A few weeks ago, I was made aware that a number of farmers in Eastern PEI believed a scheme was afoot with IRAC and/or Executive Council to allow Asian Land Developers (Taiwan-based, at least in part) to purchase 10 separate parcels of land in the Valleyfield area totalling a little over 500 acres.
The word I got at the time was that applications were turned down by IRAC, but were resubmitted, giving rise to the expectation that the denial would be overturned and IRAC would recommend that the sale of all parcels be approved by Executive Council. That’s kinda, but not exactly, how things turned out – as you’ll see if you keep reading.
I took the day to dig into this after it was brought up in the Legislative Assembly yesterday morning [Friday, June 19, 2020]. What I uncovered is disturbing – you can find a new scandal every day within the PEI Government if you look hard enough, so I won’t say “shocking”…but most definitely disturbing.
When I first heard about this issue, I was told that the concerned farmers in the area planned to contact both the NFU and the Green Party, so following my own self-imposed mental health distancing guidelines, I forgot about it and focused on other research projects. I thought at the time that I’d just wait to see what might come of it from either the NFU or Greens.
I’d almost forgotten about those parcels down East then was starkly reminded when Opposition MLA for Mermaid – Statford [also Green Agriculture and Land Critic] Michele Beaton, asked the Minister of Agriculture and Land, Hon. Bloyce Thompson, to explain why different sets of applications for those same 10 parcels of land – three to be exact – were treated differently: two were denied, one was approved.
She brought these important questions to the floor on a record-breaking hot and muggy weather day during Question Period.
Beaton’s dogged determination and laser focus was set on one and only one thing: squeezing answers out of the PC Government [think blood donation from stone] doesn’t always get answers, but they always enlighten the matter significantly.
The information Beaton uncovers in diligent research is used to formulate precise questions that any well-informed Minister would love to get in Question Period if on top of the files and making the right decisions, saying: “Thank you for that excellent question, I’d love to answer that….” That was not exactly Bloyce Thompson’s response.
Think “deer in the headlights”. Thompson didn’t seem to have a clue what Beaton was talking about and was entirely focused on trying to convince everyone he did, and that the idea he or his Government would have anything to hide was laughably ridiculous to him, as he presented Beaton’s line of questioning as some kind of “bogeyman-type” suspicious nothing needing no attention.
Despite loud and passionate promises made in the pre-election period by Premier King that his government would move swiftly to protect our land, he has continued the trend under the Liberals to transfer more and more of our farmland – especially in Eastern PEI – to Asian buyers who have no interest whatsoever in farming.
Government knew that the intention with these applications was to acquire ownership and control of land assets as these same organizations and companies are doing throughout the world, and they appear to have influenced the preparation and submission of these applications to better ensure things would be kept on the down-low and the players remain anonymous. In other words, secret.
You might wonder why the PEI Government would allow the sale of farmland to developers with a legal stipulation that the land was “not to be developed” when the individuals and/or corporation seeking to purchase those parcels of land specifically indicated on those applications that their intention was to subdivide and develop it. That’s where the “poke, poke; wink, wink; ya know what I mean?” comes into play I guess.
I explained this flawed process in a previous article [“Incrementalism” and the Continuous Loss of Agricultural Land in PEI”]. One quotation from that article:
“This incremental two-step process brings about exactly the same end-result as if the land had been approved for sale by Executive Council with no “condition” that it remain agricultural in the first instance, but it somehow makes the entire process seem more reasonable, democratic, acceptable and benign. And it also helps to protect government from backlash that might otherwise come from focused public attention on government allowing the sale of agricultural land to non-residents or corporations for non-agricultural purposes.”
If the Land owner doesn’t apply to have the restriction prohibiting development on the land lifted by Executive Council, after a number of years it expires automatically anyways. Despite the appearance Executive Council creates that it is ensuring that agricultural land remains in agriculture and is not developed, that is entirely a pretense.
The other thing that must be said in this Preamble – although it is not easy for me to say – is that the Minister of Agriculture and Land, Hon. Bloyce Thompson – also our Attorney General and Minister of Justice – has only the appearance of power, but was only given those extensive mandates so that the people behind the scenes, who we never see or hear from, could continue to do exactly what they want to do with the two biggest and important issues currently facing PEI: (1) Land (Lands Protection Act; Brendal Farms land sale to Irvings, circumventing the Lands Protection Act; land acquisitions in Eastern PEI by Asian Developers; or other non-farming corporate entities such as GEBIS; and (2) Justice and Democracy, (PNP and egaming scandals and cover-ups).
Minister Thompson’s seems unable or unwilling to recognize and admit that he’s not on top of the issues and files, and that by pretending otherwise he’s allowing himself to be directed and used by backroom decision-making “advisors” with an agenda of their own, on both land and justice issues of immense importance at this juncture in PEI’s history.
