Weaver introduces bill to protect agricultural land from speculation

February 16, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – To address the rampant speculation of agricultural land in B.C., a trend that sees valuable farmland left unseeded or turned into sprawling mansions, today Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party, tabled the Property Law Amendment Act.  

“Since the introduction of the 15% foreign buyers tax on residential real estate in Metro Vancouver, speculators have targeted other areas of the Province and our agricultural land,” said Andrew Weaver, also the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

“Investors are taking advantage of tax breaks meant to encourage farming, building mansions and using the land for speculative purposes. As a result, farmland is being taken out of production and prices are skyrocketing, making farmland unaffordable for local farmers.”

The bill would protect land held within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) from international real estate speculation. If passed, it would prohibit foreign entities from purchasing ALR land over 5 acres, without prior permission from the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Many other provinces regulate and restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land through limiting the maximum acreage that foreign entities can purchase, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, and PEI. B.C. is the only Western province that doesn’t restrict the amount of farmland foreign investors can purchase.

“Right now, B.C. is failing to protect our farmland in the face of foreign speculation and non-farming uses. Our farmland should be available to local food producers, not bought up by wealthy speculators. The future of our food security requires that we act immediately to protect and preserve our limited land in the ALR. This bill is one essential step towards that end.”

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A Globe and Mail investigation has revealed widespread speculation in agricultural land. It found that 60 per cent of investors who bought suburban Vancouver farmland, for more than $2 million, between August 2015-August 2016, were not farmers. 

This speculation has had a significant effect on farmland prices. In one example, in August last year, a 4.5-acre farm sold to an overseas investor for $2.58 million, which amounts to $573,000 per acre. This price is 230 times the nationwide per-acre average for farmland in Canada.

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