A petition seeking the repeal of recent legislation governing the activities of the Agricultural Land Commission and what’s allowed in the Agricultural Land Reserve was presented to the legislature on Monday.
Delta South MLA and agriculture critic Ian Paton delivered the petition, signed by nearly 27,000 people, and asked agriculture minister Lana Popham on their behalf, “Will you repeal Bill 52?”
Popham defended the legislation, however, and argued that people are misinformed regarding the changes. She also said the real mess had been caused when the BC Liberals were in power.
“Unfortunately, we’re doing cleanup for the mess that the opposition made when they were in government,” said Popham.
Questioning from Paton and Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell saw Popham tout the growth of the province’s agrifood sector to more than $15 billion in revenues and the hiring of extension workers to ensure farmers have the resources they need. She also noted that 30 non-farm uses had been approved for the ALR since April, including “a poultry barn, cleaning business, animal rehab facility, a home-based mechanic shop, a welding shop … a community library, a fire hall, recreational facility and elementary school fields.”
But there was no direct answer to whether or not Bill 52 would be repealed.
Earlier in the day, close to 100 people rallied at the back of the legislature demanding the repeal of Bill 52, passed last November, which limits house sizes and kinds of residences permitted in the ALR.
Paton told the rally that the BC NDP consulted “stakeholders and academics” before drafting the legislation, but forgot to listen to actual farmers.
“What we need is support from this government, and instead we’re being regulated into oblivion,” Raquel Skolo of Hough Heritage Farm in Gibsons told the rally, to applause.