Sherry refusing to release advisory council opinion on deep-water wells

Teresa Wright
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Environment, Labour and Justice Minister Janice Sherry

Environment minister will not say what next steps will be taken on controversial issue

Environment Minister Janice Sherry is refusing to release the opinion provided by her environmental advisory committee on the controversial issue of deep-water wells and would also not say what next steps will be taken.

Sherry faced tough questions Wednesday in the legislature on the moratorium currently in place on the drilling of deep wells for irrigation.

Opposition MLA James Aylward asked Sherry over and over to table her advisory council’s opinion on the matter, arguing their views would have a great deal of influence over the minister’s final decision on whether to lift the moratorium.

“(Islanders) are asking for transparency. They are asking for all of the information that this minister supposedly is studying to make her decision,” Aylward said.

“They’re asking for not only the science that she refuses to have peer-reviewed, they’re also asking for the opinions and the advice from her environmental advisory council.”

The issue has sparked intense public interest and heated debate over water use in Prince Edward Island.

It has polarized environmental advocates and the agricultural community over the question of whether P.E.I. has enough groundwater to support industrial irrigation of potato crops.

Sherry was evasive in her answers during question period Wednesday, but later told reporters definitively she will not tell Islanders how her advisory council advised her on the question of whether to lift the moratorium on high capacity wells.

“I’m not prepared to release the opinions of my advisory council,” she said.

Sherry explained she merely asked her council members for their individual views, using them as a sounding board after she was first approached on the issue.

Their views were never meant to be part of any official opinion report released to the public.

“I just wanted to get a view from the members of my advisory council just to kind of judge what those eight people might say,” Sherry said.

“Those opinions told me that they had very strong opinions on it.”

According to the P.E.I. Potato Board’s January/February publication, the Potato News, the issue was first raised in the fall of 2012, when the Board made a presentation to Sherry and to Agriculture Minister George Webster asking for the moratorium to be lifted for supplemental irrigation of their potato crops.

The Board publication says it received multiple assurances it would get what it was asking for.

“Over the next year, the board was told numerous times by the Department of Environment that studies had been done showing that there as a plentiful supply of groundwater on P.E.I. with a very high recharge rate and that the moratorium would be lifted soon,” states the Potato Board publication.

“This announcement was never forthcoming and the issue has definitely come into prominence in local media in 2014.”

Sherry said Wednesday neither she nor cabinet have yet come to a decision on the matter, nor has her department even determined how it will further proceed.

The standing committee on agriculture, environment, energy and forestry, which held heavily attended public hearings on the issue, has recommended the moratorium remain in place while the issue continues to be explored.

It also strongly recommended government develop a water act to regulate and protect P.E.I.'s groundwater.

Sherry says she will wait until the legislature closes and then will decide how best to proceed.

“I think that we really need to sit down and look at (the standing committee report) and decide where to from here,” Sherry said.

“When we know where to from here, Islanders will be involved in knowing exactly what our next steps are.”

The Potato Board and Cavendish Farms were actively lobbying MLAs earlier this year in the hopes of having the moratorium lifted in time for this growing season.

Sherry said, given the fact planting has already begun, that is out of the question for this season.

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: Islanders, P.E.I. Potato Board, Potato News Department of Environment

Geographic location: P.E.I., Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • studies are a waste of time
    May 09, 2014 - 14:32

    Nobody knows the effect the deep wells will have on the water table - especially as most water will be pumped out in a dry year when the water table will already be low!!!!

  • voter
    May 08, 2014 - 15:21

    be quiet -go away-- she belongs to the liberal gang -- AND liberals know what's best for you and especially what's good for themselves - just like the rest of the political gangs think they know what's best for you and ,most importantly , themselves -- just vote every 4 years or so and leave the rest to them --you are no longer needed after the vote-- just go away until the next vote

  • d from queens
    May 08, 2014 - 13:27

    Sherry or any other MLA have no business keeping the info from the people i don t know who they think they are. there a public Servent elected by the people to represent them. are ghiz and the gang above the people the that put them there?

    • The Sheople
      May 08, 2014 - 13:53

      We allow it.

  • PRIVATE GAIN
    May 08, 2014 - 13:20

    We must work together on this if we want to have a sustainable Island in the future. When the water runs out so will Cavendish Farms. They care nothing about the Island and have plants in other provinces and states that they will move to in a heart beat if they don't get their way. For you farmers who back them, what will you do with your potatoes when they leave?

  • Bernadette
    May 08, 2014 - 13:17

    Agriculture Minister George Webster and all the farmers in cabinet should stay out of this issue. Webter & and many, many, many of his family and friends have thousands of acres of potatoes.This is a HUGH conflict of interest ! No wonder Minister Sherry will not release the Report ! NO WATER NO LIFE

  • Potatoesarepolluted
    May 08, 2014 - 13:04

    Why would they pay for a study then not release it? Is it for her night table reading? Maybe it's not the RIGHT answer she wants.

  • Outrage
    May 08, 2014 - 12:13

    We know where the potato boards stands on this, now we know where Sherry, puppet of Ghiz stands. What we need to know now is where the public stands and how firmly they stand there.

