Friends of the Richelieu. A river. A passion.

"Tout cedit pays est fort uny, remply de forests, vignes & noyers. Aucuns Chrestiens n'estoient encores parvenus jusques en cedit lieu, que nous, qui eusmes assez de peine à monter le riviere à la rame. " Samuel de Champlain

"All this region is very level and full of forests, vines and butternut trees. No Christian has ever visited this land and we had all the misery of the world trying to paddle the river upstream." Samuel de Champlain

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My problem with Mulcair

Protesters trying to get Mulcair to cancel pig farm project in Richelieu, photo by Eric Cloutier

I personnally have nothing against the NDP. But ever since they have elected Thomas Mulcair as their leader, I wonder if they are oblivious to the man's past, or if they are corrupted as all the rest of most of the politicians that govern us. I have boxes of documentation, newspaper clippings and copies of letters to corroborate what I will say here, but I will try to be brief.

Back in 2005, Mulcair was the Quebec Environment Minister under the Liberal government of Jean Charest - yes, the same one that was leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party for a while. There were a lot of environmental topics being seriously discussed in my province, but since about year 2000, the new way of raising pigs to make them a major export made rural citizens all over the province go down in the streets and protest.

The industrial way to raise huge amounts of pigs, removing them from their natural urge to turn up soil with their snout and raising them in concrete buildings their whole lives made the disposal of their waste a huge problem. The solution is to raise the floors and wash the place with great quantities of water, storing the waste in vast pits, and spraying the marinated product on surrounding farmland.

This method posed multiple problems that amounted to a convergence of pollution and monocultures of GMOs. In order to feed an ever growing population of pigs, farmland became a medium to grow GMO corn and GMO soy almost exclusively. That meant the decimation of insects, birds, woodlots, microfauna. Rich soil became a sterile medium that had to be boosted up either by urea or pig slurry or both.

The phenomenal amount of pig slurry had to be disposed of, and it ended up being sprayed on farmland already subject to erosion because of the disappearance of woodlots and buffer strips. The saturated fields, no longer holding any more humus, drained into ditches, watercourses and lakes at every rain. Climate change made things worse: long droughts, but mostly heavy rains, chocked out the watercourses and provoked changes in the species that could live and reproduce in them.

So back in 2005, the Environment Ministry gave out a certificate of authorization for the construction of the biggest new pig farm of Quebec (5,800 animals), and that was in my hometown: Richelieu. The buildings and slurry pits were to be built along the Richelieu River, the biggest effluent on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. The slurry was also to be spread on farmland along the river. The two concrete slurry pits were put at the confluence of two streams that poured directly into the Richelieu River, at about 15 km upstream from the surface water intake of the drinking water plant for 3 surrounding municipalities, and about 20 km from a nature preserve protecting the spawning grounds of an endangered endemic fish species. Neighbors with drinking water wells not deep enough were out of luck: they had to have new deeper drinking water wells drilled at their own expense.

Only a handful of people in my hometown were in favor of this project. The whole town went up in arms, and citizens from surrounding municipalities joined in the fray. But once the permit is given out by the ministry, only the Environment Minister has the power to revoke the permit. Three women, me one of them, were able to get a few minutes to speak with Mulcair after a rain of letters and postcards were sent to him. But he would not listen. He would keep repeating the same speech he gave every time a controversial project endangering the environment would be questioned.

So Mulcair was the only one who could have spared an already very polluted river from bad agricultural practises from going from bad to worse. Mulcair was the only one who could have spared the many people living in the country that became sick every time spreading of pesticides or fertilizer was done. Mulcair was the only one who could have helped keep the price of cleaning up the river water for drinking purposes from rising even more. Mulcair was the only one who could have spared the many homeowners who had to dig new wells for their drinking water. Mulcair was the only one who could have kept the air from turning sour when that pig slurry was churned in those pits, or when it was pumped into tanks and spread across the land.

So that is why my opinion of the NDP took a drop when Mulcair was chosen as their leader. Because in my eyes, he betrayed my trust in good sense and good governance.

Photo: scientific study by NOVE Environnement showing the smell coming from the pig buildings and slurry pits (not the slurry spreading)across the Richelieu Valley, reaching many surrounding urban areas.

Here is a reproduction of the official document describing the pig farm project in Richelieu. The 2 red dots are the concrete pits holding the pig slurry. The 4 blue rectangles are the pig barns. The 2 slurry pits (in red) are at the junction of streams making 2 big Ys (in green) whose feet end up in the Richelieu River at the left:

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