Land reserve divided, not conquered

Reports of the Agricultural Land Reserve's demise are greatly exaggerated, and are mostly urban arguments projected onto rural B.C.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson and Energy Minister Bill Bennett take questions on changes to Agricultural Land Reserve last week. The two-zone plan is Bennett's project.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson and Energy Minister Bill Bennett take questions on changes to Agricultural Land Reserve last week. The two-zone plan is Bennett's project.

VICTORIA – Kootenay Bill Bennett has done what I reported last November he was doing: seizing the horns of the sacred cow that is the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Henceforth there shall be two land reserves. The Island, South Coast and Okanagan, which produce 85% of B.C.’s total farm revenue on 10% of protected land, retains its strict anti-development rules.

In the much larger area Bennett likes to call “beyond Hope,” non-farm uses will be considered to help maintain the many economically marginal farmers. This is the Interior, Kootenay and North, where development pressure is mostly an urban myth. In remote areas, ALR diktats with no relation to reality are routinely ignored.

Political critics were quick to call this a B.C. Liberal hidden agenda to pave the ALR for their developer pals. Certainly neither party’s 2013 platform talked about the ALR, although B.C. Liberal leadership candidates Kevin Falcon and Mike de Jong promised relief from its more senseless bureaucracy to Peace country farmers in 2011.

When the zone plan was revealed last week, media went to ALR pioneer Harold Steves, the hero of all Lower Mainlanders who try to tell northern farmers what to do.

“My real fear is that they want to open the door for fracking and natural gas and oil,” Steves said.

I’ve got bad news for the socialist sage of south Richmond. Oil and gas companies have operated on farmland since before the ALR was created in 1974.

Conspiracy buffs should read the delegation agreement that was updated just weeks after last May’s election, giving the Oil and Gas Commission authority to administer wells, pipelines and waste pits on farmland. If the ALR interferes with the prescribed handling of drilling waste, it interferes with safety measures.

University of the Fraser Valley “food security” professor Lenore Newman went on CKNW to refute what she called “uninformed arguments,” and then offered one of her own. This two-zone change is connected to the exclusion of large tracts of Peace land for the Site C dam, she said.

Actually, the government exempted that project last December using the long-standing “provincial interest” provision, so this phase of the alleged capitalist plot against farmland has no effect on Site C.

Steves is also concerned about second homes being built beyond Hope, and later sold rather than being destroyed as is the current disastrous rule. He warns that farmers might end up with “non-farm neighbours,” or as we like to call them up north, “neighbours.”

Again, this is an urban problem projected onto rural B.C., where costly restrictions mainly serve to accelerate the depopulation of rural and remote areas.

Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington is livid about the legislation, which has no effect on loss of farmland in her constituency. The growing federally regulated port supersedes provincial laws, and the Tsawwassen First Nation is growing a big shopping centre on its treaty land.

Aboriginal entrepreneurs are also starting to force big-box development on southern Vancouver Island, home of the purest of the pure left. This is where farmers can’t even protect themselves against deer.

The most damning charge is that the six regional ALR panels now in place are open to corruption under new rules. Panel members have always been cabinet appointments, but currently some have been from outside the region, so they may be less likely to hand out exemptions to their friends.

That is certainly something to keep an eye on. So is the status of B.C. farms, where the average farmer age is 56 and rising, and half of farms have income less than $10,000 a year.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read