September 2016

September 30, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News


Raymond Loo Memorial Garden noontime celebration, 12noon-1PM, Holland College (Prince of Wales campus), Charlottetown.

Sponsored by the Holland College Green Machine club. "Come join us for a healthy 4$ smoothie and some entertainment as we celebrate Holland College's first outdoor bookable classroom this coming Friday at noon in the Raymond Loo Memorial Garden. Whether you are planning to: teach a class, host a lecture, small event, or practice your dance or musical crafts, you can now book this space to do so :) We will have our famous Green Machine smoothie maker in action, so come on down and try it out :) all proceeds from the sale of smoothies will go towards purchasing seeds, bulbs and transplants for next spring."


There was no mainstream media coverage that I found, but some very dedicated Islanders (both as individuals and as part of groups) spent part or all of Wednesday at the federal International Trade Standing Committee's hearings in Charlottetown, emphasizing how the TransPacific Partnership (and really, all these huge deals that benefit huge corporations) would affect Islanders and the Island.

Here is photo, courtesy of Tracey Ramsey:

Islanders sending a message about the TPP deal, Wednesday, September 27th, 2016, at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Tracey Ramsey photo.

Huge thanks to TradeJusticePEI and all the people keeping us informed on this.

September 29, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Tonight is the first of several community discussions across the province about electoral reform, hosted by Peter Bevan-Baker:

Alberton (Town Hall), Thursday, September 29th, 7-9PM

Montague (Town Hall), Tuesday, October 4th

Hunter River (Community Centre), Wednesday, October 12th

Wilmot (Community Centre), Thursday, October 13th

Souris (Kids' Youth Centre), Monday, October 17th

Charlottetown (Murphy Community Centre), Wednesday, October 26th

all are from 7-9PM

Facebook event details

Brad Trivers, MLA for District 19 Rustico-Emerald, and Opposition environment critic, wrote on social media yesterday about the Certified Organic Producers' dinner over the weekend, comment on Sally Bernard's "Speech that Minister McIsaac *should* have given":

I sat across the table from Sally and Mark Bernard and listened to the same speech. Sally nails it in this blog post of what the Minister should have said.In particular her points about soil health are what I also hear most from farmers - organic or otherwise. <snip>

One of the key points driven home to me by organic farming leaders was that - yes, organic farming is about lifestyle and sustainability - but it is also a business that can be every bit as profitable as conventional farming (or more) and they are a seriously business-savvy group. <snip>

Also from the Official Opposition, about bottled water, from the Provincial Progressive Conservatives office media releases, September 28th, 2016:


A new provincial Water Act should be in place before any long-term decisions are made about water exports, says Rustico-Emerald MLA and Opposition Environment Critic Brad Trivers.

"One of the clear messages from the consultations on the Water Act is that when it comes to our water that we should err on the side of caution. That’s why the proposed bottled water plant is raising such public concern because the Water Act consultations are still ongoing. If we are looking at bringing in stronger rules around water usage then we shouldn’t jump the gun on this project until we know whether proper environmental protections are in place and being enforced,” says Trivers. <snip>


The Standing Committee of Communities, Land and Environment agreed to put bottled water on its agenda, but I am not sure when that is going to be. That standing committee is meeting today, and these are open to the public. Here is the list of meetings from the Legislative Assembly website (apologies if the links to the agendas do not work):

Committee Meetings

Topic: The committee will meet to receive a briefing from the PEI Emergency Measures Organization (Tanya Mullally, Provincial Emergency Management Coordinator) regarding emergency preparedness on Prince Edward Island.

Topic: The committee will meet to receive a briefing on Engage PEI (from Janice Pettit, Senior Policy Analyst, Executive Council Office).

  • Wednesday, October 26, 2016 Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment

1:30 PM, Meeting # 7, Matters related to the committee mandate

J. Angus MacLean Building - Committee Room

Topic: The committee will meet to receive a briefing from Hon. Robert Mitchell, Minister of Communities, Land and Environment, on various topics relating to the committee’s mandate (including: contaminated sites in the province; carbon pricing; and municipal amalgamation and annexation).


Lynne Lund, Green Party candidate in the the by-election for District 21 (Summerside-Wilmot), is opening her office tonight from 4:30-6:30PM, 674 Water Street East. Details here.

If you hear of other candidates' events, please let me know.

September 28, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Events and more events coming up in the next few weeks. The Citizens' Alliance calendar of events has been updated to include some electoral reform meetings and other events coming up.


On Monday, the CBC on-line news posted a story about some changes to the proposal for a bottled water plant in Brookvale. My understanding is that if you looked at the sum of water to be pumped from the three wells, it would make the threshold to be considered for a Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), even if one of the wells was apparently planned to run a geothermal heating system. Pure Island Waters Ltd. company president Jim Wood petulantly told CBC that the project was going to be "less environmentally friendly" not planning the well for geothermal, since the heating would come from fossil fuels, all as a result of "public pressure."

Most people concerned about the ethics of bottling and selling P.E.I.'s water are not surprised at this comment coming on top of the first spokesman for the company Scott Dawson (who said at the community meeting on the project that it is a business decision, not an ethical ones). Most Islanders support business on P.E.I.; just not a small group's profit coming from threatening a natural "resource" like our water or soil or air.


Last Friday, The Guardian published this letter from Ivy Wigmore:

Top 10 List Against Water Sales

EDITOR: I’ve compiled the following list to express the main arguments I see against allowing the bottling and export of our water:

1. Groundwater is a largely non-renewable resource.

2. Prince Edward Island is entirely dependent upon its groundwater.

3. Our water supply is already at risk: Many rivers go dry every year or are much depleted.

4. Bottled water is a largely unnecessary and extremely unsustainable product, environmentally speaking.

5. Any decisions involving Island water management should be put on hold until after the Water Act is in effect – not pushed through ahead of it.

6. Our groundwater is a public resource, not a private resource that can be exploited as a commodity.

7. Should the bottling be allowed, it would set a precedent for commercialization of this public resource, making it much harder to protect it in the future.

8. Although the stated intention is to start with a relatively modest amount of water drawn, that amount is likely to increase in the future.

9. Similar issues are happening around the world, in communities whose water is severely endangered but still being accessed and exploited by corporations. Don’t think it can’t happen here.

10. You can’t drink money. Not that the vast majority of us would see a penny of benefit for the loss of our precious, irreplaceable water.

Ivy Wigmore, Charlottetown

September 27, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News


TransPacific Partnership hearing, 9AM-3PM, Memorial Hall, Confederation Centre of the Arts, with the federal Standing Committee on International Trade. People are encouraged by organizations such as Trade Justice PEI to be there between 1:45 and 3PM, (earlier if you want to sign up to comment on the proposed deal, during the public input session from 2-3PM).

Government website info.


From Freetown organic farmer Sally Bernard, written Monday, September 26th and posted on her blog,

I was fortunate enough to attend the COPC 13th Annual Harvest Meal last night at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown. In attendance was our Lieutenant Governor, a representative of the opposition, a couple city councilors, and our Minister of Ag along with his deputy. Of course, he was given some time to speak and it would seem that the current trend in politics is to appear relaxed and nonplussed, by not having prepared notes. Minister McIsaac certainly achieved the unprepared look with a speech that rambled on about farming and fishing and spent more time on the optics of agriculture and the beauty of the province than on anything of any merit. During the last three sentences he suddenly remembered where he was and mentioned the word organic but without any real conviction or sincerity behind it.

So, I've taken the liberty of preparing the speech I'm sure he meant to have on hand last night. It must have gotten lost when he was spending the night previous reading it over while at the Fall Flavours event at Crowbush that he was so happy to tell us all about because we care.

Thank you for the warm welcome to this 13th Annual COPC Harvest Meal and celebration. 13th annual!? I think we often underestimate just how long organics has been growing and organizing together under an association like the Certified Organic Producers Cooperative, but this event really serves as a reminder of just how far you've come and hints at the potential for the future.

It's really exciting to see so many young faces at an event like this. Often, at agricultural gatherings it looks a lot like a political caucus- so many old white haired men ! (har har). But this crowd is so diverse in age and background and that speaks volumes for the future of your sector!

Can I get a sense of who are the organic farmers in the room? Could you all please stand up? Certified organic farmers. Wow! That's really fantastic, I hope to get to chat with you all about your operations sometime in the future! I would love to hear about your challenges and successes and what we can do for you as the government right now on PEI.

For the rest of you, I hope you took note of who the farmers in the room were when they stood. And I hope you take a moment to appreciate what it took for them to provide this meal for you tonight. I have little doubt that under the competent guidance of our chef, Ilona Daniel, these ingredients, grown with the care and particular intentions of these farmers will far exceed your expectations. That's the thing about organic farmers. They really care. They care enough to maintain the necessary records, host a third party inspection annually, abide by national standards that ensure your food is free from GMO's, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and that livestock live lives on pastures, eating only organic food themselves.

While I'm the Minister of all agriculture, not just organics, and I respect and admire all farmers and the work they do, organics is a particular shining jewel in the considerable crown of PEI agriculture. It is a constantly growing sector, with consistent margins, strong yields and a vibrant community. Did you know that 73% of new farmers are choosing to farm organically or ecologically? And 56% of those are women? Isn't that inspiring? I can talk openly and with conviction about organics like this because I'm not disparaging conventional ag, which we all know has a strong place in our landscape, but I am confident enough to recognize the value of a community like this one and the significance it carries for the health of our province, ecologically and economically!

In response to what I'm sure will be a rousing rallying cry from Sally Bernard coming up, she'll likely mention soil health and will be correct in saying that soil is the resource we're depleting the fastest here on PEI and it's past time that we do something serious about it. So I'm thrilled to announce that we're working on a program based on soil organic matter levels, providing funding for new soil tests that show actual soil health and activity and better enforcement of rotation rules.

So I won't keep us from the food any longer. I hear the chicken livers are particularly tasty tonight. :) I promise not to continue the legacy of being a Ag Minister dinosaur, living in the past, guided by antiquated ideas pushed by the old boys club who tell me that only conventional food can feed the world and that organics is a blip on the long term radar. Nope, I will be an effective, open-eyed minister who will stand up and openly admit that organics is doing great things for this province and we will work with you to help it continue to grow.

Thank you!

(--The Speech Minister McIsaac *should* have given to the organic producers.)

Yep, pretty sure that was the speech he meant to make instead of the mess we heard about inconsequential fish kills (YES! He actually brushed off fish kills at an organic supper), the importance of Fall Flavours and pretty landscapes. Good thing the food was so good I was able to get past the anger lump in my throat. -- Sally Bernard


Minister McIsaac has spoken about First Past the Post Plus in the early discussions of electoral reform last Fall.


