Standing Committee’s Report

The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry’s report to the P.E.I.Legislature from November 2014 is here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/sittings/2014fall/reports/11_2014-19-11-report.pdf


Here, by the way, is what is said about the Water Act in the Speech from the Throne, which was read on November 12th, 2014.  I know the Premier retreated the next day, and most elected officials in government are shrugging and saying, “The new Premier will have to decide” about pretty much everything, but folks behind the microphones are obviously still going to their offices and working on projects and policies.

from The Speech from the Throne, text here:
http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/SFT_E_11_14.pdf

page 14:
Safeguarding Our Environment

Our environment has an impact on the quality of life and health of
every Islander. More than in any other province, our economic success is
founded on healthy soils, clear air and clean water, healthy and diverse ecosystems,
and the beauty of of our landscape.

<<snip>>

 page 16:

Water matters to every Islander and our agricultural industry needs
clarity regarding its access to our water resource. To ensure both water
quality and water quantity for the long term, My Government will
undertake a thorough and careful process to develop a
Water Act for our province beginning with a public consultation process in the
coming months, and cross jurisdictional analysis.
The proposed Water Act will consolidate water-related legislation,
regulate the use of surface and groundwater, allocate water in times of
scarcity, protect streams, rivers and related aquatic environments, and
ensure water quality and quantity. Our goal is to regulate water use in a manner
respects human needs while safeguarding the environment.
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Standing Committee is meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, June 25th, at 1PM

The most time sensitive announcement is that the Standing Committee is
meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, June 25th, at 1PM for what is likely the
last meeting on the high capacity well issue. All are welcome to attend
and be in the public gallery. It is at the Coles Building, next to
Province House, and several individuals and groups will be presenting,
including the Citizens’ Alliance of PEI at the end. If you are near
town tomorrow afternoon, drop in for as long as you can!

Deep Water Wells Standing Committee

The dates are THIS Thursday, June 12th, and Wednesday, June 25th.  The Standing Committee of the PEI Legislature that has been listening to information about the issue of lifting the moratorium on high capacity wells for irrigation is meeting again twice this month.

Both meetings start at 1PM and are held in the Coles Building, which is the red brick building right next to Province House in Charlottetown.  The entrance faces Richmond Street and is near St. Paul’s Church and Murphy Community Centre.  There are both metered and free parking spaces in the area, but Richmond Street (Victoria Row) is now closed to cars.

Islanders are invited to be part of the “public gallery” in the Pope Room where the meetings are held.  It’s good for the Committee to see public interest in this issue.

This week there will be presentations from Cavendish Farms and the P.E.I. Potato Board, and from the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Phil Ferraro from the Institute for Bioregional Studies.

The June 25th meeting will have a presentation by Dr. Cathy Ryan, who was a panelist at the Water Forum on May 20th, and others. More details are here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/committees/getCommittees.php?cnumber=11

 

Standing Committee’s Findings – April 5th, 2014

Friday in the provincial legislature was informative (the high capacity well issue) and parts just a bit bombastic (the HST accounting questions during Question Period).

MLA Paula Biggar, who is chairperson for the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry, tabled a report from her committee about its work and recommendations to the Legislature.

The committee said they strongly urge the moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture not be lifted, as they want to let the last people present to them sometime after the House is done sitting (May?).  They also recommend that “Government develop a Water Act.”

Select Friday, April 4th, and it is about 66 minutes into the broadcast.
Legislative Assembly Video Archives

3:50 into the broadcast
Compass TV News from Friday night

A few comments:
As someone posted on Facebook — “Breathing room.  But no complacency.” — as a committee’s recommendation is not binding, and though reported on CBC, I don’t think it was the committee who was approached to lift the moratorium in the first place.

Here is a link to the Committee’s report that was tabled (five pages).

The transcript of today’s proceedings will be available here sometime early next week:

Do look at the whole five page report when you get a chance.  Note both the fact that Minister Webster is listed as having made a written submission, and the line in the report (bold is mine) shows that no final decision has been made is in bold here:

3. At the present time, your committee does not recommend any changes to the 2002 moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation.
Your committee wishes to continue its investigations into this matter, including hearing from the witnesses that were prevented from appearing due to bad weather, and additional individuals and organizations that have expressed interest. This has proven to be a complex issue and your committee does not wish to make recommendations prematurely. Witnesses to date have made compelling arguments both for and against the lifting of the moratorium, and your committee continues to consider these very carefully. The interest of so many individuals and groups and the capacity attendance at committee meetings to date speak to how important this issue, and water in general, is to Islanders. Your committee’s work is not done on this issue.

