The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Lands

Letters To The Editor

Islanders care deeply about the land. They frequently voice their opinions in the opinion pages of our local papers. We share those with you here and encourage you to peruse in order to get a snapshot of where we are in regard to protecting our precious land.

On special interest groups: Guest Opinion by Gary Schneider, Charlottetown Guardian, on April 12
It seems that the many members of the public who are concerned about water use in the province are now a “special interest group,” according to the P.E.I. Potato Board and the Federation of Agriculture. This deliberate attempt to pit some potato farmers against anyone with water concerns is actually quite incorrect. It brings to mind the old adage of “the pot calling the kettle black.”
A special interest group is, by definition, “a group of people or an organization seeking or receiving special advantages, typically through political lobbying.”
I have been involved in the development of the Water Act since its humble beginnings in 2015. I read all the public comments and heard many of the presentations. A very large majority – not a vocal minority, as these organizations repeatedly claim – expressed genuine concerns over the threats to water in the province.
Many identified the fish kills that continue to ravage wildlife in our waterways. A teacher spoke of pesticides in the drinking water at her school. Homeowners talked of nitrate contamination in their wells, through no fault of their own. Others told of anoxic conditions in estuaries that were affecting shellfish health, or decreasing levels of soil organic matter that lead to water deficiencies. It was a long list of concerns presented by a great many people and organizations.
To add fuel to this controversy, we had a clear example last summer of why so many people have a hard time putting their faith in government. The province has regulations about using surface water to irrigate crops. A government publication reads: “The department’s maintenance level is deemed to be 70 per cent of the monthly median flow. This threshold is based on the research available that indicates that a 10 per cent reduction would have some impact, a 20 per cent would present some challenges for habitat and the ecosystem would have a hard time handling a 30 per cent reduction in levels.”
In a recent presentation to the standing committee on natural resources and environmental sustainability, a hydrogeologist with Agriculture Canada spoke of the model predicting the impact of expanded agricultural irrigation on the Wilmot River watershed.
Yefang Jiang found that “a significant increase in agricultural irrigation during a summer with 2001-like conditions would have reduced the streamflow by 40 per cent in the Wilmot River watershed.”
In front of the same committee, Mike van den Heuval, the UPEI biologist who has been proposing the study on high-capacity wells, was asked his opinion about what the level of streamflow reduction would be safe. He responded that “as a good precautionary guideline, I think 20 per cent is a good number.”
Ignoring science and his own rules, the premier responded to requests from five farmers in the Dunk River area last August and allowed them to withdraw surface water. At the time, there was already a 30 per cent reduction in water levels. Any withdrawals after hitting that level were in violation of P.E.I.’s Water Extraction Policy. And yet the day after the requests, once again the environment was placed a distant second to economic interests.
We need open discussions around these issues, and the public is more than willing to be involved. But it does no one any good to demonize members of the public — including some excellent farmers — who speak for the environment, who have genuine concerns over water quality and quantity, and who watch the industrialization of potato farming with a heavy heart. It smacks of bullying, and that is not helpful in the least.
Look at the facts and ask yourself who really is the special interest group? DO FARMERS GET PRIORITY?

  • The Guardian (Charlottetown)

There is much discussion at this time about our water supply on the Island and potato farmers creating ponds to circumvent the upcoming regulations, with our government’s approval.

My question is, why do a few farmers get priority over the entire population of the Island?

Let’s look at this with a broader stroke. The Irvings control most of the potato growing on the Island so they can produce and sell french fries and potato patties. But it comes at great cost to us all.

The question is, what is the true cost of what we are producing and what is the end product?

To live a long and healthy life, human beings need clean water, nutritious food and not be exposed to chemicals that have a negative effect on the body. So are we willing to put our water supply at risk for something that is simply not good for us?

Believe me, as human beings, we can live without the Cavendish Farms french fries and potato patties, but we cannot live without clean water to drink. What is our priority?

This PC government, and I know a few of the ministers personally, clearly are in bed with the potato industry. We need to make decisions that are good long term and for the greater good of all Islanders not just a few potato farmers.

