Small communities need unity to face large interests

A New Year. Early days. The good news is that, all around us, governments, individuals and organizations are striving to make sure 2014 is an improved version of 2013.

Internationally, US President Barack Obama is making certain that he will do whatever he can in his remaining two years as the world’s most powerful person to achieve that most sought after commodity: a plan for peace in the Middle East, in particular between the Israeli nation and the Palestinians who remain adamant about having their own state.

His secretary of state, John Kerry, has been tasked with the considerable job of negotiating a “framework agreement” that will eventually lead to a land settlement on which Israeli and Palestinian leaders can all agree.

That’s a main stage, big league goal that is being diligently sought as we enter this New Year and thank heaven that these powerful people try to achieve peace, or something like it, in a corner of the world where an outright war, if ever begun, would affect all of us.

Here on Manitoulin, events will move ahead in 2014 that should benefit us all.

The Manitoulin Stewardship Council, for example, is planning to consult Manitoulin people regarding their views on the possibility of oil shale, natural gas and oil extraction on Manitoulin Island.

The process, commonly known as “fracking”, is a controversial one.

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, the individual that ensures provincial compliance with Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), has recently questioned why this province does not yet have a policy on potential fracking and it is the intention of the Manitoulin Stewardship Council to develop a position appropriate for Manitoulin Island. (By way if interest, the neighbouring province of Quebec has a very simple policy respecting fracking: it’s not allowed.) Out in New Brunswick, it’s an enormously derisive and emotionally fraught activity, that in fact, was one of the roots of the Idle No More movement in late 2012.

In our tiny corner of the world, such a considered response to a possible environmental threat is similar in kind, just not in degree, to the US Secretary of State’s efforts to create a peaceful negotiated settlement of long-held and deeply rooted grievances by the Palestinians against the state of Israel and Israel’s defensive response to this.

In the event that Ontario agrees to fracking for oil and natural gas, it will be important to have a united position and a group to lobby on behalf of this special piece of real estate.

It’s the beginning of a New Year. We certainly cannot predict the future with pinpoint accuracy at either the international or local levels, but it’s important to know that our long-term best interests are a priority.