November 30, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
It sounds like it was a great climate change rally and march in Stratford yesterday. The Council of Canadians organized it, and over a dozen Island groups sponsored it. Great positive messages, among others, that renewable energy is 100% possible by 2050.
This article from The New York Times answers twelve short questions with plain truths:
Here's the last one:
12. Is there any reason for hope?
If you share this with 50 friends, maybe.
Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have since built up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal that is likely to be reached in Paris in December will commit nearly every country to some kind of action. Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction. Around the world, many states and cities are pledging to go far beyond the goals set by their national governments.
What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.
The preceding 11 questions are here.
The last two water act consultations are in the next week:
Wednesday, December 2nd:
Cornwall, 7-9:30PM, Cornwall Civic Centre. Presenters include Cornwall Area Watershed Group, PEI Potato Board, PEI Shellfish Association, and the Ellen's Creek Watershed Association.
Monday, December 7th:
Charlottetown, 7-9:30PM, Farm Centre. Presenters include CropLife Canada, FertilizerCanada, Darcie Lanthier, and Sandy MacKay (the last two as interested citizens).
And NaturePEI meetings tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 1st:
NaturePEI, 7:30PM, Beaconsfield Carriage House. Monthly meeting with guest speakers Rosemary Curley and Diane Griffin on Newfoundland Labrador plants and more. All welcome. Details here.
Lynn Hasselberger writes on environmental matters for various blogs. For today's Global Chorus she writes:
In discussing how to tackle climate change:
<snip> "We need to toss aside our differences and concede that we’re all human. Each and every one of us needs clean water, clean air, safe food and shelter; and these basic needs are human rights regardless of race, social status or religious belief. That has to be our foundation for moving forward. <snip>
"It has to start with individuals. You and me. Thanks to the Internet, we have an instant global community. We can initiate these conversations and influence others one by one to join this redefined humanitarian movement. Our survival and that of all species let on this Earth depends on it.
"If we put humanity first, there is hope." -- Lynn Hasselberger
November 29, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Events today include:
Artisan Market/Authentic Christmas Market, 10AM - 3PM, Charlottetown Farmers' Market, Belvedere Ave.
Climate March, 1PM, Our Lady of Assumption Church, Stratford. Be a part of the global community urging the leaders at the Paris talks to act.
Dan O'Hanley talk, 2PM, at Our Lady of Assumption Church, sponsored by LAMP (Latin American Mission Project), by Heather Eaton from Saint Paul University in Ottawa. "Heather’s topic for this year's lecture is "Pope Francis: Climate Change Hurts the Poor the Most", based on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si on the environment and human ecology. This lecture continues LAMP’s theme promoting non-violent protest for the protection of all aspects of the ecological system, including the sacredness of the natural environment and human dignity." (It's planned so you can go to the Climate March and then inside to the lecture, if you wish.)
Bonshaw Ceilidh, 7-9PM, Bonshaw Hall, proceeds to go to Sierra Club PEI and WildChild Nature Immersion program. Music included Emerald Junction and Celtic trio of Blaine Hrabi, Nancy Clements and Colin Jeffrey , and many more. (I am baking biscuits to bring for the lunch on behalf of the Bonshaw Women's Institute.) Admission by donation.
Some listening from this week:
Residents Stuck with Mailboxes - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Editor: It’s now been a month since the October 19 election and over two weeks since the Liberal federal government was sworn in and held its first cabinet meeting. Yet many residents of Prince Edward Island (and Canada) are still stuck with the newly-installed community mailboxes.
By now, the federal Liberals could have given direction to the members of Canada Post’s Board of Directors to remove the community mailboxes and go back to door-to-door delivery (including for those who were forced to use community mailboxes years ago). The Canada Post Corporation Act states that, “In the exercise of its powers and the performance of its duties, the Corporation shall comply with such directives as the Minister may give to it.” If that direction was not followed immediately, the members of Canada Post’s Board of Directors could have been dismissed, as they are government appointees and can be replaced at any time.
I realize there are many things on the Liberal government’s agenda, especially after the disastrous years of the Harper Conservatives. But the Liberal cabinet doesn’t have to develop or implement the plan to reverse the changes to the postal delivery service; it only has to direct Canada Post to do that.
So why haven’t we seen the removal of the community mailboxes and the return of door-to-door delivery? Or, at the very least, why haven’t we seen the appropriate direction being given to Canada Post by the Liberal government?
Perhaps the four Liberal MPs from Prince Edward Island could answer these questions for the benefit of their constituents.
Ron Kelly, Charlottetown
Note from Chris: Ron Kelly is part of the duo Emerald Junction (see ceilidh, above).
Richard Zurawski, , author and meteorologist, writes for today's Global Chorus:
<snip> "In light of these almost overwhelming challenges, it is hard to be anything but a pessimist. Yet it seems that when the light is the dimmest, when the road ahead is darkest and almost totally obscured, humanity rises to reveal its best. Somehow the best, the brightest and the greatest come to the fore and give us a renewal and strength to mitigate the worst. It has happened time and time again, and it is my profound hope and wish that out of the potential disaster, reason and sanity will triumph." -- Richard Zurawski
November 28, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Yesterday was an interesting day in the Legislature, when District 13 (Charlottetown-Brighton) MLA Jordan Brown tabled the Interim Report of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal. He described what's been happening, thanking the Legislative Assembly staff and the public, and mentioned their work and many recommendations made. The Committee is not following the timeline first proposed in the White Paper. After Jordan Brown's remarks, and positive comments from some MLAs who stood up to talk, a very attentive Premier asked for a recorded vote on the motion to approve the report, which was unanimous.
Here is the report, which I haven't looked at much:
Major points/Recommendations of Democratic Renewal Committee, (errors are my own) from what I heard Jordan Brown describe yesterday in the House:
1) Shape plebiscite question by Islanders, present alternatives
2) Electoral systems to be presented to public
1.First Past the Post with Leaders’ seats getting seats if they got a certain threshold of votes
3.Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR)
4. Dual-member Mixed Proportional (DMP) (a system developed by Sean Graham at the University of Alberta, and presented at the Stratford public meeting by Anna Keenan. Her presentation slide show here on Google docs -- more about this another day)
3) Community Consultation phase in early 2016
4) Clear Question presented to islanders
5) Elections PEI supervise / consider alternative methods of voting
6) 16 and 17 year old extended right to vote in the plebiscite
a. Jan-March 2016 – public consultations
b. April 2016 -- plebiscite question drafted
c. May 2016 -- present to Legislative Assembly
d. June –Oct 2016 -- education campaign
e. November 2016 -- plebiscite
Jordan Brown also said the current system would be considered, but didn't elaborate on this; and he specifically mentioned to his fellow MLAs, that just because they were all elected there on FPTP, it didn't they had the right to FPTP or any other system.
For a listing of some events, see the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women's most recent weekly e-newsletter.
Climate Change gathering tomorrow -- "100% Possible" -- we are not in Paris but it's local and sends a message.
1PM, Our Lady of Assumption Church, Stratford (Kinlock Road). The rally and march goes until 1:45 and is followed by the annual LAMP lecture, this year on Pope Francis and Climate Change affecting the world's poor.
Today's Global Chorus is about food, by author and TV show host (Christina Cooks) Christina Perello. Timely for a Farmers' Market kind of day.
"Can humanity save itself from itself ? For me, the salvation of our planet and modern society begins, and ends, with our food. We can clearly see that our modern food choices have destroyed any delusions that food has no impact on our health and the welfare of our planet. Entire societies are plagued by preventable diseases that are driven by our lifestyles. Our planet groans under the weight of our healthcare costs, our trash, the by-products of the way we produce food....and the actual weight of humanity itself.
"If we look at our collective health and that of our planet, we must despair. But a groundswell of conscious people are seeing the light, making changes and demanding better quality food to feed our families, our children, our future.
"Reclaiming our food begins with reclaiming the meal. When we gather around the hearth, the table, we cultivate the skills we need to create a compassionate community … from communication and sharing to social justice; the tools we need to preserve our very humanity are in the kitchen and are carried to the table.
"The ecology of what we eat has an impact on our personal health and the health of our fragile planet. Choosing whole, unprocessed, seasonal foods sustainably produced can change the world. That may sound simplistic, but it’s simple truth … and can feed the world, creating a different humanity than what we see.
"Imagine a world of healthy, compassionate humans working together to reverse the damage done by multinational corporations and special interests. Imagine life lived on a planet that is vibrant and healthy. Simply stated, we worry about the environment around us, but consider this. Our internal environment, the state of our internal health reflects the world we have created. If we were to eat foods fit for human consumption and “clean up” our internal environment, we would not tolerate the chaos and pollution around us … and the world would change … because we changed it.
"As it always has, the future begins in the kitchen, with humans cooking real food and gathering around the table creating real communities." -- Christina Perello
November 27, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A few slightly related articles:
On Climate Change:
From Compass TV News Monday
Premier Wade MacLauchlan said:
"One of our jobs as leaders, political leaders, is to take these issues to the people. Because we are not going to get where we need to on reducing our emissions until we have cultural change. That's probably the biggest part of this whole thing."
Premier MacLauchlan is going to the Paris COP21 talks; there is a climate march (renewables are "100% Possible") Sunday at 1PM at Our Lady of Assumption Church in Stratford.
Energy: Last night the P.E.I. Legislature worked on part of a bill (No. 46, here) changing a few things regarding Maritime Electric's structure, and it brought out a lot of discussion about our energy structure and renewable energy, especially by MLAs Peter Bevan-Baker and Opposition environment critic Brad Trivers. The transcript should be up in a few days.
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 10AM to 1PM today. According to remarks made earlier this week by MLA and chair of the Special Committee Jordan Brown, the interim report of the democratic renewal may be tabled.
Live and archived video, bills and motions, Hansard transcripts, and background documents, including presentations made to the Special Committee, are here:
From Eric Grenier, who maintains the website threehundredeight.com, in a CBC article on how the voting system of preferential balloting would help the federal Liberals, and his website:
And speaking of Islands affected by climate change, Caribbean sustainability advocate and green builder, Heather A.E. Pinnock, is of a Caribbean sustainability program called "Hill 60 Bump Ltd", named after her father's childhood home. She writes for today's Global Chorus:
"The Caribbean region is comprised of some two dozen territories, most of which are small island developing states that are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The tropical nations of the region are inherently climate sensitive, with our lives and livelihoods inextricably connected to our environment. A groundbreaking study published in October 2013 identified the Caribbean region as being on the frontlines to suffer the effects of climate change with worst case scenarios placing cities in the region among the first on the planet to reach the global warming tipping point by 2023. The social, economic and environmental implications are staggering: extreme heat, coastal erosion, vector-borne disease, drought, flood and more intense storms are some of the key concerns. These can and will affect everything from personal comfort, natural habitats and physical infrastructure to the agriculture, marine and tourism industries on which we rely.
"The only way to overcome these crises and thrive is a radical change in behaviour – for individuals and communities to live more sustainably, for better national and regional management of natural resources and for a global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and other unsustainable development practices. Though the Caribbean region accounts for less than 2 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, we recognize and appreciate that every bit of responsible behaviour counts as we bear the brunt of some of their effects on the planet’s climate.
"It is clear that we must do more than hope, we must act … and now. While we work to adapt, develop social and physical resilience and even find ways to thrive in a deteriorating environment, it is also critical that we raise our voices to join if not lead the chorus to effect global change. We can and will continue to find, develop and implement the sustainable development practices and grow the green economies critical not only to our survival but also for our long-term prosperity." -- Heather A.E. Pinnock
November 26, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Water Act meeting at Westisle School in Elmsdale. 7-9:30PM. The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water is presenting, along with the Federation of Agriculture, the Federation of PEI Municipalities, and the Cascumpec Bay Watershed Association.
Sunday, November 29th
Climate Change Rally / March, 1PM, Our Lady of Assumption Church parking lot, all welcome.
The event shows support for the COP21 meetings which will be starting in Paris the next day, and is timed so that people can attend the Annual Dan O'Hanley Lecture at the Church Hall at 2PM (On Pope Francis and Climate Change.)
Fast as autumn days toward winter.
—Algernon Charles Swinburne, "A Swimmer's Dream"
The Special Committee on Democratic Renewal has been speeding along since public meetings were announced in early October, based on instructions in Motion No. 33 from the very end of last Spring's Sitting of the Legislature, to "guide public engagement and make recommendations in response to the White Paper on Democratic Renewal."
Here is a story in Tuesday's Guardian; black text are my comments. Bold is my emphasis of the article.
