Council mulls over lease

PORT HOOD: Criticisms from a group of local farmers left Inverness Councillor John Dowling with questions for Maple Brook Co-Operative Pasture Limited, and those questions made their way to the municipal unit’s October meeting.

Dowling maintains that he was approached by locals wanting to place animals at Maple Brook Pasture, but getting access proved difficult for them. In investigating the matter, Dowling discovered that Maple Brook Pasture’s standing had been struck from the Registry of Stock Companies in 2014.

“I managed to get a copy of the lease, and they had managed to sign the lease after they had been struck off,” he said. “It took some digging, but they released it through the Department of Justice.

“I’ve gone through the chain to the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Business, requesting information on how this happened. I haven’t gotten an answer back yet.”

The land on which Maple Brook operates is owned by the Department of Lands and Forests, and the lease was arranged through the Nova Scotia Farmlands Board, Dowling said.

Harold MacIsaac, who serves as solicitor for Inverness County, was asked to review the matter, and he gave his thoughts during the Thursday meeting.

“This was an association which was registered with the Nova Scotia Registry of Stock Companies, but it was struck from the register on August 29, 2014. Once it’s struck from the register, it’s considered to be dissolved. That means it no longer exists.

“They did enter into an agreement with a farm loan board on April 1, 2015, while they were dissolved. The question is, is that legal? Well, I don’t think it can be. You can’t have a contract with an organization that no longer exists.

“So far as I can see, such a contract would no longer be legal.

“However, I must add there are provisions in the statutes for any corporation that is dissolved to reapply to be reinstated with the registry, and upon doing so, if the Registry of Joint Stocks is satisfied that it’s appropriate to be reinstated, than it’s reinstated.”

MacIsaac said that, even though it sounds odd, being reinstated with the registry means that Maple Brook would be considered to have existed all along, undoing its former absence from the registry.

“It’s unusual, but it’s considered to have existed from the time it was struck out. It will be able to have contracts back to the date of that original strike out.

“To me, that would make the lease agreement valid again.”

Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie noted that she’s aware of Maple Brook looking to regain its standing with the registry. Councillor Laurie Cranton added that it’s not rare for a group to lose its standing, in that members can simply forget to keep up-to-date on all matters.

“I’m familiar with a number of organizations who’ve let their registration run out,” he said. “The group gets inactive and things get pushed to one side. That happens, but if you do your paperwork, it’s not that hard to get reinstated.

“And once you’re reinstated, you are a legal entity again,” Cranton said.

Dowling said he’d like an answer as to how the lease was signed but, more than that, he wants to act as a facilitator between Maple Brook and those wanting to use the pasture.