Minister rejects report of ALR demise

Proposal to dismantle agricultural land commission "so secret I don't even know about it myself," Bill Bennett says

VICTORIA – News reports suggesting the B.C. government is considering dismantling the Agricultural Land Commission are not accurate, the minister in charge of the government’s “core review” says.

A plan outlined in documents leaked to the Globe and Mail this week is “so secret that I don’t even know about it myself,” Energy Minister Bill Bennett said in an interview. “We’re not even considering blowing up the ALC, or bringing it inside government.”

Bennett said agricultural land commissioners will continue to decide on applications to amend the land reserve, established 40 years ago to protect farmland from development.

Bennett refused to comment on the suggestion that the province could be divided into two zones with different processes. But he said he is aware of many cases outside the southwestern part of B.C. where obviously unfarmable land remains locked in the reserve.

Part of the problem has been a lack of funding to the commission, Bennett said. The current budget adds $4 million to the commission’s budget over three years.

“It’s not all their fault, it’s the way the legislation is written, it’s the way their policies have developed,” Bennett said. “All of those things add up to a lot of questionable decisions being made, and certainly not in areas where they have good agricultural land like Richmond and south Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan.”

Bennett also rejected the suggestion that the Oil and Gas Commission would overrule the ALC on decisions in B.C.’s northeast. The OGC already has some authority on land use, and its role in the review is “tiny,” he said.

NDP leader Adrian Dix accused the government of hiding its intentions before the May election.

“After commending two separate reviews that called for the ALC to be strengthened before the election, the Liberals are now conspiring to undermine it,” Dix said.

Metro Vancouver mayors, facing the most pressure to expand development, expressed alarm.

“Certainly it’s disturbing if they’re throwing it out the window,” said Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters.

She said some ALR boundaries need adjustment, but beyond that, her main concerns are that the commission has been underfunded to do its job and that more effort is needed to help support the viability of farming.

“It has problems, but it has its place,” Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said of the ALR. “It protects us from ourselves.”

 

Just Posted

Cache Creek landfill extension set for September completion

Project has been delayed due to wildfires and floods over past two years

Drag races set to return for Graffiti Days weekend

Annual event features old favourites like the smoke show, and new events like a drive-in movie

Bonaparte River fishway, Thompson steelhead among projects awarded grant funding

More than $9 million will help 170 fish and wildlife projects around B.C.

Wellness clinics provide free, drop-in health information

New service in Clinton helps patients manage their health care and stay out of hospital

VIDEO: Canadian breaks women’s world record for longest plank

Dana Glowacka, of Montreal, held a plank for four hours and 20 minutes

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

Most Read