October 31, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The best Hallowe'en prank ever -- and I am still not sure who was behind the excellent special trick or treat delivery to the steps of Province House on Halloween of October, 2012.
Plebiscite voting continues around the clock for on-line and phone voting. Walk-in voting is Friday afternoon and Saturday morning (November 4th and 5th). https://pei.simplyvoting.com/
The Proportional Representation for PEI group is not resting on its laurels of the main editorial endorsement from The Guardian, instead, really working anywhere needed. Here is a little video about voting on-line.
The second round of school family reorganizing meetings is this week -- not that people had anything else to do!
"An initial round of public meetings was held in October to present data to the public and ensure they have opportunities to understand the information. A second set of public meetings will give the public an opportunity to provide input on options for change. The schedule for these meetings is as follows:
Charlottetown Rural family of schools: Charlottetown Rural High School, Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m.
Morell family of schools: Morell Regional High School, Wednesday, November 2 at 6:30 p.m.
Colonel Gray family of schools: Colonel Gray High School, Thursday, November 3 at 7:00 p.m.
Kinkora family of schools: Kinkora Regional High School, Monday, November 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Westisle family of schools: Westisle Composite High School, Tuesday, November 8 at 7:00 p.m.
Montague family of schools: Montague Regional High School, Thursday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m."
The meetings will have presenters for the first two hours and then comments on ideas presented for a final hour. Late nights on a school night, too! More information about the process and contact information for commenting on this page:
AND, next week, the provincial Climate Change group is seeking public input on its Mitigation Strategy.
These meetings will be the week of November 7th-10th:
Session 1: Cavendish Farms Wellness Centre, Montague, 21 Sullivan Drive - Monday, November 7: 6-8pm
Session 2: Royal Canadian Legion, Wellington, 97 Sunset Drive. - Tuesday, November 8: 6-8pm
Session 3: Murphy Community Centre, Charlottetown, 200 Richmond St. - Wednesday, November 9: 6-8pm
Session 4: Credit Union Place, Summerside, 511 Notre Dame St. - Thursday, November 10: 6-8pm
More details on the process can be found at:
(this link may not work, but you could search with the key words if it doesn't)
October 30, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Here is The Guardian's editorial from Saturday morning, endorsing the voting system Dual Member Proportional Representation:
from Saturday, October 29th, 2016
EDITORIAL: We endorse DMP option in plebiscite - The Guardian Editorial
DMP will be a first in the world. For a jurisdiction as unique as the Island why shouldn’t we have an electoral system that is as unique as our province?
Today, Islanders begin a historic process that could change P.E.I.’s electoral system. Over the next 10 days, every resident 16 years of age and older - more than 100,000 of us - can play a role in strengthening our most important democratic institution.
The plebiscite offers an opportunity to create a better and more responsive government. Democratic renewal is about making government more reflective of voters’ wishes . . . that every vote does count. It continues an historical progression of reform in the composition of P.E.I.’s Legislative Assembly.
We fully endorse this process.
We asked ourselves two questions. Is there a better system than the present winner takes all? If so, what is the best option?
To the first question, we answer a resounding yes! Distorted majorities support the adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Recent majority governments, won largely by minority support, have led to excesses of power and abuses of taxpayers’ money.
Our editorial board has carefully considered the five options on the ballot and we made a choice. We are overwhelmingly supporting proportional representation as the best method to achieve democratic renewal. And in this plebiscite, we support Dual Member Proportional (DMP).
The rationale of DMP has been widely reported. Those arguments have earned our support. It is a simple ballot; every MLA is tied to an electoral district; it involves dual ridings, which many Islanders are familiar with since we only abandoned two-member ridings in 1996; and it introduces proportionality to allow for more diversity in the legislature.
We urge Islanders to take a few moments and read about DMP. Once you become familiar with this option, it will make perfect sense. It’s why we endorsed DMP.
It blends the principles of First-Past-the-Post with proportionality. The province will be divided into 14, two-member ridings instead of 27 single member districts. Before 1996, P.E.I. was divided into 16, two-member ridings. It isn’t a big change.
From the voter’s perspective, DMP looks nearly identical to the current single member plurality system. It respects the principles of provincial and local accountability and supports rural areas, small parties or independent candidates.
DMP avoids the criticism that PR creates two triers of MLAs, which would make them less accountable. The number of people in each district who are represented by a party they support would significantly increase. Vote counting procedures and party nomination processes would not require significant changes.
DMP would make strategic voting unnecessary and make gerrymandering almost an impossibility. DMP would allow everyone’s vote to count without having to get used to a much different electoral system.
Voters will still mark just one ‘X’ on the ballot. This vote would be for the candidate and the party simultaneously. The first half of the seats is assigned using First-Past-the-Post. The second half are assigned based on the Island-wide popular vote – using a simple mathematical equation. It’s all very simple when you think about it.
And DMP will be a first in the world. For a jurisdiction as unique as the Island why shouldn’t we have an electoral system that is as unique as our province?
We need strong governments but we don't need distorted majorities to achieve that. We need politicians and parties who place the good of the province and their fellow citizens as their first priority. By working together in minority governments or coalitions, we can provide effective, strong and moral governance.
The plebiscite should answer one question: What option provides the best result for the voter? It should not be politicians, political parties or any group that stand to benefit - it must be the average Islander and taxpayer who gain the most in this process.
Islanders need to be assured that if a new electoral system fails to meet its objectives, a sunset clause could allow for changes after several elections, just like we do for electoral boundaries.
There are various voting options for Islanders to consider.
Elections P.E.I. has set up Internet and telephone voting starting today and continuing until the polls close at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7. There are also two days of regular, in-person voting at scores of polling stations across the province.
Based on the almost unprecedented numbers of letters and opinion articles that this newspaper received on this subject, and the turnouts at meetings and debates, we are convinced that Islanders are fully engaged in this process. We are convinced they want change and are ready to again set a new course for this province and the country.
We hope the May 2015 provincial election was the last one conducted under the First-Past-the-Post voting system. We believe Islanders are ready to make history once again and select an option that will elect governments for all the people.
The nation is watching.
Well, that's nice. Voting is open all day today for internet and phone voting. Voting in person is next Friday afternoon and Saturday daytime at various locations throughout the Island.
And a very thought piece by Ron Kelly, also published in yesterday's Guardian:
RON KELLY: FPTP does not serve Islanders well - The Guardian Opinion piece by Ron Kelly
When defending the current First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system in the electoral reform plebiscite, some commentators claim it has served us well by producing stable governments. Yes, I think we can agree that we’ve had stable governments – although some might describe them as rigid, restrictive, unbending and unresponsive to Islanders’ needs.
But has FPTP served us well? Perhaps that depends on who us is.
Does FPTP serve us well when it gives a party 100 per cent of the legislature’s seats with only 58 per cent of the vote (the Walter Lea Liberals in 1935)? Does FPTP serve us well when it produces the 31-1 landslide in 1993, the 26-1 legislature in 2000 or the 30-2 outcome in 1989 – with the governing party securing only 55, 58 and 61 per cent of the vote in each case?
Does FPTP serve us well when a party with 40.8 per cent of the popular vote receives 66.7 per cent of the legislature’s seats, forming a majority government with a minority of votes (the 2015 election)?
Does FPTP serve us well when voters cast enough ballots that, under a proportional system, they would have elected 14 representatives of parties other than the Liberals or Conservatives but FPTP gave them only one representative (the cumulative effects of elections from 1974 to 2011)? Does FPTP serve us well when 21.8 per cent of voters supported NDP or Green candidates in 2015 but instead of the six seats that a proportional system would have produced, they saw only one candidate elected?
How is a system that produces such results and ignores the wishes of many voters seen as serving us well?
Similarly, supporters of FPTP sometimes point to the benefits of the majority governments that FPTP tends to produce. However, they often fail to acknowledge that some of the governing parties received only a minority of voter support. For some reason, the lack of majority support when forming a majority government – and the lack of democracy and legitimacy that such a situation produces – doesn’t seem to bother them.
Regardless of what most of us want, they want a government that controls 100 per cent of the power and decision-making in our legislature and has the final say in passing laws, creating policy, implementing programs and spending taxpayers’ money. They don’t seem to value the sharing of power, the diversity of other views or the spirit of co-operation and collaboration that most Islanders demonstrate in their daily lives.
As a former teacher, if they were grade school students, I would have to note on their individual report cards: ‘Does not play well with others.’
Let’s hope that, after the votes are counted on November 7, Islanders will have rejected First-Past-the-Post and demonstrated their support for the two Proportional Representation options that encourage our political parties to play well together.
- Ron Kelly of Charlottetown is a member of the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation and served as head of the Yes campaign’s Communications Committee during the 2005 plebiscite on electoral reform.
Monthly ceilidh at the Bonshaw Hall, 7-9PM, admission by donation and proceeds to the Tozia orphanage in Haiti. Performers include "singer Rick Brennan, The Retrofrets Ukelele Group, stepdancers Lexi and Tasha Kowalchuk, Charlie Maclaren, Cailyn MacAulay and Sophie Trainor from the Roberts Academy of Dance, singer/songwriter Jolene Willis, plus local musicians Herb MacDonald, Phil Pineau and Tony the Troubador."
Maybe Tony will play his election reform song --whether the purple puppet will be there, I cannot say. You should be able to view it here:
October 29, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
This morning's Guardian lead editorial is titled, "We endorse DMP option."
The P.E.I. Plebiscite on voting systems begins ten days of on-line or telephone voting, at noon today. In-person voting is next Friday and Saturday.
You should have gotten a yellow Elections PEI envelope in the mail this week with a "PIN" (number) for accessing your ballot.
You do not have to rank all five options for your ballot for it to be counted.
Elections PEI website info on the ballot:
PR on PEI website frequently asked questions about the ballot:
Farmers' Markets open in Charlottetown, Summerside and the last one of Fall in Murray Harbour.
This is happening this morning; space likely still available in it:
Workshop: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Revamped, 10AM-12Noon, Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue
Presenters: Floyd Gaudet - Island Waste Management Company, Phil Ferraro - The PEI Farm Center
This workshop will discuss the importance of reducing the amount of waste that we produce, the lifecycle of our garbage and why improper sorting has a greater impact than we think, and clarify any confusion of different categories of garbage and what to do if you're just not sure. An expert from IWMC will provide this presentation.
Phil Ferraro of the Farm Center and Legacy Garden will lead a hands-on discussion on DIY backyard composting systems Starting a backyard composter is a good way to minimize the amount of waste your household sends to the landfill and to make your own nutrient rich compost for your garden. We will be giving away a few backyard composters for attendees of this workshop.
10 Reasons Why Shopping for Local Food is Important
1. Eating local supports local farms. It creates jobs at local farms and in nearby processing and packaging facilities. It shows support for what farmers are doing.
2. It boosts the local economy. “Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.”
3. It requires less travel. When local foods are sold locally, their carbon footprint for travel is much smaller, using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.
4. There is less waste. The shorter the chain of distribution, the less opportunity there is for food to go waste.
5. Food is fresher, and therefore, more nutritious. Spending less time in transit means fewer nutrients are lost to spoilage.
6. You’ll discover interesting new foods. The author says, "Thanks to my CSA share I’ve grown to love oddities such as kohlrabi, mustard greens, garlic scapes, and watermelon radishes. These are vegetables I cannot find at the grocery store."
7. It’s good for the gene pool and soil. “Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture which preserves genetic diversity and reduces the reliance on monoculture — single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.”
8. It’s a tourist attraction. Food-producing areas can become attractive destinations for ‘agritourism,’ bringing additional money into a region.
9. It preserves open space. When there’s demand for food that’s grown in local fields and business is thriving, there’s less demand for suburban sprawl to take over those spaces.
10. It creates more connected communities. People get to know farmers and food producers in their region, creating important support networks and friendships. They also connect with other community members while shopping at a farmers’ market.
There are even more reasons that could be added to this list, such as zero-waste shopping made easier and money saved by purchasing in bulk.
Graham Steele was the Minister of Finance in Darryl Dexter's Nova Scotia NDP government a few years back. He is now a political analyst for CBC in Nova Scotia, and wrote a very interesting article on the whole Atlantic Lottery Auditors General's report.
A related note is that Pat Mella, who commented extensively at the CBC Forum on the Plebiscite Thursday night, and former educator, lone Progressive Conservative MLA, Leader of the Opposition (and Finance Minister under Pat Binns' government), current member of the three-person Board of Trustees for the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch, .....is currently the vice-chair of the Board of Atlantic Lotto.http://corp.alc.ca/WhoIsALC.aspx?id=1536
October 28, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Peter Bevan-Baker plans to table a "private member's bill" in the Legislature next month to ban the export of P.E.I. water. More details here:
The CBC Forum on the plebiscite was a good time. A Bonshaw neighbour said it really didn't change any minds, but I said I didn't think it really was about that; I learned a lot about the nuances and details of some systems. And I learned about the way a person makes a case for a particular system -- by a bit of braggadocio about the need for strong leaders and strong majorities to make tough decisions in uncertain times (Richard Brown for First Past the Post (FPTP)), or incremental change being better than no change (Herb Dickieson for FPTP plus Leaders), or a system that lets you rank so that votes are redistributed and somebody (often the person who would have won if it were FPTP) gets 50% plus one (Paula Biggar for Preferential Voting). Or trying to give details but not overwhelming folks about the mechanics of proportional options but identify the benefits (Lynne Lund for Dual Member Proportional and Mark Greenan for Mixed Member Proportional). A Sixth Panelist was Pat Mella, although no one told her she actually wasn't on the panel, but she did have extensive comments with some factual errors (saying Germany was among the countries bankrupt and in chaos due to PR....), but also some interesting points.
CBC did a good job running the event, and the two hours slipped by. The room was pretty well set up with some space and with some refreshments, and good sound and lots of helpful people.
Today from 12noon to 2PM, is a PR Voting Kickoff party, at Jack Blanchard Hall, off Pond Street, near Colonel Gray High School. Some refreshments and lots of people saying why they are voting for PR, but lots of ability to have questions explored and answered.
There have been many good letters to the editor in the newspapers recently about electoral reform.
These two commentaries are from writer and historian David Weale:
ELECTORAL REFORM - online article by David Weale
originally published on-line on Monday, October 17th, 2016
For starters, I believe the decision to place five options on the ballot was a poor one. Not only is it too much to think about for most of us, but with so many choices it also makes it almost impossible for the referendum to provide any kind of clear message to Government.
But complaint is easy. What is more difficult is to find some way to overcome the built-in flaws in the process.
My suggestion is that we regard the process as a choice between two options.
1. The first option is to carry on in the same way. A person who thinks the status quo is best should vote for option #2: First past the post. Or, if you want the status quo with minor change you could also vote for option #3: First past the post plus leaders, or option #5: Preferential voting.
But remember, whichever of these you vote for will be a vote for keeping things pretty much the same.
