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Green P.E.I. MLA raises cabinet approval of land leases of Irving-owned company

Green MLAs Michele Beaton, right, and Hannah Bell chat prior to the legislature session last week.
Green MLAs Michele Beaton, right, and Hannah Bell chat prior to a legislature session last week. - Mitch MacDonald

The issue was raised during during Question Period last week

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Green MLA Michele Beaton pressed the Island’s agriculture minister in the legislature on Wednesday about a cabinet decision to allow an Irving-owned company to lease a total of 963 acres of land across P.E.I.

On May 21, executive council issued 20 separate orders allowing Island Holdings Ltd. to lease the 963 acres of land. The lands were spread throughout P.E.I. 

The company is owned by JD Irving Ltd.

According to a statement from JD Irving Ltd, the approvals relate to submissions the company makes to rent land every year, under the regulations of the Lands Protection Act. 

The Progressive Conservatives committed to respecting the spirit of the Lands Protection Act in their election platform.

On Wednesday, Mermaid-Stratford MLA Michele Beaton suggested the province should be wary of Island Holdings Ltd.

"Island Holdings, as a large, wealthy out-of-province corporation, is exactly the sort of landholder that the Lands Protections Act is meant to protect us from," Beaton said.

"By how much is this corporation under their allowable limit of aggregated land?" Beaton asked Lands and Agriculture Minister Bloyce Thompson.

Thompson said Island Holdings Ltd. was below the land size limits.

"I can't give the exact numbers and I'm not sure if I'm allowed to give the exact numbers,” Thompson said.

The Lands Protection Act limits corporations to 3,000 acres of arable land, although some exceptions are permitted. 

In an interview, Thompson confirmed the May 21 orders in council were a yearly renewal that allowed Island Holdings Ltd. to rent land from other landowners. 

“Island Land Holdings are very organized. Everything is to the exact acre. It is very professionally done. Executive council has told us they are very exact on their acreage, they're always within their limits," Thompson said.

"Everything is within the spirit of the act."

However Thompson seemed less clear when asked whether all subsidiaries of JD Irving, when taken as a whole, were under the allowable land size limit under the Lands Protection Act. 

"I'm not familiar with all the corporations and who owns what, but it's a balancing act and as far as we were concerned they were within the spirit of the act," Thompson said.

Critics have suggested large landowners have found loopholes in the act, by establishing multiple corporations or subsidiaries. Groups such as the National Farmers Union have suggested that the aggregate land holdings of all JD Irving-owned companies should be publicly released.

Thompson said a review of the policies surrounding transparency of land holdings is underway.


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