Petition seeks to stop sales of large land parcels to non-New Brunswickers

·3 min read

An Albert County resident has started a petition, asking the province to consider legislation that prevents non-New Brunswick residents from purchasing large parcels of land in the province.

Jason Steeves, of Dawson Settlement, said the petition was prompted by a large purchase of land in Albert County by a Nova Scotia-based company.

Steeves is concerned that local residents are losing control of what happens on land in their own province, and will have noone within the province to go to if they ever need to voice concerns, he said.

Steeves points to Prince Edward Island legislation which states that non-residents can own parcels of land only five acres or less in size, and no more than 165 feet of water frontage. They must also be Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, he said.

P.E.I.'s Lands Protection Act has been in place for a few decades but was updated in 2016 to stipulate for the first time that to own more than five acres, landowners must be a landed immigrant or resident. The legislation was initially enacted to address the perception that absentee landlords were creating problems for residents "in governing their own affairs, both public and private," according to the legislation. The province's small land area versus comparatively high population density and the need for better stewardship of the land for ecological and environmental reasons were also listed as reasons for the act.

The petition calls for similar legislation in New Brunswick.

But the petition also has opponents. Some see legislation like P.E.I.'s as unwelcoming, turning off people and businesses keen to come to a province that needs to bolster an aging population and develop its economy.

"It is time to put down the pitchforks and torches," said Donald Bowser of Petitcodiac. "New Brunswick cannot treat outside investors differently because they are not native-born.

"New Brunswick will only become poorer if they don't stop this hatred of people from away," said Bowser, noting that sentiment seems to have grown stronger during the pandemic. People coming to the province and investing in this province are reasons why some communities are now growing and prospering, he said.

Bowser acknowledged there could be legitimate concerns with some corporate investors, but those should be addressed through regulatory bodies and strengthened corporate oversight, not "mob-rule" aimed to exclude direct foreign investment and drive it away or toward neighbouring provinces, he said.

Limiting a non-New Brunswick family to five acres or less could also make them look elsewhere, Bowser said.

Steeves noted he's received similar comments from fellow residents, but notes if non-New Brunswickers wanted to purchase more than five acres for a farm, for instance, and did intend to live there, an exemption could be made in the legislation. He said making people who want to live here feel unwelcome is not the intention.

While the petition states it has the support of the Green party, leader David Coon clarified, “The Green Party has not made a decision [on the petition] as a party."

But Coon said he is concerned about large blocks of land going into foreign ownership instead of being able to generate wealth for the broader community. And, if New Brunswick were to proceed with legislation similar to P.E.I.'s, it would also likely need to be adapted to better fit this province, he said, noting as an example that five acres may be too small a limit on a parcel of land in a geographically larger province.

While the Green party is not putting forward this petition, Coon said good policy discussions could be had in the legislature as a result of some of the issues raised by it. In particular, he is concerned about non-resident land purchases not generating wealth for the local community.

The petition had garnered 202 signatures by 1 p.m. on Thursday.

The Times & Transcript requested comment from the provincial government, but they did not respond by press time.

Clara Pasieka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal