May 31, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits today from 2-5PM, and 7-9PM.
Protest for Better Support for Mental Health, 12:45-5PM. outside Coles Building (Legislative Assembly building). Joanne Power Lockman has a concern with treatment at the QEH and she and her husband have been picketing outside the Legislature for a while now. It's a complicated story and she doesn't feel her story has been heard.
Young at Heart Musical Theatre AGM, 6:30-8:30PM, Andrews of Stratford, free. "Find out what this dynamic charity organization is up to! Refreshments will be served. For more information contact: email@example.com" This group puts on a professional show at seniors' manors and other places each spring, and Catherine O'Brien has been involved for several years.
Most people who knew Harry Baglole feel some heartache today, as he passed away earlier. A man of boundless grace and ideas, who helped get amazing Island initiatives like the Institute for Island Studies at UPEI and Macphail Homestead going, and helped save the Bonshaw Hall. An original Brother of Cornelius Howatt, he examined the idea of Islandness and welcomed others into the conversation.
Sunday, June 3rd:
Visiting hours, 2-4PM and 6-8PM, Belvedere Funeral Home.
Monday, June 4th:
Celebration of Life filled with stories and music, 7-8PM, with reception afterward, Spring Park United Church.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Harry can be made to the Bonshaw Hall Co-op.
Wednesday in the P.E.I. Legislature:
Steven Myers did make a very long Point of Order about the way the Committee of the Whole House was shut down on Tuesday evening, asking Proceedings not start for the day until the issue was rectified, but the Speaker just somberly said he would take it under advisement, and the day proceeded (as he did with a shorter Point of Order immediately afterward by Peter Bevan-Baker).
(Speaker Buck Watts has also announced he will not be running in the next provincial election, which is right now legislated for Fall 2019. That would mean that Watts, Kathleen Casey, Allen Roach and J. Alan McIsaac (who have announced not running) would still be sitting in the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 sessions and continue on their work. Unless there is an election before the next sitting? (It is nice of them to have plans in place and let us know. They were all elected in the 2007 election when Robert Ghiz formed government.)
After Question Period (lack of a Child Advocate, among other topics), the debate of Bill No. 38, Electoral System Referendum Act, continued. The bill is being gone through Line by Line, and they were in Definitions, and there was lots of talk ranging around, showing how extensive and mixed up this bill it. More statements about how we need to limit free speech about the "advertising", the concerns about the period from the passing of the Bill to the dropping of the writ, etc. So much fear.
Apparently, British Columbia has proposed its Fall 2018 referendum legislation and the word Draconian isn't being used to describe theirs. I have not looked at it in whole, but see that the question is a straightforward:
Which should British Columbia use for elections to the Legislative Assembly? (Vote for only one.)
(box) The current First Past the Post voting system
(box) A proportional representation voting system
Debate will likely continue today at some point, as there are lots of amendments apparently to discuss, too.
Ron Kelly crafts such good letters:
From The Guardian, Wednesday, May 30th, 2018:
OPINION: Half-asked legislation - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Ron Kelly
ESRA only goes only half way asking voters about province’s electoral system
When is half not half? When it’s half-asked – like the MacLauchlan government’s Electoral System Referendum Act (ESRA). It goes only halfway in asking voters about the province’s electoral system.
RELATED: P.E.I. government tables electoral reform referendum legislation
This all follows on the heels of the 2016 electoral reform plebiscite. As many Islanders recall, Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) was the top choice in that vote. But what has perhaps been ignored is that the current First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system came in second. The final vote was 19,418 for MMP and 15,869 for FPTP. MMP had 10 per cent more support than FPTP (55.03 per cent to 44.97 per cent).
Of course, Premier MacLauchlan quickly declared participation wasn’t high enough to adopt MMP. Strangely, though, he never explained why participation was high enough to maintain FPTP, the second-rated choice.
Similarly, when the wording of the referendum planned in conjunction with the next P.E.I. election was revealed, FPTP was nowhere to be seen. Instead, voters will be forced to focus exclusively on MMP in a “no or yes” choice. (If “no or yes” sounds strange, that’s because it is.)
Tilting things even further against MMP, calculation of the referendum results will not be by simple majority. The threshold for MMP to succeed has been inflated. MMP must receive support from 50 per cent plus 1 of those who participate in the provincial election – not 50 per cent plus 1 of those who vote in the referendum.
One interesting side note is that the government has not identified a turnout level high enough to legitimize the results – even though this was supposedly the reason the government ignored the 2016 plebiscite results. Perhaps this is because it’s done the research and realized that most electoral scholars consider turnout thresholds to be anti-democratic.
But let’s assume that turnout in the next provincial election reaches the traditional 80 per cent level. That’s about 82,000 voters. So how many will also participate in the referendum?
In 2016, 36.5 per cent of eligible voters participated in the plebiscite despite the ability to vote online, extended voting hours, etc. If we assume that rate doubles to 73 per cent because the referendum will be held at the same time as the election, that’s about 74,500 voters participating in the referendum.
If 74,500 voters participate in the referendum, will MMP have to obtain the support of 37,251 of them (50 per cent plus 1) to succeed? No! MMP will have to obtain the support of 41,001 voters – 50 per cent plus one of the 82,000 voters who show up at the polls. That´s 55 per cent of the voters who participate in the referendum.
Meanwhile, how much support will FPTP need to remain as the province´s electoral system? Technically, it will not have to obtain any support – because it won’t be on the referendum ballot.
In reality, though, FPTP will remain as P.E.I.’s electoral system if, in the scenario above, only 33,500 participants in the referendum vote “No”. That’s about 45 per cent support.
So, instead of asking Islanders to choose between MMP and FPTP in a run-off of the top two choices from the 2016 plebiscite, the MacLauchlan government has “loaded the dice” by including only one of the two choices and basing the calculation for success on the numbers participating in the election rather than on the numbers participating in the referendum.
Electoral System Referendum Act will truly be a half-asked piece of legislation.
- Ron Kelly is a member of the Coalition for Proportional Representation (a group planning to disband Thursday as a response to ‘repressive rules’ under ESRA) who served as chair of the Communications Committee for the Yes side in the 2005 plebiscite on electoral reform
If you wish to sign on to a letter to the federal environment minister about the Northumberland Strait paper mill effluent issue, here is a link:
May 30, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM today. Legislative Assembly website link.
From the P.E.I. Legislature, some random notes:
Yesterday was one of the most revealing and raucous days in the Provincial Legislature that many of us remember. It started with Question Period and the Opposition asking about paid-for-blood collection versus volunteer-donating. It could seem perfectly reasonable with the current on-a-tear economic vision, anything that can be imported for profit (like certain groups of immigrants) and anything that could be exported for profit (that might include blood products) would be considered fair game, and good for the Opposition to get Government on record. Health Minister Robert Mitchell finally said there were no plans for this. Once there were no plans for selling the Island's ground water as fancy bottled water for export; then there were, and then a big public outcry was needed to have that stopped.
Brad Trivers asked about an amalgamation/annexation plan in his District where a large parcel smack in the middle is excluded. The Premier gave a schoolmaster's history lesson about school districts and was completely condescending to him, making grand statements about how long his settler families have been on P.E.I. (much longer than most any of the Oppositions' members, to be sure). Not a very welcoming kind of tone to any newcomers or come-from-aways, others have noted.
The late afternoon and early part of the evening (nice of Opposition to give over its time) were for Bill No. 38, The Electoral System Referendum Act, which may have left the listener (when not leaving the room to find Gravol or Rolaids) with the impression that the Proportional Representation proponents are associated with Facebook data breaches, Russia, hate speech, funnelling millions from offshore accounts, and other unsavoryness, instead of hoping to fulfill part of the promise (propelled by the current Premier oh-so-long ago) of Democratic Renewal by modernizing the electoral voting system. Debate was stopped after a while.
Wrapping up the night, as news has reported this morning, the final 20 minutes was given over to the passage of Al Roach's (former Liberal Finance Minister) Private Member's Bill Plastic Bag Reduction Act. Apparently, the Liberals -- who have as majority government done nothing to reduce plastic waste -- wanted this Bill passed and cut off debate, which Georgetown-St. Peter's MLA Steven Myers strenuously protested in a broken record fashion ("I want the Speaker called back...I want the Speaker called back...") and then upon his return, the Speaker said, rather paradoxically to Myers, that this should have been dealt with when they were in the Committee of the Whole House.
(It was interesting that Myers mentioned that this set a dangerous precedent, and the electoral referendum bill could be next to have debate cut off, after both larger Parties seemed to be singing from the same choir book during the referendum discussion.)
The budget and supplementary estimates were passed, a sure sign Government wants to get the session completed, so stay tuned today as the Referendum legislation and I think the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation have not been voted on.
Congratulations to Leo Cheverie on the beginning of the "Leo Cheverie Activism Award", an annual award created by CUPE PEI and announced at their Convention last week, to recognize a member "who has shown a commitment to equality and social activism while working to advance the rights of all workers." I can't think of a better person to name that award after.
From a letter written to Malpeque MP Wayne Easter yesterday, reprinted sort of with permission, which sums it what many of us felt up hearing this news yesterday morning:
May 29th, 2018
Regarding the $4.5+ billion purchase of Kinder Morgan pipeline:
We strongly oppose:
1. this fossil fuel promotion gift to a corrupt company (link to National Observer article from 2016),
2. this dismissal of Indigenous rights and the importance of protecting waterways from deadly pollution,
3. the wasted opportunity to invest in a clean energy future instead of trying to build this pipeline, and
4. the huge carbon emissions that would result from expanding the tar/oil sands.
How could this proposed purchase be the right decision for anyone except Kinder Morgan shareholders? When our grandchildren ask why your government gave away $4.5Billion for a dead-end scheme, how will you ever try to answer?
--Tony Reddin and Marion Copleston,
May 29, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Harry Smith, in one of his letters printed a two days ago, attributed the words to the song "Stuck in the Middle with You" to Bob Dylan, but it was Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan, in 1972, of the Scottish folk band Stealers Wheel. Apologies for any earworms and bad fashion flashbacks the video may cause if played at the link.
The P.E.I. Legislature is back in for the week, sitting today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.
Question Period transcripts are usually published in draft form later in the afternoon of the same day, and Hansard of the entire day just a few days behind. Amazing work from the Legislative Assembly staff.
It is very likely the Bill setting out the rules for the referendum (including the question, the Electoral System Referendum Act, Bill No. 38, will be brought back up this afternoon after Question Period and such. Yesterday, posted on the Green Party of Prince Edward Island's Facebook page, leader Peter Bevan-Baker discusses the of whole of the Bill and its implications (you may have to scroll down to find it):
Here is a link to Richard Brown's *amendment* to Bill No. 38, the Electoral System Referendum Act. He tabled it Thursday, May 24th and it has NOT been discussed yet. The Premier said he hoped all proposed amendments would be tabled so there would be time to get them circulated before debate begins...presumably tomorrow or Wednesday. (They may need to fix a typo or two in this one.) It withdraws the Bill's 50% plus one threshold of people who voted in the election for their MLA as 100% (as opposed to just counting the number of people who voted in the referendum at 100%), but adds a new requirement of geographic threshold -- 60% of districts (so, 17) have to have 50% plus one voting for one way or the other for the results to be "binding." At least that is my interpretation of it, but it is not really being clearly spelled out.
Because of the probable rules for any groups, the PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation is disbanding. They explain why (with a few words from Coalition member group representatives, including me on behalf of the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.) in this video here:
and in this CBC story from yesterday.
You can join the new PEI Proportional Representation Network here (it may take a few days to get processed). https://sites.google.com/view/peiprnet/
And from The Guardian last week:
LETTER: Government dictates to voters - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Re: “Democracy red alert” article in the Guardian. I think if we are to have a referendum on Proportional Representation (PR) or any other subject for that matter, whoever comes out and votes in it, these should be the only votes that count, and the majority should win. That's how democracy works.
How does Bill 38 do this? If you do not vote in this referendum for/against PR, it basically counts as a vote against PR. Your 'non-vote' taken away by the Bill 38 and used as a vote against PR. How does that feel? How is that democracy? Do you feel your rights are being violated?
"Under the proposed Act, if less than half of all general election voters participate in the referendum, then even if 100 percent of referendum voters say they want change, the result is still not considered ‘binding." - Anna Keenan.
It feels to me that the Liberal government would like to dictate rather than encourage voters to have a voice and listen to that voice. This is an act to suppress Islanders and will only lead to disdain in our communities.
What respect can we expect? Well, I think we should expect this Bill 38, which dismantles the right for an individual's vote to count and basically votes for an individual in a referendum when they do not vote, to be quashed.
What politicians in legislature have enough respect for all of us, to get rid of Bill 38? It should not even exist.
Karalee McAskill, Stratford
Word is that the Trudeau government may announce this morning (11AM our time) that it is going to buy the Kinder-Morgan pipeline. This would perhaps join the list of white elephants governments in the past have bought with great plans (which only benefit certain sectors of society) and with taxpayer money.
The Council of Canadians writes here this morning.
Here is a LeadNow petition to be delivered this morning:
And their phone-a Cabinet-Minister-campaign for today:
May 28, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
French Election School Board elections are today. More information from Elections PEI, here.
May Community Vegan Potluck, 6:30PM, Haviland Club, details here.
Political Commentators Rick MacLean and Paul MacNeill, were on CBC Compass to talk for a couple of minutes about the Proportional Representation referendum legislation, the nasty Bill No. 38. Right now, I can only direct you to the Citizens' Alliance Facebook page to see where it was shared.
Tomorrow or Wednesday we will see what happens with this Bill.
More comments regarding the P.E.I. Legislature, which does not sit today:
The Opposition Progressive Conservatives have had four Bills pass in the past year, and good for them. It's obvious that they have had to use persistence and really strike at the heart of a need that legislation could improve a particular issue.
Former NHL star Theo Fleury came to P.E.I. last week for a Tory fundraising dinner, but also to talk on the floor of the Legislature about Bill 116 (which would provide paid leave for domestic violence, intimate partner violence, or sexual violence leave), in a moving afternoon of revelation and reflection, and trauma and healing through relationships, and channeling that energy into positive change.
More on Theo Fleury's time at the P.E.I. Legislature on James Aylward's Facebook page
Worth the five minutes to watch it.
He says that it's not so much what's in Bill 116, but the big picture of making strides on acknowledging and supporting people, with trauma, mental health and additions issues.
Other legislation not coming from this 11-year Government, but others, include MLA Al Roach's Plastic Bag Reduction Act, which is close to passing; and after the ridiculous antics of J. Alan McIsaac (with Roach's seconding the ploy), Bush Dumville's Red Fox as Emblem Private Member's Bill.
As far as reviewing what the budget estimates are really saying, and what they aren't, the Opposition Parties have worked very hard, despite some members of the Government party pushing along sections by calling out "Carry" before people have had time to turn a page. Hannah Bell has been particularly careful and found many inconsistencies in places, and fellow Green Party MLA Peter Bevan-Baker, and Brad Trivers and Jamie Fox, and most of the other Tories really questioning priorities and spending. They have also commented favourably when Government has made improvements.
"It is important for me to share my experiences in order to create strength and hope for others. No matter how far down you go, it is never too late to come back."
May 27, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Bonshaw Ceilidh, 2-4PM, Bonshaw Hall (corner of TCH and Green Road). Admission by donation and proceeds going to the PEI Chapter of the Hard of Hearing Association. Regulars Tony the Troubador and Herb MacDonald will perform with special guests Evan Martin, the group Island Girls, and David MacKay.
Tomorrow, Monday May 28th:
May Community Vegan Potluck, 6:30PM, Haviland Club, admission by donation and dish. Facebook event with Guidelines link.
Earlier this month, the P.E.I. Climate Change Action Plan for 2018-2023 was tabled in the Legislature by Environment Minister Richard Brown.
with the document viewable in the story (and downloadable on the link, below).
It is lightweight, lots of photos and white space, good sounding "New Actions", no mention of the work with Dunsky Energy Consulting on various related endeavors, the back page is an advertisement for the The Mighty Island, and I don't think the document proposes anything serious and overarching such as an imperative about a Climate Change Lens, that every (applicable) decision in every department will take into consideration the effect on climate change. "At least we're not denying it" seems faint praise.
Government website for the Climate Change Action Plan
Harry Smith, who understands renewable energy, comments on the recent Climate Change Action Plan twice in the past couple of weeks; this was the first
LETTER 1: Clowns to the left, jokers to the right - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Another provincial greenwashing announcement was disseminated today, under the heading “Province acts to address climate change.”
This announcement contains the customary self-congratulatory comment about how well we're doing and mentions an undefined “Low Carbon Economy Fund” which most likely will never see the light of day (remember “Hydrogen Village,” anyone?)
Then suddenly we're discussing “the city” – no segue, so at that point one can only assume it is Charlottetown. Ah yes, it is, with more self-congratulatory verbiage, most of it false, about how the city has been working for years, blab, blab, blab. Just one actual-fact example is that every single vehicle owned by the city is fossil fueled, with no real plan to use alternative fueled vehicles which have a lower life-cycle cost and don't continue the poisoning of our environment.
Then we get to the crux of the announcement – throwing the population a rebate on electric taxes. No justification in terms of climate change impact, but it's coming onto election time.
The rebate is also extended to other sources of heat, including wood, with the totally false assertion that wood is a lower emitting fuel. From a large UK study, speaking of emissions, we see this: “harvesting wood from naturally regenerating forest...(produces) a staggering five times that of coal.”
Dylan said it best.: “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.”. Are we ever going to get serious about doing our part to address climate change in any meaningful way?
Harry Smith, Bonshaw
and the second last week:
LETTER2: True comments; weak responses - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
The new P.E.I. Climate Change Plan is full of cognitive dissonance, with realistic statements about the current and coming problems we have to address, coupled with weak, non-action responses.
One of the more outlandish proposals in the plan is one that the minister has doubled down on in the press. That is the elimination of a portion of the tax on electricity. That would be a fair action in its own right, since other forms of heat do not pay that portion of the tax presently.