According to its critics the major flaw in the current system is that, for example, a party that gets 40 % of the vote across the Island can get 80% or more of the seats in the Legislature, and a party that gets 20% of the votes across the Island can get 0% of the seats in the Legislature.
In other words, under this system the Legislature is almost never a mirror of the popular vote.
2. The second option is for change. Those who favour this option can vote for option #1: Dual Member Proportional, or option #4: Mixed member Proportional.
Under either of these if a party receives 40% of the vote across the Island they will get 40% of the seats in the Assembly. And if they receive 10% of the votes they will get 10% of the seats, and so on.
The Legislature under this second option becomes a mirror of the popular vote, and hence more representative of the popular will. Further, the risk of having the province totally dominated for years, even decades, at a time by a single point of view is reduced.
I recognize this is a simplified version of the process, but given the present circumstances I am convinced this simplification is essential, else we will all be left in a state of bewilderment, accompanied by the sound of spinning tires.
If that doesn’t sound attractive, vote for one of the two options. For the status quo, or for change.
THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Facebook blog by David Weale
Yesterday, Thursday, October 27th, 2016, on-line
And so it begins, the fear-mongering from the ‘first-past-the-post’ crowd.
Like MLA Stephen Myers posting a piece on Facebook claiming that FPTP is necessary to keep the “fascists” out of the Legislature. Really Stephen? Bordering on hysterical don’t you think?
Also, both he, Rudy Croken (today’s Guardian) and others seem to be terrified that individuals from other than the two old parties – those being referred to as ‘fringe’ Islanders – might end up destroying everything good by actually ending up with some power in the Legislature. Shudder.
Because I don’t support either of the two old parties does that make me a fringe Islander? And what about Mike Redmond and Peter Bevan-Baker? Fringe Islanders? People who don’t really fit? Come on man.
Well, here’s a little note to you and others with that view: these are not ‘fringe’ Islanders, they are your fellow Islanders. We’re in this together my friends so it’s probably a good idea to ease up on the name-calling, the stereotyping and the marginalizing.
Another amazing accusation emerging from the FPTP supporters is that under proportional representation there will be too much influence by the party, and the back-room boys. Mother of God! That is exactly the way it is now. If Joe or Jane average Islander decides he/she wants to run for either of the two old parties he/she will get nowhere without the stamp of approval of party people. I’ve been on the inside. I know how the party system works. And Stephen, well he’s one of the key individuals in his party who helps with that selection process.
Yes, under the current system we do get to vote for all the nominated candidates, but all those candidates were hand picked by…that’s right…the parties.
Having said all that, I believe it is good when people speak out clearly at times like this because you learn things about your society, and one thing I am learning is that, sadly, when it comes to the exercise of power many of my fellow Islanders have no confidence whatsoever in cooperation.
God forbid that the majority party might actually have to accommodate to the views of a minority in the House. They make it sound perilous, even unmanly. Opposition and confrontation have their merits of course, but to describe the need for cooperation and compromise as a danger to democracy is a lop-sided, scare tactic. Yet that is the string the opponents of proportional representation are strumming, and you will hear more plucking in the days ahead.
There is no perfect form of governance, but some are more imperfect than others, and in my view, and the view of many Islanders, our political culture these past few years is displaying serious flaws and has lost the confidence of much of the citizenry. It’s not too complicated; we need reform. It’s why we’re having this conversation, and why we are not well served by those who say, “Let’s keep ‘er just the way she is.”
Democracy in PEI as we know it was born in reform. Let’s honour that splendid tradition, not fear it.
October 27, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Tonight is the CBC hosted Forum on Electoral Reform, 7-9PM, Stonepark Intermediate School, 50 Pope Road. All welcome.
Island Morning's Matt Rainnie will be moderating, and there will be people representing each voting option. It will also be live-streamed on the CBC website.
Tomorrow, Friday, October 28th:
Voting Kickoff for Proportional Representation (PR), 12noon-2PM, Jack Blanchard Hall. Lots of people voting for PR will talk about why and help you and others chat to undecided people. Refreshments. For all ages.
Colin Jeffrey has made a quick Avaaz petition to show support for not supporting CETA, here.
Bottled Water Discussion yesterday:
The news is reporting (actually, only heard any news about it on CBC) that members of the Opposition Parties on the Standing Committee for Communities, Land and Environment (so Brad Trivers, Sidney MacEwen and Peter Bevan-Baker) tried to get Environment Minister Mitchell to say he would place a moratorium on the proposed Brookvale bottle water plant and any others that might come along, until a new Water Act is proclaimed. The particular standing committee meeting where this happened ran long into the late afternoon, so media left before it was over and the issue discussed more thoroughly.
Here were some things I observed:
People are concerned enough about protecting water to get to a crowded building in a crowded area downtown in the rain in the middle of a workday, to stand or sit in a packed room behind a table full of suited people and try to figure out where they were on an agenda. This issue strikes us all and government needs to give that more than just lip service.
The provincial water department is still overly confident in their assessment of the quality and quantity of island water based on the scant research data they have. Still. They still feel that a water measurement a good five miles away from headlands can provide accurate information on a whole watershed. That by looking at average Island precipitation one can infer that the entire Island's watersheds are stable. And they are tasked with writing the first draft of the Water Act.
The bottled water plant proponents said they did, and then they said they didn't, get specific guidance from the same water department people to write their application that would not "trigger" the Environmental Impact Assessment process.
Best (ha) quote from the bottled water proponents: "We're not Nestle or Coke, (which is) too bad."
Several MLAs on the committee try to get straight answers
Some MLAs on committees are on auto-pilot, being very polite, but not really being in there in the moment (perhaps until they have to vote in a block)
The Minister feels discussion of the first draft of the Water Act will be when issues like banning export of water should be discussed; he is not getting the message about water ethics and about leadership. It is hard not to be disappointed.
At the end of the day (literally), this committee was encouraged (by us) to use its power -- to call on the Legislature, and strongly recommend in its Report on its activities which it will table in the Legislature in the November sitting -- and have the Assembly legislate a moratorium and make legislative changes to prohibit exporting bottled water. Now.
The committee clerk Emily Doiron did a fine job juggling her multiple role, and Committee Chair Kathleen Casey kept things moving along.
The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water spoke last -- which is good because when you have the last word and can comment on inaccurate things said before you, but it's not great because the media leaves to file stories well before you have spoken. I was with three people who really know different aspects of water issues (Leo Broderick, Don Mazer and Andrew Lush), and we were organized enough to get our message across in a timely fashion, and reiterate what we would like to see this committee do.
The text is found on this page (and thanks to webmaster Ann Wheatley!):
Thanks also to people who made lovely social media posters to help publicize this issue, and to people who came to watch. It was fortifying to see former Lieutenant Governor Marion Reid (and former Speaker of the House, as former Speaker of the House Kathleen Casey reminded us) in the Gallery.
The property is in variance-changing land. From residential to commercial. (The proponents are a bit miffed to have hit a road block and had to provide more information to the Planning Division.) The Planning Division will likely hold a public meeting. We'll all be on watch for when that is.
And Leo Broderick said afterwards quite succinctly - only with Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker in there (and I would add the Official Opposition members were helpful, too) would such a thorough questioning of the proponents have take place. These kinds of voices are needed, and more the reason to change the voting system to a PR system.
October 26, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment's meeting, starting at 1:30, with Minister Robert Mitchell providing updates on some issues in his department (perhaps amalgamation, climate change, carbon pricing, abandoned waste sites, perhaps the bottled water proposal), and the proponents of the bottled water plant proposal are scheduled to appear at 3:30PM. The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water (being represented by Don Mazer, Andrew Lush, Leo Broderick and myself) is presenting at 4PM. (As you can imagine, the Coalition has a host of reasons why P.E.I. should not be exporting groundwater.)
The public is welcome to attend. The committee meets (due to the closure of Province House for repairs) in the J. Angus MacLean Building, which is at the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets.
More details from the Legislative Assembly website:
The chairs will be warm as there is a Public Accounts meeting at 10AM:
"The committee will receive a synopsis of the report on the joint audit of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation by the auditors general of the Atlantic provinces. Auditor General B. Jane MacAdam will be in attendance."
There were talks late into the night regarding major concerns the people in Labrador had about effects of the flooding for the Muskrat Falls dam.
A rally of support is scheduled for 5PM today in front of Province House. From the event details:
The Council of Canadians- PEI Chapter will hold a solidarity rally this Wednesday, October 26 at 5pm in front of the PEI Province House to support the “Make Muskrat Right” movement, the indigenous Labrador community who are fighting for their rights, land, health and safety. We will also draw attention to localized Island water concerns.
The “Make Muskrat Right” movement is calling on the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Minister of Environment Perry Trimper and the development company Nalcor to ultimately remove all organic materials from the area, which is proposed to be flooded and dammed.
If the organic material is not removed it could result in methylmercury contamination, which will poison the local people, as they rely on the land for food, fish, water and important medicinals found in the natural environment.
Updates on it can be found here:
From a week ago, here is a very moving interview with Labrador Inuk Billy Gauthier on CBC's "As It Happens" from October 17th:
Tomorrow, Thursday, October 27th:
Public Forum on Electoral Reform, hosted by CBC Radio, 7PM, Stonepark Intermediate School. All welcome.
Richard Brown, MLA for Charlottetown-Brighton, will be defending First Past the Post (FPTP), and apparently tweeted moderator Matt Rainnie that he hoped he would have a nap to be ready for "tonight". I hope he gets the date right. :-) Herb Dickieson is discussing FPTP Plus Leaders, Paula Biggar (Transportation Minister) will defend Preferential Voting, Lynne Lund Dual Member Proportional Representation, and Mark Greenan, Mixed Member Proportional Representation. Plebiscite voting starts Saturday (on-line and telephone). Walk-in voting is next Friday and Saturday, November 4th and 5th.
October 25, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Public Information Session on the Plebiscite, 7-8PM, Montague Town Hall, all welcome. Hosted by Elections PEI.
Later this week (Thursday) is the CBC's forum on the plebiscite options, and today and this week Island morning is looking into the nuts and bolts of how the voting is going to work with on-line voting and such.
Here are some articles that describe Chef Tony Geraci's visit to P.E.I. to promote healthier, more local food options for school lunch programs. He is the keynote speaker at the P.E.I. Home and School Federation semi-annual meeting tonight in North Rustico. I think the registration for the meeting and dinner has closed, but more info is here:
Standing Committee meeting, 1:30-4:30PM, J. Angus MacLean Building, 94 Great George Street. This is the Committee on Communities, Land and Environment, and on the agenda
the bottled water proposal proponents are speaking around 3:30PM, and the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water about 4PM. Minister Mitchell will be giving updates from 1:30-3:30, apparently.
If you want to show your support for the province not allowing extracting and exporting groundwater, you are encouraged to go to the Angus MacLean building. There may be limited seating in the Gallery at times, but all are most welcome to come out for any part of the afternoon.
More details on the meeting:
An update on Climate Change strategies. New Brunswick released theirs yesterday:
And the Conservation Council of NB commented on it:
excerpt from their press release:
"Fredericton – The Final Report of the Select Committee on Climate Change is a testament to the value of making our voices heard. Members of the eight-member, all-party committee listened to New Brunswickers and have delivered a report that could lay the foundation for long-term sustainability and stable jobs while meeting our climate protection goals."
And coincidentally, I got an update on the PEI strategies from Mr. Sean Ledgerwood, who is the Climate Change Mitigation Specialist with the Department of Environment. Here is a page from the government's website:
So in P.E.I., there is:
the P.E.I. Energy Strategy (done, but not released to public, I think),
The Climate Change Mitigation Strategy (progress on which was announced yesterday, and the link to the discussion paper document in link above, comments until November 10th)
These two tend to focus on greenhouse gas emission reduction
The Climate Change Adaptation Strategy being done by UPEI Climate Lab and Department with those obscure public meeting times announced a few weeks ago.
David Weale's thoughts on massive "free trade" deals:
THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Vision PEI Facebook blog by David Weale
Published on-line on Monday, October 24th, 2016:
Trudeau and CETA
It pains me to say it because I was hopeful for change, but Trudeau’s strong support for CETA, the massive trade arrangement negotiated with the EU, is evidence that when it comes to the nitty gritty of what is currently shaping (or mis-shaping) our world, he is not that much different from Harper. He is the frontman for the ‘big boys’ who regard the whole earth, not as an interesting mosaic of different cultures and traditions to be treated respectfully, but as one big box-store where the owners become very rich, (think Walmart) and everyone else works for minimum wage, or less.
I actually like the idea of removing the barriers that exist between different races, and of embracing our common humanity, but is not an agenda I would ever trust to the corporations, for they view all of us, first and foremost, as consumers of their products, and when we allow ourselves to be reduced to that we are demeaned, with little more freedom than cattle in a pen.
What I am saying is that when the future of our planet is being shaped according to the aspirations of corporate giants -- whose greed is insatiable – most of us will be trampled. And make no mistake about it, they are the ones driving the process.
These multinational trade agreements are of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. It’s the advancement of globalism, not based on a respectful openness to other peoples and countries, but based entirely on the needs and aspirations of mega-companies who care nothing for communities or nations, and certainly not for individuals. It’s driven by an agenda that promotes their profit above all else.
I don’t know about you, but I am grateful to those French-speaking Belgians for stopping, or at least slowing down, the CETA juggernaut. I hope they hang in there, and realize there are many in this country cheering for them, though that is not a secret Trudeau is liable to disclose.
And where do our provincial leaders stand? With Trudeau I believe.
I may be incorrect, but I think both Mike Redmond of the PEI NDP and Peter Bevan-Baker of the Green Party of PEI have been highly, highly critical of CETA and the possible effects for P.E.I.
October 24, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Lots of interesting things going on this week!
Tonight, Monday, October 24th:
Gordon Laxer talk: "After the Sands", 7-9PM, Murphy Community Centre, organized by the PEI Chapter of the Council of Canadians. All welcome.
"<snip> Laxer, the founding director of the Parkland Institute, will discuss his bold plan to address climate change and provide energy security for Canadians." He will bring copies of his award-winning book, After the Sands- Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians. "(The book) is thoroughly researched and critical reading for anyone considering how our country should run after we break free from fossil fuels," says organizer Tony Reddin. facebook event page
Wednesday, October 26th:
Standing Committee Meeting on Communities, Land and Environment, where the proposed Brookvale bottled water plant will be discussed towards *the end of the meeting.*
Note that the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water is presenting at **4PM.** So if you can come for the whole afternoon, great (other departmental topics before that), but if your time is limited, consider being there 3:30-4:30ish.
J. Angus MacLean Building, corner of Great George and Richmond.
Here is a very sweet, clear almost-four-minute film called the "No Malarkey Guide to the PEI Plebiscite." It describes the choices and the pros and cons, and emphasizes the two proportional representation systems. You can stop it, or back it up to hear something again, and the Closed Captions are very accurate. Share this with younger and older people you know to help them "get it".
