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

UPDATE: Wind warning has ended for Metro Vancouver

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

Downtown Mission: Ready to revitalize

With the bidding process underway, construction could start by mid-March

Guilty plea issued in case where man, 86, was assaulted and robbed

Hughie Stump pleads guilty to break-and-enter in relation to Abbotsford incident

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

Fraser Health asking taxpayers for millions more in health care capital funding

Health authority wants Fraser Valley taxpayers to triple annual contribution to $5.75 million

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Philadelphia Eagles headed to Super Bowl

After routing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, they will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington on Vancouver Island

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, vehicles buried under more than three feet of snow

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

Coquihalla drivers prepare for snow

Wintry conditions persist, with snow warnings for Coquihalla

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

Most Read