However, the reasoning goes off the rails in the justification put forth for the action. The hope is that by providing perhaps a couple of hundred dollars a year in tax relief, people will spend thousands to rip out oil furnaces and replace them with electric heat systems. Based on the tax reduction, the payback on that action would be in the 25-35 year range. Adding to the fantasy potential of this proposal, people switching would have to pony up the entire cost up front. Aside from some money for low income families, everyone would be on their own. Nothing else in the Plan provides for Provincial loans, grants or other assistance.
Finally, the tax reduction would only level the playing field with oil heat anyway, so there would really be no tax advantage to switching. Would this incentivize you?
And, as the minister says, this is our answer to carbon pricing?
Harry Smith, Bonshaw
On Climate Change and divestment, a link to a long article from Rolling Stone magazine, by Bill McKibbon, founder of 350.org:
here is a snippet:
Hit Fossil Fuels Where It Hurts – the Bottom Line - Rolling Stone article by Bill McKibbon
The divestment movement is having a big impact, and holdouts may be missing their one great chance to really change the world
<snip> The movement for fossil-fuel divestment was partly born in the pages of this magazine six years ago, when an essay of mine went unexpectedly viral. That piece showed the new math of climate change: The big oil, gas and coal producers had reserves in the ground that contained five times the carbon any scientist said we could burn and stay below the catastrophic temperature rises that the planet’s governments had pledged to avoid. That is, the business plans of Exxon and Chevron and Shell and the rest committed them to wrecking the planet – simple math, simple physics and simple morality. If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, it’s wrong to profit from the wreckage. <snip>
rest of article at the link
May 26, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Island Bird Count, 8-10AM, Harvey Moore Wildlife Sanctuary, Milltown Cross, near Buffaloland, with Southeast Environmental Watershed Association. Bring boots and binoculars.
Farmers' Markets open today: Charlottetown, 9AM-2PM; Summerside, 9AM-1PM
Herb Day, 10AM-4PM, Farm Centre, no admission but donations accepted. Edited slightly from the Facebook event listing:
Activities include a plant sale, seed swap, garden tool tune-up, workshops, marketplace, garden tour and more. Hand made sourdough pizzas will be available to purchase for lunch from Chef Alex Bevan-Baker of Fatta a Mono.
Heart Beet Organics and Jen & Derek’s Organic Farm are among the local farmers who will have healthy veggie and herb plants for sale. White Gables at Hope River will have berry canes and Havenloft Tree Nursey will have small trees. This is a short list, there will be many others in the marketplace.
Bring along seeds and plants to swap.
If you or someone you know wants to start a garden, the no dig method demonstration by Phil Ferraro at 10 am is not to be missed. No special strength or equipment is needed for this garden method.
10 - 11AM -- No dig, no till gardening with Phil Ferraro
11 - 12noon -- Making herbal salves with Point Prim Permaculture
12 - 1PM -- Tour of the Legacy Community Garden
1 - 2PM -- How to make kombucha with Heart Beet Organics
2 - 3PM -- Cooking with herbs with Chef Robert Pendergast
3 - 4PM -- Hops and brewing beer with Rod Weatherbie (at Upstreet)
The International Herb of the Year for 2018 is hops.
This event is a partnership between the PEI Farm Centre and the Food Exchange.
The Food Exchange empowers people to improve food security for themselves and their communities through gleaning, growing food, and gaining knowledge. http://www.foodexchangepei.com/
Hedgerows and Windbreaks, 10AM-11:30AM, Macphail Woods Ecological Project, donations accepted. Inside introductions and a walk outside with demonstrations.
P.E.I. Symphony Day, 11AM-mindnight, PEI Brewing Company,
"We're celebrating our 50th birthday with an entire day of free performances across Charlottetown! No cover charge for any of the following events, though donations are accepted!
Charlottetown Farmers Market - 11:30am - PEISO Brass Quintet
Receiver Brass Shop - 1:00pm - Michelle Baldwin and Judy Yun
Victoria Row Outdoor Stage - 3:00pm - Justin Amador Trio (Justin Amador, Henry Orford, and Zachary Bernard.)
PEI Brewing Company
7:00pm - Singing Strings Youth Orchestra
8:00pm - SoPA Jazz Trio
9:00pm - Lady Soul
Emcees Gary Evans and Alan Buchanan from Four Tellers.
Birthday Cake! Regular Brewing Co menu available for purchase. Silent Auction. PEISO historic photos, videos. The PEISO performed their first concert in 1968 and continues to present four large concerts and several smaller chamber performances each year to thousands of loyal patrons across Prince Edward Island. In an effort to give back to those supporters, Saturday May 26th will feature several free musical performances throughout the city in the morning and afternoon, as well as a larger concert/reception at the PEI Brewing Company in the evening, on what the PEI legislative assembly will officially declare “PEI Symphony Day”!
A silent auction is now available for bidding online at www.32auctions.com/peisoanniversaryauction. At noon on Saturday, the online portion will close, and bidding will continued at the PEI Brewing Company event itself.
All of these events are free of charge (donations accepted), and are child-friendly until 10:00pm. We invite Islanders of all ages to enjoy this diverse celebration of music in Charlottetown."
I do not know how citizen reporters like Kevin Arsenault can grasp a situaion and write about it so effortlessly, but Arsenault spells out so much in his Facebook posting about the call for a land review, that I appreciate being able to share it:
A REVIEW OF THE CALL FOR A LAND REVIEW - Facebook posting by Kevin J. Arsenault
Facebook, Friday, May 25th, 2018
[Legislative Assembly, Friday, May 25, 2018]
Today in the House during “Reports from Committees,” we heard a short update on the work of the Standing Committee on Communities, Lands and Environment. PC Opposition MLA, Brad Trivers – who sits on this committee – responded with a number of important points and observations, especially concerning issues related to the review of land purchases by corporations and non-residents which Hon. Richard Brown, Minister of Communities, Lands and Environment, indicated he has asked IRAC to undertake. But has he really?
Brown spoke at the NFU District Annual Convention on April 3, 2018 (which I attended) where he first announced he HAD asked IRAC to undertake a land review to make sure the Lands Protection Act was being followed. He was bluntly told then by several NFU members that no one believed the rules were being broken, but rather, "loopholes" were being exploited and action was needed to plug them. As it turns out, Richard Brown (yes, I'm tagging you Richard, since you are my Facebook Friend) hadn't actually asked IRAC to commence a review at that time at all, but only gave them a “head's up” that he WOULD BE asking them to do a review at some point in the future.
About three weeks later (April 23, 20180, Minister Brown told the media that he had asked IRAC to undertake a review of land purchase with headlines reading in the “present tense”: “P.E.I. government orders review of land ownership to determine if any rules being broken.” [http://www.cbc.ca/…/pei-non-resident-land-ownership-richard…] But, as it turns out, the PEI government still hadn't ordered IRAC to undertake a review, but just gave them another “head's up” that they would eventually be asking them to undertake a review at some point in the future.
How do I know this? Because IRAC can't undertake a review without written “Terms of Reference,” outlining what that review is to entail, and IRAC hadn't been given any "Terms of Reference" for a review as of April 23, 2018. In fact, IRAC hadn't been given any Terms of Reference as of May 10, 2018. How do I know this?
I attended e a strategy meeting with NFU officials on May 10 at the North Milton Hall, and we contacted Minister Brown's office asking for a copy of the Terms of Reference for the Land review IRAC was undertaking. We received an email message from Deputy Michele Dorsey later that same day saying "They [Terms of Reference for the Land Review] are under development."
Is Minister Brown finished developing them yet? Has IRAC received them and begun its work? No one apparently knows but the Minister (feel free to tell us in a comment Richard) and Scott MacKenzie (CEO of IRAC). Trivers asked about the land review timeline today, but given that it was a response to the report update (and not Question Period) those questions remained unanswered.
In my previous Guest Opinion on the land review by IRAC published in Island Newspapers [https://kevinjarsenault.com/…/we-need-remedies-not-a-rules…/], I suggested that if the review is only looking at whether the letter of the Lands Protection Act is being followed, then it represents a colossal waste of time and money and amounts to nothing more than a “kick the can down the road” delay tactic in an obvious attempt by the government to look like urgent land isse problems are being addressed when they are not
Equally concerning is the fact that it's been 1/2 a year since letters went out to Cavendish Farms, Vanco Farms and the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) asking them to appear before the Standing Committee to discuss land issues, and there's still no indication when (or even "if") that will take place.
If this Liberal government truly believed that Land issues are as important as they say they are, the Liberal-controlled standing committee would be meeting a lot more frequently, as Trivers aptly notes in his response.
The potential merger of agri-tech giants Bayer and Monsanto is going ahead. Here is an article about its troubling implications, from a recent edition of the Des Moines (Iowa) Register:
Merged Bayer-Monsanto will corner the market on farm data and software - DesMoines Register column by Angela Huffman
by Angela Huffman, Register Opinion contributor
Published on Monday, May 14, 2018
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is expected to approve the merger between Bayer and Monsanto. If that happens, the world’s newest and largest seed and chemical company will have more in common with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica than meets the eye.
In recent years, large agrochemical companies, including Bayer and Monsanto, have been heavily investing in digital agriculture. This new platform involves collecting data from farms, then building mathematical models and algorithms aimed at giving farmers real-time information on how to grow and manage their crops.
There are a number of ag tech start-ups producing digital agriculture products. However, it appears that Monsanto and Bayer are trying to become like the Microsoft of the late-1990s and control the future of this emerging industry.
Bayer has reportedly agreed to divest all of its digital agriculture assets to assuage the fears of antitrust regulators. Don’t be fooled by this misdirection. Bayer never even released its digital farming platform, Xarvio Field Manager, in the United States, but the company will be happy to take over Monsanto’s similar products.
Monsanto’s Climate FieldView serves the same purpose, providing crop analysis and generating suggestions to farmers for seed planting and fertilizer use. The program is spreading like wildfire. In 2017, Monsanto set a goal of collecting data from 25 million premium acres. By the end of the year, the company reached 35 million. Monsanto is expecting to collect data from 50 million premium acres across the globe by the end of its 2018 fiscal year.
The Climate FieldView platform is starting to look more like Microsoft’s Windows than a simple tool to help farmers maximize yield. In August 2016, Monsanto announced its intent to build a “centralized and open data platform” for digital farming start-ups to build software products and sell them to farmers. Think of a combination of Windows and the Apple App Store, where Monsanto gets access to both the data and part of the profit.
This new platform is one of the most valuable assets Bayer is set to acquire. Monsanto does not allow products that compete with its own products onto the platform, but the combined company will surely integrate Bayer’s pesticides business into the platform, while more start-ups will be excluded.
A combined Bayer and Monsanto would be able to leverage massive data platforms to muscle out innovative start-up companies looking to revolutionize data-driven farming. The combined company would have a near monopoly, a true one-stop-shop, for farming data and farming software.
It stands to reason that if Bayer and Monsanto combine to increase their dominance over digital farming, they will use their near monopoly on farmer data to sell more of their chemicals and seeds to farmers.
Farmers recognize the risk. Based on a recent poll, farmers are concerned that a merged Bayer and Monsanto would use market dominance for one product to push sales of other products. Nearly 92 percent of farmers surveyed are also concerned that Bayer-Monsanto will control data about farm practices. In 2015 testimony, Blake Hurst of the Missouri Farm Bureau put it most succinctly when he envisioned “a smart phone ad arriving within seconds of a farmer encountering weed or insect damage while he’s harvesting his crop.”
DOJ has neglected to do its job and prevent harm to American farmers and consumers by allowing the merger to proceed. Our antitrust laws have failed if the divestment of products that never even made it to the United States is enough to convince regulators that all is well for the future of digital farming. No divestment will be enough to prevent Bayer and Monsanto from cornering the start-up market for digital farming.
DOJ should not tolerate the potential abuses of data and enforce our antitrust laws. The only answer is to block the merger.
Angela Huffman is a sixth-generation farmer and an advocate for economic justice through anti-monopoly reform. She is the director of communications and research for the Organization for Competitive Markets, a think tank focused on antitrust and trade policy in agriculture.
An update on the merger from Canada from April 2018:
(not sure who is behind this site)
A March 2018 article from USC, which encourages "farmer-led alternatives to a consolidated seed market."
May 25, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today, the P.E.I. Legislature sits from 10AM-1PM. Watch Live link and reference materials here:
Herb Day at the Farm Centre, 10AM-4PM, various workshops and vendors. All welcome.
Last evening, the two hours of the sitting of the Legislature was spent on Electoral System Referendum Act. This is Bill No. (as in Notorious) 38. Third Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker finished his comments on the principle of the Bill, reminding the Legislature that the principle is all wrong on so many levels. His request to have the Bill sent to a Standing Committee was voted down, so the Committee of the Whole House was convened (meaning the Speaker Buck Watts leaves the chamber and another MLA is appointed to chair the committee and work through the Second Reading of the Bill).
Minister of Justice Jordan Brown's opening comments about the Bill, as well as the Premier's thoughts, in response to Opposition MLAs Sidney MacEwen and Brad Trivers extremely good questions, were a bit lengthy, wordy and unclear, quite the opposite of what the Government has been saying this process would be.
Here is another voice on the matter, capturing what's not right:
The Opposite of Proportional is Disproportional - Blog posting by Peter Rukavina
Published on Thursday, May 24th, 2018, published on his blog, here:
I have been following the progress of Bill No. 38, Electoral System Referendum Act in the Legislative Assembly this spring with interest. I’ve read the draft bill through many times, and my discomfort increases with each reading; indeed I’ve started half a dozen blog posts to try and get at the heart of what irks me, but I’ve abandoned all of them as I could never find my way there. Until now.
The heart of my discontent, I have discovered, lies in the very purpose of the bill, laid out in section 2:
The purpose of this Act is to make the process for the referendum transparent and fair, by
(a) establishing the referendum question;
(b) providing for the appointment of a Referendum Commissioner who is an officer of the Legislative Assembly and who will oversee related matters leading up to and after the referendum vote; and
(c) establishing a level playing field for those who wish to publicly oppose or support a change to the voting system as set out in the referendum question, by providing for equal public funding for organizations who register as registered referendum advertisers and are opposing or supporting one or the other of the possible answers to the referendum question, and by limiting spending on paid advertising in a reasonable manner, for the public good, so that residents of the province have the opportunity to make a decision that is based on information from both points of view.
I have been a card-carrying member of the patriarchy for more than 50 years, and so have more than passing familiarity both with the mechanisms we use to maintain our lock on running things, and with the lies we choose to tell ourselves and others as to why that’s okay.
But I’ve also spent a lot of those years trying to listen, sometimes successfully, to the voices of the marginalized, and to better understand my privilege. And if I’ve learned nothing else it is that those holding the reigns of power are incapable of establishing what is transparent, fair, and “a level playing field.”
This is not because we are evil, or have impure motives, it is simply because power obscures the ability to understand what lack of power entails.
For hundreds of years Prince Edward Island has been governed by a democracy that does not reflect the depth and breadth of the population: we have lived, for myriad reasons, with a legislature that is disproportionately representative of a narrow slice of the population (wealthy, white, able-bodied, capitalist, property-owning men). We are all trapped inside this system to the point where attempts to point this out are characterized as destabilizing.
And so when the government of the day introduces a bill claiming to establish a “level playing field,” we should be suspicious, especially when the through-line put forward by many members of that government–and, indeed, by some opposition members–is that our last electoral reform plebiscite was hijacked by mysterious forces from away (of the 24 pages in the draft bill, 9 lay out a complex system of free speech abrogation that seems designed entirely as a reaction to this unfounded paranoia).
The proposed referendum question itself is perhaps the best evidence that the playing field is not level:
Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional voting system?
Put another way, this question might read “Should Prince Edward Island maintain a voting system that disproportionately reflects some citizens?”, but, again, it’s impossible for those developing the question to see the issue in that light, as their position prevents them from accepting that this might be the case.
I’m the first to admit that it’s really, really hard to bootstrap a jurisdiction out of a system to which we’ve become so inured as to consider it normal.
But Bill 38 is not the right answer: it is the patriarchy’s response to rumblings of discontent that it seeks to stanch not understand.
We can do better.
Some strong words from F. Ben Rodgers, glad he is continuing to write:
LETTER: Time for MLAs to step forward - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
I’m writing this letter in the hope the majority of Liberal MLAs will stand tall and do what they know to be right. Oppose Bill 38 and demand amendments to this attempt to stack the vote. Do what the people elected you to do, and look after their interests.
Fail in this, then ask yourselves how you will face Islanders in the next election. Imagine how you will be greeted on the doorsteps. I doubt it will be pleasant. It is time to show you have integrity and pride in the position to which you were elected. Follow your conscience and do what you were elected and paid to do.
The alternative to this is to leave politics; five of your colleagues have already done so, and I suspect more could follow. If you wish to continue in politics, then this is surely the time to make an honest decision. Food for some serious thought.
F. Ben Rodgers, Abram-Village
Some sad news regarding dear Harry Baglole, my Bonshaw neighbour and one of the most kind, and most visionary people I know. Laurie Brinklow writes in the most recent Island Studies Newsletter (May 23rd, 2018):
We here at Island Studies are very sad to share the news that one of the "godfathers" of Island Studies is seriously ill and is in Palliative Care in Charlottetown. Harry Baglole was the founding Director of the Institute of Island Studies, and the visionary behind much of what has taken place in Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island since 1985 - as well as many of the Island's cultural institutions such as Ragweed Press, The Island Magazine, the Macphail Homestead, the Bonshaw Hall, and the Vinland Society.
And he is one of the original Brothers and Sisters of Cornelius Howatt, which seriously, through serious and not-to-serious writings and actions, sought to point out the distressing paths Prince Edward Island was being led down by corporate and big government interests in the 1970s and 80s. Sending him admiration and appreciation for all his words and works, and wishing ease and peace to him and loved ones.
May 24, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM today. You can watch on-line here or on Eastlink or attend in the Gallery. This afternoon is traditionally Opposition time (after the Welcomes and Question Period) and the evening could be anything decided by Government.