As you will clearly see from the exchange that happened yesterday morning (Friday, June 19, 2020) between Thompson and Beaton, the Minister is not only not in control of this important Land file, he comes across as completely clueless about the entire affair. He offered a ridiculous and inaccurate response that was not only completely wrong, but was the opposite outcome from what he said.
Premier King’s appointment of Bloyce Thompson as Attorney General and Minister of two of the most important departments in Government at this time was irresponsible. Both Departments are dealing with complex issues, and the manner in which they’re handled will have lasting historic significance for PEI’s democracy, land, environment and capacity to have a sustainable agricultural industry and ensure provincial food security and land sovereignty in the future.
Appointing Thompson to this critical leadership challenge was nothing short of a shameless “tip of the hat” to the Insider Club who helped to put King in the Premier’s chair. I know these seem like harsh words, but they must be said.
If you were wheeled into an operating room all prepped to have a surgeon saw into your head to remove a tumor from your brain, and were greeted by someone that looked like a surgeon, but introduced himself as the janitor who because of poverty was never able to fulfill his life-time dream of becoming a brain surgeon, and, as luck would have it, the real surgeon was called to another emergency so he was “filling in for the surgeon”. You see the excitement in his eyes and joy on his face as he scrubs up….what would be your response?
What’s the chance you’d say: “Hey…..I won’t lie, I’m a little concerned about your apparent lack of any medical training, but ya know what?……I’m here, I’m prepped…what the heck….you seem like a decent fella, let’s do this thing!”
Who would risk losing their own life just to avoid offending someone and creating tension in an already tense situation if that was necessary to stop a catastrophe from happening? I suppose we might be surprised.
PEI’s land is now under threat from multiple, corporately-integrated challenges and despite great expectations with the King Government, it is sadly continuing. That means an already urgent situation is gradually becoming more dire, with no indication of a change in that trend. Quite frankly, that means we really don’t have a lot of time left before the proverbial “it’s too late” stop sign hits us in the face.
Last week, the King government further reduced the availability and control of another 500 acres of our precious Island farmland. Way to respect our “gift of jurisdiction” that you like to cite often in your passionate speeches telling Islanders what you would really like to do if it was really you making the decisions, and not the Insider Club who prefer that the opposite happens and usually get their way.
1. Another 500 acres of PEI Farmland Sold to Asian Land Developers
Ask 1,000 Islanders what they thought about the decision of the King government to undo it’s own “previous” two decisions to refuse the sale of roughly 500 acres of land in Eastern PEI June 9 with an Executive Council Order on June 9, 2020 to allow non-farming Asian land developers to purchase 500 acres of land down East and see how many know about this even happening.
I’m sure the response from 999 of those people would be something like “that’s the first I’m hearing about it” Michele Beaton would be the 1,000th person, and the only Islander surveyed able to answer with an immediate “two thumbs down”. Here’s what that Executive Council Order stated:Two sets of applications to purchase the same 10 parcels were filed with IRAC on January 9th. One set identified the applicant/purchaser as Yaw Hui Chen.
The stated INTENDED PURPOSE on both sets of applications filed on January 9, 2020 was “subdivision into lots”. IRAC sent Executive Council a “recommendation” for the Yaw Hui chen set (we don’t know what that recommendation was) on March 2, 2020. Executive Council issued an Order on June 9, 2020 denying sale of the 210 parcels to Yaw Hui Chen.
On February 20, 2020, 10 applications for these very same 10 parcels of land were submitted to IRAC DESPITE THE FACT that no decision had been made on the first applications for these same parcels by Executive Council until June 9, 2020. That’s very bazaar.
Those additional sets of 10 applications weren’t submitted to replace the first set of applications, but to apparently serve as options for IRAC/Executive Council consideration, based on how much “disclosure” about the original plan was desired it seems: all 10 parcels were slated to be purchased by one unknown individual living in Taipei, Taiwan.
I also suspect that individual and the land owner somehow learned that IRAC wasn’t going to recommend that the first applications be approved naming the guy from Taipei, so they went back to the drawing board and came up with a “plan B” to give IRAC (and ultimately Executive Council) the choice between a “Taiwanese” purchaser on the documents, or someone from Ontario. It appears what may have happened here is that those 10 pieces of PEI land were amassed by an individual who came to PEI some years ago and became a resident, but ultimately was interested in transferring owership of all those parcels to a person back in Taiwan, thereby transforming PEI farmland into assets in the portfolio of “Yaw Hui Chen” in Taiwan.
It was likely realized that the “optics” of selling PEI’s farmland directly to a land developer in Taiwan [Plan “A” submitted on January 9, 2020] were bad, so Plan “B” was submitted even before decisions on Plan “A” applications were made.
What is even more baffling is to learn that a third set of 10 applications for those same 10 parcels of land was also submitted on January 9, 2020, only with this set there was no mention of either Taiwan or Ontario, or any individual name whatsoever, but only the “seller,” the current owner of the parcels “Zhang”, but the entity buying was an obscure corporation with an uplifting name: “HOPETOWN DEVELOPMENT COMPANY LTD.”
