Last chance for part one

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Time is quickly run­ning out for Is­lan­ders in­ter­ested in pro­vid­ing in­put or feed­back on a new Wa­ter Act. To­day is the dead­line for part one of the process which gen­er­ated lots of in­ter­est in a se­ries of pub­lic dis­cus­sions last fall. In the se­cond round, govern­ment will out­line spe­cific items to be ad­dressed in the new leg­is­la­tion. Once again, the pub­lic will again be in­vited to com­ment.

Wa­ter is crit­i­cally im­por­tant since Prince Ed­ward Is­land is the only prov­ince com­pletely de­pen­dent on ground­wa­ter for its source of drink­ing wa­ter. More than any other prov­ince, our suc­cess de­pends on healthy soil, clean air and wa­ter. To its credit, govern­ment rec­og­nizes that pro­tec­tion of wa­ter is a fun­da­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The goal of the pro­posed Wa­ter Act is to pro­tect the qual­ity and quan­tity of the Is­land’s wa­ter and en­sure that our wa­ter sup­ply is healthy and sus­tain­able now and into the fu­ture. The con­tents of the new act will re­ceive un­prece­dented heavy scru­tiny.

It’s been over three years since the P.E.I. potato in­dus­try be­gan call­ing for an end to a lengthy mora­to­rium on deep-wa­ter, high-ca­pac­ity wells. It led to a huge pub­lic de­bate on the Is­land’s ground­wa­ter re­source, forc­ing govern­ment into ad­dress­ing the is­sue. That fi­nally came in June 2014 when the prov­ince an­nounced plans for a com­pre­hen­sive Wa­ter Act. That was fol­lowed with a white pa­per in July 2015. That doc­u­ment promised leg­is­la­tion that will ad­dress all aspects of wa­ter man­age­ment.

Pub­lic meet­ings were held across the prov­ince in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber. In­ter­est was so high that ad­di­tional meet­ings were sched­uled and now the En­vi­ron­men­tal Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil will pre­pare a re­port, re­flect­ing what it has heard through­out the first stage of con­sul­ta­tion and present it to the Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­ment. This re­port will be made pub­lic. All sub­mis­sions and pre­sen­ta­tions made to date are avail­able for pub­lic re­view on the pro­vin­cial Wa­ter Act web­site.

Up to the end of busi­ness to­day, feed­back can be sub­mit­ted on the prov­ince’s web­site and also via phone, email and writ­ten sub­mis­sions.

There had been some crit­i­cism that govern­ment was fast-track­ing the wa­ter act and there was a need to slow down the process. It’s been over 12 years since the mora­to­rium on deep­wa­ter wells was put in place, al­most two years since a wa­ter act was first an­nounced and likely late this year be­fore the fi­nal bill comes be­fore the leg­is­la­ture for de­bate. It will likely face a se­ries of amend­ments be­fore third read­ing and pas­sage into law. It could be 2017 be­fore we have a Wa­ter Act on the books. Surely, three years or more should be long enough to get this im­por­tant ques­tion dealt with.

And those crit­ics who sug­gest such a sce­nario, had bet­ter get their in­put recorded by to­day. If you’re not part of the so­lu­tion, then you’re part of the prob­lem.

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