Organized to Lead Plenary talk: "Confronting Gender-based Cyberviolence Against Women in Politics", 6:15-7:45PM, MacDougall Hall, UPEI. Plenary session of the three-day "Organized to Lead: Provincial Symposium for Women", sponsored by the Coalition for Women in Government, with Dr. Shanly Dixon, Digital Literacy Expert, and panelists Joanne Bernard, Former Nova Scotia MLA and Cabinet Minister, and Becka Viau, Former P.E.I. Provincial and Federal Candidate.
A variety of environmental topics, sometimes lost in the bluster of the day's political news:
from yesterday's Guardian:
LETTER: Forfeit morals for french fries - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
I see where Robert Irving has paid us a visit and expressed his concern about the near failure of the potato crop last year. It was spoiled by a last-minute rain fall; does this mean that God is on his side.
My opinion is this: Robert Irving should return to New Brunswick and stay there.
My opinion is, the Irving’s are the main force behind ruining the potato and farming industries on P.E.I. Years ago, P.E.I. was the potato capital of North America. If someone wanted a top class of table potato, a P.E.I. potato was the #1 choice above the Idaho. If you don’t believe me ask an older and wiser person.
Then the Irving’s landed and along with the government of the day, persuaded and encouraged the local farmers to forfeit their morals and values and sign on to the Irving way.
They dug up, tore up, leveled and eliminated all or most of the picturesque small farms of P.E.I.
They called it progress. Now, except for a few honest hard-working farmers, you can’t get a decent potato for the dinner table. All for the sake of a perfect Irving french fry potato. Some would say you can’t blame all this on the Irving’s. I guess that greed is contagious, the government and the farmers of the day jumped right on board. I say enough is enough. No deep water wells. We don’t need you to ruin our water system.
Gavin Boylan, Charlottetown
Here is another way, from Coast Protectors, to find out more about what federal whistleblowers are saying about the Kinder Morgan pipeline situation in Alberta-British Columbia -- by asking our Prime Minister and his Cabinet to release the records about giving "cabinet the legally-sound basis to say 'yes' to Trans Mountain." Link with more information and petition:
Northern Pulp has been running "sponsored" stories on the digital edition of the Chronicle-Herald. David Patriquin is the administrator for the NSForestNotes website and compiles this article for the very informative website about the "certain-biased news":
People see a lot of "sponsored" content on Facebook, but it takes another tone when it's coming from politicians:
screenshot from an average Islander's Facebook "feed", not even "friends", April 2018.
May 23, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM today. Legislators will have the evening off to rest their voices.
Pints and Politics with NDP Leader Joe Byrne, 7-9PM, Upstreet Craft Brewing, Allen Street. Chat politics with Joe and friends.
Tomorrow, Thursday, May 24th:
"Confronting Gender-based Cyberviolence Against Women in Politics", 6:15-7:45PM, MacDougall Hall, UPEI. Plenary session of the three-day "Organized to Lead: Provincial Symposium for Women", sponsored by the Coalition for Women in Government, with Dr. Shanly Dixon, Digital Literacy Expert, and panel.
Yesterday, the Provincial Legislature was a busy place (as if they realized "Summer is coming" and it was time to prepare). Question Period featured a report mentioned here and other places by Kevin Arsenault on the question of the legality of the destruction of the communications on the e-gaming matter, comparing it to a situation and ruling in Ontario, by investigator and commentator Kevin J. Arsenault. The Collective Laugh by most Government MLAs when Arsenault's name was mentioned was a bit puerile, and reminds one of the "laughs last, laughs best" proverb.
Arsenault, who has been making many of us laugh (in near gallows humour) with a now two-month series of cartoons entitled "Wade's World", commented on the afternoon on his Facebook page, here.
There were lots of questions about the "IIDI" and later in the evening, about adding more seats to the Board than the five Deputy Ministers which make it up, now.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder under Workers' Compensation was agreed upon pretty much to everyone's satisfaction. The original Progressive Conservative bill was given Royal Assent and immediately amended by Government, and the Unions gave cautious approval to the changes and will keep an eye on things.
Campaign Finance Reform came up, too (more later).
The Evening session was most interesting as far as the introduction for second reading of Bill 38 on the Voting Systems referendum, and before the House broke into a Committee of the Whole House, Peter Bevan-Baker spoke. And spoke. The video is here, and it is an hour that really could be "A History of Democracy, Good and Bad" on P.E.I., with emphasis on the last few year. A heartfelt, careful essay. Well worth making time for. Video here, about a half-hour in:
And that was where debate on that Bill paused yesterday.
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."
-- Alice Walker, author
May 22, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM. The Watch Live link, and links to committees and to the text of Bills and Motions are found on the Legislative Assembly website.
The Legislature might realize that June is coming and plan how to wrap things up, but there are still issues they have brought forward to address, like the Electoral System Referendum Act, Bill No. 38. to wrap things up, which may come up this afternoon or tomorrow afternoon (the evening's time should be non-government business from the Oppositions and Private Member Bills, but the citizen just has to guess at the "strategy" behind the timing of business.
Some events going on tomorrow:
Wednesday, May 23rd:
Circle Around the Centre Luncheon: Province House Conservation, 12noon, Confed Centre, $25 for the talk and lunch. "We will highlight the work accomplished to date, some of the interesting findings, the approaches planned for Phase 2 of the project, and interactive ways that visitors can learn about Province House and the story of Confederation while the building is closed....Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 902 566-1267 (toll-free 1-800-565-0278) or online through the box office." The background on these Luncheons is "Catherine Hennessey is (the) driving force behind (this) Series. A portion of each ticket purchased will be donated to The Circle Around the Centre Fund of the Confederation Centre of the Arts Foundation. She created the fund with the purpose to commemorate and celebrate notable individuals and special occasions that have a significant importance or connection to the Centre and its rich history.
Pints and Politics with NDP Leader Joe Byrne, 7-9PM, Upstreet Craft Brewing, Talking "about politics, politicians, and platforms. Everyone Welcome."
Saturday, May 26th:
Herb Day, 10AM-4PM, Prince Edward Island Farm Centre, Free admission (donations accepted), workshops, seeds, transplants and berry canes and small trees for sale. Handmade pizza for sale for lunch.
10 - 11AM No dig, no till gardening with Phil Ferraro
11 - 12noon Making herbal salves with Point Prim Permaculture
12 - 1PM Tour of the Legacy Community Garden
1 - 2PM How to make kombucha with Heart Beet Organics
2 - 3PM Cooking with herbs with Chef Robert Pendergast
3 - 4PM Hops and brewing beer with Rod Weatherbie (at Upstreet)
The International Herb of the Year for 2018 is hops.
The Speaker is likely to rule this week on a Point of Order raised by Vernon River-Stratford MLA J. Alan McIsaac Thursday night, about a comment from Hannah Bell (MLA for Charlottetown-Parkdale) regarding the "dubious and self-serving decisions" made by the Standing Committee on Legislative Management. This was in reference to Question Period earlier Thursday.
Journalist Ian Petrie writes about the details of the difference in dairy farming the U.S. versus Canada, in the most recent Island Farmer publication:
A Tale of Two Cities - The Island Farmer article by Ian Petrie
Published on Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
The best of times, the worst of times, playing out right in front of us.
On PEI, it’s a good moment to be a dairy farmer.Yes they’re waiting for the final text of new trade deals that will hurt a bit, but ADL, the dairy owned by the province's 165 milk producers, is expanding to handle increased production, and it recently won awards for its cheese making excellence.
Compare that with dairy farmers just across the border in New England. They’ve been losing money for close to three years, and with the last milk cheque received something extra, a list of suicide and mental health hotlines. News reports quote Doug DiMento, a director of communications with Massachusetts’s dairy Agri-Mark, "We've had some recent instances and we did have one farmer commit suicide recently.”
The contrast between the two is shocking. The daily grind of milking cows, and falling further and further behind is taking its toll in the U.S. Farmers there are getting about 60% of their cost of production and the outlook for the next year shows no signs of recovery. Tina Carlin, executive director of Farm Women United and a Pennsylvania farmer herself, is quoted in another news story.
“We wouldn’t need the suicide hotline, we wouldn’t need the mental health services, if dairy farmers were getting paid what they deserve to be paid,” Carlin says.
And there’s the difference right there. In Canada, supply management limits production to demand and assures efficient farmers a reasonable profit. It’s a system that’s detested by the business media and free enterprise fanatics (hello Maxime Bernier), but is critical to farmers in the Maritimes.
Farmers are paid fairly, and just as important dairies here have a chance to find their place in the market. To its credit ADL has gone a step further. Jim Bradley, ADL’s CEO told Atlantic Business Magazine, “There is pressure to compete from a cost point of view and make things as inexpensive as you can. Sometimes you can cut corners or there are things you can use to improve yield or the curing time for cheese,” he says. “We don’t cut any corners or use any artificial enzymes or flavour enhancers. We’ve made a decision we’re not going to compromise quality. People are willing to pay a little more for a premium product.”
ADL’s Dairy Isle cheese won several awards last fall at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and the British Empire Cheese Show.
Two other things are going on in the U.S. dairy industry that highlight differences with Canada. Dairy farmers there are desperately lobbying for government support, a subsidy that assures a floor price closer to the cost of production. Dairy producers in Canada get no government support. And the makeup of the U.S. dairy industry is quickly changing. Smaller farms are disappearing, and fewer but much larger farms are taking their place, many milking 500 cows or more (25% of U.S. farms now produce 86% of the milk). In Canada the industry is mostly medium sized farms (70 cows on average).
You will hear the Canadian system vilified by U.S. politicians, especially Donald Trump (he calls it a “disgrace” and “another typical one-sided deal against the U.S.”). The rhetoric increased over the last year after Canadian farmers agreed to produce a protein powder used in the cheese industry (not by ADL) at the same low price as U.S. imports. This just added to the oversupply of milk in northern U.S. states, and put further pressure on prices.
Many American farmers however say something different. Lorraine Lewandrowski, a New York dairy farmer told a reporter that the low prices are forcing farmers to produce more and increasing the oversupply. She says she’d prefer a system like Canada’s, where production is limited to what the market will buy.
Yes Canadian consumers do pay more for dairy products than Americans, but it is based on a cost of production formula, not as Maxime Bernier characterizes it as a “cartel” and a “production racket”.
While making the Holstein cow the provincial animal needs more thought, as Islanders we should feel proud of the successes of the dairy industry. It employs a lot of people, allows farmers to properly maintain their land, gives farm families a middle class income and something of value to pass on to future generations. And the regulated marketing system that allows all of this prevents the spectre of suicide stalking so many farm communities just to our south. It’s a system worth protecting.
May 21, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Hope you are having a pleasant and restful Victoria Day.
Thursday afternoon, May 18th, was an emotional afternoon in the P.E.I. Legislature with former NHL star Theo Fluery as the guest of the Committee of the Whole House, lending his support to Steven Myers' Private Member's Bill No. 116, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act (No. 3), which would give some amounts of paid leave for a worker's absence due to domestic, sexual or intimate partner violence. My understanding is that the Liberals had their own bill in the works, so perhaps they would not have supported the Opposition bill. However, with Mr. Fleury there sharing his harrowing story of abuse and recovery, an amendment was proposed and the Bill was carried. (Mr. Fleury was also on the Island apparently for Friday night's Progressive Conservative Spring $500/plate fundraiser.)
The afternoon wrapped up with District 3 Montague-Kilmuir MLA Allen Roach, now Liberal backbencher, to continue presenting his Private Member's Bill to ban single use plastic bags, the Plastic Bag Reduction Act, Bill No. 114, with the reconvened Committee the Whole House. Again, while one wonders why the Liberal Party with a majority government and motivated Environment Ministers in eleven years did not reach any sort of initiative like this, credit is due to Al Roach for his sincere concern about this. It's his "Poppy Moment" of realizing what he can do as a grandparent (in a position of power) to leave the environment a bit better off for his grandchildren. He knows it's a small step, but sincerely wants to reduce the "garbage" (he rolls the word out with appalled inflection) these bags cause. He knows there are concerns from the retailers' association (and admits he did not consult with them prior to this), but also knows they stand to profit from the ease of giving away plastic bags with customer purchases, and remains supportive of his bill. The afternoon ended with the bill making progress and asking the Speaker to sit again about it. Thursday afternoon's video of proceedings.
Sierra Club Canada is launching a campaign to combat plastic pollution, too.
The campaign page discusses the effects of pollution, and has three steps listed:
(Reduce Use, Inspire Others, Demand Action) and asks for people to sign-up:
We need to pull together to:
Reduce personal use of plastics
Change the marketplace and encourage manufactures to find alternatives to plastic packaging
Share best practices across communities
Create a nation-wide campaign that demands alternatives that are recyclable and sustainable
And notes the campaign will inform you about opportunities to participate in your community, provide a "Tool kit and resources for communicating with local governments and manufacturers."
from the Sierra Club Canada campaign, link above
May 20, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A few of the several articulate voices of concern about the Electoral Voting Systems Referendum legislation proposed (Bill No. 38)
From Brenda Oslawsky, who has been working to explain proportional representation tenaciously for several years on the Island:
OPINION: High price of free speech - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Brenda Oslawsky
published on Thursday, May 17th, 2018, in The Guardian
Unprecedented fines far higher than anything applied under Election Expenses Act
When the provincial Liberal government introduced its Electoral System Referendum Act last Thursday, the price of free speech reached a new high.
On the face of it, the $75,000 in funds available to both the proponent and opponent sides seems generous, but the trade-off is a muzzle on freedom of expression.
In the 2016 plebiscite, Elections P.E.I. spent hundreds of thousands on their public education campaign, even though they sent the brochure out only once, instead of twice as we had been told they were planning. That scrapped mailing in July or August meant that when the coalition started going door-to-door in September, a lot of voters were unaware of the plebiscite.
In October, after the one and only mailing had been sent out, it was apparent to volunteers that awareness of the vote had increased significantly — but many were still unaware of the vote, or what it was about. In addition to the government’s modest efforts, the coalition raised $75,000 in funds and in-kind donations for its own educational campaign
It appears that neither Elections P.E.I. nor the government plans any educational campaign. So that begs the question, if it took hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince 37,000 to vote in 2016, how can the government honestly expect that markedly less money will inform substantially more Islanders about the choice they are being asked to make this time? No groups who are advocating for one position or the other will have sufficient funds to print and mail anything to all residences on the island.
And should a community group with some initiative think about raising additional funds to make up for the government shortfall — not an option. The fines for transgressing this legislation even slightly are steep. As laid out in Section 26 of the bill, which includes a personal liability clause, should a person or organization spend even a penny over the $500 limit, the individual responsible will be fined $10,000. And should the Referendum Commissioner feel that any member of an organization knew of the transgression, they will be fined the same amount as well. That should dry up volunteer recruitment quite nicely.
These fines are unprecedented in Island history and far higher and more draconian than anything applied to candidates and parties under the Election Expenses Act. One can only conclude that the onerous fines outlined in this Act here and now are designed to produce a serious chill effect — and for what? To intimidate those trying to educate voters about proportional representation — which provides better oversight, transparency and accountability and is used by most democracies around the world?
We should be ensuring that as broad and thorough a discussion as possible happens. Instead, it seems that the government is trying to do the opposite. Ultimately, this Act might not be so much about levelling the playing field as plowing it under.
- Brenda Oslawsky is a member of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation and is vice-president of Fair Vote Canada.
Freelance journalist, veteran political watcher, and independent commentator on many matters, Alan Holman, from Saturday, May 20th, 2018:
ALAN HOLMAN: Riddled with unfairness - The Guardian column by Alan Holman
People who don’t vote credited with no vote simply by not marking their ballot
It’s a question of fairness.
While the MacLauchlan government deserves some credit for changing the Island’s election financing rules, it falls short on the rules for the up-coming referendum.
The changes to the Election Financing Act will prohibit corporations and unions from giving money to political parties or candidates. However, individual Islanders can give up to $3,000 a year to the political party, or candidate of their choice.
This will be a major change for political fund raisers in the province.
In 2016, the Liberal Party publicly raised $321,000, but, only about a third of it came from individuals, the rest came from business interests. The Tories raised $150,000, and again, about a third of that money was from individuals.
In 2016, the NDP raised just under $15,000, and of that money only a third, $5,000 came from unions, and the Green Party raised $9,500, all from individuals. (**CO note that these numbers many not be accurate but being double-checked**)
In 2015, the Liberals spent just shy of $920,000 to elect 18 MLAs, the Tories spent almost $560,000 and elected eight, the Greens spent just over $26,000 and elected one, while the NDP spent close to $68,000 and didn’t elect anyone.
But for the anomaly of the Greens, looking at those numbers it would seem that money plays a part in running a successful province-wide campaign.
Which brings us to the Electoral System Referendum Act which could change the Island’s voting system to one of proportional representation.
Among both traditional parties there are supporters who favour changing the system. However, most of the Liberal and Conservative hierarchy want the system to stay just the way it is. It’s worked well for them.
And, when there were only two parties, the system did work. But, not now with four contending parties, it doesn’t work democratically. As was recently written in Toronto’s Globe, ‘today we get majority governments elected by a minority of citizens.’ Which was what happened on the Island in the last election; the Liberals won 66 per cent of the seats with only 40 per cent of the popular vote. This is perceived by many as unfair.
There are aspects of the Referendum Act that are also unfair.
Start with the money. It took the Liberals nearly $1,000,000 and the Tories half that amount to run their province-wide campaigns in the last election. Yet, the Liberals have decreed that the province-wide referendum campaigns must be conducted for $75,000, less than 10 per cent of what they spent on their last campaign. The bill also prohibits anyone from raising or using any money other than $75,000 the government will provide.
In 2016 the government wouldn’t recognize the results of the plebiscite, claiming there wasn’t a sufficient turnout. But, turnout wasn’t an issue until after the ballots were counted. This gave an anti-change vote to people who didn’t even cast a ballot.