And it is likely there will be more ad-ucation from the Potato Board in the paper in the coming weeks…

But, overall, people taking notice of this issue, and coming to committee meetings, writing letters (which is key!), planning and attending public information events like the forum with Maude Barlow, and urging organizations to take a stand on this, and a group like the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water forming — all make a huge difference for the future of this Island.

Perhaps there is a change in the season.

The following is the report:

April 4, 2014

Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry Second Report of the Fourth Session, Sixty-fourth General Assembly Committee Activities and Request to Meet Intersessionally

Madam Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly:

Introduction

The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry is pleased to present its report to the Members of the Legislative Assembly concerning its activities during the Fourth Session of the Sixty-fourth General Assembly.

Mandate

The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry is charged with matters concerning agriculture, environment, energy and forestry. In addition, it may, by majority opinion, meet to examine and inquire into such matters and things as the committee deems appropriate.

Membership

Permanent members of your committee are:

Paula Biggar, Chair (District 23, Tyne Valley-Linkletter) James Aylward (District 6, Stratford-Kinlock)
Kathleen Casey (District 14, Charlottetown-Lewis Point) Bush Dumville (District 15, West Royalty-Springvale) Colin LaVie (District 1, Souris-Elmira)

Pat Murphy (District 26, Alberton-Roseville)
Hal Perry (District 27, Tignish-Palmer Road)
Buck Watts (District 8, Tracadie-Hillsborough Park)

Sonny Gallant (District 24, Evangeline-Miscouche) and Charles McGeoghegan (District 4, Belfast-Murray River) also served as substitute members.

Committee Activities

On February 5 your committee met to consider its work plan.

On February 13 your committee met to receive a presentation on deep well irrigation by Hon. Janice Sherry, Bruce Raymond and Jim Young of the Department of Environment, Labour and Justice.

On February 27 your committee met to receive presentations on deep well irrigation by the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, and Keptin John Joe Sark.

On March 6 your committee met to receive presentations on deep well irrigation by the National Farmers Union, the PEI Watershed Alliance, the Central Queens Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation, the Green Party of PEI, and Innovative Farms Group.

On March 14 your committee met to receive a presentation on the hog industry by the PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board; and presentations on deep well irrigation by the Cooper Institute, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, the PEI Federation of Agriculture, the Environmental Coalition of PEI, the Council of Canadians, Daryl Guignion, the PEI Shellfish Association, and the New Democratic Party of PEI.

An additional meeting was scheduled, but was twice canceled due to inclement weather. The following individuals and organizations were scheduled to present to the committee at this meeting: the Institute for Bioregional Studies (on the agriculture industry); Horace Carver, QC (on the Report of the Commission on the Lands Protection Act); and Dr. Adam Fenech, Hon. George Webster, the PEI Potato Board, the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club Canada, and Cavendish Farms (on deep well irrigation).

On April 3 your committee met to consider its report to the Assembly.

Recommendations
1. Your committee recommends that Government consider ways in which it can assist the PEI hog industry with the cost of shipping hogs to off-Island processing facilities.

The PEI hog industry has faced significant challenges in recent years. The number of hog farmers has dropped dramatically since the late 1970s, yet the few remaining in the industry have managed to keep the number of hogs shipped to market on a weekly basis roughly the same. According to information provided to your committee, the industry accounts for 3.5% of PEI’s agricultural GDP, yet receives less than 0.25% of provincial money allocated to agriculture. After several years of negative margins, current conditions in the industry point toward a profitable future. However, PEI’s producers remain at a disadvantage in that they must ship their hogs to Quebec for processing, costing them more than $12 more per hog above what other Canadian hog farmers pay on average for transportation. Measures to help ease the burden of hog transportation would encourage the sustainability and profitability of the PEI hog industry.

2. Your committee strongly recommends that Government develop a Water Act.

3. At the present time, your committee does not recommend any changes to the 2002 moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation.

Your committee wishes to continue its investigations into this matter, including hearing from the witnesses that were prevented from appearing due to bad weather, and additional individuals and organizations that have expressed interest. This has proven to be a complex issue and your committee does not wish to make recommendations prematurely. Witnesses to date have made compelling arguments both for and against the lifting of the moratorium, and your committee continues to consider these very carefully. The interest of so many individuals and groups and the capacity attendance at committee meetings to date speak to how important this issue, and water in general, is to Islanders. Your committee’s work is not done on this issue.

