Jason Aspin lays down a challenge

Steve Sharratt
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Entrepreneur Jason Aspin says Prince Edward Islanders need to start dreaming bigger. Aspin is the CEO of Aspin Kemp Enterprises and moved his entire business operations last year from Ontario to P.E.I.

Aspin Kemp CEO champions organic farming and clean energy

GEORGETOWN — He’s not running for politics, but an Island entrepreneur who brought his business empire home last year is challenging Canada’s smallest province to shake off oil addiction and kiss pesticides good-bye.

Jason Aspin told the recent annual awards banquet of the Eastern P.E.I. chamber of commerce the province should set a vision — and a target date — to harness alternate energy systems, switch to 100 per cent organic farming and create a sound financial model for citizens.

And judging by the applause, along with social media postings, the 150 guests attending the business banquet at the Kings Playhouse were giving thumbs up.

“We’ve got resources that are invaluable like clean air, fertile ground and an ocean all around us,’’ he said. “Having spent 20 years working around the world you start to realize what we have here and we just need to dream bigger.”

Aspin is the CEO of Aspin Kemp Enterprises and moved his entire business operations last year from Ontario to Montague and Poole’s Corner creating 150 well-paying jobs.

When the graduate of Montague regional high school completed his inspiring address, master of ceremony Roger Younker joked with the guest speaker asking if he was planning to become premier.

“Part of the reason I am here and came back to live and work here is because the community cares about business,’’ he said.

“We could have done our company work anywhere, but we wouldn’t have the support and the people we have working with us ... this is a spot to be creative and innovative.”

Aspin is a graduate of Canadian Coast Guard College specializing in power and integrated systems equipment for the oil and gas sector and has contracts worldwide.

The company was awarded an $80-million contract last spring with General Electric’s Global Offshore and Marine division to provide switchboards, variable frequency drives, and other electrical components for drilling ships. The company is currently transporting large components from Poole’s Corner to South Korea to supply five huge drilling ships.

“I just returned from Beijing (China) and the pollution was so bad I couldn’t see across this room,’’ he said. “We’ve got amazing opportunities here and we need to focus on that.”

The banquet drew business leaders throughout the region along with Lt.-Gov. Frank Lewis, the three Conservative leadership candidates, and a number of MLAs, mayor and village chairs.

P.E.I. may lack oil and gas, but Aspin said that sector is slowly phasing out.

“The oil and gas sector has been great for us, but it’s in the twilight and the world will face tough problems that will require innovation. The places that have oil and gas aren’t going to lead those innovations ... it’s the places that don’t have oil and gas that will.”

Aspin said there is energy “all around us” and North America has simply become “lazy” and dependent on oil transfusions.

“We know we have oceans full of water with rising temperatures ... and if we could lower that temperature by a single degree we would create energy for a thousand years,’’ he told the crowd. “But finding a solution to that question is the key.”

Aspin said P.E.I. should set a tangible target date to establish goals and become a leader in energy systems harnessing wind, sun and tide. He also addressed the growing provincial debt.

“If we don’t manage to do a successful financial model for our province, we are going to be in trouble,’’ he said. “Let’s become a jurisdictional model as well ... we have a unique chance to do that. Instead of following others, let’s take the lead.”

The Island native said P.E.I. could abandon pesticides altogether and become the first organic farming region where a bevy of new businesses would thrive.

“You don’t switch over right away, but if we push in that direction we could develop all kinds of amazing new business. And it’s not impossible for P.E.I. to become a net exporter of alternate energy.”

Aspin said there is no silver bullet to such visions, especially with a government system that can change direction every four years. He said the province needs to establish a long term non-political policy that focuses on knowledge and education and a policy that develops entrepreneurs like the Island’s farmers and fishermen.

“We have our own jurisdiction here, our own province, and we need to pick some goals ... these are just some that I am passionate about,’’ he said.

“If we could be energy independent by a certain date or become the world’s first million acre organic farm ... these are big goals, but they can be done. We need to have a vision and become the best at something.”

To conclude his chamber address, Aspin pulled a legendary quote attributed to American inventor Thomas Edison in

1931.

“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around the house for fuel when we should use nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. I’ll put my money on sun and solar energy for power ... and hope we don’t have to wait until the oil and coal runs out before we tap it.”

