by Marie Burge
"There is in the wider Island community a growing anxiety about how land is increasingly owned and controlled by a few large and powerful corporations and their numerous off-shoots, some of which are clearly interlocking."
by Marie Burge
The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Lands is concerned that the District 10 by- election on November 2, 2020 seems to be under the radar with minimal public interest or media coverage. However it could be a game changer in PEI politics. It happened once before when Premier Alex Campbell, tottering on the edge of power, was able to form a majority government only because of the Liberal win in the July 11, 1966 by-election in First Kings. The current by-election is important because it could radically change the face of the PEI Legislature. However, even more importantly the election results could have a deep effect on what the PEI Government does in the near future about the protection of PEI Land.
It is likely not intentional that the district 10 by-election is being held at the same time as the public consultations around the PEI Lands Protection Act. Really, not many people even know that there is a current review of the Act.
Even with the lack of visibility of the review process, there is in the wider Island community a growing anxiety about how land is increasingly owned and controlled by a few large and powerful corporations and their numerous off-shoots, some of which are clearly interlocking.
What most everyday people know, but what seems hidden to many politicians, is that the power and the octopus outreach of these industrial enterprises is greater than any government. This is a reality regardless of the political stripe of the government. It is incredibly juvenile for any politician, party, or government to act as though they can go head-to-head with the kind of power that resides in the transnational corporate board rooms. Although political power is no match for economic power, parties and governments, if they chose to, have the advantage of calling into play the full force of the law. The laws they make and enforce are the source of the government’s power and authority. Government with strong legislation exercises its authority over the land, how it is owned, controlled and used.
The Lands Protection Act was designed precisely to keep farmland out of the hands of industrial agriculture. It is meant to keep land available for individual bona fide PEI residents and for non-industrial family corporations. That purpose remains constant. There have been serious problems with the enforcement of the Act because of the lack of political will and lawyers’ skill in manipulating loopholes.
If there is any hope for the protection of PEI lands and water at this critical time it must be found not only in impressive statements during election campaigns. What is needed now more than ever is a strong and united Legislature ready to speak out for the land and for the people. Cynical people among us say that some politicians are already bought and paid for. Thankfully, not all politicians are in that category.
To get back to the quiet by-election in District 10: whoever is elected will be part of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island and must represent the interests of the whole Island. We need to hear from the four parties running for that position. Here are seven questions:
- How aware are you that PEI land is unceded Indigenous land, under treaty?
- Do you believe that PEI land should be cared for looking ahead to seven generations?
- Do you realize that supporting the industrial model of agriculture as an engine of economic growth leads to the ultimate destruction of land and water?
- What will you do in the Legislature to honor the intent of the Lands Protection Act?
- What will you do in the Legislature to stop land grabbing in PEI?
- What will you do in the Legislature to reverse the unscrupulous land transactions?
- What will you do in the Legislature to reverse the damage already done to the land by unacceptable farming practices?
The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Lands and our associates will be watching for a rapid response in the print, electronic and social media. Islanders deserve to hear your answers. We will watch with interest how the new MLA takes up the role as a serious legislator for the land in the fall session of the PEI Legislative Assembly.
Marie Burge is a member of Cooper Institute which is an organizational member of the PEI Coalition for the Protection of PEI Lands