Hon. Christy Clark
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
14 November 2013
Dear Premier Christy Clark,
I would like to congratulate you on the investments in the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) in Budget 2013. The multi-million dollar investment was unique. While other ministries and agencies had their funding untouched or reduced, your
commitment to implementing the recommendations of the ALC’s 2010 core review is an important investment in British Columbia.
Following the election this spring the minister of the core review, Hon. Bill Bennett’s comments raised considerable concerns when he suggested to a reporter, that despite the work that had been done, the core review would include the ALC.
Over the past three years, the board and staff of the ALC have worked hard to modernize the operations of the Commission. To date they have not completely executed all the recommendations but they have made significant progress.
Although the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and ALC were not major issues in the 2013 provincial election, citizens, communities, farmers, businesses and municipalities have concerns, and want constructive consultation. New legislation
must be informed through comprehensive public engagement, and it is critical this be completed before cabinet announces a desired direction.
From the perspective of a former Councillor in the District of Central Saanich, I agree the efficiency and responsiveness of the commission must be addressed. Specifically, the Commission’s ability to enforce their authority and jurisdiction must be enhanced. Despite the recent investment, they have been under-resourced and their ability to respond has been limited.
The government, through the Chair of the Finance and Government Services Committee, Dan Ashton, committed to giving the public ample opportunity to provide input on the core review of the ALC/ALR. Unfortunately, the outreach plans
and input processes have not been published and the public remains in the dark.
In addition, the ALC’s rebuke of the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Pat Pimm has correctly raised concerns in the media, and at the community level. Your response that “MLA’s must be able to bring forward concerns and issues on behalf of their
constituents” is generally correct but in terms of independent commissions such as the ALC, this is worrying.
Minister Pimm has plenty of opportunity to raise the concerns of his constituents, through appropriate channels. As the ALC noted in its consideration of the matter,
“As for Members of the Legislative Assembly, if a particular Member is of the view that an application is so significant, that Member may make whatever representations to his or her Cabinet colleagues he or she thinks appropriate in order to convince them that the matter should be taken out of the Commission’s hands.”
As the Interim-Leader of the BC Green Party, I must share my deep concern for how the activities around this file have unfolded over the past few months.
The announcement regarding public input for the core review, especially regarding the ALR and ALC, was last minute and had people scrambling, working off assumptions and worst-case scenarios. When I presented to the Finance and
Government Services committee on October 2nd, decisions were being made on the fly and I found that citizens in some cities were told one thing, while citizens in other cities were told something else.
Local food production and food security is an important issue for British Columbians. It is important that the leadership of our province provide clarity, transparency and stability in decision-making.
The work of the Commission over the past three years on their way to modernization has been constructive and the government has invested in that process. I encourage you to,
1. Remove the uncertainty. Take the ALC out of the current core review process and commit to completing the implementation of the recommendations from the 2010 core review,
2. Commit to the ALC boundary review process. Engage local citizens and stakeholders when reviewing the relevance of the ALR boundaries,
3. Invest in enforcement. Increase the capacity of the ALC to enforce their jurisdiction to ensure the appropriate activities are occurring on agricultural land, and
4. Should you wish to have broader discussion about the future of the Commission, do so with a clear and concise plan that includes public input at the outset of the process.
BC Green Party
Hon. Bill Bennett
Hon. Pat Pimm
Dan Ashton, MLA