  • wilf
    May 08, 2014 - 11:31

    To regular Joe: You are certainly correct in most of your assertions, (and entitled to the mistake of calling saying Prime Minister when you meant Premier). I do want to point out that Ms. Sherry is not holding anything back, she is TOLD to do that, she is just a puppet of the Premier, as are all the cabinet ministers, - their main goal is to make as good a living as they can, and tow the line as told by him, who holds the power to demote them any day. Integrity by damned-.

    • don
      May 08, 2014 - 11:59

      she is doing what her master tells her to do and her master is the owner of all PEI.

    • Regular Joe
      Regular Joe
      May 08, 2014 - 19:30

      lol thanks wilf . Good catch I missed that entirely .

  • ANNOYED
    May 08, 2014 - 10:54

    This Government has no business holding this information in secrecy. They are all over their heads on this discussion. It is annoying to see her laughing face...laughing at the Island people. What goes 'round, comes 'round you know.

  • NOT FOR THE PEOPLE OR ISLAND
    May 08, 2014 - 09:35

    This government is NOT for the people not the continued ability to live on the Island. They refuse to answer as they have already decided to go with big business and to hell with the people or province. Money talks and this government makes the mafia look like a day care organization. Unbelievable that they are so open and arrogant about backing their rich friends wishes and shafting the rest.

  • can'ttakemuchmore
    May 08, 2014 - 09:11

    Maybe its time the taxpayers take the government and the farmers to court and hold their feet to the fire on this. If my air and water continues to be destroyed and poisoned by means of practices by others....then be accountable. I am tired of paying taxes not to heard and listened to. Maybe we could get a lawyer paid for by the province to look into our rights on clear air and water.

  • Secret Service?
    May 08, 2014 - 08:44

    Why does this information belong to Janice Sherry and not the public? Islanders should be told why the release of this information does not fall under the category of routine disclosure. If it doesn't fall under the category of routine disclosure, is it subject to a FOIPP request? If it is not subject to a FOIPP request, Islanders should be told why.

  • totallydiscustedwithPEI
    May 08, 2014 - 07:26

    Born and bred here,if the ok for deep water wells goes through I guess I'll move to a BETTER province...I'll have no choice..I must protect my kids. I wish there were no farms at all on PEI. I hate them all and what is happening.

    • therod
      May 08, 2014 - 09:24

      I am assuming you don't eat anything grown below, on or above the ground then?

  • Peter
    May 08, 2014 - 07:10

    There's something I don't quite understand. A few years back, the farmers basically got together (via the potato board) and agreed to plant less crops, so as to raise the price while reducing their costs, (indirect price fixing?). Not illegal as they didn't all agree to set a fixed price, but rather "fixed" a problem (of over-supply) so that prices would increase. Now they've accomplished that, they want to grow more crops and reap the higher prices they created. This, I understand. (Don't like, but understand). Now, it seems, they want to use our groundwater to further increase their yield and prices, without any concern whatsoever about damaging our groundwater supply. Yes, I know they say there wouldn't be any damage, but if this were true, they wouldn't have mentioned it in the first place. What I don't understand is, how can these farmers and their potato board think the we (consumers, island residents) are gullible enough to believe them.

  • don
    May 08, 2014 - 07:04

    how dare you say that you are in office for the people. you are there for the money and do as big money tells you to do. well when we have a "DROUGHT" and the farmers have drained all our fresh water what will you do then sherry? tell us you are so smart tell us. are you personally going to buy us bottled water to drink? this government is the worse government in island history and will be in the books as that and all your families down the road i'm sure will be ashamed of being related to you all.

    • SomeSense
      May 08, 2014 - 13:14

      They would of course not provide bottled water to us but those with the money/power would be happy if everyone was required to purchase bottled water. Corporations think it is an extreme view to believe that people are entitled to free clean water. They feel water is a commodity that they should manage so they can make huge profits by selling it to us while they take all that can be pumped for nothing or next to it. Nestle should be boycotted for their views on this alone.

    • don
      May 08, 2014 - 14:58

      maybe thats what ghiz and wes is up to. just think they could charge 100 times the price.

  • Nomos Sleeping
    May 08, 2014 - 06:49

    Sometimes when seeking an expert opinion, they will be told not to put their findings in writing if certain conclusions are discovered. A sneaky way to try and conceal things. May those who intentionally put their fellow man at risk be rewarded with the same in return.

  • Regular Joe
    Regular Joe
    May 08, 2014 - 06:28

    Really so your saying that this minister a elected Government Minister , refuses to release information regarding a issue that affects the general public . This Info was gathered by people that are paid by the taxpayers of this province to look out for our best interests . Does this woman think she is the Queen Bee of P.E.I and is answerable to no one . If the Prime Minister had any backbone he would be telling her to release the info . This information is not theirs to withhold as it was gathered buy public servants , using public money who are supposed to be accountable and answer to the taxpayers of this Island . The arrogance of these ministers is getting sicking more and more every day . They do what they want they say what they want and feel they have to answer to no one . Time some of these Members were taken down a notch and reprimanded an reminded who they work for and who they are supposed to represent . So much for the open Government that was preached about by this government when they were kissing ass looking for votes .

    • Relax Regular joe
      May 08, 2014 - 09:08

      This article states it was 'opinions' not reports that Sherry isn't releasing. But since it is the guardians mandate to report on 'the sky is falling' it is no wonder people like you go crazy. By ths way- what does the Prime Minister have to do with this??????