More politics:

Printed on Saturday, September 24th, 2016, on the VisionPEI Facebook group:

THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Vision PEI blog by David Weale

Party Favours

Party politics is the bane of Island public life. If fact, I believe it actually subverts the democratic process. Party loyalty runs so deep in PEI that when MLAs are elected it is not their understanding that they have been chosen to serve the Island; rather, it is their understanding that their primary service is to the party, from which all blessings flow, and that is the very field in which patronage and cronyism grow like weeds.

The practice is especially pernicious in the kind of two-party system we have here, which was described so well by Sir John A. Macdonald when he said the two party system is like twin calves: when one is drinking the other is bawling. It is a deft description, but the image of hogs at the trough is perhaps a better one for our politics

It reminds me as well of a former Premier who, when it became apparent on election night that he was going to get a second term, rubbed his hands together and said to some followers, “We’ve got ‘er for another four years boys.” And when the ‘other’ party finally gets back in they will have the very same attitude. “Our turn,” they will say, and every Islander will understand their meaning.

Yes, it is just that crass.

The Premier say politics is alive and well on PEI. I will grant him that it is lively, but whether it is well depends on what we expect from it, and a great many Islanders expect patronage....and get it. So it does work well in that way I suppose. Trouble is it is corrupt, and small-minded. Indeed, I fear it has been corrupt for so long that many have forgotten that anything else is possible.

In all of this, who is actually thinking broadly about what is best for the Island? Who is thinking deeply about what fundamental changes are required to adapt to a rapidly evolving society; or about where we want to be in twenty years, or fifty or a hundred; or about how we can cope with the drug culture, or endemic poverty, or rural depopulation, or environmental depredation?

Sad to say, we seem happy to allow those in other places to do the creative thinking, and then adopt what they recommend. And it seldom fits because it was made with some other place in mind.

Meanwhile we are busy passing out party favours.

It is definitely something to keep in mind in the upcoming referendum on governance. The best thing we can do is to vote to change the status quo, and that means getting rid of the very moribund two-party system that is failing us badly.

And we can’t afford to be lethargic or apathetic, because we know which way the hogs will be voting.

September 26, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Tonight, Monday, September 26th:

"What the Heck is Electoral Reform?", 7-9PM, The Pourhouse (above Olde Triangle), discussion with members of the Special Committee on Democratic Renewal, Elections PEI, etc.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27th:

TransPacific Partnership (TPP) public consultations in Charlottetown, Memorial Hall, Confederation Centre of the Arts.

The federal committee is in town tomorrow to hear from organizations, individuals and industry representatives. The major time is the public part from 2-3PM, if you are around town and can go in watch, but you can watch other presentations throughout the whole day.

If you want to make any comments, you need to be there by 1:15PM to sign up. Bringing photo identification is probably necessary. Any public comments are worthwhile!

Groups presenting include the National Farmers' Union on the 9AM panel, ECOPEI at 10:15AM, Trade Justice PEI at 11:30AM, the P.E.I. Health Coalition and the Sierra Club in the 1PM Panel.

More information can be found at the Trade Justice PEI Facebook page:


Here's an informative piece by the very knowledgeable Scott Sinclair, about the other big corporate trade deal on the horizon:

Why Progressives Oppose Canada-EU Trade Deal - Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives article by Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew

CETA is a backward-looking, last-century free trade deal that will erect even more barriers to addressing today’s two most pressing issues: climate change and inequality

Published on-line on Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Seven years after negotiations began on the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Trudeau government is poised to sign the deal at a ceremony in Brussels in October. Whether Europeans are ready to actually ratify it is still an open question.

A once low-key affair, CETA is today the target of huge protests, as took place over the weekend in Germany. These are not so-called nativists opposed to immigration, multiculturalism and trade “openness.” The protestors are overwhelmingly progressives who correctly see CETA as a threat to democracy, public services and action on climate change.

Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland was dispatched to Europe this week to try and snatch CETA from the jaws of potential defeat. There are very good reasons Canadian progressives should hope Freeland fails in this task.

Much more than a trade deal, CETA is a sweeping constitution-style document that will restrict public policy options in areas as diverse as intellectual property rights, government procurement, food safety and environmental protection, financial regulation, the temporary movement of workers, and public services.

While CETA’s safeguards for labour and the environment are mainly voluntary and weak, the investor protections are strong and fully enforceable. Such an agreement could only be considered enlightened in an upside-down world.

For example, despite a few procedural improvements, CETA still includes a badly flawed investor-state dispute settlement process. Canada’s experience with investor-state arbitration under NAFTA is pitiful. We are the most-sued NAFTA party despite our highly developed legal system and strong protections for private property. Many of these challenges involve environmental protection policies that were legally enacted, but which upset an investor’s plans or profits.

Just last year, Canada lost a disturbing NAFTA dispute over an environmental assessment that recommended against a massive quarry in an ecologically sensitive part of Nova Scotia. Canada currently faces a raft of claims as a result of progressive policies, such as banning natural gas fracking in the province of Quebec.

European labour unions, environmentalists and human rights advocates question why Canada and the EU would want to expand this anti-democratic process through CETA. Despite being rebranded as an “investment court system” with pretenses to judicial independence, the substantive protections afforded to foreign investors remain largely intact. This will expose taxpayers in both Canada and the EU to huge financial liabilities and have a chilling effect on future progressive public policy.

European progressives are also asking important questions about the interplay between CETA and public services. CETA contains no clear protections for governments hoping to expand public services into areas where there is currently private sector competition, or to bring previously privatized services back under public control. Doing so can actually trigger foreign investor claims for compensation, effectively locking in privatization.

Given these and other flaws in the agreement — patent extension rules will add hundreds of millions annually to the cost of medications in Canada — it is baffling Freeland is portraying CETA as a “progressive trade agreement.” Other than some relatively minor changes, it is the deal negotiated by Canada’s former Conservative government, one of the most right-wing regimes in recent Canadian history.

The concerns being raised about CETA in Europe are not part of some inward-looking, alt-right backlash. In fact, the pro-Brexit U.K. Conservatives are among CETA’s loudest supporters, while the critics are strongest in the continental, social democratic heart of Europe.

In an attempt to appease them, the German government has convinced Canada and the European Commission to attach protocols to the CETA text that would assert their understanding of the impacts of the deal on labour rights, environmental policy and public services. But both parties insist no renegotiation is possible.

It’s doubtful this tactic will work. European opponents can see CETA is a “gold-standard” agreement only in the sense that it goes further than previous free trade treaties in protecting the “gold-plated” rights of corporations and foreign investors. It is a backward-looking, last-century free trade deal that will erect even more barriers to addressing today’s two most pressing issues: climate change and inequality.

If the European Commission and the new Canadian government are serious about making CETA a truly progressive agreement, they should not be able to get away with a mere rebranding exercise or legally empty gestures. If they do not want to take the time to get it right, they should be prepared to watch CETA falter.

Scott Sinclair is a senior trade researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Stuart Trew is editor of the CCPA Monitor.

September 25, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Here are some fun things for a cloudy Sunday:

--a short video about why proportional representation is a smart choice for P.E.I., citing the many "Done Deals" that large false majority governments on P.E.I. have made. Doug Millington and Perry Williams produced it for the Citizens' Alliance.

--a fun little quiz (don't get too hung up on some of the questions, as a few of them aren't terrifically clear) which will give you an idea of voting systems options you identify with, and gives you some references. I think it was produced by the PEI Coalition for Women in Government and the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

It's great to see such initiatives! P.E.I. is so full of talent.

Speaking of talent, singer Teresa Doyle is coming to the "Plan for PR Social" on Sunday, October 16th (three weeks from now!), for a little bit of song towards the end of the evening. Hope you can make it, too.


Teresa and her husband Brett are hosting a "Neighbourhood Get-Together to Chat about Proportional Representation" tonight, 7-9PM, at their home in Bellevue, near Ben's Lake. (directions details in Facebook event link)

She writes:

"Most countries in the world have proportional representation. If you get 40% of the vote you get 40% of the seats. Here 40% gets you all the power. There are only a handful of nations still using this unfair system. We need all hands on deck to make this change happen. Yes, I'd rather stay home and watch a movie too, but this is too important for our children. If we hope to save our water we need to wrestle power away from the big party hacks and have a system that rewards collaboration. Countries with Proportional Representation elect more women and have a better record on social and environmental issues. Hope to see you Sunday. Here's a link to all the info you need " <snip>

Facebook event details:



Monday, September 26th:

"What the Heck is Electoral Reform?" 7-9PM, Pourhouse (upstairs of Olde Triangle, corner of Great George and Fitzroy Streets), sponsored by the Young Voters of P.E.I.

Facebook event details


Peter Bevan-Baker is planning some get-togethers across the province in the next weeks leading up to the Plebiscite, with the first:

Thursday, September 29th,

Discussion on Electoral Reform, 7PM, Alberton

Facebook event details


Another visual

The webcomic "xkcd" made a long-scrolling cartoon, "Timeline of Earth's Average Temperature since the last Ice Age glaciation", to illustrate Climate Change and human activity.

It's long and you just keep scrolling to follow the timeline.


An essay from Friday from David Weale:

THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Vision PEI blog post by David Weale

Published on Friday, September 23rd, 2016

The Feed-lot

Our culture has a numbing/dumbing effect on most of us. Carpet bombed by frivolous information, besieged by advertising that actively promotes discontent, distracted and titillated by media sensationalism, and driven by the fast-lane pace of contemporary society, where the built-in obsolescence of everything speeds up the entire culture, we have no time to reflect. No time to step back from it all and see how dysfunctional it all is. It makes us tired, it makes us sad, and sometimes it makes us angry, but we don’t know what to do about it, so we just try to keep up.

Many grumble, but few speak up, at least not publicly.

And then one day it dawns on us: we are living on a farm and we are the livestock, and the individuals who own the farm want us to remain just the way we are: passive, distracted, vulnerable and wanting the feed they provide. Can it be? Are we living in a giant feed-lot?

The last thing the owners of the feed-lot want is for us to imagine that things could be different. It’s why the feed-lot schools are proponents of feed-lot education. It’s why our feed-lot politicians are incapable of any vision other than that which advances the status quo, and why the popular media grinds out more feed every day.

It all sounds very grim, but there is something in human cattle that the feed-lot owners rightly fear. There is hope in that.

September 24, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Farmers' Markets are all still open:

Murray Harbour -- 9AM - noon

Cardigan -- 10AM - 2PM Cardigan Farmers' Market keeps a Facebook page updated:

It's not open on Fridays but is on the next few Saturdays --much going on!

Morell -- 9AM - 2PM

Charlottetown -- 9AM - 2PM

Summerside -- 9AM - 1PM

Bonshaw neighbour Vanessa from V's Flowers will be there for the last time this season with flowers, and they are gorgeous.

Stratford (Robert Cotton Park) -- 9AM - 1PM

Today and tomorrow:

Etsy Artisans of P.E.I. Market, 10AM-4PM, Murphy Community Centre Gym, Richmond Street, Charlottetown.

