Opposition MLAs were unable to secure amendments to Bill 15, which passed third reading on May 30 after the BC NDP closed off debate in advance of the legislature’s summer recess.
While the opposition felt there were enough issues with the bill to delay passage until this fall, the government had enough members to pass the bill without having to listen to its critics.
The result is amendments to the Agricultural Land Commission Act that remove the right of landowners to apply for exclusions of any portion of their properties that lies within the Agricultural Land Reserve. All applications must go through a local or First Nations government, or be initiated by the province, which has no obligation to consult an affected landowner.
The bill also eliminates the system of regional panels in favour of a single panel of commissioners that will meet regularly in Burnaby.
Perhaps most irksome point to opposition MLAs in the final days of the debate was the discovery that legislation to implement the recommendations of the committee charged with suggesting ways to revitalize the ALC and ALR was in the works prior to it receiving the committee’s interim and final reports.
A similar approach played out last summer, when an order-in-council was signed in July limiting where cannabis could be grown in the ALR. The report recommending the measure was made public three weeks later. The agriculture ministry has since said it plans no further action on the reports.
Similarly, recommendations to strengthen the BC meat processing sector are being cited in support of various initiatives the province is undertaking in support of slaughterhouses and processors. All the initiatives have been undertaken prior to the release of the reports, however.
The approach suggests the province is trying hard to be seen as staying ahead of the curve, but it has also drawn criticism from those who feel it has pre-empted due process.