resorts were attractive 30 years ago. Outside of Cabot Links in Cape Breton there are few success stories. Ownership with ties to the community is an important asset.
But the public needs to see all details, including the contract and specifics of all taxpayer involvement, before final judgement is rendered.
The last week was not a good one for Wade MacLauchlan. Coming weeks will determine whether the premier puts substance behind the rhetoric that rural PEI matters. It boggles the mind that Georgetown is on the hit list for closure simply because the Department of Education failed to do its job and enforce school boundaries.
How much is the premier willing to risk? Government’s handling of education could derail an attempt by seven eastern communities to forge a regional governance structure. A growing number view education’s bias against rural communities and wonder why support a major municipal reshuffling that is championed by the provincial government as a model for the rest of the province. Ultimately both questions boil down to trust in the MacLauchlan government.
Small schools afford an opportunity to create unique solutions, but the Department of Education is tone deaf. It’s not interested in the community hub model. It’s not interested in maximizing technology. It is only interested in the narrow view promoted by a bureaucracy that delivers mediocrity.
If the premier believes in his economic and population plan he has only one decision to make and that is an immediate stop to the school closure proposal.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Different voices, Similar concerns:
NDP Question the Recommendations of School Review - NDP website article by Lynne Thiele
by Lynne Thiele, Education Leader, NDP Vision Team,
on the NDP's website January 16th, 2016, in The Guardian January 18th, 2017
The impact of suggested school closures has caused a furor in all regions of PEI. Parents and Community are staggered at the thought of losing a school though they have worked hard to give alternatives to the Review Board, they fear their communities will be pitted against each other. Because it has always believed in building community and cooperation to achieve success, the NDP questions the Liberal Government on some key issues:
If economics is the reason for downsizing, is there any research demonstrating that downsizing will have the desired effect on the bottom line? Furthermore, Is there any reason to believe that current proposals will benefit the quality of students’ education?
What part does centralizing the administration of Education play in the closing of schools? And why has it already been imposed?
Has government forgotten that distance removes the sense of belonging to community? Students, parents, educators, and all the people around schools have many events and activities that bring a sense of well-being to all who participate.
Do you understand that people have lost their sense of trust in government decisions? Many parents believe the process of the review is upside down with the fifth step (final decision) in the place of the first step.Hasn’t the Department of Education admitted in last week’s CBC radio interview that they dropped the ball on rezoning? Paul MacNeal said there were almost 200 students that could be in Georgetown School. The group in West Isle had brilliant ideas that allowed schools to remain open with more French Immersion, Music, Art, and Phys.Ed.
Have you considered commitments to making schools “community hubs” and revitalizing rural schools? The NDP committed to this policy in 2010. The review seems barren of any thought for rural economic development; instead it seems determined to continue and amplify current government policies of rural detachment, abandonment, and disenfranchisement. These issues of education and development cannot be separated.
Can you assure parents, teachers, and support staff that students will not suffer the loss of the benefits they are now receiving? Will the Educational Assistants and individual supportive systems be in place in bigger schools?
The NDP is most concerned about the removal of local autonomy and its replacement by a centralized administration. When governments take power from parents, and teachers’ unions and federations, they turn to the authority of business and corporations. With unbalanced evaluation of education in expensive global standardized testing; competition replaces cooperation and the professionalism of the teachers. We see a process here that leads not to reform but to privatization. The CEO’s and consultants will wield power over local authorities and educators and leave the rest of us behind. There must be resistance and it must start now.
From Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, his most recent blog:
When it comes to schools, small is beautiful (and can be cost-efficient and effective) - Website blog by Peter Bevan-Baker
Published on-line on Tuesday, January 16th, 2017:
A few decades ago we had hundreds of small schools dotting the PEI landscape, their locations determined by how far a child could reasonably be expected to walk to get there each day. Today, in line with the general trend to centralization of everything, we have a few “families” of schools, and with this week’s recommendations from the Public Schools Branch, a few more of the children in those families of schools are being cut loose as being no longer viable.
The world changes, and constant adaptation is a necessity for all governments, and while I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not advocating a return to the days of one room schools in every small community (many of those communities, like the schools within them, are now gone anyway), I am questioning both the trend to consolidation generally and the specifics of last week’s announcement.
The arguments put forward to support the recommended closures center on two themes – cost savings, and the ability to provide equal learning opportunities for all Island children. I contend that the cost savings are minimal, and the claim that learning outcomes will be improved is unsupportable, so why are we continuing down the path of centralization? The ideology of consolidation hasn’t just brought us an ongoing enthusiasm for school closures, it has resulted in an Island where once hundreds of family enterprises in fishing, retail and farming, have been displaced by box stores, factory trawlers and industrial agriculture.
While it is one thing for the School Board to make recommendations to government, it is quite another for government to accept and implement those ideas. Even if we might save a few dollars in closing these schools (doubtful though that claim is), government must look at this through a broader lens, measuring not only the impact the proposed closures will have on the bottom line of the department of education, but on the collective well-being of our province. I wonder if the education department has spoken to the Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning to see how these closures might impact the province’s population strategy? I wonder if they have spoken to the Department of Economic Development and Tourism about how rural economic vitality will be impacted? I wonder if they have spoken to the Department of Health and Wellness about how this might impact physician recruitment and retention in rural areas? My belief is that they haven’t, because if they did, they would clearly see that school closures and the associated impacts have a devastating effect on the viability of a small community. And let’s not forget that the three biggest sectors of our provincial economy – agriculture, fishing and tourism – are all predominantly rural affairs. The collective economic health of PEI is dependent on both rural and urban PEI flourishing. How can we expect our whole province to thrive when we have a government that continues to make decisions which compromise the well-being of our rural districts?
There is nothing – I repeat nothing – that any child up to grade 6 or so needs in order to receive a perfectly good education that can’t be provided in a small local school. And furthermore, with distance learning, it is now possible to have interaction between teachers and students within and beyond our education system, allowing access to virtually any programming at any school.
Somehow our government is able to see potential economic and cultural spinoffs when shelling out millions of dollars to keep a chronically insolvent golf resort limping along, but can’t see the big picture when it comes to how vital schools are to all aspects of community well-being. If government accepts and implements the recommendations of the Public School Branch, they will be demonstrating their lack of understanding of the interconnectedness of all things, and more importantly their lack of vision for our province.
Finally, from Global Chorus, looking into the face of one child:
The January 19th Global Chorus essay is written by Fred Penner, who is a family entertainer, and former host of Fred Penner’s Place on CBC television
My heritage is Mennonite. My grandparents came from Russia/Prussia in the late 19th century and I have often tried to imagine what it was like on the harsh Canadian Prairie back then and how they were able to survive. The same question can be applied to cultures in every corner of the world. We are all trying to find a way to make this life work. It is complex and challenging to say the least. Basic rights must be fulfilled and beyond that we have a fundamental need to communicate with one another on an emotional and spiritual plane.
We are resilient and adaptable human beings, there is no doubt, and we have proven this time and time again over the centuries. That doesn’t make the challenges we face now any easier, but it should give us some sense of optimism. Trust and belief in one another is where it starts. My perspective is blessed and specific to the generation raised with my music. Through recordings, concerts and a television series my creative life journey has allowed me to connect with that generation. The affirmation of my optimism comes from almost daily responses, both personal and through social media, from the children who are now the young adults making their own way through the insanity.
Finding a way to face our global challenges seems too vast and incomprehensible at times.
When I was taping Fred Penner’s Place, there were times when I felt overwhelmed by all the aspects I was juggling as I attempted to communicate through this medium. My eyes would glaze over for a moment and that was when my director sent The Message to the floor director: “One Child.” This was my reminder that the camera was really a portal to a single child who was watching and listening. This allowed me to communicate on a much more personal level with the viewer. We, the parents and leaders of this world, must do the same.
We are in this together. If ever you doubt your ability to make this difference, look into the face of One Child.
— Fred Penner
January 18, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A few events going on this Saturday:
Winter woodlot tour, 9AM to 1PM, New Glasgow area. All welcome. More details here:
Support the March on Washington, 1-2PM, Victoria Row/location to be finalized in next day or two. One of many informal gatherings across the country happening at the same time as the Women's March in Washington, D.C. All welcome.
The Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I. events calendar is getting some events on it, again: http://www.citizensalliancepei.org/events
Parks Canada is asking for public input your ideas and on projects proposed, until January 27th.
If you type in "David Suzuki Foundation" in the Search bar in the upper left, you can see and then rate the four suggestions the David Suzuki Foundation made.
Here is an article from last month from The Tyre entitled "How Trudeau is Screwing the Generation that Got Him Elected"
<snip> The acceleration of oilsands that Trudeau is enabling would make it hard — if not impossible — to keep global temperature rise below the relatively safe threshold of two degrees, a study in Nature warns. McGill student Sophie Birks, who was arrested protesting Kinder Morgan this fall, puts it succinctly: “Climate leaders don’t build pipelines.”
Trudeau ignores those words at his political peril. Without the support of young people, he wouldn’t be prime minister. During the 2015 federal election, youth turnout surged. It was up 18 per cent from 2011 among voters 18 to 24. Nearly half voted for Trudeau. “[This] is believed to be a major factor behind the resounding Liberal Party victory,” the Harvard International Review concluded.
But this was not the same kind of surge in support from young voters that helped propel Barack Obama to victory in 2008. Trudeau didn’t capture the imagination of a new generation. He was simply our best means of getting rid of Stephen Harper. Harper spent his near decade in power tearing up climate treaties, attacking civil society and turning Canada into a petro-state. Millennials were twice as likely as older voters to pick the environment as an urgent national issue. “Today’s young people are about to inherit decades of climate woes,” the Toronto Star wrote, “and they want a government that is willing to address these problems now.” <snip>
(I am not sure the Harvard Review should call the Liberal Party victory in October 2015 "resounding", in terms of popular vote, but that is apparently what the reuslts looks seat-wise with the First Past the Post System of voting.)
Aram Hur is a South Korean educator and social activist. She is the founder of the Indigo Sowon book company. Wikipedia article on her.
She writes the January 18th Global Chorus entry.
At every moment, tears are falling.
It is because of the joie de vivre. Although the ground of life is somewhere dry and barren, I have a strong belief that the seed of hope would grow and finally bear good fruits.
If we think we can do it, we have to do it. It is a humbling principle of my life and perhaps of the hope. Where there is strong belief and good heart, we would be able to build the community of hope, where people don’t lose their dream for a better world, keep working to make our societies a little more humane, and carving out spaces of gentleness. To meet people with this warm feeling of hope is to plant a seed of hope.
The obligations in our life might be challenging, probably most of the time, but we can still be hopeful when ordinary people bring out the best of human nature: courage, solidarity, altruism, generosity and love. And it must be the task of the living to keep hope alive.
Amidst the dark night of indifference, tragedy and disaster, it is possible for our extraordinary species to shine so magnificently.
And this is what I believe." -- Aram Hur
January 17, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
I haven't read "The Mighty Island" yet to see if there is any vision for Island agriculture besides what I heard Wade MacLauchlan share in early in 2015, which wasn't about sustainable, land trusts or really tapping the potential for young and new farmers -- but more about increasing exports and similar old paradigms.
This is just a small image of a map which shows "smallholder farms in the developing world" and how they produce over half the world's food calories.
Screenshot from (and full image at):
And a very interesting article at the same link.
Recently, in Canada, the National Farmers' Union presented to the federal Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for comment on the next agricultural policy framework. It's a very sobering read (about 5 pages of text).
Ag Canada closed its public comments at the end of November, I think. Some Public Comments area results here
There is so much potential in Island and Canadian agriculture if we have clear sight and the will.
Global Chorus for January 17th is written by writer, broadcaster and filmmaker Ian Skelly. He collaborates with Prince Charles on many projects, including getting the Prince's sustainable agriculture message out, particularly in the Harmony book (2010) and short film on the project.
Here is Ian Skelly's website:
And a four minute trailer for the film Harmony film is here:
and includes some footage of Prince Charles from a few decades ago talking about environmental issues, and some of an interview with scientist and activist Vandana Shiva. The book is available by order.
Here is the essay from Ian Skelly:
Nature is an astonishingly complex, dynamic system that seeks balance at every level. She is harmonic.
The word “harmony” comes from the ancient Greek for “joining things up” and it is an active state. Nature is endlessly in motion, endlessly transforming; the dynamic is alive.
Every minute of the day, Nature is transforming herself, imperceptibly changing from one season into the next. This reveals that it is in life’s nature to transform, and thus it is in our nature too to transform – transform our thinking, behaviour and our approach towards Nature’s precious resources. Why? Because of what we are.
Shift your perception. Move from seeing yourself “apart” from Nature, but also away from the notion that we are “part” of Nature. The truth is, we are Nature. Nature is not a machine made up of parts, but a harmonic, dynamic whole.
As for hope, well, consider whether it is in Nature’s character to fail, and observe that you too share that reluctance. We are born with life’s innate sense of hope. Humanity is not wired to fail, so consider what can be done if you harness that hope and set it on course to transform.
Observe Nature. Notice that “virtuous” circles, not vicious ones, keep her cyclical economy intact, so be mindful that Nature is necessarily self-limiting in order that she endures without failure. Behave and choose according to this. Slow down, abandon multi-tasking; do one thing with full attention and do it well with care. Seek the deep connection with the marvels of Nature around you. Look up, not down; look from within with reverence, not from without. See life for what it truly is: not just whole, but Holy. Then you will transform yourself and thus the world around you every moment of the day. -- Ian Skelly
January 16, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Thanks to people who are paying attention to the news and passed on that Alex Docherty's term as Chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board in ended in mid-December. Mr. Docherty was just charged in connection with the July 2016 fishkill along the the Clyde River section of the West River.
from Saturday's Guardian:
DAVID WEALE: More closures is so ‘old school’ - The Guardian Opinion piece by David Weale
Blundering action of a group of technocrats, political masters still stuck in past
Published on Saturday, January 14th, 2017
It seems to me a sad thing when a process that will affect the lives of so many Island children, for so many years, gives so little evidence of creativity and flexibility.
The need for adaptations within the school system was an opportunity for fresh thinking, but what we got instead was very stale.
When we began the great march toward consolidation and busing in the 1960s there were close to 500 schools on the Island and clearly there needed to be some amalgamation. But then, somewhere along the way the process fell into the cold hands of educational bureaucrats. All sense and sensibility went out the window and consolidation became an end in itself, designed in sterile isolation, apart from considerations of community, family and local economy. And, I would argue, apart from the best interests of the children themselves.
‘Small is beautiful’ was totally supplanted by ‘big is better,’ and the symbiotic connection between school and community was tossed aside like yesterday’s newspaper. And why? Because it was clearly better for kids? No. It was because of bureaucratic tunnel vision; a fixation with size and efficiency that played out in virtually every aspect of life.
It gave us Wal Mart and Superstore instead of the local hardware store and the corner grocery. It gave us industrial farming instead of family farms, that degraded the quality of food and the health of the soil. And it gave us factory ships that decimated the fishery.
Indeed, the ‘factory’ was the template for all these things, including education.
There is so much to be said, but for now I would just like to say how outrageous it is that a town like Georgetown should be stripped of its school.
I am singling out Georgetown because I know it best, having spent a lot of time there over the past two years at the King’s Playhouse with The Four Tellers. It was a pleasure being in Denny King’s back yard, and each one of us took immense pride in the small part we were playing in the process of communal revitalization. We spoke of it often.
To read now that our government is going to rip the school right out of the community was like a sucker punch, and I don’t believe I could adequately describe how it must feel to the residents; the ones working so hard, on so many fronts, to build the place up.
It is calloused, ham-handed, and worst of all entirely unnecessary; the blundering action of a group of technocrats and their political masters who are stuck in the past and lack the nimbleness of thought and action to align educational policy with the energies and aspirations of communities.
Forgive the pun, but what they are doing is so ‘old school:’ the Development Plan recycled.
- David Weale of Charlottetown is an author, educator, entertainer and historian
Ironically, the front page banner of the Public Schools Branch website shows Director of Public Schools Branch Mr. Parker Grimmer, "congratulating children..." from Belfast Consolidated School, one of the schools recommended to be closed, "....on their great work this year."
Comments from any member of the public can be made in the next 50-or-so days by scrolling down the page to the "You can also submit your responses to the recommendations here" link here at the "Better Learning for All" website.