"There will be over 45 local Etsy Artisans of PEI, food trucks, live music, door prizes and more! Admission is $5 in support of the Upper Room Food Bank. Admission is good for both days & includes a chance to win a gift basket. Kids under 12 are free."

Lots of homemade, gorgeous items. Christmas is only three months away.

Facebook Event Details


Tomorrow, Sunday, September 25th:

Grilled Cheese Challenge, Fall Flavours, at Cows Creamery at the North River Causeway, times have been listed as noon and also at 2-4PM. Admission is listed as $20 adults, $6 kids, little kids free. (Yes, getting in and out of this area is awful.)

"Come celebrate Prince Edward Island cheese at this outdoor event brought to you by ADL and Dairy Isle award winning cheese. PEI’s top chefs compete for the title of the Island Grilled Cheese Champion."<snip>

Lots of samples.

CBC story

Also Sunday, the last Outdoor Charlottetown Downtown Farmers' Market will be from 11AM-4PM, lower Queen Street.


Some news from the P.E.I. Progressive Conservatives yesterday and Opposition Health Critic James Aylward; bold is mine.

Aylward wants update on Mental Health and Addictions Strategy - PEIPC News online article by James Alyward

Published on Friday, September 23rd, 2016:

Stratford-Kinlock MLA and Opposition Health Critic James Aylward wants an update from the MacLauchlan government on the province’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

“Mental health and addictions issues can rip families and communities apart. It’s a major public health issue. It can also lead to big costs in the health care and justice sectors along with economic impacts. I’d like to see an update on the strategy to make sure it’s flexible enough to adapt to rising challenges like the growing presence of methamphetamine and fentanyl on the Island. Especially in light of rumblings in the community about budget cuts and restructuring in the Chief Mental Health and Addictions Office,” said Aylward.

The Mental Health and Addictions Strategy was first released in 2013 and since then progress on its recommendations has been sluggish. Legislative committee meetings in the spring highlighted gaps in data and information from the Chief Mental Health and Addictions Office about the impact of the Strategy and improved access to services for islanders.


Not sure what kind of restructuring is going on, but glad questions are being asked.

September 23, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

I wasn't able to get to Maryam Monself's consultation on electoral reform last night, and The Guardian coverage of Minister Monsef didn't mention the reason for the P.E.I. visit at all, just new information about where she was born.

But is does sound like it was a great discussion. More details on it and the Climate Change and Islands forum when possible.


From The Guardian earlier this week:

P.E.I. groundwater not for sale - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

EDITOR: Recently at a meeting with the P.E.I. Minister of Health and Wellness, we graciously were offered bottled water that was from a bottle water company in Quebec. We declined and asked for tap water. Sometime ago, the Council of Canadians asked the province to ban the use of bottled water in government facilities and offices. We thought the government had stopped the practice of using bottled water.

We suggest again that the P.E.I. Government stop using bottled water, and do as the City of Charlottetown did a few years ago, and ban the use of bottled water at its meetings and in its facilities.

The Council of Canadians is calling on the P.E.I. Government to put a halt to Pure Island Water’s plans to open a water bottling company in Brookvale. We believe our ground water belongs to all of us and it is not for sale.

In a meeting on Sept. 13, the P.E.I. Minister of the Environment told us that the proposal meets all the regulatory requirements and there is no need for an environmental review. And that he, as Minister, can do nothing to stop this business from selling our ground water.

We therefore are asking Premier Wade MacLauchlan to do what it takes to protect our groundwater from companies that see our groundwater as a commodity for exploitation and profit making. The Pure Island Water business must not be allowed to put our groundwater up for sale.

Leo Broderick,

Council of Canadians, P.E.I. Chapter


And an invitation:

Teresa Doyle and Brett Bunsen are hosting a "Neighbourhood Get Together to chat about Proportional Representation" this weekend, in Bellevue. Great idea!!

More details:

Here is the proportional representation on PEI website and its frequently asked questions:

And mark your calendars for Sunday, October 16th, 6:30-8:30PM at the Farm Centre:

"Plan for PR Social", hosted by the Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.

September 22, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

All these events today and tonight!

Some reminders:

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016:

Standing Committee meeting this afternoon:

Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Energy meeting, 1:30PM, Angus MacLean Building, corner of Great George and Richmond Street. ATV enthusiasts present about 1:30PM; and around 2PM, Josh Underhay will discuss cycling bicycling infrastructure. Public welcome.

That committee consists of government members Sonny Gallant (chair), Bush Dumville, Pat Murphy and Hal Perry, and Opposition members Jamie Fox and Sidney MacEven, and Peter Bevan-Baker.

This evening:

Opening of the Proportional Representation on PEI Office on Water Street, and Party for Volunteers, 5:45-6:45PM, 91 Water Street ("The Spot"), Second Floor, Charlottetown. Anyone wishing to volunteer any bit is welcome. Office supplies and donations accepted.

Immediately afterward, people are gathering to walk up Queen Street to the Memorial Hall of the Confederation Centre of the Arts for:

Community Dialogue with Federal Minister for Democratic Reform Maryam Monsef, 7-9PM, Memorial Hall, Confederation Centre ground floor.

[Note that this is not the federal "ERRE" Special Committee on Electoral Reform, which is coming next week, Thursday, October 6th (Delta Hotel).]

More details:


Taste Our Island -- Roving Feast, highlighting Fall Flavours, 7PM, Rodd Charlottetown, tickets are $59 (tax included) and available through the link here.


Public Forum on Climate Change Adaptation and Islands, 7PM, Florence Simmons Performance Hall st Holland College, free. More details here.


More events tonight outside of Charlottetown:

Provincial Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development on the Wood Islands Ferry Service, 7PM, Plough the Waves Centre in Wood Islands.

CBC article

More on this Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development:

This committee consists of Liberals Bush Dumville (chair), Jordan Brown, Kathleen Casey and Sonny Gallant; Conservatives Matt MacKay and Steven Myers, and Peter Bevan-Baker.

Renewables Lifestyles Solar Information Sessions, 7-8PM, Summerside Credit Union Place.(This is a business but the public is welcome to this presentation. There are more across the Island in the next month, see <>)


Oh, those young voters!

Monday, September 26th:

"What the Heck is Electoral Reform All About?", 7PM, The Pourhouse. All welcome. Sponsored by the Young Voters of P.E.I.


Two last things from The Guardian yesterday:

Former P.E.I. premier Robert Ghiz joins board of Medavie - The Guardian news article

Published on September 21, 2016

Currently senior business adviser at Gowling WLG, also serving on boards of Ducks Unlimited, True Patriot Love Foundation

Former Prince Edward Island premier Robert Ghiz has been named to another board.

Michael Decter, chairman of the board of directors of Medavie, announced Ghiz’s appointment to the Medavie board Monday.

“Robert’s extensive experience in public sector leadership roles will be an immense asset to our board of directors,” said Decter. “His depth of knowledge of the health-care field, and particularly his proven leadership in enhancing provincial health systems will be instrumental in advancing our vision of being a transformative health company.”

Ghiz served as premier from 2007 to 2015 after first being elected as an MLA in 2003. He joins former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord on the Mediavie board.

He is currently a senior business adviser at Gowling WLG and serves on the boards of Ducks Unlimited Canada and True Patriot Love Foundation, as well as the advisory council of Prince’s Charities Canada.

“I am excited to get started with the Medavie board and look forward to contributing to the company’s vision for changing the way Canadians think about health care,” said Ghiz.

The board also includes Dr. Myrna Francis, Ed Martin, Edward Barrett, Jean-Pierre Provencher, Karen Cramm, Kelly Nelson, Kim West, Marian Walsh and Mike Wilson.


When Edith Perry says shame on you, your toes should curl.

Water access mind-boggling - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on September 21, 2016

EDITOR: It is mind-boggling that the Minister of Environment and his Department officials have recently allowed a bottling company a permit to access our public owned and sourced water. We don't even know what kind of environmental assessment was done if anything at all.

This is in the face of many Islanders’ concerns that our water be protected and regulated.

It is my understanding, following discussions on Aug. 24 with an Environment Department staff person that:

1) The Water Act was still being drafted; 2) that this draft would be the focus of the minister for further public input; and 3) would be presented to the legislature session in the spring, it was hoped. Regulation rules would then be developed.

So what we now have is a business getting fast-tracked before rules are in place. A business, it should be pointed out, that is commercializing water, a public good, and thus allowing trade deals like the TPP and CETA to treat water as a commodity for profit. Worse, it makes it possible, under these trade deals, for such businesses locally and globally to sue for loss of profit any level of government that can and should provide water to residents as a not-for-profit service.

Is, as was suggested by some department staff, the need for economic profits so important, it would trump the need to protect our water as a valuable and must be sustained public resource?

For shame.

Edith Perry, Belfast

September 21, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

From David Weale, reposted from VisionPEI:


Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

We Won’t Back Down - Vision PEI THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH blog by David Weale

It is becoming increasingly clear that a great many Islanders are experiencing a feeling of deep vulnerability, and of a powerlessness within that vulnerability. And why? Because they are deeply concerned about a number of issues – most especially the issue of water - and are convinced that the present Government is not listening, and does not care what they think.

Urgent voices of concern are raised on every hand, and there is no response. Not a word. We are ignored and betrayed by those who were elected to represent us.

Given the level of concern that exists across the province it is beyond astonishing that neither the Premier, the Minister of the Environment, or any of the other elected representatives, apart from Peter Bevan-Baker, has addressed the issue with any conviction. We are faced with a crisis that strikes at the very heart of our existence as a community and they are absorbed and distracted by the petty issues of political gamesmanship. Diddling while Rome burns.

But they miscalculate. They are so preoccupied within their own little political bubble they don’t realize that the contamination of our soil, the destruction of our rivers, and the possible depletion of our water supply are the greatest issues this province has ever faced. They think we will complain for awhile and then just give up, and everything will drift back to normal. But not this time. The stakes are too high. Back to normal is not an option.

I, like many, do not wish to end my life on this Island in a posture of submission or acquiescence to those who are more interested in cutting short-term deals with the powerful and privileged than in listening to the concerns of the people, or the groaning of the environment. We won’t grow silent. We won’t back down. We won’t give in to the feeling of futility.

We are committed to being guardians of the water, the soil, and the air we breathe, firm in the knowledge that when it comes to these things there can be no more compromising. No more trade-offs. No more deals with the Devil.


And a positive way forward:

Opportunity for electoral change - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Something very exciting is about to happen on P.E.I.

We will have an opportunity to change the way we elect our government. This kind of vote will happen again across the nation, but we will be first, and Canadians will be watching.

Are you happy with the election results over the years? Do you think your vote counts?