Conclusion

Your committee extends its thanks to the various individuals and organizations that shared their views in the past several months. The committee members hope Islanders continue to advocate for issues of importance in the areas of agriculture, environment, energy and forestry.

By receipt and adoption of this report, your committee requests permission to meet beyond prorogation of the Fourth Session of the Sixty-fourth General Assembly in order to complete its business intersessionally.

Respectfully submitted,

Paula Biggar, MLA
Chair
Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry

 

Witnesses Appearing Before the Committee

Allen, Boyd (Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water) Angus, Randy (Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI) Bevan-Baker, Peter (Green Party of PEI)
Broderick, Leo (Council of Canadians)

Burge, Marie (Cooper Institute)
Cameron, Dale (PEI Watershed Alliance)
Campbell, Brenda (PEI Shellfish Association)
Corrigan, Cathy (PEI Watershed Alliance)
Dingwell, Scott (PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board)
Douglas, Angela (PEI Watershed Alliance)
Dupuis, Todd (Atlantic Salmon Federation)
Durant, Mike (Central Queens Branch, PEI Wildlife Federation)
Guignion, Daryl
Harris, Megan (Central Queens Branch, PEI Wildlife Federation)
Hill, Loman (PEI Shellfish Association)
Jamieson, John (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
Keenan, Alvin (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
Lanthier, Darcie (Green Party of PEI)
Larsen, Paul (PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board)
Ling, Edith (National Farmers Union)
MacKinnon, Steven (National Farmers Union)
MacLeod, Leah (Cooper Institute)
Mazer, Don (Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water)
McKenna, Gordon (Innovative Farms Group)
McRae, Daniel (Environmental Coalition of PEI)
Mogan, Darragh (New Democratic Party of PEI)
Murray, Barry (PEI Watershed Alliance)
O’Brien, Catherine (Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water)
Phelan, Reg (National Farmers Union)
Raymond, Bruce (Department of Environment, Labour and Justice)
Redmond, Mike (New Democratic Party of PEI)
Robinson, Mary (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
Sark, Keptin John Joe
Schurman, Kevin (Innovative Farms Group)
Seeber, Tim (PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board)
Sherry, Hon. Janice, Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General Webster, Jason (Innovative Farms Group)
Wheatley, Ann (Environmental Coalition of PEI)
Young, Jim (Department of Environment, Labour and Justice)

4

Written Submissions Received by the Committee

Beck, Jenny
Beck, Jim and Marion
Beck, Ken
Beck, Ruth and John
Durant, Mike (Central Queens Branch, PEI Wildlife Federation) Ing, David
Jamieson, John (PEI Federation of Agriculture)
MacDonald, Donald
PEI Potato Board
Phelan, Reg
Reddin, Ellie (Save Our Seas and Shores, PEI Chapter)
Reddin, Tony (Environmental Coalition of PEI)
Smith, Kip
Southward, Peter
Te Raa, John
Webster, Hon. George, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

 

Standing Committee’s Report on Deep Wells

Here is information forwarded from Committee Clerk Ryan Reddin regarding today’s announcement (in red):

To past witnesses and those who have expressed interest in appearing before the committee;
 
The committee’s report on its activities was tabled in the legislature today and is available here:
(Under Committee Reports for 2014, select the proper committee and then the report entitled “Committee Activities and Request to Meet Intersessionally”)
 
You can also watch the proceedings in which the report was tabled at the Assembly Video Archive located here:
(Choose the video for April 4)
 
The transcript of today’s proceedings will be available here in the near future:
 
In regard to the moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation, the report notes that the committee has not completed its examinations of this issue and still wishes to hear from witnesses who were prevented from appearing due to bad weather and additional witnesses who have expressed interest in appearing. Additional committee meetings will likely take place after the legislative session finishes later this spring, and I will be touch with those witnesses at that time.
 
Ryan Reddin
Research Officer & Committee Clerk

Additional comments from Chris:
Gary found the direct link to the report here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/sittings/2014spring/reports/11_2014-04-04-report.pdf

Do look at the whole five page report when you get a chance.  Both the fact that Minister Webster is listed as having made a written submission, and the line in the report (bold is mine)…

3. At the present time, your committee does not recommend any changes to the 2002 moratorium on new high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation.
Your committee wishes to continue its investigations into this matter, including hearing from the witnesses that were prevented from appearing due to bad weather, and additional individuals and organizations that have expressed interest. This has proven to be a complex issue and your committee does not wish to make recommendations prematurely. Witnesses to date have made compelling arguments both for and against the lifting of the moratorium, and your committee continues to consider these very carefully. The interest of so many individuals and groups and the capacity attendance at committee meetings to date speak to how important this issue, and water in general, is to Islanders. Your committee’s work is not done on this issue.

