One would expect that any irrigation or soil improvement strategy being developed for our Island would be grounded in the most current scientific knowledge on soil health and would address the very serious issues of declining soil biodiversity and pesticides in soil, water, and sediment. Yet this irrigation strategy discussion document does not even mention the words biodiversity or pesticides.
Science clearly tells us that protecting and restoring soil biodiversity is critical for soil regeneration and resilience and also for sustaining our water cycle. But the document fails to mention “increasing biodiversity” even in its sections about Improved Environmental Benefits or Soil Health.
There is no vision nor much hope offered (in this Irrigation Strategy document) for the protection of PEI’s water and land. As Islanders, like the rest of the world, we face the most serious crisis in history – the climate crisis – yet, we are presented with a document that ignores the crisis and gives a ‘license’ for the continuation of an industrial model of farming controlled by very powerful corporate interests. A model of farming by all accounts that is not sustainable and is doomed – and a major contributor to the climate crisis.
By Don Mazer, on behalf of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water
The Irrigation Strategy (IS) document is the culmination of what began as the exemplary process of public consultation that resulted the Water Act. This process reflected widespread public opposition to ending the moratorium on high capacity (HC) wells. It is ironic that the outcome of this extended process was a plan to enable the return of HC wells. It is unfortunate that this decision seemed to be based almost entirely on the will of the minister, who seemed to require little evidence, and had little interest in meaningful consultation with citizens or even his own standing committee.
The result is an ‘irrigation strategy` that offers limited opportunities for meaningful input from Islanders. This document should have been the result of a public process that engaged citizens. Rather, it was developed quietly and internally by the department and its bureaucrats and whomever they chose to consult with. This did not include our group, the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water. Our coalition includes a broad range of environmental, watershed and socially concerned groups and individuals. From the first days, we have been deeply involved in the process of developing the Water Act, and acknowledged by a previous Minister in the legislature for its important contribution to the Act. We are concerned why a group like ours with such a longstanding commitment to PEI water would not be included in such consultations.
By Gary Schneider, Environmental Coalition of PEI and member of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water
The province’s new Irrigation Strategy is a document that all water users – not just those who use irrigation in whatever form that takes – should take a long, hard look at. The development of the Water Act started out as an exemplary template for meaningful public participation. Unfortunately, over time, the process has become less and less transparent and responsive.
One way to get things back on track is to return to sound participatory processes. Any strategy is only as good as its implementation. The water governance body, an independent, arms-length, representative body to ensure proper implementation, is an idea that has been repeatedly brought forward by the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water and other stakeholders. The Irrigation Strategy pledges that “In addition to the administration of permits being delivered by a central body, irrigation will also be overseen by a central advisory board. This board will be tasked with ensuring the continuation of strategy finds the balance between environmental protection and commercial usage. This board will consist of users, conservation groups, senior government officials and other key stakeholders.”
How do we make this body truly representative? The provincial Round Table on Resource Land Use and Stewardship had representatives from a variety of sectors – agricultural, tourism, conservation, forestry, aquaculture, municipalities, recreational fisheries, etc. This body worked together and came up with some great recommendations that have become part of our way of life. Unfortunately, many others were not fully adopted, or not adopted at all, leading to continued environmental degradation.
Public engagement holds little traction with the current P.E.I. government
The Guardian (Charlottetown)- 26 Nov 2021
BOYD ALLEN is on the board of the Citizens’ Alliance of P.E.I., a member organization of the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water.
In May of 2016 the P.E.I. environmental advisory committee released a comprehensive report entitled: Water Act – Public consultation report. It was 58 footnoted pages long including indices and glossary. It collated findings from the first phase of public consultations on the Water Act from July 2015 to January 2016.
This process offered multiple opportunities and methods for private citizens and organizations to present their opinions. The response was extraordinary. There were 50 presentations at the various public community meetings and 12 one on one consultations between the EAC and concerned organizations. Every submission to the EAC during this time was made easily available online.