Mark Hume’s article published in the Globe and Mail (Nov. 7, 2013) highlighting the potential ‘modernization’ of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is very disturbing.
I am extremely concerned about the potential changes that Mr. Hume outlined in his article. They constitute a fundamental change in direction for the government and the commission.
The BC Green Party has expressed significant concerns regarding how this process has evolved. British Columbians continue to support the ALC and Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and we ask the government to remove the Commission from the current core review process and continue to implement the recommendations from the 2010 core review.
The ALC has been in a modernization process. In Budget 2013, the government provided $4 million to continue that process. The new ‘modernization’ outlined in Hume’s article is a complete change in direction and does not reflect the recommendations nor the work the government has invested in to date.
Certainly the BC Liberals were given a mandate to move forward on natural gas development during the last election, but it is unclear whether British Columbians gave them the mandate to do it at all costs, including food security and the long-term agricultural capacity of the province.
Although it has not been perfect, the ALR has been an effective tool for protecting agricultural land in British Columbia. It appears this is no longer going to be the case. If Mr. Hume is correct it appears this decision could be made by cabinet without the benefit of public input.
If Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm’s proposed changes get the support of cabinet, the impact on British Columbia’s agricultural land will be tremendous.
This issue started to percolate at the end of July when Hon. Bill Bennett, Minister responsible for the core review, suggested the ALC was going to be part of the core review. The government then went into scramble mode.
At the end of September, Minister Bennett suggested that the opportunity for public input on the core review would be provided to the Finance and Government Services committee during their annual budget consultations.
I presented to that committee and shared my concern that British Columbians had very little, if any, notification that this was their opportunity for input of the core review. I was reassured by the Chair, Dan Ashton, that there was going to be further opportunity for public input and that his committee was just the first opportunity.
Since that time I have been attempting to connect with Minister Bennett to discuss this file and unfortunately our meetings have been postponed and delayed a number of times. I look forward to when we will finally meet next week to discuss this subject further.