Keeping Islanders in the Dark

By Edith Ling, as published in the Charlottetown Guardian, February 23, 2021

Those who have nothing to hide do not fear the light. Ethical people welcome transparency in their dealings and actions. They don’t hide behind the veil of privacy to cover the ways they manipulate laws for their own gain. They don’t hide behind the pretence that their secrecy is necessary for reasons of fair competition as a way to cover their own disregard for the good of all citizens and society. They certainly do not expect the government of a people to betray their citizenry to keep wrong-doing buried.

Is this not happening in Prince Edward Island as the involved parties work to keep the IRAC report of the Brendel (Red Fox Acres Limited) sale hidden? In an age of eroding privacy for the majority, government is allowing “privacy” to be used as a tool to keep Islanders ignorant about how the Irving family (they are not alone) have circumvented the P.E.I. Lands Protection Act to acquire land holdings well beyond the legal limits allowed by the act — the very thing the act was created to prevent, land coming under corporate and foreign control. This corporate “right to privacy” hides the extent of corporate control, wealth and entitlement from Islanders.

Current and past governments have failed to interpret the “letter of the law” to ensure that the spirit and intent of the law was and is being upheld. Is not privacy being used to prevent awareness that Islanders have been failed and yes, betrayed by the public people they employed over the last several decades to protect their greatest asset, the land? Suspicious land deals have been identified by numerous players. As more of these deals become apparent, the harder it is to get honest information from government about those deals.

Calls by National Farmers Union officials to Agriculture and Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson for accountability on this issue go unanswered. Phone calls don’t get returned. Important government announcements, especially controversial ones, such as the decision not to release the IRAC report, are made on the government website, often with Friday afternoon timing. More land studies are undertaken, while the recommendations of previous ones are never implemented. Government seems to cower in fear of Irving lawyers and deep corporate pockets.

If Irving, once again, gets away with circumventing the Lands Protection Act, as they have attempted this time with tactics by their lawyers using the Business Corporations Act, they will grow even bolder. In January 2021 they attempted to purchase another parcel of land, which IRAC thankfully rejected. No doubt lawyers are burning the midnight oil to make that land deal happen although rejected by IRAC— as was done with the Brendel Farms deal.

It is becoming far more difficult for government to maintain their claim that the Lands Protection Act is a priority, and that our primary resource is being protected for the people. It is getting more difficult to keep people unaware of wrongdoing, and that justice is not being served.

Elected officials are accountable to the citizens of Prince Edward Island. Civil servants need to be as well. They must all work for the welfare of the people, not corporations and foreign interests who see our land only as another asset in their corporate portfolio.

The spring session of the legislature opens on Feb. 25. In a CBC Compass interview with host Louise Martin, House Leader Sidney MacEwen, indicated land and water issues will be dealt with in the coming sitting. Will they be dealt with in a substantial manner that finally recognizes the authority of the Lands Protection Act? Will government act like a government in control, able and willing to implement the will of the people upon which it was elected when it comes to the land? Will it make the hard ethical and moral decisions? Will Peter Bevan-Baker stand as true opposition in defence of our land or will the Green party remain silent? Will the Liberals remain silent so their past actions on the land remain under the radar? Political apathy and compliance with the wishes of corporations is not acceptable in our governing body.

The philosopher and British Member of Parliament, Edmund Burke (1729-1797) wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” These words will never become outdated. We are expecting our Island politicians to dig up and expose the dirt on land deals so it can be made transparent, then cleansed and purified with the light. That’s what they promised and this is what they owe Islanders.

Edith Ling is the NFU Women’s District Director and lives on a farm in North Winsloe.

MEDIA RELEASE- Mental Health of Farmers

NATIONAL FARMERS UNION

NEWS RELEASE

January 27, 2021

Charlottetown, P. E. I.

The Island Minister of Agriculture, Bloyce Thompson said this past week that more Island Farmers are reaching out for mental health support through the PEI Farmers Assistance Program. He noted that the number of calls in 2019 was 140, increasing to 293 in 2020. Minister Thompson said navigating a hot dry summer during the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for farmers.

Not for one moment does the National Farmers Union underestimate the impact of this past dry summer, but we argue that the reality of the downward spiral of the mental health of Island and Canadian farmers is more deeply rooted than in a summer of drought. The underpinning stresses have been building for decades. They are now erupting as the stark reality that the economic and farming models that farmers were sold and bought into as a pathway to advancement are failing the majority of family farms.

