Earlier this week, the Alberta government sold a quarter section of Crown land near Taber to an “anonymous” bidder.
That’s despite Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon saying less than a month ago, “We are not selling any Crown or public land — period”. He also wrote in a Facebook post around the same time that “Albertans will always have access to crown land.”
An agricultural conservation group called Action for Agriculture has identified the bidder as Lyle Ypma. His company (SLM Spud Farms) and his family own two irrigated quarters adjacent to the quarter section in question. Plus, he’s interviewed in this CTV News clip (starts at 9:00) as defending the bidding process.
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This isn’t the only time Ypma has tried purchasing Crown land in the area.
In 2003, Ypma acquired public land in the area, even though a wildlife survey found that the land was habitat for 4 at-risk wildlife species. Plus, an assessment from professional wildlife biologists found that the land he intended to exchange it for had been degraded by oil and gas development, roads, and invasive species. Plus, he plowed the land before even receiving the requisition disposition required, since it was during peak nesting season—this violated the Public Lands Act, the Alberta Wildlife Act, and the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. And he had set up an irrigation system before he had even applied for a water diversion license.
Ypma tried purchasing Crown land again in 2007, when he approached the Hays Grazing Association with an offer to buy their lease for at least 4 sections of ecologically-sensitive land that he wanted to use in a land trade for potato production. The HGA refused his original offer, but then he sweetened the deal with another $25,000 each for all of the approximately 50 members of the HGA. Even though some members found the deal tempting, they didn’t accept it, despite Ypma trying to force a vote on the offer.
After that offer fell through, he tried yet again with other Crown land in the area, except that time, there was no public bidding process, just an offer to buy. Again, he wanted to break up the land to grow potato crops. He withdrew the offer at the end of 2010, after significant pushback.
Looks like he finally got his way.
Except the story doesn’t end there.
According to Elections Alberta records, SLM Farms, Ypma’s company, donated over $6,000 to various political activities, including the Cardton–Taber–Warner Progressive Conservative Constituency Association, Broyce Jacobs’ 2008 campaign (he became the MLA in the region that election), and 3 campaigns in the 2015 provincial election: Evan Berger (Livingston–Macleod), Brian Brewin (Cardston–Taber–Warrner), and Greg Weadick (Lethbridge West). As well, SLM Farms donated $20,000 to the political action committee Shaping Alberta’s Future.
The Ypmas owned a numbered company until 2018, called 991127 Alberta Ltd. This company donated over $25,000 to the Shaping Alberta’s Future PAC in 2018.
Lyle’s brother Keith runs his feedlot under the company called Sunset Feeders Ltd. Between 2008 and 2015, this company donated over $28,000 PC candidate campaigns in Taber; PC Constituency Associations in Cypress Hills–Medicine Hat, Lethbridge–East, and Lethbridge–West; and to the PC party itself.
Plus, his family has made several personal contributions to political activites. Ypma’s father, Louis, contributed over $4,000 to the Alberta PC party, as well as $500 to the Cardston–Taber–Warner Wildrose Constituency Association. Keith has donated over $3,000 to the United Conservative Party, as well as $1,700 to Grant Hunter’s 2019 campaign. Lyle himself donated $500 to the Wildrose Party. Finally his wife, Carol, donated $2,000 to the Cardston–Taber–Warner UCP Constituency Association. Louis, Lyle, and Keith contributed a combined $3,500 to Jason Kenney’s UCP leadership campaign. Finally, Lyle, Keith, Sheila (their mother), Dale (another brother), and Helene (their sister-in-law) each donated $3,000 to Grant Hunter’s nomination contest, for a total of $15,000.
So the Ypmas and their companies have contributed over $108,000 to the Progressive Conservatives, the Wildrose Party, and the UCP since 2007.
Is it just me, or does something seem fishy here?