Coming together for the next stage

In a meeting that ended on October 1, a special panel of B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission considered the application to remove the Garden City Lands from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). When the decision is announced, it will mark the end of a stage in the issue.

     For anyone who looks ahead, though, the next stage has already begun. It’s time for citizens to act together in that next stage. And that’s true whether one has been for or against the application.

Let’s begin with a little historical reflection. In 2005, the federal government and its land disposer, Canada Lands Company, somehow hog-tied the City of Richmond with two Garden City lands agreements. Some politicians then said they had no choice but to help get our prime City Centre farmland out of the ALR for high-density development. However, the Agricultural Land Commission will free us if it rejects the application.

To be ready, we must know our strengths. The “MOU,” the basic agreement, provides for renegotiation to achieve the intents in altered circumstances. And the purchase agreement gives Richmond the right of first refusal to buy the lands. As well, we deserve goodwill from Canada Lands and the fourth party, the Musqueam Indian Band. Richmond’s partners have received nothing but goodwill from the City.

To succeed, we need the City, along with the federal government, to renegotiate firmly for Richmond to obtain the lands at ALR value.

If that doesn’t work out, we must insist that the four parties cooperate to restore each party to the position it was in before entering the agreements. That’s what the MOU says to do, and the parties should show enough goodwill to do it without legal weaseling. The effect would be federal ownership, with the prospect of federal program needs that meet our community needs.

Unfortunately, not all the parties have earned much trust. Canada Lands has a mandate “to produce . . . optimal value for local communities,” but it has fallen short. It must do better for the Richmond community.

For our part, we need to call on our politicians to act with vision and courage. We’ve had leadership from MP John Cummins at the federal level, Hon. Linda Reid at the provincial level, and Coun. Harold Steves at the city level, and others have joined in. Keep it up!



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