July 31, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Eastern end of the Island has Farmers' Markets today:
Souris: 9:30AM to 1:30PM
Cardigan: 10AM to 4PM
Cardigan has some additional news, thanks to farmer (and communicator!) John Quimby:
"The Cardigan Farmers Market is now serving breakfast on Friday and Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00 PM. Abby's is creating a menu that includes local ingredients from Kings County Producers featuring the best of what's in season. Last week sold out!
The Board of the Cardigan Farmers Market has approved the purchase of a new bicycle rack to be placed outside the old train station where it will be available for use by anyone using the park, the local bicycle trail or the market. Former Market board member Dan Mitchell, owner of Famous Peppers, has made a donation to cover the cost of materials.
For the latest news and information about the Cardigan Market please visit our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/203609703088266/
Events, tonight and tomorrow:
Gaelic Festival at Macphail Homestead
2nd Annual Sir Andrew Macphail Memorial Lecture, by Dr. John Shaw from the University of Edinburgh, 7PM, $10. The talk is on potential applications for archival recordings of Scottish Gaelic from Prince Edward Island "in facilitating grass-roots language renewal in the province" and more.
Saturday sessions include nature walk with Gaelic names of species, language immersion demonstration, singing workshops, local food meals, and more.
Details here or call (902) 651-2789:
On the renewable energy front from Nova Scotia:
Link + tidal could power Nova Scotia with 100% renewable energy - The Chronicle Hearld article by Clair McIlveen
Published on-line on The Chronicle-Herald website on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
Emera, Nova Scotia Power Inc.’s parent company, is in a joint venture with Irish company OpenHydro that plans to generate tidal energy for the Nova Scotia power grid beginning late this year. If Cape Sharp Tidal succeeds, tidal power could take off.
In an editorial board meeting at The Chronicle Herald earlier this month, Huskilson said the fluctuating nature of tidal power is a perfect fit with the Maritime Link, now being built to connect Nova Scotia to Labrador’s Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project. The Link is to bring Labrador power into the Nova Scotia grid in 2017.
With hydroelectric power providing 70 per cent of our renewable energy, tidal power could provide another 30 per cent, with the possibility of complete renewable energy in the province in the not-too-distant future, says Huskilson. <snip> (rest of article available on link)
Stephen Legault, conservationist, author and consultant, is currently working to help coordinate conservation efforts on the "Crown of the Continent" ecosystem, an expanse of Montana, Alberta and British Columbia.
The entire essay for the July 31st Global Chorus is here:
"Our suffering is killing us, and it’s destroying our planet. All people suffer. We feel pain and fear that we often can’t understand. Twenty-five hundred years ago the Buddha taught that we experience this suffering because we fail to make peace with the fact that we all grow old, lose that which we love, fall sick and one day die. We fail to see our lives as they really are: connected to each and every other living soul on Earth. We suffer because the desire for more that we experience can never be satisfied.
"Suffering and the fear that it induces in part leads us to over-consume and destroy our precious life support system. Rather than facing the difficult, but ultimately liberating truth about our own finite existence we try to insulate ourselves with bigger homes, faster cars and gadgets that distract us from the world around us. There is a hole in many of our hearts that needs to be filled but instead of doing the hard spiritual work necessary we hide behind the material to keep from feeling pain.
"There is an end to suffering. Connect with Nature and one-another; walk quietly in the woods or in a park, sit silently, meditate, do tai chi, practise yoga: pray. There are many spiritual pathways to find peace and connect us with our highest purpose. Unafraid, we might find we need so much less to be truly joyful and in doing so relieve the suffering overconsumption has wrought on our planet." --Stephen Legault
July 30, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Summerside Farmers' Market is open today from 9AM to 2PM.
Saturday, August 1st:
Forest Restoration Workshop, 2PM, Macphail Woods, Orwell. Meet at the Nature Centre.
Gary Schneider will host a “Forest Restoration” presentation and walk on the grounds of the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead in Orwell.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks have ramped up this week (CETA, by the way, another massive trade deal, this time with the European Union, is on the horizon, too). Ian Petrie has written the most approachable explanation what's going on, and about how and why supply management works for us. It is printed in its entirety at the end of this e-mail.
Jim Merkel is a simple-living educator, and author of Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth. He writes for today's Global Chorus.
<snip> "Some say it will take a disaster. The Exxon Valdez was mine. I quit peddling top-secret electronics and began life at the world average income – $5,000 a year. Twenty-two years later I remain stuck, thinking planet-healing starts with me. Instead of asking, 'How can I get others to change?' I ask, “Am I willing to change?" -- Jim Merkel
A Trade Deal Worth Watching - by Ian Petrie,
Posted for Vision PEI on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
Canada is a trading country: small population, huge resource base, so international trade deals are important. You’ll hear a lot about the latest negotiations on what’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over the next little while. It includes emerging economic powers like Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, along with established powers like Japan, New Zealand, Australia, the U.S. and Singapore. What does it mean for PEI?
There’s an old rule in economics called comparative advantage: why should Canada grow bananas at great cost if it can trade for them from the tropics. That’s at the heart of what can make trade productive for producers and consumers. I don’t think the TPP meets that goal for Canada. Trade barriers like are already very low between most of these countries, and on the surface (negotiations have been tightly secret), it’s intellectual property (like pharmaceutical patents, and entertainment) that appears to be gaining the most, but if New Zealand and the U.S. get their way, many Canadian farmers risk losing a lot. This really matters to PEI.
Supply management is a regulated marketing system that has brought real benefits to small and medium sized dairy, poultry, and egg farms here on PEI and elsewhere. It’s been savaged by the business media because, unlike most farm commodities, it assures farmers a fair return by limiting production using quotas. So yes Canadians pay more for dairy products and eggs than Americans, but what’s forgotten is that Canadians only pay once at the supermarket. American farmers also benefit from a trillion dollars a year in subsidies sent in the mail. The U.S. and New Zealand especially want to end the high tariffs used to keep cheaper imports out. Both have said it’s a deal breaker for them.
I want PEI farmers to have more financial stability so they can meet the high standards for environmental stewardship and food quality that we all want. Supply management provides that.
Here’s a column I wrote recently that I hope puts some complex economic issues in plainer language.
Football and Food - by Ian Petrie
The "free market" crowd has been in high dudgeon for the last few monthes. National business and political columnists have supply management in their crosshairs, and are mocking any politician who wants to protect it. They call it "price fixing for their friends". The "free" market is held up as the better alternative for everyone, especially consumers.
Question: Is there anything more red meat, capitalistic, money making, market oriented, than the National Football League? It generates billions of dollars, is watched by hundreds of millions of people, and is more American than apple pie. BUT what really makes it work? Why is a team from little Green Bay, Wisconsin able to compete every year for the Superbowl when other teams from much bigger markets flounder? How can Green Bay afford to pay the big salaries of the talented players on their roster, who could play for bigger market teams? (That's how a free market is supposed to work) Why is the league so competitive that almost every fan in every city feels they have a chance at winning a playoff berth at the beginning of the year, when that can't be said in other professional sports. Two words: revenue sharing.
It started with the creation of the American Football League in 1959, but new NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle quickly introduced it to the NFL in 1961. He cleverly got the 3 U.S. television networks to bid up the price for carrying NFL games (now worth billions), and convinced some very reluctant owners that the league would be better off to split this television revenue evenly between all teams, big and small, and this principle survives to this day. That's why Green Bay can compete with teams in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
OK Petrie what does this have to do with food?
Supply management has many of the same principles: a regulated system that guarantees a market and reasonable price, giving many more farmers a chance to succeed, not just those close to large population centres. That matters here. Maritime farmers have become uncompetitive in commodity markets. They face higher feed and energy costs, pay more money to get their goods to the important consumer markets in Central Canada, and the U.S. East Coast. Bottom line: supply management has kept many farmers in this region profitable.
No one should be guaranteed a market or a living, but those who are already bigger, or closer to the market can’t be the only ones to succeed. Green Bay still has to draft good players, make smart trades, play the game on the field, revenue sharing just gives them a fair chance to get into the game. That’s what supply management does for Maritime farmers.
Subsidies and the environment are two other issues that don’t get much attention. Yes U.S. dairy farmers are paid less, which is the underpinning for cheaper dairy products, but they’re also subsidized through government cheques in the mail. In Canada farmers are just paid once. Is there an appetite to add income support to put farmers here on the same footing if supply management disappears? I doubt it. And the size of farms needed to compete in ruthlessly competitive export markets has become an environmental problem in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
More than 50% of U.S. milk is produced on 3% of the farms, all with more than a thousand cows, and opposition is growing in states like Wisconsin after manure spills. “Dairy Industry Posing Pollution Threat To New Zealand's Rivers, Says Expert” is a recent headline in the International Business Times. Bigger is not always better.
It may be if other countries like Japan will want to protect it’s rice farmers, and the U.S. its sugarcane growers, and so on, that countries will be allowed some exceptions to strict free trade. That’s how Canada has maintained supply management in other trade negotiations. For now expect relentless attacks on supply management from the national media to continue.
Here are another article worth reading:
July 29, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Charlottetown and Stanley Bridge Farmers' Markets are open today, both opening at 9AM, with Stanley Bridge until 1PM, and Charlottetown until 2PM.
Lecture by Doug Sobey: "Samuel Holland's place names on Prince Edward Island: what they reveal about Samuel Holland and 1760s Britain", 3PM, big tent,131 Heather Moyse Drive, Summerside.
An interesting pairing from Monday's Guardian -- first, this good commentary:
AIMS Opinion Needs Context - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Monday, July 27th, 2015
Anytime I am reading an editorial piece and the author refers to those of a different opinion as radicals and extremists it makes me stop and question just whose interests the writer is serving.
In his opinion piece “Radical environmental ideology” appearing in the July 21 edition of The Guardian Mr. Navarro- Genie uses the words radical or extremist (extreme) at least eight times in his short opinion piece. This hardly seems like a reasoned and balanced approach to take, despite the author’s assertions that we should learn from “mistakes made elsewhere” and set “a different tone for energy development” in the east. By this I am assuming that he means that the public debate and subsequent policy development in the east should be less polarized and divisive than it is in the USA.
The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies is a rather inscrutable sounding name; indeed, it would be difficult to tell anything about the group’s ideological leanings based on the name. Unfortunately, I believe that this can lead many readers to assume that the organization is not only non-partisan, but also unbiased in its policy recommendations. AIMS is a social and economic policy think-tank with a focus on issues of importance to Atlantic Canadians. It also has a very clear pro-industry focus; many of its board members represent the energy industry, and it is funded through donations from large corporations. A quick Wiki check shows that the organization has often been referred to as the Atlantic version of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and that they generally support a “pro-free-market anti-regulation stance”.
In the future, I believe that any guest opinions or editorials appearing in The Guardian where the author is representing an organization should include a “tag-line” that gives the opinion piece some context. This is especially critical when the organization is not widely known. Personally, after learning of AIMS industry focus I am more likely to question the writer’s assertion that “Canada’s environmental standards and conservation policies are the envy of many countries” and do my own research on this claim.
Richelle Greathouse, Suffolk
Just on the opposite page, this clear guest opinion piece (it's not on-line, just in the digital edition):
Preferential ballot will not address Islanders’ concerns - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Jackson Doughart and Jeffrey Collins
Opinion piece published on Monday, July 27th, 2015
The provincial government has published a white paper on "democratic renewal". Its authors announce a period of public consultation and a new plebiscite on electoral reform. They endorse a preferential ballot to replace first-past-the-post, meaning that instead of marking an X on the ballot, voters rank candidates according to preference from first to last. If no candidate wins a majority of first selections, the number-two selections from the ballots of the candidate who came last are added to the totals. And so the process continues until one of the candidates reaches a majority.
The paper also recommends that the province re-adopt dual representation. Via layered districting, everyone would have one regional and one local rep.
While the government should be commended for considering reform, three central problems are worth mentioning.
First is the dubious structure of the prescriptions section. While the plebiscite would give participants a choice between first-past-the-post, preferential ballot, and proportional representation, the paper only goes into detail about the government's favoured preferential ballot. The virtues that it attributes to this system are abstract, and could easily apply to other systems. At this preliminary stage in the discussion, the pros and cons of all options should be enumerated if one is serious about an informed debate.
Second, the government's case for a preferential ballot is mostly predicated upon the need for more effective regional and minority representation. Yet, as demonstrated by the Guild's public forum held in June, these are not the primary concerns about the current system. Rather, the issues of a) wasted votes; b) the considerable swings in electoral outcomes based on small differences in votes; and c) the disparity between a party's number of seats and its share of votes remain unaddressed with layered districting and preferential voting. In the 2015 election, the Greens and the NDP received a combined 22 percent of the vote but obtained just one seat, while the incumbent Liberals, with 41 percent of the vote, received 18 seats.
Third, ranked voting does not — as the paper asserts — “ensure that all winning candidates enter office with the support of a majority of their constituents.” Rather, it uses the "votes" of people who do not ultimately prefer that candidate toward his or her total. Like first-past-the-post, it will inherently favour the big, entrenched parties. For supporters of the NDP or the Greens, their ballots will most likely accumulate votes for the very parties that they oppose, rather than help those they prefer.
Depending on how the rankings of a riding turn out, the preferential ballot could absurdly produce a victor who came second-last among constituents' first selections. The psychology of voting is also different with a preferential ballot, where one's second or third choices could be more meaningful than one's first.
It is difficult to see this as an improvement. As Islanders consider the issue for themselves, they should keep in mind the alternatives of keeping first-past-the-post or adopting proportional representation, which the government's white paper did not examine in enough detail.
Jackson Doughart is an intern with the National Post editorial board. Jeffrey Collins is a research associate with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (www.AIMS.ca).
The ironic thing is that the second opinion piece, rational and well-thought out, has one author from the AIMS group mentioned in the first letter.
Brock Dolman is the co-founder and program director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Sonoma , California,
and is a teacher of permaculture in the U.S. and many other countries. The second link looks like a very interesting TED Talk he gave. He writes for the July 29th Global Chorus essay.
<snip> "We are fully Earthlings. This is our home and this is the only place in the known universe where life exists. We are alive, surrounded by myriad other forms of life as expressions of evolution. It is time that we humble ourselves to co-creating conditions for life affirming relationships with all known kingdoms of life: bacteria, protoctists, fungi, plants and our fellow animals." -- Brock Dolman
July 28, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today, Tuesday, July 28th:
LeadNow/FairVote Connect meeting, 7PM, Haviland Club, 2 Haviland Street, Charlottetown. A fun time discussing and planning for a fall with a federal election and with provincial electoral reform on the agenda. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 29th:
Lecture: "Samuel Holland's place names on Prince Edward Island: what they reveal about Samuel Holland and 1760s Britain", 3PM, big tent,131 Heather Moyse Drive, Summerside. Lecture by Doug Sobey, co-author (with Earle Lockerby) of Samuel Holland: His Work and Legacy on Prince Edward Island.
Yesterday, Maritime Electric held an open house in Borden regarding its proposal to install two new undersea electricity cables in the Northumberland Strait (although the Premier has said something like, "Thanks, but our treat," citing a much lower cost, there are options for clipping it to the Confederation Bridge that haven't been explored fully by independent parties, so not sure where things stand). One concern I have was the lack of notice about the Open House.
Darcie Lanthier, deputy leader of the Green Party and one of several Islanders really connected (ha!) to energy issues, commented on social media yesterday:
"We need Feed-in-Tariffs for all energy producers.
Summerside needs to be able to connect directly to the new cable, without paying Maritime Electric Company (MEC) a distribution fee.
MEC should have their guaranteed profit margin reduced to reflect current interest rates and market returns.
MEC needs to pay a higher rate for the energy generated by publicly owned windmills.
I could go on, but you don't have all day."
Peter McKenna, chair of the political science department at UPEI, writes many opinion pieces for The Guardian, and predicts this cynical scenario for electoral reform this Fall and into 2016. This is copied from The Chronicle-Herald, and was originally in The Guardian, I think.
While he raises some good points, the overall "done deal" assessment -- which if repeated enough, could become a self-fulfilling prophesy -- does not take into account the Island-wide discontent with the system, and the fact the MacLauchlan government had razor-thin margins of victory in several districts, and no cake walk in his own (in District 10 York-Oyster Bridge -- Green candidate Thane Bernard received 347 votes, NDP Gordon Gay 642, Tory Jim Benson Carragher still got 1338 and the Premier 1938 votes.)
Electoral Reform Redux a Charage in P.E.I. - The Chronicle-Hearld article by Peter McKenna
Published on-line on Monday, July 27th, 2915
Concerned about poor voter turnout in three byelections, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil recently floated the idea of electoral reform — namely, the use of a ranked ballot or preferential voting.
“People need to feel there is a reason why they’re participating. It’s concerning that voter turnout is going down. It’s been going down in every election I’ve been in,” he said pointedly.
He may wish to keep a close eye on how things unfold in Prince Edward Island over the next year or so.
Indeed, the P.E.I. government is at it once again — pledging to hold a second referendum on electoral reform or “democratic renewal” in 2016. To be honest, I’m not sure whether to jump for joy or to burst out laughing.
The last time that a plebiscite was conducted, back in November 2005, it didn’t go very well. In fact, barely 33 per cent of Islanders bothered to show up to express their viewpoint. With neither of the two mainline political parties backing the initiative, it basically died on the vine.
In the end, roughly 64 per cent of those who did bother to show up opted for the status quo, as opposed to a hybrid mixed member proportional electoral system. Similar referenda in British Columbia (which held two) and Ontario also went down in flames, with citizens choosing to stick with the first-past-the-post model —warts and all.
No matter. P.E.I. is different, so we’re told. It is the place where dreams of democratic renewal can come true.
Indeed, P.E.I. elected the first female premier, Catherine Callbeck, in 1993 and has some of the highest voter participation rates in the federation (witness the 86 per cent turnout for the May 2015 provincial election, the highest in 30 years).
The May election also saw two opposition parties, the Greens and the NDP, garner a record amount of public support — over 20 per cent combined. But there was just one Green seat to show for their efforts, and this sparked a renewed interest in democratic reform.
In early July, the Liberal government of Wade MacLauchan issued a White Paper on Democratic Renewal, where he mentioned that P.E.I. could become “the first Canadian jurisdiction to move beyond the ‘first past the post’ system in choosing our elected representatives.”
MacLauchan went on to add: “The White Paper invites all Islanders to work together as we build on our traditions and context to put Prince Edward Island on the map for our democratic processes and rates of participation.”
According to the White Paper, P.E.I. will seek public consultation on creating four dual ridings (along the lines of the present four federal districts) that would also each have six small single-member districts within them (for a total of 28 elected representatives), the use of a preferential ballot system (where voters could rank two or more preferences/candidates among those offering in each local district) and election finance reform (such as placing restrictions on donations and spending).
A special legislative committee will now be set up to consult with Islanders, to seek broad public input, and to formulate the spring 2016 plebiscite question.
That question, as the discussion paper notes, “will be guided by a preferential ballot on the three voting options: (i) first past the post, the current system, (ii) a preferential ballot, (iii) proportional representation.”
It is worth mentioning that a preferential ballot option would do precious little to help the seat totals of third and fourth parties in P.E.I. In the words of the White Paper itself, “the system does not directly translate vote share into seat share, and hence may not succeed in making election outcome results more proportional.”
I’m really not sure that any of this matters, except for creating the political perception that the MacLauchan government is interested in change.
For one, Islanders are still reluctant to embrace change — and especially change that could alter their one-on-one relationship with their sitting MLA or dilute the voice of rural P.E.I. in Charlottetown’s legislative assembly. The majority of Islanders are happy with the way things are now.
