Committee opts to delay decision on deep-water wells

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A farmer irrigates his field in western Queens County in this Guardian file photo.

Recommendation to keep moratorium in place shirks responsibility on issue

The recommendation from a legislature standing committee that the moratorium on deep-water wells should remain in place while further investigation and public hearings continue, leaves more questions than answers. The key issue remains unresolved and the committee seems befuddled on what to do next.

The request from the P.E.I. Potato Board to lift the 10-year moratorium on deep-water wells has resulted in months of intense debate, letter writing and opinion submissions. The committee held lengthy hearings where individuals and groups, both for and against, were passionate in presenting viewpoints and arguments.

But there is no information from the committee about additional hearings. There is no timeline for an answer. Such an important question requires action or at least a plan. Instead, the committee presented a stopgap recommendation. It seems the committee is anxious to put the controversial question aside and is reluctant to deal with the issue.

If the committee cannot produce an answer, then perhaps it’s time to assemble an independent commission to review submissions, analyze the best data available and deliver a scientifically supported recommendation.

Members of the public had packed the committee hearings in almost unprecedented numbers. They want an answer as well. Instead the committee is suggesting that government develop a Water Act. Such legislation is long overdue, but also raises the questions: Will this further delay an answer on wells or is this a completely separate issue? A Water Act should give direction on how we use and protect our water supply but it could also derail the whole deep-water well issue for a year or even longer.

At some point, we have to make a decision and it better be the right one. If the issue is too complex for committee members to handle, let the science talk. Is there sufficient groundwater to supply additional deep-water wells and is there sufficient recharge to replenish the water used? Environment data indicates the answers to both are yes. Many have called for a review of that data. An independent commission can provide that.

 

Canada breathes sigh of relief

 

The results of the Quebec election resulted in a big sigh of relief across Canada, especially in the Atlantic region. The Liberal majority means there won’t be a sovereignty referendum and there will be major changes to the controversial secularism charter. The thought of an independent Quebec has always left Atlantic Canadians especially nervous. How could we survive with an independent Quebec separating us from the rest of Canada?

National federal leaders rushed to claim premier-elect Philippe Couillard as a friend and a potential help for their party. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to acknowledge the Liberals won because Quebecers were more concerned about jobs and the economy than referendums and charters. It’s the trump card he will play over and over leading to next fall’s federal vote.

The Quebec election proved that campaigns do matter because the outcome was shaped after the election was called. Pre-election polls all pointed to a majority PQ government but Premier Pauline Marois made mistake after mistake and the tide turned. People are pointing to the infamous Pierre Karl Péladeau fist pump for bringing the sovereignty issue to the forefront. Quebecers said Monday they don’t want another referendum and are uncomfortable with the wording of the charter.

The results in Quebec and elsewhere indicate that early polling data could be meaningless. The campaign is actually important and it’s what people pay attention to. The Quebec leaders’ debates defined the issues and helped make up the minds of voters.

Mr. Couillard had reassuring words in his victory speech. “We are all Quebecers. We should all focus on what brings us together. My friends, division is over. Reconciliation begins.” Good luck sir.

Organizations: P.E.I. Potato Board

Geographic location: Quebec, Canada, Atlantic

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