American designer and architect William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, wrote the January 16th Global Chorus essay:
As a designer of things from the scale of a molecule to a region, I have great hope for our future. A designer’s purpose is to make life better – hopefully. Design is the first signal of human intention. We must ask if our species, by design, intends to destroy the quality of our home, because, if so, we are strategically and intentionally tragic.
To have a strategy of hope, we have a new design framework to adopt, one that celebrates the abundance of Earth and human creativity rather than bemoans limits. The chemist Michael Braungart and I have dedicated ourselves to articulating the Cradle to Cradle framework, in which everything is designed for continuous reuse in biological or technical cycles; everything is renewably powered, clean water is available to all, and we celebrate diversity. This allows us to joyfully become infinitely resourceful, physically and intellectually, led by profitable businesses that use currency on a mission to create intergenerational capital.
With commerce as the engine of change – looking to be more good, not just less bad – big ideas can be realized now. We know how to convert sewage plants to nutrient management systems, allowing us to grow safe, healthy food in, under and around our cities. Such strategies portend magnificent productivity and quality delivered both efficiently and effectively while we allow our ecosystems to heal. Our designs can focus on globally shared innovations and still reinforce and enhance local cultures, benefiting all scales of economic activity.
I find hope for the future in wisdom from the past. The 12th-century philosopher Hildegard of Bingen wrote, “Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of Earth’s greenings. Now, think.” In the 20th century, Albert Einstein wrote, “Our task must be to free ourselves … by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of Nature and its beauty.” In the 21st century, our design assignment is simple: how do we love all the children of all the species for all time? It is time to plant an orchard of Cradle to Cradle opportunity to honour present and future generations. We can move forward together – fiercely – with hope, not fear. -- William McDonough
More about him:
and more about his thoughts on redefining our language of carbon:
January 15, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
From yesterday's Guardian on-line:
Alex Docherty and his Skye View Farms facing charges - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross
Alleged violations of the Pesticides Control Act
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The former chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board and his farm are facing a combined eight charges for alleged violations of the Pesticides Control Act.
Alex Docherty and Skye View Farms are each facing four charges. Docherty and the farm are charged with failing to keep a record of pesticide use or application, including the trade name and number of the product. They are also charged with failing to record the air temperature, wind speed and wind direction measured at the point of application at the start time of the pesticide application.
Further charges involve allegations Docherty and the farm applied a non-domestic pesticide without a permit. The farm and Docherty also face charges of allowing a pesticide to be discharged from equipment other than in a manner permitted by the manufacturer’s label.
The Guardian contacted Docherty about the charges but he declined to comment. Docherty and his brother-in-law Blake MacDonald were before the courts in recent years in a drawn out legal battle after they were charged with cultivating a crop on a slope that was too steep.
A provincial court judge found them guilty in 2013 and fined them each $3,150. They appealed that decision and scored a partial victory with the P.E.I. Court of Appeal quashing MacDonald’s conviction in February 2016.
The three appeal judges upheld Docherty’s conviction. At the time, Docherty said he continued his fight against the charges on principle.
Docherty and the farm are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 6 to enter pleas on the most recent charges.
Alex Docherty in the article is listed as the *former* Chairman of the Potato Board, but is still listed as Chairman on this website:
Though Gary Linkletter is listed on what appears to be an older P.E.I. Potato Board website: http://www.pmana.org/pei.htm
A final reminder that today is the last day to go through the "My Democracy" website survey that the federal government is using as one form of public opinion gathering for electoral reform.
It's also the last day to comment on the management plan for the "Fairyland Forest" section of the lands acquired for the Plan B highway in 2014 (dahas not been corrected on the website).
Rachel Parent, an Ontario young woman, at 11 years old became concerned about genetically modified organisms and the lack of labeling. Now 17, she has been speaking, meeting, and educating herself and others for years, focusing on "Kids' Right to Know", the organization she founded: http://www.kidsrighttoknow.com/
She is also the target of smearing articles by the industry-funded "Genetic Literary Project."
Among other things, she currently blogs for the Huffington Post and here is a link to a recent entry:
This is part of her essay from January 15th in the book, Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, edited by Todd E. MacLean.
The corporate mentality of profit and growth at all costs is having a devastating impact on our planet, from the dying off of our marine life, bee colony collapse, the melting of our glaciers, the deforestation of our rainforests and dislocation of natives, the contamination of our water and soil, and even the loss of control of our seeds and safe food supply. The magnitude of the destruction can be overwhelming! But I believe we’re living in a time of historical change, a time of transformation where people finally realize they have the power to make change and bring about positive solutions for our planet and for our very survival.
It’s a time where people, especially our youth, are waking up, rising up and standing up together, regardless of race, colour or religion, to heal our planet. I feel empowered knowing that I am part of a massive global shift in thinking for a better tomorrow.
As one of the youth, I can only allow myself to have hope for our future. To lose hope would mean giving up on the beauty of Nature and the miracle of life. Our goal must be to leave the Earth better than we found it. We owe this to ourselves and to the many generations that are yet to come.
-- Rachel Parent
January 14, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets will be warm inside and filled with vegetables and other foods in Charlottetown and Summerside today.
A reminder that the Winter Woodlot Tour is NEXT Saturday, January 21st, from 9AM to 1PM, 452 Clyde Road, In Hazel Grove, a little west of Hunter River.. It is a wonderful event to get outside with friends and family and see some interesting displays.
The deadline for public comments on the federal electoral reform process and their "My Democracy" site is Sunday, January 15th.
And the new Minister of Democratic Institutions is Karina Gould, Member of Parliament for Burlington.
When I was thinking about encouraging Islanders to write her, LeadNow.ca (working for fair voting, among other items) sent a letter saying:
It’s too early to say with certainty what this means for our voting reform campaign. We do know that the new Minister has expressed support in the past for reforming our broken first-past-the-post system, and even spoke about this government’s ‘false majority’ in an interview in September. But we also have seen her be non-committal over the last few days when asked if the government is still committed to voting reform.
It’s clear that the new Minister is smart and talented, and we are looking forward to working with her. We have already reached out to ask for a meeting so we can brief her on the Leadnow community’s position and all the work we’ve done together on this issue.
When we meet with her, we’d like to deliver personal messages from you about your hopes for this process. We want to build a strong working relationship with her and also ensure she knows what your expectations are for voting reform. Personal messages from you will help set a collaborative tone for this relationship and drive home the message that the public is committed to holding the government accountable to its electoral reform promises.
Can you submit a brief message for the new Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould? We’ll compile the messages into a package to deliver to her in person when we meet with her.
Her contact information:
or any mail is free to MPs Iif you want to sent a postcard or still have your "My Democracy" one around:
Karina Gould, MP
Room 835, Confederation Building
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Word came yesterday that environmental studies scholar David Bell died earlier this week. He was professor emeritus and former dean of environmental studies at York University in Toronto, and a founding board member of "Learning for a Sustainable Future". I never met him but I am sure he touched many lives on the Island, where I understand he visited often.
He wrote the September 6th Global Chorus essay (which I am substituting for the January 14th one)
Here is his bio page at York University.
and their obituary for him is here.
His work can be found here at Learning for a Sustainable Future:
An old Russian proverb defines a “pessimist” as “an informed optimist.” The more one learns about the depth and extent of the challenges facing humankind over the remainder of this century, the easier it is to feel discouraged. The current path of global development appears to be taking us toward environmental and social disaster.
Some years ago, I conducted interviews with dozens of sustainability experts from all parts of the world to prepare a 12-hour radio series entitled “Sustainability: Canadian and Global Views.” The people I spoke with were highly “informed” about the challenges ahead, but every one of them believed that we are capable of bending the curve, of steering spaceship Earth toward a more sustainable future.
Is there still room for optimism? That’s hard to say. But there is a compelling case for hope. To begin with despair is a very poor motivator. And there is much to be done. So hope is the essential, necessary premise of positive action. It is a crucial diet for anyone who wants to make the world a better place to live for current and future generations. Yet, despite the enormous challenges that lie ahead, a diet of hope is not thin gruel. In essence, sustainability poses an “educational” challenge for humankind. We need to learn to live differently on this planet. This will require the emergence and widespread adoption of a culture of sustainability which embeds the values of caring for each other, caring for the Earth and caring about the future.
