Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons

Insults fly as B.C. farmland bill passes

Agricultural Land Commission debate provides bitter end to spring session of B.C. legislature

VICTORIA – The B.C. legislature adjourned for the summer Thursday with opposition MLAs battling to the end against legislation to divide the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones.

The government used its majority to cut off debate and pass the bill, after days of opposition demands to withdraw it and complete promised consultation with farmers around the province.

“You’re all a bunch of corrupt liars,” shouted NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons, before he stormed out of the chamber as time ran out. Simons returned to withdraw his comments so he could vote against the legislation.

Independent MLAs Andrew Weaver and Vikki Huntington joined NDP critics in denouncing the move to ease restrictions on secondary farmland uses in the North, Kootenay and Cariboo zones. Another target of criticism was the move to formalize the six local Agricultural Land Commission panels to make decisions on exclusions and permitted uses.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald accused the government of adding social and economic considerations to farmland as a pretext to undermine the commission’s independence.

“We are talking about important agricultural areas that will now be open to exclusions, that decision being made by a bunch of B.C. Liberal political hacks on criteria that are totally nebulous – to the extent that there’s even a provision to add whatever else the cabinet wants to add,” Macdonald said. “It could be economic. It could be social. It could be anything.”

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick pointed to amendments made in response to criticism that emphasize that the ALC is independent and its top priority remains to preserve productive farmland.

Letnick used the example of a Peace River region farmer who was prevented from parking gas industry trucks on his land during winter to earn extra money.

“We as a government believe that there’s an opportunity in some parts of the province where there is less pressure on agricultural land to give farmers some freedom in making sure they can be successful on that land,” Letnick said.

NDP leader John Horgan said a leaked 2012 email exchange between Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett and Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm suggests a “vendetta” against the ALC and a desire to weaken it for political gain.

Pimm, who was replaced as agriculture minister as he undergoes cancer surgery, issued an apology this week for his comments in the email.

Premier Christy Clark said the changes do not affect the Okanagan, Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island zones, which generate 85% of B.C.’s farm income.

“We are making it economic in areas with a shorter growing season, with less productive farmland, to be able to continue to make land valuable enough that they will pass it down to another family,” Clark said.

 

Just Posted

Coastal GasLink gets interim injunction against Unist’ot’en

The LNG pipeline company can start work Monday with enforcement approved by court.

Omineca Medical Clinic donates $500 to Community Foundation

The funds were raised through the Jeans Day campaign

Editorial: Go out and play

How much is too much screen time?

CIBC to close its branch in Fraser Lake next year

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) is closing its Fraser Lake… Continue reading

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Mike Duffy can’t sue Senate over suspension without pay, judge rules

Duffy’s lawsuit sought more than $7.8 million from the upper chamber

Most Read