Anne Gallant, Millvale

Full text here:
The Guardian (Charlottetown)9 Apr 2021
Efficiency P.E.I., a government program, is doing great work helping Islanders in numerous ways to reduce their carbon footprint and build a better tomorrow.
An example of their work is encouraging us to find ways to reduce our water consumption. In the Kent sales flyer for the week of March 14, there was a Water Sense dual flush toilet advertised with an Efficiency P.E.I. $75 instant rebate. The toilet met EPA criteria.
How does that action match up with the same government department giving grandfathered access to the agricultural sector through holding ponds (many existing and many just built since December 2020 without permits or environmental studies) that are filled with water pumped from wells? I believe most of those ponds have been and will be used in the potato sector, and in particular, those supplying potatoes for french fry processing. Apparently, to achieve one inch of water per application, approximately 26,000 gallons an acre needs to be pumped.
So, if we stop to think about every processing acre irrigated numerous times throughout a growing season the amount of water pumped is mindboggling. It is going to take a lot of low-flow toilets to offset that sector’s water consumption.
Consumers concerned about climate change need to be asking themselves if they are willing to gamble our water supply for the perfect-sized french fry.
Carol Carragher, Cumberland

Thanks to Yanira Greener for her letter this morning about the truth behind PEI’s unsustainable potato industry. Here is full text:

The Guardian (Charlottetown)8 Apr 2021
“What does it take to grow a good quality potato? It takes an Island.”
Remember those potato industry commercials filled with beautiful Island scenery, potato fields and hardworking potato farmers portraying the image of wholesome farming practices that “have respect for the environment”?
I certainly am remembering the commercials now that Environment Minister Stephen Myers has announced the long-awaited Water Act will finally be implemented. And, the King government will permit farmers to circumvent the deep water well moratorium through holding ponds. These holding ponds don’t just collect snow and rain water as members of the public are often given to believe. They pump water from wells 24-7.
I now see the commercials in a whole new way. The potato processing industry is taking an Island to grow potatoes, but not always to the benefit of our environment, Islanders, or farmers. It takes large acreages of land that have apparently suffered greatly from less-than-friendly environmental farming practices. It has taken water, although the industry likes to pretend otherwise. And now, with the government’s blessing, it will take even more at no charge to the users and likely with little oversight or accountability.
So Islanders, are we willing to just sit back and agree “that where we come from, it takes an Island to grow a good quality potato”? Or are we going to start demanding that our elected government, and the minister of Environment, work for all Islanders to protect our land, water and environment in a process that would ensure a good quality potato can be grown in a sustainable manner. The time is now to hold both government and the big players in the industry accountable. Environmental time is running out for the Island.
Yanira Greener, Charlottetown

So great to see Doug’s piece in today’s Journal and Guardian. Our recent radio ad campaign has clearly ruffled some feathers. Doug does a great job of explaining why the NFU is a proud member of our coalition.
Douglas Campbell
Guest opinion
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has been asked if we are members of the Coalition for the Protection of the P.E.I. Lands. This was in relation to the ads which have been aired recently on CFCY radio. The ads addressed the reality of increasing corporate and foreign ownership of Island land through circumvention of the Lands Protection Act and the negative impacts of industrialized farming. Islanders were asked to contact their MLAs, noting that successive Island governments have failed to uphold the spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act. This failure that has brought us to the current threat to the P.E.I. lands. The resulting consolidation of ownership and control of land has led to the abuse of the land.
The NFU has a long tradition of transparency, a trait which seems to be in short supply in many institutions in P.E.I. Therefore, the National Farmers Union, District 1, is hereby publicly stating its affiliation with the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Lands. When the lands coalition was formed in May 2018, the NFU accepted the invitation to become a member along with other like-minded organizations. We know that the invitation was extended to other agricultural groups.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the NFU is a coalition member. The protection of our land is a chief focus in our mandate to promote the economic and social betterment of Canadian farmers, promote environmentally safe farming practices, the building of vibrant rural communities and a safe food supply.
The NFU was instrumental in having the Lands Protection Act passed in the P.E.I. legislative assembly in 1982 to prevent corporate and foreign interests with deep pockets from gaining control of Island land to the determinant of family farms and rural communities. We make no apology for trying to prevent our land from becoming a commodity of the few. We find it perplexing that others are not assuming a larger role in the fight to hold the provincial government to account in protecting our primary natural resource.
When a former NFU president, Roy Atkinson of Saskatchewan, addressed an Island group of farmers in the early 1970s, he said “the agribusiness sells you the machinery, and equipment, as well as the fertilizer and seed you need to operate your farm and then they turn around and buy the products of your labour. When they sell you a tractor, they set the price and you have to take it or leave it. The same thing happens when you go to sell your crop. The agribusiness offers a fixed price and you can take it or leave it. The farmer is caught in a squeeze which, if allowed to go on, will force him into bankruptcy.”
This is also why we have an issue with industrialized farming which has become increasingly heavily dominated by large vertically integrated corporations interested in consolidating natural resources for the greatest profit. Small- and medium-sized independent farming operations are being forced out of business, while large scale independent operations are being heavily impacted by debt load and low commodity prices. This is impacting farmers, rural communities, consumers, and the environment. So if some find the term, “industrialized farming”, offensive perhaps they should ask themselves why.
The above is why the NFU is part of the coalition. When you stand for the land you stand for farmers. NFU P.E.I. website and the coalition Facebook page give valuable information.
Douglas Campbell lives on his family farm in Southwest Lot 16 and is district director of the National Farmers Union.

