Island Farmer reporter, Andy Walker, recently wrote an excellent synopsis of the recent Irving land grab of 2,200 acres titled, “The Line has been Drawn.” Please take the time to read it before continuing.
Walker agrees with me that there is no “loophole” in the Lands Protection Act that allowed this Irving land deal. The claim that the deal was “legal” apparently relies on provisions found somewhere in the new Business Corporation Act or Regulations; however, no one has yet explained how exactly that happened, or what specific provisions were relied on.
Whatever made the Brendel Farms deal with the Irving family “technically legal” in the mind of Geoffrey Connolly – Irving’s lawyer who both advised his client on the matter and effected the deal – must be precisely identified and immediately changed.
Andy Walker is absolutely correct to say that if the new Business Corporations Act – brought into law by the previous Liberal government – which apparently “legally” allows corporation-to-corporation transfers of land without first receiving approval from government (or even requiring corporations to notify government of the deals), then the Lands Protection Act is completely worthless.
One has to wonder how a law governing the dealings of corporations can be allowed to “exempt” itself somehow from another widely-supported piece of legislation in force: the Lands Protection Act.
As well, the new Business Corporation Act does not require the disclosure of the names of the corporation’s shareholders; so Islanders – or even members of the government for that matter – will no longer be able to calculate the total land holdings of individuals belonging to interlocking corporations.
I first discovered the MacLauchlan plan to render corporate shareholders “invisible” to Islanders with a new Business Corporation Act nearly two years ago, and raised concerns in various blog articles, Guest Opinions in Island newspapers, and in direct communication with both PC and Green MLAs when the Bill came to the House for debate.
In the end, the Bill received unanimous support from all MLAs on the final day of the House sitting (June 12, 2018). The Bill also received Royal Assent that same day.
I honestly don’t believe opposition MLAs realized at the time they said “yeah” that this new Bill could completely gut the Lands Protection Act, or render the shareholders of all corporations operating in PEI completely invisible to Islanders.
As you may be aware, I have repeatedly been calling for a “name search” to be added to the Corporate/Business Registry empowering Islanders to easily see all the corporations that individuals are involved with so they can then discover the land holdings of all those corporations to arrive at an accurate calculation of the total owned acreage.
Although a name search field on the Corporate Registry still wouldn’t reveal the total amount of land that an individual corporation would be required to count toward the 3,000 acre limit (which includes “leased” land) it would nonetheless provide a good start to getting a clearer picture of the amount of land individuals in corporations – and interlocking corporations within the same family (which is defined as “one corporation” as per the legal definition of “corporation” in the Lands Protection Act) – own.
Premier King is on record as being strongly supportive of doing this – adding a “name search” field to the corporate registry – as you can see from his response to question #4 at the all-leader debate on the land:
But what possible use would a new “name search” in the Business/Corporate registry be if the new Business Corporations Act doesn’t require the names of corporate shareholders to be inputted into the registry? None!
Clearly, amendments to the Business Corporations Act (or “regulations” – depending on where the authorization to withhold shareholder names is granted) should be the SECOND order of business when the House reconvenes this Fall. The FIRST order of business should be to amend that same legislation to ensure that no secret, corporate-to-corporate land transfers are ever allowed again in PEI, and the Irving family be forced to sell the 2,200 acres to the local farmers who were willing to pay $6,200 per acre for it. The THIRD order of business would be to put a name search on the Corporate/Business registry.
For the government to do anything less would make a complete mockery of the PC commitment to provide Islanders with a truly open and transparent government.