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

Arts and heritage scene highlighted in Columbia Basin tour

Columbia Basin Culture Tour goes Aug. 10 and Aug. 11

No nuts were grown in Almond Gardens

Place Names: Grand Forks neighbourhoods, Part 2

Blooming judges coming to Trail

Trail is participating in the CiB Class of Champions next week

Montrose seeks funding for age-friendly project

Council has committed $120,000 for renovations to facility

Rossland Legion supports youth activities

Legion members donate to Canadian Tire Jumpstart Program

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

Most Read