Organizations: Canadian Coast Guard College, Eastern P.E.I. chamber, Aspin Kemp Enterprises General Electric Offshore and Marine division

Geographic location: Iceland, Canada, Ontario South Korea Beijing China North America

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Recent comments

  • enough already
    February 27, 2015 - 08:11

    Organic farming would provide healthy work for people , ya like people are going to pull weeds by hand and pick potatoes ,this aint the 1950's buddy!

    • Enlighten Yourself
      February 27, 2015 - 14:44

      Your ignorance is showing. Learn something about organic gardening before you make such ridiculous comments. Or better yet, go visit one of the many organic farms that in production now.

  • Pieter Valkenburg
    February 26, 2015 - 12:44

    I fully agree with Mr.Aspen. This is an unique chance for PEI to establish itself as an organic province and be on the forefront of renewable energy. Instead of on land, I would suggest to put windmills out at see and because of ice built up around the base, use some of the construction methods that were used when building the confederation bridge. PEI should also look into creating more well paying jobs in the (private) health care sector and establish itself as a age friendly province where all kinds of health related services are available and thus attract more older (baby boomer) residents.

  • Gerald O'Meara
    February 25, 2015 - 22:01

    Way to go Jason . Good plan for everyone . Organic farming , and becoming a leader in energy systems harnessing wind , sun and tide. Its time for a change . We can all work together to make this happen . Organic farming would provide healthy work for islanders and a healthy place for children to grow up. Islanders would be unique and proud of this new way of life .

  • Patt Bates
    February 25, 2015 - 21:01

    P.E.I has one of the highest rates of cancer and the numbers are growing still. Any Idea that is brought to the table on how to combat this problem which I believe is caused by the great deal of chemicals used in are field, is a positive step in the healing process. The Island is the perfect set up to test pilot organic growth, solar and wind energy, and I'm sure a host of other health regarding products. P.E.I could be known as the healthy Island instead of the gentle Island. Gurus of healthy and safe living would flock here to learn what we know and educate us in what they know. It just make good sense to me and I'm sure others, to live healthy in a clean, chemical free, environment. I think we would be envied for our way of life. We could be setting a good example and maybe changing lives for the better.

  • howard
    February 25, 2015 - 19:07

    not to take anything away from Mr, Aspen, but I think it would be dishonest not to mention the great monetary incentives given him by the Island taxpayers. It would be interesting to see an account of what it all amounts to, - e.g. a ready building at Pools Corner, the other building in Montague, grants and loans, -- how much? With out all that, would he have come to PEI? I think not. For any of these dreams he suggests to come through, the taxpayers would be called upon again.

    • Bring Out Your Dead
      February 25, 2015 - 20:40

      Yes Howard. Please let's nail the rural PEI coffin shut. It would be better for tax payers if we'd all just get on with it and spit at anybody who attempted CPR.

    • Education
      February 25, 2015 - 20:43

      why don't you go to AKA and see what they do. If the money is the motivation for Mr. Aspin to come home, not just PEI. I think they are the bigger tax payer with $50M/year being executed on PEI. It is not hard to drop by and see it for yourselves. It is just your neighbourhood consider how small island is. But our tone to something ideas makes it sounds like we are big isolated.

    • Education
      February 25, 2015 - 20:46

      why don't you go to AKA and see what they do. If the money is the motivation for Mr. Aspin to come home, not just PEI. I think they are the bigger tax payer with $50M/year being executed on PEI. It is not hard to drop by and see it for yourselves. It is just your neighbourhood consider how small island is. But our tone to something ideas makes it sounds like we are big isolated.

    • To Education
      February 26, 2015 - 07:05

      Education: I think you need to get some. I can't figure out what you're trying to say. As for Howard, I would hope that my tax go to support local businesses.

  • Bobboblaw
    February 25, 2015 - 18:11

    Lovely interview, I'm assuming that mr kemp must be getting ready to make a go of it as an organic farmer. I guess that leaves me with just one question. Will you be wearing that suit when your pulling weeds?

    • Stupid Question
      February 26, 2015 - 21:02

      Don't know if that is just a slack jawed attempt at an insult but why would you even ask the question?

  • And Another Thing
    February 25, 2015 - 17:17

    Can you imagine the tourists flocking here to spend a few weeks in a healthy retreat from the pollution and pesticides. Millions and millions of dollars are being made on people who feel they need to do a cleanse. People could open cleansing spas and bring in thousands every year, summer and winter. If only our politicians could THINK.

  • William White
    February 25, 2015 - 16:43

    Jason is right, it won't be easy or quick but with some sound planning this could be a good future plan. The hardest part will be keeping all the eager little feet out of the Government trough.