P.E.I. electoral reform plebiscite question to be tabled next week - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
Published on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
A draft plebiscite question for voters on possible changes to the way P.E.I. elects its next government is expected in a report to be tabled in the legislature next week. Exactly what that question will be has not yet been determined, but members of the province’s special committee on democratic renewal will be mulling it over during the next few days.
“I think we will be in a position to form at least one plebiscite question, and we may have more possible examples that we may put forward for debate in the legislature,” said committee chairman, Charlottetown-Brighton MLA Jordan Brown. The committee of MLAs - Liberals, Progressive Conservative and Green has travelled the Island from tip-to-tip gathering as much input as possible before it must submit its recommendations on electoral reform to the P.E.I. legislature.
Chris notes: There were nine public meetings within a span of a little over three weeks. The meetings were announced less than two weeks before they began. Two meetings were help on four of the days, being afternoon meetings (Alberton, Souris, Abram Village, and Charlottetown were afternoon ones, Summerside, Montague, Charlottetown and Stratford the evening ones.) There were no meetings anywhere else in Queens County besides Charlottetown andStratford.
But getting Islanders engaged in the topic of electoral reform has proved somewhat challenging.
Some of the committee’s early meetings had only a handful of participants. Later meetings in Charlottetown and Stratford did draw bigger crowds. But Brown admits the total participation of 400-500 Islanders represents only a fraction of P.E.I. voters.
What does this say about their "guid(ing) public engagement"?
The majority of those who made presentations expressed support for change, but the examples people supported were wide-ranging in scope and subject. For example, many individuals and groups said they support the idea of proportional representation. But there were multiple types of models and iterations of proportional representation put forward as the preferred voting system.
High school students at Charlottetown Rural expressed support Monday for a mixed member proportional system, but each student had different ideas of exactly how this would look. They also called for the voting age to be lowered to 16.
Meanwhile, some presentations focused on areas such as election financing while others took issue with suggestions contained within the province’s white paper on democratic renewal, released last spring as a way to start the discussion on electoral reform. A number of Islanders raised concern about the process itself being too rushed. “This entire process of collecting this information on democratic representation appears to me much too rushed, much too sudden, much too fast. We just went through an election,” Summerside resident Karl Hengst told the committee when it met in Abram Village in October.
And water act consultations are going on.
Ann Wheatley from the Cooper Institute echoed this sentiment in her remarks in Charlottetown in early November, saying she feels changing the Island’s electoral system is far too important an issue for decisions to be made in haste or without ample opportunity for Islanders to provide input. “We understand that Islanders are not generally shy about politics, but this discussion may leave people out, for example, if they feel decisions have already been made or if they feel too rushed or lacking in opportunities to engage in conversations with their friends and neighbours about this.”
Brown acknowledges the concerns about the timeline, especially given the fact a plebiscite on electoral reform in P.E.I. could come as early as the spring. But he says discussions and commissions on moving P.E.I. into a new electoral system have been ongoing dating back the early 1990s.
“It’s not a new subject,” he said. “There still might be people who will say the process is too rushed, and the question really is then, what is a good time frame? And we will chew on that and we will consider whether the process was too rushed.”
The committee report will likely offer an opinion on this as well as several draft plebiscite questions. It will then be up to the full legislative assembly to decide how to proceed.
The committee hopes to table its report by Nov. 30.
From Man-in-Motion Rick Hansen, in today Global Chorus essay:
"At the age of 15, when I sustained my spinal cord injury, I learned a very valuable life lesson: with support, courage and sheer determination, anything is possible. Since then, I have lived my life with purpose, holding fast to the belief that we all have the ability to make a difference and leave a positive impression on the world. he challenge, however – for every individual on the planet – is in making that choice to live life with meaning, deciding every single day to do something that will make a difference. This could be something as simple as being kind to others or engaging in community, fundraising for a cause or picking up garbage off the beach. It’s the accumulation of those little gestures of respect and humanity towards other people, and our Earth, that I believe will move us forward towards a world that is healthier and more inclusive." <snip> --Rick Hansen
November 25, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
ACORN Seed Swap and Sale, 11AM to 2:30PM, Delta Prince Edward Hotel, free admission.
"ACORN will be celebrating good, local, organic seed once again with its annual Seed Swap & Sale! This is a great opportunity to meet seed growers and sellers from around Atlantic Canada (and beyond), learn about heirloom and open pollinated varieties, and swap seeds for the upcoming season! This is a free event! Bring your seeds and we'll see you there!" But you don't need to bring seeds to go see and buy seeds.
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM today, in the Coles Building, off Richmond Street. You can watch from home and find more details about what motions or bills they are talking about at the Legislative Assembly website.
Movie: Neighbor by Neighbor: Mobilizing an Invisible Community, 7:30PM, Farm Centre (entrance by back parking lot), admission by donation, snacks. Movie length is about 1hr 40 minutes.
"In the summer of 2004, the Mayor of Lewiston, Maine announced a plan to develop a four-lane boulevard across downtown’s low-income neighborhood. This project was called “The Heritage Initiative.” Contrary to its name, this plan was going to eliminate the downtown’s heritage by displacing 850 people from their homes as well as destroy playgrounds, vegetable gardens, and historic buildings." <snip>
The movie tells how people responded.
sponsored by the Citizens' Alliance and Cinema Politica. All welcome!
Regarding the environmental breaches from TransCanada Highway construction in North Tryon, and the effects on the shellfish beds, here is an article from CBC about questions asked in the Legislature yesterday:
Regarding the "second reading" of the Well-Being Measurement Act, which is found here, it came up at 8:30PM last night, as planned. It was after a debate and a vote on the motion (No. 56) regarding potato disinfection, which by the way *was* a free vote, and three government members voting for the Opposition Motion. As I was watching from home, I didn't see the Gallery, but I am sure it was interesting to be there.
In the end, the half hour (the scheduling of which for the Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker showed fine collaboration between Opposition House Leader James Aylward and Government House Leader Alan McIsaac), was too short to get through it. After a bit long prepared statement by Bevan-Baker and then many general questions, such as Finance Minister Roach asking Peter if he were a member of the
Public Accounts Committee (when it has been mentioned several times since the May election that Peter is on *all* the Standing Committees). The former Leader of the Opposition (Steven Myers) and the current Leader (Jamie Fox) were most interested in why Bevan-Baker had chosen to go with a bill rather than a motion, and then time was pretty much up.
Presumably, the House Leaders will work with Bevan-Baker and more time will be found another day.
Today's Global Chorus essay is by model, environmentalist and cosmetician Josie Maran (link to her cosmetic line), who writes:
"When I think about why we should have hope for the planet (and everyone on it), I think about the miracles that happen every day because people don’t lose hope.
"Big miracles, like Rosa Parks changing race relations in the U.S. forever by refusing to sit at the back of the bus, or Barack Obama becoming the first black President with his “Hope” campaign – which couldn’t have happened if Rosa Parks hadn’t done what she did all those years before.
"Or smaller miracles, like my grandma having breast cancer and keeping her hope alive so that now, at age 85, she’s still playing tennis every day.
"Our society and our world is just a conglomeration of individual people, and if each of us keeps that kind of hope in our hearts, I’m sure that, together and separately, we’ll do the right thing and save the planet." -- Josie Maran
November 24, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Road construction in North Tryon, this year's shale-and-asphalt addition to the province's add-a-bead necklace of TransCanada Highway realignment projects, has been been quietly wrapping up for the Fall. The Tryon projects last year and this haven't had nearly the public scrutiny of the Plan B highway project (economic or environmental), partially because the North Tryon project had a land swap which resulted in more protected land, so it appeared to be sanctioned by some government and land protection biologists (CBC story from Spring here); but it's too bad we could have more public environmental monitoring there. I am not sure of any environmental impact assessment-type documents on the government's website; the project had quite a lot of earth-moving and the installation of huge concrete arches.
Taken about a month ago by Alan Hicken:
From October, North Tryon TCH project, photo with thanks by Alan Hicken
But the heavy rains caused much silt and runoff to get into the waterways related to the Tryon River. It's a rich shellfish area and here is fisherman Brian Campbell, who had been monitoring the situation:
Speaking of water, the final four water act public consultation meetings are underway.
Water Act Public Consultation meeting, 7-9:30PM, Kensington Legion. All welcome.
Public talk, Breaking the Silence (BTS) PEI hosting Aniseto Lopez from Guatemala, 7PM, Beanz Cafe, Charlottetown, regarding community resistance to Goldcorp Inc’s Marlin gold mine in the western highlands of Guatemala.
and (tentatively, as you never know with the Legislature),
Second Reading of Bill 101, Leader of the Third Party's Private Member's Bill "The Well-Being Measurement Act", Provincial Legislature, Coles Building, sometime between 7-9PM; this is where the bill can be discussed in detail and gone through "line-by'line". The public is always welcome in the Gallery. If you haven't been there before, you enter through the downstairs entrance and check in at security, leaving a driver's licence or some other I.D., get a guest badge and head upstairs. If the Gallery is packed, the staff will direct you to close-circuit TV display across the street in a room of the J. Angus MacLean Building (though I don't know if that happens for evening sessions as far as staffing goes).
You can also let your MLA know what you feel about this initiative; here are names, Districts, and contact information linked:
Mathis Wackernagel earned his PhD with the dissertation on the place for the Global Footprint Network, which now he and others have put into practice.
"We are an international think tank that provides Ecological Footprint accounting tools to drive informed policy decisions in a resource-constrained world. We work with local and national governments, investors, and opinion leaders to ensure all people live well, within the means of one planet."
"Humanity’s resource hunger and ecosystem exploitation exceed what planet Earth can sustain. Now the greatest challenge is how to live within our ecological means. But it is also our greatest opportunity.
"Fortunately, we have the tools at our disposal to measure both our demand on and the availability of Nature. Now the question is, do we have the courage to calibrate our policies to align with the facts? Or will we do as many have done in the past – address the dilemma of limited resources with brutality, while leaving large segments of humanity in the dust?
"Learning to live within the means of one Earth will require the best in human spirit and planning. The promise is a far more stable and peaceful global community.
"We can succeed and I want to, because if we don’t, everyone will lose." -- Mathis Wackernagel
November 23, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Even though the Legislature doesn't sit today, they will tomorrow, and at some point in the day are likely to do the second reading of Bill No. 101, which is "The Well-Being Measurement Act", a private member's bill submitted by District 17 (Kelly's Cross-Cumberland) MLA and Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker (or, as he was referred to in a media interview by the Minister of Finance Alan Roach last week: "Minister Baker").
Anyway, right now we look at our well-being as Islanders through an economic model with metresticks like the Gross Domestic Product to say how great we are. But they measure only that which has monetary exchange, and that means a lot of miserable stuff is counted (cleaning up environmental messes, for example, or lung cancer caused by smoking), and not things that really matter to us (for example, the idea protecting the environment, or the health of our children).
There is a famous Robert F. Kennedy quote about what the GDP does and doesn't measure, and it's printed in some background information that Peter Bevan-Baker has on his website**.
Here is Bevan-Baker's three-minute pleasant video on Facebook explaining it.
from it: "Are we really passing Bills in the House that are really making the quality of life better for Islanders?" and "Let's know what we value, and figure out if government is enhancing that or not."
The actual Bill No. 101 text is here.
Peter's website with materials -- see the "Summary of the Bill" link.
While the process of the Bill and how the first part works feel a bit contrived, it appears that it is one of the only ways to get these real well-being goals identified, by using a system similar to what current decision-makers understand. Consider reading the materials and letting your MLA know to support it -- only by collaboration with the other parties in the Legislature will this Bill pass.
Events this week:
Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 24th:
Breaking the Silence (BTS) PEI is hosting a visitor from Guatemala, Aniseto Lopez, 7pm at Beanz Cafe, Great George Street, Charlottetown. "Aniseto is a Maya Mam community activist who is part of the resistance to Goldcorp Inc’s Marlin gold mine in the western highlands of Guatemala. He will speak about community resistance, lack of consultation of indigenous peoples and the impacts of mining in his community."
Water Act consultation meeting, 7-9:30PM, Royal Legion, Kensington. Watershed groups and others making presentations.
Wednesday, November 25th
Movie: Neighbor by Neighbor, 7:30PM, Farm Centre, admission by donation. Movie about the building of community in a Maine town when a highway project is proposed through a lower-income neighbourhood. Sponsored by the Citizens' Alliance and Cinema Politica.
Thursday, November 26th
Water Act consultation meeting, water act, 7-9:30PM, Westisle School, Elmsdale. The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, Federation of Agriculture, Federation of Municipalities, and others.
Visual artist Anna Gustafson describes research that shows the connection between salmon inhabiting waterways and healthier, larger trees along the rivers, and how interconnected everything is, in her essay for Global Chorus today.
