Maude Barlow among Speakers on Water, NAFTA and Supply Management Oct. 10

Boiling Point_Poster_FBThe Council of Canadians PEI Chapter will hold a Public forum on water, NAFTA and supply management on Tuesday, October 10, 7 p.m. at the Rodd Charlottetown, Kent Street, Charlottetown.

Maude Barlow, Honourary Chairprson of the Council of Canadians, author of Boiling Point, her latest book, will speak on government neglect, corporate abuse, and Canada’s water crisis including PEI’s.

Doug Campbell, District Director of PEI National Farmers Union will address water issues facing Prince Edward Island including the new PEI Water Act, drought, climate change, and the moratorium on high capacity deep water wells for agricultural irrigation. Doug will also discuss Supply Management as it relates to trade deals.

Scott Sinclair, trade expert and senior researcher with the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives will give an overview of what’s at stake for Islanders and Canadians in the current NAFTA negotiations.

The Public Forum is free and everyone is welcome. There will be an opportunity for public participation.

Leo Broderick, Chair of the Council of Canadians is urging Islanders to attend. “We are at a critical time on PEI as we face increased pressure from Cavendish Farms and PEI Potato Board to have the moratorium on high capacity deep water wells lifted. Our water is still being contaminated from agricultural pollution. As well, supply management is threatened by trade deals including NAFTA. Islanders need to know the facts and take a stand. This public forum will help.”

Nouhad Mourad, chair of the Council of Canadians’ PEI Chapter will be the moderator and Eliza Knockwood will open the Public Forum.

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Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water Calls for Improved Environmental Assessment Process

Charlottetown – The decision of the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment to allow genetically modified salmon to be grown in Prince Edward Island was the result of a faulty environmental assessment process, says a local environmental group.

On Tuesday, July 11, representatives of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water met with Minister Mitchell to discuss the Coalition’s concerns about the approval of the proposal by AquaBounty Canada, Inc. to expand their plant in Rollo Bay West. The original approval, which was for an egg production facility, was expanded to a facility at which genetically modified salmon would be grown to market size, and then killed before being exported. 

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The group is unhappy about the approval for a variety of reasons, including the public consultation process, which they say was inadequate and poorly advertised. “Even after Environment officials decided to extend the deadline for submissions, there wasn’t really enough time for people to become informed enough or to prepare to respond to the application for such a big project,” says Catherine O’Brien, Chairperson of the Coalition. 

The fact that the new application by Aqua Bounty was judged not to warrant a new environmental assessment is of particular concern. Gary Schneider sits on the Multi-Interest Advisory Committee reviewing federal environmental assessment processes. He says there should have been a new and complete Environmental Impact Assessment, given that the new AquaBounty proposal was so substantially different from their original application, approved a year ago, when the stated intention was to only grow GMO eggs to be shipped elsewhere to be raised. “This is a classic example of “project splitting”, where the company was able to get approval for a smaller piece of the project (raising eggs) and then returned a short time later with what would seem to be their actual plan, thereby avoiding an independent evaluation of a very different project. The environmental impact assessment for this project was woefully inadequate.”

The coalition is also very concerned about environmental impacts of the new facility, and the potential for contamination of the wild salmon population should a GMO organism escape. They echo the concerns voiced by the Council of Canadians – published on July 17 in the Guardian – about AquaBounty’s environmental record, wastewater treatment and water use.

PEI will now become the first place in the world where GMO animals are grown for human consumption, and this has happened without any kind of public discussion, says Don Mazer, who also attended the meeting with the Minister. “There has been a complete absence of public debate about the merits of this idea, its social and ethical implications, and whether Islanders, and Canadians actually support this practice – it is quite astonishing.”

In responding to the Coalition’s concerns, the Minister indicated that responsibility for such projects is shared between different levels and departments of government.  He construed his own responsibilities quite specifically, and was pleased that the current project would use less water than the initial project (approved a year ago), due to a plan to recirculate the water. He was satisfied that the application met all of the specific requirements of established protocols for environmental assessment. The Minister felt that any broad ethical discussion about the merits of GMOs would be a federal responsibility, far beyond his jurisdiction, and he did not indicate any interest in taking a leadership role to create opportunities for such discussions.

