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 4
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
One province, one panel
Groundwater deadline extended
Happy as a pig!
Sidebar: Still waiting
Feds pour millions into tree fruit research
Sidebar: Will local procurement help?>
Editorial: Confined spaces
Back Forty: BC farmers need more than a land bank
Island Good campaign drives local sales
Poultry industry seeks to stop infighting
Egg farmers to receive biggest quota boost ever
New entrant focus
Decision day looms for chicken pricing appeal
Producers look to CanadaGAP for certification
Organic sector undertakes core review
Hopping to it!
Island couple named Outstanding Young Farmers
Turkey consumption continues to decline
BC potato growers enjoy a strong footing
Sudden tree fruit dieback a growing concern
Late season BC cherries in global demand
Farmers’ markets aim to be local food hubs
Field trial hopes to reduce phosphorus levels
Future looking bright for BC dairy producers
BC could benefit from US trade battles
Saputo puts its Courtenay plant out to pasture
The land of milk and salmon
Sidebar: Farming for the future
Out of the hands of BC farmers
Codes of practice need producer input
Preparation essential for wildfire response
Sidebar: Relief announced for drought, fire
Sidebar: Be FireSmart with these tips
New traceability regs to track movement
Agriculture a notable threat to species at risk
Improper pesticide use threatens access
Threat to neonics spurs scare in spud growers
Orchard presses forward with diversification
Staying on top of soil health is key to sound farming
No small potatoes
Farm families need to have affairs in order
Rotary parlours go upscale at two FV dairies
Study compares organic, conventional diets
Advisory service foresees growing demand
Sidebar: Tree fruit cutbacks a concern
Island dairy producers hone first aid skills
Woodshed: And that’s how rumours get their teeth
Research farm showcases small projects
Jude’s Kitchen: Shooting stars of spring