More of her work:
from Ghost Salmon, by Anna Gustafson, see link above
<snip> "Some of our unique human behaviours such as curiosity, passion, determination and ambition have brought us to this critical and dangerous point in history; but with the crucial addition of inspired leadership, knowledge and co-operation, they can bring us to a place of hope which then energizes action. Ghost Salmon and Salmon/Forest Project are examples of how answering a local question furthers global understanding, which is necessary for a more sustainable world.
"It is my sincere hope that you are finding your own ways to contribute locally for planet Earth in the desperate times that we face." -- Anna Gustafson
November 22, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
If you are staying out of the wet weather, and in front of the computer, then perhaps this bumper crop of topics may be of interest:
Here are two fairly quick ways you can get express your opinion about a couple of issues right now -- a third is after the Global Chorus excerpt (below):
1) Provincial Capital Budget -- as this is still open for questions in the P.E.I. Legislature, if you want to look at the Capital Budget Estimates and forward any questions to your MLA (contact list is here) for his or her consideration to ask about. Please send any thoughts soon since the questioning may come back up for debate/discussion Tuesday afternoon.
The Capital budget is for expenditures "for long-term additions or betterments" and not salaries and such. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Page 4 of the document has some five-year projections, and the rest of the pages have next year's and this year's estimates and then this year's projected expenses.
2) P.E.I. Special Legislative Committee on Democratic Renewal - -- the window for public consultation is closing. The community meetings are over and one assumes the Special Committee is working on its report to present to this sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature. The Special Committee heard a lot, but if you haven't chimed in, please do!
Consider commenting on what you want from our democracy, how we could improve it, what do you think of the process they are trying to follow, etc.
Here is the on-line form -- you could write your comments in another program and then copy and paste them, if that's easier.
You could send a postcard, but they may be finished with the report by the time it got to them.
It was a very interesting and engaging workshop and lecture on proportional representation, called "Just Democracy: Mixed Member Proportional Representation for all People" (MMPR), sponsored by the Cooper Institute yesterday. The event was the second annual Father Andrew MacDonald lecture on social justice. Mark Greenan, a political scientist and young Islander who was involved in the 2005 referendum and wrote about it later, gave the talk, after some beautiful fiddle playing by Roy Johnstone and with the friendly emceeing by Joe Byrne. Mark gave a bit of background, and then talked about the White Paper on Democratic Renewal, where he has three comments (all errors are my misinterpretation):
The first was that the history section downplayed the role the ruling class had in suppressing vote evolution or suffrage.
The second is that high voter turnout doesn't mean everyone was satisfied, and
The third is that there is a fundamental error on (around page 13) where there is an artificial distinction between a plurality (a candidate gets more votes than another candidate) and a majority (more than 50%) voting systems. The systems (the First Past the Post and the Preferential Voting) both are "majoritarian" systems and they lead to broadly similar results and behaviour of the elected representatives. What he is saying, as others have said, is that preferential ballot is not proportional.
There was so much more good information in the talk, that perhaps I can write more later. In general, the talk reminded us of the enviable place in history where we are, in this province, and we can -- with some time and space -- design the system that may work very well for us.
The PEI Symphony Orchestra is playing at the Confederation Centre Homburg Theatre today at 2:30PM. It's the second of four annual concerts by this, our local symphony orchestra, and today is joined by Island band Paper Lion, for some songs and orchestrations. Also, the Symphonie Fantistique by Berlioz and Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, dedicated to the late trumpeter and PEISO member Dan St. Amand, are on the playlist. Tickets at the box office.
Monday, November 23-Wednesday, November 25th
ACORN (Atlantic Canada Organic Resource Network) Conference, Delta PEI Hotel, all day and all sorts of packages.
Monday has workshops devoted to homesteading (among other topics), with one session on "Farmer's Top 10 Tips for Backyard Livestock" from 10AM -11AM with Sally Bernard from Freetown, P.E.I. and Argyle Shore's Gail Kern is giving the "Background Vegetables for Winter Storage" session at 2:30PM. There are also sessions on small-scale grain-raising and on perennials as food, fuel and medicine.
More info on the ACORN Conference Site.
Tuesday, November 24th:
Lunchtime Seed Swap, 11AM to 2:30PM, Delta Ballroom.
from Josie Baker, coordinator:
"This is free to attend, as is the rest of the trade show. This is a great opportunity to chat with local organic farmers and pick up some great open-pollinated seed from the Maritimes and beyond."
There are two Water Act Consultations this week, 7-9:30PM:
Tuesday, November 24th, Kensington, Royal Canadian Legion
Thursday, November 26th, Elmsdale, Westisle High School.
Lou Leonard is a World Wildlife Fund vice-president, Climate Change, and environmental lawyer, and blogs, and writes for today's Global Chorus:
"<snip> we are running out of time. Decisions we make – about energy, forests and agriculture – over the next decade will shape the world’s future, forever. So why haven’t more people made this great turning part of their life’s work? Two words: Fear and Doubt. Fear says don’t even look at this exciting yet scary moment; don’t accept that this is the most important time in human history. And a creeping, sinister Doubt whispers that we really can’t make a difference.
"And this makes me hopeful for our future, because the villains Fear and Doubt are within our power to vanquish. We can find the quiet courage to stay with the truth for just a moment without turning away and then surprisingly discover energy to act. We can realize that the turn toward this safer, more beautiful future already has begun. And we can see the growing chorus standing alongside us.
"So don’t be silent, talk to your friends, hold your leaders accountable. Start small, but then stretch yourself to do more. You’re not alone, but you are oh so important." -- Lou Leonard
Premier MacLauchlan is meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau soon, along with other Premiers, coming back, and in about two weeks is going to Paris for the Climate Change talks. We can start collecting your thoughts, appeals and wishes for Premier MacLauchlan regarding Climate Change and what we want to see P.E.I. do, and give them to him before he leaves for Paris. Just send them to this e-mail address. Signed or unsigned -- whatever you are comfortable with; and if we put them on a page on our website, we will not print names.
November 21, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets are open in Charlottetown and Summerside. There is a lot you can get there that you would otherwise buy "from away."
This tip for fighting climate change right now, something nearly everyone can do, was shared by naturalist Colin Jeffrey at the screening of This Changes Everything: Buy local food.
This means seasonal, too, pretty much; it's a change in mindset to buy local and seasonal.
(Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, is a funny, beautifully written memoir of her family's return to a small property in Kentucky and of their pledge to eat seasonally. The public library has copies.)
Also available today:
Free tickets for seasonal shows sponsored by the City of Charlottetown, to be picked up at the Eastlink Centre, 11AM to to 12noon, limit 4 per person.
The shows are:
One featuring John Gracie (Friday, December 4th), and
the other features Don Fraser, Catherine O'Brien, Alan Buchanan, Joey Kitson and Carolyn Bernard (Saturday, December 5th)
The latter concert will also be put on in Georgetown (Dec. 11th) and Summerside (Dec. 17th) and these will have a fee.
Yesterday, in the P.E.I. Legislature:
Regarding the Water Act: Minister Robert Mitchell (Communities, Land and Environment) said that the report of the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC - a group of which has been hosting the public consultations) would be made public "when it is prepared" and would be posted on-line. He also said that the report from the EAC would "be fully reflected in the draft of PEI's new water act."
So there is still time to get comments in to email@example.com and to attend one of the four remaining meetings in the next two weeks (next Tuesday in Kensington, next Thursday in Elmsdale, Cornwall on December 2nd, Farm Centre on December 7th)
Question Period focused on the well-being of Island children (it was International Day of the Child), appointments to agencies and boards , (those two topics from the Leader of the Opposition Jamie Fox); the control of placement of video gambling machines in establishments and the talk of closing Summerside harness racing (Matt MacKay, District 20 Kensington-Malpeque); greenhouse gas emission targets and current holdings of the province in fossil fuel companies (from the Leader of the Third Party, Peter Bevan-Baker); watershed group funding (Brad Trivers, District 18 Rustico-Emerald, clear questions but I couldn't make sense of the answers); energy strategy by Tina Mundy (District 22 Summerside-St. Eleanor's -- Minister Biggar reports there will be consultations this winter); and a softball question by Kathleen Casey (District 14 Charlottetown --Lewis Point) to Health Minister Doug Currie, questioning about clinic wait times, the answer from Health Minister Doug Currie on a new on-line clinic appointment program -- which lo-and-behold was announced in a government press release just a wlittle while later.
Then the Capital Budget debate rose from the ashes, without any word of explanation to the wee folk watching on Eastlink or the internet or in the Gallery. I think they basically left the Budget as passed but used the accompanied Appropriations Bill (No. 24) to "allow" for questions. And Opposition started asking questions, which is great, but the questions were disjointed, to say the least. Peter Bevan-Baker asked if it were always this unorganized, this scrutiny of this process, to which several veteran MLAs called out said, "Oh, yes!". The Chair of the "Committee of the Whole House" (Sonny Gallant) swiftly told Peter that any changes could be discussed for another sitting (as in next year).
They were still debating (discussing) particular lines when the session ended for the day.
The Capital Budget Estimates are here.
More Food for Thought:
From Brad Rabiey, who farms in northern Alberta, writes for today's Global Chorus:
"I grew up on a third-generation family farm. We always had and still keep an amazing garden. Despite our high latitude in Canada, every summer we enjoy cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, pumpkins, carrots and more. We build the garden soil with planting rotations and my Dad would never even think about spraying the weeds that pop up on it. Yet prior to the farm’s transition to me, my parents used fertilizer and pesticides to produce crops like wheat on the bulk of our farmland; grains that ultimately become food for other people.
"That inconsistency started to bother me many years ago. So, when it came time for the farm to be transitioned to my generation, I dug my heels in to ensure the farm would be certified organic before I took it over; because I only want to grow food I’d actually eat myself or proudly serve to my own family.
"That is my story and I tell it everywhere I can, including on this page, because it makes people consider how they can live consistently. It encourages people to examine how their decisions impact the broader world; whether it is where their clothing is made or how they travel to work each day. My story is not a fear-mongering tale, because when we say the sky is falling and it does not do so, in a way that impacts the audience directly; the next day, or even the next year, we become trapped in another parable about a boy crying wolf.
"So what should we do to gain trust of the majority and steer society away from the proverbial cliff on issues that are not often instantaneously perceived? We need to teach compassion and empathy. We need to get people to realize that what they do has a ripple effect around the world and generationally, whether through the fabric of society or the warming waters in our oceans. In other words, thatwe are all eating from the same garden. — Brad Rabiey
November 20, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Some interesting -- and confusing for those of us who don't know legislative protocols -- happenings in the P.E.I. Legislature yesterday, which highlight, perhaps, the need for electoral reform; as more accurate representation could perhaps keep some of this in check.
In the late afternoon session, though it was the time the Opposition usually presents motions, a government MLA talked on (apparently getting around to being against the motion, in this case Motion 56 (about the reduction of disinfection services for potatoes) and "ran out the clock", so the hour was called -- and despite a coordinated Opposition call to extend the hour -- the debate just ends (unless the Opposition tries again on another bit of time they get to schedule). Motions are a funny thing and the whole process could be revamped, but it's disconcerting for the average citizen to see these almost mean-spirited games played.
The Capital Budget apparently passed without any sort of line by line scrutiny, a flurry of activity that happened soon into the evening session last night. Peter Bevan-Baker (MLA District 17 Kelly's Cross-Cumberland) did ask a couple of questions on planning for climate change effects before the whole train just ran out of the station.
I don't think even the Opposition Parties understood the Bill (in second reading before a "committee of the whole house") was being passed without going through it line-by-line. Were government members just trying to get the Fall Session not to drag on well into December, or did they not want the capital budget thoroughly examined?
The Legislature sits today from 10AM to 1PM. More details here on their site.
John Jeffery continues to write columns with a mixture of current events, personal comments and analysis from his years of reporting in the Legislature (though he could use a bit of a proof-reading, but couldn't we all?). On Finance Minister Roach and stonewalling on the e-gaming file, and on Premier MacLauchlan himself.
Documentary filmaker Jennifer Baichwal writes for today's Global Chorus, describing the desert caused by the agricultural extraction of water from the Colorado River in the States.
<snip>"But in 1977, some (not much) agricultural wastewater from Arizona was accidentally released back into the Delta, creating a desert lake now called La Ciénega de Santa Clara. Almost overnight, the landscape transformed. Plants and birds and fish returned, and this small amount of inadvertent runoff made the area of flourishing estuary again.
....in 1993 was designated a biosphere reserve. The area has provided an indispensable living model for water activists like the Sonoran Institute in their ongoing daily work with local residents to restore the delta.
