Land Transactions: Government must exercise its people-given authority

By Douglas Campbell
District Director of the National Farmers Union

The National Farmers Union (NFU), like many other Islanders is still in shock after seeing the Irving family name on yet another land transfer. Rebecca Irving, the young daughter of Mary Jean Irving was able to put more PEI land under the Irving name. No one would dare suggest that Ms Irving’s newly crafted corporation, Red Fox Acres, is connected to Irving corporate empire.

In PEI, people have become accustomed to silence about how the Irving family has gained such wide ranging control. Some people are even afraid to speak out. That is understandable. However what is not understandable and very disheartening to watch is the apparent powerlessness of the PEI Government to exercise its authority in the face of corporate power.

The NFU has emphasized the need to place emphasis on enforcing the “protection” aspect of the Lands Protection Act, i.e, its spirit & intent. The loopholes in the Act have served the interests of the Irvings and others in the corporate sector. We have also warned about the lack of transparency in the MacLauchlan government’s Business Corporation Act. This act received unanimous support from all MLAs in June, 2018).

It is significant that when the Irving corporations, in their varied combinations, were no longer allowed to use the Lands Protection Act loophole, they found an open door in some provisions of the Business Corporation Act. The 2,200 acres to which they wanted titled ownership suddenly became the property of a newly formed corporation. Then an Irving family member, under the Business Corporation Act, was able to buy this new corporation and its assets aka, the 2,200 acres. All legal, they say.

Governments of the past did not display a simple deficiency of political will to protect the resources and life sources of PEI. Rather what they have displayed is a distorted political will to openly serve the interests of corporations. Do they think that the people do not see this? It is common to hear people say that it is corporations which run PEI, not government.

It is our belief any government which lurks behind the veil of powerlessness is unworthy to govern. This is an opportunity for a new government to take a different path to protect the Island, its land/water and its people. Our message to the current PEI Government is that you have the authority to make legislation. Now use it. You have the authority to replace any legislation or articles of legislation to protect the interests of Islanders. Now do it. You have the authority to declare null and void the latest Irving acquisition (and maybe some former ones). Now do it.

The NFU would like to see the Honourable Bloyce Thompson take a stronger stand against the latest Irving acquisition. He is not only minister responsible for agriculture and lands but also as Attorney General is the overseer of all legislation. Minister Thompson must be seen to take control of the situation. The same goes for Premier King, who in the fever of the election campaign vowed to make open and transparent the workings of the Business Corporation Act and its Regulations. Open and transparent government was his pledge to Island voters. We are still waiting to see the openness and transparency.

Building a Just and Sustainable Future

Climate Change, Indigenous Rights and Trade Justice

Public talk by Clayton Thomas-Müller

Wednesday, September 18, 7 pm at the PEI Farm Centre

Trade Justice PEI is pleased to announce that Clayton Thomas-Müller will be in Charlottetown on Wednesday, September 18 for a public speaking event, starting at 7 pm at the PEI Farm Centre. This event is open to the public and there is no charge for admission. Clayton’s talk is part of “Building a Just a Sustainable Future”, a series of events taking place on September 17th and 18th at UPEI and at the Farm Centre.

Clayton Thomas-Müller is a campaigner for indigenous rights and environmental and economic justice. He is based in Winnipeg, Canada, and is a member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, also known as Pukatawagan, in Northern Manitoba. He is a senior campaign specialist with 350.org, an international movement working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.

Clayton has been involved in many initiatives to build an inclusive global movement for energy and climate justice. He serves on the board of environmental organisations such as the Bioneers; Black Mesa Water Coalition; Indigenous Climate Action and the Wildfire Project. He has campaigned across Canada and the US supporting indigenous peoples to defend their territories against the encroachment of the fossil fuel industry, with a special focus stopping the expansion of the Canadian tar sands and its associated pipelines.

Trade Justice PEI, the host of the event, is a coalition of 20 groups, including the National Farmers’ Union, and individuals who are concerned about Canada’s current international trade agenda and who believe that it’s time for trade that is more democratic and environmentally sustainable, more supportive of a transition to a carbon neutral economy in which workers receive their fair share of the benefits, and more respectful of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For more information, find Trade Justice PEI on facebook and Instagram @tradejusticepei, or email tradejusticepei@gmail.com.

Hamilton Heritage Day 2019

Saturday September 14th 10:00 A.M.—3:00 P.M.