The good news is that the green shoots of such a culture are already very evident. Millions of individuals and organizations all over the world are passionately committed to addressing sustainability problems. The signs are everywhere, in the education sector, in civil society, in business, in government and in everyday living. New technologies of global communication can facilitate this culture shift toward sustainability.
In the spirit of hope, every one of us can do our part to make a difference for each other, for our planet and for our future. And we can have fun doing it!
— David V.J. Bell, PhD
The interview series he refers to is on this LSF website link, if have time this weekend to listen to any of them.
January 13, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Five stunned communities are talking to each other and the media about proposed closures of their local schools.
from a CBC on-line story yesterday:
Another Liberal MLA pans P.E.I. school closure recommendation - CBC News online article by Shane Ross
Published on CBC on-line Thursday, January 12th, 2017
On Wednesday, Hal Perry, the Liberal MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road, said he would fight to keep the schools open.
(Pat) Murphy (MLA for District 26 Alberton-Roseville) said there is no benefit to closing the schools — even if the buildings are still be available for the communities to use.
"In St. Louis's case they have a very small community," he said. "They don't have much of a budget to the operation of the building — the heat, the lights, janitor staff.
"The school in Bloomfield is an unincorporated area that doesn't even have a community council or anything like that to look after it."
Of course, with any sort of amalgamation and annexation plans, the school would be in some sort of municipality. Saying that, these small elementary schools are still a lot of building, and built in a modern fashion; repurposing totally will not be that efficient. The older schools with fewer classrooms (like Bonshaw) are cheaper to pay utility bills for and work OK for meetings and events, but take a look at the photo in the news article to see what a big building it is. (We can talk about energy efficiency another time.)
Islander Daniel Drouin sings John Cougar's song "Small Town" with darling photos of events at the St. Louis School. The video is on our Citizens' Alliance Facebook group page,
Here is a thought from Cindy Richards, Citizens' Alliance Board member and outstanding citizen, posted on social media yesterday (emphasis mine), mentioning St. Jean's School in Charlottetown, on the closure list:
"Lack of broader vision, would mean narrow vision and short-sightedness -Certainly this is not what Islanders are investing in for a future. This report is a repeat of old ideas, of a simplistic approach. Interestingly enough in a conversation I was having today about food security, St. Jean's School was discussed as being a perfect place for a community food center/kitchen that could provide space for invaluable programs. We could better use this infrastructure to serve our communities and maintain our schools. Instead of cramming classrooms, burning fossil fuels to cart our kids away, and abandoning infrastructure, we could create multi-purpose educational facilities. Who has to pay for that proposal to come out? Or do we just pay again?"
-- Cindy Richards
The following article is a harsh criticism -- but also is an assessment that should be heard -- of Prime Minister Trudeau's cabinet shuffle recently and overall treatment of Stephane Dion. It is by Craig Scott, former Toronto-Danforth NDP MP and now law professor at Osgood Hall Law School.
A Great Canadian Dishonoured by Trudeau - The Star Commentary by Craig Scott
(addressed to the Prime Minister)
<snip> "(A)s it turns out, you show your Machiavellian hand, revealing your combined intent to force Minister Dion from cabinet all along and at the same time make sure the electoral-reform file comes nowhere near a proportional representation result.
You simultaneously shuttle another minister (Maryam Monsef — who had also been set up to fail) out of the single portfolio that would be the perfect fit for Minister Dion, namely, the minister of democratic institutions.
Rather than offer this newly open portfolio to a senior statesperson like Minister Dion with more interest and expertise on democratic reform than the entire cabinet combined, you, prime minister, choose to bring in another rookie who, doubtless, you are confident will follow the lead of the PMO in preventing real electoral reform.
Simultaneously and in the result, you summarily dismiss a great Canadian who busted a gut fighting for this country’s unity, who bravely took an early lead in advocating the need for a Great Greenshift, who generally served as a model of decency and integrity in our political life, and who was actually performing strongly as foreign minister notwithstanding the poison chalice of the Saudi arms deal handed to him by the PMO."
Today's Global Chorus is by the revered South African human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
<snip> "None of us can survive just as solitary individuals. We are made for togetherness, we are made for co-operation, and we ultimately exist in a delicate network of interdependence. None of us comes fully formed into the world. In the same way, even the most powerful nation in the world depends ultimately on interconnectedness. You can’t just live within yourself; no country can do it, no community can do it, no person can do it. Our world must heed this truth to harmoniously move forward."
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu
January 12, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Sierra Club has sent out messages about the remaining few hours (it is now really just a couple of hours) before the decision to issue a new license to Corridor Resources in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Here is a last petition to consider adding your name to:
Regarding the announced School Review, Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker writes a statement here:
“Decisions on whether to maintain or close rural schools affect more than simply the bottom line of the Department of Education. Other government priorities depend on schools, including the population growth strategy, economic development, workforce, health care, and the vitality of both our rural and urban communities. I don’t see much evidence here of a broader vision for the well-being of our Island.”
From The Guardian earlier this week:
Seniors deserve better service - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017, in The Guardian
I condemn, meaning unfit for use, those community mailboxes that the government imposed on us.
I recently had a very disturbing experience with mail box service i.e. a Christmas package from Ottawa, which should have been delivered to me, was instead taken to the West Royalty Shoppers Drug Mart with instructions to pick up.
For me to obtain that parcel necessitated taking a cab at the cost of $14.50 (2 ways). When will the government live up to its promise of eliminating those ugly monsters as promised at election time?
Seniors deserve better service.
Global Chorus essay fro January 12th is by Deborah Harford, who is the executive director of ACT (the Adaptation to Climate Change Team) at Simon Fraser University:
"Humans are the most adaptable species on Earth, barring cockroaches. In our blink of historical time we have explored every inch of our globe. We have warded off hunger and cold and learned how to stave off illness. We are feeding seven billion people and leaving footprints on nearby planets. We can also predict the future through visualizing our effect on the planet. I call this the adaptive advantage, because it means we can forecast changes we need to make if we are to survive." <snip>
"If we can unite globally and meet this ultimatum, we stand a chance of adapting to climate change. If we instead give in to greed and conformity, Nature will choose against us. It’s up to us and our adaptive advantage to create a new paradigm that closes the loop, that feeds our future as an extraordinary species with unprecedented capabilities which, combined with the wisdom of our ancestors, can do anything it imagines."
— Deborah Harford
January 11, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The School Review came out last night and recommends closing five elementary schools now (Georgetown, Belfast, St. Jean's, Bloomfield and St. Louis) and mentioned looking closely at Kinkora Regional High School in the near future.
Bob Andrews, (from the CBC news tweets of the meeting last night, of the Public Schools Branch) says "education, demographic, facility and finances were factors when looking at decisions on schools."
And I wrote: Funny how Community, Local Economic Well-being, Families and *Children* weren't mentioned (as factors).
Public meetings happen over the course of about a week between February 1st through 9th.
No teaching positions will be lost; the money saved will be in maintaining the five buildings (though who or what will have to step in and take care of the buildings was not mentioned in the media reports).
A few short decades ago, when over Development Plans were moving ahead in the government of Alex Campbell, the writings later binding together as Cornelius Howatt, SuperStar! have a little fiction story about a young fellow hiding out in "the Hartsville Gravel Pit". As this area is the geographic centre of the Island, it is slated to become the home of the SuperDuper Consolidated School.
"The Department of Education on PIE-Island was committed to the notion of equal opportunity, and had decided that this could only be guaranteed by sending all Island pupils to one giant, centrally located school, where with the help of closed-circuit T.V., they could be taught by one super-teacher."
(Baglole and Weale, 1974)
Movie: To the Ends of the Earth, 7PM, UPEI, Room 235, Robertson Library.
"To the Ends of the Earth follows concerned citizens living at the frontiers of extreme oil and gas extraction, bearing witness to a global crossroads. They call for human ingenuity to rebuild society at the end of the fossil fuel era." Free but donations accepted.
The 11th of January Global Chorus essay is by Mark Boyle, "The Moneyless Man", who lived for several years.
<snip> "Is there hope of us changing course before we join the rapidly growing list of species gone extinct? That I do not know, if I am honest. At this hour of the night, it is hard to see the dawn, inevitable as she is. What I do know is this: any hope we do have lies in our willingness to stand up to the challenges we face and the forces driving them, with skilfulness, intelligence, dignity, honour and great heart. Now is not the time for half-measures or cowardice. Now is the time for effective action.
