Why is Allen Roach protecting GEBIS?
On March 23, 2018, I published an article on my website titled “Allen Roach should recuse himself from the Standing Committee Investigating Land,” The Committee had passed a motion to invite Cavendish Farms, Vanco Farms, and the Buddhist monks (GEBIS) and had sent letters asking that they appear before the committee to discuss their land holdings. To date, that has not happened.
Back in March, Roach attempted to undo that decision by bullying and intimidating the other committee members into backing off on their request to GEBIS, and even tried to put forward a motion to rescind the request to GEBIS but Colin LaVie had left early, so Roach withdrew his motion at that time. I was shocked at his behaviour and thinly-veiled insinuations that to invite GEBIS before the committee was somehow “racist,” “anti-immigrant,” unfair and inappropriate. If you think I’m exaggerating, click the above link and watch the video clip of him ranting I embedded at the end of my previous article.
After witnessing his outburst and accusatory demeanour, I figured there had to be something else fueling his passionate protection of the monks, so I did some digging. It turns out Allen Roach and his wife Betty had just a few months earlier sold their modest home for a tidy sum of roughly 3/4 of a million dollars to CHIN-FANG SHEN & CHIEH-JU CHEN.
Fast forward to last Thursday. Roach refused to take my advice to recuse himself from the Standing Committee and showed up with guns loaded when the committee reconvened on September 6, 2018, with several representatives from the Federation of Agriculture presenting. You can read the transcript of that meeting here.
Roach picked up where he left off in March, again going on about how it was inappropriate to have GEBIS come before the committee, again insinuating that it would be both racist and anti-immigrant to invite them:
ALLEN ROACH: So for any other reason, I can’t understand why we want that group [GEBIS] in here; and I have a fear – and it’s in some of the way that some of the questions were asked – I have a fear that we’re talking about immigrants coming to PEI, and some of the tone of some of those questions was on the verge of something I don’t want to talk about in committee. As a member of the committee, I don’t want to sit down and have somebody at some point in time say: The remarks that were made in that committee about why you brought that group here is totally inappropriate. I hope you understand where I’m coming from on that, and if you don’t, I’ll give you a quote about one of the questions that was asked – if anyone is interested –
Some Hon. Members: (Indistinct)
Mr. Roach: – in hearing it.
Chair: No, we’re good.
Mr. Roach: And I’m concerned –
Chair: I think we’re good. We’re good.
An Hon. Member: Yeah.
Mr. Roach: I’m really concerned about where this is going.
Chair: Thank you, Mr. Roach.
Peter Bevan-Baker then challenged Roach’s inappropriate fear-mongering to remind him why legislative committees exist – pointing out that committee members would not be engaging in any inappropriate lines of questioning (if that even needed to be said):
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I absolutely share your concerns about how this could be
manipulated with the certain lines of questioning. My concern is to find out the facts about how much they own. I have heard from various people that there are significant concerns about the institute itself and people attached to the institute who may own land. I don’t know if it’s correct or not, and I would like to find that out in a very factual, evidence-based, straight questions format, which is what these committees are for. So if there’s no concern, there’s no concern; but I would like to satisfy myself on that.
To which Roach responded:
Mr. Roach: I continue to have concern about anecdotal things coming to this committee. I have concern about us reacting to blogs, to what people are saying out there, that is so not factual. It’s social media, and when it’s brought to a place of this nature and we’re going to literally more or less put them on trial and say: What are you here for, what are you doing here? The overtones of that, based on not only religion but on race, are of real concern to me, and I’m prepared to put a motion on the floor.
Thankfully, Peter once again interjected to challenge Roach’s lack of faith in the intelligence and integrity of committee members:
Dr. Bevan-Baker: I think it’s everybody’s responsibility as an elected official here not to go there, and I have faith and trust in everybody who is an elected representative in this House to treat this place with the respect that it deserves and anybody who comes forward as a witness similarly. So I hear your concerns, but I have trust and faith in the people here that that will not be an issue. I just want to find out what the facts are. That’s all.
Roach’s rant and bullish intention to rescind the invitation for GEBIS to appear before the committee was to be expected I suppose. What really surprised me as I read through the transcript was a statement from Brad Trivers made just a few minutes before Roach put forward his motion – a statement actually encouraging Roach to do so:
Brad Trivers: …..I think it’s a great idea for Mr. Roach to bring that to a vote here today at the committee just so we can decide in a fair and democratic way whether we want that to happen.
Really? Decide in a FAIR AND DEMOCRATIC way? It was hard for me to process what I was reading. Just think about it for a minute.
There were three opposition members present (Colin LaVie; Peter Bevan-Baker; and Brad Trivers). There were four Liberal members present: (Kathleen Casey; Hal Perry; Pat Murphy and Allen Roach). Anyone recall the last time a Liberal member of a Standing Committee voted against a Motion from a fellow Liberal member? or voted against their fellow Liberal members in support of a Motion from an opposition member? Now recall all those Motions – meeting after meeting – of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts by opposition members attempting to bring important e-gaming players in for questioning. Did any Liberal member ever vote against their fellow Liberal members in support of those nobel Motions attempting to bring a wee bit of “democratic fairness,” transparency and accountability to the process? [Don’t hurt your head thinking about it too long….it never happened!]
I’d like to hear Trivers explain how Roach protecting GEBIS and getting his way with a Motion based on unfounded bullying tactics and a general lack of faith in the intelligence and integrity of his fellow committee members who had already voted to bring GEBIS before the committee has anything to do with either fairness or democracy!
Of course the Motion passed – with the Liberal majority and all – so GEBIS won’t be appearing before the committee. The transcript doesn’t indicate who voted for or against the motion, but does it really matter whether Trivers voted against the Motion after supporting Roach putting it forward with a tip of the hat to fairness and democracy (and block voting by Liberal majorities)?
Let me wrap this up by pointing out one very important fact that should have been brought to Allen Roach’s attention before the vote was held on his Motion. Roach likes to quote the “official” acreage held by GEBIS – he did it last March at the Standing Committee meeting; he did it in the Legislative Assembly, and he did it again at last week’s Committee meeting. And of course that total is well within the limit declared by the Lands Protection Act. What Roach doesn’t mention is the fact that there are many GEBIS-affiliated companies, which may also own land.
I invested considerable effort putting together a list of GEBIS-affiliated companies last year and came up with about a dozen, but given the way the PEI government has made it impossible to research interlocking companies with the Business and Corporate Registry (having put a “CAPTCHA” code-entry block in place that limits company searches to one company at a time, with no search field for “directors, shareholders, or officers”) – I’m sure I didn’t come up with a complete list. And those are exactly the kinds of questions that GEBIS could – and should – be answering before a legislative committee investigating compliance with the spirit and letter of our Lands Protection Act.
Roach has apparently built a new house just down the road from the one he sold last year to Asian buyers for a tidy profit: perhaps his protection of GEBIS in these final days of his political career is part of a bigger game plan to get into real-estate “flipping” to wealthy Chinese immigrants once he’s out of government – something that can’t come fast enough for a significant portion of Islanders I know.