© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Newly sworn in Green Party MLA Peter Bevan-Baker, left, chats with Allan MacIsaac, agriculture minister, in the P.E.I. legislature.
Ongoing cases of P.E.I. potatoes being found with metal objects inserted into them became the focus of heated debate in the P.E.I. legislature today.
In the first question period since the May 4 election, Opposition Leader Steven Myers pressed government on why there was no mention of P.E.I.’s potato tampering cases in yesterday’s speech from the throne.
“Do you not recognize how grave this situation is for Prince Edward Island?” Myers asked.
Premier Wade MacLauchlan acknowledged the issue is a serious one and pointed to a motion co-sponsored by government and Opposition planned for debate later in the day condemning the tampering as senseless criminal acts and urging the provincial and federal support food safety measures.
“We have been very much on top of this issue and in active discussion and something we’ve been treating with the utmost seriousness throughout government and we’re standing together with the farming community in addressing this issue,” MacLauchlan said.
“Indeed it is a serious concern to the farming community and, I may add, to the entire economy of the province given the role that the potato sector plays in our total economic success.”
But Myers pointed out the throne speech lays out government’s vision for the coming year, again questioning why support for farmers facing this crisis was left unaddressed in the speech.
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“Is the safety and security of the potato industry on Prince Edward Island not part of your vision?” Myers said.
“Did you forget this detail when you were writing your speech?”
Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac pointed to $1.4 million in provincial and federal money that has already been committed to Island farmers through the Growing Forward program to help them purchase metal detectors to screen potatoes for safety.
McIsaac also called the potato tampering issue a crisis.
“We need to get the bottom of this, it results in about $1 billion to our economy. We cannot carry on like this.”
The province has contributed $10,000 toward a $100,000 reward being offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals. Anonymous tips are eligible for the reward.
Money has also been made available to P.E.I. farmers for metal detecting equipment through a biosecurity program.