March 17th, 2014

Some meaningful letters addressing the high capacity well issue — these were printed on just one day, and was “balanced” by the editorial the next day and the Potato Board ad the next…..

This is from John Joe Sark’s address to the Legislative committee on February 27:

Mother Earth in danger from deep-water wells
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 12, 2014

I can see great damage being done to Mother Earth if the moratorium on deep-water
irrigation wells is lifted.
There is enough damage caused by the use of poison pesticides and herbicides used by the large corporations to grow potatoes. It saddens me to see and hear about thousands of fish floating dead in our streams and rivers after a heavy rainfall.
This has been happening year after year for too many years. If these chemicals can kill our fish, then how safe are they for the human population?
We hear of illness and death caused by these chemicals in our human population, among our brothers and sisters, in the animal kingdom and among birds of prey that depend on these fish to live.
Water is one of the most sacred elements of the Miʼkmaq People. The water, air and Mother Earth are all sacred elements, without anyone of these all life on Mother will die. All of these sacred elements are so interconnected that whatever we do to the water will affect the land and will affect the air.
I, along with many others, am against the drilling of deep wells for irrigation of the potato crops, as I believe it will only add to the problem of more water from the potato fields flowing into our once pristine rivers and streams and seeping down into our water table.
As keptin of the Miʼkmaq Grand Council for the District of Epekwitk, I strongly recommend that the moratorium on high- capacity deep wells for potato field irrigation not be lifted until we are sure these deep-water wells will not harm the quality of fresh water in this province.
To date, there is no evidence that we can be sure.
We have no idea what happens to our underground water, which flows under the surface. We have no idea how much of that water is available to us and what could happen to it if more deep wells were dug for the purposes of those who appear to place profit over the needs of the greater population and future generations of Islanders.
The present model of industrial agriculture cannot be working for P..E.I and it is time we faced this and built the alternatives needed now and in the future. We need to realize that corporate and industrial agriculture has had its day and that trying to rescue it will inflict great damage on Mother Earth.
She is already too wounded by this model of agriculture, which has resulted in destruction of land, water, trees, human and animal life.
Organic farmers are not asking for deep wells. They donʼt need them because they have environmentally friendly agricultural methods, which are building up the soil, treating water responsibly and enhancing human and animal health.
As Prince Edward Islanders we have to come together and demand that the government of P.E.I. maintain the moratorium on high capacity deep water wells. Set up monitoring systems on the wells that are now operating, and create legislation with teeth, so that these wells can be shut down if they are endangering our water table, our clean water supply, or causing harm to our soil.
Dr. John Joe Sark LLD is keptin of the Miʼkmaq Grand Council for the District Of Epekwitk (P.E.I.).


Potato danger all-consuming
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 12, 2014

First of all I would like to say this deep-water wells venture is too risky and could destroy our Island with the protocol we are using to determine the facts needed to make such a monumental decision. The very future and existence of P.E.I. is at stake here. No water . . . nobody can live without water. The process to determine this needs to be more scientific.
Without proper tests to assess the quality and quantity of the available water on P.E.I., this request should be turned over to an independent committee to ensure the proper research and studies are completed. When the data is available, an informed decision can be made. Careful consideration is required to determine potential damage to our drinking water and environment.
Secondly, my research indicates health-care scientists are studying the health problems associated with eating foods that spike our blood sugars. More and more people are becoming insulin-sensitive and developing diabetes, cancer and heart problems with the spike in insulin created from eating foods like potatoes. How much longer will people consume potatoes? French fries are even worse considering they are fried in canola oil.
The misinformation regarding the P.E.I. potato industry contributing $1 billion to our micro- economy is not accurate. The majority of the money ends up off-Island and does very little to grow our economy or create a tax base to pay for the health-care problems it creates. Nor does this industry compensate adequately our education requirements.
Finally, I would like to leave food for thought: “Mankind will not destroy Mother Earth, man can only destroy our ability to live on Mother Earth.” Mother Earth is a living cathedral, with real feelings and needs. She must have harmony and balance, she can shake mankind off her back like a dog shaking ticks off their back. She has many ways to do this, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis and tidal waves. Think about it.
Wayne MacKinnon,


Potato processors bargain through blackmail
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 12, 2014

