FARMSMART University of Guelph Seminar

By Liz Marshall

Elizabeth Marshall

Recently, I was asked by OMAFRA to co-speak at the Farmsmart Seminar on January 18th, 2014 with Professor Glenn Fox in regards to the Letters Patent and property rights, which are protected by the Canadian constitution. Professor Fox has been studying the land/property rights movement in Ontario, and is especially concerned about agricultural property rights. He has listed some 10 to15 separate property rights protection groups, but he mentioned that a number of them have fallen by the wayside. He seems very interested in the Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) and has been following this movement for a few years now. He is also quite interested in how the OLA has added to its methods of property rights protection.

He expressed, in his presentation, that this movement of environmental protection may be merely a rouse to shift land wealth from the rural/agricultural community to the urban community. He gave the example of the Niagara Escarpment Plan and how, in 1973-74, it was estimated that it would cost the provincial government 3 billion dollars to acquire all of the private property within the plan, for the NEC to regulate it. Government expressed that these costs were too steep and so government, through indirect means, are merely taking the land by means of regulation. He knows there must be fair compensation if any land/property rights are being taken for a curious “public good”. His power point presentation lasted approximately 15 minutes with a lead in to my presentation. His final slide from his power point was the question of the Letters Patent.

Prior to the seminar a gentleman approached me to thank me for the letters I had been sending into the Ontario Farmer newspaper. He expressed that the agricultural community wouldn’t have this information, by any means, if I hadn’t been doing this. This gentleman was one of about 60 to 80 people in attendance. This was a good show of interest as we were competing with a number of other seminars for the attention of the farming community.

After doing a 15 minute presentation each, Professor Fox and I opened the floor to questions. There were a number of interested participants asking how to join the OLA, where could one obtain their Letters Patent, etc. There was also considerable interest in the Landowner Magazine; copies were supplied as handouts.

With the magazine was a 17-page handout for the participants, which Professor Fox and I had co-written. It contained a brief history of the Letters Patent, how important they are, a survey obtained where a “flood area” had been reserved, and basic information. There were also a number of participants taking notes. This showed the interest and the need for the agricultural community to know and understand their rights.

All in all, in my opinion, the FARMSMART seminar, on private property rights, was a great success, based on the amount of questions and the interest of the attendees. The organizers also expressed that they thought it was a success and that this topic, for the future conferences, may continue.