B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham will be under scrutiny in the B.C. legislature over her latest overhaul of the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Hansard TV)

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s manufactured farmland crisis dies on the vine

Farmers no longer ‘persons’ to the Agricultural Land Commission

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has launched the second phase of her remake of an NDP icon, the Agricultural Land Commission.

In a determined push to plow under changes made since the Dave Barrett government hastily imposed the Agricultural Land Reserve in the early 1970s, Popham has introduced a new batch of legislative amendments. It’s an effort to stop what she claims is pressure from speculators, buying farmland and trying to get it sprung from the ALR so they can grow houses on it.

The latest amendments dissolve the regional ALC panels set up to bring local knowledge to the table. The whole show will again be run from Burnaby, with token regional appointees on a central politburo, sorry, commission.

When Popham proudly unveiled the amendments a couple of weeks ago, there was an awkward moment. The bill includes a new definition of “person,” changing it to a provincial or local government or their agencies. People, specifically farmers, will not be persons once the NDP-Green coalition pushes this nanny-state vision through.

It’s awkward because Bill 15 was presented the day before International Women’s Day, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the “persons case” where five pioneering women won the right to vote in Canada. In B.C., women remain persons, unless they’re farmers.

Horrible optics aside, it’s a minor change. Property owners applying to exclude land from the ALR have long had to obtain the view of their local government, to see if an exclusion fits with community plans for roads and utilities. Soon only state entities will be able to apply to remove land, if and when they see fit to judge the property owner’s wishes.

After I reported this, Popham sent me a lengthy statement, including the following:

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen people buying land in the ALR, only to turn around and immediately apply to get it pulled out of the ALR so they can develop it. This volume of applications to review has become burdensome to both local governments and the ALC, since in many cases exclusion applications are not approved as they are for development purposes.”

In other words, local governments and the ALC continue to protect farmland, as required by the “old government” legislation. I asked the ALC for its latest data on this crushing volume of speculator applications, since it stopped posting archived decisions after Popham took charge.

READ MORE: Farmland review head named ALC chair

READ MORE: B.C. farmers aren’t ‘persons’ in NDP law

In 2018, there was a grand total of 39 applications to remove land province-wide. One of two in the Interior region was approved. On Vancouver Island, four applications flooded in and all were refused. Same in the Kootenay region.

In the Okanagan, the commission grappled with 11 applications, turning away six. On the South Coast, there were 14, with nine refused. The numbers are even lower for 2017. The ALC annual report shows a steep decline in applications since the 1980s.

Here is current ALC staffing: A Popham-appointed chair and 18 commissioners oversee staff consisting of a CEO, director of policy and planning and director of operations. Kim Grout, the current CEO, made $185,096 plus benefits last year.

Under them are three senior policy planners, a policy planner, policy analyst and six planning officers. On the operations side, there are two co-ordinators, four compliance and enforcement officers, an office manager and six technical and support staff.

Popham intends to hire more enforcement “boots on the ground” to cope with the speculator crisis she wants you to think is happening.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Market Days return Sept. 21

Street festival will once again take over downtown Cloverdale

International South Asian expo pitched for Surrey’s Bear Creek Park

Mayor Doug McCallum says the idea ‘shows a lot of promise’

White Rock council declares disapproval of ride-hailing rules

City to submit resolution to UBCM, send letter to B.C. Passenger Transportation Board

Celebration of life set for Ray Gemmill

Veteran horseman passed away July 31

Guilty plea in Lower Mainland break-and-enter spree

Gordon Vincent Gladstone, 42, was charged with 12 counts relating to a dozen incidents in late 2018

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Vancouver police officer hit with bear spray mid-arrest

Officer had been trying to arrest a woman wanted province-wide

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

UVic students killed in Bamfield bus crash were from Winnipeg, Iowa City

Authorities said the two victims were a man and a woman, both aged 18

Most Read