"Optimism + resilience = hope." -- Jennifer Baichwal
November 19, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Council of Canadians sponsored the Avi Lewis documentary This Changes Everything last night in Charlottetown, and other 100 people attended, and there was a great discussion afterwards. It was a very interesting film, capturing many reasons why we need to address Climate Change seriously and strenuously. The main points are that we need to reevaluate our measures of growth; leave fossil fuels in the ground and transition to renewables now, now, now; and not to let the pressure off our political leaders that we need to make the right decisions. As one of the people in India, fighting a coal-fired power plant, said, "Sometimes we have to say no before we can say yes." It ends with seeing where we are at as the opportunity "to change everything", and it was very uplifting.
More ideas applicable to P.E.I. to follow.
Some upcoming events:
The final four Water Act public consultations are:
The P.E.I. Legislature sits from 2-5PM and 7-9PM today. It is possible in the afternoon that the Opposition (who sets the agenda on Thursday afternoons) will focus on its motions, perhaps more on the idea of the infrastructure summit (Motion 46, which Brad Trivers (District 18 Rustico-Emerald) has put forward. The text is here.
It's a smart and perfectly reasonable idea -- gather not only government capital infrastructure decision-makers and municipalities people, but more community involvement, environmental groups, etc., to look at what little we are able to spend on infrastructure and make wise, long-term decisions. Government should really consider this not a stick-in-the-eye kind of motion from Opposition, but a suggestion to work collaboratively. So far, there has been little support from government.
Global Chorus essay today is by Swedish Jakob von Uexkull, founder of the Right Livelihood Awards and World Future Council.
On the Right Livelihood Awards, from Wikipedia:
The Right Livelihood Award evolved from (his) opinion that the Nobel Prizes were relatively narrow in scope and usually recognised the work of citizens in industrialised countries. Uexküll first approached the Nobel Foundation with the suggestion that it establish two new awards, one for ecology and one relevant to the lives of the poor majority of the world's population. He offered to contribute financially but his proposal was turned down.
Uexküll then created the Right Livelihood Award and provided an initial endowment by selling his collection of postage stamps for US$1 million; the awards have subsequently attracted additional funding from private individuals enabling the donation of annual prizes worth 150.000 euros. In 1980, the first Right Livelihood Awards were bestowed in a rented hall. Five years later, the invitation to present them in the Swedish parliament in Stockholm followed. Since 2005 his nephew Ole von Uexkull has taken over the management of the Right Livelihood Award.
This year the awards will be given out next week (November 30th) and one of the four recipients is Inuit Canadian Sheila Watts-Clothier. More here:
"I am convinced that we will be able to overcome the challenges of our time if we address the interlinked crisis with interlinked solutions. he exceptional opportunity which lies in times of crisis is that big changes can be easier than small steps, as only they are seen as adequate and thus able to inspire and mobilize.
"There are many historical examples of such changes growing rapidly from small beginnings. We are often told we cannot change our world – or human nature. Yet both are changed all the time. New norms, technologies and lifestyles spread across continents. Public attitudes shift. Culture is not static, but adapts and evolves continually, as does human consciousness.
"Across the world we share key values. We want to hand over a healthy planet to our children. We want to be co-creators of our future. We are not powerless victims of unstoppable forces. We can create a different human story of global citizenship, empowering us to deliver sustainable well-being for all without exceeding planetary limits.
"We need political frameworks to be changed, as ultimately there is no faster way to make change happen than through binding legislation. With the best laws and right policy incentives we can mobilize human inventiveness and entrepreneurship for human development and a healthy planet. Building public support for coherent policy action – and assisting policy-makers in implementing it -- is the indispensable meta-initiative to ensure that our efforts to promote human development, human rights and peace and security are not squandered." -- Jakob von Uexkull
November 18, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Movie documentary This Changes Everything, 7PM, Colonel Gray Lecture Theatre (3rd entrance from East parking lot, 175 Spring Park Road), Charlottetown, free admission, sponsored by the Council of Canadians.
Cornwall Town Council meeting, perhaps considering cosmetic pesticide by-law, 7:30PM, Cornwall Town Hall.
Other municipalities have worked on by-laws to ban cosmetic pesticides, only to have meetings turned into a complete muddle, some councilors seeming to have their own agenda, and few considering The Precautionary Principle (i.e., if we don't know the harm it will do, or if the conclusions aren't there, *don't do it*).
Today is the last day to register for the Just Democracy: Mixed Member Proportional Representation Workshop Saturday, November 21st, from 2-5PM, at the CAST Building at Holland College in Charlottetown. Free. To register call Cooper Institute at (902) 894-4573 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The P.E.I. Legislature sits only in the afternoon today, 2-5PM. The capital budget is expected to be tabled. The Legislative Assembly website is here:
In the Legislature a couple of times already, Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac (who won his District (District 5 Vernon River -Stratford) on the flip of a coin, you may recall), has said something like what he said yesterday:
"The budget line was set. We came in, we took it over. We followed through on that because we are, quite honestly, trying to grow our industry on PEI. We have to grow our economy. We're doing that as the Premier has asked, through our natural resources. That being agriculture and fisheries in my section of the portfolio."
Minister McIsaac has his mandate from the Premier, in the publicly-released letter. The letter to him has the same paragraphs as others in regards to welcome, transparency, openness, the "in this context, I ask to you place particular priority" heading, and the dual role of the deputy minister, etc. and includes the following specific priorities:
In this context, I ask to you place particular priority on the following areas:
Supporting the growth and sustained development of all elements of agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture on PEl to ensure economic and community prosperity and job creation, including strategies that encourage new product and new market developments;
Actively protecting, through leading science and community engagement, the means of ensuring the ongoing strength of our resource sectors and the promotion of environmental stewardship;
Contributing to the PEl sales effort through the active participation of leading producers and processors of primary resources; and
Collaborating with the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism in the Canada's Food Island Strategy by ensuring the activeengagement of farmers, fishers, and processors and linking to market and product development opportunities that place PEl among the world leaders in food production and innovation.
A couple of notes:
The Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries is John Jamieson, who was most recently executive director of the Federation of Agriculture.
Actively protecting and enhancing the environment that grows these products isn't really an overwhelming priority, from what I read in the letter.
Ronald Wilson -- novelist, historian, author of A Scientiﬁc Romance -- writes for today's Global Chorus.
"Societies behave much like individuals. They resist reform with denial and delusion, often thinking the answer to their problems is more of the same only better. The most widespread delusion of our times is that 'progress,' in the sense of technological inventiveness and growth, will save us – when unbridled progress is exactly what has brought us to the fix we’re in now.
"History and archaeology show us that societies seldom change their self-destructive ways until circumstances force them to do so. By then it is often too late. Yet there have been times and places where humans managed to think ahead for their long-term good. Several small-scale societies – among them the Tahitians, the Inuit and the hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari – learned to keep their numbers and demands within their ecological means.
"A few much larger societies, notably the ancient Egyptians and Peruvians, also learned to respect natural limits, by ceasing to build on farmland. In modern times the European Union, for all its flaws, is probably the boldest effort to learn from past mistakes. It took two World Wars – one should have been enough – but in the end true progress was made by the formation of this unique multinational association of erstwhile foes, which has grown from six countries to nearly thirty. Long may it last.
"Our world is overcrowded, inequality is worse than in pre-Revolutionary France, and natural systems are buckling under the weight of our demand. But I have not written of the human ability to change. Giving in to despair is always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now is our last chance to get the future right." -- Ronald Wright
Good lessons, the protecting of farmland from the building of roads and other "development", and respecting natural limits.
November 17, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
It sounds like many people came out to the Special Legislative Committee on Democratic Renewal community meeting in Stratford last night. Speakers included Horace Carver, and high school students discussing lowering the voting age. When the Hansard transcripts are up, we can share the link; lots of information at the Legislative Assembly's website, here.
The P.E.I. Legislature sits today from 2-5PM and 7-9PM.
Question Period will begin after greetings and recognition of guests -- perhaps about 2:20.
Here is a blog by former CBC reporter John Jeffery that explains a lot of the e-gaming file that we do know about, and about PC Leader Jamie Fox's attempts to find out more Friday during Question Period:
and the actual transcript of Question Period from Friday:
Fox tried very hard to get clear answers, as did Matt MacKay (District 20 Kensington - Malpeque).
John Jeffery has another blog posting from yesterday with his impressions of how the Legislature and government really runs:
Some events going on for the rest of the week:
Tonight, Tuesday, November 17th:
Free Urban Forest Workshop, 7PM, Beaconsfield Carriage House, 2 Kent Street, Charlottetown. “Our Urban Forest—In our Backyards and on our Streets: Tree Care, Tree Inventories and Community Projects.” "The City of Charlottetown’s Parkland Conservationist Beth Hoar will present on the Charlottetown Street Tree Inventory. City employee Jason MacEachern will present on community engagement projects and Gary Schneider, Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project Co-ordinator, will present on Growing Healthy Trees—Proper Selection, Planting and Pruning."
Water Act Public Consultation, 7-9:30PM, Royal Canadian Legion, 97 Sunset Drive, Wellington.
Wednesday, November 18th:
Documentary based on the book This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, 90 minutes, 7PM, Colonel Grey Lecture Theatre, free. Sponsored by the Council of Canadians. Directions for finding the right door to the inside mention it is the third set of doors off the East Parking lot, so maybe bring a compass.
Cornwall Town Council possibly addressing a bylaw banning cosmetic pesticides. 7:30PM, Cornwall Town Hall. All welcome.
Saturday, November 21st:
Workshop: "Just Democracy: Mixed Member Proportional Representation for all People", 2-5PM, CAST Building, Holland College on Kent Street. All welcome. **Deadline to register is by the end of Wednesday.
from the Facebook Event notice:
"On November 21, 2015, Cooper Institute will hold its second-annual Social Justice Symposium in memory of Father Andrew Macdonald. This year's theme is: 'Just Democracy: Mixed Member Proportional Representation for all people,' and will feature guest speaker Mark Greenan. This event will take at the CAST Building of Holland College from 2-5pm on November 21. This event is free. Please pre-register by phone (902) 894-4573 or email email@example.com"
Vancouver "Bikeshevik" Carmen Mills writes in today's Global Chorus.
More about her here: http://bicyclebuddha.org/about/
<snip> "We are very clever critters. I figure, if we were smart enough to get ourselves into this mess, then we might be smart enough to get us out of it. What are the odds? Who knows? The odds of a fish crawling out of the ocean were pretty slim too. But there is no time to be wasted in working out the numbers – we either do something, or we do nothing. The Doing Something camp is where the most fun people seem to be hanging out. So I say, let’s shake off the ashes of species self-loathing and get our collective ass in gear. It is time to stand by our species."-- Carmen Mills
Glad you are in the Doing Something Camp.
November 16, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The P.E.I. Legislature does not sit today, but the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal is meeting tonight at Fox Meadow Country Club at 7PM. All are welcome -- even if you can just drop in for a little bit, it will likely be worth it. The meetings have been starting with a quick description of various voting systems , and then the presentations (and the meeting) officially begins.
The Hansard transcript of the Citizens' Alliance presentation to the Special Committee from November 4th is here:
Our part starts on page 12, but the whole transcript is interesting, as are all the transcripts and presentations.
Some history on Hansard can be found here:
Edith Perry, an indomitable and very caring person, wrote this piece which was published in The Graphic newspapers last week.
MMP -- Mixed Member Proportional system of Proportional Representation (PR)
FPP -- First Pass the Post (current system)
For Starters, Level the Playing Field - The Eastern Graphic Letter to the Editor
Published in The Graphic papers on Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Submission to the 2015 PEI Electoral Reform Government Committee:
I was a member of the PEI group supporting MPP as recommended by Chief Justice Norman Carruthers in 2005.
Two observations stand out. 1) The limited time and resources allowed by the Binns PC government for the lead up to the referendum. They meant for it to fail. 2) The vested PC and Liberal political and “back room” interests behind the scenes working to ensure defeat of any kind of change.
Cynicism continues to colour my perception. I am not alone in believing the current Liberal government along with the PC party officials are not committed to really changing the existing electoral system.
Consider 1) the recommendation for preferential balloting, 2) the short-term time frame allowed for public input and being informed and 3) the PC party committee members’ public remarks criticizing a need for any change.
Preferential balloting is not a true Proportional Representation model. It merely changes the actual ballot format thus skewing preference for the established two main line parties, Liberals and PCs.
Regarding the limited time and no mention of real resources to actually inform Islanders, this speaks to little commitment to make change happen - again.