There is also some confusion around the precise nature of the proposed reforms, particularly with respect to the options for proportional representation. No models are mentioned, other than the preferential option system, in the White Paper.
In 2005, the lack of clarity on the mixed member proportional model was an electoral reform killer. And, for the most part, if Islanders don’t know, they don’t show.
What we have learned from the referendum experiences of P.E.I., Ontario and B.C. is that most citizens usually care very little about fundamental electoral reform. Even when educational packages, as limited as they were, were sent to each household, most people indicated to pollsters afterwards that they didn’t fully understand the options on the table.
It is important to note that this time around neither the P.E.I. Liberals nor the Progressive Conservatives have indicated their firm backing for reform. In 2005, these two parties worked subtly, and not so subtly, to ensure a resounding No vote. I’m not sure that much has changed today.
Without the express endorsement of both the provincial Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, electoral reform on P.E.I. is essentially dead on arrival. So if they or their supporters don’t see the electoral value of reform in terms of their own political survival and lock on power, there won’t be any changes to the existing system.
Put another way, P.E.I. will get the reform that only these two parties desire — since they garner routinely some 80 per cent of Island votes.
In addition, there is no mention of the percentage of the vote required for approval (and in how many districts), no reference to any Yes or No campaigns and their spending limits, and no realization that there is no municipal, provincial or federal election slated for 2016 (an almost guarantee of lower turnout).
I hate to sound cynical about these things. But I’m not sure why we’re bothering with this public exercise. Maybe the result will be different from 2005 — if only in terms of changed percentages. The final outcome, though, will most likely be an outright rejection of any proposed changes to the current electoral model.
Peter McKenna is chair and professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.
From today's Global Chorus essay, a excerpt of a message of hope and perseverance, from Kenyan Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya:
..."I have learned that challenges make us stronger if we are patient, persistent and respectful. Positive social change can be slow, but when it comes, it lasts. "My challenge for us is to never give up but to be bold in facing any challenge that comes our way. We all have a responsibility to make this world a better place and that means never giving up." -- Kakenya Ntaiya
July 27, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 28th:
FairVote / Leadnow meeting, 7PM, Haviland Club (upstairs meeting room), corner of Water and Haviland Street, Charlottetown. They write: "Join us at our monthly Connect Meeting on Tuesday, July 28 at the Haviland Club. Everyone welcome! We'll be talking the [upcoming federal election's] National Riding Campaign and the PEI Coalition for PR [proportional representation] as well and the Provincial White Paper on Electoral Renewal."
Each day this year (hopefully), an excerpt or entire essay from the anthology, Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, edited by Todd E. MacLean, is highlighted here. The essay today is short and sweet, by federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau:
"I know that humanity will rise to successfully meet the challenges we are facing, as long as we, individually and collectively, understand that all of our actions do matter. Too often we get the impression that the world is so big and our problems so great that nothing we do (or don’t do) makes any difference in the big picture. Understanding that each of us has the power to reshape the world we live in with every choice we make will be the key to making sure that the beautiful complexity and diversity of life on this planet will endure for generations to come." -- Justin Trudeau
Interestingly, I had just read a blog post by Robert Reich, former United States Secretary of Labour (during Bill Clinton's administration in the 1990's).
Of course, he is writing for an American audience, but much of what he writes on economics, labour, human dignity, etc. applies to all of us global citizens. He has figured out social media and besides blog posting, he makes short white-board documentaries describing complex issues. More here:
We have our federal election in less than 100 days, while the U.S. is in about 16 months. What Reich wrote and posted on Facebook yesterday could easily be translated for us, federally and provincially:
By Robert Reich,
July 26th, 2015
An old friend told me last night he was deeply depressed about the country. “Our economy isn’t working, our democracy is in the hands of a few billionaires and big corporations, Hillary is offering band aides, Bernie can’t win, the Republicans are to the right of Attila, and Trump is a demagogue and a fool,” he said.
I asked him what he was doing about it.
“Me? Nothing. I can’t do a thing.”
“That’s the problem,” I said. “Your cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy.”
“I don’t have lots of money,” he said, “and I don’t have any time. I’m working like a dog.”
“You can make a small contribution, and you can stop watching two hours of TV every night.” I told him. “Use that time to get your friends involved, and insist they pull their friends in.”
“And do what?”
“Organize. Mobilize. Energize. Make sure you and everyone else knows the truth and doesn’t buy the right-wing lies. Have them all make small contributions. Meet in your home. Attend rallies. Write your local papers. Set up a system so everyone knows who to support. Make sure they vote in the primaries or attend the caucuses, and then vote in the general.”
“Can I really make a difference?” he asked.
“Yes. You and the rest of us. We can take back our economy and our democracy. The upcoming elections are the most important in our lifetimes. The moneyed interests would like nothing better than for every one of us to throw in the towel. Then America is entirely theirs. You must not let them.”
He was silent for a moment. “Maybe I will,” he said.
Maybe we will.
July 26, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Downtown Farmers' Market, 11AM to 4PM, on Queen Street from Grafton to King Street.
Peoples' Social Forum volunteer organizational meeting, 6PM, Upstreet Craft Brewery (by Froggies, Sobeys, Most Wanted on Allen Street). There will be information on the Peoples' Social Forum, which is taking place at UPEI on August 22-23rd, and how people can get involved and help out. All are welcome! It sounds like it is going to be a fantastic event, but it will need help from Islanders to make it run smoothly.
The workshop and table registration is now open -- http://www.psfpei.org/registration/
For more information, contact <email@example.com> or check their Facebook page:
A comprehensive, clear call for how things are and what needs to be done on the cosmetic pesticide issue, by Carlo Hengst:
Ban cosmetic pesticides now - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Friday, July 24th
Due to the revised Municipality Act, all P.E.I. municipalities now have an obligation, not a privilege, to safeguard residents’ health and must therefore and immediately ban hazardous cosmetic pesticide spraying within their jurisdiction.
The health industry is a source of unbiased informed advice — the pesticide industry is not.
The province has the mandate to safeguard Islanders’ health, and it has the mandate to write the Municipality Act such that a portion of that responsibility is transferred to the municipalities. This is not for the municipalities to give back.
This mandate received by the municipalities from the Province is not an optional privilege, but a binding liability and responsibility.
All municipalities are now forced by the Province to safeguard their residents’ health, at least until the Province decides to take back this mandate.
So, all you elected municipal peoples’ representatives, don’t keep staring at one another as if you don’t know what to do. Residents already know what they want you to do, and they told you loud and clear.
Don’t be intimidated by the pesticide lobby.
Don’t listen to the pesticide industry. Municipalities are responsible to the people, not to the corporations. Economy is not more important than health!
Write a limited bylaw, prohibiting all cosmetic application of hazardous inorganic chemicals within your allowed jurisdiction — limited until the province takes over with a unified, revised pesticide ban province-wide.
If trusted and elected municipal leaders cannot do that job, then they are not qualified to be in office or they may be rightly seen as corrupt.
Karl Hengst, Summerside
A Sunday morning head-shaker: An update on the troubled status of the "Mother Canada" statue and the "Never Forgotten National Memorial" project, story the National Observer (which is a "new publication founded by the Vancouver Observer's award-winning team of journalists. The National Observer focuses on news through the lens of energy, environment and federal politics." ).
It appears not everyone is happy with a huge monument planned to go in a Cape Breton National Park. The draft impact statement for the project was done by the Stantec consulting firm several months ago, and they, along with Parks Canada, decided not to show up at a public information forum which was organized by citizens. Story:
From that Stantec report, Appendix C (visuals of what the project -- which they shape like a red rectangular prism --would look like driving up to it) and Appendix D (public comments) are here:
The pinky block indicates where the "Mother Canada" (or what some are calling "Mother Zombie") memorial would be:
screenshot of image from Stantec's Impact Assessment of "Never Forgotten National Memorial". Block represents the statue as the "Mother Canada statue is not finalized".
One conception of the 30 metre-tall Mother Canada statue in the proposed park, from the project's website originally. Both screenshots from National Observer website cited above.
Global Chorus for July 26th: Sam Harrington, a 20-something biomaterials expert, most recently worked for an organization called Ecovative, which promotes a fungal mycelium-based "Myco Foam" material for insulation and packing. He is currently on sabbatical, sailing around The Great American Loop (http://www.greatloop.org/free-resources-cms-1781), on a 34' sailboat. For Global Chorus he wrote:
<snip> "Humans are the only known life form with 'higher intelligence' and the ability to create technology. To destroy that would be a real shame. Can we move beyond our current death path, to create the conditions necessary to sustain and enhance intelligence in the universe? Our own creations may soon eclipse human intelligence and ability, leading to a future that is extraordinarily hopeful, and frighteningly unknowable." -- Sam Harrington
July 25, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets are open in seven different locations that I know of, Bloomfield, Summerside, Charlottetown, Stratford, Morell, Cardigan and Murray Harbour. All open at 9AM except the early bird Bloomfield, which opens and closes sooner (8AM to Noon).
Summerside, Startford and Morell close at 1PM;
Charlottetown, Cardigan and Murray Harbour close at 2PM.
Buying local (and for the most part seasonal) food should be the first priority of the idea of P.E.I. as Canada's Food Island, though the initiative (press release below) appears to focus on exporting and value added products. A major tenet should be on valuing and improving the land that grows the food which supports us all.
Special Offer: Catherine O'Brien, when not volunteering with the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water (where she serves as chair) or the Citizens' Alliance, is artistic director at Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside. There are two shows playing there this summer, and she has offered a promotion our Citizens' Alliance community for a free ticket if you buy two tickets, to either or both shows. She has a limited number, so contact her with the date that you might be interested in at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Details on the two shows, The 39 Steps and The Affections of May (which are both comedies, have many of the fantastic actors from last year's The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, and have been getting great reviews), are here:
Hawksley Workman is a 40-year old Canadian singer-songwriter, known for his unique styles of music and his details in recording his albums. He writes for today's Global Chorus:
"I believe there is hope in people riding bicycles. In song. In the gathering for good. In mindfully choosing to be compassionate. In brave voices speaking the truth. In city co-op vegetable gardens. But most days I’m not too terribly hopeful. And I wonder about hope, and if I have any right to it. And if hope isn’t locked in a feedback loop with sentimentality and entitlement. One remembers the good days past, and wishes for more of the same in the future. Is that hope? Or is it the wishing for humans to embrace their potential? I like that kind of hope. Knowing your neighbours and employing them. Supporting your community to provide for each other. Mostly I believe in compassion and kindness, and the trading of soup recipes.--Hawksley Workman
Have a good day,
Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.
from the P.E.I. government website (bold is mine):
July 23, 2015
NEW PARTNERSHIP SETS THE STAGE FOR CANADA’S FOOD ISLAND
CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI -- A new industry led, government supported partnership will engage primary industries, food producers, culinary experts and research institutions to expand food exports, create new products and cement Prince Edward Island’s reputation as a world class producer of food and leading culinary
The Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, on behalf of the Honourable Rob Moore, Minister of State (ACOA) and the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Honourable Wade MacLauchlan, Premier of Prince Edward Island, announced government support today for the
Food Island Partnership.
“Our Government is pleased to support the Food Island Partnership as they work towards making Prince Edward Island one of the world’s premier culinary destinations,” said Minister Shea. “The Food Island Partnership will work closely with small- and medium-sized businesses to add value to the Island’s food products,
integrating all stages of production from the farm to the table.”
“Prince Edward Island’s harvests are integral to our economy and our province’s cultural fabric,” said Premier MacLauchlan. “The Food Island Partnership will build on our successes and, by working together with industry and community partners, establish our province as Canada’s Food Island.”
Prince Edward Island has a food brand that is well recognized and growing. The Food Island Partnership will leverage this brand recognition to the benefit of the food industry of PEI. The Partnership will also work to encourage more entrepreneurs to enter the food business and more existing companies to diversify their
product range with assistance from research and development institutions like BioFoodTech and Canada’s Smartest Kitchen.
The Food Island Partnership will be led by industry and supported by the provincial and federal governments beginning this year. Over the next three years governments will provide over $1.6 million to support the partnership’s annual cost. Approximately $900,000 will come from the Canada-PEI Growing Forward 2
Agreement. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is providing $487,950, with the remainder coming from the Government of Prince Edward Island.
John Rowe, chair of the Food Island Partnership, said "I am truly excited to be involved with this organization. The organization is a truly collaborative initiative between the private sector and government. We believe that the Prince Edward Island Food Industry is an industry of the future. We face challenges but there are also
great new opportunities. This partnership model will be key for the food industry to grow and attract new investment. Together with our partners, we will work to create a climate that allows entrepreneurs to start new food companies, our companies to develop new products and our products to find new markets. Branding
Prince Edward Island as Canada's Food Island will help us do that"
Ten per cent of the province’s GDP comes from food processing and primary agriculture. In 2014, the Island exported a billion dollars worth of products internationally and 40 per cent were food products, the most ever.
The Food Island Partnership merges the former PEI Culinary Alliance and PEI Agri-Alliance. The key function of the new organization will be to work collaboratively with Government to implement a Food Strategy.
The vision is to establish Prince Edward Island as an internationally recognized place of origin for premium food products and a destination for culinary excellence. The Food Island Partnership will achieve this vision by focusing on three areas: company and product development, creating new value-added food products,
and leveraging and building the reputation of the Prince Edward Island food brand.
The Food Island Partnership will work closely with industry, research and government partners to coordinate and monitor progress and promote the success of the Food Strategy. The success of the Food Island Partnership will be measured by the value of the food economy on Prince Edward Island: employment and
engagement in the sector, export sales of food products, economic impact of the sector and profitability and diversity of participating companies and individuals.
Food Island Partnership Board members:
John Rowe (chair), co-founder and CEO of Island Abbey Foods Ltd.
Jim Bradley, CEO of Amalgamated Dairies Limited
Greg Donald, general manager of PEI Potato Board
Rory Francis, executive director of PEI BioAlliance
Linda Duncan, executive director of Mussel Industry Council
Andrew Robinson, former vice-chair of PEI AgriAlliance
John-Anthony Langdale, owner Rustico Resort
Austin Clement, program manager of Culinary and Hospitality programs at The Culinary Institute of Canada
July 24, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Two Farmers' Markets are open today:
Souris, 9:30AM to 1:30PM.
Cardigan, 10AM to 4PM.
Two events you could participate in today:
Tree and shrub planting, Fernwood Confederation Forest, 1-4PM, with ECO-PEI and Island Nature Trust.
Contact Macphail Woods if you need a ride out there.
More details here, with a map:
Blue Drinks!, 5:30-7:30PM, Captain Jack's Bar (above Charlottetown Yacht Club, 2 Pownal Street), no admission cost, but drinks of all kinds and colours for sale. MLA Peter Bevan-Baker and several speakers will be making short presentations on water issues on P.E.I., and how you could stay informed and involved.
David Suzuki commented on the Premiers' meeting last week and their energy communication, the sad irony of the timing of their communique and of the Nexen pipeline leakage. I am not sure if the hyperlinks will work through this e-mail, but you could go to the original link for them.
Premiers' energy strategy doesn't go far enough - David Suzuki Foundation online article by David Suzuki, with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation's Senior Editor Ian Hanington
Published on-line Thursday, July 23, 2015
On July 15, a state-of-the-art new pipeline near Fort McMurray, Alberta, ruptured, spilling five million litres of bitumen, sand and waste water over 16,000 square metres — one of the largest pipeline oil spills in Canadian history. Two days later, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Montana, spilling 160,000 litres and forcing evacuation of nearby homes.
At the same time, while forest fires raged across large swathes of Western Canada — thanks to hotter, dryer conditions and longer fire seasons driven in part by climate change — Canadian premiers met in St. John's, Newfoundland, to release their national energy strategy.
The premiers' Canadian Energy Strategy focuses on energy conservation and efficiency, clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. But details are vague and there's no sense of urgency. We need a response like the U.S. reaction to Pearl Harbor or the Soviet Sputnik launch!
The premiers seemingly want it both ways. Despite its call to "Build on the ongoing efforts of individuals, businesses, governments and others to improve energy efficiency, lower the carbon footprint, and improve understanding of energy in Canada," the strategy promotes fossil fuel business as usual, including expanded pipeline, oil sands and liquefied natural gas development, including more fracking.
The premiers' plan is a non-binding framework, described as a "flexible, living document that will further enable provinces and territories to move forward and collaborate on common energy-related interests according to their unique strengths, challenges and priorities." It doesn't include specifics on how to revamp our energy production and distribution systems, but buys time until the next elections roll around.
Although the language about climate change and clean energy is important, the strategy remains stuck in the fossil fuel era. As Climate Action Network Canada executive director Louise Comeau said in a news release, "Governments discriminate against smoking and toxics in food and consumer products. What's needed now is discriminatory policy against fossil fuels if we are going to drastically reduce the carbon pollution putting our health and well-being at risk."
Fossil fuel development has spurred economic development, created jobs and provided many other benefits, but the risks now outweigh those benefits. The costs in dollars and lives of pollution, habitat and wildlife degradation, pipeline and railcar spills, and climate change — all getting worse as populations grow, energy needs increase and fossil fuel reserves become increasingly scarce and difficult to exploit — have become unsustainable.
Even job creation is no longer a reason to continue our mad rush to expand development and export of oil sands bitumen, fracked gas and coal. Many fossil fuel reserves are now seen as standed assets that will continue to decline in value as the world shifts to clean energy and the scramble to exploit resources gluts the market. The Climate Action Network points out that Clean Energy Canada's 2015 report on renewable energy trends showed that "global investors moved USD$295 billion in 2014 into renewable energy-generation projects — an increase of 17 percent over 2013."
Yet, many of our leaders are still pinning their hopes on rapid oil sands expansion, massive increases in fracking for liquefied natural gas and new and expanded pipelines across the country — with benefits flowing more to industry than citizens.
It's refreshing to see provincial premiers at least recognizing the threat of climate change and the need to address it through conservation, efficiency and clean technology, but we need a far greater shift to keep the problems we've created from getting worse. There are many benefits to doing so, including more and better jobs, a stronger economy, healthier citizens and reduced health-care costs, and greater preservation of our rich natural heritage.
The recent spate of pipeline and railcar oil spills, along with disasters like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, are the result of rapid expansion of fossil fuel development, as industry and governments race to get the dirty products to market before demand dries up.
Canada's premiers should take these issues seriously and commit to a faster shift from fossil fuels as they continue to develop their energy strategy. They must also stress the importance of having similar, stronger action from the federal government — and so should we all.
Franny Armstrong is an innovative British filmmaker of documentaries such as McLibel and the climate change-focused The Age of Stupid. The public library has a copy or two of the latter: http://18.104.22.168/uhtbin/cgisirsi.exe/?ps=jxpmmU4g7m/CHA/57030005/2/1000/2 a synopsis from Internet Movie Database: "This ambitious documentary/drama/animation hybrid stars Pete Postlethwaite as an archivist in the devastated world of the future, asking the question: 'Why didn't we stop climate change when we still had the chance?' He looks back on footage of real people around the world in the years leading up to 2015 before runaway climate change took place."
If people haven't seen it, we could plan an evening and get together and watch it-- just let me know in you are interested.
She writes (apparently a couple of years ago, based on the current events reference):
"History will remember us lot for one thing only. No, not Pippa Middleton’s bum, plump though it is. We will be known as the generation which did or did not keep this planet habitable for human life. "Because the people who came before us didn’t know about climate change and the ones who come later will be powerless to stop it. It’s our generation or bust. Our collective action or inaction in the coming months and years will decide the very future of life on Earth. Which makes us the very opposite of powerless people.