If you think a change may be needed, why not vote for the two proportional representation (dual member and mixed member proportional) options? These are new to Islanders but around the world many jurisdictions use some form of proportional representation, and have so, successfully for generations.

I think a vote for the other options, including the existing system is just doing the same thing again and expecting different results.

The two proportional options will give us a change that we might actually prefer.

And the great thing about democracy is, if we decide we don't like it, we can change it.

Catherine O'Brien, Pownal


A few more events:


Thursday, September 22nd, 2016:

Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Energy meeting, 1:30PM, Angus MacLean Building, corner of Great George and Richmond Street. First up is a presentation by a group wanting mroe ATV trails on the Island, and around 2PM, Josh Underhay will be presenting about supporting bicycling infrastructure. You can come in and have a seat in the Public Gallery, which is really some rows of seats in the same room as the table for the Committee.

Saturday, September 24th:

Macphail Woods Festival of Forests, 2-6PM, Macphail Woods, all welcome, hosted by the Environmental Coalition of PEI. More details:

September 20, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Thursday is a magnet for several environmental/political/food-related events.

Thursday, September 22nd:

Opening of the Proportional Representation on PEI Office on Water Street, 91 Water Street ("The Spot"), Second Floor, Charlottetown.

Party for Volunteers from 5:45-6:45 (I may have the time wrong but will check)

More details/to RSVP

Immediately afterward, people are encouraged to walk up Queen Street to the Memorial Hall of the Confederation Centre of the Arts for:

Community Dialogue with Federal Minister for Democratic Reform Maryam Monsef, 7-9PM, Memorial Hall, Confederation Centre ground floor.

More details:

Electoral reform on two levels of government in one evening!


Taste Our Island -- Roving Feast, highlighting Fall Flavours, 7PM, Rodd Charlottetown, tickets are $59 (tax included) and available through the link here.

"Taste, rove, mingle & dine with 8 culinary artisan chefs who have been nominated for the prestigious Taste Our Island award based on the outstanding quality of their cuisine and their use of local product."

Nancy Willis and Phil Ferraro have put their heart into this for several years. Always sounds like a great time. Probably best to get tickets soon as it usually sells out.


Public Forum on Climate Change Adaptation and Islands, 7PM, Florence Simmons Performance Hall st Holland College, free.

UPEI’s UNESCO Chair in Island Studies and Sustainability and the UPEI Climate Research Lab will co-host a public forum on climate change adaptations and islands. The forum begins at 7 pm on Thursday, September 22, in the Florence Simmons Performance Hall on the Prince of Wales Campus of Holland College. Information gathered at the forum will be become part of a statement delivered at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change this November in Morocco and will inform public policy in local, national, and international jurisdictions.

More details here.


The petition to the P.E.I. government to stop the Brookvale water bottling plant proposal is available as a paper copy and on-line version.

Here is the on-line version:

My understanding is that on-line petitions are very important and show decision-makers what people are thinking.

The paper version (and you can sign both) will be the actual pages collected, counted and tabled in the provincial Legislature when they resume in November. It's available as a PDF if you would like a copy sent to you to print and collect signatures (I can forward a copy, as can others.)

September 19, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Yesterday's CBC Radio's "Sunday Edition" show featured an interview with Professor Paul Rogers, of Bradford University in Great Britain.

He was talking about his latest book about specific crises and other world situations, about it really being climate change causing water and food crises and these leading to people being ready to go to extremes, and the media missing the points a lot of the time. And it will happen more and more often in the next decades, unless we really, really get moving on environmental and peace issues.

I only heard part of the interview, but he said (and I am not quoting exactly), "You can look at the state of the world and become one of three ways: suicidal, alcoholic or optimistic; and I try to be -- and for the sake of my new grandchildren, who will likely live in the 22nd Century -- optimistic." That both made me tear-up and feel very hopeful, that the optimists really have to keep working on this stuff.

More on Paul Rogers:

This included a 4 minute profile with him from the University website.

He is Open Democracy's International Security editor, and more about that here:

and the CBC Sunday Morning site interview:

and his recent book is called Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins.


I mixed up LeadNow and FairVote yesterday in the press release yesterday about the federal committee on electoral reform's visit this Thursday evening. It was from FairVote :-)


Events, deadlines, and other dates to note:

Elections PEI will be at UPEI in the Student Union building from 11AM-1PM today talking about the plebiscite on voting systems. They are also going to a few high schools this week.


TransPacific Partnership public hearings on P.E.I. next week:

from the Government Press Release

As part of its public consultation in relation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade will hold public hearings:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016:

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Memorial Hall

Confederation Centre of the Arts

145 Richmond Street

The public part will be between 2-3PM.

September 18, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Open Farm Day is today, various locations, rain or shine.

More details at:


Thursday of this week -- September 22nd, 2016:

Charlottetown stop of Federal Democratic Reform Committee, 7PM, Confederation Centre of the Arts, Memorial Hall:

The following is most of the media release from LeadNow, working for federal proportional representation:

Thursday September 22, 7 PM, in Charlottetown:

Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef Democratic Reform Tour

As part of the government consultation on electoral reform, Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef is touring Canada seeking your feedback! This is our chance to show up and speak up for proportional representation! How much support there is for proportional representation will be reported back to the all-party committee on electoral reform (ERRE).

Opponents of reform are organizing and attending these events. We need to be there to speak up for a vote that counts. Please show up if you can and invite friends!

When: Thursday September 22

Time: 7-9 PM

Where: Confederation Centre of the Arts, Memorial Hall, 145 Richmond

<snip> Please let us know how the consultation goes by sending a summary to

Not able to attend? Please make sure your voice is heard: Email Maryam Monsef at or . Identify yourself as a resident of PEI who is unable to attend the consultation but would like to let the Minister and committee know you support proportional representation and ask that your feedback be included in her report.

At town halls and consultations, we are focusing on communicating our core values:

Proportional Representation: 30% of the vote should equal 30% of the seats

Voter Equality: every voter should be able to elect an MP who reflects his/her values

Diversity: Our Parliament should reflect our diversity, including the political diversity within each region

Collaboration: proportional representation means parties working together, and policies supported by parties representing a majority of voters

Thanks so much for your help at this important time.


What's new with LEAP manifesto, and the NDP leadership? Here is a CBC on-line story from yesterday:

Avi Lewis rules out run for NDP leadership, says Leap Manifesto still 'going strong' - CBC news article

Filmmaker says Leap Manifesto could expand into a larger political platform

There could come a time when the Leap Manifesto, a five-page document that calls for a radical rejigging of the Canadian economy, moves beyond its existence as a movement, says one of its chief champions.

But Avi Lewis isn't signing up for political office just yet.

"I engaged in a long political process and a really deep consultative process among allies around the country about whether it would be useful for me to enter the [NDP] leadership race and the general consensus among many is that it would and it's just a bad time in my life," the filmmaker told CBC The House host Chris Hall.

But Lewis, whose father Stephen led the Ontario New Democratic Party in the 1970s, said the Leap Manifesto is inching towards political party territory, with talks of publishing a national platform.


see link for the rest of the story

September 17, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A lovely day to find a farmers' market. It's finally our real peppers and tomatoes time.

Markets open:

Murray Harbour -- 9AM - noon

Cardigan -- 10AM - 2PM

Morell -- 9AM - 2PM

Charlottetown -- 9AM - 2PM

Summerside -- 9AM - 1PM


Stratford (Robert Cotton Park) -- 9AM - 1PM


This afternoon, if you are near District 20, it MLA Matt MacKay's Blueberry Social, serving what looks like the most gigantic berries:


Tomorrow, Sunday, September 18th:

Tomato Fest, 2-6PM

Heart Beet Organics Farm, 742 Darlington Road, Darlington/North Wiltshire. Over 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes to taste. Local beer and bread, too!

Facebook event for Tomato Fest

Open Farm Day is also tomorrow.

One of the places open to visit is the Hughes Jones Centre in Cornwall, which is *directly* in the path to be demolished by the Cornwall By pass, so they are saying this is their last open house. They are pretty resigned to being one of the owners of the home, barn and land that will be sacrificed for the public good. It's hard to see yet another bloated roads project as any sort of well-thought out public good.

Facebook event for Hughes-Jones Farm Open Farm Day details

Open Farm Day Link:


More from David Weale, from Thursday, September 15th, 2016:

THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Vision PEI blog by David Weale

It’s Time for the Guardians

It is clear that many Islanders, perhaps the majority, are concerned about what might happen to our water. And many of us believe that presently our provincial government is conniving with powerful special interests to make our water available, pretty much free of charge, to those who covet it to bolster their bottom lines.

Many are worried about the proposed water-bottling plant in Brookvale, and they need to be, but it is just the proverbial ‘spit in the bucket’ compared to the deep water permits, including the very recent one to Aqua Bounty Corporation in Rollo Bay. It permits that company to extract 1375 gallons per minute, which is over two million gallons a day, or approximately fourteen gallons daily for every man woman and child on the Island. And that’s just one well.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t wish to be that generous. Especially when, as a resident of Charlottetown, I am careful with water because I have been warned frequently over the past couple of years that water for the city is in short supply.

We need the long, down-river view on this issue, and I am afraid we are not going to get it from politicians with a four-year mandate, or from businesses obsessed with quarterly results.

If someone is going to speak up for those Islanders living here fifty years from now, or five hundred, it has to be us – the guardians.

And this is no mere scare tactic, or baseless fear-mongering. Many of the brooks and streams of my childhood have already dried up, their song ended. And most Island rivers are greatly diminished by lack of source-water, choked by toxic bloom as a result of narrow-margin, agricultural monoculture (the very industry that wants more wells) and poisoned by pesticide use that is the most intensive in the country. Meanwhile, great portions of the world are experiencing acute water shortages, and some of our neighbours in Nova Scotia are driving to nearby towns to have a shower. Not a good time I would say to be drilling down into our deep water reserves for the benefit of the fast food industry.

We can’t temporize, or shilly-shally, any longer. Those who think we are able, with impunity, to forge ahead as we have been doing for the past one hundred years, are short term thinkers, without vision, who put the gain of a day over the well-being of future generations. Blinded by greed, and a short-sighted, continuous-growth story-line that is outmoded and self-destructive, they should not be in charge of the community or its resources. They are simply too out of touch with what is essential.

The day of the dinosaurs must come to an end. The day of the guardians must begin.

September 16, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

This week is International Democracy Week, as declared by the United Nations. More details:


From Lead Now, which is one of the groups urging electoral reform for our nation:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to replace our broken first-past-the-post voting system in time for the next election.

Now the Canadian government is studying how to change how we vote, and they are going to make a recommendation by December 1, 2016. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a fair voting system - but only if we speak up now.

The Vote Better campaign is about bringing people together to speak up in favour of proportional representation.