Good to see this being raised by the opposition!

Michele Beaton wants to ensure both letter and intent of the law are being observed

The Lands Protection Act is designed to limit the amount of land any one person or corporation can own. (Brian McInnis)
comments. P.E.I.’s Green Party wants the province’s auditor general to have a look at how the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission is enforcing the Lands Protection Act.

A key piece of the act sets limits on how much land individuals and corporations can own on P.E.I.

Green Party finance critic Michele Beaton stood in the legislature Wednesday to ask Premier Dennis King to direct the auditor general to conduct a performance audit on IRAC’s enforcement of the act.

“If the legislation isn’t being enforced as it currently stands, then that’s a concern all Islanders should be raising, and they are,” said Beaton.

Green MLA Michele Beaton has asked questions about IRAC and the Lands Protection Act before. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.)

The MLA says it is important that “not just the letter of the law but the spirit and the intent of the legislation was being enforced as well.”

Beaton has raised concerns around the fact that IRAC said it does not share the results of investigations with the groups it is investigating.


She has also questioned why the minister of land had to direct IRAC to investigate a controversial land transaction in 2019, when IRAC could have launched the investigation on its own.

The premier said he would take Beaton’s request under advisement and report back next week.

Thanks going out today to Jeanne Maki for this insightful analysis into the latest in what is becoming a long list of promises of “collaboration” gone awry. Full text here:

The failure of governments over decades to implement solutions in a coordinated manner has left PEI in a mess. There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of “experts” hired, and a lot of public input requested.
An example of how all the efforts to protect the environment can be wiped out with the stroke of a minister’s pen was Steven Myer’s decision, within weeks of becoming Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Change, to do just that. In this case it affects our critical resource—water.
Another critical resource is trees. The Federal government has a plan to plant 2 billion trees over the coming years as a way to capture carbon. There is no consideration of what kind of trees or where these trees will come from and where they’ll be planted. Meanwhile on PEI, many acres of healthy forests are being clear cut to be used for potatoes, blueberries, and land speculation. These trees are already established, are capturing carbon, producing oxygen, offering shade and wind protection. Their disappearance will lead to loss of carbon, erosion, loss of valuable seed sources, and loss of biodiversity and wildlife. Trees aren’t an annual crop—some of these trees can live hundreds of years. Once you lose the minerals in forest soils by using it for agricultural use, the damage cannot easily be undone, if at all. About 90% of forested land on PEI is privately owned. What will it take to convince people to protect their woods as we face the crisis of Climate Change?
The Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability was showing us how well the political parties could work together for the betterment of all. With 2 members from each party, these MLA’s have spent countless hours listening and questioning stakeholders and experts. Their decisions are more likely to reflect Islanders’ viewpoints than one minister, new to the job, with no background in environmental issues. It’s up to Premier King to show leadership by supporting their efforts.

Thanks to Johnny Smak for this letter today.