A similar rule is being used in the up-coming referendum. For proportional representation to be successful it has to get votes from over 50 per cent of the registered voters, not just over 50 per cent of the ballots cast. Once again, people who don’t vote will be credited with a no vote simply by not marking the ballot.
Using this criteria in the 2015 election, the Liberals would have needed 50,000 votes to form the government. They only got 33,478. Two-thirds of eligible Island voters didn’t want Wade MacLauchlan to be premier.
What’s sauce for the goose, should be sauce for the gander.
- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Question Periods both Thursday and Friday, MLA for District 11:Charlottetown-Parkdale MLA Hannah Bell questioned the Premier on the appointment of the Referendum Commissioner (Thursday, May 17, 2018 Link here, starting on page 637), and the timeline for the next election (Friday, May 18, 2018 Link here, starting on page 652). Habitual supercilious mode aside, the Premier admitted the bill was likely to be amended before passage (as if he noticed that we noticed the multiple flaws in the bill).
A final word for today:
LETTER: Referendum Act needs amendments - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
When Jordan Brown, MLA for Charlottetown-Brighton, tabled Bill 38 (The Electoral System Referendum Act), I felt frustrated and angry — both as a supporter for proportional representation and more generally as a resident of P.E.I. A recent guest opinion piece “Democracy red alert” raised my awareness and understanding of the bill and how we can move forward.
I live in District 12 and my MLA is Richard Brown. I would like for Mr. Brown to bring forth amendments to the bill and to address the issues such as the limits and bans on spending, the threshold for change, and lack of expense allowance for education to help inform islanders about proportional representation.
If you are reading this — regardless of whether you support proportional representation or not—please ask your MLA to review Bill 38 and ask them to propose amendments before the bill comes into force.
Brittany Jakubiec, Charlottetown
List of Members of the Legislative Assembly and their contact information:
May 19, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets are open from 9AM-2PM in Charlottetown and 9M-1PM in Summerside. Charlottetown is continuing their "Adopt a Pothole" project, where you can donate at various vendors' booths and they will eventually get to name a pothole with funds raised.
"Care Fair" sponsored by Gifts from the Heart, 9AM-3PM, Farm Centre. Food, household items, toys and personal items open to all Islanders who are low income. Donations of food and money still being accepted there today.
Outdoor events this morning in various parts of the Province:
Summerside Boardwalk Birder's Stroll, 8:30-9:30AM, meeting in the parking area near the western end of MacKenzie Drive, "Search out the diversity of spring migrants and resident birds."
Fund Raiser Walk/Run -- Breaking the Silence Network, 10AM-1PM, Cardigan, Confederation Trail, beginning at Cardigan Farmers' Market Building and finishing at the Maroon Pig Bakery, where lunch will be served. "The walk is in support of the BTS Network's ongoing fundraising efforts. The Guatemala – Maritimes Breaking the Silence Network is a voluntary network of people in the Maritimes who began to organize in 1988 to support the efforts of Guatemalans struggling for political, social, and economic justice. As a community of people who share this commitment to solidarity, we undertake advocacy and lobbying; organize delegations; send interns, volunteers, and human rights accompaniers; promote fairly-traded coffee; and raise awareness within our own communities through speaking tours by Guatemalan leaders and other political campaigns."
Pruning Trees and Shrubs Workshop, 10AM-11:30AM, Macphail Woods,
Participants will practice pruning on a variety of plants in the nursery, arboretum and woodlands. Please bring along any of your favourite pruning tools. Workshop will include a slide show and demonstration of proper pruning methods and a discussion of recommended books and tools.
Macphail Woods Nursery is also open today and from Thursday to Saturday for the next two weeks.
Stratford Green Tea, 3-5PM, Now n Zen Coffee House, Glen Stewart Drive. Meet and Greet with some Green Party people and others to discuss issues.
Earlier this week, Robert Irving, president of Cavendish Farms, spoke at the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce's AGM (CBC Story), advocating for lifting the moratorium on high-capacity wells for agriculture. While he did not bang on the table as he did to MLAs at a Standing Committee meeting a few years back, he did outline his vision, which he referred to as "your vision".
The Guardian wrote their lead editorial on this, on Wednesday, May 15th, 2018:
EDITORIAL: A simmering hot potato - The Guardian Editorial
Government awaits results of scientific study measuring effects of deep-water wells on province’s water table and recharge rates.
The opening salvo in the 2018 debate on high capacity wells on Prince Edward Island was fired Monday by Cavendish Farms president Robert K. Irving — coming on the eve of a new potato planting season.
The controversial issue of an agricultural moratorium on deep-water wells was on hiatus since legislators debated the new Water Act, passed last December with a final amendment to ban fracking. The act outlines how P.E.I.’s groundwater supply should be monitored, regulated and protected – but was oddly silent on those wells.
Mr. Irving said the only thing which saved P.E.I.’s 2017 potato crop from being decimated by dry weather was one, timely, heavy rainfall. His comments are a warning that Cavendish Farms seeks guaranteed quality and quantity from its contract growers — a result enhanced by lifting the moratorium. Mr. Irving noted the light P.E.I. crop last year couldn't meet the company’s processing needs and it had to import a lot of spuds.
Supplemental irrigation is supported by the P.E.I. Potato Board, whose request to lift the 2002 moratorium resulted in an intense, province-wide debate the past three years, culminating with a white paper and finally passage of the landmark Water Act.
Water is especially important to Islanders because we’re so vulnerable. Groundwater is our only source and there is concern that additional high capacity wells will deplete our water table, the aquifer could collapse and sea water will rush in.
Deep-water wells shouldn’t be solely a potato issue. Of the 288 wells today, which the province classifies as high capacity, agricultural irrigation accounts for 36. The biggest users are cities and towns with 87 wells while aquaculture uses 62 — but many of those are salt water. Other users include industrial/commercial, fire departments and golf courses. And don't forget the 20,000 low-capacity wells in residential use.
While opponents are quick to protest wells drilled for potatoes or aquaculture, they were silent when a new wellfield — bristling with deep-water wells — was drilled to provide additional sources for Charlottetown’s growing water needs.
It’s a case of discrimination based on population.
The P.E.I. potato industry, estimated to generate almost $1 billion in annual economic activity, is too important to leave to chance. The well-being of the Island’s economy often hangs in the balance during a hot, dry summer — great for tourism but lethal for crops.
It's interesting that critically-important regulations for the Water Act haven’t been disclosed. Government promised that high-capacity wells would be addressed in those regulations but don’t count on them being debated anytime soon with a provincial election approaching.
Regulations are in the hand of science — where they really should be — as government awaits the results of a scientific study that will measure the effects of deep-water wells on the province’s water table and recharge rates.
Mr. Irving says that to meet the challenge of dry weather conditions, industry leaders and the government need to come together and find a sustainable solution.
Are there other options to wells? Now is the time to voice them.
It's hard for The Guardian to hear some of the voices, but they are out there. Many have spoken with concerns about Charlottetown's wellfields, and Charlottetown (while having huge water needs) works on water conservation initiatives. There are the ways some are getting around high capacity wells by drilling wells on adjacent plots and filling up holding ponds full of fresh groundwater to use on fields. A lot of people have spoken about tying any sort of water to stringent soil improvement. And government (and the paper) cross their fingers and wait for "the science" to tell them it is OK to do dig wells. That puts a lot of pressure on the researcher(s); they would be the first to realize and admit that one little study about such an elusive topic as water quantity is not going to unequivocally say there's plenty of water.
Clear voices on Vision PEI and other places have also mentioned that the option to wells is a better business model, saying that the current one, based on such intense use of a public resources as water, is unsustainable, especially when what the science already proves is that climate change is affecting Prince Edward Island and we are likely to have warmer, drier growing seasons with more frequent, intense rainstorms. That affects water needs, and that affects other related issues such as pesticide run-off.
Some investigative reporting on the Irvings and New Brunswick by National Observer journalist Bruce Livesey speaking at St. Thomas University last Fall (and reported by Alexandre Silberman in the Aquinian on September 25, 2017) is here:
And journalist Jeremy Lawrence Caradonna writes about conventional agriculture moving toward organic practices not by philosophical intention but by economic incentive. A couple of P.E.I. farms are mentioned in this cross-Canada focus. Excerpt from:
<snip> Farmers have made it clear that organic techniques work well, organic inputs are generally cheaper than conventional ones, and organic practices have a beneficial impact on the agroecosystem.
Yet until a conventional farmer begins the transition to certified organic growing, he or she often knows or cares little about organic practices. Right now, the best way for a farmer to learn about organic growing is by reading handbooks, attending conferences and taking courses.
It might be the case that Big Organics has begun to look like conventional farming. But it appears to be the case that, at least on some Canadian farms, Big Conventional is starting to look like organic. -- Jeremy Lawrence Caradonna
May 18, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 10AM-1PM today. With the holiday weekend approaching, there may be more joviality today during Welcomes, and shuffling of papers before the hours is called. However, the last part on Fridays have often had sometime to do with the electoral reform discussion. Many citizens would appreciate seeing the plans for the day published before the session begins, as we assume the Government House Leader has a plan.
Watch live here:
Today is the last day for the public to fill out the provincial Poverty Reduction survey:
from the page:
"Poverty is a community challenge – responding to poverty is a community responsibility. Individuals, families, communities, non-governmental organizations, academia, service and faith organizations and all levels of government must work together to support those in need."
That kind of pretty language seems like a deft way of side-stepping the causes -- which government could work to do something about -- and taking the lead on support.
Another way to show your concern about the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, and now with government money offered to compensate the Texas-based company:
And back to PNP: From yesterday's Guardian, by commentator Wayne Carver:
OPINION: PNP problems abound since outset - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Wayne Carver
People concerned with mismanagement under pretence of growing our economy
Thank you, Canada Border Services Agency for doing what our provincial law enforcement officials couldn’t. Islanders have known the PNP was mismanaged for years. The secrecy of the existence of the program at the outset and politically linked disbursement of PNP funds could not be justified.
Unfortunately, our provincial executive refused to deal with the issue. Why? Well that is another matter. Regardless, Islanders could never get any satisfaction when concerns were expressed about the program.
The latest revelation about 566 fraudulent claims associated with two Island addresses comes as no surprise. Why our provincial immigration officials did not pick up on this is concerning and why the federal police force was not able to find this information is confusing. It seems it took only a records check. Because of an expensive watch found upon inspection at immigration point of entry in Halifax, an alert, intuitive investigator, concerned about a customs violation, discovered a big immigration fraud case right here on P.E.I. Why could local authorities not have done that?
Many people were and are concerned with the mismanagement committed under the pretence of growing our economy. Requests of the federal police force to investigate the program were met with weak responses claiming there was not enough evidence to proceed with any criminal charges. Citizens were and are skeptical at best, believing the political climate prevented any meaningful investigation.
Unfortunately, incidents such as this do not enhance the image of our law enforcement and oversight agencies.
Why, you might ask, did it take CBSA in Halifax to uncover this little scheme. Well to begin with, it is a different legal jurisdiction and the CBSA did not have to apprise the government or attorney general of P.E.I. of their investigation. What this revelation means in essence, is that our provincial government was and is prepared to accept irregularities in the immigration process because it enabled government to collect $18 million in fraudulent immigration claims. Did our officials know about this; it is hard to think otherwise?
Money such as this may have attributed to IIDI’s corporate fund of $355 million which our government uses to support economic initiatives. What happens with funds of this nature is unclear because IIDI is considered to be a corporate entity and not accountable to the taxpayer.
Political manipulation of government programs by the few is a discredit to the political process. It undermines the basic tenets of good government and due process.
The opposition parties should be working together and requesting that the lieutenant governor dissolve the assembly because the people have lost confidence in the ruling Liberal government.
The first order of any new government should be to table a motion to make the attorney general of the province an elected member of the legislative assembly, similar to the auditor general. Maybe then the citizens of P.E.I. will have a government that is more open and transparent; a government that is accountable and subject to the same rules and regulations as the average citizen.
- Wayne Carver of Long Creek is a member of Vision P.E.I.; supports electoral reform; and comments frequently on social issues
News that The Guardian and Journal-Pioneer will officially be printed in Halifax and shipped to the Island (in low-side vehicles at times the Confederation Bridge is restricted) has come out. And leaves one a bit wistful.
from yesterday's blog by Peter Rukavina, where he also suggested that a "emergency wagon train of specially equpped El Caminos" (the original hybrid car-pickup truck!) could be used during those bridge restrictions:
The installation <of a state-of-the-art press in 1929>, the paper reported, “marks a period in the printing annals of Prince Edward Island.”
As, alas, does this latest move to expatriate the printing offshore. It's sad to see the efficiencies of the Fixed Link claim another victim.
May 17, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature resumes sitting today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.
You can watch it here
and documents are found on the Legislative Assembly website, also.
This afternoon, the Opposition sets the order of the proceedings.
Yesterday, as you have likely heard, MLA for District 14:Charlottetown-Lewis Point Kathleen Casey announced she will finish her current term but will not reoffer for the Liberal Party for her District. She has been a loyal and staunch Party representative, and she has also been a clear and positive voice for her constituents and for issues of importance that may not have been popular. She was an excellent Speaker, welcoming and efficient, and as a backbencher, she always paid attention to proceedings and seldom bothers to heckle.
Regarding provincial referendum legislation on Electoral Reform, Third Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker repeated questions unanswered from late last week, in Tuesday, May 15th's Question Period.
The following eight minute video clip is worth watching, just to get the smugness emanated from Premier Wade MacLauchlan and Attorney General Jordan Brown, the certainly that a majority government can pass a piece of legislation that ties any electoral reform effort in tiny, expensive knots:
Two points stuck out: When asked why there was no real public consultation on the referendum, the Premier said that basically, there would be consultation on the floor of the legislature, which just proves again that the definition of consultation is completely skewed in this government.
"We think it (Bill 38, the Referendum Legislation) speaks for itself", said Jordan Brown, Attorney General.
Another letter (bold is mine) spelling out an aspect of the referendum legislation, from Wednesday's Guardian:
OPINION: Democracy red alert - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Anna Keenan
Who will have the courage to introduce and vote for the required amendments?
Islanders, if you enjoy living in a democracy, this is a red alert. The Electoral System Referendum Act, tabled as Bill 38 last Thursday, is an abominable infringement on your rights as a citizen.
The bill was tabled by Jordan Brown: a lawyer, MLA for Charlottetown-Brighton, Minister of Justice, and P.E.I.’s Attorney General.
P.E.I.’s Attorney General is supposed to be our guardian of the public interest. So, he should be aware that in the 2009, B.C.’s supreme court struck down a very similar law to the one he just tabled. The ruling in BC Teachers’ Federation vs BC (2009) - upheld in 2011 after an appeal - said that the law was an unjustified restriction on freedom of expression, protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This moment is a test for our MLAs, whether Liberal, PC, Green or independent. They pass if they vote to amend the legislation to a standard that meets basic democratic principles. They fail if they stay silent.
The following is just a taste of what must be amended if Island democracy is to stand strong. If these don’t seem outrageous to you, imagine if this was a referendum on an issue closer to your heart. Mental healthcare? Religious freedom? Reforming the PNP? Agriculture policy? Rural schools?
1st - Extreme limitations on freedom of speech. If you or your organization wish to spend any of your own money in supporting or opposing Mixed-Member Proportional Representation, directly or indirectly, you will need to track your expenses. Once costs exceed $500, any further spending is banned, or you will be subject to a $10,000 fine.
You would be banned from spending money to maintain a website, print flyers, rent a community hall or even provide tea and biscuits for an educational event. The ban would last until the referendum - which could be 2 months, or up to 23 months away - only the Premier knows.
2 - The threshold for change is rigged, and opens the door for vote suppression tactics. Under the proposed Act, if less than half of all general election voters participate in the referendum, then even if 100% of referendum voters say they want change, the result is still not considered ‘binding’.
3 - You have no idea what Mixed-Member Proportional Representation is? Too bad! The legislation makes no allowance for ‘education’ (sharing factual information about what the choice is about) - only for ‘advertising’ (intended to influence how citizens vote). The lack of clear provision for neutral, educational programming - by either government departments or grassroots groups - restricts your access to new information, and gives a distinct advantage to the status quo system that you already have experience of. The ‘advertising only’ approach opens the doors wide open to American-style ‘fake news’ propaganda campaigns.
There are a dozen additional concerns, which the Coalition for Proportional Representation will publish on our websites as soon as we can. As an all-volunteer organization, our ability to respond quickly and hold the government to account is limited.
The Liberal cabinet knows this; this legislation was suddenly dropped on the table in the final weeks of the legislative sitting. There is a scant 2 weeks for debate before the legislation is proposed to come into force. Despite promises of public consultation, there has been no attempt in the last 18 months, since the rejection of the plebiscite outcomes, to engage any members of the public in developing the bill.
Bill 38 is a blatant attempt by government to limit citizens’ rights to freedom of political expression. The architects of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would condemn it.
Are there any MLAs will put our democratic rights before their party loyalty? Who will have the courage to introduce and vote for the required amendments?
If you love democracy, whether you support Proportional Representation or not, do not allow the government to undermine our rights. Now is the time to rise up - contact your MLA and demand that they defend your citizen rights, by amending Bill 38.
- Anna Keenan lives in St. Ann. She is a member of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation Reference Group, who held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss their response to the legislation. She also sits on the national council of FairVote Canada.
On hearing yesterday's announcement that the federal Liberal government (with taxpayers' money) is willing to compensate Kinder Morgan against costs, author Naomi Klein from (The Leap) wrote yesterday:
"A Canadian travesty: We aren't just letting a Texas pipeline company trample Indigenous rights, threaten hundreds of waterways and cook the planet - we're paying them to do it. This from the government that promised to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and champion climate action."
There are several e-mail campaigns/petitions to add your voice to this:
From Stand for Earth (formerly Forestethics):
From the Council of Canadians (from a few days ago)
May 16, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM.
Island Mothers Helping Mothers founder and mental health services critic Sarah Stewart-Clark has announced she is seeking the nomination for the Progressive Conservative Party in (new) District 9: Charlottetown- Hillsborough Park.