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    February 25, 2015 - 12:46

    Just another elitist with grand ideas of making money off of government MANDATES. Go back to Ontario and leave us alone. I personally would never trust someone who reaps (or reaped) the benefit's from one of the biggest MONSTER CORPORATIONS on the planet. $80. mill eh, and what compromises did you have to make negotiating with the devil, GENERAL ELECTRIC?

    • K McQuaid
      February 25, 2015 - 15:00

      bad attitude Bill. Aspin Kemp is standing up for something Important the Quality of the food.

    • Bill Kays
      Bill Kays
      February 26, 2015 - 09:22

      K McQuaid, it's not a bad attitude, it iis a critic's point of view. All soon to be politicians spout off at the mouth about great dreams. He's one of Al Roach's 'want to bes. He is a salesman, just like Al, I recognize them for what they are. I also see reality from a critic's perspective, something we need more of. He's standing up for the quality of food - bull crap, he's standing up for a dream, another salemen's product. You will hear all of our glorious politicians similar talk about similar dreams. The holy Spirit inside of me, my guide, tells me he is not to be trusted, much like Mr Roach.

    • THINK THINK THINK
      February 26, 2015 - 12:44

      You're a great one to provide, as you put it " a critic's point of view". But much like most critics, you're great at tearing people down but do nothing to improve the situation yourself. You make wild assumptions without any facts to back them up. And please don't reference the Holy Spirit. Anyone that spiteful cannot have a Christian heart.

    • Straight
      February 26, 2015 - 13:44

      Elitist...that man has worked hard for everything he has.....has never forgotten his meager beginnings and you Mr. Kays haven't a clue. Critic....you tear down everyone and everything on here. There is no Holy Spirit guiding you if it was it would scream in your ear judge not that you be not judged. Man

    • Tell You
      February 26, 2015 - 21:04

      Tell you what he is not little billy. He is not some pathetic loser sitting in his basement whining about everything in life. He is a successful business man doing 100 times more with his life than yourself.

  • Teresa Doyle
    February 25, 2015 - 11:54

    What an excellent article. I applaud Aspin Kemp. We desperately need a long term vision for PEI. Politicians run on a four year election cycle. Visioning is not their strong suit. We as an island community have the responsibility to come up with that long term vision so politicians have a template. Organic agriculture and alternative energy are the future. How can we help young farmers and innovative green energy companies? Certainly we've been subsidizing the oil industry for long enough.

    • Bill Kays
      Bill Kays
      February 26, 2015 - 09:14

      He will be running for public office, sooner or later, believe me, because that's his cut.

    • Bill Kays
      Bill Kays
      March 05, 2015 - 15:49

      Teresa, nobody is stopping him. Let him do it, all on his own dime, without tax payer help IN ANY WAY. Private business must stay that. Public / private partnerships should be avoided at all costs.

  • Fan of the future
    February 25, 2015 - 11:39

    Encouraging and motivating to hear this from a PEI Business Leader! The place was crawling with politicians, I hope they were listening. @ Mythbuster - It's true there are 400 pesticides approved for Organic Farming. They include; vinegar, a saucer of beer, a spritz of dish detergent, handpicking beetles... Anything that attracts or discourages a pest. Organic Farmers do not use known carcinogens - we leave that to the Industrial Potato Farmers.

    • Farmer
      February 25, 2015 - 15:17

      You forgot to mention bacillus thuringiensis, Rotenone and copper sulfate which are all organic pesticides. Rotenone, for example is is a broad-spectrum insecticide, meaning it kills beneficial insects as well as crop-eating ones. Worse, it can be quite deadly to aquatic life when it seeps into waterways and causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease in rats.

  • Stewart Smith
    February 25, 2015 - 11:18

    There is no provincial plan. We need a plan, then all these good ideas could be debated and integrated into a shared vision for the future. Our government is so not going to do this, they are self-serving and short-term.

    • john Andrew
      February 27, 2015 - 07:47

      Maybe a new Government would make a difference.

    • john Andrew
      February 27, 2015 - 13:05

      Maybe a new Government would make a difference.

  • FinallyASmartIslander!
    February 25, 2015 - 10:36

    Here Here!

  • another one
    February 25, 2015 - 09:38

    Organic agricultre uses pesticides...... some more dangerous than synthetic pesticides.....why does this continue to be difficult for people to understand......?????