Here is the link to Gerard Greenan's opinion piece about promoting Proportional Representation and how good it will be for all parties, which I reprinted yesterday without the usual link and original source:
From Friday, October 21st, 2016's Journal-Pioneer Friday's J-P
Thursday, October 27th:
CBC Forum on electoral reform, at 7PM, Stonepark Intermediate School.
In voting system alphabetical order:
Lynne Lund will speak to Dual Member Proportional,
Richard Brown on First Past the Post,
Herb Dickieson on First Past the Post Plus Leaders,
Mark Greenan on Mixed Member Proportional, and
Paula Biggar will speak on Preferential Ballot.
And Alan Holman, who I have been highly critical of for his grousing and privileged attitudes, writes a nice history lesson and looks towards the future:
ALAN HOLMAN: Once again, it’s time for change - The Guardian article by columnist Alan Holman
Published on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016
Improving the P.E.I. electoral system has been evolutionary process since 1773
Islanders have been electing people since 1773 when they first voted for members of the Legislative Assembly. There were no ridings or constituencies. The 18 men elected were chosen by Protestant males, over 21 years of age.
In 1824 the size of the Assembly was increased to 24 members, elected from 12 dual constituencies, four constituencies in each county.
Six years later, in 1830, Catholic men over 21 were given voting privileges.
During these early years the government was appointed by the Governor from members of the Legislative Council. But, the Legislative Assembly voted to approve government expenditures.
In 1856 the Legislative Assembly was increased to 30 members, elected from 15 dual ridings and in 1862, the Governor stopped appointing members to the Legislative Council, instead the 13 members of the Council were elected by men who owned property.
In 1893 the two chambers are joined into one body, the Legislative Assembly, composed of 15 Assemblymen, who were elected by men over 21, and 15 Councillors, elected only by men who were property owners.
Initially all the voting was done in the open at public meetings. In 1913 a radical departure came with the introduction of the secret ballot. This was followed in 1921 with the granting of voting rights to females.
In 1966 there were a number of changes: aboriginals were given the right to vote in provincial elections; the property vote was abolished, everyone could now vote for both Councillors and Assemblymen and a sixth riding was added to Queens County, for a total of 32 seats in the Legislature. A year later, 18-year-olds are given the vote.
In 1994 the dual-ridings were eliminated and replaced by 27 single-member constituencies. The titles councillor and assemblyman were scrapped and replaced with the term, Member of the Legislative Assembly, or MLA.
Change in the P.E.I. electoral system has been evolutionary. Some was minor tweaking, others instances, such as the secret ballot, and giving Catholics and women the vote, were major steps forward.
In a week, Islanders will begin voting on further changes to the electoral system.
A change on the magnitude of granting Catholics and women the vote would be to adopt some form of proportional representation. This would eliminate sweeps such as the 30-0 Liberal victory in 1935, or more recently, the four elections where the opposition was reduced to one or two seats.
The Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) option is the one that could satisfy Islanders’ desire to mark a ballot for a district MLA and also choose another individual from lists provided by the parties. The determination of who is selected from the lists would, in part, depend on the percentage of votes each party got in the district voting.
The MMP proposal in the plebiscite suggests there be 18 districts and nine people elected from party lists for a total of 27 seats. However, there is nothing magical about a 27- seat legislature, a larger legislature with more districts could mean less disruption in the electoral boundaries.
The main argument against MMP is that it would be difficult to get a majority government. But, instead of minority governments, which have occurred in Ottawa, the MMP system would likely result in coalition governments where the party with the most seats would partner with one or more of the minority parties.
Coalition governments do not necessarily mean instability and more frequent elections. The CBC recently pointed out that Germany and Italy, which both use a from of MMP and coalition governments, have had four elections since 2000, whereas Canada, in the same period, has had six elections, and three unstable minority-governments.
Coalition governments can reduce the level of rabid partisanship often seen in the first-past-the-post system. An extreme example being the present American election. Proponents of MMP suggest this change in tone could result in a wider participation in the electoral process, particularly by women.
- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: email@example.com
October 23, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
An logical, long-view argument for proportional representation:
ELECTORAL REFORM: Former Liberal MLA says future generations need to pick own destiny; Proportional Representation will give them that opportunity
by Gerard Greenan
"I am a Liberal and have been since my teenage years. I have worked on campaigns over the years and ran in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 provincial elections and was elected twice. Prior to becoming a member of the P.E.I. Legislature, I spent 32 years as an educator.
"During my career as an educator, I was a classroom teacher, school counselor and administrator. I was exposed to many educational changes - methodology, classroom composition, student assessment and engagement. Change is not always easy and often its success depends upon planning and acceptance of the change by those affected by it.
"The upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform is an opportunity for Islanders 16 years and older to change how people are elected to the P.E.I. Legislature. We are asked to rank four choices from five options. The system we have been using has served us well for over a century, as generally there were only two parties. In the last few decades, we have had other parties emerge; on only two occasions have they been able to elect a member.
"When I reflect on what I'll be choosing, I can't help but think of the students I've encountered. They are our young business leaders, professionals, plant workers, farmers, fishers, etc. They're the people who'll be looking after our interests in our elder years. Those of us who are baby boomers and older are among the most privileged on our Island. While we may have followed our parents and grandparents in many traditions, the same will not be said of subsequent generations. They are more apt to choose a political party other than my own or the Conservatives. I believe in the party system and want the Liberal Party to appeal to the new generations. I believe to do that our party needs to embrace change so it can appeal to politically engaged younger Islanders.
"For decades, young people from the elementary grades up have been learning how to negotiate and make informed decisions. They have been working in collaborative groups and encouraged to express their opinions and use consensus building strategies. I believe that the two main parties on P.E.I. have done a poor job of attracting these people. I believe the other parties on P.E.I. are going to grow by attracting these disenchanted young people. If this is indeed the case, then I want to support a system that'll enable the P.E.I. Legislature to have all political parties given the chance to see their party representatives take their seats on the floor of the Assembly.
"I won and lost under our current system and am grateful to the electorate for affording me the opportunity to serve my province. Going forward, I want to give the generations of future leaders a fairer opportunity, no matter what party they support, to go where I've gone. I, a proud member of the Liberal Party, will cast my vote for Proportional Representation (PR) in the upcoming plebiscite."
- Gerard Greenan is a former Liberal MLA and provincial cabinet minister. He lives in Summerside.
Checking in with the Premier and his vision.
Originally published on Wednesday, October 19th, 2016, in The Guardian (edited slightly):
Mr. Premier, Where Are You Taking Us? Islanders want to know - The Guardian Opinion piece by Dale Small
With all due respect, do you have a plan for Prince Edward Island? Based on scant news releases and random reports it seems decisions you take have little or no connection to an overarching vision for our future.
1. How does the sixty-five million dollar Cornwall by-pass fit with a vision for PEI’s transportation sector, now and into the future? And more importantly, where does it fit on your list of priorities of what the Island most needs? And why?
2. What is your vision for education given that you are on the verge of a major reorganization? Is it child centered? Community centered? Or building centered? Does it fit with a plan for rural development? If so, how?
3. Do you intend to end the ongoing destruction of our watersheds, and the degradation of our soil? If not, why not? If so, how so?
These are but a few examples of significant policy and legislative issues that are shrouded in darkness. You have stated publicly that since we are such a small jurisdiction any Islander can simply knock on your door and have access to you. Who does that? A few privileged individuals looking for special consideration?
Here’s a novel concept, how about you access us? How do you expect families, businesses, municipalities, community organizations and others to make rational long term plans when they must only guess at the direction our government may take? How are we to measure and evaluate spending plans when it appears decisions are taken on an ad hoc basis. Perhaps you do have a plan Mr. Premier, a wonderful, exciting long-range vision that will improve the lives of Islanders for decades to come. If so, please share it. Your secrecy is unsettling to the entire province.
--Dale Small, Cornwall
P.S. To Islanders:
A vote for proportional representation will be a positive step towards a more transparent, more accountable government.
The fifth installment of Teresa Wright's series in The Guardian on the Plebiscite:
MY VOTE Part 5: Dual Member Proportional a return to two MLAs per district - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
Published on Friday, October 14th, 2016, in The Guardian:
Would see P.E.I. return to having two MLAs represent every district, a system long abandoned on Island
This is the fifth in a six-part series looking at electoral reform in Prince Edward Island.
When Anna Keenan first arrived in Prince Edward Island last year, she was shocked by how Islanders choose their politicians. Keenan is from Australia, which uses preferential voting in its lower house and proportional representation in its upper house. She also lived in the Netherlands for five years where they have a fully proportional voting system.
“When I arrived here and I saw both the provincial and federal elections conducted under first-past-the-post, I thought it was crazy,” she said. “Parties that get 10 or 20 per cent of the vote don’t get any seats and so I just thought it was just really strange to see people excluded like that.” She also had never encountered strategic voting – where voters in a riding vote for the candidate who is most likely able to defeat an incumbent, even if it is not their preferred candidate. “That’s what really motivated me to get involved.”
At that time, a special committee of MLAs was touring the Island, looking for feedback on what kind of electoral change Islanders might be interested in. Keenan – a strong supporter of proportional representation – did some research on different models and discovered a newly designed model called Dual Member Proportional. Keenan pitched the idea to the committee and they liked it so much, they included it as an option on the ballot for the upcoming vote on electoral reform.
Dual Member Proportional (DMP) is an electoral system that blends principles of the present First-Past-the-Post voting system with proportionality to achieve an overall proportional representation of Island votes. Under this system, districts in P.E.I. would become larger and the number of districts would be reduced to 14. There would be two MLAs for each district, which would require the house to increase its seat count from 27 to 28.
Voters cast one ‘X’ on their ballot, as they do now, but there would be two candidates running for the same party on each ballot – a primary and a secondary candidate. Parties would choose which candidates are primary and secondary ahead of an election. Once all the results are in, the votes are first tallied to determine the overall percentage of votes each party received. This will determine the number of seats each party will be allocated in the legislature.
The first half of the seats are assigned using current voting system – the primary candidate with the most votes wins a seat in their district. The second half of the seats are assigned based on popular vote results. If a party doesn’t win its proportional allocation of seats in the first round, they are topped up with seats from the second round.
Before assigning seats in the second round, parties that were successful in the first round have their percentage of the vote divided in half in the districts where their primary candidates won seats through first-past-the-post. This is done because party’s vote tally has already gone towards electing their first candidate. This new percentage is assigned to the secondary candidate.
In the second round, seats are assigned to the best performing candidates. If a party deserves three additional seats based on the popular vote, their top three candidates who didn’t get elected in the first round will receive a seat in this round of seat allocation.
This model would mainly see MLAs from two different parties winning seats in most of these new dual-member districts. Essentially, the first and the second most popular candidates in each riding are usually elected.
This model was designed by Sean Graham with funding from the University of Alberta. Graham, who has two Bachelor of Science degrees, says he never imagined a province might include his electoral model as an option on in a plebiscite so quickly. He created this model just three years ago.
“I feel very honoured that the committee and the government in P.E.I. has seen enough merit in my ideas to include it in their upcoming plebiscite,” he said. “I’m very excited and anxious to see what the result is going to, if the people of P.E.I. have faith in the idea.”
One major benefit to this model is that it would create more proportion in the legislature and thus allow everyone to feel their vote counts while still tying every MLA to an electoral district and constituency. Keenan says she has heard many Islanders say they feel it is important their MLAs have a district of voters to hold them to account at election time. “Whatever (voting) system a group of people chooses should fit their values, so if your values are about local representation and proportionality, then Dual Member Proportional might be the option you want.”
Here’s how the Dual Member Proportional (DMP) voting system works:
Dual Member Proportional (DMP) is an electoral system that blends principles of the current way Islanders vote (first past the post) with proportionality to achieve proportional representation.
The province would be divided into 14 larger electoral ridings with 2 MLAs for each riding.
Voters would still cast one ‘X’ on the ballot, but this vote would be for the candidate and the party simultaneously. Two candidates would be listed for each party on each ballot – a primary and secondary candidate.
The first 14 of the seats in the legislature are assigned using current voting system – the primary candidate with the most votes wins.
The remaining 14 seats are assigned based on the popular vote results. If a party deserves three additional seats based on the popular vote, their top three candidates who didn’t get elected in the first round will receive a seat in this second round of seat allocation.
- Allows third parties a chance to get seats in the legislature.
- Achieves proportional representation based on popular vote
- Ensures every MLA is tied to a riding and constituency
- Complex and difficult to explain.
- Newly designed system so not yet used in any other jurisdiction
October 22, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Rain or no rain, local farmers and producers will be at the Summerside (9AM-1PM), Charlottetown (9AM-2PM) and Murray Harbor (9AM-noon) Farmers' Markets this morning,
Regarding Murray Harbour (this is the second to last Market of the Fall), this was posted on their Facebook page: "The October 22 market will be showcasing PEI potatoes and what better way to showcase them then with Mrs. Beck's fries...... yes that's right we are making fries the way our own Mrs Beck made them 50 years ago"
The Federation of PEI Municipalities is hosting their Fall meeting today in Summerside, and yesterday it apparently was announced they firmly do not support the current draft of the Municipal Governance Act and want government to put the idea on hold until spring.
As many Ministers attend part of this meeting, they should get that message. More details tomorrow.
People can still send their comments on amalgamation and municipal governance to the Municipal Affairs Department by the end of today at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
and carbon copy them to the Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment clerk at <email@example.com>
background letter here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/docs/CLE_MAAeng.pdf
The Watershed Alliance is having its Fall Meeting at the Hunter River Community Centre today, starting at 9AM.
As you may have heard, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been stopped from being ratified.
The mainstream media is treating this like a blow to Canadian pride and progress, but there have been many clear-eyed critics of this trade deal, and the implications for P.E.I. were sold as quite rosy but many details were quite murky.
"The Question is, what kind of globalization do we what?"
from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative's website,
Wallonia's Inspiring Stand on CETA - Behind the Numbers blog by Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew
Published on Friday, October 21st, 2016
Today the regional government of Wallonia in Belgium rebuffed Canada’s last-minute efforts to salvage a deeply flawed and increasingly unpopular transatlantic free trade agreement. By standing firm under incredible pressure (and a considerable amount of bullying), First Minister Paul Magnette gave a voice to millions of citizens who feel the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) fails to represent their interests.
His principled opposition to CETA, as negotiated, is not about protectionism or indeed about the importance of international trade. As Magnette said this week: “The question is in fact, what kind of globalization do we want?”
Do we want to expand a discredited investor-state dispute settlement system that, despite procedural reforms, still gives special rights to foreign investors to challenge public policies and regulations that hurt their profits?
Should regulations be viewed as burdens on business and impediments to trade, or as essential protections for workers, consumers and the environment?