Ellen Jones, who challenged the assessment of her land expropriated for the Cornwall Bypass -- and soon to watch her former home and barn demolished -- has announced she is seeking the nomination for the Green Party in District 16: Cornwall-Meadowbank. She is also planning on rebuilding, but reinventing, some sort of human-equine facility in the area (if she can find land) in the upcoming years.
One person who has firmly declared she is not interested in political office at this time is Janet Payne. She was invited by Steven Myers to speak on Private Member's Bill No. 106, An Act to Amend the Education Act, with an amendment based on a resolution passed at the PEI Home and School Federation convention last month, to re-institute elected school boards. Payne, who fought against the threat of closure of not only her community's school but also organized and supported those across the Island, was gracious, determined, and so-very-knowledgeable about the issues, in the face of beginning questions about her qualifications to be the "stranger" on this bill. She soon proved she knows what's going on. Education Minister Jordan Brown was most protective of the system put into place about 2-3 years ago of the District Advisory Councils and the whole "student-focused learning" structure, and discussed problems in school board elections and working in the past decade or two; but in the closing minutes of debate, the Premier himself considered that elected boards could fit into the current structure. More on this, to be sure.
Paul MacNeill reminds us that simply ending evening sessions, the only one of several recommendations for encouraging more women and others to run in provincial elections, is not the only way to go, in a recent editorial in The Graphic publications.
published on Wednesday, May 9th, 2018, in The Graphic publications
Liberal’s half-measure won’t attract more women to politics - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill
Ppublished on Wednesday, May 9th, 2018, in The Graphic publications
The Big Idea from MacLauchlan Liberals to attract more women into provincial politics is to drop two evening sessions of the provincial legislature. Yup. That’s it.
For almost a decade a report from the Coalition for Women in Government collected dust. Then out of the blue Liberals decide to cherry pick one of 17 recommendations hoping it will create a positive halo effect with Island voters.
Sorry, eliminating two evening sittings of the legislature is the recommendation apt to have the least positive impact, especially when taken in isolation. It is hard to imagine many women deciding to run for office based on this classic Liberal lip-service; do as little as possible to make it appear you are doing something.
For context let’s look at some of the other recommendations from the 2009 report that the MacLauchlan government is ignoring.
It recommended a change in the role of MLAs to remove their influence in hiring and acting as a government trouble shooter for constituents. In lieu it recommends creation of a provincial ombudsman, an office Premier MacLauchlan has steadfastly objected to.
The recommendation is one of several made to improve work-life balance so MLAs can reduce the number of events they attend that have little to do with governing and everything to do with reelection – wakes, funerals, chicken dinners for one organization or another. Events MLAs have come to believe are actually part of their job.
It recommended political parties establish firm goals on a minimum number of female candidates.
It recommended proportional representation as a proven means of bringing equality and diversity to legislative bodies around the world.
It recommended important supports such as daycare for MLAs and employees of the legislature.
On every single recommendation both the PC and Liberal parties have failed. When push comes to shove it is as it always has been – party first. Winning is everything. Window dressing over substance.
Sadly the Liberal’s half-measure is a scenario we’ve seen played out with issues like electoral reform, youth engagement and government accountability and transparency.
It will only stop if our political leaders start leading. Transformation rarely occurs by accident and is almost always stifled by fear. And politicians are a timid lot.
In title Paula Biggar is Minister Responsible for the Status of Women. Her record is mediocre. She puts Team Liberal above policies that will actually advance the role of women in politics, as evidenced by her fear mongering over the impact a mixed member proportional system could have on rural PEI. Her support for first past the post is unwavering, despite it being a proven impediment to women successfully entering politics. Not to mention being largely responsible for the decline of rural influence.
When questioned in the legislature she is mute about why government refuses to move on other, more substantive recommendations, from the coalition report. Her silence is easily explainable. Liberals don’t want real change.
It is fair to ask what eliminating evening sessions at a provincial legislature that historically sits for among the fewest days of any in the country will achieve. The answer, at least from the perspective of making politics more attractive to women, is not much.
It does, however, have a potentially negative impact. Government has gradually made it more difficult for Islanders to participate. Meetings are too often scheduled during government hours, a benefit to public servants but not the general public. Eliminating two evening sessions may not seem much, until considered in the context of the ability of ordinary Islanders to watch in person proceedings of Our Government doing business in the Peoples’ House.
If Wade MacLauchlan and Paula Biggar want to be taken seriously they need to offer serious solutions. Dropping legislative evening sessions as a complete fix is not a serious suggestion. It will not solve the issue. It will not lead to the election of a more diverse house. It is not transformative.
Transformation will only occur when Liberals and Tories put the needs of Islanders ahead of the needs of party.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Districts with similar but different names:
Confused about which District is which for the next provincial election? Whether the date is fixed, or not, Elections PEI has rejiggered the boundaries to reflect some shifts in population. They are mostly similar but different, with 27 single-seat Districts in a First-Past-the-Post system.
The Current and New Districts are listed on this page of Elections PEI:
and...maps of District are available for $10 each! (These would have made lovely Mother's Day gifts for some.) See sidebar on left of page on the Elections PEI site.
Current District 18 (Rustico-Emerald) Brad Trivers, with his fellow computer wizard friends, made an overlay of the current and new District maps, at his website, here:
May 15, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
This morning: CBC Radio has former Guardian political reporter Teresa Wright on the Ottawa Report after the 7:30AM News, and her husband (regular CBC political reporter) Kerry Campbell talking about the PNP revelations from last week right after that. A bit of a P.E.I. kind of story, where the reporting is the story. ;-) The new Guardian political reporter, Stuart Neatby, will be officially starting in less that two weeks, May 28th.
The P.E.I. Legislature resumes sitting today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.
Lots for them to get through before they end the sitting -- the rest of the budget estimates, the private members' bills (like the Plastic Bag Reduction Act), figure out about the An Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act (dealing with workers and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), many Motions to continue discussing possibly, or not, and -- of course, the restrictive referendum legislation, which badly needs amendments.
The link to watch the proceedings, and to all other reference pages of Motions and Bills, is here:
Wednesday, May 16th:
Fundraising Breakfast with Jamie Larkin (Charlottetown mayoral candidate), 7AM, Robin's Donuts on Capital Drive. **Limited number of tickets** contact <firstname.lastname@example.org> or see Facebook event details
Technology developer, writer and commentator Peter Rukavina picked up my view (in yesterday's Citizens' Alliance News) on the Office of the Third Party's "Health in all Policies" proposal and connected it to this government's usual reception of new ideas in a blog posting yesterday:
How heartachingly difficult it must be for Mr. Bevan-Baker and Ms. Bell to present such a well-considered, sensible motion, based on government’s own research, only to have the government response pay it no heed whatsoever, and, indeed, to belittle it with neo-liberal talking points.
Members on the government side need not agree with the ideas and motions that other parties bring forward, but to swat them away so dismissively as a distraction from the business at hand not only insults their fellow MLAs, but dishonours the spirit of collegial debate that should be the backbone of how our legislature operates.
Unfortunately this is not an isolated case: the government reaction to the Well-being Measurement Act when it was introduced in 2015 was similarly tinged.
I expect more from my government than this.
--Peter Rukavina, May 14th, 2018
Marie Burge, on behalf of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation, writes the first response to the MacLauchlan government's referendum legislation (Bill No. 38, Electoral Systems Referendum Act) in yesterday's Guardian: http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/opinion/letter-to-the-editor/opinion-another-bit-of-trickery-209991/
OPINION: Another bit of trickery? - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Marie Burge
A case of David (coalition) against Goliath (government) but with ban on slingshots
Published on Monday, May 14th, 2018 in The Guardian
The new Electoral System Referendum Act’s stated purpose is to establish a level playing field in the upcoming referendum for the yes and no sides of the question about P.E.I. adopting the Mixed Member Proportional System (MMP). At present, leading the Yes side is the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation (PR) and its followers; leading the No side is the Government of Prince Edward Island.
Problem # 1 - The advantage: From the start, the field is already set up giving advantage to the government which is presenting this legislation. When you begin with one side having a head start on the other, you can’t pretend to create equality by treating them the same. For those who know the ancient story about David and Goliath: In today’s reality David, is the Yes side. We are a coalition of community-based organizations and individuals, depending mainly on the generosity of volunteering citizens. Our goal is to inform Islanders about the advantages of MMP. On the other hand, Goliath has an up-and-ready, well-funded big red machine with tentacles in every district and poll in P.E.I. Plus, our Goliath has a communications squad to the tune of close to $1 million a year.
Problem # 2 - The Question: The Act defines the referendum question as “Should Prince Edward Island change its voting system to a mixed member proportional system?” Good clear question; however, a motion in the legislature proposed that the voters’ choice would be No or Yes. The arrangement of these two little words is not accidental. People with years of experience in political manoeuvres, communications, and linguistics tell us that when the ordering of the yes/no answer is reversed to no/yes, it is to ensure a no answer. (Though there could have been a simple choice on the referendum ballot with voters choosing either MMP or the current system, First-Past-the-Post.)
Problem #3 - The threshold: It is understandable that the usual high percentage of voters will vote for their MLA, but it’s likely that some will not bother with the referendum question. The requirement of 50 per cent plus one, for an MMP win sounds reasonable, until you see in the Act that this does not mean 50 per cent of those who voted in the referendum. Instead MMP would have to win by 50 per cent of those who voted for their district representative. We see this as a cheap ploy.
Problem # 4 - Education: Islanders want to know more about MMP. Really? Who is going to do that? It will hardly be the government, the major players on the No side. With the hundreds of thousands in public money invested in the 2016 plebiscite, the education on electoral renewal was a total failure. This admission was made by the premier when he announced that his government would ignore the voters’ majority choice of MMP because the voter turnout was too low to be honoured. The reason given for the low voter turnout was that people didn’t understand the options. The only real education on proportional representation was done by our PR Coalition, with a modest budget. In the upcoming referendum, the Act allows $75,000 for each side (divided of course among the number of authorized groups).
Problem # 5 - Control: The Act makes it clear that control is the name of this game, with a lot of discretion given to the Referendum Commissioner to be appointed by the legislature, and to take office on June 1, 2018. The commissioner will be responsible for referendum education, who can be authorized as referendum advertisers (meaning yes groups and no groups), the amount of public money allotted to each group, and the overseeing of the groups and their spending, ensuring that the groups do not solicit or receive any donations over and above the public money allotted. There seems to be no provision for transparency in any of this.
Back to David and Goliath: from the point of view of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation, “we have a case of David against Goliath but with a ban on slingshots,” (original quote from Chris Ortenburger).
- Marie Burge, on behalf of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation.
May 14, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A few events and deadlines:
Until Friday, May 18th:
Poverty Reduction Advisory Council Survey, Page with Link to survey <https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/give-input-poverty-reduction-pei#utm> Saturday, May 19th: "Pruning Trees and Shrubs," Macphail Woods workshop, 10AM, free. More details <https://www.facebook.com/events/423243141422171/>. ------------------------------- From author and historian David Weale's personal Facebook page, Sunday, May 13th, 2018 The View from this Branch
The Island of Turned Heads - Facebook post by David Weale
We are not surprised, and certainly the three shamed whistle-blowers who spoke out about the gross irregularities within the PNP process, are not surprised.
The only way it was possible to avoid seeing the PNP corruption was if you didn’t wish to see it, and turned your head.
The entire PNP program, created to sell Canadian citizenship to wealthy foreigners, was depraved both in its premise, and its practice.
The fraud that ensued was inevitable. What was shocking and so deeply discouraging was the willingness of so many Islanders to participate so gleefully in the criminality, including two premiers, their cabinets and the majority of their followers.
That collusion by so many in a process so patently corrupt is the real story here, not the activities of a couple of motel owners who were just working a system that had been embraced by the Island so uncritically because of the money flowing into the province.
The entire Island community was tested and found wanting; the integrity and long-term well-being of the Island sacrificed on the altar of short-term gain
Voices of warning were disregarded, even maligned, as the feeding frenzy continued, but henceforth it is going to be more difficult to pretend that all is well in the little kingdom of PNP. More difficult to turn the head and avert the eyes.
--David Weale/ -------------------------------- The Green Party (caucus of two) has been speaking some truths, shown in the last two weeks in two Motions: Late last week with Motion 57 on "Urging an audit of the Provincial Nominee Program" - -text here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/onemotion.php?number=57&session=3&assembly=65 On May 1st, a most eloquent proposal to really focus on the health of people and society -- Motion 40, "Encouraging government to adopt a 'Health in all Policies' approach to governance." <http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/onemotion.php?number=40&session=3&assembly=65> Peter Bevan-Baker amd Hannah Bell both speak to this, and then government MLA and Economic Development Minister Chris Palmer was tasked to speak to it until the hour was called. He's been asked to do some pieces of work -- move the government's "MMP: No or Yes" motion, speak constantly about taking the federal government's investigation in the PNP resident scandal "seriously", and that Tuesday night, making some of the more inane stream-of-consciousness comments about the Third Party Motion. Sixteen minutes of Bevan-Baker, Bell, and then Palmer (with bonus snarky comments from Transportation Minister Paula Biggar) at the end: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylwLQMN2A2o or just read it, starting around page 2226, for about three pages of text. Hansard transcript from Tuesday, May 1st, 2018: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/sittings/2018spring/hansard/2018-05-01-hansard.pdf ------------------------ "Walk through the mud in life, if you ever want to get to the higher ground."
May 13, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Happy Mother's Day to all.
And here is the two minute reality-check "Mother Nature" film from Conservation International :-)
Some very good opinion pieces from earlier this week:
published on Saturday, May 12th, 2018, in The Guardian
LETTER: Why B.C. pipeline shouldn’t be built - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
If your main source of info on this Kinder Morgan pipeline is what you hear in the mainstream media and what Premier Notley and the PM are saying, you might consider it a worthy project. But do a little digging and you’ll see all the rhetoric doesn’t hold up. Jobs - around 2,500 for two or three years and very few after that. Unifor, the largest union in the oil sands is against it. It won’t bring jobs to Alberta.
The argument about getting higher prices for oil if it’s shipped overseas doesn’t hold up. Pipelines will take Alberta oil through the USA and send it overseas in tankers much larger than what would be used in BC. And as far as National Interest goes, if people are up in arms about possibly paying higher prices for gas with carbon pricing, do you expect prices will come down if Alberta gets more money by shipping oil offshore?
The majority of Indigenous groups in BC are against the pipeline going through their lands - and their rights have been ignored by trying to rush the project. What’s money to them if their water gets contaminated?
Pipelines leak and break, tankers have accidents with disastrous results. Governments should be doing everything possible to address the huge consequences of climate change instead of working against it using Canadians’ money. Many countries are making great strides in developing renewable energy - why aren’t we?
Jeanne Maki, Charlottetown
and about that one provision in the North American Free Trade Agreement that is sounds like the worst deal for everyone, including the environment, but not for big foreign corporations. I would rewrite the headline to "It's REALLY time to get rid of Chapter 11"... from a few days ago, when I saw some TV coverage of the federal trade minister saying "We have to get this right...."
OPINION: It’s time to get rid of Chapter 11 - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Ann Wheatley and Leo Cheverie
Canadian taxpayers poised to pay an American company whopping $570,000,000
Thanks to NAFTA’s Chapter 11, which gives investors the right to sue governments if they believe a public policy or regulation is interfering with their profit-making, Canadian taxpayers are poised to pay an American company a whopping $570,000,000.
That’s because last week, Canada lost its appeal to the Federal Court to overturn a decision by a NAFTA tribunal that the Delaware-based company, Bilcon, was treated unfairly when its application for the expansion of a quarry and marine terminal in Digby Neck was rejected by a joint Nova Scotia – Canada environmental assessment panel in 2007.
$570 million is what Bilcon estimates it would have made in profits in the years since it was denied the right to proceed with the quarry. It’s a theoretical amount; it doesn’t represent the company’s actual losses. But $570 million could - in theory of course - help pay for any number of programs that would improve the lives of real people; families who struggle to find affordable childcare or pay for prescription medications, for example.
And this isn’t the first time we’ll have had to pay out the big bucks. Canada is the most sued country under the ISDS provisions in NAFTA. We’ve paid out millions of dollars since the agreement was first signed 25 years ago. All that money has gone to international corporations that successfully argued against policies that were put in place to protect the people of Canada and our environment. It is ironic that in the current negotiations the United States – the country that has lost no cases - is asking for Chapter 11 to be made optional, while Canada continues to defend it.
It is outrageous that when it disagreed with the outcome of the environmental assessment, Bilcon was able to bypass the Canadian court system and have its case heard by a NAFTA tribunal. It is the first time an environmental assessment has been challenged in this way, and it sets a dangerous precedent.
The environmental assessment, which was carried out in accordance with Canadian and Nova Scotia environmental law, found that the proposed quarry development would have significant adverse effects on the surrounding communities.
Bilcon argued, successfully, that “core community values” should not have been considered in the assessment. Despite the fact that community core values and the socio-economic impact of projects are legitimate considerations in environmental assessment processes. Essentially, Bilcon argued and the tribunal agreed, that the voice of the community need not be heard when projects are being evaluated for their potential impacts.
Trade agreements should uphold environmental laws, not override them. Trade Justice PEI is among over 50 Canadian organizations that last week signed a letter asking Canada to engage in a new model of international trade agreements, one based on enforceable environmental standards. We are also calling for transparent and democratic negotiations; strong and enforceable labour rights, including for migrant workers; protection of public services; and the right to regulate in the public’s interest.
While Canadian provinces and territories may not be at the table in the current renegotiation of NAFTA, they are in the next room. Islanders have heard little from our own representative. The Investor State Dispute Mechanism (ISDM) is bad for the environment and bad for democracy, and it should be removed from NAFTA.
The MacLauchlan government should be more transparent to Islanders on what these negotiations mean for Islanders. NAFTA's investor rights have been described as "a corporate dream, a citizen nightmare". We should expect greater transparency and openness and not be locked into another corporate bill of rights which overrides the interests of the citizens of Canada.