"We are doing shamefully badly so far. Fifty-plus years since we first understood the impact of our fossil fuel orgy, we’ve not even managed to slow the rise of carbon emissions, let alone stabilize or decrease them. Previous generations came together to solve the great problems of their time – whether ending slavery or overturning apartheid or even landing on the moon – and there is nothing intrinsically more stupid or incapable about us. We already have all the knowledge and all the technology we need to avert disaster; all that’s stopping us is ourselves.
"I personally don’t dare contemplate the version where we fail to act, where my daughter Eva and all our sons and daughters have no safe place to live. Where they die horrible deaths, fighting over ever-diminishing land, water and food.
"We’ve let it terrifyingly late to embrace our generation's responsibility, but I believe we can still do it. "We have to."-- Franny Armstrong
July 23, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Thursday in summer means the Summerside Farmers' Market is open from 9AM to 1PM.
Young Voters Social, with MP Sean Casey, 7-9PM, Fishies on the Roof (above Fishbones Restaurant on Victoria Row). Informal chat about election issues. All welcome. Kudos to Jesse Hitchcock for all her work on the Young Voters of P.E.I. events this past year.
from this morning's Guardian:
Syndicated cartoonist Greg Perry's editorial cartoon for July 23rd, 2015, with fantastically accurate Grinches in the style of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Indeed, "Just ignore them" until after the Fall federal election and until one's taxes are due in Spring 2016.
and a story describing Universal Child Care Benefit, by former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber.
The big bribe: Rathgeber rips into Conservative ‘vote-buying’ - ipolitics online article by Brent Rathgber
Published on-line on iPolitics.com on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
It was actually painful to watch Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre stand in front of a Government of Canada backdrop and behind a Government of Canada podium — wearing a Conservative-branded golf shirt — as he announced the largest one-time payout to taxpayers in Canadian history Monday.
In case you missed it (and that barely seems possible, given how much time and energy the government has dedicated to promoting it), the federal government has increased the Universal Child Care Benefit for parents of children under six from $100 to $160 and created a new $60 stipend for parents of children between the ages of six and seventeen.
To add to the hype, the program commenced January 1 — but the government claimed it was incapable of processing the cheques at the time, so lump-sum, backdated cheques are arriving in parents’ mailboxes this week. Generally, I don’t dismiss the bureaucracy’s general incompetence — but the fact that we are less than 100 days away from a general election may be a better explanation for these large, backdated payments.
There was a time when Conservatives would scoff at — or at least be embarrassed by — such huge expenditures, especially ones linked to the welfare state. But I truthfully can’t remember when that might have been. After seven consecutive deficit budgets, adding over $200 billion to the national debt — including the single largest deficit in Canadian history — it’s clear that this Conservative government is not too embarrassed to spend taxpayers’ dollars in large quantities.
You might think, however, that there would be some principled people remaining in the Conservative party who would see through all of this blatant, shameless self-promotion, on the eve of a national election when the Conservatives are trailing in the polls. Apparently, there aren’t.
The cheques might appear large — $520 for children under six, $420 for children under 18. But this is not “Christmas in July” for parents. In the last omnibus budget bill, the government eliminated the Child Tax Credit. The new Universal Child Care Benefit is taxable income. So although you get to cash the cheque before the election, you’ll be taxed on it come April. With the elimination of the Child Tax Credit, a family earning $90,000 per year will only be able to keep an extra $7.50 per month after the tax clawback.
From a political and electoral perspective, of course, it matters not. The cheques get cashed before the election. The tax liability is not incurred until six and a half months after the government hopes to be re-elected.
Both Treasury Board guidelines and the Ethics Commission state it is inappropriate for a government official to blur the lines between government and partisan announcements. Mr. Poilievre apparently felt no shame. He was quick to point out that neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats support the UCCB — a half-truth at best and a not-so-subtle attempt to persuade an apparently gullible public that only the Conservatives can be trusted to protect families.
For the record, I am certainly not opposed to allowing Canadians to keep more of their own money. I do, however, question both the optics and the efficiency of this shameless delivery method.
It’s not new for governments to play politics with taxpayers’ money, but vote-buying in Canada has seldom seemed more brazen. Conservatives in this country used to stand for something — for small, limited government, for low taxes, for individual choice and individual responsibility for choices made. This week’s spectacle showed that the Conservatives are no better as guardians of public money than any other party; worse, they have taken electioneering and electoral bribery to new and dangerous levels.
In its nine years in office, this government has introduced voluminous tax credits, designed specifically to win votes from certain demographics. A true conservative would develop a simplified tax code and set a lower base tax for all Canadians.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in asking his MPs to shill for the event, called Monday a “historic day”. And for a Conservative government to hand out cheques totalling $3 billion is historic, I suppose, in the sense that it’s precedent-setting for the party to attempt to bribe taxpayers with $3 billion of their own money on the eve of an election. I can think of more appropriate adjectives.
It is time to stop pretending the Universal Child Care Benefit is about child care. It’s about the election. True conservatives are outraged (or at least embarrassed). Partisan Conservatives appear to be thrilled and self-satisfied.
And poor Pierre Poilievre appears to be oblivious of the fact that he has been reduced to the role of infomercial pitchman in a corporate golf shirt — albeit a stylish one.
Brent Rathgeber is MP for Edmonton-St. Albert. He resigned from the Conservative caucus in 2013 due to what he describes as the Harper government’s “lack of commitment to transparency and open government”. He now sits as an Independent and is running for re-election this fall.
Ehren Cruz write for today's Global Chorus. He is the founder of SolPurpose, an: "online and event based media project, marketplace, and visionary community epicenter." from http://solpurpose.com/about-solpurpose/ and the LEAF, the Lake Eden (North Carolina) Artistic Festival.
"I believe our greatest chance to not only survive, but thrive, is through supporting and enhancing pathways of creative expression from a core level within our schools, homes, communities and political systems. Championing the arts allows and nurtures our deep and powerful connection to the innate creator spirit within us; it also fosters an inherent honouring and emotional bond between ourselves and the world in which we interact." -- Ehren Cruz
July 22, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Two Farmers' Markets are open today: Stanley Bridge from 9AM to 1PM, and Charlottetown's Farmers' Market from 9AM to 2PM.
Regarding last Monday's Charlottetown Council vote to defeat a cosmetic pesticide bylaw, resident Maria Eienhauer wrote a concise account of what happened, and now what needs to happen, so the Council can begin functioning again for their constituents:
Council Can't Wash Hands of Issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
Charlottetown city council attempted to wash their hands of cosmetic pesticides. But they failed. Accountability entirely resides with this present council. It was this council who created their cosmetic pesticides bylaw. They then held a public forum for input. Everyone who spoke supported their initial bylaw. Except for Rob Gallant, a proponent of cosmetic pesticides, who owns Atlantic Graduate Lawn Care and Pest Control. His wife is Coun. Melissa Hilton.
Council proceeded by unanimously passing their bylaw’s first reading. Then the situation got exceedingly muddied by a disjointed series of events which included the lack of leadership, team work, communication, ethics and rules of order. Grandstanding grew contentiously rampant.
Council made a mockery of their request to the Province to obtain legislative power to initiate a ban, their election promises, their action to get the bylaw passed, and their last-ditch feeble effort to hand the legislative power back to the Province when they knew full well the Province had already firmly said no.
They dishonoured their unanimously passing of the Blue Dot Municipal Declaration of Environmental Rights by not walking their talk.
They left themselves with dirty hands, which require cleansing. Charlottetown council’s mandate is to govern its own jurisdiction within its power to do so. To uphold their integrity. And to effectively work at passing bylaws which are the will of the majority of its citizens. These citizens are waiting with concern for council to clean up their act.
Maria Eisenhauer, Charlottetown
Today's Global Chorus , by Arran Stephens, co-founder of Nature's Path foods, is printed in its entirely, to make the logic of the argument more compelling:
"I join my voice to the chorus of thinkers and doers, those possessed with indomitable faith and hope in the regenerative forces of nature combined with humanity’s obligation to reverse and restore what we have collectively inflicted on the Earth. It is amazing what transformations have already been wrought in the restoration and reclamation of impossibly polluted rivers, lakes, wetlands, jungles, deserts, wasteland and abandoned lots. These heroic efforts and accomplishments are almost always started by an individual, then a handful of individuals, and then a community, then a state or province, working against overwhelmingodds. The acceleration of environmental degradation is galloping far ahead of such efforts; but globally, thousands of individuals and grassroots organizations are rising up to answer Nature’s tortured cries.
"The solutions for global warming, drought, starvation, pollution, diminishing fossil-fuelled economies, ecological disasters and wars are quite simple and available, but very difficult to put into practice. They must begin with committed and inspired individuals, heroes of the planet, one at a time, right here, right now, but growing to a global chorus.
"Some of the biggest things we can do to reduce global warming and water waste are to: 1. cut back or eliminate animal protein consumption; 2. grow more local food in yards, balconies and community gardens, thus creating local food security; 3. convert wasteful and toxic chemical farming practices with biodiverse, intensive sustainable organic agriculture; 4. shift global concentration of seed control (over 90 per cent) away from monopolistic seed/chemical companies back to local seed supply; 5. move from the fossil fuel economy to harnessing the power of sun, wind, geoheat and tides; and 6. convert gas-guzzling cars and engines to electric.
"Lastly, if we find peace within ourselves, only then can we effect peace in the world. By setting aside some time daily for silence, stilling the mind, focusing within – call it meditation, silent prayer, 'quiet time,' or what you will – we will find at our core the solution to many conflicts, and our perspective will change. We can radiate that experience to all whom we meet, regardless of race, colour, creed or gender.
"Let there be a global chorus of multi-disciplinary, sustainable approaches to the gravest challenges this Earth has ever encountered. Count me in! Let my garden grow!" -- Arron Stephens
And a little more about Arran Stephens, from the Nature's Path website (bold is mine): http://ca-en.naturespath.com/company-info/our-people/the-family/arran-stephens
Entrepreneur, artist, writer, ecology advocate, gardener, volunteer and meditation practitioner, Arran Stephens has passionately followed the beat of a distant drummer for seven decades. Born and raised on his family’s farm on Vancouver Island, Arran learned a valuable lesson from his dad: “Always leave the soil better than you found it.” Leaving the Earth better became Arran’s driving ethos – from opening a successful vegetarian restaurant in 1967 to providing wholesome food in what was then a real food desert by creating Lifestream, Canada’s first natural foods supermarket (1971-1981). Arran and Ratana, his wife and partner of 45 years, share a profound commitment to organic agriculture, people and health. Together, from humble roots, they established Nature’s Path Foods in 1985, built on a foundation of social responsibility, sustainability and financial viability.
July 21, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A couple of events on Friday, July 24th:
Native Species planting, Fernwood Confederation Forest, 1-4PM, rain or shine. Prepare to get dirty, more details on Macphail Woods website: http://macphailwoods.org/event/confederation-forest-planting-fernwood/
Blue Drinks! Friday, 5:30-7:30PM, Captain Jack's Bar and Grill (above Charlottetown Yacht Club), an initiative by the Canadian Water Network to discuss water issues, some informal presentations, all welcome. More details: https://www.facebook.com/events/659044940907192/
New Blue Marble: I am not sure why this wonderful little post by astronaut Scott Kelly was only found through The White House tab, but it's a great retrospect on the first photo of the entire Earth (well, one side, anyway), the famous "Blue Marble", and some newer photos. (American Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mihkail Korniyenko are spending a whole year on the International Space Station to see the long-term effects on humans. Scott's twin brother Mark, also an astronaut, is retired from NASA and will be the Earth-bound "control group.")
"Let's Stop the Charade": In The Guardian a few days ago, regular Atlantic regional columnist took a break from writing about festivals to write quite seriously about his frustration with how the press corps is treated by the Prime Minister and his "team."
Let's Stop the Charade - The Guardian article by Russell Wangersky
Published on Friday, July 17th, 2015
It’s an almost everyday occurrence: “11:45 a.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will greet Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine. Willson House, Chelsea, Quebec. - Photo opportunity only (cameras and photographers only).”
Prime Minister Harper meets with someone or greets soldiers or sailors, shows up at a manufacturing plant or a bridge: photographers and camera operators are expected to be there to capture the moment.
What’s not so well known is that, should anyone have the temerity to actually ask a question of His Excellence, they may actually be removed from the event by security. The prime minister of Canada, it seems, does not like to answer questions. So he doesn’t.
In fact, Harper doesn’t even seem to like having his photo taken, unless he controls the image. The taxpayers pay someone to produce acceptable pictures: “CHELSEA, QC — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine, shake hands after announcing the conclusion of negotiations toward the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement during a signing ceremony at Willson House. PMO photo by Deb Ransom.” (I’ve written about that before.)
Sometimes, when it’s an international event, the prime minister might tolerate two - that’s two - questions. Reporters get together ahead of time to determine what issue is worthy of the precious scrap of answers. It’s something that media from other countries comment on when they run into the at-most-two-question policy - they find it laughable, really.
Here’s journalist Justin Ling in Vice magazine: he got to ask one of the two questions at a rare event featuring Harper and the Australian prime minister. “One of the Australian journalists leaned over to me: ‘Hey, mate, is it normal for you guys to only get two questions?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘We normally don't get any.’ He began laughing. Then realized I wasn't joking. Then he stopped laughing.”
It’s hard to imagine that the prime minister is afraid of the media or of answering questions; more likely, as with the head of many long-in-the-teeth administrations, he simply doesn’t haven’t any respect for them. That happens.
In the beginning, political parties and new governments need the press. Ask someone about the federal Liberals and they might still raise the AdScam scandal - the media exposed AdScam, and Harper benefited. He benefited, and he was available to talk.
Now, though, the shoe’s on the other foot: hard questions are a pain in the neck and are potentially damaging to the Harper brand.
So, we have a prime minister who doesn’t answer questions.
Fair enough. Harper doesn’t have to answer questions if he doesn’t want to. (Fact is, he doesn’t even answer that many in the House of Commons.
Often, other ministers answer for him. In the last session, he was only in the House of Commons for 35 per cent of the question periods; in April and May 2015, that was six question periods, according to the Ottawa Citizen.
He has attended fewer and fewer question periods with each year of his administration.)
But the media doesn’t have to keep up the charade, either. Because this has been going on for months - the photo-ops and the caveat that no questions can be asked.
We should stop.
We should stop completely.
There is absolutely no value in a photograph or digital video of the prime minister in yet another suit shaking yet another hand. It is completely hollow material, devoid of news content. Using the photos and video under the current circumstances is deceitful.
The national media should simply stop attending, pop up one regular file photo of Harper if they have to have an image for their story and explain that they didn’t attend the event because the prime minister was refusing all questions.
I feel like I have to stress this. If Stephen Harper doesn’t want to answer questions, that’s absolutely his perogative. But the media has a responsibility to explain exactly what kind of roadblocks there are to covering issues in this country.
The federal Conservatives want to continue to position Harper as a statesman. The media shouldn’t continue to help maintain that image, especially if the prime minister is actually the equivalent of a straw man, albeit one that’s adept at shaking hands and smiling for the cameras.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com
For today's Global Chorus, Peggy Seeger spells out her view on life:
<snip> "I AM A REALIST. The pessimist believes that the world will roller-coaster into chaos, savagery and species extinction. The optimist knows that enough of us will survive and evolve to do a better job next time around and that many of the other species that we’ve left alive will still be around to help us. But at the end of the day (and the beginning of the new one) the realist says: I don’t know. Fingers crossed." -- Peggy Seeger
Peggy is listed as being a musician, activist, and grandmother. She is the half-sister of Pete Seeger and currently lives in Great Britain.
July 20, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
One of the things brought up in the Legislature this time was parking fees at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Opposition House Leader and District 6 Stratford-Kinlock MLA James Aylward brought this up, as he has every session (I think). Aylward serves as the Opposition critic for Health and Wellness, Family and Human Services, and again went toe-to-toe with Health Minister Doug Currie on this issue.
Previously, Currie has sympathized but said it would have to become a priority and that money would have to come from somewhere.
If the parking brings in $350,000 of at $600 million health budget (I am using The Guardian's figures so I hope they are right), that comes out to 0.06% of that budget. That's not a huge amount of money on a government scale, but it is when people really have to budget if they are going to be there often. It was good to see Bush Dumville (Liberal backbencher MLA for District 15 West Royalty-Springvale) bring this up, also. He persisted that maybe some compromise, such as the first hour (as opposed to half) be free. (Even an hour is pushing it for people to get in the building, visit their friend, and get back out.) I think during the Robert Ghiz administration, people were a bit reluctant to bring up that the other hospitals have free parking, in case Treasurer Wes Sheridan turned his attention to that potential uncollected revenue.
This government has listened and responded to public concerns in another case (of teaching positions), so maybe this is another area where people need to let their MLAs and Health Minister Currie know how they feel.
Contact information for MLAs is here:
Some creative thinking can always be considered. Last night at the beautiful Coro Dolce concert at the Bonshaw Hall a "freewill offering" for the Hall was at the door; these often collect more money for a cause than a flat rate, and encourages people to attend who might not have with a set admission price. Some people might consider dropping coins in a locked box inside the hospital to contribute to the parking lot upkeep. Another consideration is regarding the persons employed in the booth and what would happen to them if fees were eliminated. (One particular ticket person would always comment on the "Stop Plan B" sticker on my car, asking why would I mess up a pretty little car with such an ugly sticker, to which I would smilingly remind him that the government messed up some pretty little hills in Bonshaw with such an ugly highway.)
Back to James Aylward, who did a great job in his roles as Health critic, Opposition House Leader, and MLA for his District. He was the main critic for all those hours of the budget estimates, asking questions, paying attention; this is key for us as citizens and taxpayers who really have little clue and recourse to find out what those figures actually mean. He also kept after several issues (motions on shingles vaccine availability to vulnerable Islanders, the children with complex physical needs motion) related to health, seniors, people with disabilities and people on social assistance. He spoke honestly about how MLAs are supposed to conduct themselves in the House during the nitty-gritty work after the drama of question period. A construction criticism that could be offered would be that he doesn't have to get grandiloquent, as there isn't the need to meet the bombast of the former Premier and a few of his old ministers in rhetoric. On a local front, Aylward praises the businesses and other endeavors in his District, and mentions many residents on special occasions. It's not hard to see how he won by one of the largest number of votes this past election, even against very strong candidates from the other parties. Like Darlene Compton (MLA for District 4 Belfast-Murray River), running for the PC leadership was a great experience and has made him an even stronger MLA.
The Guardian wrote a strongly-worded editorial on the hospital parking issue, the week before the Legislative Assembly closed:
QEH parking fees nickel and dime the sick, families - The Guardian Editorial
Lead editorial, published on Friday, July 10, 2015
It’s a case of déjà vu all over again. On a somewhat regular basis, the issue of parking fees at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown is raised in the legislature.
Opposition MLAs condemn the practice, it gets roundly berated in the House and that’s where it stops. Parking fees continue as Health P.E.I. will argue the $350,000 or more raised yearly represents an important source of revenue for health care
And in today’s tight financial climate, every penny counts.
Each side has legitimate arguments and while the case against fees is much stronger, it’s all to no avail.
The arguments against the parking fees are as valid today as they were when first applied in 1993, as they were when the matter got a thorough discussion in the legislature in 2011 and as they did in early 2014 when then-federal finance minister James Flaherty opined about removing the HST taxable portion from hospital parking fees.
Health P.E.I did not add the HST onto parking fees when it came into effect in April 2013 and was remitting that extra nine per cent to the federal government, or about $50,000 annually.
And still the parking fees remain. And that’s where the issue will remain until the next time it gets raised in the legislature.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Why isn’t there a bi-partisan motion presented to the legislature, an open vote held and Health P.E.I. directed to rescind the hated fees and remove the tollbooths at the province’s central referral hospital.