The real intent of the government and opposition should be to embrace the need for political diversity that reflects the need to grow our Island population with diversity in ethnic, economic and religious cultures and of women and inter-generations. True PR models would do this much more than the current FPP or recommended Preferential Balloting models.
Other electoral changes: 1) A complete revamping of the Elections Act and necessary resources for Elections PEI to be able to actually curtail electoral abuses. Never doubt there is vote buying and fear mongering going on to this day. Active in PEI politics since 1986, I personally have observed this happening time and time again. 2) Levelling of the playing field by a) capping individual political donations to $1,000 during campaigns and annually; b) Disallowing business and union donations; c) Putting a cap on political advertising and signage during campaigns and annually (I suggest $1,000 in each category and d) Removing the registration fee for candidates which is an unfair measure that discourages poorer people from having an active political voice.
Although I do not have much hope there will be real electoral change I want to ensure my views as a voter are on record.
Edith Perry, Millview
Nancy Ellen Abrams is the partner of physicist Joel Primack; he wrote an essay for a day several months ago in Global Chorus. She is a philosopher, lawyer and author, specializing in "scientific controversies". A very interesting biography here: http://www.new-universe.org/Abrams_Bio.html
<snip> "We were taught that Earth is an average planet of an average star in possibly endless space, but Earth is actually an extraordinary planet in a wildly dynamic universe. Our idiosyncratic solar system travels up and down like a carousel horse, orbiting the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The galaxy rotates like a pinwheel inside a vast halo of whizzing dark matter, while all the distant galaxies are being carried away ever faster by dark energy. The 'Double Dark' theory offers revolutionary ideas that as metaphors can help us reframe politics, economics and even what is sacred." <snip>
November 15, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Voluntary Resource Centre (VRC) Breakfast yesterday was a very nice gathering, and each year I am humbled by the number and diversity of the caring individuals who are out in our communities. Most of them say that it's not just them -- they merely represent many others. The recognized volunteers included Juanita Boucher nominated by the Queen Elizabeth Home and School Association, John Davison by Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce, Martin Marcoux by RDEE IPE, Shaun Matheson by Football PEI, Barry Maze from Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty, and Darcy Murnaghan by Special Olympics PEI. The following remaining three are making a difference with environmental and democratic issues: Sarah Bulman, City Centre Community School and Young Voters of PEI, Joan Diamond by Holland College Green Machine and Pesticide Free PEI, and of course, Don Mazer by the Citizens' Alliance, reflecting his work with Winter River - Tracadie Bay Watershed, and his continued work with ECOPEI, the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water , Blue Dot PEI and others.
Recognized volunteers from the 2015 VRC Breakfast. left to right: Shaun Matheson, Joan Diamond, Martin Marcoux, Juanita Boucher, John Davison, Sarah Bulman, Don Mazer, Barry Maze and Darcy Murnaghan. Each volunteer had some sort of display made their nominees, and you can see a bit of the one for Don behind him.
Karen Mair from CBC Radio was an excellent emcee, with grace acknowledging the events in Paris and moving the program along; and you could see how smoothly the event runs is due to the organization that goes into the event -- hats off to Sylvie Arsenault, manager, and the Board of the VRC.
Thinking of issues that P.E.I. could face in respect to water, today is the deadline to comment to the Ontario government about a proposal by the corporation Nestle to have the rights to test from a certain well near Elora, Ontario, which many think will lead directly to water pumping from the area for the company to sell as bottled water elsewhere. All are invited to comment; the following link is from the Council of Canadians and has background information, points to consider, and a link to the Ontario government form. One could write something as simple as water is a public trust and not to be carted away.
Events next week:
Monday, November 16th, 2015
Democratic Renewal Community Meeting (with the Special Legislative Committee), 7-9PM, Fox Meadow County Club, 167 Kinlock Road, Stratford.
A group from Charlottetown Rural will be presenting about reducing the voting age to 16 for any planned plebiscite, among others.
Tuesday, November 17th
Water Act Public Consultation, 7-9:30PM, Wellington Legion. Always good presentations, and there are some concerns that the general public (as opposed to those immersed in water act details) is not being engaged enough to attend, so if you are near there, do try to attend.
Wednesday, November 18th
Film: This Changes Everything, based on the book by Naomi Klein. Colonel Gray auditorium, free. Sponsored by the Council of Canadians.
Robert Bringhurst is an author, poet, and typographer. Here is an excerpt from today's Global Chorus:
"Humans have lived on the Earth for more than 100,000 years. For 99.9 per cent of that time, we as a species did only modest damage to the self-repairing fabric of our planet. We may even have contributed to its beauty nearly as much as we took away. Then we acquired industrial power, with no concomitant increase in wisdom. Then we robbed the bank of fossil fuel and began to burn the house down, dancing to the flames." <snip> -- Robert Bringhurst
November 14, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today is the Voluntary Resource Centre's annual breakfast, where several volunteers are singled out for their wonderful contributions to Island community through the organization that nominated them.
The Citizens' Alliance is paying tribute to Don Mazer, and note that Pesticide Free PEI has nominated Joan Diamond, who is such a caring, hardworking individual.
Anne and Don Mazer, in the Bonshaw Hills (just joking), along the El Camino trail in Spain, from a few years ago (submitted photo)
Joan Diamond, also known for her hard work at Holland College, here at the opening of the Raymond Loo Memorial Garden in September, for students and faculty to grow some food, eat and just rest and watch the beauty in the middle of the Charlottetown (Prince of Wales) Campus (photo by Maureen Kerr, I think).
More on Mandate letters, FYI: Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy
A couple of days ago I printed the Premier's Mandate letter (which outline "the strategic priorities of departments to enhance the transparency and accountability of government") to the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment, and here is part of the one for Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paula Biggar. Bold is mine. From: http://www.gov.pe.ca/premier/mandate-letters
29 September 2015
Honourable Paula Biggar
Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy
Government of Prince Edward Island
Dear Minister Biggar,
I have been honoured to welcome you to your new role as Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy and as a member of our Cabinet team, and for the collaborative work we have begun in the past few months. Together, we will work to fulfill the trust that Islanders have placed in us to lead with integrity and purpose...
<snip> All the letters start with the passive voice of the Premier having been honoured to welcome the new Minister, and continue on with paragraphs about prosperity, accountability, transparency, accessibility, fiscal responsibility, and more about people, prosperity and engagement. It then gets to specific sections written for each department, including a mandate list with heading in the Yoda-like writing of "I ask to you place particular priority..."
I look to you to help our Government achieve these goals by taking action to ensure Prince Edward Island has the physical infrastructure necessary for economic and community development and that the energy future for PEl is secure, sustainable and affordable.
The Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy is a newly-constituted Department and, working with your Deputy Minister, your first aim is to build a strong and cohesive effort that engages Islanders to work together to improve and modernize our physical assets, including energy supply and distribution. As Minister responsible for the Status of Women, you will be counted on to be a leader advocating for women's rights and interests on all issues. As Minister responsible for Access PEl, you will also carry a lead responsibility in modernizing our front-line delivery of Government services to the residents of Prince Edward Island.
In this context, I ask to you place particular priority on the following areas:
Develop a comprehensive infrastructure renewal plan, including discussions with our Federal Government partners to increase co-investment opportunities;
Lead the updating of provincial energy infrastructure, notably the PEI-NB underwater cable;
Collaborate with your Cabinet colleagues, and particularly the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment; and the Minister of Finance, on a comprehensive energy futures strategy that includes green energy options, lower GHG emissions, and comprehensive conservation practices, as well as possibilities for closer collaboration with regional government and industry partners on supply and delivery;
Develop a forward strategy for Access PEl that extends front-line Government services to residents across the Island, including an increased emphasis on digital delivery of these services; and
Work across all Government to advance equality and opportunity for women in policies and programs.
All of this work can and will only be accomplished through active engagement with Government and community partners. To this end, I expect you to build positive and constructive relations with municipal leaders, business, consumer and environmental groups, as well as with other levels of Government regionally and nationally.
The letter continues with the same description about the duality of responsibility of the Deputy Minister's role (Mr. John MacQuarrie), and ends the same as the other mandate letters.
Swami Ambikananda Saraswati, founder of the Traditional Yoga Association and The Mukti Project ("supporting the education of dispossessed, disenfranchised and endangered children"), writes for today's Global Chorus: http://mukti.traditionalyoga.org/
<snip> "Hope for our future cannot therefore be found in our awesome technology or any of our grand institutions.
"Our only hope now lies in the transformation of human consciousness.
"This new consciousness refuses the call to be exploiters and competitors. It calls us instead to walk humbly with each other offering sustenance and dignity.
"To invite it we must do the work that makes changes in ourselves possible, including standing together peacefully against interests that seek to divide and destroy. In this togetherness we must continually remind each other that we ourselves are the art of life: we are the canvas, the painter and the brush. The future is not independent of us, it is not made by blind forces that we can barely name – it is being created by each of us. If there is to be a painting of the future, it is one we are colouring now." <snip> — Swami Ambikananda Saraswati
November 13, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today marks a full year since Robert Ghiz announced his stepping down from being Premier as soon as a replacement could be chosen. It started a few heady weeks of several cabinet ministers and backbenchers flexing their muscles, but eventually everyone got in line behind Wade MacLauchlan, who assumed the leadership in February of this year.. Here is a CBC story from a year ago.
Yesterday the P.E.I. Legislature started their Fall Sitting, and right off the mark, during Question Period, District 19 Rustico-Emerald MLA and Opposition environment critic Brad Trivers brought up the idea of an "infrastructure summit", including many more in the decision-making process.
As you know, we have many potential projects that could benefit from more infrastructure investment, not just collector roads. On this side of the House we think that this new federal infrastructure investment can provide an unprecedented opportunity to look at infrastructure through a sustainable lens, engage stakeholders in an open and transparent fashion, and proactively create a prioritized comprehensive infrastructure plan."
(Transportation and Infrastructure Paula Biggar had just said that the Province didn't qualify for some of the "New Build Canada Fund" money due to it being for "collector roads", which are "a low to moderate capacity road which serves to move traffic from local streets to arterial roads...(they) are designed to provide access to residential properties." -- Wikipedia)
Brad Trivers continued:
Ad hoc consultations are fine. But on this side of the House, I mean, we believe a formal infrastructure summit could bring together representatives of local governments, industry, environmental groups, and community organizations to identify projects that could make our infrastructure more sustainable environmentally and also enable more economic growth. Holding an infrastructure summit would be a more comprehensive and collaborative approach that's also more open and transparent. Going this route could be more fiscally prudent than previous stimulus investments that lacked that focused planned approach. After all, we all remember the hills of Borden.
(And the Hills of Bonshaw, for that matter.)
Minister Biggar stuck to the idea that just consulting with the Federation of Municipalities is pretty good for prioritizing, but you can see how limiting that is.
An unrelated compliment that MLA Brad Trivers has been at many of the water act public meetings, too; listening and saying he is learning a good deal.
The House sits from 10AM to 1PM today, with seating in the Gallery or watching here:
The remarkable staff of the Legislative Assembly gets the unofficial transcript from the day's Question Period (not the whole session) out before the end of that day.
An event next week:
Monday, November 16th:
Community Meeting, Democratic Renewal Legislative Committee, 7-9PM, Fox Meadow County Club, Stratford.
This meeting was added due to how busy the last ones were. If you are interested in making a presentation, contact:
All the previous submissions to the Democratic Renewal Special Legislative Committee are on-line and here (!):
Julia Marie Londono is Minister of Parks in Columbia, and writes this essay for today's Global Chorus:
"Colombia is a singular region of planet Earth because of the predominance of contrasts. On the one hand, it holds a huge amount of biodiversity and natural resources, but on the other hand, basic needs for thousands of people are still not covered. As a matter of fact, there is poverty, represented as hunger, and lack of education, health and good housing. States are making big efforts to develop their countries and enhance life quality of their citizens, facing at the same time in some cases political and institutional instability, which makes governability of their territories something difficult to achieve.
"Nonetheless, in the middle of this critical reality, states, economic sectors, environmental NGOs but mainly, organized local communities, have been working hard in order to accomplish the conservation of ecosystems which provide invaluable environmental services. This job has been serious, consistent and persistent, and it has had as its ultimate goal the effective conservation of protected areas – as well as sustainable production with environmentally friendly technologies – in those areas where water resources, forests and fauna along with traditional knowledge are of main importance.
"Furthermore, partnerships between the public sector,communities and the private sector have been fundamental in order to attract the attention of all society sectors that value natural richness and that are claiming for more environmental sensitivity, which results in clearer laws and stronger public institutions that could enforce policies and rules.
