Hello to all NFU Members in District 1, Region 1:
It is time to connect with you all by means of this newsletter to let you know what the NFU has been doing in the past few months. Late in 2019 a good number of NFU members from P. E. I. attended the 50th Anniversary Convention of the NFU which was held in Winnipeg – the place where the Founding Convention took place. This anniversary convention was a time to look back at the past achievements of the organization over the last fifty years and to develop a vision for our continued involvement in the agricultural scene well into the future. We were particularly glad to have Urban and Mary Laughlin attend the Convention once again. Urban was presented with a lovely plaque in recognition of his contribution to the NFU as well as recognition of the fact he had attended all fifty National Conventions as well as the Founding Convention. He is the only person in Canada to hold this record. Congratulations, Urban, and many thanks to you and Mary for all the work you have done. Thanks too to Reg Phelan for all the work he has done for many years on the National Board. Thanks to Stella Shepard for all her support during Reg’s involvement. Byron Petrie is our new National Board Member.
District Convention – CANCELLED! Due to COVID-19. Our District Convention this year will take place on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at the Milton Community Hall. Storm date will be the following Thursday. Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the meeting starting at 10:00 a.m. Our guest speaker will be the National NFU Women’s President, Coral Sproule who will be speaking on climate change. The Minister of Agriculture will also be invited to speak as well as a number of other individuals. Resolutions will be considered and elections will take place for District officials. Assistance for child care is available. Watch for more convention details in another newsletter.
Land – As has been the case over the past few years, we have concentrated on land issues in P. E. I. We were extremely disturbed to see the farm land in Bedeque fall into the hands of Rebecca Irving (daughter of Mary Jean Irving) even though the MacLaughlan Government had denied the request at election time in the spring of 2019. However, that same Government had provided another way for this to happen when they came up with changes to the Business Corporations Act approximately one year earlier. So while it looked good at election time to deny the Irving request, there was another “back door” opened for the deal to proceed. The Business Corporation Act made it possible for a corporation to corporation sale with no regard given to the fact land was the major asset. Consequently, this sale did not go through the normal channels of IRAC and then on to the Minister of Agriculture & Land and on to the Provincial Cabinet. The sale is still under investigation by IRAC and hopefully their report will be received by the Government within the next few weeks.
On Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 the NFU met with Agriculture & Land Minister, Hon. Bloyce Thompson and his Deputy Minister Brian Matheson. We covered a lot of ground in our allotted forty-five minute session. We emphasized that the Business Corporations Act must be changed with regard to corporation to corporation sales involving land.
We were interested in becoming informed on the process of consultations which will take place on improvements to the Lands Protection Act. This is still in the developmental stage according to the Minister and Deputy. A matter of concern to the NFU is that we were told that the consultations will cover the Lands Protection Act and the Planning Act as well. This could very well revolve into discussion on the municipal governance issue, land use, etc. The NFU sees this as a possible method to confuse the issue. Yes, land use is very much a concern of the Lands Protection Act to the extent that the land is being mined by the industrial way of farming which is being carried on. Land ownership is the real issue and this topic is what the consultations should address. I would strongly urge you to make time to attend a consultation session when the schedule becomes known.
We were told the Minister does not have the necessary information from IRAC to determine if corporations inter-connect. This is extremely important and the Minister must insist that IRAC delve into this issue and inform him accordingly. We reminded the Minister that he has always had the power, under the 1982 Lands Protection Act to deem inter-connected corporations to be one corporation which would mean they could own 3,000 acres of arable land as well as up to 1,200 acres of non-arable land and could lease in and out up to 1,500 acres.
We asked that the Business and Corporate Registry be made much more user friendly and that the public be able to find out who the directors and shareholders of any registered corporation are, including numbered corporations.
Although we have issues to work on, we came away from the meeting feeling that the Minister has a real heart for the preservation of land for farming families. We were particularly pleased with his comment that “farmers should do the farming and processors do the processing” – something the NFU has been saying for years. We will see what happens and surely hold onto that comment!
A number of NFU members attended the meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability earlier in January. Mr. Horace Carver, the author of “The Gift of Jurisdiction” and the Land Commissioner in 2012-13 spoke with the Select Standing Committee. His message to MLA’s was loud and clear – if you need additional information – get it. If the Lands Protection Act is being circumvented – fix it. He strongly advised that it is the Government that has the power to make things right and they need to take responsibility and do it.
Farm Land Banking – For many years, the NFU has supported the concept of farm land banking
in order for retiring farmers to sell their land to the Government which, in turn, would make the land available to new and expanding farm families. Kevin Arsenault has compiled a comprehensive report on this topic and this was submitted to the Provincial Government in December 2019. To date, the Government has not seen fit to release the report to the public. The NFU is attempting to meet with the Premier, the Minister of Agriculture and Land and the Transportation Minister regarding the report. It appears that Hon. Steven Myers, Minister of Transportation will be in charge of farm land banking in PEI. This is wrong indeed. While Transportation may be the Department to purchase land, the conducting of the program should fall within the hands of the Agriculture & Land Department.
Fuel Negotiations – In the near future, your Collective Bargaining Committee will begin negotiations on a new fuel deal for NFU members. If you have concerns about the current program, please call one of the Committee members – Gordon Vessey at 902-629-1332 , Vernon MacLeod at 902-651-2406 or myself at 902-436-2518. We need and value your comments.
Survey – Angela Costello, a student in the Environmental Studies program at UPEI is doing a research project regarding species at risk along with Dr. Carolyn Peach Brown. Angela is interested in talking with young farmers to better understand the role they are playing or can play in the protection of the environment and species at risk on PEI. Participants are not required to know anything about species at risk in order to complete her survey. Then if farmers are interested in participating, she would conduct an interview. If interested, you can contact Angela at email@example.com or Dr. Carolyn Peach Brown at 902-620-5066 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Trade Negotiatons – Recent trade negotiations have sealed the fate of farmers. The U.S., Canada and Mexico have ratified the CUSMA agreement and it now goes to the House of Commons to be debated. This is just a formality. For the dairy industry, it will mean a decreasing of our markets, and US milk will be coming into Canada. P.E.I.’s market share reduction will be taken out of the Canadian system which in turn will mean lower milk prices to dairy producers.
Crop Damage Due to Hurricane Dorian – By now farmers should have received a survey regarding damaged suffered due to Hurricane Dorian. I understand that the deadline to apply has been extended to February 13, 2020. If you have comments and/or concerns which you would like to pass on, please call me at 902-436-2518.
We look forward to seeing you at our District Convention on Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Douglas Campbell, NFU District Director, District 1, Region 1