The arguments against the parking fees have been repeated many times.
They impact most on the sick and their families at a time when they are most vulnerable. We all pay taxes and they should include the right to park for free at the QEH, to visit a doctor, the sick or a loved one.
Parking fees are not charged at any other hospital or manor or public health facility across the province.
What’s fair for the Prince County Hospital in Summerside or Kings County Memorial in Montague – which have no parking fees - should be fair for the QEH in Charlottetown.
But it’s not.
The QEH is getting more and more referrals as the scope of health care changes. More Islanders from rural parts of the Island are being sent to Charlottetown.
More Islanders, many of them seniors on a fixed income, have to travel longer distances and pay a lot of money on gas to do so. And then they are met with parking fees.
It may not seem like a lot, and yes the first half hour is free, but it’s the little things that mean a great deal at a difficult time.
It would be a meaningful gesture to end parking fees.
Health P.E.I. rejected a call in 2011 from the Canadian Medical Association Journal to eliminate hospital fees. The Journal argued such parking fees are not allowed under the Canada Health Act and that they impose a barrier to patient care.
The amount is $350,000 in a provincial health-care budget of over $600 million. Are there no efficiencies to make up for the lost revenue? Why do we have those fees if the costs involved are so high?
Now there is talk of a small concession - that Islanders might get the first hour free.
PC member James Aylward has long led the criticism to parking fees and this year he has converted Liberal MLA Bush Dumville to commit publicly to the cause.
Mr. Dumville’s passionate attack helped convince Health Minister Doug Currie to take a look at how much it would cost if the free 30 minutes was extended to a full hour. It seems to be the only concession available at this time.
Hospital parking fees are a tax on misery. In many ways, they are repugnant. They prey upon the ill and their loved ones.
American Reform Rabbi Lee Bycel, author, and humanitarian, writes for today's Global Chorus:
<snip> "Einstein understood (the) challenge: 'We can’t solve the problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.' We have used the same kind of linear and redundant thinking to try and solve the great challenges facing humanity and we have not advanced much. Courageous and creative thinking and questioning might lead to constructive and sustainable solutions.
"For humanity to survive, we will need to collaborate and reorient our thoughts and actions to be more about us than me; more about the future than the past, more about survival for the planet than about protecting an unsustainable lifestyle for the 'haves' in the world. <snip>
"Hope is found each day when we ask, 'How can I become more humane and human? What can I do to diminish the hurt and anguish in the world? What am I willing to risk so that all who live in the global village can flourish?' " -- Lee Bycel
July 19, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
An excellent piece by Jamie Larkin on behalf of the Green Economy Network on PEI:
Green energy options getting scant attention - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Jamie Larkin
Published on Thursday, July 16th, 2015
The P.E.I. Green Economy Network (GEN) was formed in December 2014 for the purpose of promoting a green economy that shifts from fossil fuel dependency to green energy alternatives. These alternatives are aimed at diminishing the use of fossil fuels by retrofitting buildings including homes, establishing environmentally friendly modes of transportation, and supporting organic farming.
Home heating is a big item as it consumes a great deal of fossil fuels. Shifting to solar heating, heat pumps, and more wind projects would further the savings already evident in this province and create many new jobs. Mass transit, retrofits, biomass, solar and wind are prime examples of areas where lots of jobs can be created.
The GEN, composed of several Island groups, is questioning why the province is talking about financing a $50 million turbine in Charlottetown to be built near a second turbine owned by Maritime Electric. There is another such turbine in Charlottetown and two near Borden. These turbines are similar to a jet engine and use a great deal of fossil fuel. A turbine engine can supply 50 MW of power, but the publicly owned wind farms are supplying just as much power and even more.
The Green Economy Network questions whether the new turbine engine is necessary and wants the Island government to begin now to make the switch to supplying green energy. In the same vein the Network questions whether it is necessary to build a new and expensive cable across the Northumberland Strait when investing in solar and wind would make the Island self-reliant in energy at a much lower cost to citizens and to the environment.
It works in European countries to the great advantage of both the governments and the citizens. Such a change would also go a long way to cut down on fossil fuel use and therefore make a difference in global warming levels.
Other green jobs could be developed in farming. Given the Island’s land base, organic farming, which is labour-intensive and requires a much smaller amount of land, is well-suited to this mode of agricultural production and would benefit from the demand for organic food throughout the world. There are many constructive and visionary ways to invest the money earmarked for turbine engines and cables.
GEN sent a questionnaire to all leaders of political parties in the provincial election, but only the NDP and the Green Party took the time to answer. We expect our leaders to take this question more seriously and begin to think green when budgeting Islanders' money.
Jamie Larkin, member, Green Economy Network-P.E.I.
And this additional letter by Reverend George Palamattam, of Holy Redeemer Church in Charlottetown:
Investing in solar, wind would make Island self-reliant at lower cost - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Saturday, July 18th, 2015
Re: The opinion article on green energy options by Jamie Larkin in The Guardian, July 16, page A-9.
I am a new resident Canadian in P.E.I. Its landscape, environ and people fascinate me. As a concerned citizen of Canada as well as of the world, I am concerned about the environmental degradation and I am passionate about renewal energy that is freely and abundantly provided by the Creator God.
After taking a look around the island I feel that this is the most suited place for total switch over to green energy. I fully subscribe to the views of Jamie Larkin that investing in solar and wind would make the island self-reliant in energy at a much lower cost to the citizens and to the environment. Maybe we can even generate surplus to export. Instead of going further for mega projects like the 50 million turbines, which are already scattered around, we must first fix a date to totally eliminate them and introduce smaller and economically viable projects scattered around the island, catering to individual houses and small communities and making them self-sufficient in energy and creating a network of them and sharing their excess with others.
This could be applied for home heating and cooling, pumping water, transportation, small businesses, organic farming, etc. Larger green projects could be implemented for larger businesses and establishments. In transportation we can eventually think about reducing privately owned transport modes and establishing faster and efficient public transportation utilizing green energy including a network of fast moving electric train/metro services for the entire island.
Since ours is a small and viable island location a bit of mega thinking by planners and visionaries can make our island a model for the world at large and ultimately we could become even the focus of the world for environmental projects. I have observed in some parts of Germany widespread green energy initiatives and read a few things about their advances in this regard and their resolve to eliminate nuclear energy from the country in the very near future.
I think our island planners, before they add mega fossil fuel projects, should make a study tour of Germany, get their advice and expertise and incorporate the viable alternatives and fix a final date to banish fossil fuel completely from Prince Edward Island. It is doable. What we need is a political will and enough guts to resist the fossil fuel lobby.
Father George Palamattam is a pastor at Holy Redeemer Church, Charlottetown
Some interesting articles are posted at the Facebook site for the Green Economy Network-PEI:
An article in Friday's on-line Globe and Mail regarding concerns about recent bigger and much more frequent (two - 4.4 on the Richter scale ones in this year) earthquakes in Alberta and concerns about the connection to fracking:
Indigo Magazine is an occasional publication from South Korea about humanities and is aimed at young people, with
today's Global Chorus writer Yongjune Park as its editor-in-chief. A bit of information
about it is here:
<snip> "To be hopeful in hard times, as one of my heroes Howard Zinn said, is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage and kindness. Hope calls for action. If you have hope, you will move, act and engage with other people. Hope is not something that we aspire to. And hope is not what you can prove or seek evidence of out there. It arises from an action. It is what we become, and it is who we are when we are engaged. Hope is, simply, an action. And even though the impossible can take a little while, we will go forth to try hard anyway." -- Yongjune Park
July 18, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A whole swath of Farmers' Markets are open today:
Pruning Workshop, 2PM, Macphail Woods, free. More details here:
on their wonderfully organized and informative website.
After Charlottetown Council defeated its cosmetic pesticide by-law Monday, there was much discussion, and Mayor Clifford Lee and Councillor Eddie Rice expressed their disappointment.
This Open Letter was posted on-line yesterday (I hope the authors forgive me for any formatting errors):
Open Letter to Members of Charlottetown City Council: Open Letter from Pesticide Free PEI
July 16, 2015
On behalf of Pesticide Free PEI, which has a Facebook membership of 2300 people, we convey to you our extreme disappointment at the complete lack of leadership that you collectively, as elected officials of our capital city, have displayed regarding your decision not to pursue the cosmetic bylaw and instead, refer the matter back to the province. The fact that many Councillors ran on a platform to ban these pesticides in last November's municipal election makes the matter all the more odious.
In the first place, the Minister of the Environment had already publicly announced that he would be unwilling to take back the enabling legislation that municipalities had asked for. Thus, playing a game of ping pong, as council chose to do, was destined to go nowhere. Second, in defending their position not to support the bylaw, certain Councillors raised the "red herrings" that the pesticide lobby promulgated and presented them as though they were insurmountable obstacles as opposed to beatable challenges.
The enabling provincial legislation is not perfect. It permits the sale of some chemical pesticides. But, to suggest that the same chemicals can be bought from a hardware store as are applied to lawns by commercial sprayers is false. Mecoprop and MCPA, the herbicides used by these companies, are not available in stores. The insecticide Sevin and the herbicide Roundup are available, but only in limited amounts and concentrations.
The issue of enforcement was brought up as though this would be complex and horrendously expensive. We have been advised that the province would be willing to work with municipalities to help mitigate such perceived problems. In any event, whatever happened to the original idea of sharing resource needs among municipalities within a common bylaw?Then, the "problem" of not being able to spray on golf courses and farm lands was raised. To our knowledge, all jurisdiction in the country include these exemptions. Moreover, Charlottetown only has one golf course and it could be encouraged to follow Audubon certification practices to limit pesticide usage as is being done currently on the Fox Meadows golf course in Stratford.
As to "farm land," we wonder what vast swaths of farm land would be at issue in the city of Charlottetown.
It seems that Council had no desire to look for solutions to real or perceived problems and was unwilling to work within the powers that had been granted. To deny companies the power to spray lawns would have taken care of 90% of the problem, yet Council chose to do nothing to protect the health and safety of residents, nor their environment. Council has ignored the feedback that it received from residents at the public meeting that it organized and chosen to accept the prejudiced views of the pesticide industry instead of unbiased , peer-reviewed science. There is compelling evidence linking cosmetic pesticides to several forms of cancer, including childhood leukemia, as well as several other serious maladies. Application of the Precautionary Principle was called for.
Instead of working together with other municipalities, Charlottetown chose to pursue a cavalier "go it alone" route that has not served its citizens well. We call upon Council to revisit this important issue of a cosmetic pesticide bylaw at the earliest opportunity. In a recent survey, 73% of residents of Stratford voted for restrictions or a ban on cosmetic pesticides. We see no reason to think that Charlottetown residents would think differently, though council could poll them if it thought otherwise.
We further call for the resignation of Councillor Doiron as Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee as the stance he has taken and the ultimate course he has spearheaded are as far removed from sound environmental principles and practices as we can think of.
Maureen Kerr and Joan Diamond, co-Chairs of Pesticide Free PEI
Roger Gordon, Ph.D., Bioscientist & Member of Pesticide Free PEI
And this in Friday's Guardian from a concerned resident:
Charlottetown councillors drop ball on pesticides - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Friday, July 17th, 2015, in The Guardian
I think the Charlottetown councillors who voted against the cosmetic pesticides bylaw are in error. Of course the province should legislate for the whole province, but somebody needs to make this issue real.
Another example of passing the buck, sadly in both directions. Shame on the environment minister who sounded like a real climate change denier in his arguments.
Most of us are disgusted.
Peter Noakes, Charlottetown
Today's Global Chorus is full of fun, thanks to Australian Ann Henderson-Sellers:
"Should we hope? Yes! We’re a resourceful species living on an amazingly hospitable planet. Have we screwed up? Yes, but like all recovering addicts, we recognize that our fossil energy 'hits' and hedonistic consumerism cannot deliver out preferred future.
"Should we worry? Yes, because we are cleverly exploiting a finitely hospitable planet. Over the last forty years I have written hundreds of papers and loads of books on climate and our future.
"I thought I had nothing more to learn about people’s capability to stop global warming. I was wrong. Glimmers of hope are emerging.
"Please complete 'what next?': The Earth’s climate is changing, And we know we’re primarily responsible, As this truth is deeply uncomfortable – We (choose one): 1. allow, even encourage, our mass media to distract us with pseudo debate; 2. blame scientists for failing to clearly explain; 3. change behaviour and set to clean the mess up.
"We’ve wasted time on 1 and 2, so the challenge today is to mobilize action that turns our global feeling of responsibility into empowerment for change.
"My solution is sharing a smile en route to Earth’s better future. If, you are worried about change, a chuckle helps you live differently. For a hopeful grin try: writing a climate change limerick, e.g., www.climatemodellingprimer.net/ClimateChangeVerses shooting a 'low carb' movie short, e.g., greenscreen.herokuapp.com or…. "Start now, have fun and help others change. Add a chorus line: 'The best solutions share a smile!' " -- Ann Henderson-Sellers, DSc, emeritus professor at Macquarie University, Australia
And a sample limerick from the Climate Modelling page mentioned above:
"Oh No Canada"
Steve "Climate Revisionist" Harper
Than blancmange has proved little sharper
We used to shine bright
In the forces of light
But now from Kyoto we scarper.
July 17, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Two Farmers' Markets open in Cardigan (10AM - 4PM) and Souris (9:30AM - 1:30PM) today.
This weekend features the choir Coro Dolce in three concerts of classical choral music -- they are quite beautiful:
Tonight: Friday, July 17th, Charlottetown, St. Peter's Cathedral,
Sunday, July 19th, Bonshaw Hall (this is a fundraiser for the Bonshaw Hall, where the choir practices)
Friday, July 24th, Montague, St. Georges Anglican Church
All are with a freewill offering, and start at 7:30PM.
The hummingbird talk by visiting expert Cindy Cartwright in Hampton last night was excellent. Lots of interested folks there, too, and many excellent Island photographers. There had been some outdoor activities, including the tour of the new garden at Victoria Park and a banding demonstration. Those events weren't quite like this:
screenshot from P.E.I. government newsroom website
as this is the official place on the government for press releases and such. A bit pretentious.
Even though the P.E.I. Legislature has recessed for the summer, there are many details to clarify and discuss. Earlier this week, the Province announced that after consultation with the School Board and Island school principals, the Department would add 28 new teaching positions. Perhaps this kind of new math is why our educational system is in the shape it appears to be, as they want to count as added teaching positions that were slated to be cut. They also originally cited a decrease in enrollment by 300 kids as the reason for the cut of the 28 positions, but it appears enrollment may go up about 130. Using the student:teacher ratio they so hotly defended last month, the math doesn't work out right here, either. Of course, I am glad these positions were reinstated, but sorry for the efforts parents had to extend and the worry it likely caused teachers. And the principals, to quote Opposition House Leader James Aylward, having" to beg" for their teaching allotments.
The Premier commented about the costs:
"Well, it will be a further stretch in terms of the expenditure in 2015/16. You know, a budget is a management plan for a 12-month cycle and so we're going to have to find resources in other parts of our operation to ensure that those 28 teaching positions are a priority," said MacLauchlan (on a CBC news article)."It's in the nature of a budget that you set priorities, and you stick to them, and inevitably make choices. So this is another feature of a budgeting process that totals $1.7 billion, so it comes with the territory."
A rather dispassionate, saurian look at things, when perhaps Islanders want to hear about the priorities public education should have, what the real "achievements" we are trying to accomplish during the thirteen years or so children are in the P.E.I school system.
It doesn't appear that there is much vision from government in relation to education. Hal Perry, Liberal MLA for District 27 Tignish-Palmer Road, one time PC MLA, was chosen when Tina Mundy withdrew from the appointment. Hal seems pretty affable, and when he is comfortable with what he is saying, is relaxed enough; it was pitiable watching him this whole session, only prepared with stock phrases. During budget estimates this year and during the Fall sitting during Opposition time, legislative Opposition Leader MLA Steven Myers (District 2 Georgetown-St. Peters) has repeatedly called on the Government to stop trying to be like everybody else, basically, with complete faith in standardized testing. He feels P.E.I. could be creative, dynamic and unique, and has often brought up alternatives in other places around the world. Fundamental education reform and creativity, and more local control, are also what Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker has spoken for. It'll be good to see how these opposition ideas can be worked on and presented.
Myers was ridiculed by the Liberal spokesperson on the Island Morning political panel recently as being completely ineffective, which was a bit of an exaggeration. He did start off the session with all sorts of digs thrown across the aisle at the Premier especially, but after reprimands by the Speaker, Myers toned it down a bit. Colin LaVie (District 1 Souris-Elmira and the Opposition whip) also hooted and heckled for a good portion of the session, so perhaps he'll drop that for the Fall; it detracts from LaVie's otherwise hard work for his constituents and his files. Both men are very earnest in their concerns, and had dealt (along with Aylward) with *all* the opposition work during the last Ghiz years, and one could understand their frustration.
The Island media is taking a renewed interest in alternated placements of a proposed new power cable to New Brunswick, and the general manager of the Confederation Bridge said that he thinks attaching the cable to the side of the bridge would be doable. (This is what PC Opposition energy critic Jamie Fox brought up in the P.E.I. Legislature on one of the last days.)
Sy Safransky, founder and editor of The Sun magazine, writes for today's Global Chorus, and here is an excerpt:
<snip> "During the height of the Cold War, I asked the spiritual teacher Ram Dass whether the world was facing a nuclear Armageddon or, as some were prophesying, a 'new age' of peace and love and deeper awareness. Ram Dass said, 'I used to think I should have an opinion on this, but as I examined it, I saw that if it’s going to be Armageddon and we’re going to die, the best thing to do to prepare for it is to quiet my mind, open my heart and deal with the suffering in front of me. And if it’s going to be the new age, the best thing to do is to quiet my mind, open my heart and deal with the suffering in front of me.' "Is the moral calculus any different today?" -- Sy Safransky
If you don't know much about the publication (and I didn't), its website is very intriguing:
July 16, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Hummingbirds, apples, turtles, and more turtles:
The last Hummingbird Talk by special guest Cindy Cartwright and Island biologist Brenda Penak will be tonight at Bites Cafe, 19566 TCH in Hampton, 7:30PM.
I haven't seen the hummingbird garden at Victoria Park yet, but it sounds like a great place to stroll.
Strolling through an orchard is a lot of fun, and one has been proposed by the Canadian Nectar Products group at The Mount's property off Mt. Edward Road in Charlottetown. The Mount Continuing Care Community is what was Mount St. Mary's and home to the Sisters of St. Martha. A five-acre piece on their property is proposed to hold 4,500 trees, making this a "high-density" orchard, with spacing in rows much tighter than at the U-picks many Islanders are familiar with (where trees are about 10 feet apart); with high density they are three to four feet apart. (The distance between rows is about the same to allow for tractor and truck traffic.) The proposed area is downhill from the parking lot of The Mount as it slopes towards the Confederation Trail, across from the new (in building phase) engineering school building at UPEI.
Here is a recent Guardian article:
Canadian Nectar Products planting apple and pear orchard in Charlottetown - The Guardian article by Marilyn Coulter
Published on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
Sister Joan MacNeill is really excited that an orchard will once again be in her backyard. When MacNeill was a young girl, her family had an apple orchard in New Annan. "All the little farms years ago, everybody was brought up to look after things," said MacNeill. "We were always conscious of (the environment)."
MacNeill has been living at The Mount Continuing Care Community in Charlottetown for the last eight years, but she says she has not lost her passion for the land. That's why MacNeill was pleased to hear Canadian Nectar Products is planting a five-acre orchard right behind The Mount, offering 4,500 apple and pear trees.
Though most of the produce will be exported overseas, the residents at The Mount will be able to sample the fruit once the trees produce. "It's a great use for the field," said MacNeill. "We are looking forward to this."
