Jason Aspin sugguests Million acre organic farm for P.E.I.

Island businessman issues challenge to make province environmental leader

Published on March 3, 2015

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.

©Guardian file photo

Jason Aspin says Islanders need to start dreaming bigger. Some critics suggest he is the one dreaming — based on a number of comments posted to social media following the publication of a story in The Guardian last week. There will always be critics of new ideas and daunting challenges so Mr. Aspin should not be dismayed. A majority of commenters actually supported Mr. Aspin and wished him good luck.

At the heart of the matter is a call from the Island entrepreneur for P.E.I. to switch entirely to organic farming and clean energy, and get its financial house in order. Corporate P.E.I. is not usually known for supporting green initiatives. Mr. Aspin takes the issue from the left margin and puts it squarely front and centre on the Island agenda.

The CEO of Aspin Kemp Enterprises, who moved his business operations to P.E.I. last year, might have expected a hostile reception from business leaders attending the Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce event but his three-fold challenge was greeted with warm applause.

Critics suggested that Mr. Aspin is positioning himself for a political career, that his company took advantage of government incentives to come here and that his challenges are unrealistic.

Eastern business leaders apparently feel differently. Instead of his challenges being viewed as an attack against agriculture and certain Island businesses, they viewed them as an opportunity to create new jobs and wealth, and transform the province into a productive, environmentally friendly and unique place for people to live, work and play — and provide even more reasons for tourists to come here.

He called on the province to put in place a successful financial model or “we are going to be in trouble.” Switching to green energy solutions could provide the spark for that new model.

Before dismissing Mr. Aspin as a dreamer, one should examine where he’s coming from. He’s obviously a successful businessman, he obviously believes in this province and he obviously wants to make P.E.I. a better place to live and work.

With our major municipalities endorsing and implementing bans on cosmetic pesticides, one-half of the province’s population is already on the road to curtailing pesticides. The agriculture sector would like to move in that direction if at all feasible but it needs help from industry and scientists for that to happen.

Mr. Aspin says the province should set a vision and target dates to harness alternate energy systems, switch to 100 per cent organic farming and create a sound financial model for citizens. Almost everyone would support these ideas if feasible. Attaining them is the hard part but if goals are never set, goals are never reached.

When President John F. Kennedy declared a goal in May 1961 to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, some scoffed but many more were excited. The U.S. harnessed its ingenuity and fulfilled the late president’s dream on July 20, 1969. Many view the Apollo mission as the greatest technological achievement ever accomplished by mankind.

Perhaps the province should set those goals and guidelines suggested by Mr. Aspin and see if we can attain them. We might fail, but we’ll make things better for the trying. Mr. Aspin believes Islanders are up to the challenge because P.E.I. offers the opportunity to be creative and innovative. Solar, wind and tidal power offer increased renewable energy opportunities. Instead of being known as the gentle Island or another little Island, we’ll be famous as the environmentally friendly green Island.

Mr. Aspin should be applauded for articulating those challenges.