March 2nd, 2014

In yesterday’s Guardian were two letters regarding our groundwater, the first by this thoughtful Islander:

Listen to people, not big business
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 01, 2014
I am not a scientist, nor am I a farmer, but I am interested in what happens on Prince Edward Island. And I am puzzled.
Wednesday night I sat in a room with a few hundred other people concerned, as I am, with what is happening to this Island. I listened to John Joe Sark speak of how sacred the four elements are to the Miʼkmaq; I heard Reg Phelan discuss farming practices; Maude Barlow talked about the global water situation and Daryl Guignon explained how simple it would be to change and, in fact, reverse what is happening to our valuable resource — water.
Each of these people was able to explain in clear simple terms what needs to happen to improve our farming practices, halt anoxic events, prevent erosion and reduce the need for deep water wells.
How is it that I understood and yet our politicians canʼt? Apparently there are stacks of studies that have been completed by qualified people explaining all this and more. Studies that are sitting on shelves being ignored.
It is about time that our government listened to its people as opposed to the large corporations. When the streams dry up, the fishing industry dies, the soil is depleted and P.E.I. is a desert, the potato giants will have moved on to “greener pastures” and we, the people, will be left to sweep up the sand.
Martha Howatt,
Augustine Cove
And the second about various threats to our water:

West Prince facing danger
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 01, 2014
The P.E.I. government regulates pesticides. Environment Minister Janice Sherry is paid to preserve and enhance the quality of our natural environment, including water, air, soil, flora and fauna. Her department is supposed to enforce environmental laws.
A federal study confirms that after years of dumping oilsands tailings into holding ponds in Alberta, there are tailings leaching into groundwater and seeping into the Athabasca River, a source of drinking water. They estimate each pondʼs seepage at 6.5 million litres a day.
What about our Waste Watch containment area in West Prince? Are heavy metals being leached into ground water? The potato industry has a problem with wireworm. Some producers want to fumigate (sterilize) the soil with Vapam (metam sodium), which is a carcinogenic or cancer-causing compound.
The strawberry industry also has a disease virus transported by an aphid. A contract between our P.E.I. government and Environment Canada has supposedly been signed and Westeck will fumigate strawberry runner fields in West Prince this summer. Wayne MacKinnon, a government spokesman, claims this is only a pilot research program for experimental purpose to see how much leaches into the groundwater.
Nitrates leached into our drinking water. Then what?
West Prince is about to become guinea pigs for the federal Conservative and P.E.I. Liberal governments. Chloropicrin, a carcinogenic, will be applied. This pesticide is highly toxic, may be fatal if inhaled, can harm the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs and eyes. If ingested it can cause colic and death. It is toxic to fish.
Fumigants are inherently dangerous pesticides. Each year groups of us travel to West Prince strawberry fields and spend hundreds of dollars harvesting their fruits. Personally I will not be picking and purchasing strawberries from West Prince anymore.
Minister Sherry, are you going to do your job and stop this project, or sit on your hands as usual and watch the demise of a West Prince industry? What is the stance of all elected federal MPs on this atrocity?
Gary A. O. MacKay,
Birch Hill
Regarding the Commission on the Lands Protection Act:
An Island Wise Old Owl reminded me:
“The term “Gift of Jurisdiction” is in fact taken from the work of the Institute of Island Studies — first coined, I think,
by political scientist David Milne, and then a focus of the Institute’s work on small-island jurisdictions.”

Horace Carver named his report The Gift of Jurisdiction: Our Island Province,  and the title captures the lyricism and intensity of our relationship to the land.  In the first part, he reminds us that if PEI were part of Maritime Union, there would be no Lands Protection Act.  He also refers to a statement he made in 1980: “The most valuable resource on Prince Edward Island is not the possible oil and gas off our coast….but the top ten inches of our soil.  That is the most valuable aspect to us in how we are going to survive in the years to come.”

He sketches the history of land ownership since European settlement, of the absentee landowners and the money from Confederation in part being used to buy back part of Island land from the absentee landowners in England, and of various forms of some sort of LPA, always trying to figure out who wanted land and for what, and keeping some control in the matter, whether the rules were enforced or not.

Carver also outlined shared values he determined and felt all parties, whether for increases in land holding or not, would agree with:
page 16 and 17 (quoted in blue)
At several public meetings, the Commissioner expressed the hope that farmers and the farm organizations that represent them could agree on many of the issues that led to the current review of the Lands Protection Act.
A list of ‘shared values’    what could also be described as the founding elements of a balanced approach    was presented to the annual meeting of the National Farmers Union on April 11, just as the Commission neared the end of its public meetings. The ten shared values were drawn primarily from what the Commissioner perceived to be
common points of agreement between the National Farmers Union and the Federation of Agriculture, and they have been endorsed by both organizations.
It is simply not possible to achieve consensus on all issues that fall within the Commission’s mandate. The positions of the two general farm organizations are diametrically opposed on the issue of aggregate land holding limits. However, there is broad agreement in the agriculture community on the shared values outlined below.

Farm organizations and the Commission believe it is important to present these shared values to government and to all Islanders to let them know where these two farm organizations stand in agreement:
1. The land is a public trust and, because of this, all Islanders have an interest in its stewardship;
2. The water, the soil and the air are also public trusts, and all who own land have a responsibility to protect them;
3. The stated purpose of the Lands Protection Act is still relevant today, and there is a continuing need for this type of legislation;
4. Some form of government-supported land banking system is needed to enable more individuals to get into farming;
5. Environmentally-sensitive lands ought not to be farmed, and they must be excluded
from the aggregate land limits under the Lands Protection Act;
6. Farmers must be encouraged to adopt better crop rotation practices, through technical and financial assistance and better enforcement of the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act;
7. New ideas are needed to deal with the difficult succession issues which farmers and farm corporations routinely encounter;
8. The rural vistas and viewscapes which Islanders and visitors enjoy must be protected and preserved;
9. Large-scale purchase of land, also known as ‘land grabbing’, would be harmful to the interests of Prince Edward Island and must be guarded against; and
10. Farmers need to educate non-farmers on why farming is essential to our everyday lives and to life itself.
(Now, that last one can get stuck a bit in one’s craw, as we see it is all to easy to manipulate the word and its purpose.) But a lovely and constant set of values.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s