It looks like tomorrow (Tuesday, March 26, 2019) will be a big day for Minister of Communities, Land & Environment, Hon. Richard Brown. Not only is he having his nomination meeting as the Liberal Candidate in a bid to remain MLA for District 12: Charlottetown – Victoria Park, he’s also likely going to have to make a decision (with the rest of Executive Council) on whether to approve 32 separate applications for land parcels submitted to IRAC by three Irving-owned corporations totalling a little more than 2,200 [2280.80] acres of prime farmland in the Bedeque area.
I provided all the details about those applications – including screen captures of the Corporate/Business Registrations for the three Irving-owned corporations (one of which only came into existence on February 5, 2019, 2 days before the applications to purchase those 32 parcels were filed with IRAC) in a previous article titled “The Irving Land Grab in PEI,” so I won’t plough that same ground.
I’m posting this by way of an update on what many in the farming community are calling a watershed moment for the MacLauchlan government regarding where it stands on the protection of PEI’s farmland and whether it intends to be faithful to the spirit and intent of the Lands Protection Act.
No Answer on the 2,200 Acres at the NFU Convention
I’m sure Minister Brown was expecting a question about this critically-important decision Cabinet will have to make at the NFU Annual District Convention held on March 19, 2019. He got one from farmer Randall MacFarlane, with a passionate appeal to bring back a strong message to all Cabinet members that the Executive Council must not approve these applications.
Although IRAC made recommendations on all 32 applications on Thursday, March 14, Minister Brown was able to inform Randall that he had not yet received or been informed about the recommendations, so he had no comment.
Brown received IRAC’s recommendations on all 32 parcels the very next day, March 20, 2019.
Executive Council normally meets every Tuesday, but now and again skips a week, as they did last Tuesday (March 19, 2019). It’s therefore expected that Council will meet tomorrow, and all members will have been given copies of IRAC’s recommendations and have had plenty of time to review them. What might those recommendations have been? We’ll never know: recommendations from IRAC are not made public and can’t be accessed through the Freedom of Information process.
What we can expect on a go-forward basis
If Executive Council makes decisions on those 32 parcels tomorrow we won’t likely know what they are for at least another week (e.g., the Order in Council for the March 12th Executive Council meeting wasn’t posted online until March 21st).
When Brown was pressed at the NFU convention (by me and others) why the initial questions about the total land holdings of Irving, Vanco Farms, Gebis and all corporations weren’t provided in his presentation to the NFU, he indicated that it was his intention to “dig deeper” and provide that information in a final report. When can we expect that? He didn’t say. Before an election? Not likely.
Executive Council should not be making any decisions on those 32 parcels until that detailed information is uncovered and made public. It will – therefore – be both shocking and very unfortunate if any of those parcels are approved for sale before that information on Irving-family land holdings is forthcoming.
Even if it is determined that the three Irving family-owned corporations seeking these additional 2,200 acres are still within their land limits if the parcels are approved, they still shouldn’t be approved, given the clear intent of the Lands Protection Act to keep processors out of the farming business (the Act allows processors to own just 5 acres).