Why can’t a treaty like CETA fully exclude public services, ensuring governments can expand them or reverse privatizations without risking costly lawsuits from aggrieved investors?
An “interpretive declaration,” hastily cobbled together, in secret, over the past two weeks is essentially an admission these are legitimate concerns. But it fails to fix them. If governments are serious about addressing the flaws in CETA, they need to reopen and amend the text, as Wallonia and others have demanded.
It was embarrassing to see both Prime Minister Trudeau and Trade Minister Freeland scold Europeans about the state of their democratic institutions and their internal decision-making processes. Countries are not “nice” and “patient.” What happened this week in Brussels should not be seen as a clash between Europe and Canada.
Rather, it is about political courage creating the space for an overdue debate about whose interests should be served by trade treaties—citizens or corporations?
Whatever the course of events over the coming weeks, Wallonia’s resistance has given Canada and the EU a historic opportunity—to give reality to their rhetoric about forging a transatlantic relationship based on “progressive” values.
Scott and Stuart wrote this from Brussels, where they spoke about CETA in the European Parliament and are discussing the deal with civil society organizations and others.
And I was reminded how long many Islanders have been talking about the unfairest of the free trade deal -- here is an article about the Council of Canadians concerns here on P.E.I. six years ago, and they have been trying to raise awareness of these kinds of trade deals since then.
October 21, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today is Y-Day (or Youth Day), an initiative by the provincial government:
YDAY is a unique one day event that will bring together 120 young emerging leaders to surface information around questions such as youths’ expectations, desires, and aspirations for the labour market and what meaningful opportunities would keep youth on the Island. YDAY is a part of a longer term strategy seeking to transform the narrative around youth on PEI.
It's going on at Holland College's Centre for Community Engagement, off Grafton Street, and organized by youth leader Sarah Bull. The keynote speaker is Candy Palmater, activist and broadcaster on CBC Radio, currently hosting Q but soon going back to her titular, afternoon "The Candy Show". More info: http://www.yday.ca/
I hope the Proportional Representation on PEI committee has some information there! They are at one of the high schools for part of today. http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/events
The wise old owls are speaking up, too:
In yesterday's Guardian, former MLA and Lieutenant Governor Marion Reid speaks from the heart:
Published on Thursday, October 20th, 2016, in The Guardian
MARION REID: When the well goes dry - The Guardian Opinion article by Marion Reid
There is no legitimate reason ever to put P.E.I.’s finite water resource on the market
I will never forget the day, January 8, 1956, when I turned on the tap and no water came. Just below the house was a well about 50 feet deep encased with smooth stones, and for over 100 years it supplied all the water for the family, and barns full of livestock. Then nothing! Suddenly we understood in a whole new way that old saying about not missing the water until the well runs dry.
Islanders today need to ponder that.
My husband, Lea, was a mechanic and fashioned a rig to plow the snow and smooth it for the cattle to go to the brook below our house. The ice was broken and the animals were glad to get their water. Buckets of water were carried on the tractor to water the horses and other stock.
Once the animals were fed and the bawling stopped, large cream cans were filled with water from our neighbors. Things were looking up, and within three days a well digging company from Charlottetown had a new well, 165 feet deep, in operation; however, it had been a disturbing experience, and I think of it often these days as the demand for our water increases, and its quality deteriorates.
And I know it firsthand. Years ago, I would watch the tide and go down to the river and dig a bucket of clams for chowder. Our children fished there as well. They caught trout, often with just a bent pin and worms, the fish were so plentiful. Nothing better than the first pan trout, rolled in flour and fried in butter. As well there were smelts, eels and salmon in the river. But no more. The river is anoxic. The fish cannot live there. And I grieve for that river, and others like it across the Island.
I am greatly disturbed that we permit the type of agriculture responsible for these sad changes, and that we are contemplating the sale of our water to corporations who clearly don’t care about the situation of which I speak.
I have researched these matters extensively. Humanity is polluting and depleting the Earth’s finite water supply at a steadily increasing rate.
Lake Superior, the world’s largest fresh water lake has dropped to its lowest level in 80 years. The St. Lawrence River has dropped by more than a meter, reaching the lowest point in a century. The Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, and every day four trillion liters of water are being pumped out.
Do the research and find out who is draining Lake Michigan. Yes, the very outfit that is coveting our water. Unless we respond, one day the tap will be turned on and no water will come, like it was for me in 1956. And unless we change course it is not if it happens, but when it happens.
Chief Dan George authored a little book I treasure, and what he predicted has come to pass. He wrote, “Man who does not keep the earth sacred creates much sorrow. We are as much alive as we keep the earth alive.”
The older farmers remember the boggy spots that couldn’t be cultivated. We had these areas in our fields, and had to haul the tractor out when you went too close. Today there is not a wet area on any of those fields – they are all bone dry.
And if what happened to us in 1956 happened today it would be pointless to drive the cattle to the river. And why? Because the Hope River is anoxic – sick unto death because of the tons of toxic top soil that have washed into the river.
I am happy to say that for 100 years there has never been a hedgerow removed on the farm where I raised my children. Further, we always used a three (and often a four) year crop rotation, and planted alfalfa to restore nitrogen to the land. The land is very productive, and I tell the children we will keep this healthy land because we will always need it: a place to grow our own good food.
But none of this is possible without water.
We need to conserve and protect our water supply, and there is no legitimate reason ever to put our finite water resource on the market. Further, we have no right to do that as our ground water belongs to everyone. I am only one person, but my conscience will not allow me to remain silent on this matter.
Former Island premier J. Angus MacLean, a committed conservationist, and custodian of the Island landscape, believed that land was our most precious resource. Consequently, P.E.I. is the only province in Canada that has control of the sale of its land. It would never have entered Angus’ mind that one day we might be selling our water on the open market. He would have been appalled, as I am.
Multi-nationals the world over are buying up water rights and making billions of dollars, and the poor who can’t afford to buy that water have to drink what is often polluted. Indeed, one of the leading causes of mortality among children worldwide is their lack of access to clean water.
Do we want to be a part of that? I don’t think so.
- Marion Reid is a former lieutenant governor of P.E.I., Member of the Legislative Assembly, and Speaker of the P.E.I. Legislature.
and from F. Ben Rodgers:
Time to improve electoral system - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Thursday, October 20th, 2016
Please keep in mind this is a plebiscite to change the electoral system presently in force on P.E.I. It’s not about voting for your Liberal or Conservative or other candidates. It’s not about voting the way your grandparents and great grandparents voted. It’s improving a system that was introduced in the 18th century - when women did not have a vote; indigenous people did not have a vote, people who did not own property couldn't vote.
No one could possible argue times have not changed since then. More than 90 countries around the world use some form of preferential system, and research shows that none of these nations have more elections than our FPTP system does here. Research also shows that many countries using the preferential voting system score higher in human development, education and health. They also have better environmental record.
The history of politics in this province in recent decades does not exemplify any examples of good and fair representation of the voting public. We have had wild swings from one party to the other and so much patronage and corruption in the last 10 to 20 years it should not be hard to imagine there is a better. Proportional representation will see that change, it will see each and every Islanders vote counts.
F. Ben Rodgers, Abram-Village
October 20, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
One year ago, the election results were in and Stephen Harper's Conservatives did not reform government. Due to the specter of more years of Harper, organizations like LeadNow and others advised strategic voting for the Liberal candidates in many ridings to try to win the seats. Justin Trudeau's Liberals won many more seats than the New Democrats, and were rewarded with a majority, a false majority of many seats won by a slim plurality, not a majority. Mr. Trudeau has done many good things so far, but his majority in Parliament has resulted in part due to people really NOT voting for Mr. Harper; not necessarily the candidate they preferred. This calculated risk marginalized candidates like the NDP's Herb Dickieson in Egmont Riding, who presumably would have made a fine MP (and would have even hosted a Climate Change Forum for his constituents).
This is something to think about regarding both the provincial and the federal electoral reform measures.
Today is the open house on the Maritime Electric substation upgrade, 2-8PM, Central Queens United Church (I had the location wrong previously), in Hunter River. The maps should be specific to see the locations and the public can still comment about conservation and underground placement of lines. More details here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment/index.php3?number=1055163&lang=E
Movie, Migrant Dreams, 7PM, Murphy Community Centre. Admission by donation.
Migrant Dreams, "a new Canadian documentary by filmmaker Min Sook Lee, tells the story of migrant agricultural workers struggling against Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). A Maritime tour of the film will kick off in Charlottetown on Thursday, October 20 at Murphy’s Community Centre at 7 pm. Guest speaker Tzazna Miranda Leal from Justice for Migrant Workers will be present to discuss the film and to bring news of the Harvesting Freedom Campaign which marks the 50th anniversary of Canada’s migrant farm worker program."
Friday at midnight is the deadline for Canadians to submit feedback on changes to Canada Post. There is the Sum of Us petition through the link, and on the page is a link to the government's survey. You can add comments at the end. I added (and you are free to copy any or all of it):
The Liberal government and Canada Post should wake up and realize that Harper has been gone for a year and Canadians see no real action has been taken to reestablish door-to-door in cities and towns in places like P.E.I., where it was ripped out helter-skelter in the last days of Harper's administration. This is wrong.
One feels the Management is setting up the postal service to drive away customers and then finally say it's not relevant and sell it to private interests. This is wrong.
We need Canada Post in towns and cities and rural roads. We need weekday delivery to mailboxes on our property. We need pokey little rural post offices. We need Canada Post to get into banking, at the very least; and to open its corporate eyes and seriously consider becoming part of the Green Economy with post offices becoming renewable energy stations and the service of course switching to electric vehicles.
link to petition:
and the link to the government consultation survey is there, too.
Teresa Wright's fourth installment in the voting systems plebiscite is about First Past the Post Plus Leaders:
published on Thursday, October 13th, 2016, in The Guardian:
MY VOTE Part 4: First past post, plus leaders described as 'tokenism' - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
“It is difficult to work that hard and not to achieve success.” NDP Leader Mike Redmond admits it was a big disappointment his party did not win one seat in the P.E.I. legislature despite getting 11 per cent of the popular vote in the 2015 provincial election.
Redmond jokes his background in athletics prepared him for dealing with this election loss. “That did prepare me, because you can also work very hard in athletics and not achieve your ultimate goal, but we did a very good job in the election and I thought we put forward some very strong policies, but ultimately it didn’t change things a whole heck of a lot.”
Nevertheless, Redmond says he doesn’t want a token seat in the P.E.I. legislature. One of the options Islanders can choose in the upcoming vote on electoral reform is offering a slight tweak to the current way P.E.I. elects its MLAs. This option is called First-Past-the-Post Plus Leaders.
Essentially, nothing would change except that party leaders whose parties achieve at least 10 per cent of the total province-wide vote would be given a seat in the legislature. Using the results of the 2015 provincial election, two additional seats would have been added to the P.E.I. legislature under this model – one for Redmond and one for former Progressive Conservative leader Rob Lantz.
Lantz’s party attained 37.4 per cent of the popular vote in the 2015 election and was just 3.4 percentage points behind the Liberals. But the PC party won only eight seats while the Liberal party won 18 seats and formed a majority government. Lantz failed to win a seat in his own riding – a stunning loss that left the party reeling. He resigned as leader a few months later, saying found it too difficulty to try to lead the party without a seat. Under First-Past-the-Post Plus Leaders, he would not have had to resign because he would have been given a seat in the legislature.
Lantz declined to comment for this story.
Redmond says he believes this option is nothing but tokenism. “It’s almost like you’re giving the crumbs off the plate,” Redmond said. NDP members did debate this option at its last party convention with some using Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker as an example of success in seeing new ideas and approaches brought to the legislature as a result of having a third party leader in the house.
But in the end, the New Democratic Party decided to continue its call for proportional representation (PR) as the best way to see more third parties, women and minorities elected to the P.E.I. legislature. “We’re looking for that diversity, and that’s truly what PR represents – it gives everybody a voice as opposed to First-Past-the-Post which does not… it’s about making every vote count,” Redmond said.
First-Past-the-Post Plus Leaders is one of five options Islanders will be asked to choose, in order of preference, in the plebiscite on electoral reform, which runs Oct. 29 to Nov. 7.
MLAs on a three-party special committee recommended this option be included because they said it emerged as a theme from their first round public consultations last year. However, only three individuals who presented at the first 11 public meetings on democratic renewal pitched this idea: current cabinet ministers Robert Henderson, Alan McIsaac and former MLA Herb Dickieson.
No other jurisdiction in the world uses this voting system.
UPEI political scientist Don Desserud says there are some unresolved problems with this system that could even make it unconstitutional. “I recognize the generosity of the proposal, I think this is a genuine attempt to try to help third parties, smaller parties at least, get their leaders into the legislative assembly,” Desserud said. “But what would happen if the leader was to be ousted by the party? What would their status be as an MLA? It can’t be that they have to leave their seat, because that would provide an outside agency with unwarranted power over the legislative assembly.”
He noted it is not constitutionally appropriate for any outside agency – including a political party – to determine membership in a legislature after an election. Thus it remains unclear what would happen if a party leader is ousted or resigns under First-Past-the-Post Plus Leaders. That’s why Desserud believes this voting system is “a problem.”
“I don’t want to be influencing anybody’s vote, I think people should be voting freely on their own… but I do have a concern that this (voting option) just is not going to work, as well-meaning as it is.”
October 19, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
An "odds and sods" kind of day, bits and deadlines.
Elections PEI Webinar on the upcoming plebiscite, 7PM - 7:30PM, on-line at their website here:
Tomorrow, Thursday, October 20th:
Open House about new transmission lines, 2-8PM, Hunter River Community Centre. Hosted by Maritime Electric, and consulting company Stantec will be on hand. My guess is there is no formal presentation, but easels set up and representatives to talk to and comment cards available.
CBC reports that the Ontario government plans to impose a two-year hold on the "creation of expansion of bottled water plants". Rest of the story here:
Location, location, location:
The Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment meeting about bottled water is next Wednesday, October 26th, at 1:30PM, at the J. Angus MacLean Building on the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets.
The location of the CBC-sponsored forum on electoral reform is Stone Park Intermediate School at 7PM, on Thursday, October 27th.
The Department of Communities, Land and Environment has set a deadline of Saturday, October 22nd for comments on proposed Municipal Governance legislation.(902) 368-5582 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org> or the website feedback form here:
The legislative Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment wants to hear if it should hold hearings on the issue -- and they would like to hear from interested Islanders and organizations by Friday, October 28th (to Clerk Emily Doiron at <email@example.com or calling (902) 368-4320) Just a quick note that you are interested in this committee exploring this, whether or not you would actually want to present to them, is important.
On 100-year storms:
Russell Wangersky: Lessons from The Thanksgiving Day storm - The Guardian article by Russell Wangersky
Published on Tuesday, October 18th, 2016
It’s a hard way to get a message. But it’s still a message.