And, as with the previous AquaBounty application, the Minister felt that it was not reasonable to ask applicants to wait for the new policies in the upcoming Water Act before having their proposals acted upon. In summary, he seemed quite satisfied with the process of approval for the expanded AquaBounty facilities. However, speaking for the coalition, Ann Wheatley noted that, “From our perspective, this approval is a clear reflection of how inadequate the current Environmental Impact Assessment processes are.” The Minister did encourage the Coalition to share their ideas for more thorough EIA processes. The Coalition has committed to do so, over the next few months.

Coalition members took the opportunity to ask for an update on the Water Act. The Minister indicated that the final draft would be posted online when it goes to the Legislature in the fall. No details were offered about what changes had been made to the first draft of the act as a result of the last round of consultations. When the issue was raised about the provision for municipalities to exceed limits the Act would set for water extraction, Minister and staff indicated that they hoped that this would be a temporary situation, but that they were not inclined to include time limits on that clause. “We suggested that it seemed like bad policy to enshrine an ongoing right for municipalities to break the law,” says Don Mazer. “They indicated that that they will take that idea under advisement.”

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For more information about this media release please contact Catherine O’Brien – cathjobrien@gmail.com, or Ann Wheatley – ann@cooperinstitute.ca

Oceans Day 2017

Thursday, June 8th is World Oceans Day, and to mark the occasion, Save our Seas and Shores PEI and the Holland College Green Machine will present SONIC SEA, the award-winning documentary film about the devastating impact of human-produced ocean noise on whales and other marine life.

SONIC SEA travels beneath the ocean’s surface to uncover the damaging consequences of increased ocean noise pollution and what can be done to stop it. Narrated by Academy Award-nominated actress Rachel McAdams and featuring interviews with marine ecologists, ocean life experts, and wildlife activists, including Grammy-Award winning musician, human rights and environmental activist Sting, SONIC SEA highlights how noise from a range of human-made sources has affected whales in recent years, including the mass stranding of whales around the planet. The film uncovers how better ship design, speed limits for large ships, quieter methods for underwater resource exploration, and exclusion zones for sonar training can work to reduce the noise in our oceans and stop the deaths of our ocean’s beloved creatures, as long as society has the political will to solve it. [discovery.com]

The film will be shown in Room 21C at Holland College, main campus, starting at 7 p.m.

Immediately following the screening, Dr Lindy Weilgart will be available to comment and answer questions. Lindy is an Adjunct Research Associate at Dalhousie University, and specialist in the effects of underwater noise pollution on cetaceans. She has served as invited noise expert for DFO Canada, U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, International Whaling Commission, NATO, European Parliament, Convention on Biodiversity, and the United Nations, and has published numerous peer-reviewed papers. She currently serves as Scientific Advisor for the International Ocean Noise Coalition.

Stratford & Area Watershed Improvement Group Shares Concerns about Draft Water Act

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The Stratford and Area Watershed Improvement Group, a member of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, made a written submission

– There is a significant concern regarding the ability of the minister to allow municipalities to exceed water allocation rates, even outside of emergency situations or exceptional circumstances. Further, even “emergency” exceedances should be time-limited, and only where water conservation and all other means to reduce demand have been implemented; including, for example, restrictions on non-essential uses such as car washing and lawn watering.

– Outside of the definitions, water conservation is not addressed within the Act itself, whether from a residential, commercial, industrial or municipal perspective. SAWIG strongly feels water conservation is a fundamental component to long-term protection and preservation of PEI’s water. It is unfathomable that municipalities and other sectors will be allowed to increase their water use when conservation is not taken into consideration. Continue reading “Stratford & Area Watershed Improvement Group Shares Concerns about Draft Water Act”

Coalition Presents its Concerns about the Draft Water Act

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The Coalition is made up of over 20 member groups and hundreds of individual members. Members include ECO PEI, The Cooper Institute, NFU Region 1 District 1, Sierra Club of PEI, Citizens’ Alliance, The Council of Canadians, Don’t Frack PEI, Save our Seas and Shores, and several watershed groups. You’ve heard from some of our member organizations in the last couple meetings. We concur with those presentations you heard, and would like to add a few more points.

The initial consultation process was inclusive and transparent. More time was added for feedback when asked, and many of our recommendations were put forward to you from the EAC. We see some of those recommendations in the draft act.