"I believe that this model could work if it is strictly implemented. If the so-wanted economic growth is achieved, mixed with well-being for humans, based on the respect and value of natural resources of countries, and if enough areas of well managed ecosystems are let that could keep providing their goods and services, a better and more balanced planet will be possible. A planet with a real future!" — Julia Miranda Londoño
November 12, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Citizens' Alliance nominated Don Mazer as one of the "Outstanding Volunteers of 2015" to be celebrated at the Voluntary Resource Centre's Annual Fundraising Breakfast this year. It is due to all his work with various environmental endeavors, from ECOPEI to his local watershed group to Blue Dot PEI and the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water.
This breakfast, though at $30 ($16 tax receipt) is not inexpensive, helps keep the Voluntary Resource Centre open, and it is a wonderful home and resource for many small groups.
More details on the breakfast at this Facebook group.
Today is the first day of the Fall Sitting of the P.E.I. Legislature. The Premier was interviewed on CBC (full story here) and said this session should go at least five weeks (well into December) and his government plans to introduce 20 pieces of legislation, but he gave few specifics. It was a bit coy in our age of transparency -- the public could see the breakdown of what's planned for the session, when things will tentatively be introduced, any details.
New interim Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Fox (District 19 Bordon-Kinkora) promises to ask short, straightforward questions, a style that will be welcome by many. The Opposition members will keep their critic portfolios, it appears.
Best wishes to all the MLAs and staff, and to NDP leader Mike Redmond, who will be watching and commenting on the session, too.
Members of the public are welcome to attend any part of the sessions and sit in the Gallery. Proceedings are Thursday, 2-5PM and 7-9PM, Friday 10AM to 1PM, Tuesday like Thursday, and Wednesday 2-5PM. Even though the website http://www.assembly.pe.ca/index.php3
is very welcoming about attending, the security (accessed through the basement of the Coles Building) can be a bit intimidating. Be sure to have photo ID and be ready to hand it over to receive a visitor badge; they also ask for cameras to be locked up with them, but you can keep turned off cell phones with you. These fellows are there to ensure some standard of security and they take their roles seriously, but once you figure out the routine, it's not so cowing. While it's interesting to watch proceedings from the gallery, you can watch on Eastlink or through the "Watching the Asembly -- Video" access on the Assembly's website (link above).
Today's Global Chorus is by Joel Makower (his website at http://www.makower.com has the tagline "sustainable business, greentech, and beyond") who writes:
"Hope for the planet is everywhere, in thousands of ideas, projects, campaigns and organizations. There is no shortage of ideas, passion or commitment. here is no shortage of enabling technologies, inspiring examples or solution sets. We know the questions. We have the answers.
"What we lack is a vision – a compelling vision of 'what happens if we get things right.' It’s funny to think about. We have no shortage of visions of what failure looks like: of environmental destruction and the loss of community and security, of food shortages and 'resource wars.' We've heard plenty about rising oceans and spreading disease vectors, and the loss of topsoil that will make it difficult, if not impossible, to fed nine billion empty bellies.
"But we don’t have a vision of success – a story being told by leaders in business, politics and popular culture about the happy path:the opportunities to harness sustainability to create healthy individuals, communities and economies. To ensure abundant energy, water and food. And the well-being that comes from a world in balance.
"What is that compelling story? Who should be telling it? How can it become the irresistible vision of what’s possible?
"We need a new story and lots of new storytellers." — Joel Makower
Some good essays with vision are here, from the Vision PEI facebook page.
November 11, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Mandate letters, which outline "the strategic priorities of departments to enhance the transparency and accountability of government" were sent to Ministers at the end of September and posted on the government's website later. from: http://www.gov.pe.ca/premier/mandate-letters and here is the letter to Minister Robert Mitchell, regarding the Department of Communities, Land and Environment. Bold is mine.
29 September 2015
Honourable Robert Mitchell
Minister of Communities, Land and Environment
Government of Prince Edward Island
Dear Minister Mitchell,
I have been honoured to welcome you to your new role as Minister of Communities, Land and Environment and as a member of our Cabinet team, and for the collaborative work we have begun in the past few months. Together, we will work to fulfill the trust that Islanders have placed in us to lead with integrity and purpose as we build a prosperous, caring and engaged society for the people of Prince Edward Island. We have a clear and coherent plan to enhance PEl's quality of life, to advance our economic growth, and to build strong community across our Island, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne, and your Department will play an important part in achieving those goals.
As a Government, we are committed to openness and transparency, and to the highest standards of ethical conduct in our decision-making and governance processes. We will be accountable for our actions, and we will increase opportunities for Islanders to engage in shaping our future path and in carrying out the work of Government. You and your colleagues play a crucial role in fulfilling those commitments.
I look to you to ensure adherence to the strengthened measures that are being put in place for expense disclosure by Ministers and senior officials; to be frugal in conducting your duties; to deal with citizens and clients in a fair, transparent and balanced way; and to ensure open, merit-based processes for hiring and board appointments within your area of responsibility.
I also encourage you to commit to making sure that Prince Edward Island Government services can be easily accessed by our citizens, community groups and businesses. As we work internally and with regional governments to reduce unnecessary regulation and improve service delivery, I welcome your ideas and leadership.
Our work over the coming term of office will be shaped by our commitments to the people of Prince Edward Island as set out in our campaign document, Let's Work Together! We have set out a plan to build a prosperous economy, achieving growth above national averages, and develop a stronger society through the three integrated priorities of people, prosperity and engagement. Working across Cabinet, Government and community, we will strive to put in place the best supports for all Prince Edward Island residents, to allow them to meet challenges and to flourish as individuals and families. We will create more opportunities for business, trade and jobs. And we will strive to put Prince Edward Island on the map as an innovative leader.
I look to you to help our Government achieve these goals by taking action to safeguard our environment, to protect our land and water resources, and to foster strong, vibrant communities and local governments across the Province. In so doing, you will work closely with your colleagues and particularly with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to promote the sustainability of our industries- recognizing that this is vital to the success of our brand as Canada's Food Island and more importantly to the long-term future of our resourcebased industries.
The Department of Communities, Land and Environment is a new department and, working with your Deputy Minister, your first aim is to build a strong and cohesive effort that engages Islanders to jointly attain our community-strengthening and environmental stewardship goals.
In this context, I ask to you place particular priority on the following areas:
Lead the effort, through public consultation, on a new Water Act that supports the protection and responsible use of our water resources and bring that forward in 2016 to the Legislative Assembly;
With input from the public, update the Planning Act to include land use policies, and work with your Cabinet colleagues, communities, and Islanders to support the implementation of renewed policies in the Act in line with the recommendations of the Handrahar Task Force Report;
Move forward on the continued implementation of the recommendations of the Carver Report on the Lands Protection Act;
Take proactive action to prepare for and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, including joint planning with the Atlantic and Federal Governments, and support for measures to increase PEl's move to more green energy sources and enhanced coordination in all aspects of energy use;
Conduct consultations on and bring forward a new Municipal Government Act to integrate and modernize existing legislation and increase accountability, accessibility, transparency, responsiveness, and efficiency; and
Work with the Department of Finance on a new funding system for municipalities on PEl.
All of this work can and will only be accomplished through active engagement with Government and community partners. To this end, I expect you to build positive and constructive relations with local governments, watershed and environmental groups, farmers and agricultural producers, as well as with other levels of Government.
I also look to you to develop and maintain effective, trusting relationships with your Deputy Minister and departmental officials. Our dedicated and professional public service is vital to the attainment of our goals as a Government, including careful, prudent management to achieve our commitment of a balanced budget in 2016- 17. Your Deputy Minister is your primary source of support in achieving your responsibilities as outlined above. Within this context, your Deputy Minister is ultimately accountable to me, through the Clerk, for supporting you in a manner consistent with the duly-approved policies of Government, and the overall agenda and direction of Government. I ask you to bear these dual accountabilities in mind as you continue to develop your working relationship with your Deputy.
These are exciting times for Prince Edward Island. I am confident that, working together, we will make great strides to fulfill the potential and opportunities of our Province and our residents and ensure that we can face the future strong, proud and optimistic.
Today's Global Chorus takes a different look at ending strife in conflict zones, by Barb Stegemann, founder of The 7 Virtues Beauty Inc., author of The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen <www.the7virtues.com>
<snip> "I am not a brave soldier, nor am I a world leader, but I set out to empower women to harness the huge buying power they possess to address issues of war and poverty. Our goal is to encourage other businesses to do trade with business people in Afghanistan, Haiti, the Middle East and other nations experiencing strife, as a part of the solution to building peace." — Barb Stegemann
November 10, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Here are a few photos of the water act public consultation in Crapaud last night.
There were about 20 people there, which I think is very good considering it was not a usual water act night, and Crapaud had only been added about a week or so earlier to the schedule, without much fanfare.
Minister of Environment Robert Mitchell welcoming the crowd. Monday, November 9th, 2015.
Tony Reddin and Lilly Hickox from Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club addressing the EACm about sustainable farming practices and other water related matters.
Chris Ortenburger and Cindy Richards (and a slide of Jimmy Carter) discussing Blue Dot PEI/The Right to a Healthy Environment, November 9th, 2015.
The Jimmy Carter quote:
Colin Beacan is a speaker and author and "star" of the book and film, No Impact Man, director of the No Impact Project www.colinbeavan.com, and writes for today's Global Chorus:
<snip> "Don’t waste time asking if there is hope for this world. Rather, what can you do right now – as the amazingly special and uniquely talented person you are – to pull out the poison arrow, to save the child on the sidewalk, to help this suffering world? The question is not whether the world has hope. The question is, how do I give this world hope? Or more simply, how can I help?" -- Colin Beacan
November 9, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
It's a slightly quieter week than some -- only one water act public meeting, and no democratic renewal ones; the legislature resumes sitting on Thursday, the day after Remembrance Day.
The Symons Lecture is today, starting at 12:30PM, given by actor and director Paul Gross. I know, it's hard to follow the spectacular Stephen Lewis from last year, but these lectures never disappoint. There are likely still tickets, call the box office at (902) 628-1864, and more info about the talk is on the Confederation Centre's website It is general seating, and doors open at 12noon.
Tonight is a water act public consultation, in Crapaud, at 7PM, in the downstairs room of the Crapaud Hall, which is just off Rte. 13, on your right coming from the the TCH in Crapaud (up the street from Harvey's General Store) and on your left if you are coming from Hunter River.
The presenters are going to be Lilly Hickox (a high school student) and Tony Reddin on behalf of the Sierra Club; Blue Dot PEI, and likely one other, so it may not be such a late evening. Water Act info from the government website is here.
The Crapaud meeting was just added about a week ago, and the schedule doesn't have any "New!" button next to it on-line, so engagement with the community may not be happening; do come out if you can, and tell others about it.
VisionPEI made a presentation to the Democratic Renewal Special Legislative Committee last Wednesday, and here it is, from a posting on their Facebook page:
The why and how of public consultation in Prince Edward Island.
When European settlers arrived on this Island they discovered a forested wilderness so dense and forbidding that many became immediately discouraged. How, they wondered, could they survive such circumstances, and what kind of society might they build.
Fast forward a couple of generations and you discover that those families not only had survived, but had created a pastoral landscape that was both productive, and beautiful. And how were they able to accomplish such an arduous feat? Because they were inspired by a vision. There were many skills to be acquired, and many challenges to be faced, but what kept them going was their vision of what might be.
When it comes to decision-making, communal discussion of the vision must come first. The means by which that vision might be achieved are important, but secondary. Unless there is a shared long-term vision in place our choice of this, or that, is not liable to assist us in getting where we wish to go.
It is that way with this present discussion on electoral reform. There are many choices, but if there is no shared communal vision the listing of possibilities is premature. We need to envisage what kind of society we wish to become before we decide what electoral steps will assist in getting us there.
Regarding electoral reform, our government has proposed three options leading speedily to a referendum. For many none of the three options are appealing. Is there another worthy possibility? Who decided on these three options? For whom do the three options work, how, and most importantly why? In public consultation why do we jump to solutions before the problem is clearly defined?
Let’s think about consultation. If a political party, government or some other group really wants to consult it should never start with a position, or three positions. The purpose of consultation in any organization or jurisdiction is not to make people feel consulted so they will go along with some proposal or other. The real value of consultation is to make wiser decisions for all. All of us are smarter than one of us.
Collaboration is tough – much tougher than voting. It is not, however, adversarial, and does not produce winners and losers. It means we all can speak, we all get heard and we can move into the future together. It’s important to note that “being heard” doesn’t mean you get your own way. Once you’ve been heard you have to be willing to move on and work with your community whether your initial opinion prevails or not. Collaborative leadership also does not mean formal leaders necessarily get their own way. In fact, wise leaders collaborate precisely because they do not have all the answers.