When the remnants of hurricane Matthew swept through the Atlantic provinces — especially through Cape Breton and central Newfoundland — millions of dollars of damage was done.
In terms of infrastructure alone — roads, bridges and culverts — federal and provincial estimates of the combined damage have climbed above $20 million, and will probably continue to rise as the full extent of the damage becomes clear. That wreckage also extends far beyond infrastructure and into private homes and properties, in part because road infrastructure can actually bottleneck runoff and vastly expand the number of areas that get flooding.
For some areas, the rainfall involved was at or above the level of that expected in a lifetime; in fact, it was at or above what forecasters and road designers describe as the 100-year storm, the worst conditions expected over any 100-year span.
And that’s important; 100-year storm numbers can be the benchmarks for what actually goes into the ground when you’re building roads or bridges. If you calculate the size of a catchment area and know how rainfall affects a given watershed, for example, you can calculate the size of culverts that have to be installed for different sizes of brooks or streams.
Historical data is the benchmark. If your calculations are wrong, the results can be catastrophic.
Six years ago in Newfoundland, hurricane Igor made the point clearly that history couldn’t necessarily be the guide. That storm overwhelmed the flood runoff infrastructure, with too-small culverts turning roads into dams for huge runoff — and eventually, roads failed, cutting off whole communities.
The same thing happened this month with the remnants of Matthew — and, incidentally, as they also did in Newfoundland during three other named storms, Chantal, Gabrielle and Leslie. In Nova Scotia and P.E.I., you can remember Juan — and, in 2014, Arthur.
Whether you want to believe it’s climate change or not, weather patterns are certainly changing. We’ve always had to deal with the remnants of hurricane systems from the south (I can remember several growing up in Halifax), but the ocean wasn’t warm enough then for storms to actually regain strength over water after they passed Bermuda.
The surface water is that warm now. What that’s meant is stronger winds and plenty more rain — the exact type of more violent weather predicted years ago as being the most obvious result of climate change.
The definition of insanity is often described as doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
If we even come close to simply putting the same or similar infrastructure back into the ground that has just failed, we’ll simply be throwing away $20 million and setting ourselves up for the next fall.
What planners have to be doing now is thinking proactively — not just replacing damaged infrastructure, but developing a new standard of 100-year storm, perhaps one considerably larger and wetter than that even the ones doing the damage now. There’s Matthew to clean up after now, but we’ve also got to be thinking ahead of time for next year’s storms and the year after, and the year after that.
That’s going to mean an awful lot of work retrofitting existing highways, culverts and bridges — because as the leftovers from Matthew clearly demonstrate, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Many of our weakest links are still buried in the ground, waiting for the day that the next 100-year storm happens to pass directly over them. We were supposed to have 99 years of grace before that happened. But not anymore.
However expensive it is to fix, it will be cheaper than the collateral damage we get when we decide to wait and see — and then watch the existing systems be overwhelmed.
Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
October 18, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The results from the byelection in Summerside-Wilmot District 21 took a while to come last night, with Liberal Chris Palmer winning 978 of 2311 votes (more votes than anyone else in seven polling stations), PC Brian Ramsay winning 720 (the most votes in four polls), Lynne Lund from the Green Party winning 506 votes (two polls), and Scott Gaudet from the NDP with 107 votes. Congratulations to all the candidates.
Today, Tuesday, October 18th:
House of Commons Finance Committee Pre-Budget Consultations, all day, Delta Prince Edward Hotel, 18 Queen Street.
Open Mic opportunity for individuals will be from 12:30 to 1:30PM. To participate in the ‘open mic’ portion of the Committee’s meetings, individuals must submit their name to Committee staff in person at the hotel no later than 11:30 a.m. on the dates and in the locations indicated below. Spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Tony Reddin (who passed on the reminder notice) mentioned that things to consider are reducing greenhouse gases and increasing renewable energy initiatives.
And Leo Broderick wrote (in a recent Guardian):
"...We have the means in this country to eliminate poverty, provide a national childcare program, a national pharmacare program, and we can eliminate the gender pay gap. Here is one proposal:
1. Raise the corporate income tax rate from its 26.3% (the federal rate of 15% plus an average provincial rate of 11.3%) to the US corporate income tax rate of 39%
2. Close Tax Loopholes
3. Stop Corporate Offshore Tax Dodging
4. Tax E-commerce Companies to Level the Playing Field.
We can add 30 billion dollars to our coffers with these simple easy to do tax changes. But the question is: Are you interested in serving the 99% or are you going to continue to deliver the profits to the 1%?"
Plebiscite Public Information Session, 7:30PM, Stratford Town Hall. Hosted by ElectionsPEI.
Teresa Wright's third installment in voting systems:
published on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016, in The Guardian.
MY VOTE Part 3: Mixed Member Proportional Representation - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
Mixed Member Proportional is a complicated voting system that’s difficult to explain, but it would bring new faces and voices to the P.E.I. legislature, says one former NDP candidate
This is the third in a six-part series looking at electoral reform in Prince Edward Island. By Teresa Wright
It was the morning after the 2015 provincial election, and Gord McNeilly found himself face to face with a little girl on a school bus crying. “Her two hands were on the window, the right hand was above the left, and her eyes – she just started flooding with tears,” McNeilly recalls. “She was only about six years old and as she went by, she just stared at me and she flooded with tears because she got engaged in the process so she saw the result not in a political way but more – what could have been.”
McNeilly ran a dynamic campaign during the election in 2015 and was easily the star candidate of the NDP roster. On election night, even the most cynical Islanders watched in wonder as the results showed Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker trouncing incumbent Liberal cabinet minister Valerie Docherty and McNeilly slightly ahead of Liberal MLA and former speaker Kathleen Casey throughout the evening.
The riding remained too close to call until the final poll was tallied – the advance poll. “The moment I realized we hadn’t won… a local broadcaster was about to go live and it was going to go outside of P.E.I., it was going to be big news, so I had the headphones on and I sat in the chair, thinking about what I was going to say, and then they said, ‘We’re going to take those headphones off for a second.’” McNeilly recalls. “Then it was like this deep sadness inside of the room that I’ll never forget.”
Casey won the seat by 109 votes thanks to the advance poll results. Under P.E.I.’s current voting system, the person with the most votes wins, and those who do not win walk away with nothing. But if P.E.I. had a proportional voting system, election night could have been much different for candidates like McNeilly.
Islanders have two options for proportional representation they can choose from in the upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform. One of these options is called Mixed Member Proportional. It uses a two-part ballot. Under this voting system, two-thirds of the MLAs in the legislature are elected under the present First-Past-the-Post system. These are district MLAs and they are chosen in the first part of the ballot the same way MLAs are chosen now – the person with the most votes wins. The remaining one-third of MLAs is elected from party lists on the second part of the ballot. These are known as “list seats” because these MLAs would not have a riding and would represent the whole Island. List seats are allocated based on the popular vote each party receives on the second part of the ballot.
The most popular candidates from the party lists are the ones who get the seats. This system helps parties who do well overall in the popular vote to achieve a place in the legislature. Using the results of the 2015 provincial election, the NDP would have been allocated three “list seats” under Mixed Member Proportional. McNeilly likely would have been given one of the NDP’s list seats, as he garnered the most votes of all NDP candidates in the 2015 election.
But Mixed Member Proportional as an electoral system is difficult to explain. It was the system put forward in P.E.I.’s last plebiscite on electoral reform in 2005. A “No” campaign emerged that saw people raise concern about how it could create minority governments that would be unable to make important decisions on consensus. Others questioned how individuals on the party lists are chosen. In the end, Islanders rejected this model in the 2005 plebiscite, by a margin of 64 per cent to 36 per cent. Only 33 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
McNeilly says he hopes more Islanders will vote in the plebiscite this time and that they will be open to more proportional voting systems. He believes the present system just is not working with so little diversity of parties, minorities and women in the legislature. “If you think about all the issues that we look at as a province, if they’re all important to us, we need different voices to bring those forward,” McNeilly said. "One little change can make a big difference. Abortion is a great example – that policy has changed in the last year because there was an action group that forced change … we need more of that to happen and then we’ll see bigger changes.”
Here’s how the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system works.
This is a hybrid voting system that sees two-thirds of the MLAs in the legislature elected using First-Past-the-Post (the present system) and the remaining one-third of MLAs allocated based on proportional representation.
Voters have a two-part ballot. The first part asks voters to choose their district MLA. Voters mark an ‘X’ for their preferred candidate for the district and the person with the most votes wins.
The second part of the ballot contains lists of candidates for each political party. Voters mark an 'X' for their favourite candidate from their preferred political party. The votes on the second part of the ballot are used to determine each party's provincewide popular vote. Winners are chosen based on the percentage they receive of the popular vote in the second part of the ballot, and the most popular candidates from the party lists are the ones who get these “list seats” in the legislature.
The system is designed so that list seats "top-up" or compensate for the often disproportionate results of First-Past-the-Post.
• Allows third parties a chance to get seats in the legislature.
• Achieves more proportional representation based on popular vote
• Can allow more opportunities for women and minorities
• Complicated and difficult to explain.
• Unfamiliar ballot
October 17, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The PR Social was a lot of fun, with thanks to all who came, and to those who organized it, brought food, help set up and clean up, sang, presented, and asked questions! Huge thanks Anna Keenan for her organization and her vision, and to Teresa Doyle, Catherine O'Brien, Ron Kelly and Tony Reddin for singing along and together. So beautiful to share music,and good snacks, and conversation with people.
One thing I realized is that many people want to hear more, and hear about change, but some of the materials can be much too dense to work through. So many of us that "get it" can get out there and talk to people.
This letter from Elizabeth Greenan says so much; bold is mine:
Published on Friday, October 14th, 2016, in the Guardian:
ELIZABETH GREENAN: Let's get informed and vote - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Legislators face fundamental conflict of interest with vested interest in preserving a system that benefited their political party
In the November 2005 plebiscite only about one third of eligible voters participated. Many Islanders may not have felt sufficiently informed or motivated to vote then, but I am hopeful that the situation will be different in 2016.
While many individuals will offer opinions, based on their own knowledge, experiences and personal interests, I would like to present some facts that I have gained through personal research. I also have my own bias, and may interpret these facts from a particular stance. I support discarding our first past the post (FPTP) system in favor of either form of proportional system (PR) because I believe this will result in more voter engagement, fairer representation of diverse viewpoints, a more inclusive legislature and more accountable governments.
Among advanced western democracies PR has become the predominant voting system and seeks to create representative bodies that reflect the overall distribution of public support for each political party. Simply put, if a party won 40 per cent of the vote it would receive 40 per cent of the seats. Over 90 countries use a proportional system, including 85 per cent of OECD countries, such as Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, and Denmark. FPTP is a winner-take-all system, also known as a majoritarian voting system. There are two forms of majoritarian voting - FPTP and ranked/preferential ballots. Our FPTP system is an inheritance from 18th century England and almost all countries where it is still used today were British colonies. Our society has advanced since then – voting rights have been extended to women, indigenous people and people who do not own property. It is time for us to now further advance our society by adopting a more equitable system of electing our representatives.
Research shows the countries using proportional systems have elections no more frequently than countries using winner-take-all systems. Years of research demonstrate that countries with proportional systems score higher on the United Nations Index of Human Development measuring health, education and standard of living. They have better environmental records and more income equality. This can be attributed to the fact that when votes count, voters have more power.
I believe legislators and their supporters face a fundamental conflict of interest when it comes to considering electoral systems, as they have a vested interest in preserving a system that has benefited them and their political party. While I find it difficult to visualize P.E.I. with a minority government under PR in my lifetime due to our history of traditionally supporting two parties, I do believe that coalitions can often lead to good governance. When our government system has built in incentives for our politicians to show they can work together for the common good, I am sure they will rise to the task.
I would urge everyone to visit Elections P.E.I.’s website at http://www.yourchoicepei.ca/ as well as the P.E.I. Coalition for Proportional Representation’s website at http://www.pronpei.vote/ to learn more about the electoral options as well as the process for expressing your choices.
- Elizabeth Greenan is a resident of Summerside with a keen interest in electoral reform.
Like most people who write letters to the paper, I think Elizabeth Greenan would be a very interesting person to have a cup of tea with.
(I'll print the next Teresa Wright installment from the Guardian tomorrow.)
Not to be outdone, CBC Radio is starting to explore the plebiscite options, and Kerry Campbell starts his series today. I have also heard that Thursday night, October 27th, CBC will host a live forum on electoral systems, in Charlottetown. Location to be determined.
Today is voting day in the byelection of District 21 (Summerside-Wilmot). If you are in the area and want to wave at passing cars near Green Party candidate Lynne Lund's office this morning, supporters are welcome to stop by at the NuCity Mall in Summerside on Water Street.
A note that the Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment is meeting Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 at 1:30PM, and will hear about the proposal for a bottle water plant in Brookvale. The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will be presenting, and likely some people proposing the project. Members of the public are welcome to sit in the Gallery, if you wish to mark your calendars.
October 16, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Tonight is the "Plan for PR Social", 6:30-8:30PM, at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown (420 University Avenue) and we hope you can drop by. Bring a snack to share if you wish, and freewill donations will be accepted at the door. Or just don't worry about bringing anything and come!
And I hear the intriguing video of the purple puppet channeling Nobel Prize-winning singer Bob Dylan on an electoral reform twist may be screened.
This afternoon the PEI Symphony Orchestra has its first of four concerts, at 2:30PM at the Zion Presbyterian Church. Tickets at the door. The P.E.I. marathon has just about finished up by that point in the day and makes for an interesting juxtaposition downtown.
Here is the second in Teresa Wright's series on the plebiscite and the options:
MY VOTE Part 2: Present, winner-takes-all system - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
Published on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016
It was the mid-1990s and Jeannie Lea was sitting in the P.E.I. legislature, pouring over a document she expected would be controversial. After all, the document she was holding was a bill that aimed to make Charlottetown and Summerside into larger municipalities by swallowing up a number of surrounding communities. Despite wild outrage among many Islanders over this proposed amalgamation, Lea says she sat in disbelief when she realized she was about to get a free pass in the legislature.
That’s because the burning issue that day for the sole member of the official Opposition, Pat Mella, was a proposed 7.5 per cent wage rollback for the civil service. “I can remember sitting in the house and going through the (amalgamation) bill and people weren’t even listening to it, they were so upset about another issue. The salary rollback issue,” Lea recalls. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, I could never sit and do this normally.’ I was prepared for really having a tough, tough time.”
Lea was on the winning side of a government that had only one Opposition MLA to challenge it, and yet, the former cabinet minister says she is not a fan of the current First-Past-the-Post voting system. The lopsided governments this voting system often generates is bad for democracy, she said.
“I really believe the Opposition plays an important role. You have to be really sure of what you’re doing and you have to be able to defend it, and when there’s only one person, you don’t have that same pressure.”
