Much to our frustration, the Report of the Commission of Land and Local Governance continues to collect dust
Judge Ralph Thompson has spent the last eight months dealing with the complex laws over land use in this province. Guardian photo
Former provincial judge Ralph Thompson wrote in his Report of the Commission of Land and Local Governance, “The problems which this report addresses did not occur overnight and many of them will not be solved overnight.”
Maybe not, but we’re betting Thompson didn’t realize it would take more than two years for government to take the first step.
The land use issue — a Prince Edward Island theme since our earliest colonists had to send rents back to Europe for the lots they were clearing, building upon and farming — is enmeshed with nearly every decision government makes. Yet it is rarely acknowledged.
A week ago, residents were invited to a public meeting to discuss wind farm development in northeastern Kings County. Most of the 100 people in attendance supported the plan that they saw as an economic boost to the region. Since then, The Guardian has heard from residents who are opposed to more wind turbines in the area, worried about devaluing their property and affecting their health.
The same plan got a thumbs up from residents but declined by council in Eastern Kings earlier in the year.
Everyone commenting on the topic has a vested interest, so it’s hard to know what is best for the whole community.
But doing what’s best for the community is exactly what Scottish professor Alistair McIntosh advises.
“No terrestrial wind energy should go ahead unless … (there is) a real benefit going into the local community,” McIntosh said during a public lecture earlier this month in Charlottetown. “If that is not the case, it shouldn’t happen. Otherwise, it’s the theft of amenity to the local community,” he said.
McIntosh is a professor in human ecology, land use and climate change who advocates community land ownership in his native Scotland. He warned Prince Edward Island should hold onto its assets and make decisions on their use that benefit the whole community, not just as a means for making money for an individual or business.
Wind farm development is only one area where having a concrete land use policy could help give a clear direction and focus.
Wind mills; fish kills; highway projects; water conservation; residential, agricultural and industrial interests: The list of recent news stories where a good land governance template would have benefited discussions goes on and on. It’s frustrating to know that such a document exists, sitting on someone’s desk, gathering dust.
The Report of the Commission of Land and Local Governance was released to the provincial government in January 2010. At that time, Carolyn Bertram, who was the minister for communities and cultural affairs, promised her department would set up a task force immediately to host public consultations on the topic.
We didn’t hear anything more about this task force until March of this year, when the Department of Agriculture and Forestry issued a call for members, with an application deadline of March 15. The department’s website to this day still promises, “A Task Force will be established in March 2012 and will begin public consultations in early spring of 2012. The provincial land use policies will be developed following the input from public consultations.”
That deadline, like others before it, has passed. Let’s stop talking about the land use report and start acting on it.