Lindsay Dickieson, administrator at The Mount said the land was once used as farmland, so this orchard will preserve some of the history at the facility. "The land hasn't been turned in many years," said Dickieson. "We think it's wonderful."
MacNeill said the field at The Mount has never seen pesticides. "The soil is completely organic," she said.
Amarjeet Singh Jatana, president and CEO of Canadian Nectar Products, said they won't be using any heavy chemicals at this site. "We know it is in the heart of the town...We are trying to grow as much as chemical free as we can," said Jatana. "What our aim is to do something environment-friendly with less oppression on resources."
Jatana said he feels this orchard will diversify the city of Charlottetown. "People will like to see how successful this is and if the trees are successful," he said. "The Island is a very nice place and we can do a lot more with horticulture," he said.
Though the apples will be for export (since they cite in other news stories that recent international trade agreements as being useful here, another whole issue) , the residents of The Mount will get to "sample" them.
Canadian Nectar Products has a spiffy website with graphics like this:
...which kind of looks like the cover of a science fiction novel, or maybe it just needs a rainbow, a wolf on the cliff, or a three-masted ghost ship in the water.....
screenshot from http://www.cnpge.com/investors.html#
You may recall this company has some bi-partisan collaboration of former politicians, with a connection with a potential one: Canadian Nectar Products was made up of former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps, (but her name doesn't appear to be on the website anymore), former Conservative MP Gurmant Grewell, and Dimitri Soudas is listed as an associate. His biography states: "Until March 2014, Dimitri led the governing Party in Canada as its CEO/Executive Director. Dimitri was described by the Chair of the CPC Fund as 'the dynamic new Executive Director of the Conservative Party hand-picked by Prime Minister Harper.' Dimitri was responsible for all political operations, fundraising, finance and management at the CPC."
The Kings County properties (about 150 acres) around Murray River was sold to them by recently nominated Federal Conservative candidate for Cardigan, Julius Patkai.
Here is a recent CBC article on their acquisitions elsewhere on the Island:
It's such a combination of unusual factors that are worth repeating; I am concerned about the sustainability of producing apples at both locations at that volume, but the other apple growers on the Island interviewed in the articles have no concerns.
Colin Jeffrey, an island biologist and writer, is working with the Sierra Club, and sent this installment of this series to share:
Environmental Perspectives Series - Long Live the Leatherback! - by Colin Jeffrey
Many of us are probably unaware that the world’s largest reptile swims in our own back yard. This is the leatherback sea turtle, a majestic creature that has changed little during the past 90 million years. Since before the time of the dinosaurs, the leatherback has been crossing the world’s oceans in search of its primary food: jellyfish. Covering up to 12,000 kilometers of open ocean per year, the leatherback turtle is a powerful swimmer. It roams across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans as far north as Greenland and as far south as New Zealand. Here in our backyard, the waters of Atlantic Canada support one of the largest seasonal populations of leatherbacks in the Atlantic Ocean. Along the Scotian shelf, south coast of Newfoundland and the southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence, leatherback turtles gather to forage for jellyfish and other soft bodied sea creatures. To do this, leatherbacks will dive to amazing depths. Research has revealed that leatherbacks can descend a kilometer or more below the ocean’s surface and spend over an hour under water before returning to the surface for air. Unlike other sea turtles, the leatherback’s upper shell - or carapace - is not a shell at all, but a number of closely fitted bony plates covered with a thick layer of fat and a leathery skin.
Worldwide, leatherback sea turtle populations have fallen sharply during the past twenty years and all populations are now considered endangered. Because the leatherback travels so widely, it encounters many different threats in the course of a year. In Atlantic Canada, primary threats to leatherback populations include entanglement in fishing gear and an expanding offshore oil and gas industry. Seismic testing, which uses intense blasts of compressed air to locate hydrocarbon deposits beneath the sea floor, can injure marine life at close range and disturbs migration and feeding patterns. Oil and gas extraction activities also frequently contaminate marine waters through small spills of oil, diesel, drilling muds and other toxic materials. While the expansion of offshore oil and gas extraction in Atlantic Canada is a growing threat to the leatherback, progress has been made here to protect this unique species from entanglement in fishing gear. The Canadian Sea Turtle Network has had great success collaborating with Atlantic Canadian fishermen to promote best practices that reduce the threat of entanglement and ensure fishermen are prepared to release a leatherback if it does get caught. According to Executive Director Kathleen Martin, fishermen have been closely involved with the design of turtle friendly fishing gear and have played a critical role in understanding the importance of eastern Canadian waters for leatherback populations. Martin recognizes the lead role that fishermen play in ensuring the health of this species and is quick to point out that fishermen are eager to help protect this magnificent animal. With encouraging signs such as this, we can hope that the world’s largest reptile will continue to swim through our seas for millions of years to come.
Colin Jeffrey is a coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Blue Whale Campaign, an initiative to raise public awareness of threats to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence ecosystem and a call for sustainable management. To learn more about the campaign, visit atlantic.sierraclub.ca/protectthegulf
Coincidentally, today's Global Chorus is about the state of another turtle, written by Wallace "J" Nichols, PhD, a dynamic, entrepreneurial, best-selling author, father, and promoter of people getting connected with nature, especially through water.
He takes a slow, collaborative approach to influence business, government, non-profits, and academia, and inspire a deeper connection with nature, leading to inventive solutions to pressing issues.
J knows that inspiration comes sometimes through adventures, or simply by walking and talking.
Other times through writing, images, and art. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires.
But he also knows that what really moves people is feeling part of and touching something bigger than ourselves.
The Global Chorus essay:
"Fifteen years ago the hawksbill turtle in my hands would’ve been hog-tied, slaughtered and carved into trinkets. Today, it swam free.
"On Baja’s Paciic coast, an adult male turtle swam into a fisherman’s net. In the past, for the fisherman anyway, such a thing would’ve been considered a stroke of good luck. Endless black market demand for turtle meat, eggs, and skin and shell can provide a nice payday to anyone willing to endure the low-level risk of being caught.
"Hawksbill turtles, once common, are now the rarest of the rare due to decades of hunting for their beautiful shells, which get carved into jewelry and other adornments. But these days, GrupoTortuguero.org, a Mexican grassroots conservation movement, is challenging the old ways and shaking things up. A network of thousands of fishermen, women and children count themselves among its ranks. "Noe de la Toba, the fisherman who caught this turtle, contacted Aaron Esliman, Grupo Tortuguero's director. Esliman dispatched messages to network members throughout the region, who responded immediately. The turtle was swiftly moved to the nearby office of Vigilantes de Bahia Magdalena. A team led by Julio Solis, a former turtle hunter himself, took care of the turtle, checking for injuries.
"The turtle was measured, weighted, ID tagged and quickly returned to the ocean. Images and details were shared immediately on Facebook and Twitter, on websites and over beers. The fishermen involved weren’t paid. They just did it. It wasn’t anyone’s 'job,' but everyone’s responsibility. They weren’t motivated by fear or money, but dignity and camaraderie. People like them are rescuing animals every day. Millions of sea turtles are saved each year and the population in Baja’s ocean are rising – one turtle rescue at a time.
"Twenty years ago, experts wrote of Baja’s turtle. hopes. The population was too small and pressures on them too great, the thinking went. Yet, the survival of this one turtle tells a very different story. If the survival of endangered species is just a battle of the budgets, we will all lose. But if it’s a matter of will, commitment and love, I’ll put my bet on the turtles to win." -- Wallace J. Nichols
July 15, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The talk on hummingbirds is at 6:30PM at the Confederation Centre Public library, with Brenda Penak, and Cindy Cartwright of Hummingbirds Canada. A similar talk will be given tomorrow at Bites Cafe in Hampton, 7:30PM.
Some Energy notes:
The comment period for Maritime Electric's energy efficiency plan has been extended until September 30th. This is the plan to offer rebates on LED lights and tinker with heat pump usage (including, having people turn them off and turn on their oil furnaces in peak times). More details here, if you take a deep breath and wade through the site:
screenshot from IRAC site (above) regarding application and comment period.
(That "whenever it is cost-effective to do so" is heartwarming -haha)
Here is a background article on it:
The Minister of Education was the one assigned to oversee IRAC in the Ghiz administration, and I do not think that has changed, so that is now Hal Perry (District 27 Tignish-Palmer Road). (I think the logic was that is was the least likely to have any sorts of conflicts of interest with his or her other portfolio.) During one of the last days of this session of the Legislative Assembly, Jamie Fox (PC MLA for District 19 Borden-Kinkora) mentioned that there should be a review of the role of IRAC.
Also related to energy:
On Friday, June 26th, Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paula Biggar (District 23 Tyne Valley-Linkletter) gave an update on biomass projects in the province, mentioning that six provincial institutions and five schools had been converted from oil to biomass wood chip (I think) heating systems, and said in the next year, five more schools and three more institutions at least would be hooked up to biomass for heating.
In addition to a respond by Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker, Jamie Fox, as Opposition Energy Critic, responded:
These are good announcements by government in ways of looking for new types of energy and helping our industry and our schools and our hospitals that need biomass. It is a good thing. One thing I do caution, and I think we must remember, is that with use of biomass and wood chipping and so on we must also grow our forestry industry in reforestation projects and that kind of stuff. One thing I’ve seen in the Province of New Brunswick before is you have the big factory come in, they clear land and they don’t do reforestation. I hope that the government really conserves reforestation and I think we need that. I think it’s good for the Island and it will also assist in the biomass.
I was pleased to hear Fox qualifying his praise of government on this issue. In fact, Jamie Fox did an exceptional job the whole session keeping tabs on the energy file and trying to understand the complexities of many of the issues (and asking clear, razor-sharp questions), whether it was about communications with Maritime Electric regarding the third transmission cable, or the nuances of biomass fuel acquisition and sustainability. (As PC Leader Rob Lantz said during the election campaign, "conservation" and "conservative" come from the same root.) As a bit of background, Jamie Fox ran for the PC leadership in the turbulent 2010 leadership race (along with Olive Crane, Jamie Ballem, Fred McArdle and Peter LLewellyn, which Olive won), and nearly beat George Webster in the 2011 election for the District. The former Borden police officer and convenience store owner is also the Justice critic, and likely dealt with IRAC's setting fuel prices; his dedication shows in his preparation and attention during all the hours the Legislature sat.
Some additional notes on biomass; here is a good paragraph explaining the place for renewables in the scheme of things, from:
Biomass has to be considered in the search for an alternative source of energy that is abundant in a wide-scale yet non-disruptive manner, since it is capable of being implemented at all levels of society. Although tree plantations have "considerable promise" in supplying an energy source, "actual commercial use of plantation-grown fuels for power generation is limited to a few isolated experiences." Supplying the United States' current energy needs would require an area of one million square miles. That's roughly one-third of the area of the 48 contiguous states. There is no way that plantations could be implemented at this scale, not to mention that soil exhaustion would eventually occur. Biomass cannot replace our current dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas, but it can complement other renewables such as solar and wind energy.
Speaking of trees, Global Chorus today is by Bill Logan, who is the founder of Urban Arborists, which takes care of trees in New York City and environs, and reminds people of our relationship to nature.
"We need spirit, worship, wonder, mystery. These are not meaningless words. Spirit is the truth we ind in action. To worship is to value deeply. Wonder is the loving confession of our ignorance. Mystery, as Gabriel Marcel wrote, is not what is beyond us, but what encompasses us. When we are not above the world, but entirely and inextricably in it, we will be less liable to spoil it with our leavings. When I asked the composter Clark Gregory once, if there were not simply a few things that had to be thrown away, he answered, 'There’s no such place as away.'
"It seems somehow paradoxical that we should come back to the spirit by plunging deep into the world of matter, but that’s the way it is. We have no shortage of thoughts or of feelings. What most of us lack is a first-hand life, where our hands engage the world, discover its difficulties and craft a way through. Feeling may motivate and thought may order, but the work of our hands is the source of revelation. Hope comes to me when I see a person digging in the dirt, taking a walk, planing a board. The wider our experience, the more human we become, and the better able we will be to judge a sane way ahead." -- Bill Logan
July 14, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A few events worth noting:
Tonight, July 14th:
Hummingbird Garden Walk and Talk, 6:30PM, Victoria Park (meet at parking lot off Brighton Road by ball diamond). Free. With local biologist Brenda Penak and guest speaker Hummingbird Canada's Cindy Cartwright.
Tomorrow: Hummingbird Talk tomorrow at Confed Library (6:30-7:45PM) and Thursday night at Bites Cafe in Hampton, 7:30PM.
Coro Dolce Concerts later this week:
Friday, July 17th, Charlottetown, St. Peter's Cathedral,
Sunday, July 19th, Bonshaw Hall,
Friday, July 24th, Montague, St. Georges Anglican Church
"Coro Dolce Sings" concert, 7:30PM each night. Admission by donation. The "classical summer choir" will be presenting a concert of classical choral music, in three summer settings. Carl Mathis is always on the mark with a serious or silly letter to the editor, and in his spare time is the musical director for the Coro Dolce.
Saturday, July 25th, Pruning Workshop, Macphail Woods, 2PM, free.
More information on events:
Robert Mitchell, District 10 Charlottetown-Sherwood MLA, was a backbencher tucked under the upper floor Public Gallery with former MLA Charlie McGeoghegan in the last two Legislative Assemblies. After briefly considering running against Wade MacLauchlan for the Liberal leadership (until the sticker shock price tag of entering the contest dissuaded him), he was re-elected by a comfortable margin, and was named as Minister of the newly formed Department of Communities, Land and Environment, with Environment being reunited with its natural division of Forestry, Fish and Wildlife (having been with Agriculture). The portfolio has lots of work ahead, with the responsibility of crafting a water act, of land use policies, and of future municipal manipulations.
Mitchell seems to bloom in his new role, taking the responsibilities very seriously.
The first real day of this sitting of the Legislature had this humourous exchange:
Thursday, June 4th, 2015 (from Hansard)
Also, I would like to thank all of the residents of the Sherwood area for their well wishes and congratulations over the ten days or so. Thank you, Madam Speaker. Or Mr. Speaker.
First slip. I'll remember that.
Seriously, the writing of a Water Act will be challenging, and here is the text of yesterday column by Richard Raiswell, CBC Radio Mainstreet's political columnist, reprinted with his permission (copyright Richard Raiswell, 2015):
Wondering About the Water Act
The government released its much anticipated white paper on its proposed water act last week.
There’s no doubt that an act to protect the quality and quantity of the Island’s water—ensuring the supply’s sustainable now and into the future—is a very good idea. We’re the only province that relies exclusively on groundwater to meet all of our needs. So a comprehensive act that’ll spell out who can have access to this basic resource, how much they can use, and what they do with it, is fundamental to the survival of everyone and everything in this province.
But after reading through the white paper, and watching the slick promotional video on the Ministry of the Environment’s website, there are a few things anyone concerned about water should watch for over the coming months.
First of all, the government seems to be keen on assessing the state of the province’s resources on a watershed by watershed basis. This makes sense because each watershed is different—some are already heavily tapped; others have a plentiful supply of water. But if the process works under the assumption that each region is different, it’ll be very difficult to get a commitment from any government to implement a province-wide moratorium on any future contentious water-intensive practice.
This is good news for the potato industry. It’s been pressing to have the 2002 moratorium on high-capacity irrigation wells lifted for some time. And, by my reading, finding a publicly acceptable justification for lifting this ban is part of the reason this process began in the first place. And let’s not forget that increasing food production is central to the MacLauchlan government’s plan to grow our economy. High capacity wells could be part of his vision.
In fact, industry’s desire to get these wells in place as quickly as possible might explain the very tight timetable the government has proposed to develop this act. BC has already spent 5 years working on a water act there—and they’re still not done. But we’re going to have our act ready for debate in the fall sitting of the Legislature in 2016—in time to have wells permitted and drilled for summer 2017.
But if some parts of the Island will likely be found suitable for high-capacity wells, it’s quite likely that some will also be deemed capable of sustaining fracking. It’s worth remembering that at the Leaders’ Debate on environmental issues during the election, MacLauchlan was the only leader not prepared to commit to a moratorium on this contentious and controversial procedure. He said only that fracking would be considered as part of the consultations for this act.(1) So it looks like, if parts of the Island are found to have the resources to support fracking, a moratorium is going to have to come from somewhere else—perhaps as a result of public pressure.
The second thing I think we need to watch is the use of the term “stakeholder.” It’s bandied about in the white paper and in government communications quite a bit these days, used to describe groups of people who are deemed to have a particular vested interest in an issue—usually an economic one. As a result, these people’s concerns are given extra weight in discussions and debate. But when it comes to something as fundamental as water, industry interests shouldn’t be allowed to trump the needs of the rest of us.
My final worry comes from the way the word “science” is already being tossed around. In the coming months, we’re going to be bombarded with numbers about things as obscure as aquifer recharge rates, and groundwater evaporation. And these numbers will be touted as scientific justification for this, that or some other practice. The problem is: science doesn’t justify anything—science is just a dispassionate method of collecting data. We shouldn’t confuse the data with how it’s interpreted. And the interpretation of data is never neutral. It is always informed by the assumptions and the agenda of the person doing the interpreting.
Interpretation’s not science—it’s politics.
And if that’s the case, when we hear data being interpreted we need always to be mindful of who’s doing the interpreting.
Done properly, this water act has the potential to define MacLauchlan’s legacy. But it’s not going to be easy for the government to balance the needs of Islanders, communities, industries, and the environment against the backdrop of a rapidly changing climate.
Through it all, though, we need to make sure that our interests are paramount.
After all, we’re the real stakeholders.
For Mainstreet, I’m Richard Raiswell.
1) See http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/61386153 start of video and recapitulation at 6 mins 45.
And another quote (taken out of context, really about fresh water lake scientists, but applicable):
"When we stand up and we sing O Canada, we pledge to stand on guard for thee. If that doesn't include our water, we might as well sit down and give up." -- Rick Mercer, from October 2012,
Tzeporah Berman is a writer and Greenpeace organizer, having protested against the logging in Clayoquat Sound in 1992-1993. She writes for the July 14th Global Chorus:
"There is no question that we are currently living in a dangerously unsustainable world as a result of dumping 30 billion tons of pollution into the atmosphere annually from the use of oil and coal. We are truly living the global tipping point moment. However, a cleaner and safer world powered by renewable energy – the sun and the wind -- is no longer a pipe dream of some west coast hippies: for the past two years, new investment in renewable energy electricity generation has exceeded that in oil, coal and nuclear combined." -- Tzeporah Berman
July 13, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Serious, experienced words from Allan Rankin, in last week's Graphic newspapers.
Government Needs Serious Program Review - The Eastern Graphic article by Allan Rankin
Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2015
Disguise it, ignore it, and talk around it politically if we must, but Prince Edward Island is sliding closer to the fiscal edge.
There is a perfect storm approaching, one of an ageing population with fewer taxpayers, a stagnant economy, and the steadily increasing cost of delivering essential programs and services.
In his 2015-16 Budget, Finance Minister Allen Roach projects a deficit of $20 million, and a net debt exceeding $2 billion. To give him credit, this is an improvement on an earlier forecast operating deficit of $40 million, but nonetheless it is a dismal financial picture.
Premier Wade MacLauch has ambitious plans to grow the economy, by increasing exports and marketing more aggressively, and he should be applauded for that positive approach to expanding revenues.
But our real problem is on the expenditure side of the budget.
We are simply not living within our financial means, and I believe there will be a tipping point unless structural changes are made in the way we define and prioritize our spending needs.
The recent adjustments in teaching positions are troubling, however they amount to small beans compared to the expenditure reductions necessary if we are to climb out of the financial hole we have dug for ourselves.