Coincidentally, Lea’s husband, James, is also intimately familiar with the effects of a winner-take-all voting regime. His grandfather, Walter Lea, made history in 1935 when his Liberal government swept into power, defeating acting premier J.P. MacMillan’s Conservatives. No, not defeating. Annihilating. That’s how the Charlottetown Patriot newspaper reported the stunning election result that saw Lea’s Liberals win all 30 seats in the P.E.I. legislature.
It was the first time in the history of the British Commonwealth that any party had ever won every single seat in a legislature. It was a feat not replicated until 1987 by Frank McKenna in New Brunswick.
James Lea never got a chance to meet his grandfather, but does recall his father talking about how Walter Lea’s no-Opposition legislature did not work well. “A bunch of the members took it upon themselves to act as the official Opposition and I guess it was just kind of chaotic,” Lea said. “No one really knew what role they had, so it was not the most enjoyable time in the government.”
Another lopsided government emerged after the 2000 election when Ron MacKinley became the sole Liberal MLA and a one-man Opposition. Halfway through that term, on May 2, 2002, MacKinley took ill with the flu and was not able to attend question period. The Progressive Conservative government floated the idea of allowing the press gallery to submit questions. But government backbenchers instead took on this role.
With a plebiscite now looking at possibly changing P.E.I.’s voting system, Jeannie Lea says she is interested, but happy to watch from afar. She was heavily involved in the 2005 plebiscite on electoral reform that saw ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns mounted, a number of debates held and a high level of public engagement.
She is critical of decisions by the government of the day that saw the number of polling stations reduced, a super majority threshold of 60 per cent created and no public education campaign funded by the province.
This time around, there is better education and information available, but having five options on the new plebiscite ballot is likely to confuse people, the Lea couple said.
The former cabinet minister says she believes mixed member proportional representation – the model proposed in the 2005 plebiscite – is the best way to produce a more balanced legislature and eliminate lopsided governments. “There are many Commonwealth countries, like Australia and New Zealand, that have (proportional representation), and people are nervous about it, but in a jurisdiction like ours, I don’t think it’s going to turn things on their head,” Lea said. “It will probably tweak things enough that it will make it a better system for everybody. And make it more diverse.”
October 15, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets are open in Summerside, Charlottetown, Murray Harbour (Scarecrow contest tomorrow, details on their Facebook page here, and Stratford (I think).
Here are two options for Fall/Winter CSAs,which sound like an excellent way to eat local and support local food:
Crystal Green Farms, Brian and Kathy MacKay,Bedeque:
"The winter biweekly $30.00 Box of organic vegetables has the staples and usually one of our whole wheat mixes."
Just Plate It!, Lee Clarke organizes food from some other small farmers in Queens County:
"Winter Food Baskets are custom built, giving you more flexibility to purchase and receive what you want."
Photography workshop at Macphail Woods, with Sean Landsman, 2PM, Macphail Woods Nature Centre in Orwell.
Thursday, October 20th:
Maritime Electric Open House on New Glasgow substation plans, 2-8PM, Hunter River Community Centre. Ads have been placed in The Guardian. Here is the link to the project Environmental Impact Assessment from Stantec Consulting:
and the EIA page from the Department of Environment:
Here is Teresa Wright's first installment on electoral reform:
MY VOTE Part 1: Electoral reform plebiscite full of many historical firsts for P.E.I. - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
Published on Saturday, October 8th, 2016
Prince Edward Island is about to make history.
Although the upcoming plebiscite on electoral reform may sound boring, it will mark many historic firsts that will make it much more exciting than many Islanders may realize.
For example, Islanders will have the option to vote online and by telephone. This is not only a first for P.E.I., but the first provincewide electronic vote in Canada.
The voting age has been lowered to 16, which is also a Canadian first.
The voting period extends for a total of 10 days – another first for P.E.I., with two traditional in-person voting days Nov. 4 and 5.
The results will be counted electronically, including the paper ballots, which is the first time any vote in P.E.I. has used electronic tabulation.
The ballot itself will also be new for Islanders, as it is a preferential ballot that will ask voters to rank the five proposed electoral options in order from one to five.
Never before has a preferential ballot been used in a provincewide vote in P.E.I.
And of course, Islanders could make history if a majority chooses to change our electoral system to something different from the current first-past-the-post voting system.
Chief electoral officer Gary McLeod admits he has had his work cut out for him.
Because not only has his office been planning a plebiscite with new technologies, a new ballot, new polling stations and brand new 16- and 17-year-old voters who have never been registered, Elections P.E.I. has also been tasked with the public education campaign to inform Islanders about the five options on the plebiscite ballot.
On top of all this, Elections P.E.I. is also running the Summerside by-election on Oct. 17.
“It is challenging, there’s no question,” McLeod said.
“We have limited staff… normally we are not involved in some of this work, our job mainly is to run elections, not do the public education of something like this.”
But one of the biggest challenges of all has been getting Islanders to pay attention.
Staffers spent the summer taking an information booth across the Island to farmer's markets, shopping malls and events where people gather, handing out pamphlets and answering questions.
They have also been holding information sessions in a variety of venues, including seniors homes, rotary clubs and every high school in P.E.I.
Pamphlets have been mailed to every home across the province, and TV and radio ads will soon go to air.
Despite this, many Islanders are still in the dark.
“If you were to go out on the street and start talking to people, a large majority probably still don’t know there’s a plebiscite going on,” McLeod said.
“It just hasn’t tweaked people’s interest yet.”
That’s why Jordan MacPhee is among a group of people knocking on doors, trying to get the word out.
MacPhee is with the PR Action Team, a group campaigning in support of proportional representation (PR).
There are two proportional representation options on the plebiscite ballot, and the group doesn’t favour one over the other. It is asking Islanders who support PR to “Vote 1 & 2,” and choose the two PR options as their first and second choices on their ranked ballot.
MacPhee says he believes this grassroots approach has been working well so far.
“I think that Islanders are willing to be open and talk about these things with their neighbours, especially in the rural areas,” he said.
“We’ll knock on someone’s door and a week or two later, we can go to a different community and someone will say, ‘My brother said they had someone come to their door, too,’ so I think it’s something that spreads throughout the community.”
MacPhee says he hopes more Islanders will get involved with this vote because, whether people realize it or not, everything is linked to government.
“You can’t name a single thing that we do from day to day that isn’t touched by government or regulation, from the roads we walk on, to the schools we send our kids, to the hospitals we go to, it’s all controlled or affected in some way by government,” he said.
“If we’re not careful to set up our government institutions in a fair way, we are making it inevitable that we will have unfair consequences.”
The last time a vote was held on electoral reform in 2005, the voter turnout was a disappointing 33 per cent. In that vote, the status quo was endorsed by a margin of 64 to 36 per cent.
This time, it appears Islanders may be more willing to consider a change.
A recent poll from Corporate Research Associates showed 46 per cent of P.E.I. residents said they feel the current voting system should continue while 39 per cent believe it should be changed.
McLeod has invited all the chief electoral officers from across Canada to come to P.E.I. to watch how the all the new elements of this vote will work.
Indeed, Maryam Monsef, federal minister for democratic institutions, who has been charged with examining possible changes to the federal electoral system, said the entire country will be paying close attention to Prince Edward Island and how Islanders vote on electoral reform.
“We are watching you very closely, Islanders,” she said.
October 14, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today is the final day to write any comments about MLAs' salaries and benefits, which is reviewed annually by the organization with the mouthful name, the Indemnities and Allowances Commission. E-mail is email@example.com Would you like to see certain"perks" changed, like maybe more economical cars for cabinet ministers?
More information at:http://www.assembly.pe.ca/index.php3?number=1024567&lang=E
It appears the joint effort of the Department of Environment and the UPEI Climate Lab has started public consultations on the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which is the half of the provincial Climate Change Strategy that focuses on the real effects of Climate Change on our environment and our daily lives. Unfortunately, several specific areas have already had their consultation session, but here is the complete announcement:
Agriculture issues, 1-3PM, Duffy Research Centre (that's the "NRC" building on the east side of the UPEI campus near the new engineering building, I think).
Climate Change Adaptation Workshops
UPEI Climate Research Lab
The UPEI Climate Research Lab will be hosting a series of Climate Change Adaptation Workshops this fall to propose and discuss specific actions to be included in the province of PEI’s upcoming Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend.
All workshops will be held on UPEI campus at the Climate Research Lab (main floor, Regis and Joan Duffy Research Centre) in Charlottetown from 1 to 3 pm. Please RSVP by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and indicating which workshop(s) you will be attending.
The series includes the following workshops:
Energy October 12;
Communities, Buildings, Homes October 13;
Agriculture: October 14;
Forestry October 20;
Insurance October 21;
Human Health October 26;
Transportation October 27;
Fish & Wildlife October 28;
Water November 2; Education November 3;
Fisheries & Aquaculture November 4;
Emergency Management November 9;
Economic Development November 10;
and Tourism November 16.
Sunday afternoon, October 16th:
Movie: Beyond Measure - a film about troubled school systems, 2PM, City Cinema, 64 King Street, $5
“Every day we hear stories about America’s troubled education system. And we’re told that in order to fix what’s broken, we need to narrow our curricula, standardize our classrooms, and find new ways to measure students and teachers. But what if these “fixes” are making our schools worse?”
And of course, the "Plan for PR Social" is from 6:30-8:30PM. If you are a planning to attend and want to bring a finger-food snack to share, that would be welcome for the snack table!
The Guardian'sTeresa Wright is examining the electoral reform plebiscite and doing in-depth descriptions of each choice on the plebiscite ballot. I will reprint her series starting tomorrow.
October 13, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
October 12, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
A chat about the book A Time and a Place: An environmental history of Prince Edward Island, 7-8:30PM, Robertson Library, Second Floor Lounge. Several contributors will be in attendance. All welcome.
Plebiscite/Proportional Prepresentation discussion, 6:30PM refreshments (starts at 7), Three Oaks High School, Summerside
School Review -- Montague Family of Schools, 7PM, Vernon River Consolidated.
Some event details at: http://www.citizensalliancepei.org/events
October 12th can be a sombre day for most of the people who fought the Plan B highway, as the day marks what happened four years ago, on a late Friday afternoon. Up to that point, Islanders had tried to convince government by multiple means to drop the highway project that was announced without any consultation, was a ridiculously inflated construction scheme for a broke province, was pushing older residents out of their lifelong homes, and was going to be a huge environmental mess. Letters, petitions, meetings, a citizen-initiated plebiscite, peaceful roadside and construction site protests, massive participation in the environmental impact assessment -- none brought the government of Robert Ghiz (which we now know was facing the crumbling of the "e-gaming" fiasco behind the scenes at this time) to its senses. The RCMP, despite reassurances that the protestors could remain for a few days while judicial options were explored, were sent in (by whom, we still do not know) to clear out the "Hemlock Grove" camp in Churchill, so tree-cutting and bull-dozing could take off.
Besides removing peaceful campers, the RCMP closed a public road (Peter's Road) to keep protestors out of the adjacent private property where a base camp was; the base camp, thanks to the generosity of the landowner, became the focus of "Camp Vision", where many a dedicated person monitored and reported on the environmental mishaps of the road construction over the next year.
Every year about this time, the Citizens' Alliance (formed from the Plan B group) has an event -- in 2013, we took down the winterized teepee and cleared up our traces on the private land.
In 2014 we had a social to "Plan Beyond".
Last year we went back to the property for a "Plantiversary", to help plant some native young trees and shrubs; the landowner had planted an swath of Acadian forest about 15 years before the road was "planted" right in the path of her original efforts.
This year we are hosting a "Plan for PR Social", figuring that only by improving our way of electing our representatives can we really stop any future misguided government decisions like "Plan B". The Plan for PR Social is this Sunday, October 16th, at the Farm Centre, from 6:30-8:30PM. Let's spend a minute looking back and then toast a brighter future, and chat about how we can get there. You are all welcome to attend.
And just for (rueful) smiles, the one-minute "Plan B Reality" video, which was made the day before the treeharvestors came in.
Sign along the road, October 2012.
October 11, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
There is a debate tonight for the candidates running for the Legislature seat representing District 21 (Summerside-Wilmot), 7:30PM, Harbourfront Theatre. The candidates are Scott Gaudet (NDP), Lynne Lund (Green), Chris Palmer (Liberal), and Brian Ramsey (Progressive Conservative). Mr. Ramsey came within 30 votes of defeating sitting MLA Janice Sherry in the 2015 election, with Ms. Sherry stepping down this summer.
The Sierra Club is asking for people to write the federal and provincial (Newfoundland and Labrador) ministers of natural resources to have them not extend the licence for Corridor Resources to seismic test in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Pretty easy to do.
Below is the text and the link is here:
from Gretchen Fitzgerald, send Friday, October 7th, 2016:
It’s like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from. The company that has wanted to drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for nine years, the same company responsible for seismic testing while the endangered blue whale was migrating, wants a new license.
This in spite of numerous calls for a moratorium on all oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and an historic statement from the Chiefs of the Mi’qmawei Mawiomi calling for a 12-year moratorium on oil and gas in The Gulf.
We need to wake up from this nightmare. It is up to the federal Minister of Natural Resources, Bill Carr and the Newfoundland and Labrador Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady to make this stop, and they will receive your comments and letters until October 17th in response to this request for a new license.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the most precious marine ecosystems we have. Given the federal government’s commitment to better environmental regulation and protection of our oceans, it’s time to declare the Gulf of St. Lawrence off limits to oil and gas and to start making good on promises
Thank you for taking action.
Gretchen Fitzgerald - National Program Director
Events happening this week and in the future are posted on the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I. events calendar, here:
October 10, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend.
This is an inspiring two-minute video summing up statements of Canadians forming the People's Climate Plan, called "We Spoke Up: Canada People's Climate Plan Wrap Up Video".
In P.E.I., this was related to the two summer meetings co-hosted by ECO-PEI with Island MPs Wayne Easter (Malpeque) and with Sean Casey (Charlottetown). (Note that Egmont's Bobby Morrissey and Cardigan's Lawrence MacAulay did not make time to hear their constituents' concern about the future of the planet.)
The same video on YouTube:
There are three core principles from the consultations:
Stay in line with the science of climate change by keeping fossil fuels in the ground,
Build a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050,
Ensure a just transition for Indigenous peoples, workers, and climate-impacted communities.
Considering some recent announcements from the federal government, there is still work and communication to do! More on keeping this going can be found on the People Climate website link, above.
October 9, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Next Sunday, October 16th:
Plan for PR Social, 6:30-8:30PM, Farm Centre, Charlottetown. Plan to come by for a couple of hours of socializing, discussion of proportional representation (PR), fun, and a bit of song. All welcome, and freewill donations to the Citizens' Alliance accepted at the door.
Updates (note: errors and omissions are my own)
July 2016 Fishkill in the Clyde/West River near Elmwood. Nobody seems to have heard anything recently.