We would like to ask you once again to continue this positive process and include more meaningful public participation in the creation and completion of the water act.

Concerned Islanders must have a real opportunity to be heard and to feel that they have had a chance to influence the ultimate decisions. I’d like to refer to this chart that demonstrates the best practices for meaningful public participation.

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Continue reading “Coalition Presents its Concerns about the Draft Water Act”

Don Mazer Comments on the Draft Water Act

“The clearest evidence of the failure of this Act to protect Untitledin Winter River is in the creation of Municipal Water Supply Area. And most troubling of all is Section 35(b), that gives the minister the authority to permit municipalities to exceed the limits on water extraction permitted by the Act, with neither reasons, nor time limits –perhaps this will be in the regulations. In my earlier brief I talked about the impacts of big interests, like municipalities and corporations which the government would be reluctant to regulate. This is clear example of this influence.
This is a disturbing and perplexing provision. It seems to reflect how government will try to balance the human demand for water with the need for water for healthy ecosystems and fish life. It indicates a willingness to not protect some waterways if the City requires the water. Perhaps, ‘you just can’t protect them all.’ Continue reading “Don Mazer Comments on the Draft Water Act”

Winter River/Tracadie Bay Watershed Group on the Draft Water Act

UntitledSarah Wheatley and Cathy Corrigan of the Winter River/Tracadie Bay Watershed Group made some excellent points in their presentation, including the need to address the issue of moving water from one watershed to another:

“Banning water exports from PEI is a good step, but it doesn’t address an existing problem.

Water is being exported from the Winter River watershed in the process of supplying Charlottetown with water.

Other provinces have banned the movement of water between watersheds (ex. BC, ON).

Small scale exports, across small distances might not cause much issue, but the levels exported from Winter River clearly do have a negative impact.”

See their powerpoint presentation here

Environmental Coalition Comments on Draft Water Act

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The Environmental Coalition made a presentation at the public consultation on the draft Water Act, April 12 at Poole’s Corner. Here’s some of what Daniel MacRae and Ann Wheatley had to say:

Legislation aimed at preservation and conservation is paramount in moving forward to protect our water, but it’s not enough.  In this province, fish kills and anoxia are recurring, predictable events. At the same time, people are, with reason, concerned about high levels of Nitrates in their drinking water. As strong as the Act may be in terms of dealing with contaminants after the fact, there does not seem to be anything about preventing contamination from occurring in the first place.

While it’s true that agriculture is not the only source of contamination of water, much can be attributed to overdependence on chemical inputs such as pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers, and practices such as fall plough
ing with no cover crops, removal of hedgerows, inadequate crop rotation & buffer zones. We acknowledge that many farmers are caring for the land and water, but really, we can’t dance around the problem. Within the act there should be some indication of how contamination of water will be prevented. While the particulars may indeed be contained within other pieces of legislation, there should be something within the actual water act that establishes those links, and maybe even calls for regular review of pertinent Agriculture and Land Use Acts and Regulations to ensure that all possible measures are in place to prevent contaminants from entering our water.”

Read the whole presentation here: ECOPEI – Draft Water Act April 2017.

Coalition Members Make Presentations on the Draft Water Act

Leo Broderick made a presentation on the draft water act on April 5 in Summerside. See his presentation notes here.

He asked, “How will the Water Act protect our groundwater?” and showed an old map of nitrate contamination in PEI, suggesting that groundwater in several areas of the province is not fit to drink. And that the Act does not have leverage to deal with what is a growing public health issue in the province associated with nitrate- contaminated water and most likely with pesticides as well.

Gary Schneider sent a submission electronically. You can read the whole thing here. And here’s an excerpt:

“After carefully reading the draft Act, I still don’t know how we are going to protect water in this province. I would have liked to have seen, even in a preamble or in the “Inside the Water Act” document, a statement on how we’re going to substantially reduce nitrates and pesticides in our waterways. Islanders need and deserve clear and enforceable targets on reducing nitrates, agricultural and cosmetic pesticides, and soil erosion, and to know how these will be achieved. This will include everything from removing loopholes and strengthening the crop rotation legislation to increasing the width of buffer zones as needed to protect waterways.”