…reminds us that we will need to continue to watch and plan!

Paula tables the report at about 66 minutes into the broadcast on the Legislative Assembly video link.

I have written back to Ryan Reddin asking if the written submission by Minister Webster is available publicly.

And it is likely there will be more ad-ucation from the Potato Board in the paper in the coming weeks…

Cancelled again!

The Standing Committee Meeting on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and and Forestry is NOT meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, April 1st, to have briefings by Horace Carver and more presentations on the high capacity well issue.

It appears the meeting **won’t be rescheduled until after the Legislature finishes the Spring Sitting**, so that would be likely be in May.

Legislative Committee website link

Last Standing Committee Presentations Moved

… to Tuesday!

Not Monday: The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry has changed the date of the last meeting before the Spring Sitting of the Legislature from Monday to Tuesday, April 1st, at 9AM, at the Pope Room of the Coles Building. It is likely to go until 1PM at least, but one presenter is not on the revised notice (Minister Webster). I only received the notice Friday afternoon and have no explanations for the change in time or change in presenters. Please check to see if you can pop in for a bit.

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Saturday, March 15th

Quite the list of presenters at the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry yesterday in the Coles Building.  It ended up going from 10AM to about 3PM, with a short lunch break.  But it was completely interesting.

On Compass, it was the top news story, a pastiche of clips:
http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/PEI/ID/2441995351/
First there was an update on the provincial hog industry by three very nice people (two producers and the executive director of the PEI Hog Commodity Marketing Board).
Hog farmers have had it rough, but they feel the cycle that was elongated into a “supercycle” of extended poor years is turning upwards.
Hog production on the Island has such history!  (Especially the last dozen years with the local plant and such.)   I do know that the large producers left have their hogs go off-Island to be butchered (at a federally-inspected). That was just accepted as fact.  There was no mention of the small (successful) farmers who raise and sell fresh pork,fresh sausages, deli meats, and smoked hams and bacon.  By the way, these local folks are likely at a Farmers’ Markets day :-).

(There was a great deal regarding other presentations I hope to address later.)

The last presentation on the moratorium on high capacity wells, the ninth!) was from the NDP PEI,  and as I got a copy of their presentation, I’ll paste their closing statement here (the standing committee could just change the names and submit this to the Legislature):

In summary, the position of the NDP PEI is that the request by the corporate potato sector to lift the moratorium on deep water wells for irrigation purposes does not take into consideration the fact that access to a plentiful supply of safe drinking water is a basic human right, represents a direction in agriculture that we should be moving away from, and is not based on scientific evidence that has been properly adjudicated by either the scientific community or the public at large.
The NDP PEI recommends that:

  •  Before any consideration at all is given to the request by corporate agriculture to lift the deep-water well moratorium, a comprehensive provincial water policy be developed as a way to safeguard the public interest. Such a policy should be established using a process that involves a knowledgeable Task Force and full public consultation. Given the urgency of having such a water policy in place, this should be tackled by government in the next session, at which the Task Force should be struck and provided with a 6-month deadline to file its report.
  •  A further prerequisite to considering the request to lifting this moratorium should be a broadly based peer review process of the scientific justification for doing so. Scientists who are experts in groundwater research should be given the opportunity to debate and critique the merits of the proposal, using the precautionary principle as an overriding guideline. It is imperative that this process be open to the public. If, and only if, government wishes to pursue the request by the Potato Board & Cavendish Farms to lift the moratorium on deep water irrigation (i.e. beyond a simple: “No”), the process of exposing the data obtained by provincial employees to peer review and public consultation should be initiated by government during the next session, in parallel with the Water Task Force proceedings.
  •  The provincial government needs to develop a strategy to encourage farmers to move away from an industrialized model built around a monoculture of potatoes toward a diversified, organic, and sustainable model that is less dependent on irrigation and environmentally – harmful soil amendments. This is a long-term policy change that should have been done decades ago. It will require careful deliberation by government in consultation with appropriate experts, stakeholders, and the general public. Serious discussions should begin within government immediately.