Bottled water plant: the proponents will have to have the land use changed from Residential to Industrial (to a specific purpose of the plant, or something like that) for the bottled water plant to go ahead. Apparently, the Planning Division of the Department of Communities, Land and Environment is going to make that a public meeting. I have not heard when that would be. Some info on general planning decisions is here:
The Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment is going to discuss this issue, and I think it *may* be at their October 26th (Wednesday, 1:30PM) Meeting.
On-line petition against this project, to the P.E.I. government.
(paper ones in various locations)
On-line water petition from the Council of Canadians regarding boycotting Nestle:
If you wish to donate to the Proportional Representation on P.E.I. group, go to:
A very thoughtful piece by Alan Holman:
Will Islanders change how they vote? - The Guardian article by columnist Alan Holman
Published on Saturday, October 8th, 216
The federal version of electoral reform played out briefly in Charlottetown this week with a meeting of the House of Commons Special Committee looking into the matter, where, at least one presenter called a spade, a spade.
Leonard Russell, who chaired the Island committee that ran the 2005 plebiscite on changing the electoral system, used the “P” word, and he wasn’t referring to a pointed-shovel.
Mr. Russell, told the MPs that Island governments, whether they are Liberal or Conservative, don’t want change because they might lose power. And power is what elections are all about.
Mr. Russell said he felt the plebiscite that he organized was undermined by the Conservative government of Pat Binns when it dawned on them that if the people opted for proportional representation they could loose power. Or, at least, it might become more difficult to win it.
In 2005 there were only two choices on the ballot, the traditional, first-past-the-post system, or a mixed-member proportional system. Turnout for the plebiscite was less than 35 per cent of the eligible voters. Some 63 per cent voted for the status quo.
Electoral reform is very topical here with Islanders about to begin voting in a plebiscite in just three weeks. Starting Oct 29 people can vote on-line or over the phone for seven days. Or, on Nov. 4th or 5th, they can go to a polling booth and mark a ballot.
The ballot will have five options on it, two forms of proportional representation, two forms of first-past-the-post and a preferential ballot. The plebiscite itself will use a preferential ballot with voters being asked to indicate their preference for the different options. Number One being their preferred choice, Number Five being their least favoured option.
Preferential balloting was used recently by both the major parties. The Conservatives used it to choose their last leader, and the Liberals selected their candidate in Egmont with a preferential ballot.
The preferential ballot is a pretty minor tweaking of the existing system. It would ensure that no one was ever again elected by a coin toss as it means no one can be elected with fewer than 50 per cent of the votes cast.
Early last year it appeared that Premier MacLauchlan favoured the preferential ballot, but by summer in an interview with the CBC, he was less certain.
"That would be one way in which people might say it's time to consider, or reflect upon and to debate our democratic and electoral processes. But I'm not saying there absolutely has to be change," said MacLauchlan.
"Most jurisdictions in Canada that have considered this have come through with the status quo.”
Like others before him, he now has better appreciation of power since he’s been able to exercise it for a over a year. Maybe, just maybe, winning 65 per cent of the seats in the legislature with less than 41 per cent of the votes, doesn’t now seem to be as unfair as the numbers might have once suggested.
But, for a good portion of the 60 per cent of the electorate who have little or no influence on how they are governed, it does seem more than a little unfair, and those people want change.
The proponents of proportional representation (PR) argue that by its very nature the PR system promotes cooperation over confrontation. Under PR it would be virtually impossible to get 65 per of the seats with only 40 per cent of the vote.
There are still a number of questions surrounding the up-coming plebiscite.
Will the size of the turnout influence the government’s response? And the big one,
If the people vote for change will the government pay any attention?
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: email@example.com
October 8, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Farmers' Market season is contracting slightly as Fall arrives. The Charlottetown Market is only open on Saturdays now, and so today:
Charlottetown -- 9AM - 2PM
Summerside -- 9AM - 1PM
Stratford (Robert Cotton Park) -- 9AM - 1PM
Cardigan Farmers' Market **last day**
"Saturday is our last market day for 2016. Pick up your essentials for Thanksgiving and stock up on gifts to give throughout the year. The Polehouse Cafe will be dishing up their specialties. Venez nous dire au revoir. Come say bye to your Market Community for the year!"
Murray Harbour -- 9AM - noon (open until the end of the month)
<snip> "(W)ith the harvest being in full swing, you should have the chance to show off the bounty of your garden. So on Saturday (October 8) bring the largest vegetable from your garden or fruit from your orchard and see if you can win 'bragging' rights for the next year Cardigan."
This blog posting is a couple of months old, but points out some good things to keep in mind if government tables a local food act in the Fall sitting of the Legislature. A couple of MLAs have written about this. Here is a bit from Brad Trivers MLA for District 19 (Rustico-Emerald):
One of the big problems with buying local on PEI is that within supermarkets (Sobey’s, Superstore, etc.) it is hard to identify locally-produced products. The Act should address this by making it mandatory to clearly identify local products in a standard way across the Island.
A tax credit for donations from farmers to a recognized food bank needs to be a key part of the Act, and I support this whole-heartedly. In addition, PEI must prioritize procurement of locally produced products by government. <snip>
To be clear, food security is not just about making good food affordable for all Islanders, but making sure that our Island food supply can sustain itself regardless of what is happening off-Island. It is important to reduce food dependency on off-Island sources to avoid price fluctuations, and supply interruption. This is why initiatives like supply management are important. Supply management for areas of the food supply that are not covered should be considered. In the near future (within a decade) it is my belief that affordable distributed power storage will make it feasible for almost 100% of our food supply to come from on-Island, and the Act should take this into account
Tonight is benefit concert for Derrick Biso, a wonderful young man who has been there for so many people and so many good causes. He is finishing treatment for lymphatic cancer and preparing for the next chapter of his life in Ontario. We will miss him!
Benefit Concert for Derrick Biso, 6-9PM, Timothy's World Coffee, 154 Great George Street, Charlottetown.
Teresa Wright starts a six-part series in The Guardian today talking about the plebiscite, and will continue with an examination of the five choices on the plebiscite ballot.
This letter is from Tuesday of this week:
Politics is Not a Game - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
With regard to Pat Mella's thoughtful piece in The Guardian on Saturday, October 1st, I first want to say that I have enormous respect for Ms. Mella and her opinions, and I would like to thank her for taking electoral reform seriously.
However, I plainly don’t agree with her position. I don’t think that politics should be a game where winner takes all and losers are utterly devastated. Politics is not hockey.
Just saying that people shouldn’t feel like their votes are wasted, doesn’t make it so. Actions are better than words when it comes to respecting everyone’s vote.
Ms. Mella’s own party has been a huge loser under the current FPTP system, and would have been treated much more fairly under a proportional system like DMP or MMP.
I would also point out that under DMP, there is no party list and in order to get in the legislature, you have to win an honest nomination and get votes in your riding. Ms. Mella was mostly fair, but gave the wrong impression on this point.
Stephen DeGrace , Charlottetown
October 7, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Yesterday was the federal Standing Committee on Electoral Reform. Great panelists and comments from Islanders the whole day, I am sure, seeing what others reported, and for the little bit I was there. The committee members seemed very engaged in this work.
Marie Burge from Cooper Institute bowled the committee over with her forthright assessment of party politics in a First Past the Post System, and Marcia Carroll of the P.E.I. Council of the Disabled said one of the best answers, "This is not about winning and losing. It's about representation."
Though the committee continues on its journeys in the Atlantic Region, the final day for public comment through either written comments or a electronic survey is today. Here is a link to that (further down on page):
Public Information Session about the Plebiscite and about Proportional Representation, refreshments at 6:30PM, talk starting at 7PM, Charlottetown Rural High School. Hosted by the PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation.
from the meeting notice:
The PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation invite the public to learn more about the upcoming electoral reform plebiscite at series of info session across the island. Our government and electoral system impact every aspect of life. Decisions regarding our healthcare, environment, education, infrastructure planning, and basic aspects of daily life can be made fairly, by representatives whom Islanders directly proportionally support. The Island is a great place to live; we believe under a Proportional Representation system it can be even better.
This editorial by Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill was printed before the e-gaming Auditor General's report:
Islanders expected more than premier delivers - The Eastern Graphic editorial by Paul MacNeill
Published on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
Wade MacLauchlan was elected on the promise of being a different kind of premier. Last week he did what every politician does when facing a financial crunch – he reached into taxpayers’ pockets and grabbed more of their hard earned money.
The increase in HST to 15 per cent was announced in the spring budget. It will generate $22 million in new revenue per year. Supposedly it is needed to provide core services.
Increasing the HST has nothing to do with the provision of services, and everything to do with propping up the Liberal regime. It is a sign of how dysfunctional our political system has become that the single greatest accomplishment in regional government cooperation is an increase and harmonization of a consumption tax.
If maintaining core services were truly a priority, the MacLauchlan government and its Liberal counterparts in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would be signing agreements left, right and centre on items like health care, education, liquor sales, automobile registration and any number of other services that can be shared.
But there are no agreements because each of our Maritime governments is more interested in the perception of change, rather than the delivery of it. It is a recipe that will explode in our face. The cost of the civil service accounts for 70 per cent of our $1.7 billion budget. Debt servicing is the fourth largest budget item. Even a modest increase in interest rates will set PEI, and all Atlantic Provinces, on a one way road over a fiscal cliff.
If the HST were really about protecting core services we would be dealing with the size and scope of the civil service. We would be partnering with our neighbours to share services. We would protect priority services. In the long run it is the only way for PEI to maintain our gift of provincial jurisdiction.
But that is not the path the premier has chosen.
Later this month Islanders have their first opportunity to offer a report card on the MacLauchlan regime. Because of the continued weakness of the Progressive Conservative opposition it is far from a referendum; the Liberals should win. They are in power, the opposition is anaemic with major questions hanging over long term leadership of the party, and if you believe the polls, people are generally satisfied.
But those that point to polls must also point to the premier inexplicably lagging far behind his own party. Political watchers, including senior operators within the Liberal Party, point to a simple reason: They expected more of Wade MacLauchlan.
Since assuming office the government has plodded along, picking away at items such as education, transparency and improving the lives of low income earners. By and large these initiatives only pick at the surface.
Education reform is proceeding without dealing with the single greatest issues: an entrenched and biased bureaucracy and the provincial curriculum and its structure. Transparency has improved, but the premier has shown no inclination to mandate the names, salaries and job titles of the provincial civil service be released publicly like in every other Canadian province. Government has increased the minimum wage but offered only a minuscule increase in the basic tax exemption to $8,000, the lowest in the country, and the first increase since 2008. This means the poor and working poor have fallen behind under Liberal rule.
Islanders expected more because Wade MacLauchlan possesses a rare combination of education, experience and vision. But many believe he has squandered this opportunity through his inexplicable embrace of old fashioned Liberal patronage and the hesitant nature of change he is selling Islanders.
Time will ultimately tell how successful, and daring, this government is. It already governs as if in reelection mode. If the window of opportunity for true change has closed, the public’s disappointment will soon turn to palpable discontent.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 6, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Minister Robert Mitchell of Communities, Land and Environment wrote yesterday that the deadline for public comments on the Municipal Governance Act has been extended to October 22nd. More details to follow.
Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Energy meeting, 1:30PM, Angus MacLean Building (across from the Coles Building, at the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets). Stephen Yeo, chief provincial engineer, is slated to appear before the committee to present about the Cornwall Bypass and answer the committee's questions.
(The Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development is meeting at 10AM and discussing UPEI Student Union Policies, details here.)
The federal parliamentary committee on electoral reform (ERRE) is in Charlottetown today.
They arrive this morning around 8:30AM at the airport, and their public hearings are from 1:30-9:30PM at the Delta Hotel (supper break from 5-6PM).
The public is welcome to attend any part of the hearings, and can sign up to comment (first come, first served) a half-hour before the open times of 4:15-5PM, and 7:15-9PM.
Here is a list of the dozen members:
Liberals Chair Francis Scarpaleggia, members John Aldag, Matt DeCourcey, Sherry Romanado and Ruby Sahota
Conservative Vice-Chair Scott Reid, members Gerald Deltell and Blake Richards
NDP Vice Chair Nathan Cullen and member Alexandre Boulerice
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May
Bloc Quebecois Luc Theriault
The newspaper reported that you could go online to the committee's website and listen to an audio broadcast of the hearings, but I cannot find that link.
Here is the amended agenda:
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Commission on P.E.I.’s Electoral Future
• Leonard Russell, Chair (here is an older page from the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly about Mr. Russell's work) http://www.assembly.pe.ca/index.php3?number=news&newsnumber=4094&lang=E
As an individual
• Jordan Brown, MLA for District 13: Charlottetown-Brighton, Prince Edward Island
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women
• Jane Ledwell, Executive Director
The PEI Council of People with Disabilities
• Marcia Carroll, Executive Director
4:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
As an individual
• Anna Keenan, Electoral Reform Advocate
PEI Coalition for Women in Government
• Dawn Wilson, Executive Director
* Don Desserud, Professor of Political Science at UPEI, is also on this Panel.
7:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Kensignton/Kinkora Family of Schools review, 7:30PM,
Kinkora Regional High School.
Also, Plebiscite and Proportional Representation information at:
Elmsdale, Westisle Composite High School, refreshments at 6:30PM, session begins at 7PM.
The original press release from the government about the Auditor General's report on e-gaming mentioned the existing adequate whistleblower policies, but then soon after it was announced there would be new whistleblower legislation, which is what many were advocating for from the very beginning. On another note, having Minister Allan Roach in charge of the government review is a bit ironic, as he was in government for a good period of this time.
October 5, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Plebiscite -- Elections PEI hosts a half-hour webinar tonight, 7PM, register by scrolling down this page
and clicking on "Join Here!" for the "On-Line Webinar"
School Review, Colonel Gray Family of Schools, 7:30PM, Spring Park Elementary School.
Brad Triver's "Crispy Conversation" for District 19, 7-10PM, New Glasgow Christian Church, details here.
Tomorrow the Federal Standing Committee on Electoral Reform is coming to Charlottetown. There was a ridiculously small-print ad in today's Guardian, but here are some details from the website:
1:30-9:30PM (the committee is arriving at the Charlottetown airport tomorrow morning at about 8:30AM for anyone that wants to greet them).
Hearing location: Delta Prince Edward
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Commission on P.E.I.’s Electoral Future
• Leonard Russell, Chair
Special Legislative Committee on Democratic Renewal
• Jordan Brown, Chair, Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women
• Jane Ledwell, Executive Director
The PEI Council of People with Disabilities
• Marcia Carroll, Executive Director
4:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
As an individual
• Anna Keenan, Electoral Reform Advocate
PEI Coalition for Women in Government
• Dawn Wilson, Executive Director
7:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Regarding provincial educational restructuring:
from Peter Bevan-Baker's blog post on the school review:
Bevan-Baker notes that there is a complete lack of vision and planning with respect to rural community development in the Province. “Services in education, health, culture, recreation, and economic development, are all critical elements to sustaining rural communities, but currently they are operating independently from each other without a coordinated approach. How does government expect our rural communities to thrive – or even survive – in this environment?”