- Ann Wheatley and Leo Cheverie are members of Trade Justice P.E.I.
May 12, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Birds and Breakfast, 8-9:30AM, with Early Bird Breakfast starting at 7AM, Macphail Woods Homestead and Ecological Centre. Facebook event details
Farmers' Markets open in Charlottetown (9AM-2PM) and Summersider (9AM-1PM). Charlottetown Market is collecting money to fix the potholes in the parking lot.
Roadside cleanup official day is today. Women's Institute labeled yellow or clear bags, or any clear bags, are OK to use. Dept. of Transportation trucks start picking bags and any other items stacked with them on roadsides Monday, only going by any road once; so best to have any picking done this weekend. While this is a nice Island-tidying before summer starts and not just about the WI - -who encourage any individuals and groups to join in, and offer a contest of $100 for participants (details here -basically, take a photo while picking and submit it with the form found at the link), this cleanup highlights that a lot of people litter and the problem is preventing that litter.
Cleanup at Experimental Farm in Charlottetowon, 9AM-12noon, meet behind Ravenwood House.
Seniors' College Art Show closes tomorrow, 9AM-5PM, The Guild Gallery, I think but not absolutely sure of times.
Two Saturdays from now:
Saturday, May 26th:
Herb Day, 10AM-4PM, PEI Farm Centre, 420 University Ave. Plants for sale, seed swap, workshops, garden tour, food for sale.
Stu Neatby has been named The Guardian's new political reporter, by Regional Managing Editor Wayne Thibodeau. Neatby is from P.E.I. but working in British Columbia most recently. His Wordpress site is here and he lists his interests in "Canadian foreign policy, immigration, education, social movements, climate change, labour, the music industry, and other topics." Lots there! I am not sure when he is starting. The position was vacated when Teresa Wright was hired by the Canadian Press in Ottawa.
Lots of investigative reporting to do, as there are still two messes from the Ghiz days carried along by the MacLauchlan government.
On PNP, the stench that just is coming out from the fraudulent residency records indicates there is so much that needs to be sorted out for all to see. Islanders could write their MLAs and encourage them to support Hannah Bell's Motion 57 to have the Auditor General investigate.
List of P.E.I. MLAs and contact information
The much smaller but still outrageous e-gaming episode shows how hard the Robert Ghiz government went after any kind of revenue, and how things were covered up. Kevin J. Arsenault has compiled a thorough article on one aspect, the destruction of communications about it.
Kevin J. Arsenault's article "Did Robert Ghiz and Neil Stewart Commit a Crime? An Investigative Report on the Destruction of E-gaming Records" with PDF link
From Jesse Hitchcock, one of the energetic people who started the Young Voters of PEI group, about Proportional Representation, from a Facebook posting yesterday, used with permission:
✔️Proportional representation is used by the majority of the world's leading democracies.
✔️Only a few countries - including the UK, the US, India, Canada and France - still have elections that are decided by plurality voting systems.
✔️PR produces solid, centrist policies. PR rarely results in one party holding an absolute majority, so it requires governments to compromise and build consensus - doesn't that sound nice?
✔️Across nine mature democracies, young people in the three with plurality voting systems (US, Canada and UK) scored lowest, while the two PR countries (Sweden and Germany) ranked at the top in youth geopolitical knowledge (https://media.nationalgeographic.org/…/NGS-Roper-2006-Repor…)
✔️The share of women in parliamentary bodies was eight percentage points higher in countries that use PR (http://archive.ipu.org/wmn-e/arc/classif011213.htm)
✔️PR helps improve representation of minority groups - culturlaly and socio-economically! (https://www.researchgate.net/…/270757541_Mind_the_gap_Do_pr…)
✔️PR systems improve participation - and often turnout. (https://carleton.ca/…/2009-09-02-ActivatingTheCitizen-DeBar…)
I know some of this begs the question of correlation vs causation (as is often the case with sociological data) but the moral of the story is that A LOT OF GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO DEMOCRACY WHEN WE USE PR, AND ALMOST NO BAD THINGS HAPPEN. Even if it's correlational magic/wizardry (it's not), I'll take it.
--Jesse Hitchcock, May 11th, 2018
May 11, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. legislature sits today from 10AM-1PM. You can watch it here.
The campaign financing reform bill was introduced first yesterday afternoon:
An Act to Amend the Election Expenses Act, Bill No. 37
The MacLauchlan government has flipped back and included union and corporate donations from donating to campaigns in this legislation, reports say. This is good but apparently it's even better to do campaign reform once your party has plenty of money and a few of the other parties have new leaders and are just rebuilding. ;-)
The Referendum Legislation was slipped in the queue yesterday, too, and here it is on-line at the Legislative Assembly website:
Electoral System Referendum Act, Bill No. 38
There are pretty stringent fundraising and personnel limits; but a concerning part is the threshold of a majority of votes, better described by Kerry Campbell in his CBC article yesterday:
That means if more Islanders vote in the general election than in the referendum, it will push up the margin of victory required by either the 'Yes' or 'No' side to be considered binding by government.
The bill says either answer on the referendum ballot would need more than 50 per cent support to be considered binding — but there's a catch.
That 50 per cent doesn't refer to the number of referendum ballots cast — it refers to the number of people who vote in the general election, planned in conjunction with the referendum.
However, the principle of parliamentary sovereignty means that the current government can't force the hand of a future government. So the decision on whether to change P.E.I.'s electoral system will ultimately rest with whatever government Islanders choose the day of the vote.
It still has to be tabled for second reading (Tuesday afternoon at the earliest) and between now and then more people and read it and mull over what should get changed before it is passed. (Same with the campaign financing) But it's hard not to point out that if the current government is sure electoral reform will not be as good for them, then the legislation they write may stack the deck a wee bit in their favour.
There is more on CBC Radio this morning after the 7:30 news and weather and sports.
Many Legislators have been working very hard this Spring Sitting (more on others later), but Hannah Bell (D11-Charlottetown-Parkdale) has been especially notable. Her member's statements have been clear and kind, her questions during estimates show depth of knowledge about government programs, and for a good chunk of the Innovation PEI estimates (which involves a lot of money through a bewildering array of programs that even Minister Chris Palmer and the person from the department helping him were having trouble untangling), Bell was the only person in the Chamber asking questions. The only sounds were enervated "Carry...carry!" from the government side, giving the impression that the estimates are just fine and bear no further scrutiny.
Bell also proposed Motion 57, "Urging an audit of the Provincial Nominee Program", http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/onemotion.php?number=57&session=3&assembly=65
in a herculean effort to be have some efficient use of legislative time on "the PNP file" and finally clear up many of the concerns, by moving it to an independent Auditor General investigation.
May 10, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.
The afternoon (after Question Period and all) is usually Opposition time, and the evening is two full hours of government time.
Celebrate P.E.I.'s Fracking ban, 6-8PM, Upstreet Brewing, all welcome.
The ban is part of The Water Act -- passed on December 20th, 2017, without the fairly easy conditions to reverse it in the first reading of the bill, till public outcry from people like you was heard and amendments written -- an
Green Drinks Summerside, 7-9PM, Doolys, 298 Water Street, Summerside. "Green Drinks is a monthly informal gathering hosted by local members of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island. Always a good time, this is a great place to get to know Green Party leaders and supporters in a casual setting, and connect with others who are passionate about Prince Edward Island's future."
Postponed: There "Green Party Party" originally planned for Saturday, May 12th, has been postponed until further notice.
Macphail Woods Nursery Open Thursdays-Saturdays until June 3rd
Saturday, May 12th:
Birds and Breakfast Workshop, Macphail Homestead serves an "early bird" breakfast starting at 7AM, walk beginning at 8AM.
An excellent, in-depth report about the BP oil exploration off Nova Scotia approval, from the National Observer.
In the P.E.I. Legislature in the next couple of days:
There is still budget estimates to go through, but there is other business that's likely to resurface soon, such as Alan Roach's Private Member's Bill (No. 114) on banning plastic bags, and on the Referendum Legislation for electoral reform. When the discussion of electoral reform was left, several Fridays ago, Summerside-Wilmot MLA Chris Palmer had introduced Motion 43 (which would simply ask, "MMP: No or Yes?") and some of the same fear-mongering arguments were repeated by the same MLAs who have done this after the Plebiscite was rejected by the MacLauchlan government in Fall 2016.
The provincial government is supporting some craft beer operations, and this was commented on that it reminded some people of all the golf courses invested in previous decades.
Darcie Lanthier wrote (May 8th on social media, used with permission) it's not the suds or golf courses per se,
It's this growth model, it's like cancer.
Mussels- let's fill every harbour with socks until they taste like sewage.
Blueberries- let's cut down the forests, import bees until we cause the price to crash and the bees to die.
Potatoes- let's grow 270,000 acres of Russet Burbanks until the soil is sand, the water is contaminated and the Farmers become indentured servants.
Apples- a couple of niche growers are doing well, let's grow apples everywhere.
Oysters- great reputation, fantastic product let's grow 10x as many.
Bio-mass- it's not oil, let's install wood burners in our schools. Burn the forests down and give some kids asthma.
Bluefin Tuna- let's pillage the herring and when the tuna are starving, kill them all.
Lobster - delicious, let's harvest more so we can start shipping them to India.
Golf Courses, Hotels, Big Box Retail, Burger Love, Anne
Bigger is not better.
We are small. We need balance.
May 9, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM today.
The Watch Live link and much information on the Legislature here:
Community Forum in Alberton, hosted by the Green Party, 6:30-8PM, Facebook event details.
Gordie McKeeman and his Rhythm Boys Concert for the QEH Pediatric Unit, 9-11:30PM, PEI Brewing Company, tickets $25. from the Eventbrite details page
Join us for an energetic evening of traditional East Coast music and help support the Pediatric Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Proceeds will go towards the purchase of much needed children's respiratory therapy equipment.
Thursday, May 10th:
Don't Frack PEI Celebrates the Legislative Fracking ban celebration, 6-8PM, Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown, all welcome.
Don't Frack PEI wants to celebrate its win on achieving a legislated ban to fracking within the Province's new Water Act - No Frack PEI has lobbied for this since its founding meeting and despite moratoriums and bans in place in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland - it took till the final round of changes made in The Water Act that this was achieved for Prince Edward Island - where we want to protect our water from degradation for future generations - the program will include musical performances from Teresa Doyle and Tony Reddin.
In the P.E.I. Legislature last night:
At about 8:30PM last evening, Independent MLA Bush Dumville rose to call his bill, No. 113, An Act to Amend the Provincial Emblems and Honours Act, and immediately a subdued J. Alan McIsaac flipped his position and asked to withdraw his previous amendment (that would be the Holstein one) to the Bill. Paula Bigger asked one question (why the red fox and not silver fox, and Dumville said the schoolchildren made the case for the red fox, and there were so many red foxes now). A vote was called and it was all yeas, immediately; then someone noticed the Premier had raised his hand to ask another question. We'll never know what the question was. Maybe he was going to turn to the former education minister and to the MLA for the District, and ask each of them to apologize for being such big awful bullies to Bush and making fun of schoolchildren's earnest work. Well, that didn't happen, but the Bill passed.
Opposition Evening started with a discussion of Borden-Kinkora MLA Jamie Fox's Member's Bill on An Act to Amend the Electric Power Act (Bill No. 109), which is a short little bill clarifying ans setting out conditions that "an applicant may meet in order to qualify for a permit as a service provider." So we can be closer to small-scale production of electricity. Most MLAs didn't have a lot of knowledge on the issue but spoke a lot about it, and in the end Fox graciously moved to send it to Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Energy for a good look and hopefully full backing.
There was still plenty of time after the How-Now-Red-Fox sojourn for the Third Party to bring up Motion 63, "Commitment to improve rural roads" http://www.assembly.pe.ca/progmotions/motions/653/63.pdf
there are 5,375 kilometers of roads on Prince Edward Island;
Prince Edward Island’s capital budget for 2018-2019 includes $42 million to be spent on highways;
the provincial and federal government will spend $59.3 million on the Cornwall bypass over the next four fiscal years;
secondary roads form the backbone of rural Prince Edward Island;
the maintenance of the roads that we have is challenging and all rural MLAs regularly hear concerns from their constituents about the condition of local roads;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
that this Legislative Assembly call on government to redirect heir infrtastructure budget away from large mega-projects and invest in upgrading and preserving the rural roads that Islanders travel every day.
It's so logical, but at the same time so polar opposite to how the Ghiz-MacLauchlan government obtains federal money (by making the project fit the criteria no matter what, and this means mega-projects), this motion may be seen as an anathema.
Many MLAs should support this motion, as they all have concerns about their roads and have brought it up continually; but egalitarian looks better on paper than in practice in such old, entrenched ways of partisan, winner-take-all politics, that one worries there will be verbal drubbings for this. (When Bevan-Baker asked a question in Question Period earlier in the day concerning the Rural and Regional Development, Minister Pat Murphy looked around to indicate to the team he was making a funny, and said, "Thank you to the Green Party for finally showing an interest in rural Prince Edward Island" to sniggery laughter....)
"The biggest determinant in our lives is culture, where we are born, what the environment looks like. But the second biggest determinant is probably governance, good governance or a certain kind of governance makes a huge difference in our lives."
May 8, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature resumes its week with at 2-5PM and 7-9PM sitting. Visitors are welcome in the Gallery (bring photo identification and register at the basement office), or in the open J. Angus MacLean Building on the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets, on Eastlink TV (afternoon only), on social media like Facebook (Legislative Assembly or Progressive Conservative pages) or the Legislative Assembly website.
Also this evening:
CJE (Charlottetown Jazz Emsemble) Big Band Benefit for Young At Heart, 7:30-10PM, The Pourhouse (above Old Triangle, Great George Street), admission adults $10/under-age students $5, children free with adult supervision. from the Facebook event details (edited):
For the last concert of this winter season the Charlottetown Jazz Ensemble performs a benefit concert (with all) proceeds to Young At Heart Musical Theatre which provides professional and original musical theatre productions for senior citizens in long-term care and retirement facilities.
Great choice of meals available starting at 6pm. The big band with feature vocalist and YAH founder Catherine O'Brien, and big band music made famous by the Count Basie orchestra including One O'Clock Jump, April In Paris, All Right OK You Win, and I'm Beginning To See The Light along with other big band classics.
Two-fifths of the Citizens' Alliance Board will be the performing (the ever-talented and ever-giving Catherine O'Brien and trombonist Doug Millington).
Downstairs in the same building the next night:
Wednesday, May 9th:
Fusion Charlottetown Fireside Chat with Finance Minister Heath MacDonald, 5:30-7:30PM, The Old Triangle, Great George Street.
An interactive fireside chat with the Minister of Finance Heath MacDonald to discuss the finances and future of PEI, with opportunities to raise questions on how the government is prepared to address key issues facing Charlottetown's younger population. Bring your questions, your suggestions, and your thoughts on making Charlottetown a greater place to live, work, and play!
CANCELLED, Public Accounts Standing Committee, was scheduled for Wednesday, May 9th. No reason given. Auditor General Jane MacAdam was to continue to discuss her report from March of this year.
Wednesday, May 9th:
Alberton Community Forum, 6:30-8PM, Alberton Community Centre, hosted by the Green Party of P.E.I., more details and to pre-register (requested):
Last week many marked on the third anniversary of the 2015 provincial election which saw Wade MacLauchlan elected and forming government with nearly the same group that ran under Robert Ghiz in the previous election, and the election Peter Bevan-Baker as MLA for Kelly Cross-Cumberland and Green Party MLA.
Vision PEI wrote last week:
Wade MacLauchlin's Three Year Anniversary.
He had such promise, such an opportunity to be transformative. All wasted as he embraced the old time politics of patronage, spin and broken commitments. Islanders, including many once-loyal Liberals, agree that his legacy will be profound disappointment and disgust.
Repeating those last four words....
On Friday, May 4th, in the Provincial Legislature, Bill No. 2 (An Act to Amend the Worker Compensation Act) was called. It didn't even get to clause-by-clause reading, as the Official Opposition was concerned about how this Bill differs from the unanimously passed and through Royal Assent Bill No. 102, which was Private Member's Jamie Fox's Bill last Fall to do the nearly the same thing -- provide individuals who are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome due to their occupation to qualify for Workers Compensation. There are differences in the Liberals' Bill (namely, narrowing the health care professionals who can diagnose so to have greater professional standardization of care), but what was concerning to the Tories was the lack of notice that the Liberals had shelved the Private Member's Bill and produced their own (perhaps also the observation that the Liberals could claim this accomplishment regarding mental health in provincial election campaign materials). Some government members got very upset at the suggestion and brought up heart-wrenching details of their ordeals, and waved away all notion that the government could be playing politics with any bill.
One hopes that would be true, but this is the same government that had a former minister of education move and the MLA of the District where the schoolchildren live second a motion batting away schoolchildren's hard work to make the Red Fox the provincial emblem animal (OK, mammal, since we have the Blue Jay as the provincial animal) with their own motion, presumably because the Red Fox Bill came from newly independent MLA Bush Dumville.
So forgive some of us for wondering why the Bill No. 102/Bill No. 2 issue wasn't dealt with before the Legislature opened on a more consensus basis, led by the government party, which has its majority.
Reading along in this article by Andrew Coyne last week about the Ontario Liberal government and their cavalier bookkeeping, and suddenly read this and feeling "How embarrassing for Islanders." And angry since we all know it's true. Bold is mine.
Understated expenses. Overstated revenues. Hidden debts. Conveniently optimistic assumptions. One wishes this were unusual. But in fact, as a new C. D. Howe report finds, Ontario is not even the worst offender among Canada’s governments (P.E.I. is worse). Generally, provincial financial statements can charitably be described as inconsistent — inconsistent with each other; inconsistent between budgets, estimates, and public accounts; inconsistent with generally accepted accounting practices.
"We have a social responsibility, a constitutional opportunity and a moral obligation to help others."
