The second throne speech since the BC NDP held few surprises for agriculture.
Opening a new sitting of the legislature on April 12, Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin laid forth an agenda that reaffirmed the province’s support for the Buy BC program and greater investment in the agritech sector.
But the reminder that the government had created a new agritech concierge – a move initiated last year with the appointment of former assistant deputy minister Wes Shoemaker to oversee its formation – veiled some of the more significant initiatives agriculture minister Lana Popham has announced.
Austin was silent, for example, on the overhaul of the province’s meat licensing regime, which will be enabled by regulatory changes to be unveiled in the coming weeks.
She was also mum on regulatory changes that promise to allow secondary residences on properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve, an initiative Popham announced April 9. The new regulations will waive the need for property owners to seek permission from the Agricultural Land Commission for an additional residence, and the residence will not be tied to farming activities. The new rules follow a public consultation last year and will “provide more flexibility to help farming families thrive and to benefit non-farmers living in the ALR.”
This is a change of course from the initial regulations implemented in February 2019 under Bill 52, which caught many landowners by surprise. Many were in the process of securing manufactured homes for their properties when a new regulation took effect and effectively outlawed them. A grandfathering period was introduced that summer allowing manufactured homes to be placed on the properties, that has now been extended three times.
A final extension will run until December 31, 2021, providing local governments with enough time to adjust their own rules to accommodate the new regulations. This may include implementing their own restrictions on the kinds of housing allowed on properties within the ALR.