Farmers have paid the price of Federal politicians and bureaucrats dealing away domestic markets in trade deals. And it is not over yet. The Americans, unwilling to fix their own problems in their dairy industry, are making another attempt to gain more of the Canadian domestic dairy market. And it is difficult, while producing milk below cost, to continue to believe the government’s claim that they support supply management. Farmers have experienced the Federal government’s destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board and the list goes on thanks to the preaching of neo-liberal ideology that promotes free market capitalism and deregulation for the benefit of a small minority.

And then there is the economies of scale theory that has put many farmers out of business, and others in deep debt while working even harder to produce more for less. The result has been increased wealth for processors, as well as the control to basically dictate how a farmer will grow his crop and what he will be paid for it. The PEI example is so widespread it doesn’t even have to be named.

Under the model of economies of scale, processors have greatly benefited through getting more for less, and land ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer industrialized operations. Yet costs for farmers continue to climb while the margins grow tighter and tighter.

Climate change is real and while it is human nature to fight change, we either do so or join the extinct. More of the same will not save us.

So yes, farmers’ mental health is fragile, and it is good that many are reaching out for help. In doing so they have moved beyond the belief that much of what is leading to their stress is their personal failure. Farmers are resilient, but a time comes when the heart can no longer rule and emotion must be replaced with the logic that the system under which food is produced in this country is growing more broken and unjust with each passing day. Farmers must come together to brighten their own futures.

The farmers of PEI and Canada need far more from our governments and our farm organizations than to be told it is good we are asking for help. We need real leadership and forward thinking that understands the value of a country being able to feed itself, and that the production of good nutritional affordable food belongs in the hands of family farms, not investment funds, control hungry corporate processors, or the one percent who grow rich through government policies that allow them to avoid their obligations in the sharing of resources and the building of a society inclusive for everyone.

Lands Protection in the Legislature – November 23-27

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Land is asking Islanders to contact their MLAs to let them know that how land is treated and managed matters.

It is our understanding that land issues will be discussed this week in the legislature. No doubt many critically important issues will be debated. If you are concerned about the land and the issues related to it, we ask that you contact your MLA and request that they stand behind those who will be speaking out for the land.From our perspective if you are not concerned, you should be. Here is why: The spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act is being abused and it seems like the present and many past governments have looked the other way in order to allow large corporations to abuse it. Continue reading

National Convention Nov. 26-28

In this year of Covid-19 the NFU National Convention is going to look much different than in past years. This year it will be a virtual convention, streamed all across the country.   The theme of the main Convention this year is Vision 20/20.  There are a good number of free pre-convention workshops planned and the main Convention itself will take place from Thursday, November 26 to Saturday, November 28, 2020 inclusive.  You can view the agenda for all of this on the National website which is nfu.ca/2020convention.

Kinkora Place in Kinkora has been booked for the main Convention days so that NFU members across PEI can have easy access to watch and participate.  In this way, we can get together as a group to be part of Convention.  Convention days will start at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 26 and 27th and at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28.  The keynote address will be given at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 26.  by Seth Klein, entitled “The Good War – Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency”.  The meetings will be projected onto a screen at Kinkora Place so you will not need a laptop, iPad, etc.  

Registration for the free pre-Convention webinars and for the main Convention can be made by contacting the National NFU office at nfu@nfu.ca or by calling 1- 306-652-9465.  Registration fees this year are $75 for members which include the farm family, farm unit and associate; $35 for youth members and $100 for non-members.  Consideration will be given if cost is a barrier to anyone’s attendance. 

NFU Presents to the PEI Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability

Edith Ling and Doug Campbell appeared before the PEI Legislature’s Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Sustainability on November 5, 2020. They shared the NFU’s concerns about Prince Edward Island’s most valuable resources, stressing the importance of recognizing the interconnection between the health of farming, and of land and water. They urged to committee to and the public responsibility of ensuring that land and water are utilized and protected for the good of all farmers and all Islanders. You can see their presentation on facebook here (or visit the PEI Legislature’s website here and search for the November 5 meeting) of the committee (the presentation starts at 1 hr 16 min) is or their read their entire submission here. Continue reading