Hon. Gerry Ritz responds to the Coalition

In July 2008, Hon. Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, responded to a letter and petition from the Garden City Lands Coalition. Mr. Ritz’s letter states in part:

Prime Minister Harper and the Government of Canada are developing Canada’s next generation of agricultural programming, Growing Forward. Under this new policy framework, we will develop programming focused on science and innovation, the environment, and competitiveness for producers and the agri-food sector.

The federal government is supportive of efforts in British Columbia, and elsewhere in Canada, to protect agricultural land for the future. We are following with interest the initiatives of communities, community organizations, universities, and colleges to promote urban agriculture.

While Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada does not currently have a program requirement that could accommodate the Garden City lands, should these lands become available in the future for agricultural purposes, the Department would consider that option.

That’s informative and encouraging. No doubt it reflects the efforts of John Cummins, MP, the Garden City Lands Coalition, and all the people who signed the petition, in addition to the goodwill and progressive thinking of the minister. It is also consistent with the way he has responded to other letters on this issue.

Since the Garden City lands are not currently available, the minister’s letter goes as far as the federal government can go at this time. If the Agricultural Land Commission decides to keep the Garden City Lands in the ALR, the opportunity could well arise for Canada Lands Company to return the lands to the federal government. At that point it will be ideal if there are federal program needs for the lands that are suited to their ALR status. Mr. Ritz’s letter is an excellent step in that direction.


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