This will involve billions of people doing billions of different things. We need everyone courageously following their calling, and sharing their unique gift with the world as passionately as they dare. There is no one right way to act, no prescription. Simply do what you love and be of service to life. What is certain, however, is that we will need to localize our lives if we are to create healthy ecological systems, and we are going to have to radically alter the spirit in which we meet our needs if we want to create a world worth sustaining. Therefore, I believe that Permaculture values and gift culture principles must be at the heart of whatever comes next. We need a revolution – a revolution in consciousness, in the cultural myths we live our lives by, and in our politic and economic systems. Anything less than that will be an absolute disservice to the community of life we share Earth with and, ultimately, to ourselves.
— Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Manifesto
and a little more about Mark Boyle from the website:
Drawing on almost three years of experience as The Moneyless Man, Mark Boyle not only demystifies money and the system that binds us to it, he also explains how liberating, easy and enjoyable it is to live with less of it.
In this book, Mark takes us on an exploration that goes deeper into the thinking that pushed him to make the decision to go moneyless, and the philosophy he developed along the way. Bursting with radical new perspectives on some of the vital, yet often unquestioned, pillars of economic theory and what it really means to be ‘sustainable’ – as well as creative and practical solutions for how we can live more with less – Boyle offers us one of the world’s most thought-provoking voices on economic and ecological ideas.
The P.E.I. Library System has this title.
January 10, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Tonight the Public Schools Branch releases its report on school utilization and its recommendations. School Review Website is here.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 11th:
Movie: To the Ends of the Earth, 7PM, Room 235 of Robertson Library at UPEI, Facebook details here
Teen mental health issues seminar, with expert Dr. Stan Kutcher from Dalhousie University, 7PM, Ecole Fracois-Buote School. More details here on Colonel Gray High School's webpage.
Dr. Kutcher is also in Summerside tonight, Three Oaks High School, 7PM.
Today's Global Chorus essay is by Morgan Spurlock, a West Virginian by birth and now simply lists himself as a Storyteller (his website is here):
Good words for our times :and this is the complete essay.
I’m an optimist and I will always trust in the goodness of people above all else.
While governments or politicians may jockey and shift their values to get re-elected or to serve a corporate bottom line, I believe the power and influence of the common man will remain a constant. The collective wisdom and bravery of a society can stand the test of time and topple any tyranny.
We just need to continue to muster the courage to stand together for what’s right, versus what is easy. We need to be willing to make sacrifices.
We need to be willing to do more with less. We need to shake complacency and apathy. But most of all, we need to embrace the idea and reality of the living Earth as a member of our own family. We must treat her with the same respect and love we would our own grandmother, and we have to bear the burden when we fail to do so.
When I was a child growing up in West Virginia, I looked at the mountains and trees and rivers that surrounded my house as part of my “home.” This … all of this … was where I lived. But as I grew older, I became blind to my surroundings and ignorant of my impact. It takes a wake-up call for us to understand a world bigger than ourselves. For me, that was the birth of my son.
And because of him, I believe we can take these blinders off and collectively make the changes we need to build and grow our home. To give him, and all of our children, the planet they deserve. At least, in my heart, that is my hope.
— Morgan Spurlock, humorist, television producer, screenwriter, political activist, documentary ﬁlmmaker, including Supersize Me and Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?
January 9, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Here are some January notes and events:
Tuesday, January 10th:
The Public Schools Branch is releasing their "school review" dealing with demographics and suggested changes.
Interested persons can go to the meeting at East Wiltshire School or the report will be released on-line at about 7:30PM. The link to the report should be somewhere on this page that night:
Movie: To the Ends of the Earth, Wednesday, January 11th, 7PM, Room 235, Robertson Library building, UPEI Campus. Free but donations accepted.
"To the Ends of the Earth follows concerned citizens living at the frontiers of extreme oil and gas extraction, bearing witness to a global crossroads. They call for human ingenuity to rebuild society at the end of the fossil fuel era.
"The UPEI Environmental Studies Society and Save Our Seas and Shores PEI are co-hosting the screening of To The Ends of the Earth, a thrice-nominated film. Anyone with an interest in fossil fuels, divestment, and environmentalism, of all ages, are encouraged to attend." The film's creator David Lavallee will be joining the group for a discussion via Skype after the meeting.
Sunday, January 15th:
Last day to comment on electoral reform for the federal Liberal government (it was extended from the December deadline.)
Press release with link to survey, here.
Also, Sunday, January 15th:
Last day to comment on the Bonshaw Fairyland plans. More info at their website or to come. Government page here.
Saturday, January, 21st:
Winter Woodlot tour, 9AM to 1PM, Clyde Road between Hunter River and Fredericton, lots of activities for all ages, free, more details here.
An update on the Protecting P.E.I. Water Song for P.E.I. contest:
And any day now the government may release the draft of the Water Act and have a list of public consultation times. Check here and in future CA News.
A note from me:
The government of P.E.I. is switching from its "gov.pe.ca" address to a "www. princeedwardisland.ca" address. The look of many pages has changed, and often for one issue you have to hop between the old and new website. I couldn't easily find the "Contact me" link that would deal with the page, until I finally figured out that's what the vertically oriented black bar on the right side of the page is for - feedback on that section of page. The arrow points to it in my doctored screen shot:
Screenshot from "princeedwardisland.ca" website with "Feedback" button indicated by orange arrow.
Jacques Cousteau's famous granddaughter, a National Geographic explorer and a great communicator, writes the January 9th Global Chorus essay:
<snip> " This is the moment in history when the choices we make as individuals and as a generation will shape the future we inhabit. I believe there is no greater aspiration than the one to protect our children and the quality of life they can expect from this uniquely beautiful place called Earth. We must never give up hope in our individual ability to find a way to change – and to leave this world a better place than we found it." — Alexandra Cousteau, explorer, ﬁlmmaker, water advocate, founder of Blue Legacy www.alexandracousteau.org
January 8, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Management plans for the "Fairyland Forest" (Encounter Creek) property, prepared by the "Bonshaw Hills Public Lands Subcommittee" are out and the deadline for comments is next Sunday, January 15th, 2017. Comments may be sent to Megan Harris <email@example.com> and/or Brian Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Picture of Fairyland in New Haven, P.E.I., from government page, link below)
Something to look at on a snowy day.
The home page for this part with the direct link to the PDF is here (but please note that the comment date is wrong):
Looks like a good New Year's Resolutions List for the Premier -- thanks to Lynne Thiele:
Opportunities for a legacy - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Saturday, January 7th, 2017
With the following four suggestions, I invite our premier to lead all of Canada, create a legacy, and bring Islanders a better life.
1) Allow us to vote in 2019 with proportional representation with the model MPP that won the plebiscite. We can be the birthplace of true democracy as well as confederacy.
2) Create a pilot project now for Basic Income Guarantee. We will work with the federal government and be the birthplace of social reform.
3) Bring high speed Internet to all P.E.I. With a contract of fair and open bidding, we will be leaders of small businesses and educational opportunities.
4) Provide Islanders with pharmacare. We could be a pilot project with federal assistance and be the birthplace of pharmacare. Islanders paid $270 million over the past 10 years that could have been saved if we had pharmacare. Saying we can't afford it is like saying we can't afford a sink stopper because the water bill is too high.
Tommy Douglas, the greatest Canadian, balanced Saskatchewan's budget and then brought in Medicare, brought electricity over all his province, organized a model civil service, and so much more.
Premier MacLauchlan, this is your moment in history. Is it to be a legacy or continued disappointment?
Lynne Thiele, Stratford
The January 8th Global Chorus essay is by singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn:
<snip> "I go around with a heart full of hope which, much of the time, seems to defy logic. Look at the things we are doing to ourselves, to each other, to the planetary systems which sustain us! We are digging ourselves into a pretty big hole. I feel time speeding up. Everywhere there appears to be more collapse, more chaos. Brilliant people are trying to address the problems of environmental degradation and economic injustice. Some of them I’ve been blessed to know. Whenever I look around me, though, I see the world’s decision makers guided by, and steering their constituencies using, short-term self-interest, fear and greed. I see yet another piece of the Nature that is our inheritance squandered on 'development.' I see rage, overt or subliminal, ruling our relations with one another. Even so, there are grace and dignity to be found in unexpected places. There are inspirational human beings. There is love! Can we fix things? Not sure. Much is already beyond repair. Can we slow the rush toward becoming part of the Great Extinction that seems to be occurring? I think so. Long enough to allow the brilliant among us to discover a remedy? Maybe." <snip>
January 7, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets are open in Summerside and Charlottetown today, 9AM-1PM and 9AM-2PM, respectively.
