Four votes are all that defeated a controversial resolution that would have seen the Association of Manitoba Municipalities in favour of creating time limits on conservation agreements signed within the province.
Shoal Lake Mayor Don Yanick proposed the resolution arguing that conservation agreements that run forever restrict the ability of municipalities for future development.
“We don’t believe that it should be forever,” Yanick said.
The resolution was defeated 279 to 275 on the delegate floor during the recent AMM convention in Winnipeg. Yanick said he plans to bring the resolution forward again after more time is spent educating delegates on the restrictive nature of the agreements.
“Forever,” is just too long for Yanick, who believes land use agreement must have a degree of flexibility built into them. He also believes some of the land that currently has land-use caveats will need to be put into production in the future to feed an ever-growing world population.
“As the world grows and we need more production, how are we going to get it?” Yanick asked. “Who knows what this land is going to be used for in 20 or 30 years, let alone in a 100 years, especially with climate change.”
Yanick proposed 20-year agreements that would be up for renewal at the end of the term.
“I’m not against caveats, I’m against perpetuity,” Yanick said. “I know a lot of people that would sign up if it wasn’t forever. They are losing more land right now because of the caveats. They would get a lot more if it was on a term.”
Many farmers, according to Yanick, would be more inclined to set land aside to conservation if they knew the agreement didn’t last forever.
“If you want to encourage farmers to participate in the program make it more reasonable timeline so that each generation can get something out of this,” Yanick said.
He also believes it is important for municipalities that are trying to expand and broaden the tax base to be able to have flexibility with land use, adding that in some cases the caveats create an unnecessary expense for ratepayers.
“Sometimes you might have to haul clay from miles away because land is caveated,” Yanick said. “If you have to haul clay even a couple of mile, you can double the cost of the road, which is a burden to the taxpayer.”
Shoal Lake, who recently amalgamated with the RM of Shoal Lake to form one municipality, could hypothetically have a situation where all the land around the community was signed into conservation, making it impossible to expand and grow the community.
And in some cases, Yanick said, those conservation agreements are reached for the wrong reasons.
“There are other people who are forced into it,” Yanick said. “Some sign the agreement because they need the money to pay off debt on their farm. And now that land is tied up forever which we don’t agree with.”
Yanick said only three member delegates spoke on the issue, but that it was hotly discussed leading up to the convention. One of the delegates that spoke in opposition to the resolution was RM of Winchester Reeve Mike Dillabough.
“I feel it’s the landowners right to leave the land the way they want to,” Dillabough said. “People sign into the agreement knowing that it’s perpetuity and if you limit that then you affect the integrity of what they are signing and trying to do.”
Dillabough said he sympathizes with Yanick’s argument, but doesn’t want to see top-down legislation that dictates to landowners.
“For a governing body to limit what a private owner can do with their land makes me nervous,” Dillabough said. “Who are we as a government to legislate that you can’t do that to your land. It’s a slippery slope when you start to dictate what people can and cannot do with their property.”