A stream of recently leaked emails between two prominent BC Liberal MLAs has eliminated any hope the government has of pretending that Bill 24, which will significantly change the Agricultural Land Reserve, has anything to do with promoting agriculture or assisting farmers, says Columbia River – Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.
He said in a statement that two emails dated July 30, 2012, and July 31, 2012, between Pat Pimm, MLA for Peace River North and future Minister of Agriculture, and Bill Bennett, MLA for Kootenay East and the chief architect of Bill 24, lay out their displeasure at the way the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is being run. And they state without equivocation why they want the changes that are being made in Bill 24.
“Bill 24 is entirely about buying votes, and this email exchange proves it,” Macdonald said in the statement. “In the email, complaints are made that the ALC is not making the right decisions; is not taking the ‘opportunity to muster up some support for our team’.”
The email stream also laments the independence of the ALC and its chair Richard Bullock, and demands that the then-Minister of Agriculture honour a caucus agreement, sanctioned by the premier, to allow changes to the ALR specifically in Pimm and Bennett’s areas. Former Minister McRae was clearly moving too slowly to satisfy them.
Despite the fact that Premier Clark promised prior to the election to ‘preserve agricultural land and encourage farming’ and ‘to maintain the excellent relationship we have built with the ALC’, following the 2013 election she chose Pimm as Minister of Agriculture and Bennett as Minister of Core Review to spearhead significant changes to the ALR. Bill 24 is the disastrous result. (Pimm is no longer agriculture eminister. That portfolio is now held by Norm Letnick.)
“In a few short hours, the BC Liberal government will force through legislation that will significantly weaken the Agriculture Land Commission and will allow any manner of development on agricultural lands. It does absolutely nothing to promote agriculture in this province, it does not support farmers, and lessens our ability to feed ourselves into the future,” said Macdonald.
“The effects of this legislation will be felt by British Columbians for generations to come, and all to satisfy the political needs of two BC Liberal caucus members.”
Earlier this month — on Tuesday, May 13 — former NDP leader Adrian Dix had this to say:
“The government was asked in Country Life in B.C. to answer the following question: “Will it work with the Agricultural Land Commission to ensure that agricultural land continues to be available for agriculture and not get used for port, dam, transportation, industrial and residential development?” What do you think was the answer to that question, since the government and the Minister of Health have brought forward a bill that, in fact, devalues in 90 percent of the reserve the value of agriculture and raises up other values?
“What was their answer? Did they say: “We are going to change the agricultural land reserve, we’re going to create two zones, and we’re going to enhance cronyism in the appointment of commissioners”? Did they say any of that? Did they say what they were going to do? No.
“What was their answer to that question? Their answer was yes — the opposite of what they did. They said they were going to protect agricultural values, and they downgraded agricultural values. They said they were going to work with the commission.
“Oh, they go on to say other things: “Continue with the East Kootenay boundary review.” What happened to that? They ended the East Kootenay.
“Right here is a signature proposal the Minister of Health put forward a couple of months later — not so signature. What did they say? “Work more closely with farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations to preserve agricultural land and encourage farming.”
“They put forward this legislation, and the consultation that the Minister Responsible for Core Review and the Minister of Agriculture talked about took place between cabinet ministers. That’s their idea of consultation. I guess that keeps things all together in the room.
“They did the opposite of that. They didn’t tell the truth about it in the election campaign. Let’s be clear. They said exactly the opposite.
“What else did they say here in their response to this Country Life in B.C. questionnaire? They said they were going to strengthen the ALC by giving it greater ability to focus on preserving farmland and increasing enforcement. Actually, they did the opposite of that in 90 percent of the ALR — the opposite of it.”
From Country Life in BC:
Country Life in B.C. magazine asked the Liberals specifically if they would protect agricultural land from development. They said ‘yes’ at the time
In the magazine, the Liberals promised to “work more closely with farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations to preserve agricultural land and encourage farming,” and “maintain the excellent relationship we have built with the ALC.”