-- Janie Lewis, author
May 7, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A few events this week:
Wednesday, May 9th:
Public Accounts Standing Committee, 10AM-12noon, J. Angus MacLean building, continuing its work going through the Report of the Auditor General, all welcome.
Birds and Breakfast, 8-9:30AM, Macphail Woods Ecological Centre, Orwell. There are events each weekend this month at Macphail Woods.
Melanie Giffon, PEI Fishermen's Association biologist and project planner, Tony Reddin, Sierra Club PEI, and author Joan Baster, with thank-you gift of John Sylvester's Wild Island, at the Farm Centre, Sunday, May 6th, 2018. Tony sang a Dave Gunning song modified slightly about this project, which Gunning has been concerned about for years.
The Mill: 50 Years of Pulp and Protest author Joan Baxter came to P.E.I., at the Farm Centre Sunday afternoon, and discussed her carefully researched book about paper mill plant in Pictou, Nova Scotia. Basically (mistakes my own), currently the Indonesian-owned company makes a high quality kraft paper that is in demand still (sounds like for calendar and other glossy print productions made in China and other parts of Asia, so it is not simply a "toilet paper" argument). The effluent from such a process is horrible and the Nova Scotia government in wanting the mill to be built years ago, signed an agreement to take care of the effluent (in addition to building a dam and building a causeway, other not-so-great environmental impacts). Now the government has to improve the waste treatment by 2020 and the plan is to pump the overflow further out into the Northumberland Strait. This of course concerns anyone, especially those whose livelihood depends on not further harming the various fishstocks in Strait.
The plant hasn't filed its Environmental Impact Assessment application yet, and the federal government could require a federal one, which would at least extend some time to allow better solutions be examined. (By the way, we aren't even talking about the mess it made of indigenous lands of the Pictou Landing first nation, but is chronicled in the book.)
Belfast-Murray River MLA Darlene Compton and Environment MinisterRichard Brown where there, Compton speaking about her and her family's efforts to increase awareness of this. The February 16th Standing Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries had representatives from the Mill speak and the transcript, audio and video recordings are on the page: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/committees/meetingTranscripts.php?cnumber=17
Other speakers included Melanie Giffin from the PEI Fishermen's Association, and reminded everyone it's not against the mill (or the 300-plus jobs there), but it needs to replan the effluent treatment. Period. Krista Fulton of Nova Scotia also spoke about the personal impact this will have on fisher families, and read her letter to the editor in the Chronicle-Herald from April 28th, 2018, which I am reprinting here:
OPINION: Pulp pipe puts fishery livelihoods on the line - The Chronicle Herald article by Krista Fulton
Published on Saturday, April 28th, 2018
At 5 a.m. Monday (April 30), my daughter and I will be at the Caribou Fishermen’s Wharf. It will be Setting Day, the start of the lobster season, the first day lobster fishermen in our area can set their traps.
It’s a family tradition for us to join other fishing families at the wharf’s edge and watch the boats, jammed full with traps, go out through the buoys. We celebrate the start of the season and wish the fishers a good catch and a safe year.
My husband fishes the Northumberland Strait eight months a year. He holds licences for lobster, herring, scallops and mackerel. Fishing is always an uncertain business, but this year our fishery and our future face an extra threat from Northern Pulp’s proposed new effluent treatment system.
If our government approves this plan, we will see 70 million to 90 million litres of treated pulp effluent discharged into our fishing grounds and our beautiful Strait every day of the year. You might think treated effluent means no harmful substances, but that’s not true. Since Northern Pulp announced its plan last November, I’ve spent many hours with other concerned citizens looking at the science.
Even treated pulp effluent contains a wide range of contaminants, including heavy metals which accumulate in the environment. Small concentrations of toxins can affect the growth and reproduction of many marine species.
I know the changes fishermen in our community have made over the years to protect the environment. New boat motors now meet low emission standards. Fishermen agreed to decrease their trap numbers in order to put less pressure on the fishery.
Every year, the government determines the maximum catch for each species. When stocks are down, quotas can drop dramatically. This year, new measures to protect right whales mean that many snow crab fishermen will lose part or all of their season, and lobster fishermen face new restrictions. Yet boats and gear still have to be readied, loans still have to be paid.
That’s all part of the uncertainty of the inshore fishery. Our profitability is always balanced with environmental issues.
Yet when fishermen proposed that Northern Pulp adapt their operations so that the company could use a more environmentally friendly system and avoid discharging effluent into the Strait, the company’s answer was no. Why not? It would decrease their profitability.
Northern Pulp is owned by one of the largest pulp empires in the world, based in Indonesia. Northern Pulp has received many millions of dollars from provincial and federal subsidies. Taxpayers, all of us, will be footing the bill for much, if not all, of NP’s new treatment facility. Yet Northern Pulp insists “No pipe, no mill.”
It breaks my heart and infuriates me all at the same time that Northern Pulp and our provincial government is willing to put at risk the livelihood of so many Nova Scotian families who make their living from the fisheries. Livelihoods that have existed for generations, and can continue to support hundreds of families for many generations more.
We need to understand that if this proposed effluent pipe goes into the Strait, it could change the course of history in the fishing and tourism industry forever in this province.
There’s something very wrong with this picture.
We are the type of young family that our government says they want to attract to rural communities. We buy what we need for our business locally, and we spend our profits locally. Hundreds of other families who depend on fishing the Northumberland Strait do the same.
A healthy fishery is a natural partner for fisheries-related businesses, a strong tourism industry and communities that attract visitors and new residents. Taxpayers will not have to pay millions to clean up after near-shore fishers. Fishers know we have to protect the Strait if we want to pass our fishing heritage on to future generations.
Our industry is an anchor for a mutually supporting system of environment, economy and community.
Why in the world is this so hard for our government to understand?
So, this Setting Day is very different than any other. This Setting Day, I will be praying that my husband continues to be able to do this job for years to come and retire when he is ready to, not because the fishery has been destroyed.
This Setting Day, at 5 a.m., I will be thinking of fishers past, present and future. They are my inspiration for continuing to work for No Pipe in Our Strait.
Krista Fulton lives in Pictou. She is a mother, small-business owner, community volunteer and fisherwife.
People concerned can participate in a letter-writing campaign to ask Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to make this project undergo a federal assessment (I am trying to find a link to a particular letter). But here is her e-mail address for any comments you may want to send: Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca
May 6, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
ABERCROMBIE: 50 YEARS OF PULP AND PROTEST, 2-4PM, Farm Centre
Award-winning journalist and author, Joan Baxter will read from her book, “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest on Sunday, May 6, 2:00 pm at the PEI Farm Centre in Charlottetown. The Northern Pulp paper mill has been ordered to close its existing effluent treatment facility at Boat Harbour in Pictou County, N.S., by 2020. The replacement system would discharge about 70 million litres daily of treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait. Local residents and fishers on both sides of the strait have voiced their concern. Melanie Giffin, a marine biologist and program planner with the PEI Fishermen’s Association, will also speak at this event.
The Water Protector's Journey: Along the Sipekne'katik River
Sunday, May 6 from 4:00 to 5:30 pm at City Cinema. Admission by donation. Since May 2016 Mi’kmaq Water Protectors, supported by non-Indigenous allies, set up a treaty truck house along the banks of the Sipekne’katik River near the Alton Gas brine-dumping site. The Treaty Truck House and Treaty Camp along the Sipekne'katik River was established through prayer and ceremony with grandmothers, women and men who are committed to the protection of the Water, Mother Earth and Treaty. The dumping of millions of litres of brine into the Sipekne’katik River system each day would devastate the river and all the life that depends on it. Together we can save the Sipekne’katik/Shubenacadie River for generations to come.
Also this afternoon, if you just want to hear some great music live:
Celtic and More Fundraising Concert for Siobhan Armstrong's education plans, 2-4PM, Benevolent Irish Society Hall, North River Road. "Free admission, donations gratefully accepted. Concert is in support of fifteen year old Siobhan Armstrong and her dream to attend the 2018 Anúna International Summer School in Dublin, Ireland in June. Performers include Eddy Quinn & Friends, Kendall Docherty, Sheila MacKenzie, Siobhan Armstrong & Don Fraser, and other special guests." This young woman has an amazing voice.
Book launch: No Choice: the 30-year fight for abortion on Prince Edward Island, by Kate McKenna, 7-9PM, Rodd Charlottetown.
Big Band Benefit for Young and Heart, 7:30-10PM, The Pourhouse above The Old Tirangle on Great George Street. The Charlottetown Jazz Ensemble will donate proceeds to the musical theatre group that is finishing its series of shows across the Island at seniors' manors and other places. Facebook event details.
Thursday, May 10th:
Celebrate Prince Edward Island’s Ban on Fracking at Upstreet, 6-8PM, Upstreet Brewery
All Islanders who supported a ban on fracking are invited to join us at Upstreet Craft Brewing , 41 Allen Street, Charlottetown, on Thursday May 10th from 6:00pm to 8:00 pm.
In January 2013, Don’t Frack PEI was formed to address the concerns of Prince Edward Islanders about the prospect of Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) coming to our Island.
Following our second meeting, the unanimous consensus was to press ahead with a number of initiatives to educate the public and our elected representatives about the numerous dangers of fracking. Fracking would damage our drinking water, our fisheries, our tourism industry, and the health of the most vulnerable in our society. Our 100% reliance on groundwater for drinking, along with our vertically fractured soft geology, when combined with the toxic carcinogens used for fracking, and the documented failure of gas well casings, would result in an unacceptable level of risk to the citizens of PEI.
Organizations and individuals across PEI joined us in our efforts to bring about a permanent ban on fracking, while encouraging the development of alternative energy sources and a reduction in energy use throughout the province.
With innumerable briefs, community meetings, workshops, meetings with politicians, rallies, movie and documentary showings, we travelled the Island from Tignish to Souris and kept up the pressure until, in December 2017, we achieved a permanent legislated ban in The Water Act. Both a ban on high capacity wells and a ban on fracking were the most commonly heard recommendations made during the public hearings on The Water Act.
Don’t Frack PEI is now committed to Wind, Water, Sun – Energy for the Long Run – but in the meantime we want to invite the many Islanders and Groups who have helped us achieve this Ban to a community celebration. We will celebrate with some brief comments and the music of Tony Reddin and Teresa Doyle – with her song “Let’s Ban the Foolin’ Frackin'”. All Islanders who supported a ban on fracking are invited to join us at Upstreet Craft Brewing , 41 Allen Street, Charlottetown, on Thursday May 10th from 6:00pm to 8:00 pm. For more information contact Leo Cheverie at 902-940-5635
Speaking of fracking, there was a fairly silly (if it weren't so deadly serious) piece in The Guardian recently about the need for the Maritimes to just allow fracking to save their economic fortunes. (not reprinting it)
Jim Ensinger on behalf of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance writes here:
The New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives’ plan to lift the moratorium on shale gas paints a disappointing portrait of a party unable to exercise even minimum due diligence on this issue.
The NB Anti-Shale Gas Alliance filed a lawsuit challenging the province’s embrace of shale gas in 2014, and unlike the PC’s, we have tracked every scientific study since then, from a handful to over 1,300 today. All can be found in the, “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.”
<rest of the article at the link>
May 5, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets Charlottetown (9AM-2PM) and Summerside (9AM-1PM)
Open House at the Charlottetown Mosque, 10AM-1PM, MacAleer Drive.
Midwifery Rally, 11AM, Coles Building.
DiverseCity Stratford Spring Showcase, 11AM-5PM, Stratford Town Hall, free and all welcome. Facebook event details.
Macphail Woods workshop: Landscaping with Native Plants, 2-3:30PM, Macphail Woods Ecological Centre, Orwell, free.
Bowling for Lennon House fundraiser, 7-9PM, The Alley. Facebook event details.
Sunday, May 6th:
Abercrombrie: 50 Years of Pulp and Protest, 2-3:30PM, Farm Centre, with author Joan Baxter and fisheries biologist Melanie Giffin. Free (donations accepted, books may be for sale).
Eliza Starchild Knockwood's documentary, "The Water Protectors' Journey", 4PM, City Cinema, admission by donation.
In the Provincial Legislature yesterday, during Question Period, District 1 MLA Colin LaVie wondered why farmers leasing government land for many years were sent letters this spring revoking the leases and saying the land was to be replanted. LaVie said he supports forests and replanting, but was upset at the late notice; he compared these government conservation efforts against government ripping through acres of woods to make the Plan B highway in Bonshaw, and now for the Cornwall Bypass. He asked the Minister of Agriculture, but Transportation Minister Paula Biggar responded about the newly protected land and the trail system in the expanded provincial park (created from the edges of some of the parcels purchased or expropriated for the highway). While that's better than it could have been, LaVie brings up the point about these bloated highway projects removing acres of farmland and basically replacing that with pavement. The Cornwall bypass, by one estimate, is destroying about a 100 acres of land, most of it farmland, some trees. The wetlands being disrupted will be traded for improving an additional number of acres in another location, but the farmland in the Plan B highway and Cornwall bypass is now or will be pavement and ditches.
Food Islands can't exist on asphalt.
Borden-Kinkora MLA Jamie Fox also brought up the land wasted by being "junk piles" of leftover road construction materials (piles of rocks and fills, and pitted land), one of which still hasn't been cleaned up along the highway's path.
About the Lands Protection Act, from Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018, in The Guardian (bold is mine):
OPINION: Waste of time, money - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Kevin Arsenault
Public consultations to offer remedies to close loopholes in Lands Protection Act
Minister of Communities, Land and Environment Richard Brown has asked IRAC to review non-resident and corporate land holdings in P.E.I.
What an utter waste of time and money. No one is suggesting rules are being broken. The problem is that government is allowing the “spirit and intent” of the Lands Protection Act to be ignored as both non-residents and corporations find creative ways to purchase more land than the Act ever intended them to acquire, without “technically” breaking any rules.
Minister Brown heard first-hand testimony at the National Farmers Union’s April 3rd district convention that Vanco Farms has amassed land holdings in Eastern P.E.I. likely exceeding 20,000 acres without breaking any rules; apparently, by purchasing land under different names and/or separate corporations. This is obvious to local residents as they drive past countless farms and fields displaying “Vanco Farms” signs. Similar tactics are suspected with Cavendish Farms.
Non-residents are using different methods. A recent Guardian article (March 17) by NFU District Director, Douglas Campbell, explained how Yongzhang Xia, a resident of Hebei, China, was first denied purchase of a 75-acre parcel of land as an individual, then as a director of a corporation, but then acquired the land with signatures from 14 other individuals (all non-residents from Hebei, China).
When asked at the NFU convention whether that 75-acre parcel had been divided up into 15, separate 5-acre parcels, Brown said he expected it had been. It wasn’t. Government issued a single deed. This is one loophole that could easily be plugged by simply forbidding the sale of larger land parcels to groups of non-residents divided into 5 acres portions (on paper) going to each individual.
When CBC reporter Sally Pitt asked Minister Brown whether he believes the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) owns more than 3,000 acres he said, “.... he's been told these groups are well within the land ownership limits, and he expects the IRAC review will confirm that.” Of course, it will.
But will IRAC’s review investigate the cumulative land holdings of the many corporate entities affiliated with GEBIS, including the Moonlight International Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization owning at least 664 acres of land near the monastery? And what exactly does a non-profit organization that hasn’t even updated its website in over two years need with 664 acres of land anyway?
This announced land review is a text-book case of government kicking the can down the road. Months will pass, a delayed report will eventually be released, and headlines will splash across Island media for a day or two announcing what we already know: “IRAC confirms rules What Minister Brown needs to announce are public consultations, one in each county, with the express purpose of coming up with amendments to the Lands Protection Act and Regulations to close loopholes and ensure the spirit and intent of the legislation regarding land limits is honoured. We urgently need remedies, not a disingenuous delay tactic. And there are solutions; unfortunately, the Liberal government apparently lacks the political will to act.
- Kevin J. Arsenault lives in Ft. Augustus and obtained his PhD in ethics from McGill University
With that usual eyebrow-raising humour:
"Buy land, they're not making it anymore,"
May 4, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 10AM-1PM today. Eastlink, on-line here, or attending in the Gallery are options to view. This will be the fifth Friday that the Legislature has been in session, and most have had government bring out some motion or Bill to be discussed in the last 35 minutes or so. There is quite a lot of unfinished business.
When a Bill or Motion is called, you can check the text of it, here at this list of House Records.
Today it's been three years since the 2015 election, which by the end of the day saw Wade MacLauchlan get elected for the Liberals, the Tories not have their Leader Rob Lantz win his seat, and Green Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker win in District 17, Kellys Cross -Cumberland. The NDP got a solid 11% of the popular vote. The Green Party got a bit less of the popular vote, but was able to focus support in the First Past the Post System to achieve a seat in the Legislature. (Yes, of course, proportional representation would reflect the popular vote more accurately in seat distribution, instead of these false majorities that are often produced.
For anyone who follows Island politics and has a tiny bit of Star Wars fandom, "May the Fourth" has added dimensions.
Green Party AGM and Three-year Celebration, 7-9PM, 29 Cornwall Civic Centre. Registration starts at 6:30, business meeting, and short stories about 2015 round up the evening. Facebook event details.
International Day of the Midwife Rally, 11AM, Coles Building. The folks advocating for midwifery through Birth Options Resource Network (BORN) are marking International Day of the Midwife and encouraging government to get licensed midwifery real and happening. There have been years of delays. Years. And even though the legislation allowing the creation of regulatory bodies passed a year ago, it's not been proclaimed yet. Deputy Speaker Kathleen Casey has been a staunch supporter of regulated midwifery, often calling out her own government on why there are so many delays. Not to get into too many birth analogies, but it's time for a big final push to get this actually available for Island families now. All welcome to attend or stop by for a bit -- it'll be a great rally with lots of small ones in attendance and supporters of all ages.
Here is a five minute video about the need for this birthing option on P.E.I., produced by Islander Mille Clarkes.
Seed Exchange at the Souris Public Library, 1-3PM, with gardening expert on hand.