The Potato and Fishless Republic – Opinion piece
PEI SOS. At what point do we say no to further corporate potato farm expansion? The decline in smelt and gasperaux can be attributed to overfishing these species in the estuaries and other Island waters by commercial fishermen seeking free lobster bait or who wish to sell bait. This also correlates with a steep decline in mackerel and herring stocks around PEI, again all heavily overfished by the lobster industry, as accented by incompetent stock management by DFO in service of the political direction of Canada’s Fishery Minister (and governments who dare not challenge the fishing industry should it contribute to a loss of power).
One also needs to take into account how the potato industry in PEI is devastating smelt, gasperaux, trout and salmon stocks migrating up Island streams only to face poor spawning beds mired in layers of pesticide laced silt. The use of chemical fertilizers and the resultant blue-green anoxic causing algae blooms are also widespread across PEI, depleting rivers and bays of oxygen needed to raise fish through infancy, shellfish or support other plant species.
The outrageous proposed “grandfathering in” by the King government of hastily built holding ponds (by cheating on the high capacity well moritorium and stalling the Water Act) is all geared to vastly increasing new potato production another 500 million pounds (as recently announced by Robert Irving in Ch’town) to 1.8 billion pounds of french fries per annum – and regardless of frequent climate change droughts (spurred on by poor PEI soil quality conditions from the over production of potatoes) – is already leading to low water levels on Island rivers; some to the point of aggravating already poor conditions supporting fish and their reproduction.
The water security of every Islander is also now threatened yet our politicians are bending to the Potato Board demands or working behind closed doors to manipulate legislation while pretending to be “sustainably” mind.ed. The famed Island waterways expert Daryl Guignon, up to his recent death, was determined to bring these facts to Islanders through his work to demonstrate that PEI has already passed the tipping point.
In short, PEI, although it funds watershed groups as a political optics exercise, fishkills remain an ever constant threat (mostly focused on the loss of trout while never mentioning other similarly impacted species), as this continuing and expanding environmental disaster advanced with many integrated threats. Over the last couple of years I have witnessed the last of our forests being cleared by the Irvings for more potato farming; having exhausted their current fields to the point that not even more chemical fertilizers can increase yields. The Irvings have gone from 5% of controlling PEI’s potato crop to 65% since the New Annan monster sized plant was built in 1996 to non-coincidentally take advantage of the new Confederation Bridge to the mainland in 1997.
The public and media are largely not informed on these matters, and not proactive to addressing these issues. However, this leaves their children and their future in even a far more precarious position. The federal and provincial governments pays lip service and largely supports whatever corporate farmers and commercial fishermen demand.
So for sure there is a strong need in PEI to counter these forces, which in the end is a matter of political dominance.
I was hoping the Green Party might be the first step toward seeing this change but when I see the Green Party leadership becoming cozy with the potato industry at various events, and witnessing reluctance to take on overfishing issues it seems that this kind of protest may be absorbed into the mainstream as well. If the Greens take power how many of us really believe they will challenge the PEI establisment, overfishing, and the Irvings?
Developing environmental mindfulness is the only way out of this I think. Education and particularly early education is the only long term solution, and I believe environmental studies with a focus on PEI must be offered at every grade level along with math, science, and english.
It might be too late. But, whatever the case, we need to demand change from the status-quo in PEI and now. If you can do something to help, please do it now. Put some pressure on this King government, which are no different than the Liberals, and are just as corrupt and irresponsible.
Thanks to Douglas MacCallum for sharing these insights today!
The Guardian (Charlottetown)26 Mar 2021Douglas MacCallum, Brackley Beach
I admit I just shook my head when I listened to the recent CBC interview with Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Marketing Board. The interview was in regards to a media release put out by the board to address what it described as myths by a small group of Islanders that farmers will run streams and wells dry. Donald said decisions on holding ponds need to be based on facts and evidence, not fear–mongering. He said he is hearing more and more concerns from what he describes as some “special interest” groups. Donald’s interview can be read online at CBC.
So I ask, is the P.E.I. Potato Marketing Board not a special interest group with an agenda? Does it not also represent a small group of Islanders? I wonder do all the farmers it claims to represent feel equally represented at the table.
I think the P.E.I. Potato Marketing Board can take credit for putting out into the public a number of myths, and it has done its fair share of fear mongering. An example would be the recent campaign telling the public that farmers were being denied their fair share of water, and suffering greatly because of it. Yet in his recent statement, Mr. Donald said ponds have been used for supplemental irrigation for years; they’re legal, permitted by the province, and monitored by the province. It seems that first came the fear mongering followed by the myths.
Mr. Donald said some farms will struggle to survive another summer of drought conditions. Apparently this is the justification for the run on building holding ponds. So, Mr. Donald, is the lack of rain the only reason these farms are struggling? Would it really upset the big players in the potato processing game to see a number of family farms picked off?
There are some many questions Mr. Donald, and it appears there are so few answers that are not filled with myths, fear-mongering and agendas.
Thanks, Wayne Carver. This fact is becoming increasingly evident with this government.
Full text here:
I am writing as a result of Ms. Diamond’s excellent letter on land protection (Lack of political will continues to plague land policy in P.E.I., Feb. 24, Journal Pioneer) and subsequently P.E.I. Environment Minister Steven Myers’s willingness to push through the Water Act with no regard for public input and the long-term welfare of all people residing on Prince Edward Island.
Islanders are frustrated to no end with successive provincial governments’ attempts to give our most precious resources to corporate P.E.I.
In fact, taxpayers have already funded, in large part, the endless studies of the relationship between the people, the Water Act and the Lands Protection Act, and the corporations, to no avail.
Successive provincial administrations (Liberal and Conservative) have waffled relentlessly in a concentrated effort to please corporate P.E.I., even though the outcome will be to the detriment of Island residents.
It is time for Islanders to hold a referendum on both the Water Act and the Lands Protection Act. The legislative assembly is in session and it is incumbent upon the opposition to introduce motions to that effect. Let’s get this done.
If the Irvings leave, so be it, we will not only survive but most likely thrive. The hundreds of millions in profits that leave the Island would be welcome here.
And if our politicians are worth their salt, they will not allow off-Island interests to have such crippling control of our economy ever again.
It is time to remind our political masters who really matters. Our political system is not working for the people.
Our politicians are destroying the citizens’ faith in the political process by bending to the pressure of the almighty dollar; the benefit of which has little to do with society at large.
Time for electoral reform and tools such as recall and termination of engagement when members of the legislative assembly go rogue supporting executive approved legislation detrimental to the greater public good.
Wayne Carver,