Authentic consultation needs to begin with an open-ended question, not a set of pre-ordained solutions. It needs to begin with a discussion of what we want to become, not with measures we think might fix a perceived problem.
This present process regarding electoral reform is yet another white paper which is too swift and too shallow. We have four years to do it right. Imagine true consultation right here in the Cradle of Confederation, showing the country how it can be done. In 1864 Prince Edward Islanders asked searching questions about what kind of community they wished to become: questions that took years to answer. It is time for Prince Edward Island to ask those same kinds of soul-searching questions again. We need a vision for our province; one that is clear, compelling and shared. We have to focus on the “why” questions before the “how” and “when” questions until we are clear about the future we envisage.
Let us use this most recent public consultation process as a learning example, beginning with a discussion of what makes for healthy communities located in a healthy environment. Only when we have done that will it be time to consider what means might or might not be useful. As we did more than a century ago, we need to ask very radical questions. Here are a few:
Why are political parties the only model for provincial governance?
Why do we have the same bureaucratic structure we had 100 or more years ago?
Do we wish to move past the adversarial, we/they tribalism of our present system? Or do we desire something more inclusive and cooperative?
How do we protect, and enhance, our legacy of self-determination?
How do we turn our insularity, and our smallness, into positive attributes?
Regardless of our present, worrisome situation in P.E.I. we have hopes and dreams to share. We also have the potential to take action and, because of our constitutional status, the opportunity to craft our own future. The window of opportunity is closing quickly, but it is no time to be reactive, and to grasp hastily at remedies; rather, is the time to leap forward in imagination and envisage the kind of society we wish to create, and then begin to look at the measures required to move us along that path.
On this Island, and beyond, there is a growing consensus that a fresh approach to governance is required. There are many possibilities, but the one thing we must not do is to waste this opportunity by merely tinkering with what is obsolete, and if we do not begin with vision that is precisely what we will end up doing. And it is our opinion that this white paper on electoral reform is pointing Islanders in that direction.
There is an ancient saying... “Poor leaders the people despise, good leaders the people revere, but with great leaders the people say we did it ourselves.” The essence of public consultation is to make wise decisions which reflect the vision of the people. Worth a try? We’d vote for that.
Follow and participate in Vision PEI initiatives on Facebook, at “Vision PEI” (website link above)
Global Chorus's essay today is by feminist and author Marilyn Waring of Counting for Nothing/If Women Counted,
professor of public policy at AUT University (Auckland, New Zealand), who writes:
"The future requires more than hope.
"It requires commitment and resilient defiance in the face of all the patriarchy wishes to hurl at us and destroy for personal wealth and political, religious and military gain.
"They want us immobilized with fear and they want us to give up.
"So the first act of creative feminist politics is to refuse to comply with their agenda, to defy their corrupt and destructive ideologies and to act to change our world with ideas and creative alternative practices that have at their heart the dignity of all peoples, and the care, nurturing and return to health of our beautiful ecosystem." -- Marilyn Waring
November 8, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
It was a fabulous AGM at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown. About 30 people attended, and we rearranged the agenda to have the potluck meal first (always good food), then the AGM, coffee and dessert and watching the inventive skit "Plan B to the Present", using old footage and new ideas.
A huge thank-you to Pauline, Darcie, Grace and Anne, who helped set up and clean up the place, and the fantastic board of directors for attending to the myriad of details in what turned out to be a busy, busy week. And of course to all of you who were able to attend..
Our next events are the movie Neighbor by Neighbour, on Wednesday, November 25th, at the Farm Centre, and a holiday potluck in Bonshaw.
From a recent Guardian letter to the editor:
Cornwall residents petitioning to have lawn chemicals prohibited - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Friday, November 6th, 2015
As technology advances, synthetic chemical products such as pesticides find their way into nearly every aspect of our lives. It is difficult to measure and analyze the long term consequences of using these products because the effects can take many years to develop. However, there must be preventative measures in place to protect the population and the environment from serious harm. In Cornwall, residents are petitioning for the prohibition of spraying certain lawn chemicals (cosmetic pesticides) by private citizens.
The ban would include a buffer zone around vulnerable areas such as schools, senior’s homes, playgrounds, and daycares. Young people and older adults have bodies that are either developing or failing, and they are therefore much more susceptible to external influences. While a healthy, middle-aged individual may not even notice a slight breathing issue caused by a pesticide, the effect on a growing child over many months could be much worse. When combined with other possible age-related disorders that are common in the elderly, you have a potentially deadly chemical that is close to the affected person every single day.
The residents of Cornwall also suggest the city should strive to identify as a natural community. When certain yards are treated with pesticides, they stand out in a bad way. White plastic warning signs poked into the ground of chemically treated lawns sharply contrast strangely uniform green backgrounds. The consistency and labeling of these lawns exudes a feeling of human interference and control, not a feeling of naturally healthy ecosystems. A lawn is most definitely an ecosystem, no matter how much the owner tries to control it.
I support the suggested ban on certain cosmetic pesticides, to protect the citizens, the environment, and the image of the town.
The organization 350.org has people out near the Prime Minister's residence, reminding him of the importance of confronting climate change, and Canada's role in this.
U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline project Friday, which would have piped tar sands oil to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, in a stroke of the pen!
Former Environment Minister David Anderson (1999-2004) writes the essay in today's Global Chorus:
<snip> "The hope for humankind may paradoxically lie in the increasing number and severity of the problems that climate change is generating. As past experience makes clear, a threat in the future may be discounted as hypothetical, but turning a blind eye is more difficult when that threat materializes as a challenge to be confronted, perhaps as an extreme weather event, or, in Northwestern North America, as a weather-induced kill of tens of thousands of square kilometres of pine forests." <snip> -- David Anderson
November 7, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
It's our Citizens' Alliance AGM tonight, 5-7:30PM, at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown. Let's hope the sewer construction on University Avenue in front of the CBC is done for the day; you will want to go to the parking lot in the back of the building and use the back entrance. You could also park in the Sobey's lot if that is easier for you.
Consider bringing your own coffee mug to save a bit of dish washing, something to share at the potluck, and perhaps some money for the donation jar.
Monday, November 9th, is a recently tucked-into the schedule Water Act Public Consultation meeting, in Crapaud, 7-9ishPM. Tony Reddin is presenting on behalf of the PEI chapter of the Sierra Club (that's not their exact title, though) and Cindy Richards on behalf of Blue Dot PEI. Other presentations to be announced.
Please consider coming out, as it hasn't been well advertised, and Monday hasn't been a usual night for these.
Speaking of water act presentations, from Pooles Corner near Montague on Tuesday, November 3rd, Teresa Doyle's (on behalf of herself) and Edith Ling's [on behalf of the PEI chapter of the National Farmers Union (that's not their exact title, though) ] were excellent, and each has been kind enough to give me a copy. They are on Google docs for all to access, here:
(Please let me know if you have any trouble with the links.)
A couple of notes on the federal cabinet; while the Citizens' Alliance is non-partisan, we can be wonderfully hopeful for environmental and democratic strides with the Trudeau government, and still point out room for improvement.
First, congratulations to Lawrence MacAulay for being named to Cabinet. Name changes for departments like "Environment and Climate Change" (as opposed to the exploitable "Natural Resources") are great, and wouldn't Lawrence's title be much better if it were not "Agriculture and Agri-food" but "Agriculture and Food Security"?
Another interesting point related to democratic renewal are the comments Special Committee member Paula Biggar made about going to the swearing-in of Prime Minister Trudeau (CBC article):
"It is an historic event. It marks a change in government certainly. But the comeback of the Liberal party from third-place standing in the House of Commons with 35 seats to a major majority is historic," said Biggar.
But of course, she knows that the majority is rather "false", as the Federal Liberals got under 40% of the popular vote....
Julia Butterfly Hill is an activist and author, perhaps best known for sitting in a giant redwood tree to protect it from being cut down -- for over 700 days -- in the late 1990s. A great background article and interview is from this 2012 edition of Sun Magazine, here:
http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/436/the_butterfly_effect and here are some excerpts from the November 7th Global Chorus essay:
"When I look at the problems we face, I recognize that every single issue is merely a symptom. ALL issues are symptoms of the Disease of Disconnect. When we are disconnected from our intricate interdependency with the Earth, we make choices that destroy it without realizing how we destroy our- selves and future generations in the process. When we are disconnected from people and animals, we make choices that cause harm and suffering without even realizing it or thinking about it.
<snip> " 'Hope' and 'hopelessness' or 'cynicism' are each made up. We make them up. They are not true or fact. They are thoughts and feelings and we are 100 per cent responsible for them. No matter if you are someone who has hope or does not have hope, what I know makes a difference right here, right now is how boldly, courageously and fiercely we are committed to bringing the consciousness of love to our own choices and to the world around us." -- Julia Butterfly Hill
Have a great day, and hope to see you tonight, 5PM, Farm Centre
November 6, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Time for a new events chart:
All errors and omissions are my own.
(but wait there's more)
A few things I forgot to mention from the Democratic Renewal community meetings held Wednesday, November 4th:
First, I appreciate how the Committee and staff changed certain time and space conditions like the placement of the presenters (facing the Committee *and* the audience -- something the Water Act consultation planners could attempt), and I hope they will take an audience member's suggestion that they have an additional "open mic" time earlier in the evening, before some members of the audience good humour is spent or some folks have to leave.
The coffee, tea, water and juice were nice (though I know taxpayers are paying for that); it's another something the water act people could do -- have pitchers of water and paper cups available for participants. It was sadly ironic to see "DO NOT DRINK THE WATER" signs in the washrooms at Kaylee Hall in Pooles Corner during the Water Act consultation meeting Tuesday night, though a canteen was open and had free cups of water.
Anyway, Harry Baglole spoke Tuesday afternoon on a hybrid version of Proportional Representation, which is described by J. Andrew Cousins in, um, 40 pages here:
(Actually, it is only 20, with 20 pages of notes, so it's shorter than the White Paper on Democratic Renewal.) Harry, former director with the Institute for Island Studies, as always, had very good observations and historical perspectives.
John te Raa also spoke very entertainingly and very informatively about the numbers of winning in previous elections and how things would be different with different systems. Once the Hansard transcripts come out, you can read all the discussions from that day.
Committee member and Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker read some notes he had jotted about five recurring themes so far in the community meeting presentations and comments, and I am paraphrasing and may have them inaccurately:
make every vote count
have the Legislature reflect the will of the electorate
devise a system to reduce the abuse of power
insure the Legislature reflects the diversity of the Island community
believe we can have a Made in P.E.I. solution
Today's Global Chorus is by journalist Zack Metcalfe, from P.E.I. He currently works from Halifax and heads up the Sierra Club's Blue Whale Campaign, among other ventures.
More about Zack, and links to his blog and one of his articles, here: http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/author/zack-metcalfe#.VjwnpyvNL-P
"I have to believe we will succeed in saving ourselves. As a young man in a struggling world, I have everything to lose by succumbing to apathy or despair. I have yet to find my place in life, to fall in love, to become a father or to change my own corner of the world for the better. As my grandfather likes to say: 'Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.'
'I believe the solutions to our problems are subtle. It isn't necessarily about driving electric cars and shutting down coal plants. These are only signs of the cure, not the cure itself.
"First, we need to put a greater emphasis on scientific literacy in the public. People need a healthy understanding of how the world works, through science. This makes them resistant to the pseudo-science, anti-science, junk science (take your pick) that plagues the world today, making people question whether or not climate change even exists! When we see through the clouds of nonsense to the real, frightening and approaching truth, it will be a resounding call to arms.
"Second, we need to expand our borders of empathy, not only to one another but to the natural world and the animals we share it with. We need to acknowledge their right to land, their right to water, their right to exist and their right to prosper.
"With these broad changes in place, we will stop robbing the oceans of fish faster than they can repopulate. We will fall short of deforestation, for fear of ruining the land for ourselves and our animal cousins. Profit margins from multinationals will mean nothing when compared to the free services offered by the natural world, and to the affection we rightfully have for it. There are a thou- sand solutions to every problem you could pose, environmental and social. We need the knowledge to see those solutions, make sound decisions on a global scale and have a moral compass to guide our steps.
"Can we do it? Yes.
"Do I have hope? I have no other choice."
-- Zack Metcalfe
November 5, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A very long day yesterday for the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal, as the Committee finally set up shop in Charlottetown in a fairly small room at the Murphy Centre, which was packed for most of it with many people attending for a while. The afternoon session almost stretched over in to the evening, and that one when long, too.
But the Committee members were cavalier, and the staff *exemplary* in their technical abilities and cheerfulness.