With a Canadian-made proportional representation system, we can have:

· Fair elections where every vote counts

· Inclusive government that is more representative of Canada’s diversity

· diversity

· Collaborative democracy that can make real progress on the challenges of our time

There are some in the parties and media who want to keep our broken, outdated and unfair system. If we don’t speak up, we could end up stuck with first-past-the-post. That’s why we need to act now to hold Prime Minister Trudeau to his promise.

Add your voice to the thousands of people who have already called on Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Maryam Monsef to introduce a proportional representation system for Canada.

Some Canadian educational resources:

Our provincial plebiscite on voting systems is October 29-November 7th!


Brush with Greatness:

Did you know Jane Goodall is coming to P.E.I.? She is giving two talks at the Delta, on October 2nd (which is sold out) and 3rd. Tickets are an eye-popping $150 (it is for her conservation work), which will limit a lot of people from being able to go. Details:

Elizabeth May is coming to the Island on Thursday, October 6th, with the Commons Committee on electoral systems. That will likely be free, with the location to be determined.


Here is MLA Peter Beven-Baker's blog and posting of the Bell Aliant contract, which has been in the news:

September 15, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A couple of events of interest tonight:

Thursday, September 15th:

Seed Saving Workshop, 6:30PM, Confederation Centre Public Library

from Josie Baker, coordinator:

<snip> (T)his workshop will be presented by Carina Phillips and Byron Petrie, amazing youth farmers of Seaspray Organics.

Carina has also worked with Pembroke Farms, one of the big drivers behind the PEI Seed Alliance. Learn about how to save seed from your garden, how to clean and store seed, and how you can be part of a global seed movement in PEI.

(T)his is prime seed saving time! Especially for Tomatoes. I know people are a little mystified about the process of saving tomato seeds, so I've found this handy-dandy video which illustrates my personal favorite technique - that does not require dirtying a strainer. Also, check your lettuce for little seed poofs, your arugula for pods, and leave those overgrown beans and peas on the plant to let them dry out. Happy Seed Saving!


Island Nature Trust Annual General Meeting, 7-9PM, Beaconsfield Carriage House, corner of West and Kent Street, all welcome.

Join INT for an update on the year’s activities and the presentation of the 2016 Hon. J. Angus MacLean Natural Areas Award. Leanne Tol will be the guest speaker, and will present on “Factors affecting the breeding success of endangered African penguins on Robben Island, South Africa”.

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.

For more information, call 902-892-7513.

A viewpoint about the Cornwall Bypass public information meeting held night before last, about a continuation of the "announce and defend" strategy so common under former Premier Robert Ghiz.

Posted on Vision PEI's Facebook page on Wednesday, September 14th, 2016:

THE VIEW FROM THIS BRANCH - Vision PEI Facebook post by David Weale


At a public meeting last night regarding the Cornwall bypass the large crowd was informed that pretty much everything has been decided with regard to route, roundabouts, etc. However, they were also informed, by the often pugnacious Stephen Yeo, Chief Engineer for the Dept. of Transportation, that although everything major had already been decided, “There’s always flexibility in tweaking and changing the alignment somewhat.” Well Stephen,

thanks for nothing.

Did anyone besides me just hear the sound of a slap in the face.

It is becoming more and more clear that this is what this Government means when they use, and re-use ad nauseam, the word collaboration. It means informing people, grudgingly, of what they have already decided. And I’m sure we all can understand that, for it really can get messy when too many citizens get involved, asking too many questions.

And why were there no microphone set up for questions and comments by the public. Well, because that’s really messy, as democracy often is. Of course, the same Mr. Yeo said it was arranged that way so the government could get “better feedback” and “hear from a lot more people.”

Feedback to what end? The goose is already in the oven. Oh yes, of course, I forgot about the tweaks.

This government speaks also about being ‘transparent,’ and I suppose they are, because it really wasn’t hard to see through what was going on in that room last night. And if no one calls them on it, it will be the new normal for public meetings

September 14, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

"What genius set up a public meeting for a crowd like this and didn't think we'd need a microphone?" -- woman attending Cornwall Bypass meeting last night.

That pretty much expressed the thoughts of many of the residents of the greater Cornwall area at the public information meeting last night at APM Centre Gymnasium. How can we trust you guys to build a 65 million dollar road if you can't set up a room? The communications officer for the department shrugged when asked why he didn't go find the sound system, once the problem was determined. It appeared, as one resident said, a way to "divide and conquer" and discussion so everyone could hear.

Packed room at APM Centre, September 13th, 2016. Chief engineer Stephen Yeo on upper right.

It shows how the government is going on full-steam ahead, even while it says it wants feedback and will adapt the project if necessary.

The meeting started with Chief Engineer Stephen Yeo's introduction of the numerous staff; then Western Engineer Mark Sherran gave a quick overview. The road will be 7.5km long from the intersection at Warren Grove Road/York Point Road and the TCH (the "Sam's intersection" for the old name for the convenience store there), 60m wide. It will consume 83 hectares of land, 55 agricultural. (That's over 200 acres/135 agricultural, double my original estimate.) The road has five overpasses planned (Cornwall Road, Linwood Road, Bannockburn Road, Baltic Road, and the Clyde River branch), but only Cornwall Road will have entrance ramps, so people on the other roads will have to go down to what will be the old TCH to Cornwall. The interchange at Clyde River near New Haven will be a partial clover-leaf just like the very large structure in Albany. (The concrete works seems a bit extensive, in my opinion.)

Dale Conroy of Stantec, an environmental engineering consulting company, described his company's rating of certain attributes to get a numerical answer to which of four slightly different paths might be the best choice, and he tried to explain this "constraints analysis" exercise. Of course, the screen was small and there were lots of numbers, but they tried to choose the option with less effect on numbers of homes and on the environment.

Mayor Minerva McCourt said a few words but her soft voice was completely lost to the 150-plus people there.

No one talked about the cost, why this wasn't in the provincial budget, how much they are anticipating buying land is going to be, etc.

Yeo tried to close the sit-down part of the meeting and have people go to easels, saying it helps everyone get their questions answered, when it was obviously he understood that people know that their questions are ones everyone else has. So he changed course a bit, but no one could hear the questions easily and eventually people went to crowd around the easels.

Some people are upset that it certainly appears to be a done deal, and they are going to have a road very near their property, and this is the first they have heard or seen of it.

There were no Tory MLAs there, no Minister of Transportation. Local MLA Heath MacDonald was sitting with very close associates, MP Wayne Easter talked to a lot of people, and District 17 MLA (where part of the bypass is going) Peter Bevan-Baker was there and asked questions.

Trying to get details during the easel-time part of the meeting.



Tree-planting, Terry Fox Centre, Cornwall, 9:30AM to 12:30PM

I suspect if you just show up around there with some work gloves, you could help out.

September 13, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Tuesday, September 13th:

Cornwall Bypass (Phase II) Public Information Meeting, 7-9PM, APM Centre gym, Cornwall. Provincial Department of Transportation engineer Mark Sherren and Stantec engineer Dale Conroy will give a short presentation on the route for second phase of the Cornwall bypass, followed by comments from chief engineer Stephen Yeo; construction set to begin in 2017. After the half hour (or so) presentation, there will be time for people to go to map displays around the gym and talk to Department staff and others.


News from last night that Brian Ramsay has won the Progressive Conservative candidate for the provincial legislature by-election (which has not been called yet) in District 21: Sumemrside-Wilmot, recently vacated by Janice Sherry.

Ramsay lost to Ms. Sherry by 30 votes in the May 2015 election (Sherry: 1135, Ramsay: 1105, NDP Scott Gaudet (who has been nominated for the Party again: 353, Green candidate Donald MacFayden-Reid 285). There were three other candidates, including former MLA, cabinet minister and recently Gail Shea's right-hand man Phillip Brown. (Brown had also indicated he would run for the Progressive Conservative leadership if he won the right to represent the Party in the by-election, but has dropped those plans, apparently.) The Liberals will host a nominating meeting later this week, and Party Deputy leader Lynne Lund will be running for the Green Party.


The detour to get around work on the York Bridge up Rte. 25 was first going to result in a 20km path. Residents got together and offered some suggestions. A temporary bridge next to the repairs was offered. It includes some smart comments from a caring local resident.


Published on-line on Friday, September 9th, 2016:

<snip> They got a look at the new route at a public meeting earlier this week and the majority were pleased, according to Debbie Barry, who was in attendance.

"It was a much better feeling after the more recent community meeting," she said. "The engineers came, they had obviously heard what the community was concerned about, they had gone back and rethought the plans and had come up with something that was much more appropriate or palatable for the community members. "

But although she's happy, she hopes government will learn from this situation for next time.

"I think that the frustration is that a lot of this could have been avoided had there been consultation in the first place, prior to the setting up of a plan," Barry said.

Construction on the bypass road will begin the first week of October and it's expected that vehicles will be rerouted that way by the middle of the month. Then the construction on the new bridge will begin.

September 12, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A few events this week, happening in Cornwall:

Tuesday, September 13th:

Cornwall Bypass Phase II information meeting, 7PM, APM Centre, Cornwall. This is the meeting about the course north and west of the current TCH to bypass Cornwall, slated to start construction next year.

Wednesday, September 14th:

Tree Planting, Terry Fox Trail, 9:30AM-12:30PM. Terry Fox Trail Enhancement Group welcomes all. To volunteer, contact Kim Meunier at 902-566-2354, email at:


From Brent Patterson, the Political Director of the Council of Canadians:

PEI Chapter Against Proposed Bottled Water Plant in Brookvale - Council of Canadians blog by Brent Patterson

Published on-line on Saturday, September 10th, 2016

The Council of Canadians Prince Edward Island chapter opposes plans for a bottled water plant in Brookvale, PEI.

CBC reports, "A water bottling company, Pure Island Waters Ltd., has plans to set up a water bottling plant in Brookvale, P.E.I. ...The company states it hopes to start by producing 84,000 litres per week, which it says is the equivalent amount of water used by 10 households. ...At full capacity, the plant would use 100 cubic metres — or 100,000 litres — of water per day according to the company, at a water draw rate of 15 gallons per minute. The company wants to build three new wells in the area for the plant — one for bottling water, another as a backup and the third for the geothermal heating system."

The article adds, "The company suggests this level of water extraction is well below levels that require a groundwater extraction permit. The province agrees." Both the province's manager of groundwater and the provincial Department of Environment have stated that an environmental assessment is not needed.

The PEI chapter is also opposed to the provincial government's approval of a new well in Rollo Bay that would be used by AquaBounty for a plant where 13,000 conventional salmon would be raised to provide eggs to be transferred to a Bay Fortune plant where those eggs would be genetically modified. AquaBounty was given a permit to extract up to 1,375 imperial gallons per minute. <snip>

rest of the article on the link, above

September 11, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Here is an article about registering for food preservation workshops, which the PEI Food Exchange is hosting. The deadline is tomorrow, Monday, September 12th.

contact by e-mail:


If you are looking for a "Fall CSA" or any other kind of Community Supported Agriculture program (meat, eggs, baked goods,, check out this page on the Food Exchange site:

The Downtown Farmers' Market is open today, 11AM-4PM, lower Queen Street.

