Friday, 30 September 2011

Wind and Watersheds in the PEI Election

Yes healthcare, education, jobs remain the big issues in provincial elections across Canada, but here on PEI political parties pay some attention to the environment as well. As expected Green Party Leader Sharon Labchuck has made it central to all the party's promises and platforms. She's also running in an urban riding against the province's environment minister, so we should get a better  sense of how interested Islanders really are in this issue. Richard Brown has a long history in that district and will be difficult to beat, and the NDP is running a strong candidate in Rita Jackson, so there will be some split in the protest vote which will help Brown.  The Conservatives have an interesting candidate too in radio personality Myles Mackinnon. It will be a district worth watching Monday night.

I was critical of the current Liberal Government for limiting support of watershed groups and farmers taking additional steps to protect the environment to sales of pop and beer ( ) so will acknowledge a campaign promise made this week.

"Watershed groups are among the most committed to environmental sustainability. The work they have
done over the past several years represents a true devotion to improving our Island. To support this work,
the Liberal Team is proposing to invest $4 million in watershed management over the next four years - and
further protect our water supply for the future."

This represents a 25% increase in support ($800 thousand to $ 1 million per year) and goes along with a promise to increase support in the ALUS program as well. If the Liberals are elected and keep their promise, this is definitely moving in the right direction.

I also wanted to point to one other major policy shift  by the Liberals (if I were a real political journalist I'd call it a flip-flop).  When Robert Ghiz was first elected he insisted that any new wind energy projects would be driven by the private sector.   Years ago former Conservative energy minister  Jamie Ballem  had convinced then premier  Pat Binns that there were a limited number of sites on the Island with wind regimes suitable for power production, and the public should own and develop them (remember those Energy Bonds we were encouraged to buy, and at a 5% return they look pretty good right now and you  can see how screwy political ideology is here: Conservatives wanting public ownership, Liberals arguing strenuously that the government had no role in the wind power business). Now the Liberals have come to their senses and promised that the next big wind farm will again be built and owned by the public.  If this project plays out like East Point and North Cape it will pay for itself, and actually make the province some money. Wind is the one energy source Islanders can tap into, it's good to see the benefits will stay here rather than disappearing into Ontario capital markets.   The one exception in ownership here is the West Cape wind farm which is owned by the huge French energy company Suez.  It ships most of its power to the United States.

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