Opinion Column

Column, Agricultural Land Reserve changes prompt strong replies

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

Minister Responsible for Core Review Bill Bennett. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

Minister Responsible for Core Review Bill Bennett. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)

I think Mr. Tieleman should get out of downtown Vancouver before he claims there is no poor quality land in the ALR. — Minister Responsible for Core Review Bill Bennett in an April 9 comment later pulled from his Facebook page

Not every column critical of BC Liberal government policy gets a direct online response from the minister involved — or sees that comment later removed from the minister’s personal Facebook page.

Nor does a prominent BC Liberal Party supporter usually openly attack that policy online.

And having the minister call you on a Sunday night for an interview and use colourful language is also unique.

But all that happened after I wrote about cabinet minister Bill Bennett’s controversial plans to radically change the Agricultural Land Reserve in last week’s 24 hours.

The straight-shooting Bennett, who introduced legislative changes to make it easier to remove property from the Agricultural Land Reserve in the Interior, the north and the Kootenays, didn’t like my column.

Reader Jan Halvarson posted a link to the column on the minister’s Facebook page and Bennett told me Sunday his posted response later disappeared because “it probably means that I got rid of somebody” — meaning he unfriended them.

But other Halvarson comments still remain on Bennett’s Facebook page. Regardless, Bennett strongly defended changing the ALR to me.

“This is not redneck, former lawyer, developer Bill Bennett wanting to pave over the Agricultural Land Reserve. This is Bill Bennett the MLA listening to his constituents for 13 f---ing years.”

BC Liberal Party supporter Bill Eggert, owner of Fairview Cellars winery near Oliver, B.C., also blasted Bennett on Facebook.

Eggert wrote: “Love you Bill, but damn it, I can't be onside on this one … Farmland is farmland Bill ... This issue is the Achilles heel of this party.”

In my interview, Bennett argued that the current process is unfair, despite the fact that the commissioners who make the decisions are all appointed by the government.

“It doesn’t really address the fundamental problem in some areas of the province ... there is a ton of land within the reserve that you can’t grow anything on,” Bennett said.

“This is not a conspiracy by the BC Liberals or Bill Bennett to pave over all the agricultural land in the Kootenays or the Cariboo or the north.”

Bennett clearly believes what he is saying, but is his position plausible when the government already holds all the cards?

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

Clarification: Bill Bennett called Tieleman Sunday night in response to emailed requests for an interview.



Do you agree with Bill Bennett that removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve should be easier?

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