BY MARYLOU RICHARD
AND PHIL CALLAGHAN
As Islanders, by and large, we are unaware of the pitfalls in the laws that govern us. A good example of this is the Lands Protection Act (1982) The purpose of this act is to provide for the regulation of property rights in P.E.I., especially the amount of land that may be held by a person or corporation.
Islanders historically have always understood the critical importance of control of land ownership. The spirit underlying this legislation was to protect family farms and the fragile nature of the province’s ecology and environment. The spirit of the law has unfortunately little weight in the exercise of the law.
In the case of the Lands Protection Act, there is a serious undermining of the spirit on which the law was formulated. This should concern Islanders because of the many exemptions made to the Act and the subsequent accumulation of land holdings under the control of corporate interests.
This is due to the ambiguity and the interpretation of the definition of “corporation” within the Act. This is one of the loopholes which needs to be acknowledged and addressed. The failure to close this loophole allows for the accumulation of power and control in the hands of fewer and fewer people.
The exemptions to the Act also illustrate a clear lack of transparency in land transfers. It is virtually impossible to track the decision making of IRAC and Government in these transfers. Islanders are therefore left in the dark as to who owns what land and how much.
Our land is suffering from the concentration of land ownership and its resulting agricultural practices. Soil erosion, increased nitrates in groundwater and decreased organic matter in the soil are among the consequences.
The call of the land is urgent.
- Phil Callaghan and Marylou Richard of Charlottetown are members of the newly-formed Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Lands