March 27, 2019
by PETER MITHAM
Close to 200 farmers and landowners from across the Lower Mainland gathered in Surrey on March 24 to discuss concerns regarding Bill 15, which is set for second reading this week.
The bill proposes five key changes to the Agricultural Land Commission, but the most contentious is one that strips landowners of the right to represent themselves to the ALC when it comes to exclusions – and, according to opposition MLAs who attended the meeting, all other applications. The bill defines a “person” as “the Province, a First Nation government or a local government, or a prescribed public body.”
“Through the course of history, the worst forms of discrimination have occurred this way,” Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong said, calling the bill “the most insidious piece of legislation” he’s ever seen.
The bill follows legislation last fall that addressed activities within the Agricultural Land Reserve, including residential construction. While limits on house sizes weren’t supposed to take effect until November 5, regulations restricting them came into force February 22. The surprise move is now fueling opposition to the next round of changes.
Concerns were also voiced at the up-classing of soils in the Kamloops area, on the grounds that previous land commissioners made mistakes.
“This is chaos, ladies and gentlemen, chaos!” said Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal. “Under this government what we’re seeing is a full-on war on farmers.”
Speakers laid the blame squarely at the feet of Premier John Horgan and his chief of staff, Geoff Meggs.
The name of agriculture minister Lana Popham wasn’t once mentioned, but she faced fierce attacks the following day in the legislature from de Jong and others who charged her with disrespect for farmers.
“I can see that the member is very passionate about his misinterpretation of this proposed legislation,” she replied. “But our government is actually passionate about farmers and farming.”
De Jong also singled out the BC Agriculture Council for criticism regarding its support of the new bill.
“To ensure farmland is protected for current and future food security, while protecting the rights of farmers and ranchers, the ALC’s governance structure must have a decision-making process that is flexible, adaptive and efficient. Overall, the update is a positive step forward,” stated BCAC president Stan Vander Waal in a government press release announcing the legislation.
De Jong was not impressed.
“That is the single most unforgivable abdication of responsibility I have ever witnessed,” he told Country Life in BC.
Opposition MLAs admit, however, that they can’t stop the legislation because they don’t have enough votes. However, they hope to challenge and delay the bill at every step of the political process.
Vol. 105 Issue 6
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
Hog farm won’t face charges
Okanagan drives land values
Where’s the beef?
Minister defends Bill 15 changes
Back Forty: Farmers, not just farmland, need revitalization
Editorial: No peace, no order
ALR restrictions make commuting a fact of life
Johnston’s Packers targeted by activists
Sidebar: When is a crime not a crime?
Berry growers get long-awaited funding boost
Proteobiotics reduce poultry, swine infections
Greenhouse growth stymied by gas prices
Increase farm productivity with cover crops
Ag Briefs: Water fees not evenly distributed among users
Ag Briefs: BC Tree Fruits prepares to relocate
Farmland trust explored for Island
New owner, same faces
Fruit growers cautiously optimistic on bloom set
Honeycrisp key to success for Golden Apple winners
Changes to slaughter rules taking too long
Going! Going! Gone
Local meat deamnd creating opportunities
Sidebar: Compost in 14 days
Ranch takes pasture to plate at face value
Market Musings: Technology has its challenges
Oliver veggie grower prefers wholesale
Grocer offers tips to get a foot in the door
Greenhouse veggie days a hit with school
Haskap research may help berry go mainstream
Research: Bee sensitivity linked to neonic pesticides
Fraser Valley orchardist calling it a day
Worming his way to the top of the heap
Mushrooms a viable crop for small growers
Island 4-H beef show celebrates 25 years
Woodshed: Deborah starts her vacation a golf widow
Brewery’s food program spawns farm project
Jude’s Kitchen: Celebrate dads!