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

U.S. consulate general to visit Northwest

Trip part of the region’s first-ever pop-up consul for American residents

Houston Flyers bring home bronze

The Houston Flyers peewees were off to Smithers last weekend and came… Continue reading

New Cottonwood Manor units nearly ready

Sixteen units replace ones condemned several years ago

Houston celebrates International Womens Day

International Women’s Day March 7 was celebrated by 102 registered guests who… Continue reading

Houston’s woman of the year

International Woman of the year event was held last Thursday in Houston.… Continue reading

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

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Some surprises in new book about B.C. labour movement

“On the Line” charts history of the union movement back to the 1800s

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

LETTERS: Two views of oil pipeline protests

U.S. and other petroleum-rich countries aren’t cutting production

Most Read