Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Montague 16 : I Own Land In Lanark County, But I'm Not A Lanark Landowner

An organisation playing an increasingly public role in local affairs is the Lanark Landowners' Association. Since the LLA is growing in importance locally, and has been directly involved in some Montague Township matters over the last two or three years, I thought I would find out a little more about it. I've seen the LLA tractor rallies on TV, and heard about their defence of Shawn Carmichael and his hens. As we all have, I've seen the 'Back Off Government' signs sprouting up.

So let's take a look at the LLA. First off, this is an organization that is essentially set up to protest and to oppose current trends in government. It is a protest group, rather than a pro-active group. The founding declaration lists these areas of concern to the LLA:
  • Urban property standards for rural lands and farms
  • Aggregate buffer zones that devalue property
  • Nutrient management plans that cost the farm
  • High legal costs to defend against unfair enforcement
  • Nuisance wildlife introductions and mismanagement that destroy crops and property
  • Absurd zoning restrictions that prevent building and improvements
  • Government bureaucrats on our land without cause, notice or warrant
  • Destruction and loss of our firearms and lifestyle
  • Mineral rights that strip away land rights and privacy
  • Municipal amalgamation that removes local representation

On the face of it, I can sympathise with many of these concerns, although I believe in a balance between individual rights and appropriate regulation, for example in the areas of animal welfare, property standards, and so on. I could be mistaken, but the LLA would seem to be advocating for little or no regulation on farmers and landowners, so I think we might differ on where exactly the balance should be.

I have three major concerns, however. One is that the tactics used by the LLA in their various protests are often confrontational and extreme, and in some cases illegal. It has overtones of loose cannon. In the end I don't think tactics like this do any cause any good. I've eaten Shawn Carmichael's eggs, and I don't believe he was treated fairly, but I wouldn't break the law in his defence.

My second concern is that the LLA is a protest group; they're very vocal and clear about what they are against but less descriptive about what they would put in the place of the regulations and government interference they want to tear down.

My third concern is prompted by this paragraph from the LLA website:
Using taxpayer's dollars, our governments support and promote Quebec, Native, Arts, Homosexual, Urban and Multi cultures. However when it comes to the independent, peaceful rural culture in Canada, government support is stifling, suffocating and controlling.

Now, perhaps what they really mean by 'Native, Arts, Homosexual and Urban' is just 'Urban'. But that's not what it says. As for Quebec, well last time I looked there was quite a bit of Quebec that was rural too. This smacks of far-right extremism, and, although I'm pretty darn right-wing myself, it goes just a little too far for my personal tastes.

The LLA sided with Don Page in the lawsuit here; looking at it strictly as a freedom of speech issue, they were entitled to do so. However, whilst I applaud their support for freedom of expression, I wouldn't want to see LLA's protest tactics become a part of government in our Township. I don't mind if councillors or candidates belong to the LLA, but I do hope they can keep that affiliation seperate from their role in government, as the two seem quite likely to clash regularly.