Water white paper
Two-phased public consultations to begin in the coming months on process to create legislation that secures the resource for generations
Government releases white paper on upcoming water act and is asking for public input.
The leader of P.E.I.’s Green Party applauds government but thinks their timeline is a bit ambitious.
Peter Bevan-Baker says he’s thrilled to see the province finally moving ahead with the process of creating legislation that aims to protect P.E.I.’s water supply.
Environment Minister Robert Mitchell tabled the white paper in the P.E.I. legislature on Wednesday. A white paper is a document which outlines the components of an act, serves as a resource for Islanders and initiates discussion.
Public consultation is expected to begin within the next few months and government says the plan is to have the actual Water Act tabled by the fall of 2016.
Bevan-Baker thinks that is being very ambitious.
“This cannot be rushed. A Water Act is not something that can be drawn up in a hurry. British Columbia has been working on their’s for over five years and it’s still not complete,’’ BevanBaker told the media following question period. “I’m not sure there is going to be enough time to do a really thorough job. We have to get this right the first time.’’
P.E.I. is the only province dependent entirely on groundwater for its drinking water. The planned act will provide water security, offer guidance for government decisions involving water management and put legislation in place that will allow water challenges to be effectively addressed.
Public consultations led by the province’s environmental advisory council will be held across the province with dates, times and locations advertised ion advance.
Jean-Paul Arsenault, who served as executive secretary to the Commission on Land and Local Governance, the roundtable on resource land use and stewardship and the standing committee on agriculture, forestry and environment, will serve as moderator.
Information gathered from all consultations will go to Mitchell’s department, be put into a draft plan and a second round of public meetings will take place based on that draft plan.
Richard Davies, chairman of the advisory council, said all topics involving water will be part of the talks.
“It covers the entire facet of all water issues - be they waste water issues, high capacity wells, drinking water; we want to cover the whole gamut of issues surrounding water,’’ Davies said, adding that consultations will include peer review scientific people, every watershed group in the province and government officials working in the field.
In regards to the controversial issue of whether to lift the moratorium on high capacity wells, Davies said no decision has been made but he wants to hear from the public.
“We are still debating; we are still talking; we are still trying to understand the dynamics.’’
Mitchell said the Water Act will reflect what Islanders want in it.
“A white paper is a discussion paper, a document that gets the juices flowing for discussion,’’ Mitchell said. “It’s absolutely important that all Islanders have their say. I know a lot of people have special interest in this due to their professions.’’
Bevan-Baker says the act will also have to take into account the differing needs of each of the nearly 20 watershed groups in the province.
Richard Davies, chairman of P.E.I.’s environmental advisory council, says public consultations will be held from tip to tip over the coming months on a process to create a Water Act.