Agriculture critic looks at local issues

Lana Popham: abattoir won't be operational by fall

Lana Popham

Lana Popham

BC NDP agriculture critic Lana Popham visited 100 Mile House earlier this month to meet with local agriculture stakeholders and talk about hot-button issues.

Escorted around town by Cariboo-Chilcotin NDP candidate Charlie Wyse, they attended a casual beef-on-a-bun fundraiser for the NDP Cariboo-Chilcotin Riding Association at Creekside Seniors Activity Centre.

It was her third trip to the South Cariboo, Popham notes.

The first visit was four years ago, when Popham says she met with the group of individuals lobbying for a local abattoir that founded the now-defunct South Cariboo Meat Co-op, before changing gears and targeting licence regulation changes.

However, she has some concerns about the province’s recent announcement that 100 Mile House will get a new mobile abattoir to be permanently installed to a local meat processing facility.

The meat regulations have been an ongoing problem for the whole province for eight to nine years, she adds.

Despite the B.C. Liberal government’s promise for the imminent arrival of the new mobile abattoir, Popham says the licence won’t follow for a few months, leaving “another growing season gone” for local ranchers.

“You can’t just get a licence in August and expect to have animals ready with the capacity to go through that facility. So, we’ve already missed another year.”

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick has indicated the ministry is still trying to sort out the rules and procedures for licensing, Popham explains, including regulations for safety and animal husbandry.

“I think [Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett] can be given some credit for trying to champion that here, but, really, Donna is part of the government side of the legislature.

“It is obvious the regulations needed to be fixed, so there is a lot of frustration from the rest of the province, when [it sees] one project get approved. 100 Mile House aside, the rest of the province still has a massive problem.”

This visit was a follow-up on her second trip to the community, about 18 months ago, which she notes involved about 30 individual meetings in one day.

“It was like ‘speed dating’ for politics, but I learned a lot about issues around land-use sharing.”

Once again, she discussed the issues around land sharing between mutual Crown land lessees, such as tourism and logging companies.

Popham met with these same ranchers, trappers, guide outfitters and forest companies, she explains, to see what has or has not changed for these stakeholders.

“Generally, I came here for agriculture, but with the land use up here, you can’t do agriculture without dealing with the others.”

Popham says she has continued working on these issues since her first visit to the South Cariboo, and has brought them up in legislature during question period.

One of British Columbia’s longest-running agriculture critics, Popham has been in the role since 2009, shortly after being first elected in her riding of Saanich South.

By serving as critic more than four years, Popham says she is able to keep on top of the issues, so folks don’t have to “retell their stories” and start over with new politicians. She notes there have been four agriculture ministers in the past four years.

“Agriculture is a ministry that needs stability and consistency, and it can’t be successful on an election cycle. So, if policies change, it’s not like you can flick a switch in agriculture.

“There is a lot of planning that goes into [it]. It’s like trying to turn a huge ship around.”