On Wednesday May 19th, I spoke at third reading on Bill 12, the Crown Land Dispositions Act. My comments (from Hansard) are below.
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Deputy Speaker, the situation around this bill is really coloured by the treatment that the government has done with respect to ranchers who were renting, leasing Crown land for their operations.
And many of these ranchers had rented leased land–Crown land, for years and years. They were part of the farm. They had built up infrastructure on this land. They had improved it, and they had bought it under the conditions of the day, which was the understanding that they would be able to do a unit transfer of their right to rent or lease.
And in this way, many producers had built up, essentially, equity in the land, knowing that they could transfer the lease, do a unit transfer, whether it was to a member of the family or whether it was in a sale of that right to others, that they would have essentially their pension set aside on the basis of how they operated the land. And in order to do this, the producers improved the land, looked after it, showed very good stewardship of the land.
And then along came the present government, and the present government said, no, we're not going to allow you to do any unit transfers anymore. We're going to take away all the money you have essentially accumulated in–for your pension. We're wiping it out with a stroke of the pen and, at the same time, the government said that they were increasing the lease or rental costs astronomically.
So, producers who were doing reasonably, some just struggling, often working on land which was marginal, land which they had improved, now were facing a situation where, in some cases, they were elderly, and all of a sudden they had no pension. They were devastated. The producers came to us and to others and, indeed, to the government, to say, look, this is terribly wrong, what you are doing.
So, the problem with this approach to Crown land to sale that the government has put forward are (1) that the government lost the trust of a lot of people who had been leasing and renting Crown lands. They lost the trust of people from being the government which was in power when there was corruption in Hecla with the sale of land. And although the government has made some changes in this bill to protect against a situation occurring again like in Hecla, I'm not convinced that those changes are sufficient, that the–even the definition of who is a senior civil servant and whether, in fact, you could have a situation where somebody who's a junior civil servant could buy land without being tied in, or a family member of somebody who's a senior civil servant or a Cabinet minister.
It is a problem. It is a problem that the government has itself created by creating a situation where people don't trust the government. The government says that it won't sell off any provincial parks, but the wording has been parks are not for sale right now. The government has refused to say that they will never sell the parks at any time in the future.
And so people are wary. There is a lack of trust. And it is because this government has lost the trust of Manitobans so badly that we don't trust the government with this legislation, and we will not support it. We will vote against it.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Merci.