It is still unclear if Premier MacLauchlan has the political stomach to confront this challenge.
Former Premier Catherine Callbeck certainly did two decades ago. Public sector salaries were rolled back in one hotly-disputed legislative act, to eliminate a $35 million operating deficit. It was an effective fiscal decision. In 1995-96, the year Conservative Premier Pat Binns took office, after chasing the Liberals into political oblivion, the province recorded a budgetary surplus.
Given the animosity shown by unionized labour towards that salary rollback, Binns could easily have repealed the infamous Public Sector Pay Reduction Act, thereby reversing the diabolical actions of the Liberals. But Binns knew those actions were necessary, and besides, he had already won the political war. Nevertheless, it still amazes me to this day that the unions didn’t demand repeal of the rollback legislation.
Binns made a half-hearted attempt to rein in spending later with a program review, but it resulted in only a small shrinkage of the public service, and many of the positions vacated were back filled later, some of these by government employees who had received severance.
Since 1994, the provincial Liberals have worn the 7.5 per cent wage rollback like a choke chain. It shaped the approach Premier Ghiz and his administration took to financial management. Significant reductions in spending just didn’t happen. The young premier did all he could to avoid ruffling the feathers of public sector unions, and the dark shadow of 7.5 per cent haunted and restrained the Liberals for six years.
I wish Premier MacLauchlan success in his mission to grow our economy and increase revenues.
But major structural change will need to occur if Prince Edward Island is to put its financial house in order, and continue to invest in priority areas.
To illustrate the dramatic rise in government expenditures over the past 15 years, one only has to look at the two biggest areas of spending, health care and education.
The currently estimated $586 million to cover health care represents more than a doubling of costs since 1997-98. In education, with falling enrollments over that same period, spending went from $167 million to $236 million, an increase of 70 per cent.
The year-over-year additional cost of delivering health care to Islanders far outstrips the growth in GDP, and therefore our ability to sustain these essential services.
When I worked for government, it was acknowledged that two fundamentally different approaches could be taken to budget planning.
The first is known as status quo budgeting.
It simply means a baseline exists for each program and service, and the budgetary estimate for a new year is simply the projected cost of continuing to deliver that same program or service. Status quo budgeting is not rocket science, nor does it ever lead to a serious discussion of the value or necessity of any program or service.
The second type of budgeting is more robust and challenging for government.
Zero base budgeting clears the decks and presumes no program or service is necessary.
In the zero base process nothing is sacred. Overall government spending is brought back to zero, and ministers and their departments and agencies are expected to justify and defend every line item. As a result, a new provincial budget is built brick by brick. Outdated and unnecessary programs and services are thrown to the wayside, waste is identified, and priority areas of existing and new spending are identified.
Prince Edward Island badly needs a serious round of zero base budgeting.
Like the physician who sweeps away a confusing and complex regimen of medications that no longer seems to be helping his patient, starting once again at zero, Premier MacLauchlan and his government need to dismantle, then re-build its regimen of programs and services.
As a result of re-building our provincial budget, it might be discovered that investing more in teachers and education is not only desirable, but also financially possible.
Government desperately needs that kind of budget debate, where there are no sacred cows, and every program and service, big and small, is put under the microscope. Though some economists will disagree, I believe reducing the provincial deficit should be an overriding priority for government.
But we need a wholesale review of everything government does.
As a result, significant expenditure reductions will be found, efficiencies made, priorities re-ordered, and Premier MacLauchlan and his government will put us all on a stronger footing.
Comments on some things that took place in the Legislative Assembly during the First Session of this 65th Assembly:
Here are some thoughts about the people who ran for the Speaker's position. Buck Watts (District 8 Tracedie-Hillsborough Park) won the position on the second vote, and has done an admirable job. He has channeled a bit of former Speaker Greg Deighan (MLA from Summerside-Wilmot, I think) from 2003-2007, in making clear, detailed, no-nonsense rulings on points of order. He has stopped proceedings a few times to remind MLAs to show respect for the office of the speaker (he is addressing all MLAs, but it's usually only a couple who need the reprimand). He showed no favoritism at all, kept the proceedings moving along in a pleasant congenial manner, and wasn't ashamed to laugh at his own confusion over all the rules, or at the many, many times he was called "Madam Speaker" by a couple of re-elected MLAs.
Janice Sherry (District 21 Summerside-Wilmot) had the less than enviable position of not being reinstated in Cabinet, and of being the first off the ballot for speaker, but has consistently paid attention and brought up good questions. (She missed the last day of the Sitting for the extremely wonderful reason of being at a grandchild's birth, I think.) Kathleen Casey (District 14 Charlottetown-Lewis Point) has a fine, clear speaking voice and always is attentive, and also brings up a lot of issues related to women and families.
Bush Dumville (District 15 West Royalty-Springvale) read a few "softball" questions but also a couple of others (helping take care of concerns of residents of the Speaker's District, I think), and was gracious on the last day, offering touching congratulations to his old seat-mate (now Speaker Buck Watts) and complimenting him most sincerely on his performance.
These three appear to listen to their constituents (probably the reason they were able to all squeak into office despite an electorate ready for change). Let's hope they speak independently and serve as exemplary backbenchers.
Charlottetown Council Meeting is this afternoon, and I think they are going through their cosmetic pesticide bill (this is the one with the "infestation" clause). It is open to the public., 4:30, City Hall, and live-streamed here, if you are missing the watching Provincial Legislature:
If you wanted to hear any of CBC Radio Weekend Morning's program from this past weekend, with lots of recollections regarding the recently passed host Stan Carew, the recordings (each hour) are here:
From the July 13th Global Chorus essay, written by author Chris Hedges, who doesn't sugarcoat anything.
<snip> "Complex civilizations throughout history have had a bad habit of destroying themselves. The difference is that when we go down this time, the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands let to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The 500-year struggle between the human species and the Earth will conclude by teaching us a painful lesson about unrestrained greed and hubris." — Chris Hedges, co-author with Joe Sacco of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt
July 12, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
If you feel like getting out today and hiking or cycling around, there are some new trails in Bonshaw, in one section of land that was acquired for the Plan B highway and has had its "management plan" done. Other sections of land around the Plan B area (going eastward from Bonshaw) are having their management plans worked on by a subcommittee of the original Bonshaw Hills Public Lands Committee. At least I think this is the plan, as information hasn't always been very forthcoming; but some things are posted on the website, including this map:
A lightly shrunken screenshot from map pdf; the original is found here:
One announcement made the last day the Provincial Legislature was open was by Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paula Biggar, describing the new trails in "the extended Bonshaw Park" (as government has thankfully dropped calling it a "wilderness" park) and inviting the MLAs to head that Friday afternoon. This map of the trails has a scale of distances -- something not in the previous maps -- though still no indication of direction or latitude/longitude coordinates. But it is much better so see in person (and do consider bug-shirts or other ways of keeping the bugs off you).
If you are staying in and want a good long read, here is a recent article in The New Yorker magazine by Naomi Klein, global economics and climate change author of various books including This Changes Everything, on her recent travel to a Vatican climate change summit.
full story (one is allowed several free articles per month):
"By asserting that nature has a value in and of itself, (Pope) Francis is overturning centuries of theological interpretation that regarded the natural world with outright hostility—as a misery to be transcended and an 'allurement' to be resisted. Of course, there have been parts of Christianity that stressed that nature was something valuable to steward and protect—some even celebrated it—but mostly as a set of resources to sustain humans."
Global Chorus for today is by Les Stroud, described as a "Canadian filmmaker, outdoor adventurer, singer-songwriter and performer. Best known as the Canadian Screen Award winning producer, creator and star of the hit TV series Survivorman."
"If we live with Armageddon as our compass bearing then Armageddon is what we will find. If we envision a world with flourishing ecosystems and cultural diversity, then we shall have these. I have travelled to the remote corners of the Earth and found plastic in the water, but I have flown over jungles and found undiscovered species of wildlife. So I have hope.
"What will it take to reach the tipping point back into a healthy planet, before it’s too late? One person. It starts with one person making a change and seeking to live in harmony with the planet. The Energy of one person is enough to change the entire world. But it would be too little too late. Now each individual person must work with others until the combined energy overrides the destruction and downward spiraling path the health of the planet has taken. Each environmental organization must combine efforts. United, we can alter and ultimately reverse, the looming destruction of our planet. Divided we fall.
"The revolution that will come from today’s children, will be an environmental one. The change must come NOW so that they don’t have to revolt.
" 'Think globally, act locally' is still the answer. I no longer keep a garbage receptacle. There is a place for everything I discard, from soiled wrappers to busted bikes. Garbage should be illegal. We have the technology. Close off your garbage container for one month and see how it all becomes possible. Create the universe our own species needs to flourish in; one with the health of all the other species intact. One with cultural diversity. Volunteering won’t cut it. Laws need to be made. What someone does in Siberia will affect someone else in Chile. What someone does in Malaysia affects someone in Wyoming. God is not going to sweep down from the sky and clean up the oceans, bring back the whales and freshen the air. We continue to create our own universe. What are you creating?" -- Les Stroud
July 11, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Saturday is a big farmers' market day:
screenshot from PEI Fresh Products Directory, on the page with the map of the Island:
Numbers refer to locations on the map. Map and chart available at tourist info centres and Access PEI locations.
(The 2015 map is not on the website yet, but it works with the direct link and I am told they are working on it.)
Events going on next week:
There is a calendar of events on the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I. website:
Next week there are a series of hummingbird talks with local biologist Brenda Penak and guest speaker Cindy Cartwright, one of Canada's foremost hummingbird researchers and the founder of Hummingbirds Canada.
Tuesday, July 14th:
Walk and Talk in Hummingbird Garden, Victoria Park (meet at parking lot off Brighton Rd. in Victoria Park, by the ball diamond), 6:30PM, rain or shine.
Wednesday, July 15th:
Presentation on "Hummingbirds in PEI and Across Canada- What they need to Thrive", Confederation Centre Library, 6:30- 7:45PM. "Some of the topics covered include habitat enhancement with native plant species, artificial feeding, natural history, migration, current research and the work of the Ontario Hummingbird Project."
Thursday, July 16th:
Similar presentation, 7:30-9PM, Bites Cafe, TCH in Hampton Hall
Correction regarding the Initiative on Democratic Renewal, which will be holding public consultations in the Fall:
the five MLAs who will be on the Special Committee are:
Jordan Brown (chairing)
Janice Sherry (District 24 Summerside-Wilmot)
The letters to the editor in The Guardian have bloomed with pieces on kinds of voting systems, and who speaks for whom on what system. Sounds like there is plenty of room for getting informed and for debate, and time for it. What a great opportunity we Islanders have!
Yesterday, the Provincial Legislature closed, after gracious statements by members, and the auctioneer-speed third reading of several bills. Comments on the sitting that may not have been covered in the mainstream media to follow in the next week or so.
Global Chorus for today is by Hannah Quimby, who helps manage the Quimby Foundation: "The Quimby Family Foundation was formed in 2004 by Roxanne Quimby - an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and philanthropist with the vision to advance wilderness values and to increase access to the arts throughout Maine." from: http://www.quimbyfamilyfoundation.org/foundation/ and here is an excerpt:
<snip> "Fortunately, current movements like Occupy Wall Street show a common belief that working together will create change. When our family created a grant-making foundation, we chose to work from place of hope. We took the stance that our efforts would have a positive impact. With each grant, we believe in the work being done by committed non-profit leaders. We see positive community change, the creation of green space for young people to fall in love with the outdoors, and continued protection of our natural environment. Belief that we can collaboratively and strategically work towards a better future is what we can hold on to and the actions and outcomes from that belief give meaning to our lives." -- Hannah Quimby
July 10, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
On Thursday afternoon, Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced the release of the White Paper on Democratic Reform. At 38-pages, it is quite substantial, filled with much background (some of those pages being references and an appendix), many ideas to consider, and a bit of a timeline.
Here is a link to the pdf of the document. You may need to download it, and then open it, if you want to print it.
Peter Rukavina, an Islander who wears many hats, fiddled around with the pdf to make versions of the document in other formats, including an audio reading by a computer voice one with a drumbeat background (!), here:
Here is the press release announcement from government:
I have not really read the white paper and all the news stories yet, but it sounds like there will a committee of five MLAs [Liberals are chair Jordan Brown (District 13 Charlottetown-Brighton, Tina Mundy (District 22 Summerside-St. Eleanors)(I think she was switched from Kathleen Casey yesterday in amendment, but not sure), Paul Biggar (District 23 Tyne Valley-Linkletter), Progressive Conservative Sidney MacEwen (District 7 Morell-Mermaid), and Green Peter Bevan-Baker (District 17 Kellys Cross-Cumberland)].
Public consultations will be held in the Fall (crossing paths with the White Paper on the Water Act consultations, perhaps), a report to the Legislature for the Fall sitting, and a plan for a plebiscite in the spring of 2016. It's going to be a busy Fall.
Right now, it sounds like the Paper suggests an increase in the number of MLAs to 28, 24 from Districts as they were several years ago and one more from each Federal District. As far as electoral systems the paper suggests three options (this is before any public consultation ;-)
keep the status quo
go for a true form of proportional representation
go for a preferential (ranked) ballot system
This kind of sounds like a CBC on-line poll that basically splits one side of the vote, so the result is just not clear.
More on this topic later, to be sure.
Another note from Question Period, yesterday:
Jamie Fox (District 19 Borden-Kinkora and PC critic for energy) persisted in asking the Premier why, why hanging the cable from the Confederation Bridge (not inside it) is not being seriously considered. It would be accessible year-round, probably cheaper, and not affect sealife. He had to ask the same question several times. Finally, finally, the Premier said that the federal government, who will own the bridge in 18 years (I think), doesn't want that, that they have concerns. The premier said that these kinds of questions should really be in writing, since everyone needed to be careful with their wording. These kinds of concerns and the documentation need to be in writing and available to Islanders for our open, transparent government.
The release of the government's White Paper on Democratic Renewal Thursday afternoon was one of the last important announcements to be made during this sitting of the Legislature, and many feel the House will close today. If that is the case, they will start to do a dynamic game that looks like a square dance joined with a volleyball rotation, with the final bills of importance getting third reading, the Speaker bounding out and back in, and finally the Lieutenant Governor will arrive to give royal assent and approve of the ending of the Spring Sitting of the First Session of the 65th General Assembly.
If you wish to watch in person, head to the Coles Building downtown, or watch on Eastlink TV or here:
and select "Watch Live."
Global Chorus today is by Frederick Kirschenmann, an expert in sustainable agriculture, and author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher. (We have some wonderful farmer-philosophers on this Island.)
"While it is increasingly difficult to remain optimistic about our fate it is important to remember that hopefulness is different from optimism. Optimism assumes that things will turn out alright, which, ironically often leads to inaction. Hopefulness is about doing the right thing even when we are uncertain about the outcome. And when we act together in hope, often an unanticipated convergence of events take place which bring about unimaginable change. Joining together as a global community and doing the right thing even though we cannot be sure of the outcome is our only hope, and our children and grandchildren are depending on us to do it!" -- Frederick Kirschenmann
July 9, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Summerside Farmers' Market is open today from 9AM to 1PM, in the basement of the Holman Building (I got the location wrong last week).
With a bit of fanfare and an announcement in the Legislature, the white paper on the Water Act was released yesterday. White papers , if I have it right, are a catch-all term for some document on a topic or proposal that may have: background and research, and/or an outline for what could be included in this project, and/or a plan for getting there. I was in town and attended part of the afternoon sitting and got to hear the announcement.
It's eleven very pretty pages (at least on-line in colour) that includes the three purposes mentioned above. The timetable at this point is very general:
Fall 2015: public consultations on the white paper and what should be in the Water Act carried out in several communities. A panel made up of some members of the Environmental Advisory Council will be at every meeting, and the meetings will be moderated by the highly respected Jean-Paul Arsenault, who used to work for government and helped with a lot of those previous Reports and Roundtables (which are linked in the white paper).
Winter/Spring: Department of Communities, Land and Environment works on draft Legislation
Spring 2016: second series of public consultations on draft water act
Fall 2016 (November): Water Act legislation tabled in the P.E.I. Legislature.
The process sounds good, but may be an ambitious timeline. And the public engagement and input need to be truly incorporated into the document.
The Department of Communities, Land and Environment website on a water act:
The link to the actual white paper:
You may need to download it and then open and print it that way for a readable copy, if you want to print it. Or contact me and I can send it as a pdf attachment.
The P.E.I. Legislature continues today, likely at breakneck speed to start to end things for the summer. There may be other big announcements based on election campaign announcements/promises, and the education budget estimates need to be finished going through, and a few other smaller budget sections. And some bills need third or final reading, including the Animal Welfare Act; a few may need some further debate. The Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM, if you want to pop in to the Gallery at the Coles Building (next to Province House), or watch on the internet:
Another excellent 4-minute political commentary from Monday's Mainstreet radio, on how the MacLauchlan government is making decisions:
Richard Raiswell's audio column:
Global Chorus for today is by Thomas Berry, who lived from 1912 to 2009 and was a religious and geologic historian:
<snip> "Our own special role, which we will hand on to our children, is that of managing the arduous transition from the terminal Cenozoic to the emerging Ecozoic Era, the period when humans will be present to the planet as participating members of the comprehensive Earth community. This is our Great Work." -- Thomas Berry
July 8, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' markets are open in Charlottetown (9AM-2PM) and Stanley Bridge (9AM-1PM) today.
The P.E.I. Legislature sits this afternoon from 2-5PM. It appears they have realized it is July and thought about beach weather, and they are starting to hurry up to get things done this week or so. There are still some announcements that are presumed to be made (electoral reform white paper, water act white paper) and legislation to finish, along with the rest of the budget estimates to go through (yesterday, Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy, and Health and Social Services were trucked along).
More updates and comments tomorrow. To watch proceedings today go to: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/video/video.php
This afternoon is a Stratford Town Council meeting, with their cosmetic pesticide by-law and the "Declaration of Citizen Rights and Responsibilities" on the agenda, 4:30PM, Stratford Town Hall.
This Global Chorus essay, for July 8th, is especially wonderful, as it is written by Islander Jill MacCormack:
"It goes without saying that we are living in a time of tremendous social confusion and environmental discord. This awareness can cause despair or be viewed as grounds from which new ways of understanding and responding can emerge.
"Why consider new ways of responding? Because right now as you read this you are a living, breathing creature of a wondrous and beautifully interconnected web of life. A web which holds us all in its balance and is capable of amazing resilience and regeneration if given the protection it requires to do so.
"How can we facilitate this protection? By choosing to live more gently in the world. Through speaking out against practices which are harmful to LIFE in all its complexity, and collectively moving towards a way of living which is more mindful of the daily choices we make, we can better safeguard and share the world’s limited resources.
"Why be hopeful? In making conscious choices such as actively simplifying our lifestyles, resisting the seductive lure of consumerism and the monoculture it generates, and honouring our connection to the natural world, we are choosing to create a better plausible outcome than what is predicted if we continue on our current trajectory. How we, who have the power of choice, choose to live our lives matters deeply to the rest of the world.
"Willingness to acknowledge the gravity of our current situation and choosing to act for the better in the face of that knowledge, creates the positive change our world so desperately needs. We cannot afford to be cautiously optimistic.
"HOPE is needed for us to change our ways of interacting with each other and the world." — Jill MacCormack, mother of three, writer, blogger http://prattleandponder.blogspot.ca/
July 7, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
As you likely have already heard, CBC Weekend Morning broadcaster Stan Carew died recently. This Chronicle-Herald story provides a rich background story on him (and strangely, much more in-depth than the CBC on-line story).
