P.E.I. Potato Board chairman appeals environmental charge

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 9, 2015

Potato farmer Alex Docherty leaves the P.E.I. Court of Appeal on Dec. 8, 2015.

©Jim Day/The Guardian

Potato farmer Alex Docherty says “principle’’ is driving his long, stubborn fight after being charged with violating the Environmental Protection Act in 2012.

Both Docherty and his brother-in-law Blake MacDonald lost their case in provincial court when Judge Nancy Orr found the pair guilty in September 2013 for cultivating a row crop on land that had a slope greater than nine per cent.

The men were each fined $3,150.

Earlier this year, P.E.I. Supreme Court Judge Wayne Cheverie dismissed appeals from Docherty and MacDonald.

But that wasn’t enough to thwart Docherty, who is winding up his one-year term as chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board.

Docherty, who runs a seed and tablestock operation called Skye View Farms near Crapaud, was back in court Tuesday appealing the appeal.

His lawyer Brandon Forbes told the three-member P.E.I. Court of Appeal the issue “is as straightforward as we can get’’ with “cultivate’’ being the word of the day.

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Forbes argued that Orr erred in her interpretation of the word cultivate by finding the definition included buying crop insurance and registering with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Crown attorney John McMillan, dealing with his final case in a 30-year legal career, told the appeal court’s three judges that the appeal was being argued on a very narrow point.

He added that Orr’s decision was “well-reasoned, supported by the evidence.’’

Chief Justice of the P.E.I. Appeal Court David Jenkins says a decision would be rendered by the end of January.

That will be a short period compared to the three-plus years Docherty has been fighting the case.

The case is not about money, says Docherty, who adds he has spent “a fair bit’’ on legal fees.

“The biggest thing is the whole deal here is I caused no harm to the environment. None. Zero.’’

Docherty says the outcome of this case could have a negative impact on the potato industry.

“A lot of regulations need to be looked at,’’ he adds.

“Some of these regulations were wrote 10-15 years ago, but a lot of things have changed. Some of these laws are outdated.’’