A Readers View
I have lived on the Island for almost 19 years. For those 19 years, anytime the Irvings or McCains think that they are not going to get their way, they threaten to pull out and take their jobs with them. It is a bargaining tool of theirs. This is not a good debating point, it is blackmail.
Showing “candid” photos of hard-working farm families is a bit like a defence lawyer pointing to a murder suspect and saying to the jury does this person look like a murderer. Again this is not a good debating point for or against deep-well drilling. We all know and respect that farmers only want to make a living and do not want to harm the environment. The trouble is past farming practices have not been good and perhaps growing potatoes for the french fry factories is not good, sustainable farming practice.
When I first moved to P.E.I., my late husband and I rented out cottages for the summer. Our property backed onto a potato field. Late one fall, the field was plowed. We thought it was rather late to be plowing and then planting a cover crop. One night we had a terrible windstorm. The next day our lawns, cottages, in fact, the entire property was covered in red dust. So were the properties across the road, there was even soil in the cottages. We called the farmer, talked to him. He said he was putting in potatoes the next year, and because the growing season for this type of potato on P.E.I. was too short they had to plow in the fall.
He also stated that usually the ground froze over and there was snow cover so it did not matter. At the time I thought why are they growing a type of potato that requires a longer growing season than they naturally have. Of course these potatoes were for french fries. It seemed to me t was neither scientific or good farming practice that one should hope the ground froze before the winds came.
It was a terrible mess to clean up in the spring and I wondered whether the farmer was hoping the wind would blow the soil back onto his field. In Australia, which is a continent not an island, they have been irrigating for years, especially for the wine industry. Now their rivers are drying up. So please no pictures or threats, a proper debate is needed.
Carol Capper,


Three things spark our pride
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 12, 2014

There are three things Canadians seemingly take great pride in — hockey, our Medicare and our vast supply of fresh water. With that being said it appears the only thing thatʼs thriving is our hockey after another gold performance at the Olympics.
Prince Edward Island has seen a disintegration of our health care and our fresh water supply. With wait times increasing and residents having to incur expensive trips or even hitchhike to Halifax for health services itʼs hard to believe we live in Canada.
Our health-care system is falling fast as well. The download of health- care costs from the feds to the provinces makes it hard for any health care to function. Itʼs made even worse by a provincial government that doesnʼt seem to understand spending wisely versus spending foolishly.
When thinking of fresh water, many will remember another summer of water problems for the city of Charlottetown as well as continuous river closures due to runoff in the summer and fall over the last few years. Itʼs hard to believe P.E.I. with all its fresh water faces these problems.
Recent calls for deep-water wells set a dangerous precedent as it opens up the already fragile Island water table to more pressure. Itʼs time we as Islanders take a stand against this and work to protect and preserve our Island water for future generations. Problems in Charlottetown over the last two summers with the Winter River Watershed should serve as a wake-up call and remind us that without proper care and protection of our water resources — we will run out. There was a time when I was growing up that buying bottled water was unheard of but nowadays this has become the norm.
I love P.E.I. with all my heart but itʼs becoming hard to live here. Itʼs time for accountability and transparency, wise spending not wasteful spending and care for the citizens of the province. Perhaps then even our politicians will be worthy of a gold.
Melvin Reeves,

And the website for the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water:

And the last recommendation in the section of The Carver Commission report dealing specifically with Aggregate Land Holdings discusses “Land Grabbing”.

It’s an excellent section and I found it hard to trim it, so here is most of it:

The term ‘land grabbing’ refers to the contentious issue of large-scale land acquisitions, primarily the buying or leasing of large pieces of land in developing countries, by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals. While used broadly throughout history, land grabbing as used today primarily refers to large-scale land acquisitions following the 2007-2008 world food price crisis.
On Prince Edward Island, the chief concern has been the purchase and control of land by non-residents, primarily shore frontage. The Commission’s research into the question and consultation with Islanders indicates that non- resident ownership is not as great a concern as it was when the Lands Protection Act came into force. The real estate industry provided valuable insight on this subject. Their experience shows that following the 2008 global financial crisis, demand for property here slowed considerably.

Since then, the trend has been toward sales by non-residents rather than purchases.
However, in the Commission’s view, this temporary trend does not mean Prince Edward Island will remain immune to market pressures in the longer term.

As presently written, the Lands Protection Act offers no protection against purchase by any resident of a large land holding of just less than 1,000 acres. Such purchases by resident individuals can be achieved without IRAC and Executive Council approval.

Since the definition of ‘resident’ is a person who resides in the province for 183 days per year, non-consecutively, it is conceivable that offshore interests could acquire large tracts of land through the use of creative planning. For example, students attending university or college here for a couple of years could each buy up to 1,000 acres of land. Or someone could assist them with the purchase. In addition, the Act offers no protection against the purchase of farmland by individuals who have no intention of keeping it in agricultural production.

