Opinion Column

Bet the farm that BC Liberals sold out the Agricultural Land Reserve

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)

B.C. Premier Christy Clark. (QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)


(The Agricultural Land Reserve) functioned up until the election of this Liberal administration ... politics has interfered and land is being removed and that is a serious, serious mistake. — Ex-BC NDP Premier Dave Barrett on Voice Of BC, June 29, 2005

Don’t believe the spin that the BC Liberal government will “protect farmland” or “help farmers” — its Bill 24 is all about continuing the attack it began on the Agricultural Land Reserve when first elected in 2001.

Dave Barrett wasn’t fooled back in 2005 and neither should anyone else today with the nonsensical bafflegab spun by Energy Minister Bill Bennett, who introduced legislation that will carve up farmland for use by industry and developers while undermining the Agricultural Land Commission’s independence from political interference.

Bill 24 would split B.C. into two zones with different rules on removing ALR-protected farmland in order to satisfy Bennett’s long-held goal of using “economic, cultural and social values” decided politically by cabinet to plow ahead.

And like Russian President Vladimir Putin’s takeover of the Ukrainian province of Crimea, Bennett is highly unlikely to stop with just one radical change to the ALR that only applies to Zone 2 of B.C. — the Interior, the North and the Kootenays.

Just wait for the other shoe to drop in Zone 1 — the South Coast, Okanagan and Vancouver Island — where B.C.’s most productive land that creates the vast majority of farm receipts is under enormous pressure.

Between 1974 and 2013, Metro Vancouver lost 5,910 hectares of farmland and the Fraser Valley 5,083 hectares, according to the ALC, while overall land protected has shrunk by 94,795 hectares since 1974.

But Bennett doesn’t care, preferring to claim that the ALR is some bureaucratic nightmare, preserving useless land simply to penalize its impoverished owners.

“There is some land within the Agricultural Land Reserve that actually is useless to agriculture,” Bennett said.

What horse manure.

And if Bennett isn’t bad enough, Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm was admonished last year by the ALC for attempting to “politically influence” an attempt to remove protected farmland from the ALR to build a rodeo and recreational vehicle campsite.

Bennett and Pimm’s legislation could soon pass — so support keeping B.C. farmland by letting your MLA know and signing a petition online at change.org/en-CA/petitions/christy-clark-hands-off-bc-s-agricultural-land-commission.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.ca Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman






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