Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons

Insults fly as B.C. farmland bill passes

Agricultural Land Commission debate provides bitter end to spring session of B.C. legislature

VICTORIA – The B.C. legislature adjourned for the summer Thursday with opposition MLAs battling to the end against legislation to divide the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones.

The government used its majority to cut off debate and pass the bill, after days of opposition demands to withdraw it and complete promised consultation with farmers around the province.

“You’re all a bunch of corrupt liars,” shouted NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons, before he stormed out of the chamber as time ran out. Simons returned to withdraw his comments so he could vote against the legislation.

Independent MLAs Andrew Weaver and Vikki Huntington joined NDP critics in denouncing the move to ease restrictions on secondary farmland uses in the North, Kootenay and Cariboo zones. Another target of criticism was the move to formalize the six local Agricultural Land Commission panels to make decisions on exclusions and permitted uses.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald accused the government of adding social and economic considerations to farmland as a pretext to undermine the commission’s independence.

“We are talking about important agricultural areas that will now be open to exclusions, that decision being made by a bunch of B.C. Liberal political hacks on criteria that are totally nebulous – to the extent that there’s even a provision to add whatever else the cabinet wants to add,” Macdonald said. “It could be economic. It could be social. It could be anything.”

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick pointed to amendments made in response to criticism that emphasize that the ALC is independent and its top priority remains to preserve productive farmland.

Letnick used the example of a Peace River region farmer who was prevented from parking gas industry trucks on his land during winter to earn extra money.

“We as a government believe that there’s an opportunity in some parts of the province where there is less pressure on agricultural land to give farmers some freedom in making sure they can be successful on that land,” Letnick said.

NDP leader John Horgan said a leaked 2012 email exchange between Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett and Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm suggests a “vendetta” against the ALC and a desire to weaken it for political gain.

Pimm, who was replaced as agriculture minister as he undergoes cancer surgery, issued an apology this week for his comments in the email.

Premier Christy Clark said the changes do not affect the Okanagan, Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island zones, which generate 85% of B.C.’s farm income.

“We are making it economic in areas with a shorter growing season, with less productive farmland, to be able to continue to make land valuable enough that they will pass it down to another family,” Clark said.


Just Posted

Lake Flashback: Citizens of the year, oil spill, and an Easter egg hunt

Flashbacks this week features brings us some old names, plus the start of an ongoing saga

N. Cowichan considering extending Chemainus BIA for three years

Chemainus BIA looks to boost business in community’s downtown

Lacrosse registration still open

It’s not too late for players ages 5-14 to sign up for this summer

Animal rights group plans rally in Duncan March 25

Planned rally at Duncan Courthouse on April 3 called off

Sesquicentennial Totem to be unveiled on March 23 in Duncan

Project commissioned by the City of Duncan

Lake Cowichan Seniors Dance draws green-clad crowd

The gang at the Lake Cowichan 50+ Activity Centre chalked up another success

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Rescued Comox canoer credits those ‘at the right place, at the right time’

James Milne was rescued in a hypothermic state Sunday near Goose Spit

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals of the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Sea lion with rope wrapped around neck saved by Vancouver Aquarium

Steller sea lions are a species of special concern and some populations are endangered in parts of Alaska

B.C. can learn from Washington’s wine industry growth

Winery owner cites importance of industry collaboration

Most Read