2. Who’s behind the HOPETOWN DEVELOPMENT COMPANY LTD?
The PEI Corporate/Business Registry gives only the following information on this corporation:
As an “extra-provincial” corporation, it’s not necessary for the company to disclose directors and shareholders to be registered to do business in PEI. Information can be found on “directors”, but the federal government does not require disclosure of shareholders.
A hunt for the “directors” found that the “land owner” [Chang Zhang] selling the 10 parcels of land is one of the four directors “buying” those same parcels:
Xiaofeng Li – the person down to purchase the 10 parcels in the February 20th submissions – is also a director. Who is Zhu Jun Yao?
Zhu Jun Yao is a property “developer”. She was in the local news recently regarding an interest she has in building a townhouse in Montague (See: “Development Seeks Approval to Build Townhouse,” Eastern Graphic, December 23, 2019].
‘Today was a day for supporting our teachers,’ said Derek McEwen of HOPE International Foundation. (GEBIS/Twitter) [See: “Buddhist monks help P.E.I. teachers start school year on ‘positive note’,” CBC, August 28, 2017].
Chang Zhang is a director of multiple corporations including at least the following:
I’m not going any further down that rabbit hole in this article, except to point out that the person originally wanting to purchase those 10 parcels from Taiwan “Yaw Hui Chen,” is listed as living at “4 Williams Gate” in Stratford, PE (along with “Shao Ching Tseng, who is also listed at “4 Williams Gate”) on the incorporation documents for the “Hope International Education Foundation” with the head office in Stratford, PEI.
In the June 9, 2020 Order from Executive Council declining Mr. Chen’s 10 applications to purchase those parcels it identifies him as “Yaw Hui Chen of Taipai City, Taiwan.”
It’s also worth noting that the “Hope International Education Foundation,” is directly affiliated with the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS). Consider the following news story from the CBC titled, “Buddhist monks help P.E.I. teachers start school year on ‘positive note’.”
Another Corporation with the same 4 Willians Gate, Stratford, PE address is the following:
The three directors of Guan Yin Monastery all list their address as “4 Williams Gate:
The PEI address is being used on incorporation documents appears to be a centralized office address. Where these individuals actually live is unclear.
Is this a repeat of what we saw happen with the most recent Sherwood Motel PNP scam? Where local addresses were being used only for documentary convenience and application submissions to government to gain immigration status?
In this land acquisition case, it’s not immigration that’s sought – it’s our land assets. Just questions at this stage; however, it seems incumbent upon the Provincial Government to open things up to the sunlight, make public IRAC’s recommendations and rationale for denying and/or approving all three of those “packets” of applications for those 10 parcels of land down East, and clean up this mess before the Federal government gets involved and forces action.
3. Beaton: “Why Were Land Sales DENIED Twice; Then APPROVED?
Michele Beaton appears to have picked up on something in the just-released budget for IRAC and asked some excellent questions. It happened late in the session on what was a lazy, muggy record-breaking Friday morning. The assembly had just finished going through the Department of Education’s budget line-by-line, then was about to wrap up with the budget for IRAC before adjourning for the weekend [IRAC is also under Hon. Brad Triver’s Mandate and Department] .
Pay close attention in the video to how Minister Thompson completely confuses things by saying this matter had something to do with the former Liberals making a bad decision to approve something that the PC King Government was now undoing. Not true. Completely mixed up. The question was clear as a bell to anyone who was aware of this file, and with THREE SEPARATE attempts to sell these same parcels in THREE SEPARATE applications involving all the same players, one would expect the Minister responsible for land to know the file intimately. Painful to watch:
I have been lobbying the PEI Government to make the Business/Corporate Registry more “people friendly” by adding a simple name search. The only reason to justify or explain not putting it there is to continue to protect the anonymity of individuals as they execute secret deals that Islanders should be aware of but are not…this is what fuels corruption, and Islanders have a right to know who owns, controls, and benefits from the complex corporate alliances that exploit loopholes in laws and exert significant influence on the nature and direction of policy.
Premier King has promised to make putting that name search on the Corporate Registry the “great first step” as he took us on a journey to the land of transparent government.
That we don’t yet have a name search on the registry – as was put on IRAC’s land parcel application databank – gives you some indication of just how far Premier King has taken us down that transparency road to date.
With a name search field in the PEI registry, we’d be able to pull up all the companies registered to do business in PEI. We could instantly get a list of all the companies a given individual is associated with as a director or shareholder. That is. if we also do something about the way these Asia companies are being created federally – in which case, we’ll only be able to get access to the listed directors, not necessarily the people and/or other corporation owning and really controlling those holding companies created to purchase and move PEI’s land around the world as assets.
I don’t usually make an explicit appeal to readers to share my articles, but I’m making such an appeal with this one. If enough of us don’t soon become aware of what’s rapidly happening to both our land and the topsoil on that land, we’ll likely be facing a situation within a short span of time where we really won’t have much of a say about what happens to any of it.