BY KEVIN ARSENAULT
It's been eight months since my article was published in The Guardian, “Kept in the Dark Too Long,” (Guardian March 21, 2018) reporting how Islanders are being blocked from accessing land records in the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission’s (IRAC) database.
It's not that we don't have legal access to the records; we just can't search them by anything other than parcel number - there's no search fields for name, date, location, etc., which makes our cherished repository of decades of land transaction records completely useless to Islanders.
In that same article, I also shared that I had been in communication with the CEO of IRAC, Scott MacKenzie, requesting that he ask a computer technician to take an hour or two to add some additional search fields to the database so records can be accessed by people like me who want to know how much land is owned by non-residents, or how much land has been bought over the past decade by certain individuals, or certain corporations; etc.
If we were also able to search the P.E.I. corporate/business registry by “name” - which we can't – we could then easily figure out how many corporations a certain individual is a director of, and with new fields in IRAC's database for individual, corporation, etc., we could easily get an accurate picture of exactly how much land is owned and/or controlled by who in P.E.I.
Mr. MacKenzie told me at the time that he was fully committed to making those changes, which I reported in my article as follows:
“In early Nov. 2017, I emailed IRAC’s CEO, Scott MacKenzie and explained my dilemma (not being able to search IRAC's land records). His response: 'You do raise an interesting point and it would be a more user-friendly database if there could be searches done by applicant/purchaser’s name. I have asked our IT people to look into making the change.' After three months with no change, I called him.
He assured me he was committed to making the information available; however, it would take time. No changes have yet been made.”
Nearly a year had transpired with no changes to IRAC's Land Protection Act (LPA) database, so I emailed Mr. MacKenzie on Sept. 16, 2018 to request a meeting: “Dear Mr. MacKenzie, would it be possible to have a meeting with you to discuss a couple of matters relating to the review initiated by Minister Brown and the status of the LPA Databank?”
His short response came a few days later: “Kevin, we are presently tied up on a number of matters until the end of the month. I’ll have to get back to you the first week of October. Scott.”
I've yet to hear back from Mr. MacKenzie. Perhaps he meant the first week of October 2019? At any rate, it looks like Islanders won't be seeing any LPA database or corporate/business registry changes that let them properly research land records under the current Liberal government. And that's a shame . . . government has no right to block access to these records.
- Kevin J. Arsenault obtained his doctorate in ethics from McGill University. He lives in Ft. Augustus and is a candidate in the current PC leadership campaign.