The development of a PEI Food First Strategy and updating the Lands Protection Act are two of the main priorities set out by Premier Dennis King in the mandate letter to Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson.
The letters, presented by King to Thompson and the other ministers before they were sworn into office in May, were recently released by the Premier's Office. That follows a tradition established by his predecessor in the post, Wade MacLauchlan, who was the first premier to make the letters public.
King instructs his minister to "Develop a PEI Food First Strategy which promotes farm-to-table relationships and highlights the importance of local food security." The work will include the creation of a local food awareness act first proposed by the previous Liberal administration.
The minister already ordered the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission(IRAC) to begin a review of the Lands Protection Act after a series of paper transactions left Rebecca Irving as the owner of 2200 acres of farmland in the Summerside-Bedeque area. Companies owned by Rebecca Irving, her sister, Elizabeth, and her mother, Mary Jean Irving, had tried to purchase the land just before the election but were turned down by both IRAC and the previous government. This time around, Rebecca Irving purchased the company that owned the land so the sale was not required to go before IRAC.
The legislature Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability is also reviewing the act with IRAC Chair Scott MacKenzie slated to appear October 29. Thompson told the recent regional meeting of the National Farmers Union he would be making a significant announcement on the Lands Protection Act before the fall legislature sitting begins in November.
"As the Minister of Agriculture and Land, your overarching goal is to lead our province’s efforts to innovate our agriculture and agri-food sectors for success now and into the future, as well as safeguarding our precious land resource for all Islanders," the premier told Thompson.
The minister, who had no previous political experience prior to defeating then premier Wade MacLauchlan in the April 23 election, is also mandated to modernize the operation of the PEI Agricultural Insurance Corporation, work with producers to promote the industry and work with his federal counterpart to support the industry and encourage the development of new crop types.
Thompson is also mandated to work with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Steve Myers on the development of a land banking system and with Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister Brad Trivers, as well as Fisheries and Communities Minister Jamie Fox, to develop "an Island-wide policy for renewable, sustainable resources in land including its usage, ownership and planning."
He is also mandated to work with Trivers in his capacity as Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning to develop and implement a provincial school food program building on the success of a pilot introduced by the previous administration.
"Islanders expect our government to work together to advance the public good. That means seeking out, fostering, and advancing good ideas regardless of which side of the house they come from," the premier indicated to Thompson. "As minister, you are responsible for ensuring members of the Green and Liberal caucuses are appropriately consulted on major issues and legislation. This level of practical collaboration is what Islanders have called on us to do and what we will work to provide them."
King also expects the minister to work close with Deputy Minister Brian Matheson and his staff, saying "The public service is a valuable resource and our government believes in building an even stronger work environment based upon clear communication, dignity for all employees and a mutual respect. The list of priorities is ambitious and will take time to plan and deliver to achieve successful outcomes."