Two stories from both ends of the Island have highlighted inadequacies in eldercare facilities. Earlier in winter, artist and blogger Trilby Jeeves wrote about her impressions of the deplorable conditions at Riverview Manor in Montague, where her father had resided.
Concerns about the building, and the sad fact that there have been almost annual big announcements that it is being replaced, where discussed in the provincial Legislature this fall (see below).
CBC story with links to other stories here.
Recently, Tignish resident Mary Ann Nelligan women was motivated by her husband's ten month stay in hospital waiting for a long-term bed to open in the region, so to highlight the problem she started a petition. CBC story here.
Her plans are to give it to her local MLA, who is Hal Perry, with hope it will start a bigger discussion during the Spring Sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature. The main point is:
"Please look into the current long-term care facilities to see where additional beds and staff can be placed, or additions made to the current stuctures."
I have attached it to this newsletter, though I try to avoid doing that; right now it seems easier to share it this way than trying to get it on-line. **Please note that this PDF -- if you select all -- will print 50 pages of the same petition, so you must select your printer to only print the first page (or how ever many you want it to print.**
Petitions, with any number of signatures (but the signatures have to be on a page with the full wording of the petition), can be returned at any time to:
P.O. Box 627
Tignish, PEI C0B 2B0
The manor situation is not going to get better, and government's plan seems a bit weak. MLA Darlene Compton (Belfast-Murray River), among others, brought this up in the Fall Sitting, and here is the exchange from November 22nd with Health Minister Robbie Henderson.
The Global Chorus essay for January 7th is by Gloria Flora, founder and director of Sustainable Obtainable Solutions, a "not-for-profit organization decided to the sustainability of public lands and the plant, animal and human communities that depend on them."
<snip> "Refuge now isn’t simply reaching higher ground. Our refuge lies in co-operation with neighbours: human, animal, trees and microbes. Our hearts, our heads, our hands must work together to create shelter in place. And our reliance on place – the power of Nature – must be honoured and recognized as the source of solutions. Permaculture tells us to care for the Earth, care for people and fair-share the surplus; we would be wise to listen." -- Gloria Flora
January 6, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Two editorials about local politics and political actions, from this week:
Main Guardian EDITORIAL: Information overload - The Guardian Editorial
Published on Thursday, January 5th, 2017
There’s no doubt about it. As Opposition Leader Jamie Fox suggests, Premier Wade MacLauchlan is trying to confuse the issue about deleted e-mail accounts relating to the e-gaming controversy
In a year-end interview, the premier suggested he might release the names of 2,500 former public servants whose email accounts were retired when they left the public service since 2007.
The premier hinted that since the Opposition kept harping about missing emails, its wish might just come true, but not quite what it expected.
If this was supposed to satisfy the Opposition, it accomplished just the opposite effect. It has just left them feeling angry and frustrated.
On an almost daily basis during the fall sitting of the legislature, the Opposition raised questions about the deleted email accounts. Those questions were based in a report released by Auditor General Jane MacAdam into the e-gaming file.
Ms. MacAdam wrote, "We noted instances where the email accounts of senior government officials, who were key participants in the e-gaming initiative … were removed after leaving government." She said the email accounts were deleted and could not be recovered.
The AG said some departments are not following the Archives and Records Act, which is supposed to prevent government documents - including emails – from being deleted or destroyed.
What is the expectation of government employees who use government computers to conduct government business via government accounts on government time? Obviously, it’s public property and part of the official record.
As a matter of common practice, government’s IT division disables the email accounts of departing employees – more than 2,475 times since 2007. It was the AG who said the accounts she sought weren’t just disabled; they were deleted and couldn’t be recovered. There is a big difference.
Now the premier may release the names of 2,500 former email account owners. Somewhere in that deluge of information are the names of the public servants involved in the gaming file. In the information overload, does the premier think the names being sought by the Opposition might slip through?
The premier knows the Opposition is only interested in the email accounts of a limited number of people. It could be two, four or six. It’s certainly not 2,500. It’s not about closed accounts; it’s about missing e-gaming information, following the rules and obeying the law.
The Opposition is trying to fill in the blanks identified by the AG. They are asking the premier to follow through on his promises of transparency and accountability.
For the record, it was the premier who admitted in the legislature that the email accounts belonging to two officials were deleted following their departure from government. By trying to confuse the email issue, the premier is directing more public attention on the topic and making the Opposition more resolute to obtain the information it seeks.
By making such odd threats – to release a flood of unnecessary information, which neither the Opposition or AG requested - it suggests the government is trying to cover up something.
From Paul MacNeill, with some parts related to the E-gaming issue in bold:
All parties face 2017 challenges - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill
Published on Wednesday, January 4th, 2017, in The Graphic publications
As we enter 2017 each of PEI’s four political parties face credibility challenges as they jostle for position with the Island electorate.
2016 saw the Greens under Peter Bevan-Baker surge with poll numbers suggesting support around 30 per cent. Is it real or simply Islanders parking intentions (the NDP once stood at 20 per cent prior to the last election) pending the outcome of the Tory leadership race or in temporary frustration with the MacLauchlan government?
Bevan-Baker has done an admirable job building the Green brand, but in doing so he has rankled the Liberal administration for what it sees as manipulative politics on items including results of the electoral reform plebiscite. It’s why the premier used uncustomarily strong language in targeting Bevan-Baker in a year end interview that included MacLauchlan describing the plebiscite debate as the ‘crookedest’ moment of the fall house sitting.
Outside the rail the primary challenge is to build a party with the ground game necessary to compete. There is a natural inclination to overreach. In the last election the NDP believed it was on the verge of a breakthrough. It made the decision to try and compete in all 27 ridings, a major mistake. Limited resources were spread too thin.
By contrast the Greens threw everything at getting Peter Bevan-Baker elected. It worked. Today Greens are seen as the third party of credible opposition while the NDP has collapsed. Priority should be on identifying one or two winnable ridings.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s biggest challenge is to break the growing perception that his administration is an apologist for the ills of the Ghiz years. The second half of 2016 was not kind to government. It struggled with self-inflicted wounds because of its handling of e-gaming, plebiscite and educational test scores. Rather than draw a line in the sand and cut ties with the former regime, the premier doubled-down with a suggestion he may release a list of the 2,500 government email accounts removed in recent years through normal workforce transitions.
It is a political dodge the public is not buying. Like the PNP scandal, Islanders want answers to simple questions surrounding deletion of two senior government email accounts believed to belong to former Ghiz chief of staff Chris LeClair and former Treasurer Wes Sheridan, who drove the project forward through secretive, off the books deal making.
Who deleted the accounts, who gave the order and why?
Government’s stumbling speaks to a broader communication issue. Immense resources are thrown at vanity projects which have done little to engage the public. Combined with a growing perception the premier is failing to deliver transformative change and you have a recipe for a third term government on the ropes.
The Tories had an unspectacular, but solid, fall. Exactly what the doctor ordered in the run up to a leadership convention later this year. Keep it up and the party may attract interest beyond caucus, seen by many as necessary for growth.
Mike Redmond may have the most difficult path forward. His NDP has no money, no bullhorn like Bevan-Baker in the legislature and few opportunities to differentiate the party. Redmond emerged from the shadows on the issue of poverty, an important issue to champion.
The party must pick its battles, focus its strengths and hope to build enough momentum not to be routed in the next election. This is about survival.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at email@example.com
<snip> "Here, we don’t have what other people in the world have: we don’t have televisions or Internet or cars, and if the cost of having them is that the world – our world – disappears, then we ask ourselves, 'What good are they?' We think people can live more simply and peacefully if they want, but we don’t know if they want to."
— Moi Enomenga
January 5, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Some wise words before the New Year isn't so new anymore:
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted her vision for Canada for 2017:
1- We protect Canada's water and start with re-instating the water laws gutted by the Harper government.
