Former B.C. Agricultural Land Commission chair Richard Bullock has come out in favour of the NDP government’s changes to commission rules, arguing that the farmland protection organization is facing too many applications for exclusion.
Richard Bullock was fired by the B.C. Liberal government in 2015 after he resisted their use of regional panels to decide on secondary uses and land exclusion applications. Bullock sent a letter to Black Press Media Monday, supporting the latest changes tabled by Agriculture Minister Lana Popham to eliminate the regional panels and make property owners apply through their local government, rather than directly after local government input.
“Having reviewed the proposed legislation and read the media coverage, as I understand it, individual landowners will continue to be able to apply for subdivision and non-farm uses in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR),” Bullock wrote. “During my tenure, and I believe it is still the case today, [subdivision and non-farm use applications are] a very low proportion of applications to the ALC, less than 10 per cent.
“As chair, I observe that the large majority of the exclusion applications were not from farmers and ranchers but instead from folks looking to make a substantial gain from paving over good agricultural land.”
The most recent ALC archived decisions are from 2016, the year after Bullock was replaced by former Saanich mayor Frank Leonard. After Leonard was appointed, secondary use rules were relaxed for areas of B.C. outside southern Vancouver Island, the South Coast and Okanagan regions where the vast majority of farm revenues are generated.
In the South Coast region, the main focus of development pressure since the ALR was established in the 1970s, decisions for 2016 show the opposite of Bullock’s description. For that year, there were 88 applications for secondary residences and subdivisions of farmland, and only 10 for excluding land.
ALC records also show that applications of all kinds have fallen significantly since the 1980s. The ALC reports that in the calendar year 2018, it received a total of 39 exclusion applications from all regions combined.