Announce, defend style of consultation

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Editor: The last few weeks have seen the business of governing P.E.I. being trumped by MLAs currying favour with potential leaders in soon-to-be re-booted political parties.

An encouraging counterpoint to this was the report delivered to the legislature from the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry. This multi-party committee received 29 presentations and 16 written submissions over several months and presented its report on the 19th of November. This was one of the few opportunities the electorate had to directly engage with their elected representatives on important issues.

Among other things the committee recommended was not lifting the 2002 moratorium on high capacity wells.

It stressed the development of a Water Act and that the public consultation be “inclusive, extensive and transparent.”

The Guardian editorial of November 24 (Committee procrastinates on wells issue) kicked this process to the curb. The editor berated the committee membership for not providing a timely report appropriate to the perceived needs of a portion of the potato processing industry.

The issues arising from high- capacity wells represent a fraction of the elements that must be included in a comprehensive water act.

This editorial simplifies and trivializes a primary recommendation of the committee.

It is interesting to note the following day’s Guardian featured an article on Agriculture Minister George Webster’s address to the AGM of the P.E.I. Potato Board (which took place on the previous Friday).

The minister said: “The government will proceed with public discussions leading to the development of a Water Act with one goal being the opportunity for some farmers to access deep-water wells for irrigation purposes.”

Is this the minister’s goal, the government’s goal or the industry’s goal? The Webster Dictionary defines the word “discuss” (verb): to talk about (something) with another person or group.

The minister’s version of a discussion is strikingly similar to the government’s road-tested announce and defend style of public consultation.

As we look to the future, the Water Act will be of utmost importance to all Islanders. The old style driven by political expediency and vested interest carries unacceptable risk.

Boyd Allen,

Pownal

Organizations: Standing Committee on Agriculture, P.E.I. Potato Board

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