2- We stop building pipelines and start to move away from our dependence on extreme energy, tar sands oil and fracking.
3- We tax corporations at the pre-Harper level and go after offshore tax havens. This would free up badly-needed billions.
4- We stop equating corporate-dominated trade agreements with "openness to the world" and negotiate trade that serves the people.
5- We create a national pharmacare program (remembering that CETA and TPP would prevent this crucial next step in health for all).
6- We continue to build alliances with organized labour and support workers against globalization and unjust practices everywhere.
7- We recognize, honour and defend the leadership shown by First Nations in the fight for environmental and social justice.
8- We promise to protect the public trust and not allow public assets such as water services to be sold to the private sector.
9- We bring the rule of law to Canadian mining companies behaving terribly in some countries of the global South.
10- We remember in all our foreign policy that peace can only come if accompanied by justice. May we serve that goal always.
To follow Barlow on Twitter, please go to @MaudeBarlow
Speaking of sustainable, the January 5th Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet is by
Jason Robinson, who founded the on-line community of positive communications via the internet, Sustainability Television.
Here is an interview with Todd MacLean from Fall 2014 about the project:
and more about the Community:
Some excerpts from Jason Robinson's January 5th essay:
"See every day as a sacred experience.
We and the Earth are one – there is no separation. The Earth and everything on it is a manifestation of divine will and there is a lesson, an opportunity, in every moment of every day. <snip>
Make the future in your mind
Imagine the world as you want to see it, and make it happen. Recognize that you are co-creating the future with every thought, word, deed and choice you make. Your actions make the difference – and to create change you must act.
Choose wisely With every choice you decide what the future will be. Choose wisely … because it has repercussions.
Thoughts become things Seek love above all else.
There is no reason to fear but fear itself. The act of fear creates the thing you don’t want. The act of believing creates the things you do want.
If thoughts become things, then it’s easy to see how together we are co-creating the world with every decision we make. Heaven isn’t some far-off dream – it’s right here, right now. To save the world all we need to do is to start with loving and caring for the world and each other a lot more. In essence, see every day as a sacred experience and your life as a divine journey.
Believe." -- Jason Robinson
January 4, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Many Community Schools start this week or early next. Based at local schools, they provide folks with a chance to learn a new skill and connect with their community one night a week in the winter (or Fall or Spring, but many are over the winter months). Here is the website to find the complete list:
PEI Coalition for Women in Government Levee, 4-6PM, St. Peter's Hall, corner of Fitzroy and Rochford, free. This Levee is on, but check social media if the driving and walking conditions worsen.
A week from today, Wednesday, January 11th:
Movie: To the Ends of the Earth, 7PM, UPEI, Robertson Library Building, Room 235. Presented by the UPEI Environmental Studies and Save Our Seas and Shores PEI. Admission by donation. Facebook event details.
Narrated by actress Emma Thompson, “To the Ends of the Earth” takes a critical look at the state of our energy system, giving voice to some of the people whose lives are most deeply affected. For example, the mayor of Clyde River, Nunavat, who is concerned that seismic testing for oil will harm the marine mammals on which his community depends, and a conservationist in Utah fighting to protect the Colorado River from fracking. Following the screening, David Lavallee- the film's creator - will be available for discussion via Skype.
The January 4th Global Chorus essay is written by Merrell-Ann Phare, who is a lawyer, writer and executive director of The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER), a non-governmental organization for First Nations peoples' environmental issues, especially water rights. This essay is as timely as it was two years ago.
"The question before us is this: how do we create a sustainable future? Our solution is both simple and maybe the most difficult thing we have ever done. It is this: consume less, share more. If we consumed to meet our needs, not our wants, and remembered that true value is in noticing life rather than being noticed for what we own, we would chart a fully hopeful and sustainable future. Our societies would grow and contract where needed, depending on human and ecosystem needs and limits. If we consumed less we would have more to share. Sharing between people, communities and nations would provide where local ecosystems cannot fully do so. What would we share? Wealth, goods, healing, knowledge, community, tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation.
"What do we do to get to a 'consume less, share more' mindset? The first step is modest but absolutely critical: you must reconnect to the Earth. So, go outside. If you live in a city, find a green space. If you frequent green spaces, go farther out, into wilder spaces. Listen to the sounds of the ecosystem. It supports you. Breathe the air. Find water there, bend down to it and notice it. Indigenous elders say to introduce yourself to all the new water you meet. Run your fingers through it. Sustainability of the Earth requires us to remember we are in a relationship of reciprocity with all of Nature. We need to rebuild that relationship.
"If this seems like too much, just recall: when we are silent and still in Nature, we feel the grace that resides there, in Nature and within us. That stillness is a wordless knowing of who we are, separate from all the chatter, demands, goals, thoughts, fears, emotions and experiences that are always roiling around in our minds. When we are there, in that calm, still space, one other important thing happens: we know – not we think, we know – that there is hope. So stay there. And then keep going." -- Merrell-Ann Phare
January 3, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Tonight, Tuesday, January 3rd:
NaturePEI meeting, 7:30PM, Stratford Town Hall, free to the public. Biology PhD student Sean Landsman will be speaking and showing some of his extensive photography collection <snip> "a whirlwind, visual trip through nature on PEI."
Wednesday, January 4th:
Coalition for Women in Government Levee, 4-6PM, St. Peter's Hall (corner of Fitzroy and Rochford Streets), all welcome. A great idea to extend the season, and it also allows these organizers to enjoy the Levees on New Year's Day without being preoccupied at their own. More info:
Perhaps clicking "interested" or "going" on the Facebook page if you can may help them gauge numbers.
This opinion piece from The Guardian is from *two years ago* exactly, and before most of us knew anything about the e-gaming scandal (which is a fraction of the dollar amount).
PNP Reveals Depth of Disorder in Island Politics - The Guardian Guest Opinion by David Weale
Published Saturday, January 3rd, 2015
A response to the year-end interview with Premier Ghiz by Wayne Thibodeau of the Guardian. Yes Premier Ghiz, we all know that many legitimate companies received money from the PNP program. You keep repeating that, and did again in your year-end interview with the Guardian, but it’s largely irrelevant when it comes to allegations of mismanagement and graft. It’s a little like saying that someone who swindled a great deal of money and gave a portion of it to the Food Bank and the QEH is not a thief - a way of thinking that is actually quite common within the philanthropic, moneyed class.
I recognize the word ‘graft’ may seem harsh, and yet it describes accurately what happened. Graft, after all, is “…to acquire money by questionable means, as by taking advantage of one’s official position.” [Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary] If there was no graft associated with the PNP program then graft does not exist.
And how much money was it? To put the PNP rake-off in context one needs to recall that within a couple of years during your administration more than twice as many dollars flooded into the province than during the entire Fifteen Year Comprehensive Development Plan (1969-1984) and were dispersed without a shred of public input. Yes, you and your associates did spread the money around, but to the individuals and companies of your choosing, and all in secret. A half a billion dollars was distributed to folks who, for the most part, were already well off, and scarcely a penny to the poor. Not good. Not just.
The biggest boondoggle in Island history, perhaps in Canadian history, unfolded surreptitiously during the watch of two successive Island premiers, and yet you inform us jauntily, with juvenile effrontery, that it was all just fine, and couldn’t have been handled any better. The frightening thing is, I believe you have said that so often you are beginning to believe it yourself.
Finally Mr. Premier, perhaps the silver lining in all of this is that the PNP has revealed clearly the depth of the disorder at the heart of Island politics. Our patronage-friendly system was already in place when you became Premier, but you and your colleagues took it to a new level of blatancy. Never was the slurping at the trough heard so loudly. Never has the need for fundamental reform been so apparent to so many. That being the case I suppose Islanders can give wry thanks for the PNP. In a back-handed, and altogether inadvertent way, it might have been your greatest accomplishment.
David Weale of Charlottetown is an Island author and retired professor of Canadian and Prince Edward Island history at UPEI.
And more tough appraisal from yesterday:
Unworthy - Facebook post by David Weale
Posted on social media on Monday, January 2nd, 2017:
The Liberal Party spawned a malignancy, which attached itself to the Government of Robert Ghiz, and now, through an unholy bargain between the Liberal establishment and the present Premier, that malignancy continues to wreak havoc on the political culture of the Island.