    • Jenna
      February 25, 2015 - 12:42

      These comments always make me laugh. No one thinks organic farmers use no pest management strategies. Organic agriculture doesn't try to eliminate all pests. It aims to create checks and balances for pests so nothing gets out of control. What you are saying is based in myth, and is commonly cited by the Federation of Agriculture. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess you are saying this because you have a vested interest in synthetic pesticides.

    • How It Is
      February 25, 2015 - 13:15

      Name one.

    • Here's one. Want more?
      February 25, 2015 - 16:30

      Rotenone.

    • We All Breathe The Same Air
      February 25, 2015 - 19:48

      Rotenone hasn't been allowed for several years.

    • Try again
      February 26, 2015 - 07:16

      Rotenone is used only in extremely dire cases and is being phased out.

  • Great Dreamer
    February 25, 2015 - 09:26

    He is in Montague in spite of Al Roach and the Liberals. They tried and tried and tried before finally getting a response to move the company to PEI. Well Done Mr Aspin and definitely a plan to look at. Unfortunately for the liberal hacks and wannabees, there is no kickbacks from this business model.

  • Mythbusters needed
    February 25, 2015 - 08:51

    Jason Aspin has bought into one of the biggest myths there is around food production - that organic farming does not use pesticides. There are almost 400 pesticides approved for use on organic farming. He is doing a disservice to organic farmers when he perpetuates the notion that organic farming is pesticide free.

    • Synthetic pesticide free
      February 25, 2015 - 10:27

      Would you have felt better if he had said if PEI got rid of all synthetic pesticides? I've never heard of an organic farmer causing a fish kill. HUGE kudos to Jason Aspin for saying out loud what so many Islanders would love to see. If only our government would have the vision and leadership to make it happen. People would flock here in droves if PEI became organic and a leader in alternative energies. Property values would rise.

    • Matthew Haughn
      February 25, 2015 - 11:48

      Clearly you don't understand what organic pesticides are. Organic pesticides are limited to naturally occurring compounds. ZERO synthetic chemicals are allowed. Educate yourself with something other than propaganda. Which is exactly what your post looks like when you don't stand behind your name. http://organic.about.com/od/cropsfarming/f/Which-Pesticides-Can-Be-Used-For-Organic-Production.htm

    • You Are Misleading
      February 25, 2015 - 12:08

      The pesticides that MAY be used in organic farming are NOT synthetic. They must be from a natural source and there are many restrictions even on those. Stop spreading lies. You KNOW organic food is less harmful to the environment AND to those who eat it. If you don't than you need to do some serious research. Or perhaps you've been gulping too many chemicals to be able to process simple logic.

    • You Are Misleading
      February 25, 2015 - 12:13

      It's so refreshing to hear from someone who believes in this dream. We have such an advantage here on the Island and unfortunately our politician and many farmers can't see past the Irving dollars to a better Island where we don't have to brown nose the filthy rich. I sincerely wish you the best Mr. Aspin and hope that your dream will manifest quickly.

    • We're All Breathing The Same Air
      February 25, 2015 - 17:32

      On that list of "almost 400 pesticides" is pure natural vegetable soap. You could wash a baby in it. I don't think I'd wash a baby in neonicotinoid even though this patented neuro-toxin is allowed in PEI. Thanks for bringing up an opportunity to share an important point. Folks have a right to know the difference between an organic bio pesticide and a highly promoted systemic, synthetic chemical so they can decide for themselves what they want to eat, breathe and drink. An argument that says, "you don't have a choice" is not only wrong, it's bad business.

  • rigpei
    February 25, 2015 - 08:33

    Yes Patrick and it certainly would be refreshing if PEI had more dreamers like him to save this wonderful Island and restore healthy living conditions here...

  • Jon
    February 25, 2015 - 08:21

    Awesome! Let's get moving!

  • PEIpeople
    February 25, 2015 - 07:19

    Fantastic vision, lets be the leaders in alternative energy as an island and get the island organic. Start in Queens, for example, and then roll it out to the whole island. The value of our little island would go far beyond our imagination! Go PEI.

  • Patrick
    February 25, 2015 - 05:53

    another guy living in a dream world.

    • That's Just It
      February 25, 2015 - 14:38

      What is wrong with dreaming? Nothing has ever been successful that wasn't dreamed first. We would still be in the dark ages without people who dare to dream. If you're stuck in a self made nightmare, that's your problem.