© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Former Opposition leader and now an independent Progressive Conservative MLA, Olive Crane, listens to the speech
Independent MLA Olive Crane says when it comes to land development on P.E.I., sometimes the province just has to say no.
Crane says over the last five to seven years, a lot of land has been changing hands in Kings County, stretching from Montague to Wood Islands, and people are asking her lots of questions.
So, she brought the matter up during question period in the legislature on Thursday. Crane spoke about the harm that can come from large-scale development known as land grabbing, asking Premier Robert Ghiz whether his government ever looks at an application for development that was initially approved by the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission and overturns that recommendation.
The issue has been garnering a bit of news lately, especially with the mystery development in Hampton.
"I was trying to get the premier to acknowledge that when we make decisions around development and land that sometimes you have to say no, in the case of Hampton or in the case of some other developments,'' Crane told The Guardian.
"Part of the problem, too, is that people do not know what is being developed. They just know that something is going on. For me, the bigger principle is Prince Edward Island. Land is, in my book, next to our people, the number one resource so we have to protect that.''
Crane noted last year's report on the Lands Protection act and the 29 recommendations made by Horace Carver, the report's commissioner.
Ghiz acknowledges that Carver was able to point out loopholes that exist, that there are wealthy individuals around the world that try to skirt the Island's land laws to attain more land than they are entitled to.
The premier said they are working on tightening cracks in the system.
"We are working with our legal team in the province to tighten up our legislation to make sure than land grabs . . . will not be allowed into the future,'' Ghiz said. "We need to make sure that we do our best to protect our land in the province.''
Crane said Carver's report points out that Island residents need to be good stewards of the land and make good decisions and that sometimes large-scale purchases of land may not be in the province's best interest.
Ghiz said government usually accepts IRAC's recommendations, but not always.
"I would say that on 99 per cent of the instances we do agree with the recommendations that come from IRAC. There are the occasional times when, perhaps, we would overrule some of those recommendations if we thought it was not in the best interests of the province,'' the premier said.
"We do not rubber stamp applications that come in. While she probably hears that there's a lot of approvals taking place, I can guarantee her there are a lot of people showing up at my door saying that they want to do more development and they want more approved.''
Crane said if she were allowed more than two questions in question period, she would have asked Ghiz what the province does in cases where it turns down applications.
"Have there been decisions overturned? Have they gone back to review how many? It just appears that a lot of land is switching hands really fast and big dollars are tied to it,'' she told The Guardian.