Understanding the Spirit of the Lands Protection Act

 

GUEST OPINION BY DOUGLAS CAMPBELL – JUNE 28, 2018

The National Farmers Union (NFU) notices and welcomes the community’s new expressions of interest about the Lands Protection Act. Islanders know the painful history of the land and how easily it can be taken from the people. Now we are in a new era in how land transactions take place. In 2018, the style of take-overs is more hidden than they were in other times. However, on the community level, people know who is taking control of vast acreages. What is not clear to the Island population is why the Lands Protection Act seems to be powerless to stop the rapid land grab so obvious in the rural community.

The NFU has not said that corporations and individuals are breaking the letter of the law set out in the Lands Protection Act. We are saying that there is an alarming ignorance on the part of policy makers and other Island residents about the spirit of the Act.

In 1982, then-Premier Angus MacLean made it clear that the spirit/intent of the act was to keep farm land in the control of Island farm families and to keep all lands in control of Islanders. Control of the land was Premier MacLean’s over-arching theme. Part of this was that individuals and corporations must be prohibited from amassing large land holding. The Act also put tight restrictions on non-resident purchases of land. There was no intention to discourage new people from becoming resident owners. It was meant to prevent absentee control of the land.

Our consultations with influential people, associates of Premier MacLean, tell the NFU that limiting land holding in the Act was an instrument of keeping Island land in specific Island hands. The restriction to 1,000 acres for individuals would prevent excessive concentration. It meant that more people, rather than fewer, would actually control the land. The 3,000-acre limit for corporations, in the vision of Premier MacLean, was meant as a business convenience for farm families.

The intent was that three members of a family group, e.g. a parent and two adult children could form a corporation. In this way, the original spirit of the Lands Protection Act was to keep farm land at the service of family farming model. It was never intended that the corporation limit would be manipulated to serve the interests of industrial agriculture. In fact, a five-acre limit was placed on industrial corporations (including processors).

So, to accept the spirit of the Lands Protection Act, in fact, requires accepting the original goals of keeping farm land in family farming. What a desecration to see the corporation allowance being manipulated for massive takeovers of farm land. Contrary to the spirit of the Act, the goal of this current takeover is to enlarge the profits of the powerful corporations, and to firmly establish the industrial farming model as the predominant agricultural structure.

Some people, including policy makers, seem to be easily confused about what a family farm is. The NFU has heard members of large corporations, controlling immense tracts of land in P.E.I., saying, “we are a family involved in farming, so we are a ‘family farm.” That does not make their operation a family farm. When we speak of family farms, we are not talking of industrial corporations with huge land spreads.

goal of industrial farming is to amass profit for the corporation, to increase its capital holdings. The family farm on the other hand is a unit of food production where the major production decisions are made by the farm family. The farm is small enough ideally to make production decisions and to allow it to be worked mainly by the family, of course with outside labour for the busy seasons. Central concerns are making a living for the farm family and caring for the land, air and water.

With new awareness in the community about land, and about the Lands Protection Act, the NFU urges Islanders to speak out. Those in power interpret silence as consent. The NFU wants to hear loud protests about the weakening of the Act and the failure of governments to protect our land for current and future generations.

– Douglas Campbell, dairy farmer in Southwest Lot 16, District Director of the National Farmers Union

NFU urges Trudeau to stand firm in the protection of Canadian supply management!

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June 14, 2018

Right Honorable Justin Trudeau
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario   K1A 0A6
justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

We understand that you are under enormous pressure to give up Canadian interests in the negotiations with the USA in order to reach a new NAFTA deal. President Trump is using highly unfair arguments, especially when he targets tariffs that protect Canadian supply management. The USA, like European countries, offers enormous price support programs to farmers in general and dairy farmers in particular. They do that in order to enable farmers to survive an extreme low world-market price for dairy, caused, among other factors, by the American and European dairy producers’ double-digit production increases.  Canadian farmers did not cause this glut — because they have production discipline they do not over produce. In Canada we don’t need a government subsidy program, as our supply management system rewards efficient dairy farmers sufficiently from the market place. A recent study by Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) and executed by AC Nielsen Canada, showed that dairy products in Canada are 17% less expensive than in the U.S.