Rain date Sunday September 15th same hours as above

Location:  Civic Address 2509 and 2556 Hamilton Road (Route 104)

Vintage Tractor & Equipment Display

10 A.M. – All day Tractor Plowing Clinic / Demonstration

12 P.M. – Slow Tractor Race (30 minutes) –Register on show day

1:00P.M.-3:00 P.M.- Walking tours and artifact description

Horse Section demonstrations (all day)

10 A.M. – 3P.M.

Horse tillage and ploughing demonstration

Threshing Demonstration

10 A.M. – 3P.M.

Massey Harris 5’ Binder and sheaves on display

Hall 4CA thresher operation on demand

Canteen sponsored by Kensington Area Guides and Scouts

Antique Engine Section, Mini Car and Truck Show

Continuous display & demonstrations available

All entries welcome show day (Run what you brung!)

Blacksmith Demonstration

All day- on demand activity on the forge and blacksmithing

Haying Demonstrations

11 AM –3 PM – Hay Loader, Dump Rake, Vintage Hay Tedder and more

Cream Separator demonstration

Alton & Rowena Ramsay and friends – Check with James Carruthers   on show day for further details

Vintage Saw, Shingle Mill & Wood Processing Demonstration

11:00 A.M – 2:00 P.M.

James Carruthers farm – Look for event location on sign show day

Do We Want to be Irving Islanders?

By Douglas Campbell, District Director of the National Farmers Union

The National Farmers Union is shocked beyond belief that the Irving Corporation has found a way to access the 2,200 acres of prime Island farm land they coveted. It seems that the Irvings, by whatever corporate designation they choose, have worked hand in hand with their accomplices, to find a loophole to circumvent the PEI Lands Protection Act. This latest acquisition goes against the earlier recommendation of IRAC, and the decision of the PEI Government to deny the Irvings that specific land purchase.

This latest legal scheme is a bold announcement that the Irvings will stop at nothing to own the Island’s primary resource of land and indirectly water; and as such, control the potato industry in the province – to the determent of independent farmers and all Islanders.

This recent land transaction is, to date, their loudest public proclamation of their contempt of the spirit and intent of the 1982 Lands Protection Act that was put in place to enable Islanders to protect our land from corporate and foreign ownership, as well as, to ensure the livelihood of independent farmers.

Geoffrey Connolly, who is a Haslemere Farms representative (the newly formed corporation that obtained the land), is referenced by Stu Neatby in the Guardian of Monday, August 13 giving details of how the deal was done. The lawyer, a partner of the Charlottetown law firm Stewart McKelvey, indicates that the transaction was allowed due to a “loophole” in the Lands Protection Act. This is one of a number of loopholes in the Act about which the NFU has written and spoken at every opportunity. Lawyers and accountants have eagerly and profitably searched these out over the years. Previous governments have willingly turned a blind eye.  Apparently the current government was caught unaware of this latest strategy by the Irving family.

This breach of the Act through the selling of a corporation, which holds the land assets, rather than a straight land transaction, puts the Island in a precarious position.  If allowed to be finalized it further opens the Island to the world wide land grab that is making land a commodity in the power games of corporations and financial elites. This is far bigger than the Irving’s getting another 2,200 acres to add to their already “over the limits” Island land stock. If the Island government doesn’t act swiftly and with conviction to prevent this deal, the very future of the control of our land is at stake. We are in a deep crisis.

The Island government is not helpless. The government can do something in this instance. The agriculture minister, Bloyce Thompson, has the power to deem what a corporation is, and whether Haslemere Farms is an ‘interlocking” corporation connected with J.D Irving Limited.  He has power to protect the very future of this province. The government can move to repeal Wade McLaughlin’s work of replacing the Companies Act with the Corporate Business Directory that allows corporate shareholders not to be named. They can move to tighten the Lands Protection Act so that its spirit and intent is honoured.  Every elected member of the legislature needs to get immediately invested in the welfare of our primary resource. Prove you are as smart and diligent as those who are attempting to undermine the very fabric of this province. Prove that you do stand for Islanders and that you have a real commitment to honour the spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act.

As Islanders, we all need to take a stand for our land and for the future of every Islander. The Irvings have once again snubbed their noses at the PEI Government. They also make it clear that they have little respect for the residents of Prince Edward Island. We must join together to make our voices heard about the future of PEI lands. How the land is owned, controlled, and used has a deep impact on all of us. We are facing serious consequences if we remain silent now. Future generations will judge us if we do not speak up against the current and ongoing violations of the spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act.