Keep in Mind that Open Farm Day is next Sunday, September 18th.


“Giving a damn and doing what is right are rewards in themselves.” - Eliot Coleman, Maine organic grower, writer, and pioneer in extending the growing season


Yours truly,

Chris O.,

Citizens' Alliance of P.E.I.

P.S. Please note:

Friday, September 16th:

The 9th Annual Gene MacLellan Tribute Concert, 7PM, Bonshaw Hall, corner of the TCH and Green Road. Scott Parsons, Catherine MacLellan and others will perform. From the listing:

For this very well-attended event, folks are encouraged to book tickets in advance by calling Rhonda (or leaving a message) at 675-3649 or Harry at 675-4134. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the evening of the performance.

The cost of tickets is $15.00 for adults and $10.00 for children. Proceeds will go to the maintenance of the Bonshaw Hall, for which this event is a major fundraiser.

September 10, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Farmers' Markets are open in:

Murray Harbour -- 9AM - noon

Cardigan -- 10AM - 2PM

Stratford (Robert Cotton Park) -- 9AM - 1PM - lots of family activities listed for today

Morell -- 9AM - 2PM

Charlottetown -- 9AM - 2PM -- Elections PEI will have its tent and information about the Plebiscite

Summerside -- 9AM - 1PM

Today, there is a Sunflowers Fundraiser for QEH and the Farm Centre Legacy Garden, 9AM-1PM, Sobey's (Allen Street), right next to Farm Centre. $5 a bunch.

Facebook event details


A good piece on rethinking buying bottled water, from ECO-PEI's website.


The Department of Communities, Land and Environment has announced (as if the interested citizen didn't have enough to do this fall), that public consultation and comments towards a new Municipalities Act, which will "allow for" amalgamation of communities, will be accepted until October 7th.

Here is the website, which I haven't really looked at yet.

September 9, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Regarding the proposal to extract and export water from wells in Brookvale:

From the website of District 17 MLA and Leader of the Third Party Peter Bevan-Baker, this is an excellent summary of what has been proposed, how this came to be, and what's next. Thoughtful comments at the end, too.

As I said on the Citizens' Alliance Facebook group page last night, we cannot measure the value of this one -- one! -- third party member in our provincial legislature. One seat is worth about 4% of the total seats in our P.E.I. Legislature. The "third parties" got over 20% of the popular vote, which should translate to six seats. It would also have made the Official Opposition stronger. Can you imagine the collaboration, the decisions made on behalf of all Islanders and not just special ones?

Keep this in mind when talking to others about the provincial plebiscite starting October 29th.


Regarding the Plebiscite, from Elections PEI:

Our Public Education Team will be set up outside of Canadian Tire in Charlottetown this Friday 10am-1pm. We're ready to answer your questions and help you understand the electoral systems for the fall plebiscite. See you there!


Back to bottled water: here is a CBC story yesterday on the bottled water issue:

Yet again, we are hearing from some folks in the Department of Environment that there is plenty of water, just like during the high-capacity wells issue. Many scientists and watershed group people and others completely shredded the assertion that we can be certain there is plenty of water during that last round of Standing Committee hearings on the high-capacity well issue (when the committee was on "Agriculture, Environment and Energy", I think).

The bottled water proponents' Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) application is in the link below. The volume from a well keeps it under the threshold for an EIA to be "triggered" and thus it is pronounced "Screened Out". Bevan-Baker and others have questioned several things on this application, including how eventual plans for three wells' rate of flow (which would go over the current limit for triggering an EIA) aren't being considered, and the description that the proponents will drill deeper than regular wells, down into the Ancient (or Fossil) Water aquifer to ensure purity (and advertising cache for a high-end water product label?) (and less chance of nitrates).

Island Pure Waters Ltd application:


I don't know much about fossil aquifers, but here is an excerpt from a National Geographic Magazine article. Bold is mine. from:

If You Think the Water Crisis Can't Get Worse, Wait Until the Aquifers Are Drained - National Geographic article by Dennis Dimick

Published on-line on August 21st, 2014

<snip> Groundwater comes from aquifers—spongelike gravel and sand-filled underground reservoirs—and we see this water only when it flows from springs and wells. <snip> Some shallow aquifers recharge from surface water, but deeper aquifers contain ancient water locked in the earth by changes in geology thousands or millions of years ago. These aquifers typically cannot recharge, and once this "fossil" water is gone, it is gone forever—potentially changing how and where we can live and grow food, among other things.<snip>


The P.E.I. Legislative Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment will have witnesses and hear about the bottled water proposal in the future. Details to follow.

September 8, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Regarding the Cornwall Bypass: The affected landowners yesterday were shown the selected route that the consultation company Stantec (hired by the Department of Transportation) recommended. Business owners are getting a meeting soon.

Tuesday, September 13th, 7-9PM:

Meeting for interested members of the public, APM Centre, Cornwall.

Here is a screenshot of the route released:

And a full screen image is available on The Guardian's website:[1].jpg

The Town of Cornwall has "sanctioned" this route, but here a couple of observations: The route goes well beyond the borders of Cornwall. Not sure those communities have sanctioned it.

It will go behind East Wiltshire school, which has a busy road in front of it now.

It goes through a lot -- a guess of a hundred acres of farmland which won't be growing much.

It's quite extensive as far as crossing the Clyde River and two more roads westerly (Bannackburn and Baltic)

And we aren't sure which landowners are nearby and affected (like the Hughes-Jones Equestrian Centre) and which ones are going to sell property (like former MLA Ron MacKinley). Lots of details to come.


The timing for any by-election for District 21, to replace Janice Sherry's seat (Summerside-Wilmot), has not been called yet by the Premier (unless I missed it). If that area is to have representation when the Legislature resumes sitting in the Fall on November 15th, a by-election could end up being around the last few weeks of plebiscite public education time. The plebiscite on voting systems is set for October 29th to November 7th.

September 7, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

from the PEI Coalition on Proportional Representation:

Democracy and the Environment

Majority governments on PEI have not served the environment well. Studies are done, reports are commissioned, presentations are made, recommendations come from standing committees, and the majority government of the day can take or leave them as it pleases. There is a better way. From October 29th to November 7th, everyone 16 and older can vote to change the way we elect our MLAs from ‘first past the post’ to a proportional representation (PR) system. If this happens, the legislature will become a place for proper debate, consensus decision making, real representation of the population, and it will be much more likely that our water and our environment will receive the attention that they deserve.

When you vote, there will be two ‘proportional’ options - and it’s important that you make these your first and second choices. To pledge your vote for proportional representation, and to receive updates on the campaign over the coming weeks, sign up today at

For more information on the voting process, including how to vote on-line or on the phone, visit and for more information on proportional representation, visit

Please spread the word - because in order for the government to get the message, we need people to get out and vote.


Some events coming up:

Josie Baker and Chris Doucette are offering some seed saving workshops:

Saturday, September 10th:

Seed Cleaning and Threshing, 11AM-noon, Stratford Farmers' Market, Cotton Park, off Bunbury Road. "At this workshop we will do hands-on demonstrations of how to save, clean, thresh, and winnow your favorite veggies."

Thursday, September 15th:

Saving Seed from Your Garden, 6:30PM, Confederation Centre Public Library, Charlottetown. "Learn about how to save seed from your garden, how to clean and store seed, and how you can be part of a global seed movement in PEI."

from Save Our Seas and Shores PEI:

Save Our Seas and Shores has organized a free film screening in collaboration with Charlottetown MP Sean Casey!

This Saturday, September 10th from 2:00 - 4:00 pm at City Cinema in Charlottetown we will present the brand new film "Ice and Sky" by Luc Jacquet, the award winning director of "March of the Penguins"! Ice and Sky tells the fascinating story of Claude Lorius, a pioneering French scientist who since the 1950s has led efforts to collect ice cores in the Antarctic and use them to understand how the earth's climate is changing. With beautiful footage of Antarctica and an unusual glimpse into the life and mind of an extraordinary scientist, this film is not to be missed!

September 6, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

"This is the initial commodification of water on Prince Edward Island", said one attendee, when we ought to know better.

"This is not a moral or ethical decision. It's a business decision." -- Pure Island Waters Ltd. proponent Scott Dawson.

Those were the two quotes that stuck out last night at a community meeting about a proposed bottle water plant last night. Organized by residents in the Brookvale area, it was attended by over fifty local residents, some other concerned Islanders, one or two of the project backers, and facilitated by District 17 MLA Peter Bevan-Baker. (I was there for part of it.) It was actually a restrained meeting, with most residents just dumbfounded at this proposal.

Some other notes:

Darryll Guignion, retired UPEI biologist and watershed expert, mentioned the precarious health of the West River Watershed, managed by the Central Queens Wildlife Federation.

Proponent Scott Dawson mentioned that the plans involved working with the local watershed group, and giving them a donation. Mike Durant introduced himself at president of the watershed group and mentioned that no one has contacted the watershed about any of this. Dawson shrugged and said that they would, and that it would be the watershed group's decision to accept the company's donation or not.

(Mr. Dawson refused to name the other members of the proposal group, citing not having their permission to do so. Coincidentally, there was a story rather buried on CBC's website over the weekend about Island resident Omar Kandel attending a spin-off meeting of the G20 in China who is promoting a "high end" bottled water from P.E.I. business.)

(CBC story)

I can't tell if it's the same project or yet another. Details to follow.


Here is the page with the link to the proposal submitted to the Department of Environment and due to our lax environmental regulations and laws, meets the requirements.

The next step is that Peter Bevan-Baker and the residents will write to IRAC, the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission. Again, more details to follow.


And just to remind yourself that you are thinking about the future, and *so are others*, here is a two minutes-plus video of what The Leap Manifesto group organized at the World Social Forum in Montreal last month:

Screenshot of Leap Manifesto demonstration at Montreal's World Social Forum.

September 5, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Some Labour Day notes today:

Labour Day Picnic, 11AM -1PM, Joseph Ghiz Memorial Park, Charlottetown. All welcome. Hosted by the PEI Federation of Labour. Members of the PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation and Proportional Representation on PEI Action Team will be there to celebrate unity and collect pledges regarding voting for PR in our Fall plebiscite.

Hats off to the women at the Charlottetown Canadian Blood Services Clinic for their tenacity during their months' long strike. This news item summarizes things:

Here is a note that The Chronicle-Herald newsroom journalists of the paper in Halifax have been on strike for 225 days.


