Why is the MacLauchlan Government Keeping Pesticide Application Data for PEI “Secret”?
If you have been reading my recent articles, you’ll realize that despite almost daily assurances from Premier Wade MacLauchlan that his Liberal government is “open and transparent,” he’s been leading the most secretive government our Island has ever seen. And I’ve been trying to draw attention to this fact with hard evidence in many of my writings. Here’s just a few recent examples:
My Guest Opinion in the Guardian earlier this week (Tuesday, November 13, 2018) titled”Access still being denied,” reported how the MacLauchlan government has been keeping Islanders in the dark about how much land is currently owned by non-residents and corporations – or owned by certain individuals within certain families (such as the Irvings) who may be directors and/or shareholders of multiple corporations – by (1) blocking access to information in our Land Registry databank at the Island Regulatory Appeals Commission (IRAC); and, (2) blocking access to information within our Corporate/Business Registry on who are the directors and shareholders of Island corporations. I (or others) could easily answer these critically-important questions in a few days of dedicated research if access to these records was provided, but instead, we’ve been told that the government will give that information to us in due time…. and so we wait….and wait….and wait…. as we watch the proverbial can being kicked down the proverbial road.
The day before “Access still being denied” appeared in the Guardian, I published an article on this website titled, The Liberal Government’s Blatant Abuse of “Access to Information” discussing the promised review of land holdings, and reporting how I had submitted an Access to Information request to Communities, Land and Environment Minister Hon. Richard Brown’s department to find out what – if anything – had been said and/or done since that promise was made last Spring. I received no meaningful information in that request, and of the 69 pages released to me, pages 15-69 didn’t contain a single, solitary word.
I have since learned – on good authority – that Minister Brown misled the National Farmers Union (NFU) when he told them at their annual District Convention on April 3, 2018 that he had asked (past tense) IRAC to undertake a review of land holdings. He made that same claim public just a couple of weeks later [“P.E.I. government orders review of land ownership to determine if any rules being broken” April 23, CBC]:
“Minister of Communities, Land and Environment Richard Brown has asked [past tense] the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) to conduct the review to determine whether anyone is breaking the rules.”
I have recently suggested to opposition PC MLAs that they should ask Minister Brown to table his request to IRAC to conduct that land holdings review in the Legislative Assembly. If they do, I believe they’ll discover that the date on that formal request will not be last March, but October 28, 2018!
I’ve also recently attempted to get some hard data on the amount of commercial (non-domestic) pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) which have been applied to our land. For many years, the PEI governments has published comprehensive annual sales data for pesticides (both domestic and non-domestic) compiled in an easy to understand chart format listing the application rates (in kilograms) for all pesticides sold in PEI by “active ingredient”.
After spending an hour or so hunting for this data online, I concluded that the MacLauchlan government hadn’t put it online, and that I’d have to make a formal request for the data, so I did. I contacted the PEI government Pesticide Management Program Specialist, Thane Clarke, on November 6, 2018 with the following request for information:
Dear Mr. Clark:Can you tell me where I might obtain up-to-date statistics on the amount of agricultural pesticides applied annually in Prince Edward Island? Ideally it would be great if this information was available as commercial sales data in the following categories: fungicides; insecticides; and herbicides, but I would be appreciative for whatever information you have or can direct me to regarding comprehensive annual pesticide data.Thank you.Kevin J Arsenault, Ph.D
I received a response from Mr. Clarke later that same day:
Hi Kevin:Here is the link to our website on annual pesticide sales.https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/communities-land-and-environment/annual-pesticides-sales-dataWe will be loading up the 2015, as well as the 2016 sales before year’s end. In the new year, we will begin to collect the 2017 data for collation and publishing.The Federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) had proposed a sales data project some years ago, and Delly Keen, the PMRA Officer for the province, would be the person to follow up on this issue, from their perspective. Her phone number is (902) 370-4515 and e-mail is email@example.comIf you have any further questions, contact me at any of the co-ordinates listed below this e-mail response.Best,Thane.
Notwithstanding the fact that the sales data had not been put on the website, I wanted to see it, so I sent another email to Mr. Clarke a few days later:
Dear Mr. Clarke,Could you kindly provide me with the most recent pesticide sales data for pei? The most recent I could find was the chart for 2013-14 on the following PEI government webpage: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/communities-land-and-environment/annual-pesticides-sales-dataThank you,Kevin J Arsenault, Ph.D
I just received a response from Mr. Clarke yesterday (November 15, 2018):
Good afternoon Mr. Arsenault:Thank you for your request, and you are correct in that the most recent pesticide sales/use figures are for 2014. Presently, I am working with my staff, alone with the IT personnel to prepare the 2015/2016 statistics for uploading the data onto the PEI government website. I am expecting this to be completed by early 2019.Should you have any further questions, contact me at any of the co-ordinates listed below this e-mail response.Best,Thane.
There you have it! Since Wade MacLauchlan became premier in May, 2015, his government has provided ZERO data on commercial agricultural pesticide application rates for the entire time he has been in power!
I suppose this was predictable. Immediately after Wade MacLauchlan became premier he appointed John Jamieson as his Deputy Minister of Agriculture – on May 22, 2015. A few days later, Vision PEI co-founder David Weale was interviewed by the Guardian on the appointment [P.E.I. advocacy group critical of new agriculture deputy minister] and explained why he believed MacLauchlan had made a very bad decision with his choice of Deputy Minister of Agriculture, referring to Jamieson as the “Poster Boy for Industrial Agriculture.”
Information is power, and if Islanders are to exercise their democratic rights to have meaningful input into influencing government and bringing about positive social change we need to be properly informed on issues. And one of those issues is the likely significant use of increasingly potent pesticides.
The article I published yesterday [PEI Farmers: Please Don’t Plant Monsanto’s “Dekalb” GMO Corn & Soybeans!] discussed how our crops are becoming increasingly tolerant to pesticides, requiring more and stronger applications. We have a right to know exactly what – and exactly how much – pesticides are being applied to crops and released into our fragile environment. But this Liberal government refuses to provide access to this critically-important information. Why?
In the weeks leading up to the Progressive Conservative leadership convention, I will be outlining in detail how I would implement a “True Transparency” policy for government with specific policies, programs and measures that make important information available to Islandes. [Spoiler alert – Islanders would be provided comprehensive, up-to-date information on the annual pesticide application rates in PEI in a timely manner].
If I was to become leader of the PC Party – and eventually premier of Prince Edward Island – I can assure you I would put an end to the Liberal “dark ages” shrouded in government secrecy.