Amendments are off to a good start but the transfer deadlines are too long | Island farmer
The long-awaited changes to the Land Protection Act were tabled in the Legislature and were on the Order Paper due for debate as this matter went to press.
While Agriculture and Lands Minister Bloyce Thompson promised early in his tenure to overhaul the legislation, the matter has taken on new urgency in the wake of what has become the Brendel Sale. This series of paper transactions left Red Fox Acres Limited, with Rebecca Irving as the major shareholder, owner of nearly 900 acres of land in the Bedeque area. She is the daughter of Mary Jean Irving, owner of Master Packaging, and the niece of Cavendish Farms President Robert Irving.
Lawyers for Red Fox and Rebecca Irving argued that since the company that previously owned the land had been purchased rather than the land itself, the approval of the Island Regulatory and Appeals Board was not necessary. Thompson disagreed and asked the commission to investigate. After almost two years, they filed a report which remains secret despite Thompson’s protests that “no one wants this report released more than me.” He ordered two individuals and Red Fox to surrender land to bring it into compliance with the possession limits under the law of 1,000 acres for individuals and 3,000 for corporations. The company and Irving are challenging the order in court.
The new law strengthens the rules on business ownership. Corporations will have to apply to Cabinet if they acquire land that “will bring about a material change to their shareholders, which would result in the full ownership of land by any of its shareholders who are residents of more than 400 acres.” apply the principle that “two or more companies which are directly or indirectly controlled by the same person, company, group or other organization are deemed to be one company”.
It also gives the RAIC the power to initiate its own investigations and provides for a penalty of $ 250,000 for non-compliance, as well as other administrative and day-to-day penalties. There is no doubt that this gives more bite to the law, if you will, provided there is the necessary follow-up – which many groups, both inside and outside of the law, farming community, argue that it was lacking in the past.
Where it falls is the surrender schedule. Those who exceed the limit have five years to sell half of the land above the acreage limit, 80 percent within seven years, and all land within nine years from the date of the divestiture order. In the meantime, the land would likely remain under the control of the person or company who, by law, would not have the right to control it.
Perhaps the government should have explored the option suggested by the National Farmers Union on several occasions, whereby any land deemed surplus would be used to establish the much talked about land reserve. The threat of losing land with little compensation would be more of a deterrent to staying within limits.