B.C. needs to strengthen the local food supply 0
(REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on the proposed ‘urban resort’ in Vancouver was Brent with 71%.
This week’s topic:
Is it time to review and change the Agricultural Land Reserve?
News flash for Brent: you don’t have to be from the Okanagan for the Agricultural Land Reserve to be “literally a backyard issue.” Talk to residents and farmers alike in Surrey, Delta and Richmond, and you’ll find phenomenal support for the current boundaries of the ALR.
Ironically, while Brent mentions outrage from MLA Nicholas Simons this week, he purposely doesn’t mention the appalling manner in which MLA Bill Bennett rolled out the public input process for this review. Bennett issued a press release stating the public could give input about the ALR to the Committee on Finance and Government Services that has been travelling the province in recent weeks.
However, Bennett reportedly didn’t actually tell anyone on the committee — not even his own parliamentary secretary Dan Ashton — who fielded many embarrassing inquiries. One would think the government didn’t really want anyone to show up to give input. Why else would you announce halfway through the process that the scope had changed, and keep it quiet? I can hear it now: “ALR boundaries? No one showed up to comment — let’s develop that land!”
Without a doubt, the ALR has been a source of conflict, mainly for greedy developers. Ironically, while “locally grown” has become a big selling point for nearly every restaurant in the province, the B.C. government is busy targeting the same ALR that protects the locally grown label.
I spoke with Arzeena Hamir, an agrologist and food activist who moved from the city of Richmond to the Comox Valley to farm the 25 acres of Amara Farm with her husband and two children. She submitted input to the committee and had this to say:
“British Columbians should have a safe and secure food supply. I left Richmond, B.C. to come to the Comox Valley because agricultural land prices in Richmond were completely unaffordable, ranging anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 an acre. Why? Because developers have, over the decades, been given signals that if they speculated on farmland, they would eventually be able to take it out of the Agricultural Land Reserve to develop.”
Hamir recommends an excellent cost-cutting measure that would not only save taxpayer dollars, but fund initiatives that ensure food safety for future generations. Her idea is to stop ALR exclusion requests entirely, saving staff and resources.
As with any process, not everyone can be satisified, but the ALR works. It’s time for the B.C. government to encourage more farming and ensure a local food supply for future generations.
Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at lailayuile.com.
Who wins this week's duel on the Agricultural Land Reserve?