Saanich council is calling on the province to consult with municipal governments and British Columbians before making changes to the Agricultural Land Commission.
Council this week unanimously supported a motion by Coun. Dean Murdock that highlights steps that should be taken if the province decides to revise how decisions are made by the land commission.
“This council has a history of defending farmland and speaking up for agriculture. And promoting local food initiatives and food security is a big part of our official community plan,” Murdock said. “It’s completely consistent for council to step up and say ‘We have to defend the agricultural land reserve.’ … Ultimately (any changes) could have a big impact on our ability to grow food for ourselves.”
Earlier this fall, documents were leaked suggesting the provincial government was considering dismantling or making sweeping changes to the ALC and indicated a desire to modernize the commission to ensure government’s priorities for economic development are reflected in ALC decisions.
Murdock says his concern is municipal governments will lose authority on land-use decisions, regardless of what changes are made.
Saanich farmer Rob Galey says he supports council’s push. He says he expects he and fellow farmers would be consulted before any changes are made to the ALR.
“The idea of the agricultural land reserve is to protect farmland, but there’s no sense in saving the farmland if you’re not going to protect your farmers,” he said.
Council is asking the province for an extensive consultation process before making any decisions on the future of the ALC. Murdock is also asking Saanich residents to write to council, local MLAs and the province to share their concerns on the issue.
“We believe that it’s important that Saanich residents and British Columbians have an opportunity to express their desire to preserve the ALR,” Murdock said.
Energy Minister Bill Bennett, the minister in charge of the government’s “core review” has said, “We’re not even considering blowing up the ALC, or bringing it inside government.”
He did not comment on the suggestion that the province could be divided into two zones with different processes.
–with files from Erin Haluschak and Tom Fletcher