The province’s 2010 Rural Action Plan expired last year and there has been no move to date to develop a new one. However, Bevan-Baker notes that this Plan was limited to economic development, ignoring social and environmental concerns, the other key pillars of sustainable development. “It’s past time we developed a comprehensive and holistic strategy for sustainable rural development that integrates all of the key elements that affect rural communities. Local schools would undoubtedly feature strongly in such a strategy.”
This is a really entertaining and informative 19-minute TED Talk by Ken Robinson on learning in children (you may have to copy and paste the link):
and a related Vision commentary by Gerry Hopkirk (same note about the link):
October 4, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The deadline for comments on a new Municipal Governance Act is Friday, October 7th. This is legislation slated to be tabled in the P.E.I. Legislature this November, and will reform just about everything from how councils are elected and function, what services they need to provide, finances, etc. And "restructuring" to get to allowable sizes. There are 13 page links from the main page.
This is incredibly important for any Islander, town or country resident, and it affects all the other things we are currently discussing: schools, economic development, governance, etc. But many of us who know about it, are concerned, etc., are finding it *very* difficult to get through. The actual proposed legislation, 129 pages, is here:
Note that some community councils are finding out more with meetings with the Department, which I could not find any public information on. The Federation of Municipalities is discussing it with members at their semi-annual meeting, later this month, a couple of weeks *after* the public input deadline.
If you wish to comment on the municipal governance act or *perhaps a short e-mail to ask to have the deadline for comments extended*, the e-mail is here:
What else is going on today?
Tuesday, October 4th:
School of Families review:
Morell/Souris Family at Morell Consolidated School, 7:30PM
Electoral Reform Discussion with MLA Peter Beven-Baker, 7PM, Montague Town Hall.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 5th:
Family of Schools review:
Colonel Gray Family, Spring Park Elementary, 7:30PM
Crispy Conversation with District 19 (Rustico-Emerald) MLA Brad Triver, 7-10PM, New Glasgow Christian Church. The "crispy" refers to apple crisps, I think.
Citizens' Alliance Calendar of Events link to upcoming events:
October 3, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
The Council of Canadians is very actively discussing the Nestle Company's actions in Ontario, and is promoting boycotting Nestle products. For your consideration; see the link to the actual pledge (not to buy bottled water and/or not to buy Nestle products) and a pictorial display of Nestle's vast array of products. Here is the link if it hasn't copied properly in this e-mail:
An excerpt from Emma Lui of the Council of Canadians:
<snip> In the middle of a drought in southern Ontario, bottled water giant Nestlé continues to extract over four million litres of groundwater every day from an aquifer near Guelph.
Nestlé pays just $3.71 for every 1 million litres it pumps out of the ground, which it then ships out of the community in hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bottles for sale all over North America – at an astronomical mark up.
Between 2011 and 2015 the aquifer that supplies the main Nestlé production well dropped about 1.5 metres, while Nestlé’s water taking increased 33 per cent over the same period.
To make matter worse, Nestlé just bought another well in Middlebrook, Ontario – despite the local municipality’s attempt to purchase it to safeguard their municipal water supply.
Does that sound like a company you want to support?
Me neither. That's why the Council of Canadians has just launched a national campaign to encourage people to stop buying Nestlé bottled water and its other products.
Nestlé's greed doesn't end in Ontario. Its operations in British Columbia have also stirred up opposition from communities trying to protect their water. Despite the severe 2015 drought, Nestlé continues to extract 265 million litres from a well in Hope, B.C. located in Sto:lo Territory. The well connects to an aquifer that approximately 6,000 nearby residents in Hope rely on as their primary source of water.
And around the world, Nestlé is pumping water out of communities and reaping enormous profits.
Groundwater resources are finite. Droughts, climate change and over-extraction continue to impact our limited water sources. At this pace, we will not have enough for our future needs. So wasting our limited groundwater on frivolous and consumptive uses such as bottled water is madness.
Enough is enough. We must come together and support communities who are standing up and saying “no” to Nestlé’s water grabs and profit-making off of this precious shared resource. <snip>
And a recent posting from Islander writer and historian David Weale:
THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Vision PEI blog post by David Weale
A Call to Anger
Published on social media on Saturday, October 1st, 2016
Islanders are notoriously good at concealing/repressing their anger. In a small, closely-knit community like ours it is often just too dangerous to be unambiguously cross. And so we get really good at pressing the mute button, biting our tongues and acting like everything is all right when it’s not.
I sense there is a lot of that going on right now. Islanders are being treated shabbily by this government, and there is plenty of murmuring and muttering (we’re good at that) but little outright anger and indignation. Just the kind of grumbling that coalesces into fatalism, even apathy.
I am going out on a limb here; taking it upon myself to remind all of us there are times when anger is entirely appropriate and necessary, and the lack of it irresponsible, even cowardly.
Like many people I have had anger issues, stemming from being told so many times that it’s a negative thing, and that only dogs get mad. But I am good and mad right now, and I’m embracing it, and encouraging it. This government is one of the most unresponsive and contemptuous regimes I have ever encountered. So much so that the dialogue of reason is wasted on them.
When those in power are behaving secretly, in a manner that is clearly not in the best interests of ourselves, our children, or the very web of life that sustains us, passivity is lethal. Anger is what is needed. Anger that fuels positive action. Anger that fuels whatever it takes.
I agree with the wise person who said there is a time to be angry, and a time to turn away from anger, and I suppose each of us must decide what kind of time this is right now, but to those of you who are quietly seething with discontent I would suggest you find a creative way to let it out. Don’t waste all that good energy. It’s a natural and healthy part of the survival process. Grrr.
The Provincial Plebiscite on electoral reform runs from October 29th to November 7th.
The P.E.I. Provincial Legislature starts the Fall Sitting on Tuesday, November 15th.
October 2, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Today has two Farm Day events:
Farm Day in the City, 11AM-5PM, lower Queen Street, many, many vendors, booths -- including the Proportional Representation group, and I hear Freetown farmer Sally Bernard (who could be Agriculture Minister McIsaac's ghostwriter if asked) is bringing some hens to display the "Rent-a-Chicken" set-up.
Farm Day at The Mount, 1:30-4PM, (Mount Continuing Care Community).
"Join us for our second annual Open Farm Day. The Mount has a 5 acre apple orchard, walking trails, flower and vegetable gardens, and beehives as part of our grounds and gardens. Entertainment will be by 3 Men & Guitars and Stepdancer Luca Hall. Some of the activities will be Pumpkin Painting, Scavenger Hunt, and Caterpillar Rides. There will be Island Products for sale. This is a family friendly event, and there is no admission."
And only two weeks (Sunday, October 16th) until the
Plan for PR Social, 6:30-8:30PM, Farm Centre, hosted by the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.
Now the op-ed pieces and some news articles are being published endorsing First Past the Post, by people that bristle at the notion a vote is ever wasted -- you just have winners and losers, according to Pat Mella, former teacher and Progressive Conservative Island politician in the 1990s and early 2000s who has recently been appointed one of the three Directors of the Public Schools Branch. It's funny she doesn't mention the years she was the lone opposition member -- the Progressive Conservatives received almost 40% of the vote in the 1993 election and got one of 32 seats (the Liberals under Catherine Callbeck got 55% and NDP with leader Larry Duchesne got over 5%). I have great respect for her and the work she does on behalf of the Island; one could argue her own experience demonstrates the flaws of the current system.
Mella's op-ed piece:
Pat Mella encourages Islanders to choose wisely during the electoral reform plebiscite - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
Published on Saturday, October 1st, 2016
Islanders are voting in a plebiscite on electoral reform between Oct. 29 and Nov. 7.
There are five options. First past the post (FPP) is the voting system now in place. First past the post plus leader is a choice that allows a party leader to be elected automatically if the party earns at least 10 per cent of the vote province wide. The thinking here, I assume, is that party leaders spend their time getting everyone else elected, so they don't have time to campaign in a district. The whole province is their district.
The third choice is mixed member proportional representation. Under this system the province will have its elected boundaries changed from 28 districts to 18 districts. Voters will choose their 18 candidates the way we do now (FPP). Since we have 28 seats in the Legislature, there are 10 more people who will sit in the Legislature. These 10 people will not have districts and will not be elected directly. Voters will choose one name from all the party lists. This second vote will be used to calculate the percentage of popular vote that each party is entitled to. This second ballot is meant to "compensate for disproportional results" from the first ballot. This means that it is unlikely that any district would elect two people from the same party. If, for example, party A gets 40 per cent of the vote across the province, they will get 40 per cent of the seats. That 40 per cent includes those who got elected by district ballot. If a party elected eight people through the district vote, they would be entitled to three more seats (from the party list).
It gives political parties more power and raises questions regarding the creation of the list and who gets on it. Why would I campaign in my district if my colleague in the same party can get a seat by being on the list? Those on the list do not have a district.
The fourth choice is a system unique to P.E.I., called dual-member proportional representation. This means that we go back to two-member districts. The ballot will have two candidates per party. The first seat in a district will be won by a plurality, as is the case today. The real issue here is the second seat for that district. It will not be chosen by the people of that district. The total percentage of vote across the province will be used to allocate that second seat. So half of the seats in the Legislature will be assigned using proportional representation.
I understand the arguments put forth by PR supporters: a more diverse Legislature, more women representatives, consensus-based decisions, etc. I fundamentally disagree with what is referred to as "wasted votes". Their point is that if I cast a ballot and my choice did not win, then I wasted my vote! There is something called "winning" and "losing". It is absurd to say I "wasted my vote" because I didn't win. Does the hockey team that lost the game waste their time to have played at all? There are no wasted votes.
I'm guessing that many Islanders would like to see some change in our electoral system that would deliver a better balance of party representation. The two PR options presented would create a bigger change than is necessary or desirable. The most fundamental principle of democracy is the people's right to choose. If we give that up, even partially, we give up on accountability as well. Under PR systems, minority governments are common, consensus is difficult on the really big issues and elections are more frequent. Political parties would have more power over their representatives than they already have. These are unnecessary consequences. The proposed PR options demand significant changes to a system that, though not perfect, isn't so seriously flawed. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater!.
Pat Mella is a former leader of P.E.I.'s PC Party. She also served as provincial treasurer.
She does not mention Preferential Balloting, and I think she goes to that stagnant pool of worries of Proportional Representation, citing the usual fears of lack of consensus, shaky minority governments, mayhem, somehow saying PR means we lose our "right to choose".
Information of Proportional Representation for P.E.I. can be found here:
and the FAQs page is has lots of information.
October 1, 2016
Chris Ortenburger's CA News
Farmers' Markets are open today!
Quite speedily, consultations on changes to the educational system (apparently limited to the logistics of number of children and class space per school) were announced yesterday and will take place starting Monday. Zoom! The bulk are next week and right after Thanksgiving with the Three Oaks Family later in the month.
This bundle of meetings -- one or two of which will be very important to many Islanders to try to get to -- is being shoehorned in to the first few weeks of a month where the public is encouraged to get involved in municipal governance draft legislation (which affects many of us and we know community *includes* the local schools), and of course the plebiscite electoral reform informational events taking place. I wonder what kind of discussion takes place in Cabinet meetings when such layering of public participation is planned. (Fortunately, at this moment, there is no word about any of the climate change strategies coming back for public review at this time, though originally indicated they would, and it appears water act stuff will be later this month or next.)
Here is the schedule of Education Consultations
Monday, October 3 at 7:30 p.m, Charlottetown Rural Family at Stratford Elementary
Tuesday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m., Morell/Souris Family at Morell Consolidated
Wednesday, October 5, at 7:30 p.m., Colonel Gray Family at Spring Park Elementary
Thursday, October 6 at 7:30 p.m., Kensington/Kinkora Family at Kinkora High School
Tuesday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m., Westisle Family at Hernewood Intermediate
Wednesday, October 12 at 7:30 p.m., Montague Family at Vernon River Consolidated
Thursday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m., Bluefield Family at East Wiltshire
Thursday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m., Three Oaks Family at Summerside Intermediate
"A second set of public meetings will be held in November to provide an opportunity for the public to provide input on viable options for change."
Next Wednesday, October 5th:
Crispy Conversation Town Hall with District 18 MLA Brad Trivers, 7-10PM, New Glasgow Christian Church, Rte. 258. All welcome, and the "crisp" part also refers to Apple Crisp.
Someone on this list is looking for an extra ticket to the sold-out Sunday night, October 2nd, Jane Goodall lecture at the Delta. Contact me, please, and I'll connect you two.
I am not sure if the Monday, October 3rd lecture still has space. I am opting out of seeing her --it is disappointing to see that Jane's organizers have opted for a high-price/fewer seats fundraising model for her tour here, but I do appreciate she is stopping in Monday to see a school group that has a project based on her "Roots and Shoots" program.
There was discussion yesterday that someone heard the Nestle Corporation is behind the bottle watered plant project in Brookvale, and that backing is acknowledged by government. There isn't any indication on easily accessible documents, and I would suspect it would be flatly denied by the proponents or by government. Most of us, however, have no trouble believing it *could* be true -- that the current Premier and company would actually welcome bottled water sales as part of their Export PEI strategy. (link to Trade TeamPEI stuff) Most of us are just fine with Island businesses thriving, but not exporting a public trust like drinking water.
From Shirley Gallant, her original submitted letter, which was published in The Guardian last week but not put on-line (that I can find). Taken from her social media posting:
Water; Under Who's Watch?
EDITOR: Unless one is living in a cave, one could hardly be unaware that water all over the globe is more and more threatened? Threatened by pollution, agriculture and urban runoff, population expansion, waste, road salt runoff, and the list goes on. Water on PEI is especially vulnerable because of the large agricultural industry here and because Islanders have only ground water to rely on. Therefore we must protect it from further damage and exploitation or the future generations may not have clean water to drink.
That said, how can anyone support the idea that PEI should allow our water to be bottled and sold so that one company can take it and profit from it? Granted the company is not large, but what company has ever started without intentions to expand in the future? And What is to stop a large corporation like, fill in the blank N______ Corp., from buying out this company so they can include PEI water in their currently controlled brands. They now control more than 70 of the world's bottled water brands. I'm sure they would love to add our pristine PEI image to their collection. (Even if it's anything but pristine.)
Without even mentioning the harmful effects of plastic bottles, I find it appalling that our government would even consider allowing this irresponsible move to bottle and export our precious water. Particularly WHILE the PEI water act is being drafted.
Our premier needs to step up and protect our water. Who's job is it to watch over our resources? If the environment minister is not going to, then I would expect the premier to step in. Where is he? I'm sure many Islanders want to know where he is on this issue.