The Commission heard two messages loud and clear:
1.    That the provincial government should take advantage of its legislative authority to keep land under the ownership and control of Islanders and those who want to become resident here; and
2.    That agricultural land should remain in food production, preferably under the control of resident bona fide farmers.
The Commission recommends:
As it now stands, a non-resident can acquire up to 5 acres of land or 165 feet of shore frontage without Executive Council approval. Those who want more must apply to Executive Council, and approval is usually granted.
The Commission believes the provincial government must seek the views of Islanders on the question of whether non- residents should be permitted to acquire large tracts of land. The related question of whether residents who are not bona fide farmers and who have no intention of farming should be able to hold 1,000 acres needs to be debated as well. In other words, how much is enough, and how much is too much?

5. That the provincial government use data collected under the Registry Act to monitor the sale and purchase of large tracts of farmland by residents and non- residents who are not bona fide farmers, and place restrictions on future transactions,  if deemed necessary; exceptions would be made in cases where non-residents receive land from residents via will or inheritance.

As it now stands, a non-resident can acquire up to 5 acres of land or 165 feet of shore frontage without Executive Council approval. Those who want more must apply to Executive Council, and approval is usually granted.
The Commission believes the provincial government must seek the views of Islanders on the question of whether non- residents should be permitted to acquire large tracts of land. The related question of whether residents who are not bona fide farmers and who have no intention of farming should be able to hold 1,000 acres needs to be debated as well. In other words, how much is enough, and how much is too much?

These are important questions that must be addressed, but further public discussion and debate are required.

Land grabbing is a global phenomenon. It became an issue on Prince Edward Island in the 1960s when non-residents began buying shore frontage, and it remains a concern to this day. While the global economic downturn has slowed interest from non- residents, the Commission sees this as only a temporary reprieve.
The time will come again, perhaps soon, when Island land will again come under pressure from non-resident buyers. Government should have a policy in place to deal with the demand, and devise means to protect our precious shorefront and our most important natural resource the land    from those whose interests may not be what’s best for Prince Edward Island’s land.

This was from pages 30-32 of the Commissioner’s report, found at The link to the report is around the middle of the page.

March 11th, 2014

And a bit about the Lands Protection Act review:
Mr. Carver contemplated the issue of where the agriculture industry is today and would increasing the land holding size actually help matters.  He also was charged with looking at the “red tape” involved in accounting for the amount of land a farmer (or corporation) owns.  The regulations regarding renaming some land as environmentally sensitive (so overall holdings could be increased) were scrutinized.  (Once the regulations were modified in 2009, and in 2010, farmers wanting to get some of their lands exempted this way have to play a game of pickleball back and forth between IRAC and the Department of Agriculture to hear if the exemption would be granted.)

from the Prince Edward Island LPA Exemption Regulations (page 22-23):
35. (1) For the purposes of this section, “environmentally significant class of land holding” means any land holding other than a “natural area class of land holding” that
(a) the Department of Agriculture has certified as being (i) agricultural land that is identified in the PEI Sloped Land Inventory that is verified as having been converted from row crops by the owner through tree planting, (ii) land that is being utilized as an erosion control structure approved by the Department of Agriculture,
(iii) land on which there is a hedgerow that meets the Department of Agriculture’s criteria and standards for hedgerows, or (iv) land that is verified to be a permanent grassed headland that does not include any land that is required to be used as a buffer under the Environmental Protection Act Watercourse and Wetland Protection Regulations; or
(b)the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry has certified as being
(i) land that is identified in the PEI Wetlands Atlas as designated wetlands, (ii) land that is identified in the PEI Corporate Land Use Inventory as forested land, or
(iii) land that is required to be used as a buffer under the Environmental Protection Act Watercourse and Wetland Protection Regulations or land that is required to expand a required buffer onto marginal agricultural land.
(2) All land holdings that are certified to be in the “environmentally significant class of land holding” are eligible for exemption from the section 2 aggregate land holding limits contained in the Act up to a maximum of 40% of current aggregate land holdings, to a maximum of 400 acres for a person and 1200 acres for a corporation, of which no more than 80% (320 acres for a person and 960 acres for a corporation) shall be forested land. (EC645/09)

And without further ado, the first recommendation from the Commission tidies this up:
1.    That the provincial government do the following: repeal Section 35 of the Regulations in its entirety; modify Section 2 of the Lands Protection Act to make it clear that the 1,000 and 3,000 acre aggregate land holding limits apply to arable land only; and accept as proof of compliance the farmer’s signed declaration of the acreage of arable land owned and leased.

