Northern ranchers are not happy with changes to forage and grazing Crown land leases, but some say the issue would not be as critical if they could buy that land outright.
Producers near Ste. Rose du Lac were among the producers calling for a fast track to Crown land privatization when Manitoba Beef Producers made the rounds during their district meetings earlier this month.
Beef producers in District 12 passed a resolution to lobby government to speed up privatized Crown lands and make more Crown land available for private sale.
Producers argued that opening their leased land for sale would bypass some of their most serious criticisms against the province’s new Crown land regulations. In September, the province launched changed regulations that decrease lease terms from 50 years to 15, remove unit transfers except for those to direct family and cement allocation by auction. Legacy leases were later promised the ability to renew without having to go back to auction at the end of the term, although new leases would remain under the regulations as released.
Northern ranchers argue that the regulations undermine long-term security for ranches made up mostly of Crown land. Those same ranchers say the ability to buy leased land would make them less reliant on the lease system for the future of their ranch.
“I think if we were able to purchase that land, it would make our ranches a lot more viable,” rancher Karla Crandall said, but added that she doesn’t “know that, that would ever happen.”
“I think there’s so many challenges that, that probably isn’t an option,” she added. “I think that’s where we need to go back to the unit transfers, family transfers, automatic right to renew if we are meeting the requirements.”
Manitoba Beef Producers general manager Carson Callum says MBP heard similar calls from other districts.
MBP recently met with new Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen for the first time to discuss Crown land concerns, Callum said. Privatization is among MBP’s talking points when it engages with the province, he noted.
“I know there’s a lot of steps to take in terms of actually selling off these particular Crown land pieces,” he said.
Local First Nations, meanwhile, have expressed their opposition to privatization to the province.
In an Oct. 1 letter to Premier Brian Pallister, the Governing Council and Grand Chief of First Nations in Treaty 2 Territory accused the province of violating the treaty through “unilateral managing and selling off of our lands.”
Canada has misinformed you that our lands are yours to sell. It’s not the case,” the letter read. “Treaty includes an equal partnership and allowing you and your settlers to enjoy rights, benefit and thrive in our territory doesn’t allow you to sell off any of our lands without full and meaningful consultation, accommodation which includes equitable compensation and consent.”
The letter called for the province to halt all Crown land sales, including Agricultural Crown Lands. The letter also cites a prior correspondence with the province in March 2018, at which point they say they were told that it was up to the individual provincial departments to respond to them.
The letter announced the council’s intention of bringing a legal position against the province.
When asked for comment, a spokesperson from the province said Crown asset sales were under review, including possible Agricultural Crown Land privatization.
“Manitoba recognizes it has a responsibility to consult with Indigenous peoples whenever it is contemplating any decisions or actions that might adversely affect the exercise of Aboriginal or treaty rights,” they said. “Manitoba remains committed to facilitating Canada’s obligations relating to Treaty Land Entitlement agreements through the provision of unoccupied Crown lands.”
The MBP resolution will go in front of the Manitoba Beef Producers membership at the group’s annual meeting in February.