Editor: I appreciate your recent editorial concerning lifting the present moratorium on deep-water wells. However, I believe that the issue is much more complex than just water sufficiency. We need, as a province, to look at this in a broader, more ecological way. Some preliminary questions:
Firstly: merit. Potato production has been responsible for contamination of our ground water with nitrate, of our surface waters with silt, and for poisoning aquatic life with pesticides. The industry as a whole has not accepted responsibility for this, nor has it stepped forward to pay for the cleanup.
There are examples of producers voluntarily implementing good soil and water conservation. However, many others have required legislation or compensation to get them to take even preliminary action. If there is sufficient water to meet demands for irrigation (and I don’t know that there is), has the potato sector shown that it is a responsible steward of land and water?
Secondly: cost. The agricultural sector is heavily subsidized though both direct contributions and tax exemptions/rebates. From lowered property tax, to gas tax to HST, farmers receive much public money. Water has economic value, as residents and businesses in many municipalities know. Should this industry be entitled to it at no cost? Put another way: if — as we are told — the potato industry cannot prosper without this further public subsidy, is the sector even viable?
Finally: consultation. Groundwater is a public resource that affects all of us. We are all entitled to comment on how it is used. In particular, I believe the Crown has a specific obligation to consult with First Nations about decisions affecting water, land and wildlife. It would seem to me that allocation of a large amount of water for private, industrial use should trigger such obligations.