And for returning to work later this week:

The Town of Stratford is providing some designated spaces for people to park, to be able to catch a transit bus to Charlottetown:


Tonight is a community meeting about a proposed bottled water plant in Brookvale, P.E.I., to export drinking water off-Island. 7PM, Brookvale Provincial Ski Park.

September 4, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Writer and storyteller David Weale has written a series of clear-as-a-warning-bell pieces in the last week, which I am reprinting, with permission.

This first one was posted on social media on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016:


by David Weale

Faustian Bargain

August 30, 2016

If you are one of those congenital, dyed in the wool creatures who finds it impossible to tolerate any criticism of anything Liberal then you should probably stop reading right now, because this is going to upset you, and possibly ruin your whole day.

This present administration is in power because of a Faustian bargain, which, in classical terms means a deal with the Devil. A certain Dr. Faustus wanted something badly, and the Devil promised to provide it, in exchange for his soul.

The current Premier received enthusiastic endorsement from every single person connected with the badly tainted previous administration. They stood behind him like a wall. It seemed quite a remarkable thing, but the past year or so has helped explain why. It seems that 100% support was probably extended because the Premier agreed, in advance, that he would not house clean, or lift the corner of the mat under which so many incriminating secrets had been swept. And it worked. He achieved the position of power he desired, and has lived up to his end of the bargain. The only trouble is, it has interfered greatly with another bargain – the one he made with the people of PEI to govern openly.

Every attempt by the media, the Opposition, or the public to obtain information about what transpired during those dark years has been stone-walled by the Premier. He claims to be open and “collaborative,” (excuse me while I swallow hard) and maybe that is his honest intention, but he was compromised from the beginning by the bargain he made with those who came before.

And it’s worse. Many of the individuals involved in the shady, self-serving schemes of the previous administration are still key players in this present administration. In other words, the political culture has not changed fundamentally. How could it? It has a new face on the poster, but many of the same old players are still very visible, and the same grubby hands on many of the levers.

What prompted me to write this was something I learned recently. A person who works for Government informed me he wanted a change in his employment situation that he had been unable to attain through the ‘regular’ channels. It was, he was told, impossible. So he called an individual we would all recognize as being one of the key movers and shakers during the Ghiz regime, and within a week what was impossible was arranged.

And there you have it: Islanders want more openness and transparency in Government, but they can’t get it, because of Dr. Faustus’ bargain.


An example of stonewalling and a decided lack of transparency occurred Thursday, September 1st, at the Standing Committee Meeting on Education and Economic Development, where the Opposition (Official and Third Party) wanted to know why many Islanders don't have reliable, real high speed internet, when promised it by the Ghiz government and Bell Aliant back in 2008. The contents of that contract between the government and Bell Aliant. Details are better here:

The Office of the Third Party applied on Friday for a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the 2008 Bell Aliant contract.


A note: In a Proportional Representation system, one would hope there would be less power plays and more good governance, with a ruling government unlikely to have a False Majority (of a much higher percentage of seats in the legislature than the percentage of popular vote). The Plebiscite on changing P.E.I.'s electoral system is in just about two months (October 29th to November 7th). It is time to talk to your friends and family about incidents like these high speed "promises", and have them think about electing governments in a different, more fair, way.


There has been some news of a proposal for a bottled water plant to open near Brookvale Ski Park on a private property down the road. The developer (or "proponent" and owner of the land) would like to bottle Prince Edward Island groundwater from this private well and truck and sell it off-Island. Wouldn't you like to have the "pristine" and the "down home" feeling about P.E.I. water anywhere? and it would make a lot of money! Sounds great!

Wait -- this is terrible all the way around.

First, P.E.I. relies on groundwater totally. Not rushing rivers from the north. Groundwater which we cannot see and cannot control.

Second, what kind of government would approve the sail its limited water just to increases Export numbers?

Third, bottled water is a necessity in certain emergency situations, and a convenience in many other situations. It's a ridiculous use of fossil fuels in countless ways -- to make the plastic bottles, to run the pump, to ship P.E.I.'s water off-Island.

Fourth, it would set a terrible precedent for extracting and exporting P.E.I. water.

In this case, because it is a small well (less that 50 gallons per minute), it is NOT a high capacity well and doesn't need an extraction permit, nor an Environmental Impact Assessment. The proponent has all the proper paper necessary done -- it all complies with the current Environmental Protection Act. (I may have some facts wrong.)

Of course, this is another reminder of how weak our P.E.I. environmental regulations in many cases.

Property owners within 100meters of the well, I think, were sent letters saying they could comment in a 21-day window, and about a week has ticked by. Residents have planned a community meeting on Monday, Labour Day, 7PM at the Brookvale Ski Park (presumably the lodge).

Though the meeting is intended for concerned residents, they won't turn any interested person away.


(On the birth of a new grandchild, from a P.E.I. grandfather who has certainly had his "Poppy Moment":)

But it reminds me all over again that putting corporate interests ahead of sustainability is to put greed ahead of my grandchildren. Our grandchild, and their future . . .

--Walter Wilkins

September 3, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Farmers' Markets are open in all the Summer Saturday locations:

Murray Harbour -- 9AM - noon

Stratford -- 9AM - 1PM

Morell -- 9AM - 1PM

Cardigan -- 10AM - 2PM

Morell -- 9AM - 2PM

Stratford (Robert Cotton Park) -- 9AM - 1PM

Charlottetown -- 9AM - 2PM

Summerside -- 9AM - 1PM


Some upcoming events:

Monday, September 5th:

Labour Day Picnic, 11AM-1PM, Joe Ghiz Park, Charlottetown.

All welcome for a BBQ hosted by the PEI Federation of Labour.

Facebook event details

And, since it's a great public event, "Join members of the PEI Coalition for Proportional Representation and Proportional Representation on PEI - Action Team for a Labour Day Picnic to celebrate unity and collect pledges!"


A note to people who travel on the TransCanada Highway to or from Charlottetown to or from the west:

Tuesday, September 6th:

Huge flashing traffic signs indicate the "Phase I" construction of roundabouts at Cows Creamery (Poplar Island) and Maypoint Road begins Tuesday, September 6th (a day earlier than the provincial chief engineer Stephen Yeo asserted at the Phase I public meeting last week). Often the first days are not disruptive to traffic, but often they are. Consider planning more time to get to town.

Tuesday, September 13th:

Public Meeting on Cornwall Bypass (the bypass part, "Phase II"), 7-9PM, APM Centre, Cornwall

This is the third of three meetings to take place about where this proposed road is actually going to bypass Cornwall, and is the only one meant for interested members of the public.

This means there is probably now a drawing that shows where the road will go. Affected landowners will be met with as a group, but privately. Affected business also get a private meeting (though the road may not be going over their land to still be considered affected).

(This whole Cornwall Bypass notion has been a bit of a mess, and now that there is federal government money, it appears it is such a rush job that does not inspire confidence.)


Good written federal political commentary isn't easy to write or find, apparently, and the retirement of some writers in recent months has shed more light on others. Paul Wells is published in The Guardian often, reprinted from The Star, and can be insightful, but cynical.

This comment about dairy farmers protesting (international "free trade" agreements) was mildly insulting:

(Regarding the atmosphere of this year's summer meeting of the Liberal caucus.)

This one is more businesslike. It is also vastly harder to get into. Hundreds of RCMP and Sûreté du Québec officers formed a cordon around the Delta on Thursday, more than I’ve ever seen for an event like this, far more than seemed warranted by the desultory clot of worried milk farmers who took turns reading speeches about trade policy to one another through a bullhorn.

Hohoho. But it does make one realize the disconnect between some people and the source of their food, and a narrow point of view of economics that our mainstream media can hold.

September 2, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

A late start to the computing morning, due to a protracted Windows' update....


The Cardigan Farmers' Market is open from 10AM to 2PM today.


Analyzing a different kind of community:

Happy Activism - Alternatives Journal article by Gideon Forman

Six ways to make our movement strong and feed our spirit.

Published on-line in Alternatives in July 2016

How do we make environmental organizations attractive to large numbers of people? And how do we keep these folks engaged for the years, even decades that it will take to create a sustainable society?

There are many potential movement enthusiasts – youth, retired people and engaged citizens among others – so it’s wrong to think there will only be one magnet. People become involved in movements for a host of reasons. It helps them protect the world their children will inherit. Some movements throw good parties. Inaction often makes people feel guilty. Joining can be a cure for loneliness. The list goes on.

My interest here is not to enumerate people’s reasons for activism but rather, based on these reasons, to articulate principles that movement organizers should follow to bring people to the cause. These principles are general and they won’t speak to everyone. They should help make environmental campaigns appealing to wider audiences.

1. The issue itself isn’t enough to keep folks engaged.

People join the environmental movement partly because they want to protect the natural world, but that concern is usually just one factor among several in their decision to be active. Young parents, for example, become involved partly out of concern for their kids’ future and partly because they enjoy spending time with other activist parents. I was a member of the 1980s peace movement at the University of Toronto because I was concerned about nuclear war and also because I wanted a community. I worked on a weekly peace-issues

program at the campus radio station which helped me make friends and gave me a place to hang my hat. I stayed involved for a number of years because I enjoyed the comradery of my fellow activists, one of whom was like an older brother to me.

2. Movements need to embrace popular culture, the arts and food.

The civil rights movement, Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the anti-Vietnam war protesters – all had a musical signature by which we knew them. Music wasn’t a frill here; songs like “We Shall Overcome” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” kept people marching. In the The CND Story, Ian Campbell argues that in the late 1950s, jazz and the British disarmament movement grew up together. He writes: “The jazz revival and the rise of CND were more than coincidental; they were almost two sides of the same coin. Similar social attitudes and positive humanist values informed them both.”

New York’s massive “People’s Climate March” in September of 2014 was inspiring, partly, because it included rap musicians, marching bands and giant puppets. In general it is the artists – not speech-makers – who win us over. There are exceptions of course. Martin Luther King Jr. captured audiences with brilliant oratory; Stephen Lewis and David Suzuki play a similar role today. But often we’re able to engage the “uninitiated” – people who don’t much concern themselves with the environment – through the popular song. They come for the music and then learn a bit of the politics. Think of Gord Downey performing at a rally against Line 9; Sarah Harmer singing to protect the Niagara Escarpment; Neil Young criticizing the tar sands. We need to connect with folks who care little about climate change but love the likes of Leonard Cohen.

Our movement needs more celebration and food. It needs to feed people spiritually and physically. At the end of our anti-war rallies in the 1980s, the Hare Krishna group provided hot vegetarian meals for weary walkers. A few years ago the David Suzuki Foundation organized the “Soupstock” festival in Toronto, which brought out tens of thousands of people in protest against a mega-quarry near the Niagara Escarpment. One may or may not have environmental concerns – but nearly everyone likes good cooking.