The P.E.I. Legislature resumes sitting today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM. You can drop into the Coles Building (visitors enter at the basement level) to get a seat in the Gallery (or if it is full, there is live-streaming in the J. Angus MacLean Building across Richmond Street). You can also watch on Eastlink TV or on-line, here:
Today is the last day to comment on the proposed cosmetic pesticide by-law. Details here:
There is also an open house at the Town Hall today from 4-7PM.
Tomorrow is a Stratford Council Meeting at 4:30PM, and the Stratford "Declaration of Citizen Rights and Responsibilities" is on the agenda, a comprehensive resolution covering the right to a healthy environment, and other factors, including cultural life, personal security, personal health and wellness, and freedom from discrimination.
On electoral reform:
A New PEI Community Voice for Proportional Representation - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Marie Burge and Brenda Oslawsky
Published on Monday, June 29th, 2015, in The Guardian
Community-based organizations and individuals are in the process of forming the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation. A reference group has been meeting during the past month to take initiative in calling together the coalition. Proportional Representation (PR) has been getting more attention in the past years including reference to PR in this year’s election campaigns, sometimes couched in the language of “electoral reform.”
The major goal of the new coalition is to engage the wider community in a participatory process of sharing current understandings of PR and learning more about the variety of models, looking at the pros and cons of each. It will provide Islanders with the opportunity to take part in various community forums to develop a strategy for choosing the best model of PR for the province.
A number of people involved in forming the new coalition were actively engaged in the 2005 plebiscite on proportional representation. They generally do not present the results of the plebiscite as a failure for PR. They acknowledge that political parties and the community groups made some mistakes, but in spite of the errors, the value of the in-depth research and community engagement of 2003-2006 cannot be erased. Those promoting the formation of a new Coalition bring to the current process a number of conclusions from the happenings of ten years ago as well as the actions which followed. Some significant learnings are:
- P.E.I. has a history of many deep changes in how elections are held. Islanders have always been open to change which would make politics serve them better.
- Islanders have the capacity to understand and implement any possible PR model. There is no model beyond the ability of the P.E.I. population.
- Social and political change better serve the people if it grows out of the community, rather than being directed top-down.
- At this stage of history, P.E.I. would not be inventing PR models. There are countless examples and variations in different jurisdictions around the world.
- PR cannot be a political football nor should political parties act in opposition to PR simply because they are comfortable with their lop-sided majorities which often result from the first-past-the-post system or any winner-take-all system.
- PR should give political parties a place in the Legislature according to the percentage of the popular vote. It can be designed also to increase representation of various sectors of the population, otherwise excluded.
- Government must indicate a willingness to enact an appropriate model of proportional representation and provide resources for meaningful community engagement.
- Government, in itself, has the authority to implement proportional representation, not necessarily requiring a referendum.
The initial meeting of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation will be in mid- September. It will establish the goals of the coalition, develop a common understanding of PR, agree on ways to ensure that the coalition is democratic, and agree on ways of sharing the tasks of engaging the wider community and of accessing needed resources.
Marie Burge, Cooper Institute and Brenda Oslawsky, Fair Vote Canada are members of the PR Reference Group.
Richard Zimmerman writes about the plight of orangutans in the July 7th Global Chorus.
"Orangutans are gentle, intelligent creatures who share 97 per cent of our DNA. They live in only two places on Earth – the forests of Borneo and Sumatra – and they are critically endangered. Orangutan babies are precious little bundles of orange fluff with big brown eyes and even bigger smiles, grasping their mother’s shaggy red hair high in the treetops. " -- Richard Zimmerman
More info at: https://redapes.org/
July 6, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Green Economy Network is a Canadian organization (http://greeneconomynet.ca/) and its Vision Statement starts off with:
"We have come together as members of unions, environmental and social justice organizations to form a common front of civil society groups for the building of a green economy in Canada. In so doing, we realize we are living in one of those critical moments of history wherein urgent decisions and actions must be taken that will ultimately affect our destiny as a people, a nation, and the planet itself."
The Green Economy Network-PEI formed late in 2014, headed by social activist and environmentalist Mary Boyd (an Island treasure) with able assistance by Jamie Larkin. The Facebook page has been created by Darcie Lanthier, who is incredibly knowledgeable about the green economy, and the page is updated regularly with all sorts of interesting articles. Consider visiting it if you are on Facebook, and checking the box to get notifications.
Paul Ekins is a professor economics specializing in energy and environmental policy.
He writes for today's Global Chorus, so related to what's going on in Greece that I have printed the whole essay: http://whygreeneconomy.org/information/green-growth-the-what-why-and-how-paul-ekins/
"Humanity is indeed at a crossroads. here are many choices to be made, but two fundamental changes are required to how humankind currently goes about its business: first, we need to realize deep, deep down that our species, like all others, is part of and profoundly dependent on the biosphere, and that lasting damage to this biosphere is the most anti-social, and stupidest, outcome that we can bring about; and second, we need to realize deep, deep down that our societies are now profoundly interdependent, so that damage to one can very easily become damage to many, and co-operative international relations are essential if we are to thrive and, in the long term, are perhaps even a condition for survival.
"These are indeed huge changes from the routine environmental destruction and often warring competition between countries that have disfigured the human experience since the dawn of what we call civilization. But they are certainly not inconceivable. "In fact, many people already work with great commitment on different aspects of these issues, and much progress has been made on many fronts. But not enough. And not fast enough. The issues of climate change and biodiversity destruction, in particular, cry out for a new Earth ethic to become established, together with the global co-operation to build the institutions and policies to implement it. "My particular specialist field is the economics of energy, the environment and climate change. I can say categorically that, even at this late stage in the drama, we have the technologies and economic resources, and institutional capabilities, to contain climate change and move systematically towards an environmentally and socially sustainable economy.
"But the window of opportunity is closing fast. Can we do it? Yes, we can. Will we do it? In the absence of a reliable crystal ball, my only answer is: we must try." -- Paul Ekins
We must try.
July 5, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Three longish pieces for enjoying over morning coffee, or when taking a break later from the the nice warm weather outside.
Allan Rankin's opinion column in The Graphic newspapers this week: http://www.peicanada.com/eastern_graphic/article_12da06fa-1eb7-11e5-9ea1-07073b892435.html
Canada is an Unfinished Project - The Eastern Graphic article by Allan Rankin
Published on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 (on-line, papers July 2nd, 2015)
It has always seemed peculiar to me that we make personal resolutions at the beginning of each New Year, and set out the path of our own individual growth and development, but when Canada Day rolls around, we only celebrate and glorify the present.
Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I love my country and am grateful for its many blessings and freedoms, and I am proud of its achievements.
Canada Day should be a time to joyfully express our national spirit.
But I also believe it can be a moment of collective resolve, a time to shine the light forward, to dream of a Canada yet to be.
For as a nation we are very much an unfinished project.
The Canada of my dreams stands upon a strong foundation of law and order, social justice, respect and tolerance, and peaceful world citizenship.
The principles of peace, order, and good government, which formed the basis of our political coming together at the time of Confederation, still ring true today. Coupled with the values and individual rights conferred to us by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I believe our political covenant as a nation is unique in the world.
That national understanding has guided our development, and helped us to withstand threats both from outside our borders and within, including Quebec and western nationalism, and our geographic reality as a vast country cast like a thin line across the continent.
That we have continued to exist just a short drive, and a mouse click, from the American cultural and economic behemoth to the south, is itself a miracle.
But I believe that over the past several decades we have retreated as a federation.
The great national achievement of universal health care has been whittled away. Educational attainment varies significantly from one province to another. We continue to perpetrate institutional racism and cultural genocide against our first peoples. Child poverty remains a disgrace. The adoption of new national social programs, such as child care and drug care, are within our fiscal means but thwarted by ideology.
On the world stage we behave aggressively but carry a small stick.
Like an obedient puppy dog, Prime Minister Harper marches in lock step with American foreign policy, and in doing so he’s all but destroyed Canada’s international reputation as a peacemaking, non-interventionist nation.
Our taxation system rewards big corporations and the wealthy while it places an unfair burden on the middle and lower classes.
National transportation infrastructure has been neglected and allowed to decay.
While I know some will disagree strongly, I believe the Conservative government of Stephen Harper has been the most backward and narrowly driven of any federal government in my lifetime.
A regional politician in national clothing, he has not kept faith with the social and political ideals that have guided and impelled Canada throughout much of its recent history.
Stephen Harper has pulled quite a few spikes from the national dream.
Very soon Canadians will have the opportunity to pass judgement once again on our prime minister and his Conservative government. Far be it for me to advise anyone else, but I certainly will not be supporting Mr Harper and his band of neocons.
As I return to my personal Canada Day challenge of imagining the future of our country, what it can yet become, I will summon the vision of two great Canadians, and look back to the political landscape of the early 1970s.
It was a momentous time of great instability and progress.
In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Trudeau and his Liberals faced off against the New Democratic Party under the leadership of Baptist preacher and social democrat Tommy Douglas.
Both men stand at the very front of our national life in the 20th Century.
They have no equals today.
Tommy Douglas is the father of Medicare. He showed a modern democratic society how it can be just and equitable in distributing wealth and caring for its citizens. His counterpart, but certainly not his nemesis, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, elevated our stature throughout the world, repatriated the Constitution, and gave us a monumental Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Not surprisingly, these two great Canadians were at odds over invocation of the controversial War Measures Act in 1970, and to read their speeches at the time is to encounter a level of statesmanship and principled leadership now missing from our national debate.
Canada possesses great wealth and opportunity, and yet we have become balkanized, and dispirited. We desperately need unifying leadership, not a government that pits one region against another.
We need to exercise our national will once again.
As we celebrate the many virtues of our country, and the honour and privilege of being Canadian, we should also dream about what great things we can yet achieve with one another, and for the generations to follow.
There is a federal election on the way.
In my opinion there is only one national leader who reflects the strength and maturity of Trudeau, along with the social conviction of Douglas, and regrettably he is not the son of the former.
This article was passed around, and it is a very eye-opening way of looking at Greece's economic issues: http://www.sustainwellbeing.net/Greece2015.html
History in the Making - The Sustainability Project article by Mike Nickerson
by Mike Nickerson, part of the Suatainability Project / 7th Generation Inistiaive, an "educational, non-profit organization that exists to collect, study, develop and teach ideas, information, technologies and customs that promote green values and lead toward a sustainable future."
Remember the board game Monopoly? It is based on our economic system and offers insight into these historic times.
Most players of the board game know that when one player begins to win, it is very seldom that any one else moves into the lead. Most people concede the game when a front-runner becomes obvious. According to the rules, however, the game is not over until all the properties that were acquired earlier by other players have been mortgaged and lost to the winner. When the winner has it all, then the game is over.
This end-game rule is problematic in the real life Global Monopoly Game.
Greece is a compelling example. Like most nations these days, their expenditures have been greater than receipts and they have had to borrow to make up the difference. Unfortunately, as the era of economic growth ran aground in 2008, they had to borrow still more just to make their payments. It is a vicious circle leading to unmanageable, expanding debt.
Once the crisis was under way, to keep getting loans, Greece was required to cut back on programs that spent money into their economy. After five years of such austerity, their economic activity dropped by almost 30%, and a quarter of the workforce became unemployed. Greece became a loser in the Global Monopoly Game.
Greece has lost, but that end-game rule remains. As long as they have assets that can be sold (mortgaged and lost to the winner), the Game continues. After cutting back on support programs, health care and education, they are told to give up pension funds and sell infrastructure, parks, monuments and anything else that can provide money to pay creditors.
From the depth of their Great Depression, Greece elected a government committed to another approach.
What other approach might there be? It is important that we find out because almost every nation on Earth is in serious debt. It isn't that there are no competent financial managers in the world. Big winners and many more losers is the nature of a debt-based economic system.
The system has worked, more or less, for centuries. Accumulating debts were managed by growth. When a country doubles its economic activity (GDP), its debt becomes half the size, relative to their ability to pay. The problem today is that humanity has grown to fill our beautiful planet. Limitations around fossil fuels and fresh water are evidence of humankind overwhelming the Earth, as well as the impacts of pollution. Few imagine that human activity can double even one more time, let alone every generation as it has in the past.
One place after another is finding that they cannot grow enough to pay off their loans (Puerto Rico, Ukraine, New Jersey, Detroit, Chicago and San Bernardino to name a few). If a jurisdiction makes a lot of money selling natural resources or from some other activity, creditors are more than happy to lend them enough to make payments, but total debt continues to grow. Sooner or later, to maintain payments, governments have to cut back on programs that serve their people and sell public assets. From there it is just a matter of time before those sources of funds are exhausted and . . .
This is where the Global Monopoly Game differs from the board game. When one loses at the board game normal life resumes. In the Global Game, societies fall apart and life becomes extremely difficult for more and more people.
It is time to recognize the winners of the Global Monopoly Game. We could congratulate them, perhaps pass out some prizes, then pack up the game and play something else. Our focus needs to turn away from making as much money as possible, regardless of consequences, and look more toward making the world work for everyone, today and into the future. Environmental well-being and fair play need to become our priorities.
There is an historic irony in the Greek story. Around 500 BC, Athens faced a similar fate where widespread debt bondage was destabilizing their society. The Athenians elected Solon to resolve their predicament. Solon established a policy called seisachteia the 'shaking off of burdens.' It included a cancellation of debts. The result was the Golden Age of Greece. Instead of working to pay off debts, citizens worked to advance society. Great strides were made in mathematics, architecture, literature, philosophy, and democracy. The Golden Age in Greece is said to be the origin of Western Civilization.
How long will it be before we recognize that our growth phase is over and we begin to fashion a mature, stable economy? The first steps may
be in tomorrow's news.
Mike Nickerson is the author of "Life, Money and Illusion; Living on Earth as if we want to stay." See http://www.SustainWellBeing.net for more details.
And to round things out with a third long piece, here is today's Global Chorus, by Liberal MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau, who ran for the Liberal leadership but lost to Justin Trudeau:
"When you first look at Earth from space, it is achingly beautiful. It is mesmerizing. You can’t take your eyes of it. A warm and inviting sphere of light and colour, surrounded by the utter darkness of space; our shared home, our only home.
As time goes by and your eye zeroes in on detail, you realize that it is not perfection; that it is damaged and that it is we who have damaged it: deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, polluted estuaries emptying into the sea and great swaths of yellow-brown air, all visible to the naked eye.
"Seven billion of us share this planet and it is straining under our relentless onslaught. It’s not that we are destroying Earth on purpose. In many cases, we’re just struggling to survive. But we are all paying a price.
"Earth’s oceans of air and water belong to all of us. I can understand this stark reality from the vantage point of space. I wish everyone could see what I see. Down below, the perspective is different. We see the polluted stream, the belching smokestack, the clear-cut forest. But we lack that sense of scale. It’s all about scale and perspective.
"And yet some do understand the magnitude of what is happening. Their minds can grasp that even though the change may be slow, it is relentless, and in some cases, irreversible. And they are wise enough to think beyond the needs of their own lifetime. For that reason alone, there is hope." — Marc Garneau, ﬁrst Canadian astronaut in space, Member of Parliament for Westmount–Ville-Marie (Montreal)
July 4, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today, Saturday, July 4th:
Farmers' Markets are open in Bloomfield (8AM to 12noon, Rte. 2 across from Kent store), Cardigan (10AM to 2PM, old Train Station), Charlottetown (9AM to 2PM, Belvedere Avenue), Morell (9AM to 1PM, Rossiter Park), Murray Harbour --opening day! (9AM to 2PM, Murray Harbour Community Centre), Stratford (9AM to 1PM -- Robert Cotton Park), and Summerside (9AM to 1PM, Old Train Station). Are any not listed here or times wrong? Most of the farmers' markets have a Facebook group or page for you to check on their announcements. Consider stopping by one today!
Tomorrow, Sunday, July 5th:
Gardening Party (help work in the gardens), 10AM to 2PM, Farm Centre Legacy Gardens, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown. Free, but you may want to bring something for the potluck BBQ.
"Come join Enactus UPEI members this Sunday with gardening at the Legacy Garden at the Farm Centre!
This Sunday, July 5th, everyone is welcome to join us in beginning our summer volunteering at Legacy Garden. The PEI Farm Centre's Legacy Garden is an eight acre garden in the heart of Charlottetown. There is a Community Garden with over 140 allotments, a Children's' Garden, a Community Orchard, a Goodwill Garden which supplies local food banks, women’s shelters, and homeless with healthy fresh vegetables, fruit, berries and herbs. This year we have started planting a vineyard. We will soon be starting the 'Young at Heart Garden' with raised beds and family games. This Sunday, July 5 we will host a pot-luck BBQ and have volunteers to show everyone the ropes of gardening on this wonderful property! 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m."
My commenting about issues in the Provincial Legislature is a bit haphazard, and I apologize for that; hopefully it is useful to get a fuller sense of some things that occur, no matter when I get around to describing it.
Last Thursday afternoon, June 25th, in the midst of discussing Opposition Motion (No. 30 -- "Supporting Island Children with Complex Physical Needs", moved by James Aylward and seconded by Peter Bevan-Baker), there was a shut-down of debate by Economic Development and Tourism Minister (and District 16 Cornwall-Meadowbank MLA) Heath MacDonald. It was hurtful and infuriating for the parents and friends to see MLAs chatting and playing musical chairs, and then to have this fellow stand up out of nowhere and shut the motion down. And it was confusing to anyone watching (and for most on the floor of the Legislature). Heath MacDonald said (in talking to the upset parents and friends later that afternoon) that government would use some of its time soon to straighten things out.
So on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 30th, he rose to talk about the motion. He said he supported the motion and apologized for his "mistake in process" of the previous week. He talked a bit about what government has done for helping these children.
Paula Biggar spoke to it next, relating her experiences as an education assistant and working with adults with disabilities before becoming an MLA, and she wholeheartedly supported the motion, as did Ag Minister McIssac. The original mover of the motion, James Aylward, spoke last.
Part of what Opposition House Leader James Aylward said (from the Hansard transcript):
"Things happen for a reason. Things, I would essentially say, kind of went off the rail here last week. It was unfortunate, but I don't think there was any ill intent for that taking place, and I appreciate the honorable member and his comments today, as well as the honourable members that spoke here today on this very important motion.
"I think, at the same time, it was a real wake-up call for all of the members here in the Legislative Assembly. We're all guilty of it. There are motions that come to the floor, there's discussion, there's debate, Quite often you look around the room, people are having private conversations with their seatmate, they might be going out of the Chamber for a few minutes and coming back in again.
"But essentially we have to remind ourselves that we are here to discuss government business, we are here to discuss very important motions, and in particular motions such as this....<snip>
"I just want everyone to reflect, myself included, that when we are talking about a motion or anything in the Legislative Assembly that we must listen, hear what's being said, and hopefully be able to add some value to the conversation."
This section starts on page 839 on the Hansard record of debate, transcribed here:
or in the video archive, about 1hour 15 minutes into the afternoon session, for June 30th.
Wade Davis is a professor of anthropology at University of British Columbia. Here are some excerpts from the July 4th Global Chorus essay:
"On Christmas Eve, 1968, Apollo emerged from the dark side of the moon to see rising over its surface not a sunrise but the Earth itself ascendant, a small and fragile planet, floating in the velvet void of space. This image more than any amount of scientific data showed us that our planet is a finite place, a single interactive sphere of life. <snip>
"Almost immediately we began to think in new ways. Just imagine. Thirty years ago simply getting people to stop throwing garbage out of a car window was a great environmental victory. No one spoke of the biosphere or biodiversity; now these terms are part of the vocabulary of schoolchildren. <snip>
"Creativity is a consequence of action, not its motivation. Do what needs to be done and then ask whether it was possible or permissible. Pessimism is an indulgence, orthodoxy the enemy of invention, despair an insult to the imagination." -- Wade Davis
July 3, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
In the P.E.I. Legislature yesterday:
During Question Period, as you may have seen on the news, the PC Opposition members used many of their allotted questions to refer to the announcement about a "review" of the proposed school-by-school teaching position reductions. To each question, phrased like: "(School) is told it must cut 1.8 teacher positions. Will you reverse this decision?" To which the Education Minister, Hal Perry, each time would recite the same line: that this was an opportunity for (School's) principal to submit "their" concerns or suggestions to the School Board, which would then submit to the Department.