Government more responsive to industry than its citizens

Mar 10, 2021

Dear Premier King and Minister Myers,

We are certainly glad to learn the Water Act will be proclaimed in June. This is long overdue. It will have been seven years since the process began and 3 ½ years since the act was passed in the legislature. Six Ministers of the Environment have presided over the slow progress of this act.

And while there are many good features of the Water Act, and there have been times when a truly consultative, collaborative and respectful relationship between government and people deeply concerned about water seemed possible, the content of Minister Myers’ announcement on February 19 makes two things perfectly clear: Government cannot be trusted to protect PEI water; The voice of industry is far more important to government than the voice of the people.

As individuals and as members of organizations we have joined together in a Coalition to Protect PEI Water. We have spent thousands of hours over many years advocating for the Water Act and participating in its development. We met with each minister. We contributed many of the 52 excellent presentations to the Water Act consultations. The Coalition has been thanked in the legislature for its meaningful contribution to the act. We did not profit from our work; we have had no private stake or interest. Joining together with a collective purpose, we worked to protect a public trust, and a common good, the health of water and ecosystems on behalf of all Islanders.

The announcement about the proclamation of the act clearly reflects how much government has responded to the powerful voices of industry, and how little they have heard or cared about the voices of many concerned Islanders.

While the Water Act will keep the moratorium on high capacity (HC) wells, it will allow for the construction of five new wells that are approved for ‘scientific study’. You have continued to leave the door wide open for the development of holding ponds for agricultural irrigation. The wells for these ponds require no permit for water extraction. Premier King told us he thought holding ponds were worse than HC wells: previous Minister Brad Trivers recognized holding ponds as an attempt to get around the moratorium on HC wells: a proposal for a moratorium on holding ponds was passed by the legislature and then Minister Natalie Jameson and current Minister Steven Myers voted to support that moratorium. But then the moratorium was not implemented, stalled for ‘legal reasons.’

The long delay in creating regulations and proclaiming the Water Act was a golden opportunity for some to dig holding ponds, and this happened and continues to happen across the province. There will be no need for those wells to be compliant with the Water Act regulations within five years (the current Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability recommended compliance within two years), because those regulations have changed.

The grandfathering of holding ponds is an outrageous violation of the spirit of the Water Act, an act that so many Islanders have worked so hard to create. It challenges the very ideas that water is a common good and a public trust. It is a clear indication that government is more responsive to the power of industry than to the voices of its citizens.

This is part one of a letter sent to the premier and Minister Myers. Part two of the letter will present the actions we ask government to take on holding ponds, signed by organizations who are members of the Coalition for Protection of PEI Water.

Don Mazer and Ann Wheatley, 

on behalf of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water

Hilarious, but a little too real after Steven Myers basically told the legislature that while he would gladly accept recommendations from the Committee for natural resources and sustainable Environment committee, he would make any decision he wanted to.  True to his word, he ignored every recommendation.