Bill 15 is facing tough questioning from opposition MLAs during committee hearings this week, raising the chances that third reading could be delayed until this fall.
The bill proposes several amendments to the Agricultural Land Commission, including consolidation of decision-making in a single provincial panel rather than the six regional panels that exist today. It also eliminates the right of landowners to apply to exclude properties from the Agricultural Land Reserve that the commission oversees.
While BC agriculture minister Lana Popham has charged Bill 15 critics with spreading misinformation, she admitted under questioning from Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier on May 28 that landowners are losing their rights as persons under the bill.
“The minister has heckled us, said that’s not true, said they will be able to,” Bernier said. “What the minister just said is she’s doing housekeeping to remove 30.1, and 30.1 is the actual wording that allows a landowner to apply.”
Questioning from Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong also extracted an admission from Popham that an “advanced early draft report” received on April 24, 2018 – three months before the interim report of the advisory committee appointed to recommend changes was made public – was the basis for the legislation. Moreover, the initial request for legislation was made June 15, 2018 – six weeks before publication of the interim report recommending such legislation.
The bill has been debated for approximately five hours this week, and more debate is expected, with Bernier suggesting it could continue after the summer recess.
“There are going to be a lot of questions to take on in this bill,” he said.
The legislature adjourns on May 30. [BCMA PHOTO]