CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — An Oct. 5 provincial standing committee meeting held to discuss shoreline protection did not proceed as expected, as one member threatened to leave and questioned the validity of the presenter.
Bryson Guptill spoke to the standing committee on natural resources and environmental sustainability to raise concerns about shoreline protection across the P.E.I., particularly with regards to a controversial coastal development in Point Deroche.
In his opening remarks to the committee, Guptill stated that while he is a member of the volunteer organization Island Trails, he was presenting as an informed Island citizen.
Guptill further explained that he was a member of a group of Islanders who shared his concern for shoreline erosion and the Point Deroche development, however, that many of those members wished to remain anonymous.
Guptill’s remarks focused on the setback zone of shoreline buildings and environmental buffer zones featuring different sizes, which he argued allow for too much interpretation for developers, and not enough consideration for climate change.
“As we go forward, we all need to be more cognizant of the impact of coastal erosion and climate change in our decisions on shoreline,” Guptill said to the committee in summary of his primary goal on Oct. 5.
“There needs to be recognition to the dynamic nature of the shoreline, rather than falling back on what has been.”
While other members of the committee questioned Guptill on topics such as the high-water mark and the complexities of the relationship between private shoreline property and public beaches, one member instead questioned the validity of Guptill’s concerns.
MLA Brad Trivers, who is an observing member of the committee, asked if Guptill had filed any documentation with the committee “in a coherent fashion,” and likened Guptill’s concerns to “coffeeshop conversation.”
“Policy follows legislation and follows regulations, it’s not made up as you go along,” Guptill said in response to Trivers.
Trivers continued this trend of provocative questioning for the remainder of the committee meeting, both towards Guptill and between other committee members.
“A conspiracy theory is what it is,” Trivers called out later, interrupting committee member Peter Bevan-Baker as he questioned Guptill on specifics regarding the Point Deroche development.
Trivers repeatedly pressed Guptill to clarify and list those he represented during the meeting, eventually prompting committee chair Robert Henderson to step in to remind Trivers that it was entirely legal for a citizen to appear before the committee.
“You can make a presentation as an individual here at our committee, as an ad hoc group or whatever, so there’s nothing inappropriate about what he’s doing. And he did sort of explain that at the start just to clarify,” Henderson told Trivers.
Trivers continued to press Guptill for the exact number of individuals who share Guptill’s concerns about shoreline developments and shoreline protections and threatened to walk away from the meeting if Guptill did not do so.
“I’m gonna walk away from this meeting unless mister Guptill can clarify further that we are hearing from him today, and he represents no one but himself because I can’t figure out these other anonymous people,” Trivers declared at one point during the meeting.
This remark prompted Henderson to once again step in, reminding the MLA that Guptill had already appropriately responded, and was not obligated to answer further.
Trivers ultimately did not walk away from the committee and remained until the end of the meeting.
Following the conclusion of Guptill’s time, the committee decided to seek clarification from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regarding shoreline protection.
The committee will write a letter to the DFO seeking clarification on their jurisdiction and role in issues regarding shoreline protection on beach tidal zones, below the ordinary high tide mark.
By Caitlin Coombes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Oct 16, 2023 at 05:56