We are in close contact with farm groups in the USA who are organizing to get supply management systems off the ground in their country.  After studying and understanding the benefits of the Canadian system, these farm groups are squarely opposing President Trump’s NAFTA demand for dairy concessions from Canada. They see supply management as the only way for American dairy farmers to survive.

It is paramount that the Canadian government protects supply management for farmers’ sake, as well as for consumers and the tax-payer. Impairing it would be costly for government in terms of creating bailout programs for farmers and Canadian consumers would pay likely higher prices for lower quality.

We urge you to stand firm in the protection of Canadian supply management.

Already other trade agreements have watered down protection for supply management. This needs to stop. Supply management is an economic backbone for rural Canada and it has proven to be an example that others want to emulate.

Please show leadership and stand firm.

Sincerely,

Jan Slomp,
Vice-President Policy, National Farmers Union

CC: Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister; Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Agriculture Minister

For more information:

To take action:

  • Make your views know to the Prime Minister and /or Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister and/or Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Agriculture Minister. Click on the their names for full contact information – email, phone, fax and snail mail
  • Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper
  • Phone your local radio station’s call-in show
  • Share this information with your friends and neighbours

Calling for an Independent Review of Land Holdings and Transfers

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by Douglas Campbell

May 3, 2017

Published in the Charlottetown Guardian

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has continuously raised the alarm in public about the conditions in which PEI land is being transferred. We therefore welcomed the announcement of the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment, the Honourable Richard Brown, that he is initiating a review of non-resident and corporate land holdings. However, we have serious concerns about the Minister putting this task into the hands of the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC).

The NFU understands and appreciates IRAC and its role to provide advice and recommendations to the Executive Council (the Cabinet) on all matters relating to the Lands Protection Act. IRAC receives all applications for land transfer to which the Lands Protection Act apply and recommend to the Cabinet either a denial or approval.

In our dealings over the years with IRAC, we take for granted the integrity of the Commission. They give as much information as possible to the public. However the NFU believes that because IRAC has authority only as delegated by government, the Commission may not be totally free to do a comprehensive and independent review of how the Lands Protection Act is administered.

It is difficult to understand the intent or scope of the proposed review, given that the Premier, the former Minister of Communities, Lands and Environment and the current Minister have all declared categorically that the letter of the Act is being followed. It would be difficult for IRAC to unearth findings which would contradict these authorities. The NFU even wonders if it is fair, given these circumstances to ask IRAC to perform this task.

The NFU has never claimed that the letter of the Act is violated. It seems, however, that there are loopholes in the Act, which appear to be easily navigated with the help of astute lawyers. The clearest example of a loophole is that a corporation can spawn various other corporations with separate directors, all of which, in reality, remain connected by access to the mother-corporation’s capital assets and management. The community knows that land is being concentrated and placed under the control of fewer and fewer corporations.

Following only the letter of the law is not sufficient for the land situation we are facing. The letter of the law and the spirit of the law must go hand-in-hand. The current proposed investigation concerns only the letter of the law. If we continue to follow only the letter of the law and ignore the spirit, intent, and purpose of the Act, then Island farmland will continue to be sold off to the highest bidder. Now is the time for government to shoulder its responsibility for this. The NFU is looking for real expressions of “political will” to truly protect PEI land according to the intent and spirit of the Lands Protection Act. The buck stops with the Government. The use of loopholes is in violation of the “spirit”, the intent, of the Act.

If we want to know the spirit of the Act we need to go back to its origins. The NFU has talked to key people who were involved in the early development of the Lands Protection Act. They speak clearly about what Premier Angus MacLean and his government intended. The intent, they say, was to keep all Island lands, including the shoreline, woods, and environmentally sensitive land in the hands of Islanders. The hope was that those who gained access to acreage would live on the land and actually farm it. People buying up farm land, and not farming it, are rightly called speculators and “land grabbers”. The original goal was to maintain farmland in responsible farming. The intent was to keep the land intact for future generations. Acreage limits were meant to serve this intent. The current excessive accumulation of land under one capital source definitely contravenes the spirit of the Lands Protection Act.

