All levels of government have role to play in Agriculture Canada’s property in city
Aside from all the history of the Agriculture Canada Experimental Farm (The Farm), I have personally enjoyed the beauty of the little lilly pond, as well as all the surrounding beauty, for the past 40 years.
I have experienced the fragrance of the blooming lilies of the lily pond filling my car with their fragrance throughout the day to the enjoyment of my taxi customers and myself. I, and others, have sat by the pond throughout the summer evenings on a daily basis. And along with many others, I have photographed wedding parties and newlyweds on that site.
Through the years thousands of people, including myself, have wandered and observed the trees that have been planted by members of the Royal family, as well as other notable and important people.
The Government of Canada decided it would disperse of the property as it was no longer considered an asset in experimental ideas, along with other relative assets respecting the relationship with Island and other agriculture communities throughout Canada.
“The Farm” was handed over from Agriculture Canada to the Canada Lands Company, a Crown corporation, for dispersal. Requests for proposals were asked and answered by two proposals — the Friends of the Farm and the Mi’kmaq Confederacy.
Both had proposals that contained development of some areas of the property allowing cash infusion to sustain the cost of the maintenance and upkeep of the property as a green space.
The Friends of the Farm proposal was supported by the City of Charlottetown, wherein the city would have a portion of the farm annex for a new fire hall. The Confederacy did not have that provision.
A hearing of proposals was held where conflict between the two proposals ended with the Canada Lands Corporation withdrawing and converting the land back to Agriculture Canada.
It is my proposal that the Government of Canada, Province of Prince Edward Island and the City of Charlottetown combine the resources that they currently hold, to develop and maintain The Farm as a green space for all to enjoy throughout the years and generations to follow. Present manpower, budgets, equipment and expertise are capable at current government levels to manage the transition and future of this urban environmental treasure.
Financial support can be found through a multitude of federal departments, i.e. heritage, agriculture and environment. All governments gain by the added benefit of utilizing currently employed manpower and equipment as well the use of the existing facilities, greenhouses and buildings.
The city has the same advantages as the other levels of government, with the added feature of growing their own flowers for the beautification programs currently with private suppliers.
Ducks Unlimited has viewed the area as a growing asset with the excavation of two ponds behind the RCMP and CBC. There has been talk of the CBC moving and the idea of the city purchasing the property for a new fire hall, respecting the premise that new structural development of the area is averted.
The following are some excerpts from The Guardian on the issue:
u Agriculture Canada plans to take down a total of 10 derelict buildings on the property at a cost of $700,000. While the work is expensive it will mean lower costs for operating the farm in the long term. “It’s one less thing we don’t have to worry about maintaining and investing money in, and that way we free up money to go towards research programs at the centre.” The land will be converted back into green space.
In January 2002, it was announced that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada may declare 88 acres of the land as surplus and that this land would be turned over to the Canada Lands Company, a Crown corporation.
Jeff Brant, director of socio-economic development with the Mi’kmaq Confederacy, says their plan for the Experimental Farm makes the most sense and the confederacy has a legitimate claim for the land. He says when the land is determined surplus by the federal government, the provincial, municipal and First Nation governments all have a say on what happens to it.
“On behalf of the Mi’kmaq, we’re saying we have an interest in the property and this is what we’re going to do,” Brant said. He thinks it is very likely that the confederacy will obtain the property, and says the plans would not even have developed if there wasn’t a benefit to the city of Charlottetown. He says the property needs a facelift.
“What we have is garbage, we have condemned buildings.” Unfortunately it’s an uphill battle, he says. “We’re facing opposition here. We’re trying to be open but we’re getting a lot of questions of ‘Why should we be doing this?’ If the confederacy gets the land it means the land will be open for all of P.E.I. to use and enjoy, not just the Mi’kmaq.
Brant thinks it’s a common misconception that people think the confederacy is taking the land for their own use. “We want people to come; you don’t generate money by pushing people away.” If the land can be utilized by everyone in their plan, then they have the best proposal. Brant says. “Why not us? That’s the question Islanders need to ask themselves. Why not us? You’d hope that in today’s day and age racial problems aren’t an issue.”
“If the land can be utilized by everyone in their plan, then they have the best proposal.” Brant says. “Why not us? That’s the question Islanders need to ask themselves.
(End of excerpts.)
Mr. Brant’s quote is the key. Outstanding differences between the two groups were the simple creation of an invitation for proposals from well meaning individual groups that are not structurally created to accommodate all Islanders’ interests and will. In this case there were two.
What was overlooked was an idea of co-operation between governments to agree that their combined efforts would best provide a green space that all their respective constituents would enjoy. Security of these governments future planning, along with their implementations, would be directly controlled by citizen overview without the control being with any one group or individual control.
The following is a list of a few co-operative ideas that could be accommodated on The Farm.
- P.E.I. Museum;
- An oval rink such as that in Halifax;
- Public gardens;
- An observatory;
- Offices for those responsible for the co-ordination of development and maintenance;
- Possible expansion of the Farmers Market.
This is a draft outline of an idea that has either been overlooked or not considered in the acquisition and proposal process. There are many more issues to address, however I do not consider this an impossible opportunity and am willing to give it all I can do to see it move forward.
By Neil Harpham
Neil Harpham of Charlottetown was a member of the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) to the P.E.I. Minister of Environment from Feb. 4, 2010, to Jan. 12, 2013.