Things you learn about PEI from the New York Times

There’s an article in yesterday’s New York Times about buying real estate on Prince Edward Island (pointer from Joel Ives) that reads, in part (emphasis mine):

People from outside Prince Edward Island who wish to buy more than five acres of land or 165 feet of waterfront must apply for permission from the government. The process is largely a formality, said Mr. Poczynek, who noted that there was a “multiplying” effect for the number of names on the deed. (For example, a married couple can buy 10 acres or 330 feet of waterfront without permission.) “Unless you’re going out and buying thousands of acres,” he said, “you’re not going to have an issue.”

Perhaps this “multiplying effect” is common knowledge, but it came as news to me.  Surely all any waterfront-land-speculating non-resident need do is get their 9 children on the deed and the effect of the cabinet approval becomes completely moot.  Heck, invite the whole neighbourhood to a deed party and you could own half the Island.

Why is this condition there at all?  This excerpt from a 1997 presentation to the Standing Committee on the Constitution explains it well:

All Islanders are familiar — perhaps too familiar — with the term, the Island Way of Life. Now this phrase is vague and perhaps not all that useful; but if Islanders were pressed to define it, most would equate it in some way with our rural heritage, our landscape, and our tradition of small, freehold farmsteads. In other words, we define ourselves in relation to the land. And, as a result, we see the disposition of our land — who can own it and how it is used — as central to our existence as a province and a people.

Thus it is no accident that our legislation limiting non-resident ownership — from both outside and, more significantly, within Canada — is unique among the provinces. Nor should it come as a surprise that Island politicians have fought tooth and nail to keep the clause “enjoyment of property” out of Section 7 of the Canada Act of l982; for if it were included, our legislation could scarcely hope to stand challenge in the courts. In fact, at one critical Federal-Provincial meeting, Premier Angus MacLean explicitly sought, and received, support from the separatist René Levesque on this very point.

It’s a shame that something purportedly “central to our existence as a province and a people” has been reduced to “largely a formality.”


Hans's picture
Hans on August 14, 2009 - 13:19

I think it is another unspoken Island dichotomy. If you are an Islander, or know enough about the Island to know, then you know that most rules like the one you refer are “largely a formality” because the meaning “disposition of the land” includes the selling off of lots to relatives or others if it is expedient/desireable to the individual landowner especially if said landowner has enough political clout to make the Executive Council decision a no-brainer. If you are an average joe from away, you would think the rules about land disposition were, oh, I dunno, applied and followed and that land acquistion and disposition rules were actually meaningful. It is a shame, but until Islanders reconcile the desire to sell off pieces of land willy-nilly (i.e. individual land-owner rights) with the imperative to protect and preserve the multi-faceted resource that land represents (i.e. community and enviromental value), these little political loopholes will remain and perhaps ultimately destroy us.

Chuck's picture
Chuck on August 14, 2009 - 19:57

Interesting. I was told that having significant family attachment to the Island (i.e. lots of extended family living there) meant there would be fewer rules and restrictions around my acquiring property. Now I want to look up the relevant statutes to find out if that meant “the laws are a bit different if you have family living on the Island” or “we’ll wink and nudge at the legal requirements if you have family here.”

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