Lands Protection Act

Regarding the Lands Protection Act recommendations from Horace Carver:

The media pretty much reported that in Mr. Carver’s recommendations the acreage size limits weren’t really increased and red tape should be reduced.   But there is a lot more in his discussion, of course.  It appears he read everything about land and rural development that government and other organizations have produced for the last decade or two.  He concludes that the “aggregate” land holding limit is primarily a concern of the potato industry, and has to decide if raising the limit would “fix” the industry.

One report he cites (page 20) that I hadn’t really remembered much about was the 2009 Report of the Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Agri-Food, entitled Growing the Island Way ( mmofagri.pdf ).  This commission was made up a group of farmers, including Rory Francis, Raymond Loo, Randall Affleck, and Cynthia Frizzle.

In its conclusion, the 2009 Report of the Commission on the Future of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Growing the Island Way, put it this way:
“A ‘vicious circle’ has taken hold, characterized by declining profits, consolidation, and an intensification of operations that is causing negative environmental impacts and losing farmers the respect of the community. Without profit or pride, the next generation of farmers, or ‘new entrants’, is turning away from the industry.”

March 1st, 2014

From the very impressive front page article in yesterday’s Guardian:

Headline:“We can’t afford the risk of being wrong.”

Caption: “Front, from left, Boyd Allen, Catherine O’Brien, and Don Mazer of the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water make a case against lifting the moratorium on deep-well irrigation to a provincial standing committee Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.”  Guardian photo by Heather Taweel, I think, who was allowed to take photos (unlike the mere spectators).  The rest of you know who you are, including the couple of P.E.I. Potato Board people in the back row  😉

And the articulate Rob MacLean, son of former Premier Angus MacLean, closes the front section in Friday’s Guardian:

Government must build trust on deep-water well issue
Record on complying with regulation is not good if one considers the Crop Rotation Act
Letter of the Day

Before we discuss deep-water wells, we need to face our record on the Crop Rotation Act.
Thatʼs the 2002 law which mandates a three-year crop rotation in potatoes. This is our history, itʼs where promises meet performance and the record is not good.
About a quarter of potato operations are in violation of the act. This is a big reason people donʼt trust government to regulate the industry. It didnʼt have to be this way.
Imagine what the public atmosphere would be like if, instead of only 75 per cent of potato operations complying with the act, we were close to 100 per cent compliance. What if, instead of our soil organic matter getting worse province-wide, it was holding steady or even improving? What if the potato industry could point to those accomplishments? What if the government could say, “You can trust us to regulate wells because of how well weʼve regulated crop rotations?”
If that was the situation, people would still be cautious, they would still want to proceed slowly, if at all, but they would also appreciate farmersʼ efforts to take care of the soil and they would be more inclined to believe governmentʼs assurances.
As it is, the two camps on this question have very little basis for trust. Comprehensive science is only part of the solution. There was a time when science told us there were plenty of cod in the sea and plenty of big trees on the land. The scientists were right, but we mismanaged those stocks and now theyʼre gone.
Regardless of how much water is under our feet, it will be possible to ruin that resource too. Whatever policy we arrive at regarding deep-water wells will have impressive language around regulation, but those words will be empty if we canʼt trust the regulator to enforce them.
Itʼs up to government to build trust, and what they need to do is take strong action on the Crop Rotation Act. Until they do, the old saying applies, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Rob MacLean,


Happy March!

I have been meaning to dig up and go through Horace Carver’s Report of the Commission on the Lands Protection Act, especially since at the end of March, Mr. Carver is speaking to the March 27th Thursday meeting of the very same Standing Committee of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry; and I think there may be legislation in the spring sitting of the Legislature, which begins in April.  There are 29 recommendations, so with some background and perhaps a day off for reader-fatigue, let’s march ahead.

To recap (and my errors are my own), Horace Carver is a Charlottetown lawyer, background here:
who was a Conservative MLA from 1978 to 1986, during which time Alex Campbell, Bennett Campbell, Angus MacLean, and James Lea were Premier.

He represented PEI in the Constitutional talks in 1981.  He fought for the right for PEI not to be guided under property rights guaranteed at the federal level and have the right to a provincial Lands Protection Act, and worked drafting the first LPA in the 1980s.

Carver was appointed in November 2012, when Plan B was just getting cleared and bulldozed, and in early 2013 started consultations.  He set the bar high as far as reaching out, appearing in the media often and having several public events, and then basically doing a whistle-stop tour of the Island (if we wistfully still had trains), making sure to reschedule meetings due to bad weather, and have lots of info on the website.

The sessions, as you may remember, were long and he pretty much let people talk.  Then he scooped up all his papers in May and his small staff and wrote his report, submitting it a day before the deadline in late June.  It languished a bit (out of his hands) and was finally released in late Fall.

OK, more tomorrow on it.