Liberal Party insiders care so little for the public good that they carry on brazenly as though nothing of significance has happened, without the character to acknowledge there is a problem. It is so cowardly, and so utterly self serving, that I believe the party has lost the moral authority ever to ask anyone to support them again. Some of the individuals involved may believe they are protecting the party, but they are destroying it, to save themselves.
In a word, the cancer is terminal.
The Liberal party is in a state of disgrace, and there doesn’t seem to be a single individual with the honour to speak out. It’s the ‘old politics’ at it’s worst, where loyalty to party is so primal that party members are willing to see our entire system compromised rather than speak a true word.
Just think of it folks; consider the towering conceit of a Premier, and of a group of individuals around him, who imagine they can create a pact of silence among themselves, and that the rest of us will somehow be okay with that.
Not in this galaxy.
It’s called arrogance, and being totally out of touch. And I think we will see soon that it’s also called a death wish.
Today's Global Chorus essay is from Canadian-born photographer and writer Scott Kennedy. Even though it was written over two years ago, it actually applies to starting this year, quite well.
"There’s no denying it. Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan. Climate change, over-commercialization, corruption, the destruction of habitat and the inability of the world to feed itself – yeah, we all could have done better. As a species our latest report card isn’t one that Mum would put up on the fridge. <snip>" -- Scott Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy goes on to credit the youth with leading the charge out to a real way forward.
January 2, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Hoping everyone has a good, restful day, if your schedule allows. New Year's and the Levees now can be a good way to celebrate with different communities of people. I would like to thank Darcie Lanthier, who easily moves between diverse groups on P.E.I., for her good cheer and kind acts, gracing the P.E.I. Women's Institute Levee's table with gifts of delicious morsels and sweets, enjoying the company; and then like many others, she was off to attend other levees. And I am sure conversations initiated at the various levees were entertaining and informative, and several "Honour the Vote" buttons were seen.
Some Levees are purposely held later this week. Details to follow.
The Global Chorus essay (excerpt below) for January 2nd was written by environmentalist Paul Hawken. He expanded the idea of taking stock of "natural capital" (good definition here) in all decision-making. He was a guest speaker on P.E.I. in 2003 at UPEI when it hosted the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy (which was an policy advisory agency set up in the late 1980s by the federal Progressive Conservatives and cut by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013). Its mandate was to raise awareness among Canadians and their governments about the challenges of sustainable development.
A brief synopsis of that meeting in 2003 is found in this PDF from the Roundtable:
And some of the very useful body of work that the Roundtable did is archived here on the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association's website:
and about that particular group: http://neia.org/about/
I am not sure if the current government is going to reinstate the Roundtable (if anyone has an update, please let me know), but globally, the World Forum on Natural Capital met last year in Edinborough, and has a News blog here:
(The link to the definition of natural capital is from this website.)
Locally, Provincial Director of Forests, Fish and Wildlife biologist Kate MacQuarrie discussed natural capital in her talk at the Watershed Alliance annual general meeting in 2015. Here is a link to the PDF of her slides:
While it's not all that she said, it's a very informative set of slides.
And here is the excerpt from the January 2nd Global Chorus:
<snip> "No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights and more. It is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. It provides hope, support and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in ideas, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisher folk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians and all who love life. Forget that the task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are finished. -- Paul Hawken
January 1, 2017
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Happy New Year!
A schedule of New Year's Levees, compiled by Peter Rukavina, is here:
I will be at the Women's Institute and Farm Centre levee at the Farm Centre from 10:30 to noon, helping serve some pretty tasty baking from current and past PEIWI board members. All are most welcome to attend.
2016 was a year of excellent, thought-provoking letters from Islanders in the local papers; this one published Friday in The Journal-Pioneer is one of the best.
Premier’s excuses getting worse - The Journal Pioneer Letter to the Editor
Published on Friday, December 30th, 2016
Editor: The more excuses the premier offers, the more ridiculous they become. Heard on Compass Thurs., Dec. 29, 2016: when asked if he lost his cool when he resorted to pointing a finger at Peter Bevan Baker, he answered, of course not, he was merely surprised that the Green Party leader only spoke for seven minutes about the importance of the plebiscite.
Hmm, how many minutes would it take to say we have the plebiscite results and it clearly shows people want the way we elect politicians changed to Proportional Representation? The fact he mentions one of his Liberal members talked for 40 minutes is hardly a sensible or even a related comparison. It was time wasting pure and simple. Surely any premier needs to have a better sense of the mood of the people.
Does he really believe Islanders are being fooled by these inane claims he continues to offer? Honour the vote, actually become transparent, provide the answers that have been asked of you, not once but time and again. Do as you promised during the election campaign. Listen to Islanders and do business differently from the former Ghiz administration.
F. Ben Rodgers,
And The Guardian's Teresa Wright offers New Year's Resolutions to the Liberal and Progressive Conservative Parties in a funny-but-serious opinion piece of her own in Saturday's paper. You may not agree with all of them, but amusing and purposeful:
OPINION: New Year’s resolutions for P.E.I. Liberals and Tories - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
Politicians can benefit from a bit of self-improvement this time of the year
Published on Saturday, December 31st, 2016
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - It’s that time of year when people make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know if the P.E.I. Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives have made any resolutions, but just in case they didn’t, I have some suggestions.
To keep things simple, I’ve stuck with some of the most common annual resolutions. That way they should be easy to remember.
1. Lose weight
There are plenty of areas where government has grown a little hefty and spends millions on things we just don’t need. Like those provincial golf courses. Finally selling them would free up $4 million every year. Also, with all this talk of regional collaboration and bulk purchasing, why is alcohol never mentioned? We spend tens of millions every year maintaining our own liquor commission for a population of only 145,000. It doesn’t make sense. It’s time to look at how we could lose some bureaucratic weight by allowing Nova Scotia or New Brunswick to handle our booze.
2. Quit smoking
The MacLauchlan government has become very interested in blowing positive smoke about how great things are. Recently the premier penned a document called “The Mighty Island,” touted as a “framework for economic growth.” But it’s mainly just a rosy list of all the positive indicators within the province’s economy. The only actions promised are things all governments should naturally do to support growth and prosperity. There is also a whole new section of the government website dedicated to “P.E.I. success stories,” which includes news-feature styled articles and videos, written and produced by government staffers. There are also over 70 videos of Premier Wade MacLauchlan interviewing local entrepreneurs. How much time and how many resources have been dedicated to this spin machine? Island taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for smoke and spin.
3. Learn something new
The auditor general said repeatedly in her e-gaming report there were areas she couldn’t examine because of non-compliance with her audit (McInnes Cooper) and deleted emails. If witnesses would be allowed to appear at public accounts, we would undoubtedly learn new information. It would also be great to finally learn: whose emails were deleted?
4. Get organized
This one is for the Tories. It’s been over a year since you found yourselves once again leaderless. It’s time to see some action here. It’s good that you finally set a timeframe for a leadership convention for the fall of 2017, but so far we still have no date and no candidates. As the duly elected Official Opposition, it is incumbent upon you to ensure there are solid plans in place to install a permanent leader who can help your party develop policies and hold government to account. It’s about time Islanders see some meaningful organization on leadership.
5. Stop procrastinating
There are a number of big files on which government has been telling Islanders to wait and see. For example, we were promised the final energy strategy for the fall sitting of the legislature. It never materialized. We know a carbon tax is coming but have no details of how this will impact our pocketbooks. We know a second vote will be held on electoral reform, but we know only one of two options on the ballot. Will the moratorium on deep-water wells be lifted when the Water Act is finally passed? Islanders have a right to know the answers to these questions. Just tell us, already.
2017 can use the inspirational quotes or passages found in Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, which was published a little over two years ago. It's edited by Islander Todd E. MacLean. http://globalchorus.ca/
Cover of the 2014 edition, published in Canada.
The January 1st essay is by primatologist Jane Goodall, a person who needs no introduction (but here is a link to her website):
<snip> "Above all, I am inspired by today’s youth. Once young people are aware of the problems around them and empowered to take action, their energy, determination and commitment are boundless. They are changing the world one problem at a time, encouraging each other, influencing their parents and grandparents. They will be the next doctors, lawyers, politicians and parents, and they know that while we need money to live, we should not live for money. The human spirit is indomitable. We shall not give up." -- Jane Goodall