Landscaping with Native Plants workshop, 2-3:30PM, Macphail Woods Ecological Centre, slide show and tour. I believe these go ahead rain or shine, and there are many wonderful workshops and walks scheduled for the entire spring, summer and fall. Details.
In the last part of Opposition afternoon Thursday, Green Party MLA Hannah Bell was bringing forward Private Member's Bill No. 112, An Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest Act, but Education Minister and District 13 (Charlottetown-Brighton) MLA wanted to talk about the timing of this Bill versus one that Government has plans to introduce (Bill No. 5, here). That discussion ate up a lot of time, questions about intent, and whose idea, and when, and committee meetings, and so forth. Kind of totally obscuring that the Liberals pushed through the actual Act last Fall, despite lots of criticism and attempts to strengthen it then; they themselves want to amend it a bit a few short months later, and the Third Party is trying to amend the many soft spots in it. The fact this legislation deals with how former MLAs interact with government makes transparency important and solid rules paramount.
Earlier Thursday afternoon, Opposition discussed several things, including Brad Trivers' An Act to Amend the Municipal Governance Act, Bill No. 111.
This bill makes improvements to the rural input in amalgamation/annexations proposals. Both Official Opposition and Third Party MLAs supported this, with Peter Bevan-Baker saying he feels the original legislation was needed to coordinate rural governance, but improvements to it are surely needed and we should all work together on those.
Not sure all that happened at last night's meeting, but here is a opinion piece from earlier this week, and still a lot of concerns about this:
Rural coalition files objections to IRAC - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Sylvia Teasdale
Published on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018
The Municipal Government Act (MGA) needed updating, just not in the way the government envisioned it. What better time to insinuate the tools required to sculpt the governance of the Island, carving the province into 20-25 municipalities and modernise us in the process?
Now, there is another layer of government between itself and its residents with a simple sleight of hand. No matter that this little province of 150,000 souls is mostly rural and has no need of the trappings, costs and restraints of municipal governance. Common sense should not get in the way of a good government idea.
The Three Rivers amalgamation project was to be the model for the province under the new MGA. To ensure swift success, the process was to be conducted by a handful of people, in secrecy. All went according to government plan until August 2017 when the residents of the affected unincorporated areas raised the alarm.
The rest is recent history as votes were overturned by local councils and a petition and plebiscite by the unincorporated residents was patently ignored by government. The latest indignity in this saga is that five small incorporated communities sent the original proposal of seven incorporated entities and three fire districts to government and IRAC for approval. The yes votes of approximately 150 people have put the lives of 7,500 mostly unwilling people into an annexation situation. Not democracy’s finest hour.
This proposal was posted by IRAC to their website on April 19, 2018. IRAC is accepting objections and comments from Islanders and affected municipalities until May 22, 2018. If you are mailing your objection, be careful. The MGA suggests you mail it 10 days before the deadline to make sure it arrives on time. Subsequent to this deadline, there may be public hearings, depending on who objects. The councils of Montague and Georgetown, who voted against amalgamation, have now voted to object. They must now file an objection officially, including a formal resolution of council.
The Rural Coalition of P.E.I. has mounted an Island-wide campaign, asking residents to file objections, using the IRAC form. We have a network of volunteers, including members of the National Farmers Union, reaching out to residents. All Islanders need to understand that if the Three Rivers amalgamation succeeds, all residents will be affected in a similar fashion.
(she then invites people to the meeting) <snip>The purpose of this meeting is to explain the IRAC process and ask attendees to sign objection forms. If other communities wish our help in planning public meetings, we are happy to do so. This affects the life of all Islanders and we cannot fail.
- Sylvia Teasdale is a resident of the unincorporated rural area of Burnt Point near Georgetown
May 3, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature sits today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM. The afternoon (after Question Period and such) is usually determined by the Opposition parties. You can watch live here, and find pages with other documents being discussed:
Three Rivers Amalgamation Meeting, 7-8:30PM, Kaylee Hall, Pooles Corner. Discussing how residents can express their opinions about the Three Rivers amalgamation project to the Island Regulations and Appeals Committee.
Tea and Tunes! Dessert and Entertainment Fundraiser for Young at Heart Musical Theatre for Seniors, 7-8:30PM, St. Paul's Anglican Church, Charlottetown. Facebook event details.
Anounced around Earth Day last month:
BP granted approval to start drilling off Nova Scotia's coast - CBC News article by Alex Cooke
The Canadian Press, April 21st, 2018
BP Canada has been given the green light to start drilling off Nova Scotia's coast.
On Saturday, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) granted approval for the company to begin drilling one deepwater exploration well about 300 kilometres offshore.
It's the first in BP Canada's Scotian Basin Exploration Project, which Mi'kmaq communities have opposed saying it poses a serious risk to food, social and ceremonial fishing areas. <snip>
rest of article, including a map, in the link
Island Publisher and political commentator Paul MacNeill reminds us about the efficacy of the whistleblower legislation which was was rushed through in the last days of the Fall sitting of 2017, and also weighs in on big Liberals trampling on school children's and Bush Dumville's red fox animal emblem bill.
Liberals throw verbal cow dung - The Eastern Graphic article by Paul MacNeill
Pinted in the Graphic newsletters, Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018
For a government trying to change public perceptions, last week will be one MacLauchlan Liberals hope Islanders quickly forget.
No matter how the premier spins the whistleblower legislation he grudgingly passed but has yet to make law, it simply sounds like a politician trying desperately to protect the status quo. The key section will require public servants who want to spill the beans to report potential wrongdoing to their deputy minister.
The premier sees nothing wrong with this. He argues that deputies are the equivalent of corporate CEOs and it is misguided to leave them out of the process. He suggests the legislation is an attempt to change the culture within the provincial bureaucracy.
The premier is misguided. This clause will have a chilling effect across all of government. The act could just as easily be called ‘How to Scare Employees Into Silence Act.’
Deputies are not CEOs. They are politically appointed and serve at the discretion of the premier. In other words they owe their job and cushy pension to the premier. Deputies do not, as CEOs do, unilaterally decide direction or priorities. They act on priorities established by the premier and cabinet. To force potential whistleblowers to lodge complaints with a politically appointed boss will put the fear of God into any public servant and make the whistleblower act nothing but a useless piece of paper crafted to serve political speeches not public oversight.
Premier MacLauchlan has fought establishing credible whistleblower policy tooth and nail. He seems oblivious to PEI’s long and sad history of political patronage and the fear that still exists of taking government to task.
This legislation does nothing to build confidence within either the public service or general population, regardless of how the premier tries to convince us otherwise.
And then there is the heavyweight tag team of two retiring Liberal MLAs body slamming the research and effort of a Montague Consolidated Grade 5-6 class to name the red fox as PEI’s provincial animal.
Politicians love to talk about how important it is to engage youth in the political process, a front on which the Liberal government has a particularly awful track record of hypocrisy. It let 16-year olds vote in the electoral plebiscite, then threw out the results. When the notion of lowering the voting age to 16 was debated, one cabinet minister suggested the age is too young to have a full grasp on issues – as if people who generationally vote Liberal or Tory care about issues.
But back to the fox. Edwena Arbuckle’s class did its homework and made a presentation to an all party legislative committee last fall. It’s work all Islanders should be proud of.
The committee’s report was accepted. Bush Dumville, former Liberal turned persona non grata independent, brought forward a private member’s bill to recognize the red fox.
And that’s when Alan McIsaac, a former Minister of Education who owes his legislative seat and cabinet pension to the fortune of a coin toss, and Allen Roach spewed verbal cow dung across the legislative floor.
It’s a toss-up whose actions are more shameful. McIsaac for stampeding on the good work of Island school children, or Roach for seconding the motion despite the students being from his own riding. It’s more than a little ironic that the former Finance Minister meekly quizzed government just days before about plans to build a new consolidated school. Bricks and mortar are irrelevant if we do not support children and teachers in the classroom.
Liberals can make claims about simply wanting public input. It’s hypocrisy. They didn’t care for public input when government raised the HST or hundreds of fees, so why start by dumping on the good intentions of Island students.
No this was a political attack on Dumville and it backfired. Spectacularly.
This public is weighing in, with contempt for the heavy handed, petty and the time wasting effort by the two backbenchers who delivered a prime example of why the public holds politicians in disdain. McIsaac and Roach’s energy would be far better spent respecting the work of Island students and defending supply management, the system that guarantees milk producers a rate of return, and which is under direct attack from the US government.
If this is what qualifies as public discourse, their retirement cannot come soon enough. Thank goodness at least Ms Arbuckle and her students are showing us all what real leadership looks like.
--Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at email@example.com
"Leadership is not about the next election, it's about the next generation."
--Simon Sinek, motivational speaker (here is a TED Talk by him)
May 2, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Public Accounts Standing Committee meeting scheduled for this morning has been cancelled. Not sure why, though Standing Committee meetings while the Legislature sits are usually hard to fit in.
Seniors' College Group Art Show, Opening Reception 7-9PM, Arts Guild. The show actually opens today and can be visited whenever The Guild is open, but the reception is always a nice evening, too. Some wonderful folks in this Seniors' College art program are also very active in promoting environmental causes and other work in their communities.
Thursday, May 3rd:
Three Rivers Amalgamation meeting, 7-9PM, Kaylee Hall in Pooles Corner, for those interested in opposing the project and learning how to make that opinion known to IRAC.
Sunday, May 6th:
Talk: Abercrombie: 50 Years of Pulp and Pollution, 2-3:30PM, Farm Centre, about the past and future of the paper mill in Pictou, is followed by (with enough time to travel
Eliza Knockwood's documentary:
Movie: The Water Protectors' Journey, 4-5:30PM, City Cinema, admission by donation.
FilmPEI is proud to sponsor the PEI premiere of Eliza Knockwood's The Water Protectors' Journey Along the Sipekne’katik River.
Come join us as we take you on a most intimate and personal journey along the Sipekne’katik River, which leads us to a sacred island known to the Mi’kmaq as the traditional campsite of Glooscap's grandmother. This is where we experience the vastness of what we are protecting and receive teachings from our Water Protectors and Grassroots Grandmothers.
Since May 2016 Mi’kmaq Water Protectors, supported by non-Indigenous allies, set up a treaty truck house along the banks of the Sipekne’katik River near the Alton Gas brine-dumping site. The Treaty Truck House and Treaty Camp along the Sipekne'katik River was established through prayer and ceremony with grandmothers, women and men who are committed to the protection of the Water, Mother Earth and Treaty.
The dumping of millions of litres of brine into the Sipekne’katik River system each day would devastate the river and all the life that depends on it.
Together we can save the Sipekne’katik/Shubenacadie River for generations to come. from: Facebook event details
Commentator Kevin Arsenault (Facebook link) continues to pick the most uninspiring set of words spoken in the Provincial Legislature on a daily basis (he would prefer to pick the most inspiring but there often isn't).
Yesterday he observed Question Period where Stephen Myers asked the Premier to explain loans given to a particular family for the renovations and the purchase of a hotel in Summerside. Myers *was* tenacious, and Economic Development and Tourism Minister Chris Palmer dutifully repeated apparently rehearsed lines ("Mr. Speaker, This Government is proud of...(whatever)....") while fellow Ministers Pat Murphy and Richard Brown smile and stifle chuckle behind and next to him.
In the evening session, former Finance Minister and now simply Montague-Kilmuir MLA Allen Roach started to go into his Private Member's Bill No. 114 banning "check-out" single use grocery bags. Good for him for pushing an environmental matter; conversation was so good and varied, the MLAs hadn't got to reading the bill clause by clause before the time allotted time was up. Roach carried a thick file folder of e-mails of support he printed out to show the public support. ;-) Next the PCs talked about their Motion to get more input about the effects of a carbon tax before going ahead (Motion 62) and finally the Third Party had their time to talk about health priorities (I did not see this part, though) and will report more another time.
From yesterday's print Guardian; bold is mine, with apologies to the author.
Looking forward to reading responses from the Party Leaders, and to seeing them debate ideas in some sort of Vision Leaders' Forum before the next election.
OPINION: Meat in the stew - The Guardian Guest Opinion by David Weale
Published on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018
A need for clear and visionary platform regarding five crucial issues facing Island
As Islanders anticipate the up-coming election, and ponder how they should vote, I have this suggestion: don’t vote for any individual or party that does not have a clear and visionary platform regarding these five crucial issues facing the Island.
1. The rapid movement of land ownership into the hands of large corporations and other powerful entities which contravenes the spirit of the Lands Protection Act and will very soon, unless checked, take away from the Islanders the power to determine what kind of rural economy and society we are building in this province. The clock is ticking on this one. We solve it, or bye-bye Island autonomy.
2. The environmental damage to the earth, water and air – and to the health of Islanders - caused by large-scale, industrial agriculture, and the dominating presence of the Irvings within Island agriculture. If Island politicians don’t have the fortitude to take on the Irvings, we might as well just hand over to them the keys to the province right now and get it over with.
3. An educational system that is in a state of extreme dysfunctionality, requiring creative and innovative leadership. A re-conception of the entire system is required because right now morale among teachers on the Island is at an all-time low. And don’t take my word for it, just ask a teacher and see what she/he says. They are on the front line and they are discouraged, many to the point of despair. The system is broken.
4. A health system that is costing more than we can afford and delivering less than Islanders reasonably expect. Is it possible that the present health system is too much designed to meet the needs of physicians and health care bureaucrats, and too little designed to meet the needs of citizens? It’s just one of the questions needing to be asked.
5. The notorious PNP program which has become a disruptive and divisive force within the Island economy and continues to be a hotbed of patronage and political graft. There are many who whisper about the scandal of PNP, but few who will speak out for fear of being labeled a bigot or racist. Islanders have to get over that before it is too late, and strong leadership is required to take the lead in that shift.
It is all very well for the political opposition in the province to complain about the status quo, but we need to see a clearly articulated vision for change if we are to have any real hope for significant improvement.
Leadership is not, after all, the ability simply to spot a problem. It is having the ability and wisdom to rally the population around clearly articulated alternatives.
So, tell us Mr. Aylward, tell us Mr. Bevan-Baker, tell us Mr. Byrne what would you do differently? What innovative measures would you introduce? We need to know that now. Otherwise, what is the point of listening to you? What principles would you espouse that would deliver us from the regime of narrow self-interest that is the hallmark of the governing Liberals.
For the most part, what you are serving up presently is a thin gruel of generalities, platitudes and good intentions, mixed together with criticisms about the way things are currently being managed.
That just doesn’t cut it.
Voting for vague promises of change is what Islanders have been doing for many years, and it’s not enough. There needs to be some meat and veggies in the political stew or our society will continue on in its current malnourished condition.
--David Weale is a co-founder of Vision P.E.I.
May 1, 2018
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Happy May Day!
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM. The evening session will be Opposition time. You can watch live, and look up any Motion, Bill or the budget, here:
Nature PEI meeting and presentation: "Prehistoric PEI -- A Journey into the Past", with documentary maker Will Beckett, 7:30PM, Beaconsfield Carriage House, all welcome. Facebook event details.
Next Sunday, May 6th, rescheduled from early April:
Abercrombie: 50 Years of Pulp and Pollution, 2-4PM, PEI Farm Centre, admission by donation.
Award-winning journalist and author, Joan Baxter will be in PEI to talk about and read from her book, “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest”, on Sunday, May 6th.
In her latest book, Baxter tells the story of the Abercrombie, NS pulp mill and the past fifty years of community-based campaigns calling on the mill owners and the Government of Nova Scotia to better protect the environment and the people of Pictou County.
Since 1967 the Abercombie mill, under various owners, has used the tidal estuary at Boat Harbour as a waste lagoon. Boat Harbour (A’Se’K), is traditional Mi’kmaq territory, of great importance to the Pictou Landing First Nation. It was historically used as a harbour and was rich in eels, lobster and other shellfish. As a result of the continuous dumping of wastewater, today it is a toxic soup containing some of the world’s most dangerous chemicals: carcinogens such as dioxins and furans and heavy metals such as mercury, zinc, cadmium and chromium.
In 2015 the Nova Scotia Government passed the Boat Harbour Act, which requires the Abercrombie mill to have a new treatment facility in operation by 2020 and which mandates the clean-up of the Boat Harbour lagoon.
Late in 2017, Northern Pulp, current owners of the mill, made public its proposal for a new effluent treatment plant which would see up to 90 million litres of litres treated wastewater discharged into the Northumberland Strait each day.
The mill is situated directly across the Strait from Prince Edward Island. Local fishermen have expressed concern about the potential impact of such a large amount of fresh (and warmer) water being discharged into the Strait, which is prime lobster fishing ground.
Melanie Giffin, a marine biologist and program planner with the Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association, says even if the effluent is as clean as possible, the sheer amount of fresh water being introduced into the Strait could have a detrimental affect on multiple species. Giffin will also be present at the event to offer some local perspective on the Northern Pulp waste treatment plan.
Opposition MLA Colin LaVie (District 1: Souris-Elmira) is profiled in this CBC article on balancing lobster fishing with his work as an MLA. Today should be the first day lobsters are brought in.
It's Tuesday, which means the provincial Cabinet will meet this morning, and one thing accomplished will be "Orders in Council".
The Orders from last week, Tuesday, April 24th, are linked on the right hand side of the page. https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/publications/orders-in-council
There are many lands transactions - take a peek.
The provincial government is asking for public input to help put together a the Poverty Reduction Plan to assist the very good committee it has put together.
The survey is relatively short and is here along with some background documentation.
The deadline is May 18th.
The federal government is asking for input on how Canada can reduce plastic waster and marine litter, with some background, a place to post comments and/or send e-mail address.
This kind of consultation is appreciated but also seems like a bit of busywork. There is already a lot of work done on the most needed steps in reducing plastic waste. Time to get moving on it. It would be helpful for the environment if the government worked harder to meet the Paris Conference targets on Climate Change.
I haven't but skimmed this, but it was passed on by environment scientist and professor Bradley Walters at Mount Allison:
"It's time to think seriously about cutting off the supply of fossil fuels", by David Roberts, printed Sunday at Vox online.
"We are going to exit the fossil fuel era. It is inevitable."