"It's wonderful that this education minister is going to give the principals here across this province the opportunity to beg — to beg — to keep their staff positions in their schools to help educate our children." -- Opposition House Leader James Aylward. It is at just around 39 minutes into the afternoon session.
Climate Change motion:
As the rest of the afternoon session was Opposition time, they went to discuss one of their motion, No. 5, "In Support of the development of adaption strategies as the province of Prince Edward Island deals with the growing impact of climate change." Many members had very useful information to share. The wording of the motion is here:
In the end (I think, I am not that knowledgeable about parliamentary procedure), it was decided to send the motion to a committee, to further the intent of the motion in light of what government has nibbled at a bit with their current climate change strategy document, here:
I haven't looked at that in some time, to compare what it proposed and what has been implemented.
After the suppertime break, it was back to the work of assessing and approving all the sections of the budget (before the House can close for the summer).
Opposition House Leader James Aylward did yeoman's work not letting things get rushed through and asking for clarification -- there are huge sums of money in only a few lines of explanation, with good help by Brad Trivers and Jamie Fox (District 18 Rustico-Emerald and District 19 Borden-Kinkora, respectively).
Janice Sherry, former Minister of Environment and MLA from District 21 Summerside-Wilmot, asked for an update on electronic records, relating what she heard during the election campaign, about people concerned about it causing disruptions in patient care, the costs, the accuracy of the system. Good to see a government MLA asking critical questions.
Health Minister Doug Currie defended the eight years of working on electronic record with that it's gone pretty well, "but, there have been some implementation challenges," he admitted. He reminded all that changing to electronic records is a cultural shift in any discipline, as he remembers the transition in education.
Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister (and MLA for District 23 Tyne Valley-Linkletter) Paula Biggar also asked good questions about nurse-practitioners in the health care system.
There is lots of the health budget to go through Friday morning, if they continue with estimates after Question Period. So far they have gone through the budget estimates for the Departments of Agriculture and Fisheries (with Minister Alan "Flip" McIsaac), Communities, Land and Environment (Robert Mitchell), Economic Development and Tourism (Heath MacDonald), and Workforce and Advanced Learning (Richard Brown).
Here is an exchange from Tuesday', June 30th's Question Period in the House relating to a Water Act. Page 833 of the Hansard (Daily Debate) from June 30th, 2015:
(I trimmed a bit of it)
(It is Questions to the Minister of Communities, Land and
Environment from MLA Sonny Gallant (District 24 Evangeline-Miscouche):
We live in a province where our water plays a crucial role in all three of our Island economic drivers, agriculture, forestry, and tourism. There’s been a lot of discussion over the past year about the controversial topic of deep water wells which spark the notion of the water act. I know many other members of this House would have heard this at the door during the recent campaign.
Today my question is directed to the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment. We live in a province where our water plays a crucial role in all three of our Island economic drivers, agriculture, forestry, and tourism. There’s been a lot of discussion over the past year about the controversial topic of deep water wells which spark the notion of the water act. I know many other members of this House would have heard this at the door during the recent campaign.
Minister of Communities, Land and Environment Robert Mitchell (also MLA for District 10 Charlottetown-Sherwood):
Of course, as a result of discussion with Islanders, not only from the industries, as mentioned by the hon. member, but from Islanders in general all across PEI last year, and as presenters to the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry, it was determined and recommended from that committee that work begin on development of a new water act.
Our department was tasked with that and have been working diligently towards formation of this white paper which we will be presenting in the very near future regarding how this will move forward.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With water being so important to Prince Edward Island we must ensure we have feedback from all walks of life. Our farmers need water to grow their crops, our fishermen need to have our streams and lakes in the best condition possible to assure sustainability, and our tourist operators bank on the beautiful scenery that water provides across this province.
Supplementary question to the same minister: What steps are the minister and his department taking to assure every Islander gets their chance to speak on this important water act?
As I alluded to on other occasions in this House, this is probably by and far foremost in most Islanders’ minds because it is important for the protection of both our quality and quantity of water as we move forward on Prince Edward Island. As part of this process of the water act, it will be about a five-part process beginning with the rollout of the white paper, which I mentioned early, progressing on then to public consultations. As alluded to earlier, there will be a couple of rounds of public consultations where Islanders, not only from those primary industries as mentioned by the hon. member, but every islander from all walks of life all across Prince Edward Island, will have ample opportunity to come, discuss, have their say. After that, the committee will form what will be a draft act going forward, and these people will have the opportunity to look at it and say: Yes, you got it right, or no, you got it wrong, will have another opportunity to bring their thoughts forward regarding this.
I know, and everyone in this House knows, that Islanders are eager right across this province from tip to tip around the details of this concept. Could the minister–I know he alluded to soon– but could you give us a timeframe to which and when we can expect more details on this act?
This white paper that we will be prepared to roll out is very near its end of formulation. I expect that within the next several weeks we will definitely see this rollout begin the process over the summer for Islanders to review it, to think about it, to talk about it, and see where we can get going to a little later in the fall to develop this new act.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker
So not much new information, but reminding people where it is at.
Buffy Sainte-Marie is a famous Canadian singer/songwriter, visual artist, educator, indigenous-rights activist, and writes the July 3rd Global Chorus:
"The rich stuck a straw into the heart of the economy and slurped all the money to the top. The 'upper 1 percent' used to allow more to 'trickle down.'
"Now it looks like they want a feudal system wherein they own it all openly. Knowing this is useful. Our new 'aristocrats' are not princes but Wall Street thieves and gamblers, as greedy as the robber barons of the 1930s who set up the Indian reservation system in order to steal oil land away from Indian control.
"What we have going for us is mass awareness, communication, networking and youth and elder experience, with lots of people willing and able to contribute time, talent and treasure to finding and applying solutions. I believe we’ve already begun." --Buffy Sainte-Marie
July 2, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
After a brief Canada Day break, where both the local MLA and MP attended part of Bonshaw's Canada Day celebration, along with a bunch of happy children and smiling adults, it's back to work for the provincial representatives.
Canada Day cake Bonshaw, July 1st, 2015.
spectators stand back while the local MLA Peter Bevan-Baker swings the boot during the annual boot toss (boot with yellow rope is mid-air in the photo Bonshaw, July 1st, 2015.
The House sits from 2-5PM, and 7-9PM. Thursday afternoon is Opposition time (after the usual order of welcomes, Question Period and Statements), and I am not sure what they are going to focus on; the evening will likely be going over the budget estimates, which I think has just started going through Richard Brown's Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning.
A note from Tuesday afternoon (June 30th) in the Legislature: Minister of Workforce and Advance Learning Richard Brown announced that the minimum wage was increasing by 15 cents to $10.50/hour. He and Government are pleased, calling it a small step, but both the Progressive Conservative critic and the Leader of the Third Party commented, with Peter Bevan-Baker saying it is certainly not a livable wage. [Just playing with numbers: A 15-cent increase works out to be about a dollar more a day for full-time hours, so about $250 more a year. More mental math calculates that a minister probably makes about $40/ hour (annual wages divided by full-time hours), and so about $250 in one day.]
The budget estimates are here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/budget/
and the video page to watch from internet is here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/index.php3?lang=E
The public is welcome to attend the sessions, too.
Paul MacNeill is completely fed up with the lack of plan and totally wrong focus on education in his editorial this week in The Graphic newspapers:
Time for education leaders to smarten the hell up - The Graphic newspapers Editorial by Paul MacNeill
Published on-line on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
What about the goddamn children?
In a matter of days PEI's education system has gone from an academic embarrassment to a structural embarrassment, as supposed adult leaders vie to position themselves for best advantage with the public.
And the fallout of this juvenile game of political ping-pong is they are collectively failing Island students and teachers.
The MacLauchlan government appears to be making education policy up on the fly, as it flip-flops to avoid controversy.
The now past president of the PEI Teachers Federation, Gilles Arsenault, severely damaged the reputation of his union by accepting a government job and being less than candid about the process while making decisions that raise questions about whether he acted in the best interests of the union membership.
And the PEI English Language School Board held a public meeting but refused to allow public questions, a typical decision from an appointed board that is riven by professional bias and narrow self-interests.
All three should be ashamed. All are forgetting the mandate of education: Provide the highest quality education to Island children.
The genesis for the crisis - and it is a crisis - is government's decision to treat education like any other line item in the provincial budget. In the fallout 35 teaching positions were cut. Government also announced a merger between the school board's curriculum development department and the Department of Education.
That may be the only smart decision of the week. But it didn’t last long because anemic Education Minister Hal Perry backtracked when pressured by Superintendent Cynthia Fleet who demanded the board maintain control of her pet department. It is a terrible decision. Frontline teachers loathe the board's curriculum development efforts as largely ineffective, time consuming bureaucratic silliness. Hal Perry has ensured the status quo will remain.
It is difficult to imagine a union offering less leadership to its membership than the PEITF since Budget Day. When the extent of cuts became clear, the federation sent a note to members saying little could be done publicly because the union was engaged in contract negotiations.
Frontline teachers were outraged. Their own union was not defending them. They soon filled Arsenault's inbox with visceral contempt. Arsenault was forced - he didn’t lead - to call a public rally for Tuesday. But he cancelled late Monday after a 'meaningful' discussion with the premier resulted in a promise to review the decision to fire teachers (not just retired positions are impacted).
To say rank and file members, not consulted on the cancellation, are gobsmacked is an understatement. Arsenault's embrace of a promise to review rather than reverse cuts is an embarrassment. At a minimum there is an appearance of conflict that both Arsenault and union leadership refuse to acknowledge. His actions demand answers: When did he apply for the management job within the Department of Education that he will soon begin? When was he offered the job? Did he inform the union leadership? How can he remain on the union executive as past president while working for government? Did the province demand he cancel the rally as a requisite for reviewing the cuts?
The one-size-fits-all budget approach adopted by government is negatively impacting classrooms from one tip of the Island to the other. Urban/rural, small/large, kindergarten, primary, intermediate and high school are all impacted.
We are all in this together. That is why we need to stand together against the partisanship of government, school board and teacher's union. They have all forgotten why they exist and what the true priority is.
These cuts cannot stand because this is not just about saving teaching jobs.
It is about creating a world-class education system where excellence matters.
It is about providing the highest quality, broad-based, education possible to all students.
It is about protecting the under-appreciated qualities of small schools and small class sizes.
It is about our economy and ensuring we are graduating students ready to enter the workforce or post secondary education.
It is about selling PEI as a destination for business and a welcoming return home for those who have left - a key MacLauchlan economic plank. It’s not much of a sales job when education is defined by job cuts, abysmal standardized test scores, a demoralized teaching fraternity and a bureaucracy unwilling to admit it has failed our children and province.
It is about creating a vision for education first and then deciding where the money needs to be spent. Not firing teachers first.
During the election Wade MacLauchlan promised a 'radical' reboot of a "very big and structurally organized status quo" within education. There is nothing radical in how the new government has managed the file since May 4th.
There is nothing radical in our premier not standing up and demanding a higher standard.
There is nothing radical in a school board frozen by self-interest and professional bias.
Our premier, our superintendent, our school board, our Department of Education and the Prince Edward Island Teachers Federation all need to smarten the hell up and realize continuing to fail our children is no longer an option.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Global Chorus for July 2nd is by Sandra Postel, who is a Freshwater Fellow with the National Geographic Society, and director of the Global Water Policy Project: http://www.globalwaterpolicy.org/
A fascinating advocate and the website has many resources -- should be someone whose works we can refer to when government starts working on a provincial water act.
"In a world divided by race, tribe, gender, religion and so much more, it is easy to forget that water connects us all. The molecules of H2O that comprise 60 per cent of each of us have circulated across space and time throughout the ages. They move through the air, the trees, the birds and bees, and through you and me - and may have quenched a dinosaur's thirst so very long ago.
"So, yes, there is hope. It is that we will come to know that the soft rain and flowing water are undeserved but precious gifts of life - gifts to be shared among all living things. And that this knowing will unite us in humbly taking our place in the planet's great cycles with respect for all that is, has ever been, and ever will be.
"If we let it, this knowing changes everything. As I reach to buy a cotton shirt, I think of the plants and insects whose existence might have been sustained by the seven hundred gallons of water consumed to make that shirt, and I retract my arm, go home filled with gratitude, and enjoy the evening birdsong with new depths of pleasure." -- Sandra Postel
July 1, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Charlottetown Farmers' Market is open today (as they are all Wednesdays in the summer) from 9AM to 2PM.
Also, an event today is a tree-planting at Upton Farmlands in Charlottetown. You can drop in anytime between 1-4PM. More details here:
Natural Plantings, Upton Farmlands, 1-4PM (anytime), free.
"Put on your boots, grab a shovel and help create a new Confederation Forest in the Upton Farmlands on Canada Day, July 1. The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, in partnership with the Upton Farm Trust, will continue working on the new four-hectare Acadian forest. The planting area borders on a small woodland already protected under the provincial Natural Areas Protection Act. Islanders are invited to come out anytime between 1-4pm and help create a unique legacy of our commitment to healthy forests and communities. Volunteers will be planting native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns such as red oak, white ash, witch hazel, yellow coneflower and blue flag iris. Throughout the afternoon, Macphail Woods staff will be teaching best planting practices, offering pruning tips and helping with identification. Be prepared to get your hands dirty. This is just one of the many activities that will make up the Upton Farmlands Confederation Forest project. We will be carrying out other plantings throughout this year and into 2016. Everyone is invited and there is no charge for the event. Support for this project is also being provided by Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding program and the City of Charlottetown’s Community Micro-Grant Program. For more information and **a map to the planting site**, check out our website, www.macphailwoods.org or call 651-2575."
map and details:
On public education:
Richard Raiswell's Mainstreet radio commentary is very good (as usual), even as a few more events unfolded yesterday (4 minutes):
Teresa Wright, Guardian political reporter, occasionally writes a blog, and here is what she wrote last night to summarize and analyse events:
Where's that ethics commissioner? - The Guardian online blog by Teresa Wright
Published on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Union leader accepts government job after calling off teachers protest
What a difference a day makes.
At this time yesterday, P.E.I. teachers were up in arms over government's plan to cut 28 teachers this year after four consecutive years of teaching cuts.They were getting ready for what promised to be a fiery protest at the P.E.I. legislature later today and were prepared to keep pushing until government reversed the cuts.
Then last evening, the premier's office released a statement saying talks between the union and government had resumed after the union walked away from contract negotiations with the province last week.
The premier's office said the 28 teaching cuts would be reviewed. The Teacher's Federation then issued its own statement, saying it is confident this review will lead to the reinstatement of the 28 teaching jobs.
The union also called off the protest it was organizing and that it will return to the bargaining table. The reason? The union feels teachers finally are being listened to. Then, less than 24 hours later, Teacher's Federation President Gilles Arsenault (whose last day as president is today, by the way) announces this morning he has accepted a job with the department of education.
Let's break this down.
Government says it will “review” the teaching cuts planned for this year. There is no commitment attached to this review, which is why it is confusing as to why the union is so confident these jobs will be reinstated. That is, unless they've been told something they're not sharing with their members or with the public, which would be counter to their argument all through this dispute about the need for open dialogue.
Meanwhile, teachers and parents who were preparing to rally at the legislature to show support for teachers schools were quickly called off. Why? Government has made no direct promises that we are aware of, but government does appear to be backpedaling under pressure. One would think this would be the time to turn up the heat, not back off, if the union wants government to actually commit to reversing the cuts altogether.
And as for this whole business of Gilles Arsenault, the union leader who is in charge of leading contract negotiations with government, applying for a government job in the first place doesn't sit well. Then, one day after he calls off a teacher's protest, he announces he's taking that government job? The optics are terrible – bad for government for offering a job to a union leader while it is in bargaining with that union and also making cuts to teachers; bad for Arsenault for applying for a government job while he is supposed to be representing teachers in the face of austerity budgets and doubly bad for him for calling off a protest as he walks into his new office at the department of education.
Just a suggestion, but it sounds like a perfect first case for Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s new ethics commissioner Shuana Sullivan-Curley to delve into.
An Ethics Commissioner sounds great, but there are still concerns that this is an appointee of the Premier, a position in the civil service, instead of being truly arms' length as the Information and Privacy Commissioner. But it certainly sounds like something an Ethics Commissioner should look at.
Last night in the Legislature, it was Opposition time and they discussed Motion 31, an Opposition motion "Recognizing the Values of Teachers in Education", and I was watching from home. Here is the original motion:
The Tory MLAs were speaking to it and for it (I may have my propositions not quite correct here), about their experiences and opinions, notably Jamie Fox mentioning how government incorrectly cuts the frontline people instead of the already-expanded middle management), and the government members for teachers but criticizing the motion [the Premier talked at length, Transportation Minister Paula Biggar racheted up the rhetorical language, Doug Currie described all his roles as an educator and former Education Minister and was actually quite balanced about really wanting to support the spirit of the motion (but not this Opposition motion)]. Then Peter Bevan-Baker spoke, pained that the discourse was following such usual role-playing and the real message getting left trampled. He proposed some amendments (I will try to find a copy to share) and the House has to recess to give everyone a copy. When they returned, it was the turn of Liberal MLA Jordan Brown, who sits behind and diagonally from the Leader of the Third Party and who seconded it, but he had to have a chat with somebody on the government side (not sure who -- cameras only show so much), so there was another little recess, and he only resumed for a minute when the hour was called, as it was 9PM; and the House recessed until Thursday afternoon.
More to come, I am sure, then.
A personal project this year has been to read each day's entry in the anthology Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, edited by Todd E. MacLean, and to find a snippet of it to pass on, or sometimes the whole essay; and also perhaps to say a little more about who wrote the piece. For July 1st, Olivia Chow, former NDP MP for Ontario and mayoral candidate, reflects on the final, beautiful words of her late husband Jack Layton, and continues:
Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
"Those words from Jack Layton’s last message to Canadians inspired people across the country. It was a message of hope – and, more important, it was a call to action. Hope itself – blind hope, is not enough. We can’t just hope that somebody else will take care of our problems. Hope is not a strategy. We must work to make hope a reality. hat is the major reason I was drawn to a career in politics – to help bring people together and work for change.
We know that we must change direction – in Canada and in our world – because right now, we are on a collision course with disaster. The signs are clear – from the unprecedented flooding that devastated Calgary in 2013, to the horrendous typhoon that ravaged the Philippines. But we can change course. We can take action. We can give the next generation reason to hope.
There are so many things we could achieve – a national public transit strategy would be a good start. That’s something I have been promoting for years, because public transit is a cornerstone of both social equality and sustainability. Civic leaders and municipalities and business groups are all singing the same tune now; only the federal Conservative government remains deaf on this issue.
Ultimately, the government will change course – or people will get together and work and vote to change the government. It will happen.
Will something as basic as public transit in Canada change the world? Nothing will, in isola- tion. But changing course will – and bringing people together with a common mission. People will join the chorus if they see reason to hope.
When enough voices join the chorus, no government can turn a deaf ear.
You can’t do it solo.
By joining your voice with others, the voice becomes strong. The music soars. Eventually, everyone will hear. The lone voice may be lost. The global chorus will be heard." -- Olivia Chow