Think how often eating provides a setting for social life: we have a beer and chicken wings with colleagues after work; we share a Thanksgiving meal with family; we break the Yom Kippur fast with fellow congregants. Movements need to understand this and weave more food and drink into their activities. This has long been understood by religious groups. Hence the annual round of strawberry socials, fish-fries, summer bar-b-ques. Churches aren’t afraid to use food as an organizing tool; environmentalists shouldn’t be afraid either.

3. Movements need to be venues for friendship and community.

Modernity finds many of us hungry for community. Life feels thin if we’re highly atomized, off on our own for significant periods. Synagogues speak to this predicament. Hiking clubs do. The Rotary Club does. So should environmentalists.

Our events – be they street festivals, movie nights, demonstrations – need to be occasions for friends to gather. I went to the People’s Climate March in large measure because a dear pal suggested we go and I wanted to hang out with him. Though I care a great deal about the issue, I had little interest in navigating the demonstration (and the long bus ride and New York City itself) without a friend’s companionship.

I recently invited one of my sisters to a big climate march in Toronto. The first thing she remarked was that her activist buddies hadn’t said much about it and they didn’t seem likely to attend. Little surprise that she ended up not going herself – rallies just aren’t much fun if we go alone. Political life needs to be a venue for socializing. One constituency well-represented at the Toronto march was religious organizations; for example, the Unitarians’ social action committee attended as a group.

Movements should also provide space for making new friends. The David Suzuki Foundation understands this. It’s helping to create homes for bees and monarch butterflies through its Homegrown National Park project. The project works to naturalize urban areas – getting people to plant things like milkweed – but it’s also an exercise in community-building. In my downtown Toronto neighborhood the project hosts a pollinator festival – where I can enjoy good food, purchase native plants, and meet similar-minded people, some of whom live right near me. I can also collaborate with folks in “planting” flower-filled canoes throughout downtown Toronto – helping to make the city more livable for beneficial insects. This initiative nurtures not only pollinators but community. It builds habitat in which bees – and human friendship – can flourish.

4. Movements should help reduce our anxiety.

Scientists tell us that, even in Canada, the effects of climate change might be disastrous. We don’t need much convincing; we’re already seeing unusually strong flooding, drought and forest fires. Who can forget the blazes in BC and Saskatchewan in summer 2015? Anxiety and apprehensiveness are widespread

We worry not just about recent events but the years ahead.

The immediate questions become, What will help us weather this angst? What will let us carry on with a degree of optimism? Family and religion will provide support for some people, but a friend-based environmental movement can also be a source of strength.

Our companions help us develop the courage to go on, to walk into the future less afraid. They can take us away from our worrying-selves, our inward-brooding-selves, and turn us outward – toward the enlivening arena of debate and political engagement. Many of us feel less dispirited about the world when we’re actively trying to remake it.

But we can’t do this work just with strangers and acquaintances – though they may also be with us. To continue our activism year after year we need to be working alongside our pals. We need their reassuring presence. We need the comfort of our shared history and humour. We need the joy and illumination their discussion brings.

5. Movements need to show they can bring tangible benefits.

If organizers want to win our participation over the long term, movements need to show they can deliver the goods – bring positive change that we experience viscerally. Movements that don’t claim victories eventually become ex-movements. If they’re working to phase-out coal-fired power, for example, they need to close some plants and show folks that air quality actually improves. Ontario closed its last coal facility in 2014; the number of smog days that year was zero, down from 53 in 2005. This is the sort of accomplishment that inspires people’s engagement and donations.

The change that movements bring doesn’t have to be momentous; it can also be lovely, quiet and personal. Working with Physicians for the Environment, I helped to win lawn pesticide bans in communities across Canada. Following the bans’ implementation, folks told me they noticed more song-birds and butterflies in their community. The birds were once again landing in people’s yards and spending time there – clearly a joy for local homeowners. One family who had a severely chemical-sensitive child told me that thanks to the ban, they no longer had to leave the city each year during the spraying season. They were hugely grateful for my organization’s work and became major financial contributors.

6. Movements need to give our lives meaning

Actions that are beneficial to the world – and help define who we are – bring meaning to our lives. Activities that protect the environment – and help us see ourselves as protectors – qualify as meaningful. A movement that offers opportunities to undertake them will be attractive to many people.

When I was a child in New York in the late 1960s, my mother was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. She spent weekends giving out leaflets in our neighborhood; organized peace festivals in Fort Tryon park; went to major demonstrations along 5th Avenue and attended some in Washington. At the latter she, along with thousands of others, was tear-gassed. “When the cops gas you,” she said, “all you can do is run.” She was outraged at America’s bombing of civilians – and she vented that rage, sometimes alienating conservative family-members with her passion and vehemence.

Many of her personal relationships existed within the movement. My buddies were often the children of her movement pals. For my mother, the anti-war community was a little world, and within this world she knew who she was. She was someone who worked – and did so for many years – to stop the killing of innocents. Being a former refugee, she couldn’t remain idle in the face of her country’s horrific war-making. She made herself a participant in a great project for peace. She lived the life of a movement organizer – and it helped give her direction and purpose.

Environmental groups offering people meaningful experiences are going to be attractive over the long haul. We’re hungry for meaning, and movements that offer it make a compelling case for our time and commitment.

Part of environmental organizations’ mission is addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of their members. The projects we need to undertake are not short-term. We are not going to reach 100 percent renewable power nor create all the necessary greenbelts, organic agriculture and GHG emission-cuts by 2020. We require a movement that can keep its adherents – professional staff and volunteers – engaged for many years. That entails building organizations attentive to – and able to satisfy – our longing for cultural life, friendship, community and meaning.

September 1, 2016

Chris Ortenburger's CA News

Apparently, it's "The Empire Strikes Back" Day in The Guardian, as the main editorial raps the knuckles of the PEI Council of Canadians for recently calling on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation to reject the ample donation from Robert Irving/Cavendish Farms; then a few pages later, there is a beaming quarter-page ad from the Foundation thanking Irving/Cavendish Farms, featuring a dark suited Irving surrounded by a lot of smiling scrub-suited people. (This is much grander than a plain thank-you card.)

The opinion page carries an admonishing apologist-piece from a grad student at the Atlantic Veterinary College, rapping the knuckles of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water for speaking out about the process of the approval of the wells and the Environmental Impact Assessment for the AquaBounty expansion. (It seems when an opinion piece vociferously defends a company's "due diligence" on meeting all the environmental regulatory hoops for a controversial project, it only illuminates how weak our current regulations actually are.)


A deep breath, and here is Allan Rankin's "Thinking About It" column from The Graphic newspapers yesterday, and he does think about it (bold is mine):

The Irving donation to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital: Are there strings attached? - The Guardian "Thinking About It" column by Allan Rankin

Published on Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

It is easy these days to see goblins behind every fence post, or question the motives of big business, however the recently announced donation by the Irving corporation of one million dollars to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital raises some troubling questions.

The Irving family certainly is no stranger to endowing and financially assisting public institutions. When I was a graduate student at the University of New Brunswick, my study room was located on the top floor of the Harriet Irving Library, an impressive building named after the wife of legendary industrialist KC Irving, and made possible by a generous financial contribution to the university.

As most Atlantic Canadians know, the Irving empire headquartered in Saint John, New Brunswick, owns and controls vast natural resources in that province, and its economic power has led to immense political influence, regardless of the party holding office. A free press and liberal democracy are handmaidens, and yet the Irving family continues to exercise monopoly control over the province’s English language newspapers. It has been that way in New Brunswick for over 50 years.

Until the advent of Cavendish Farms in 1980, Prince Edward Islanders were unfamiliar with this kind of political pressure from big business. Local construction companies lobbied for contracts. Tourist operators and other small businesses scrambled for access to low interest government loans. But the players and the stakes were comparatively small.

That changed once the Irving industrial giant got a foothold in the province in the 1990s, eventually taking control of the Island potato industry, and creating a large and industrial workforce at its processing plant in New Annan. As a result, the Irving family and Cavendish Farms have a powerful influence over the decisions and policies of the provincial government, especially as they pertain to agriculture, land and the environment.

It is my experience that Island premiers are very accessible people. If time permits they will meet with just about anyone. But the premier’s office door is always open to Robert Irving and his sister Mary-Jean. They carry a big stick and to ignore their requests and complaints can be perilous for a government dependent upon their economic contributions.

That naked corporate power was apparent in June, 2014 when Cavendish Farms President Robert Irving and his then vice president of Agricultural Affairs, Blaine MacPherson, met with a provincial legislative committee to put forward their case for lifting the moratorium on deep water wells.

The PEI Potato Board, undoubtedly under the direction of Cavendish Farms, had made a similar request two years earlier and now the big stick was being waved. The Guardian newspaper at the time called the Irving presentation to the legislative committee an “ultimatum”, and certainly it left nothing to doubt. If the province refused to lift the deep well irrigation moratorium, Cavendish Farms would be forced to downsize its operations.

Government is now in the final stages of bringing forward a new Water Act, to better “protect the quantity and quality” of the Island’s water and ensure our water supply is “healthy and sustainable” into the future. This could be an historic environmental turning point for Prince Edward Island, one that asserts the fundamental right of citizens to an essential, vulnerable resource.

During the consultation stage last fall, the PEI Potato Board called for “equitable access” to water. That’s code for selectively allowing more irrigation from deep water wells in agricultural areas throughout the province. It is a monumental battle with environmental groups and most ordinary citizens on one side and potato growers and the processing industry on the other side.

That is why the one million dollar gift by Robert Irving to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital must be viewed as something other than selfless philanthropy, and why our premier and his government must retain a spotless heart when making decision about our water resources.

Leo Broderick of the Council of Canadians has questioned whether corporations should be making sizeable donations to publicly-funded institutions like the QEH, and I believe he raises a valid issue.

There is a very small and tight circle of economic and political power in our little province and it is always interesting to connect the dots.

In this dead serious drama around water, potatoes and government decision making, I will remind readers that Blaine MacPherson until recently was Robert Irving’s right hand man. Mr MacPherson now helps direct the affairs of Health PEI, which operates the QEH. Meanwhile, the past chair of the QEH Foundation is a Charlottetown lawyer who is also a close advisor to Premier MacLauchlan. Coincidentally, his law firm represents Irving business interests on the Island.

While not imputing dubious motives or impropriety to any of these associations, it is important to know they exist. Islanders can only hope the recent Irving donation to the QEH does not have strings attached and is not a cynical attempt to grease the skids for an eventual lifting of the moratorium on deep water wells.

A former Minister of Agriculture once told me that water is Prince Edward Island’s oil, presumably meant to be exploited, traded, and used like any other commodity.

That is a false and dangerous philosophy, one which I believe potentially threatens access to healthy, uncontaminated water by Island families and communities.

All Islanders can only hope that when Premier MacLauchlan and his Cabinet sit down to make water decisions, continuing to grow the Irving corporate giant’s industrial bean stock isn’t their first concern.