Here's just a smattering of what I heard, and soon the official transcripts in Hansard will be available on-line:
Plus many good comments from the folks in attendance.
Today the Special Committee is meeting at 1:30 at the J. Angus MacLean Building, but "in camera" or privately for the first hour, then the doors open to the public, and some of the university students who attended last night will be giving presentations, which should be very good.
Another public meeting with the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal is scheduled for Monday, November 16th, in Stratford -- NOT Hunter River, as I wrote yesterday.
Water Act Public Meeting, 7-9:30PM, Farm Centre, 420 University Ave., Charlottetown.
Dr. Yefang Jiang (former provincial hydrologist), two watershed groups, and Don't Frack PEI will be presenting.
From today's Global Chorus:
"A biocultural ethic will promote an integral life and a harmonic co-inhabitation that requires listening, respecting and understanding the beauty, the truth and the value of each of the human and the other-than-human voices of the life chorus. " --Ricardo Rozzi and Francisca Massardo, Chilean biologists
November 4, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Water Act consultation last night in Pooles Corner was an excellent experience, as I am sure all of them have been. Kerry MacQuarrie, a civil engineer and hydrologist, explained about the water cycle and how he was contracted to review some of the science, some of the methods used to measure water. He said what
he looked at was adequate. The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water was next, describing points the legislation should carry -- in the purpose of the act, not just the preamble -- and focused on two, The Precautionary Principle and Intergenerational Equity. The latter is a legal way of putting to words a shared value most Islanders have, of wanting to
leave the place better for future generations. Their presentation was both sweeping and approachable; it certainly looked like it touched a chord with the Environmental Advisory Council. Teresa Doyle spoke next, first about our loss of sovereignty with mega-trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, and about her other thoughts on the process; the National Farmers Union spoke next with a well-crafted effort, explaining a great deal. The documents will be on the Water Act website, and I also hope to
share excerpts here another day. The O Beautiful Gaia singers gathered and sang an evocative song poem. I hope that was caught on the recordings. The questions and comments from the audience were interesting, too, furthering the discussion about supporting farmers, about keeping our water safe, and more. ---- Another water act consultation is this *Thursday, 7-9:30PM, at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown.* ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Regarding the other major consultation going on, on Democratic Renewal: Another meeting has been added on *Monday, November 16th, in Hunter River.* Today: The *Special Committee on Democratic Renewal* meets this afternoon from *2-5PM* and then from *7-9PM *at Murphy Centre, on Richmond Street. Speakers include /(may not be accurate, and it's not complete):/ Afternoon: Organizations: Cooper Institute Council of Canadians Individual: Peter Meggs and Darragh Mogan Darcie Lanthier and the evening: Individual: Jordan MacPhee Roy Johnstone Organizations: VisionPEI Latin American Mission Program Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I. (8PM) PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women Drop in if you can! ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Today's /Global Chorus /essay: "The Earth is shifting. Women’s issues are in a hot light that is illuminating changes to the economy,conflict, culture and religion. The evidence is allover the place – from zones of conflict to the United Nations, from banking institutions to political offices and even the water
cooler. The news is this: women are the way forward.
"From Kabul and Cairo to Cape Town and New York, women are issuing a clarion call for change. And this time the power brokers are listening.Economist Jeffrey Sachs, of Millennium Development Goals fame, claims the status of women is directly related to the economy:
whereone is flourishing, so is the other; where one’s in the ditch, so is the other.
"The coming changes are based on the notion that financially, the world can no longer afford to keep half of its population oppressed.
"Supporters are jumping onto this bandwagon like born-again believers in the power of women.The thugs in the lives of these women who got away with denying the girls an education, refusing to let the women go to work; the rapists and warlordswho saw then as pawns or
worse, something to barter, are on notice now. The last frontier for women is having control over their own bodies.
"They’re are on the doorstep of change, a change that will alter the world’s economies, health status and level of conflict. The state of the world’s women will never be the same." /— Sally Armstrong, ////journalist and human rights activist/
November 3, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A few things happening today:
Water Act meeting in Pooles Corner at Kaylee Hall tonight, 7PM.
Presenters include Dr. Kerry MacQuarrie from New Brunswick, Catherine O'Brien and Marie-Ann Bowden on behalf of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, and the National Farmer' Union.
NaturePEI monthly meeting, 7:30PM, Beaconsfield Carriage House, Chris Vessey, Sidewalk Astronomer, is the guest speaker.
Special Committee on Democratic Renewal "Community meetings" -- the last ones scheduled, are tomorrow,2-5PM, and 7-9PM, Murphy Community Centre.
The Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development is meeting today at 10AM, discussing Motion 10, full text here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/sittings/2015spring/motions/10.pdf
"Urging a review of the provincial tax system to develop new policies and programs aimed at improving access to capital, enhancing entrepreneurship, and approving private sector growth and risk taking."
and in three weeks (Tuesday, November 24th, 10AM) they will discuss the school board change policy.
The location of the Standing Committee meetings is the J. Angus MacLean Building, on the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets.
Gregor Barnum (1952–2012) was the ﬁrst director of corporate consciousness at Seventh Generation, Inc., the cleaning products company, until his untimely death three years ago.
He wrote this short little essay that's printed today for the November 3rd Global Chorus:
"Who would we (humanity) be if contradiction was
seen as art and the beauty of our ontological quest?
There is beauty in so many differing cognitions, feelings,
"Of course, if Love is Love, wherever would Love
— Gregor Barnum
(*I had to look that up: it means relating to or based upon being or existence)
November 2, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
John Jeffery is back in the news business, on his own terms. The former CBC television political reporter retired earlier this year, ran for the Progressive Conservative nomination in District 5 (Vernon River-Stratford), losing to the hard-working Mary Ellen McInnes. (In the provincial election in May, she tied with Liberal candidate Alan McIsaac, who won by a flip of a coin, you may remember.)
Jeffery has a blog, here: http://johnjefferypeiunleashed.ca/ which I just found (thanks to Alan Hicken) and has been up for the month of October. It is called "John Jeffery PEI Unleashed", since he says he can write what he wants without "paranoid producers peering over his shoulders." (There are probably reasons why they play it so safe.) He is taking a complicated story and working it into a narrative so that it's understandable (see the postings on the Stephen Pate situation and on the E-Gaming file), and he fills in a lot of details that the local media hasn't. (The local media is producing a great deal of what is being called "in-box journalism", where they simply take press releases from government and others out of their in-boxes and distribute those.)
He's not doing this for nothing -- the content on his site will be free to the viewer for one month, then a $10/month or $90/year subscription is required. While he could use a bit of a proofreader (couldn't we all?), if you hear the words the stories are cogent and informative. It will be interesting to read more details that come out of stories.
James D'Silva is a yoga and fitness instructor, and professional dancer who teaches in London. He writes for today's Global Chorus:
<snip> "Responsible change begins with each of us. Every individual needs to find time for introspection before we can make choices that will change us and everything around us. Unless we are ready to look to ourselves for change, we cannot expect change in others. Spending time in meditation, developing an asana practice and being of service allows us to see the universe as a whole and to develop our significant part in it. These practices do not take a lot of time out of our daily lives – and they bring only joy. It is time to make change happen – change that like Gandhiji’s will echo through humanity and time. Like him we have to start living the change. Each of us, in our own small way, walking our own path, will make the difference." <snip> -- James D'Silva
November 1, 2015
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
From very late on October 31st, 2012:
This was sent to me anonymously on November 1st, 2012. The location shown was outside Province House, Richmond Street side.
It still makes me smile.
Correction from yesterday's chart: The Green Party of PEI is actually presenting to the Environmental Advisory Council at the Water Act Consultations in Kensington on Tuesday, November 24th; not this week in Pooles Corner.
"P.E.I.'s English Language School Board approved a new policy Tuesday night to deal with rezoning and the shutting down of schools. The policy lays out the process of evaluation and consultation to be followed the next time the board considers significant changes to school organization."
Significant changes are coming, the Superintendent has also said this week. The fact that the English Language School Board is still an appointed body reminded me of an opinion piece Allan Rankin wrote for the Graphic newspapers on September 30th. Bold is mine.
No School Board Elections for You - The Eastern Graphic article by Allan Rankin
Published on Wednesday, September 30th, 2015, in The Graphic newspapers
The classic episode from (the TV show) Seinfeld where George Costanza arbitrarily is refused soup at the local soup stand because he has not behaved properly while ordering reminds me of the provincial government’s refusal to serve up meaningful engagement in public education to English speaking Islanders.
No soup or elected trustees for you.
When you think about it, Premier Wade MacLauchlan has turned minority rights on their head.
By affording Acadian and Francophone Islanders the right to elect their school trustees, and denying that same right to those governed through the English Language School Board, our provincial government is discriminating against the majority.
Frankly, I am surprised our premier, who is a constitutional lawyer and believes in democratic participation, would allow his government to behave in such an inequitable manner.
Prince Edward Island has a long and proud history of community involvement in public education stretching back to the Free Education Act of 1852. However, when the wheels came off the old Eastern School Board a few years ago, because the trustees disagreed with government over the closure of small schools and other reform issues, the elected board was dismantled and replaced with an appointed provincial English Language Board.
The majority of Island families have been punished since then.
Appointed school trustees tow the line and are careful not to run afoul of the minister.
The situation for Island Francophones of course is quite different.
Acadians in the Evangeline region have enjoyed self-government over public education for decades. When transplanted federal public servants arrived in the province with the re-locating of the national headquarters of the Department of Veterans Affairs to Charlottetown, and the establishing of the GST Centre in Summerside, French schooling took on an even greater importance in the province.
Francophone civil servants moving from Ottawa demanded their Charter rights with respect to French language educational services and new French schools and community centres were built where numbers justified.
In May of this year, French Language School Board elections took place and on October 5 by-elections will be held in two zones to fill vacancies. (Chris O. note that the results are here:http://www.electionspei.ca/index.php?number=1054100&lang=E)
Voter turnout in the May elections was poor, but not to worry, government would never prohibit Island Francophones from local governance of their schools.
What a double standard.
I can only assume Premier MacLauchlan doesn’t believe governance through elected school trustees is important any longer for English speaking families and communities, thereby ensuring the professional educational establishment has full and untrammelled authority over education in the province.
The Prince Edward Island Teachers Federation is probably the single most powerful labour organization in the province and during my time in government they were usually the tail that wagged the dog, negotiating one-sided collective agreements on behalf of their members.
The Minister of Education will argue voter turnout in past school board elections was too low and so it was better to appoint trustees rather than honour the established democratic right of parents to choose the men and woman who govern their schools.
That is certainly not how it works for the Francophone community.
Moreover, if Islanders are disengaged from public education, I lay responsibility at the feet of government for allowing a culture to persist in which the ideas, opinions, and involvement of parents in the system are unwanted and discouraged.
Using the current logic, perhaps we should suspend a municipal election, or even a provincial election, whenever the voter turnout falls below a certain level. No elected MLAs for you.
The Education Act sets out the governance and administrative framework of education in the province and the Legislative Assembly determines if powers and authorities in that Act are revoked, suspended, or otherwise changed.
In the upcoming fall session of the House, our legislators should demand elections to the English Language School Board take place without further delay so the majority of Islanders once again have a meaningful voice in the education of their children.
Parental and community involvement in public education has steadily declined over the last half century, extinguished and pushed aside by professional educators and administrators and by the forces of consolidation and centralized government control.
It is a decline that Premier MacLauchlan and his Liberal government should reverse.
Even the mild-mannered Guardian main editorial Saturday criticized how the government is handling educational communication with parents and other decisions.
To those new to the Citizens' Alliance News-list, this year I have been highlighting excerpts from each day's essay in Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, with the permission of editor-in-chief (and Islander) Todd E. MacLean.
Angela Sun, documentary filmmaker and TV journalist, writes the essay for November 1st:
"I am not a scientist or writer, nor am I anything special. I am just a sum of my experiences and I have been very lucky to be able to have had some extraordinary ones. One of the biggest life lessons I have learned was in creating my documentary Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s been an eight-year journey now to tell, through the lens of an independent voice, the tale of plastic pollution in our oceans and how it has and will continue to affect our lives. <snip>
"I have encountered so many passionate, excited, invigorated audiences who have restored my faith in humanity because they demand transparency and change. Ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things coming together for a common shared purpose to discuss, learn, innovate and implement ideas and solutions.
"It will take legislation in a global context, producer responsibility (companies that create plastics), nurturing the scientific community toward ecofriendly innovations, and consumer responsibility for us to progress. On the smallest scale, could you imagine if each one of us refused disposable plastics and reused and consumed less?
"It would be glorious." -- Angela Sun
Something to think about, surely.