Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons

Insults fly as B.C. farmland bill passes

Agricultural Land Commission debate provides bitter end to spring session of B.C. legislature

VICTORIA – The B.C. legislature adjourned for the summer Thursday with opposition MLAs battling to the end against legislation to divide the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones.

The government used its majority to cut off debate and pass the bill, after days of opposition demands to withdraw it and complete promised consultation with farmers around the province.

“You’re all a bunch of corrupt liars,” shouted NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons, before he stormed out of the chamber as time ran out. Simons returned to withdraw his comments so he could vote against the legislation.

Independent MLAs Andrew Weaver and Vikki Huntington joined NDP critics in denouncing the move to ease restrictions on secondary farmland uses in the North, Kootenay and Cariboo zones. Another target of criticism was the move to formalize the six local Agricultural Land Commission panels to make decisions on exclusions and permitted uses.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald accused the government of adding social and economic considerations to farmland as a pretext to undermine the commission’s independence.

“We are talking about important agricultural areas that will now be open to exclusions, that decision being made by a bunch of B.C. Liberal political hacks on criteria that are totally nebulous – to the extent that there’s even a provision to add whatever else the cabinet wants to add,” Macdonald said. “It could be economic. It could be social. It could be anything.”

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick pointed to amendments made in response to criticism that emphasize that the ALC is independent and its top priority remains to preserve productive farmland.

Letnick used the example of a Peace River region farmer who was prevented from parking gas industry trucks on his land during winter to earn extra money.

“We as a government believe that there’s an opportunity in some parts of the province where there is less pressure on agricultural land to give farmers some freedom in making sure they can be successful on that land,” Letnick said.

NDP leader John Horgan said a leaked 2012 email exchange between Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett and Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm suggests a “vendetta” against the ALC and a desire to weaken it for political gain.

Pimm, who was replaced as agriculture minister as he undergoes cancer surgery, issued an apology this week for his comments in the email.

Premier Christy Clark said the changes do not affect the Okanagan, Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island zones, which generate 85% of B.C.’s farm income.

“We are making it economic in areas with a shorter growing season, with less productive farmland, to be able to continue to make land valuable enough that they will pass it down to another family,” Clark said.

 

Just Posted

Pedestrian killed on Highway 22 Saturday evening

Police say 51-year-old man died after being hit by car

UPDATE: DriveBC says highway re-opened after accident

Highway 22 closed for seven hours on Saturday

Forestry workers set to begin job action in Kootenays

Operations in Castlegar, Cranbrook, Galloway, Elko, Radium, Golden may see job action this week.

Métis Flag flies in Trail on Louis Riel Day

Area students, officials and public attend flag raising at Trail City Hall

Early Trail borrowed a couple of names from the U.S.

Place Names: Connection between Trail and Butte, Montana

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

Most Read