Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett joins Liberal MLAs to voice concerns over proposed Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) changes.
If passed, the legislation would replace the current governance model of six-panel regions and an executive committee with one commission, provide the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) with more flexibility to organize commission members into a decision-making panel on applications, add new decision-making criteria, add more compliance and enforcement capacity and tools and require that exclusions be submitted to the ALC only by local governments, First Nations governments or the Province.
“This is an act that is going to make a huge difference to private landowners that own agricultural land because the Bill is blatantly infringing on the right of landowners,” says Barnett. “In the definition of ‘person,’ it is basically that the citizens are not a ‘person.’ There’s two people that are ‘persons.’ It’s local governments and First Nations [governments]. Individual landowners are no longer included in the process and they cannot even apply to take land out of the ALR.”
Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham, said the Bill (15) builds on work started over a year ago to better protect farmland and encourage farming and ranching in B.C.
“We are ensuring the commission has the tools and the governance model required to strengthen its independence and ability to act in the best interest of our farmland within the Agricultural Land Reserve so that British Columbians are able to access safe, locally grown food for generations to come.”
In the Cariboo, the ALR makes up 947,000 hectares (21 per cent of the provincial total), second only to the Peace region.
Mike de Jong, a Liberal MLA, called the bill “the single most egregious assault on the rights of citizens that I have seen in 25 years.”
Mike Bernier, another Liberal MLA, asked “why do the BC NDP always think big brother knows best than the people who actually own and work the land.
Barnett went on to criticize other recent changes, such as requiring permission to build an additional house for workers.
“Everything will be centralized once again. If you’re a private landowner owning agricultural land, you basically have lost your rights.”
Barnett calls on local agricultural landowners to write to the Minister of Agriculture and say that they were without consultation on this process.
“This government has had no public consultation on caribou, on land use issues, now the Agricultural Land Reserve changes. They were the government that said they would be transparent and there would be consultations. There has been none.”
She would be very upset about losing her rights if the were an agricultural landowner, says Barnett.
“This is going totally in the wrong directions when it comes to private property rights. My question is ‘what’s next?’”