The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture approved a resolution at its annual meeting that could well trigger a new round of controversy over land use in the province.
If it does, we should proceed cautiously. Land is a finite, precious resource fundamental to the well-being and prosperity of the province. Any changes to the law protecting that land must be made only after thorough debate and careful consideration.
The federation wants changes in the Lands Protection Act that would allow for the individual ownership of arable land to increase to 1,500 acres from 1,000 acres, and for corporations to increase their holdings to 4,500 from 3,000 acres. This has implications for the current legislation, which was enacted in 1980 to limit acquisition of the land by large corporations.
But federation president Bertha Campbell made some interesting observations in proposing the resolution to allow for an increase in holdings by both individuals and corporations. “The Federation of Agriculture realizes that land ownership is a sensitive issue. But not addressing it is not a solution,” she said; those supporting the resolution believe that allowing for an increase in land holdings would increase their competitiveness and reduce the red tape.
Obviously the province should consider the federation’s request. No doubt the global market forces that were in play in 1980 have only increased, and if there are aspects of land use legislation that are unnecessarily hobbling Island farmers in their efforts to compete in the marketplace, they should be addressed.
But let’s not forget why the Lands Protection Act was enacted in the first place: to protect the land. While it may be true that P.E.I. is the only region to limit the amount of land that can be controlled by any one person or corporation, we have a compelling case for doing so. As an island province, we have a limited supply of land. In fact, isn’t it arguable that the lack of land use legislation in other regions of Canada may well be the reason arable farmland has been lost? Let’s not be too eager to weaken legislation that could protect us from going down that road.
The federation has a point. Much has changed in 30 years, and the current legislation may need to be reviewed to better reflect the realities of today’s agriculture industry. But government must ensure that such a review includes a thorough process of consultation with Islanders. After all, we all have a stake in any major changes to this legislation.
Just because you build them . . .
The mayor of Stratford made an interesting point recently about the affordability of housing for people with disabilities. It’s one thing to provide such housing, but quite another to ensure it’s affordable.
At a council meeting two weeks ago, Mayor David Dunphy said developers are building accessible units, now that the town had adopted the National Building Code, which requires new apartment buildings to have one accessible unit for every 12 units built. But many of those who need such units can’t pay the going rental rates. This year, he said, he wants to address the affordability issue.
That’s food for thought for all municipalities at a time when aging baby boomers are likely to increase demand for living units that accommodate a whole range of disabilities.