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Friday, November 20, 2009

Not For Sale

The Island for the Islanders.

An American who broke P.E.I.'s non-resident land ownership rules has been fined close to $29,000, with a further fine expected.

This is only the second time the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission — which administers a number of laws for the province, including the Lands Protection Act — has held hearings on an individual's property ownership.

The case dates back to 2003, when Melvin Griffin of Florida was visiting the Island and a 76-hectare piece of land in Pleasant Grove, north of Charlottetown, caught his eye. It had almost two kilometres of shore frontage along the Winter River.

P.E.I. has strict laws regarding non-resident land ownership under the Lands Protection Act. Anything more than two hectares needs to be approved by cabinet, and in this case cabinet said no.

A wee eccentric, as property laws go, isn't it? There is a historical angle to all this:

But when she arrived on the Island in 1867 to inspect her estate (Lots 9, 16, 22 and 61) the P.E.I. legislature was making moves to end absentee landlordism for good. 

In order to protect her interests, she started working with the Prince Edward Island Association, a London-based lobby group that promoted landed interests. 

But after P.E.I. became a Canadian province in 1873, the government enacted a Land Purchase Act in 1875 that forced landlords to sell their estates to the provincial commissioner of public lands. 

In her quest to hold onto the land that her father had given her, Sulivan took her case to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

That's the history. Naturally it has pleasant side effects for the locals. By limiting the pool of potential purchasers, it keeps housing affordable for the locals. It also holds back the province's economic development. Less capital flowing into the island. That may not make much economic sense, but perhaps they're not interested in making money. Maybe they like PEI the way they remember it growing up. Few strangers from "away." Not much traffic. Picturesque cottages and only modest resort developments. PEI today looks more like Anne of Green Gables than a modern tourist destination. Using government to preserve the past.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 20, 2009 | Permalink


Picturesque cottages and only modest resort developments. PEI today looks more like Anne of Green Gables than a modern tourist destination. Using government to preserve the past.

And if PEI residents are happy with those policies, Publius, that's the important thing. No rights are being violated so far as I can see. Why should they, why would they care what someone else thinks?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-11-20 11:51:32 AM

Publius, I have to disagree with you here. Absentee land owners do nothing for the local economy other than driving up the price of land beyond the reach of locals.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-11-20 12:05:05 PM

If PEI was an independent (self sufficient) Country they could then enjoy these quaint laws preventing economic development guilt free. PEI is, however a typically over-governed Maritime province partially supported by transfer payments and who can forget that 13 billion dollar bridge that Canadians paid for. He who pays the piper calls the tune, at least that's the way it's supposed to work.

PEI is nothing compared to BC's Gulf Islands when it comes to eco-fascism at the local level. "Pay for our Ferries, don't cut a tree or build anymore and by the way, Vancouver Island must take our garbage and we'll tell you how you must live sustainably".

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-11-20 6:14:08 PM

I've always called it "Prince Welfare Island"...

Posted by: Paul Geddes | 2009-11-21 2:01:47 AM

The residents become wealthier if land prices go up. Even if some are absentee owners. Resticting trade is what this is.

Shane, I would agree with you if in fact the people of the privince agreed with you. But most likely a significant number (maybe even majority) do not.

Posted by: TM | 2009-11-21 10:09:47 AM

The residents become wealthier if land prices go up.
Posted by: TM | 2009-11-21 10:09:47 AM

Provided they already own land.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-11-21 11:45:47 AM

Stig, regardless. People who do not own land may have investments, and some of those investments may have a value that is at least partly determined by land values.

The wealthier land owners are the more they spend. The more they spend the more opportunity there is for everyone to increase their wealth even if they are not land owners themselves.

Posted by: TM | 2009-11-21 4:14:29 PM

"The wealthier land owners are the more they spend."

Not true. The more the value of the property is enhanced the greater the property tax. Alternately, a land value tax will enhance productivity, because only the land, not the buildings are taxed and, in addition, keep property values low because there is no incentive to be a vacant landlord.

Posted by: DJ | 2009-11-22 11:58:55 PM

"a land value tax will enhance productivity"

How so?

Posted by: Charles | 2009-11-23 11:56:04 AM

DJ, why would you suggest we want to keep property values low? I would say the market will determine exactly what they should be. Any other way will decrease the wealth of the province overall. Any restriction on trade decreases wealth.

And what is wrong with vacant landlords?

Posted by: TM | 2009-11-23 4:26:37 PM

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