Agriculture Minister Lana Popham visits a Fraser Valley cranberry farm during a provincial tour to begin her new job in the NDP government, October 2017. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: When farmland protection doesn’t protect farmers

Secondary residences aren’t mansions, families tell Lana Popham

The NDP government’s overhaul of the Agricultural Land Commission is causing grief for B.C. families who are trying to keep family farms going with new restrictions on secondary homes.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s drive to protect farmland is based on a couple of long-standing NDP assumptions. One is that there is massive property speculation, with buyers applying to have farmland released from the Agricultural Land Reserve to cash in on its increased value. Actual statistics from the commission didn’t show that, but Popham pushed through legislation that prevents property owners from applying directly for exclusion by declaring that owners are not “persons.”

The second assumption is that additional residences are a form of creeping development that has to be reined in. This was accomplished with legislation that passed last November and took effect in February, giving the commission the final say on secondary residences.

These changes are filtering through to local governments, and there have been some alarming results. The Langley Advance Times reported on one last week, where retirees Cathy and Brian Fichter planned to move their daughter, her husband and six children to an extended family farm as they deal with Brian’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

RELATED: Langley family’s grandparent home awaits farm decision

RELATED: B.C. farmers aren’t ‘persons’ under new NDP legislation

The family’s purchase took effect Feb. 26, four days after the new rules took effect. Previously, secondary residences could be justified by the extra work needed to raise livestock. But now local governments have to approve it, and then the commission can overrule them. As of last week the Fichters were still waiting for a final decision.

Dave Strachan of Nakusp has a similar situation. His wife has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and his daughter and her husband decided to move with them to a small farm to help out. He describes the land as marginal for farm production, as is much of the ALR outside the key food production regions of the Lower Mainland, Okanagan and Southern Vancouver Island.

Both families went to substantial effort and expense of buying modular homes and arranging servicing to meet the temporary residence rules of the ALR. They didn’t know the rules were changing, and it’s likely their local governments didn’t either. They await their fate under the new centralized commission that runs the whole province from Burnaby.

When this change was debated last November, Popham acknowledged that the commission would have a veto.

“We are transferring that approval process to the Agricultural Land Commission because we feel that they are better suited to analyze whether or not an additional dwelling would be required for agricultural activities,” she said.

It would be easy to say that the above examples are merely “hobby farms,” a few acres with some horses and goats. What else could be done with a remote five-acre parcel, since there is no chance the new regime will allow it to be removed?

For larger farms, the residence restriction creates problems even if a second house is allowed.

“For instance, if you’re a dairy farm in my area of east Delta, and you have two or three kids who say, ‘I want to continue farming,’ they say, ‘Well, you can’t live on this farm,” B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton told the legislature. “We’ve only got one extra house. You’re going to have to rent a house up in North Delta or Richmond or something.”

Agriculture ministry staff tell me they are looking at these kinds of cases and considering changes. That’s good.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Children’s author hopes public can grant father’s wish to see work in Abbotsford library

Dawn Doig’s father recently died from COVID-19 after staying at Worthington Pavilion

Fraser Valley Regional Library branches offer curbside pick up

After two and a half months of being closed, people can once again check books out of the library

Survey asks Mission businesses: ‘What PPE do you need most to re-open?’

Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce helping businesses to source PPE locally

Middle school students honoured with G.W. Cooke awards

Mission Community Foundation hands out awards for excellence in Math or Science

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The importance of accurate, ethical reporting is critical – perhaps as never before

Police watchdog investigating death of man in Delta

Independent Investigations Office asking for witnesses to May 29 incident at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

Most Read