There is a central phrase in the Act, “steadfast stewardship”. Some may think this is referring only to land use practices; however in the context of the original intent it means maintaining a watchful eye and responsible policies so that land will be here and be protected not just for the few, but for the many, in the far-reaching future.

On-Farm Seed Production Workshop (ACORN)

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Date

Tuesday,  May 8 from 9 AM – 3:30 PM

Location

PEI Farm Centre, Charlottetown, PEI

With farm planning nearly complete for many growers, this intermediate-level workshop will focus on the practices you can implement during your growing season to pull off your best possible seed crops, including:
— isolation – distance, time and barrier
— plant populations and why they matter for quality seed
— strategies for observing, selecting, and roguing your seed crop
— quality assurance after the growing season: germination tests, storage tips, and how to ensure you’ve saved what you think you’ve saved!

Presenter Bio: Chris Sanford and her partner, Garrett, grow and maintain over 150 varieties of vegetables, grains, and flowers at their small diversified farm on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.  They have been farming and gardening ecologically for over 15 years, and 2018 is their 10th season growing seeds commercially.  In addition to consumer direct seed sales, Chris sells seed through Annapolis Seeds. Chris can speak knowledgeably about on-farm seed production from her experience with dozens of crops including squash and other curcurbits, most brassicas, beans, peas, corn, small grains, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, alliums, herbs, lettuce, and some biennials. Chris works part-time as the Community Gardens Coordinator for the Town of Bridgewater, and has taught workshops in the Maritimes and Northeastern US.

Cost: ACORN Members: $20, Non-members: $30, vegetarian lunch included.

Registration Deadline: April 30, 2018. To register: please email Steph Hughes at seed@acornorganic.org, with your full name, contact phone number, and dietary restrictions. Upon registration, participants will be asked about what crop varieties they are saving seed from so that content can be tailored to their needs.

District Convention 2018

The NFU District 1, Region 1 Convention was held on April 3, 2018 at the Milton Community Hall. A large number of farmers and supporters heard reports on the past year’s NFU activities.

A panel consisting of Agriculture Canada scientist, Dr. Judith Nyiraneza along with Barry Thompson and Kyra Stiles from the Provincial Agriculture & Fisheries Department made a presentation which highlighted the alarming decline in organic matter in PEI soils over the past number of years. It was pointed out that organic matter levels can be reduced much more quickly than they can be increased. Members suggested that an increased livestock industry and a move away from the industrial model of farming would go a long way to improving the organic matter content of Island soils.

Hon. Robert Henderson, Minister of Agriculture & Fisheries brought greetings from his Department and fielded questions from the delegates. Most of the concerns were with regard to the land issue in this Province. Mr. Henderson suggested that if there was enough public outcry, the land situation could become an issue in the next election campaign.

Hon. Richard Brown, Minister of Communities, Land and Environment addressed the gathering as well. Again, most of the questions to Mr. Brown concerned the serious situation with foreign interests buying up large tracts of PEI farmland. The letter of the law may be followed but certainly the spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act is not being upheld.

Mr. Brown looked to the NFU for solutions and was reminded that the NFU has long advocated a land banking system for this Province. In this way, retiring farmers could sell their land and new and expanding producers could lease land from the banking system until such time as they were in a position to purchase it.

Resolutions were considered by the Convention, many of which concerned the strengthening of the Lands Protection Act. Another resolution asked that the Corporate Business Registry of PEI continue to display the names of shareholders and directors of Island companies and that the information regarding the inter-connections between corporations be made much more transparent.

With regard to the Municipal Governance Act, a resolution was passed to request the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment to respect and uphold the decision of residents in non-incorporated areas and incorporated areas with regard to amalgamation and annexation. All resolutions passed with be followed up with the various departments, etc. District Director, Doug Campbell along with Women’s District Director Edith Ling, and the Youth District Director, Byron Petrie were elected by acclamation.