To the ALC re the federal election

This message has been sent to the Agricultural Land Commission panel addressing the Garden City Lands ALR-exclusion application.

        I’m writing to share a Garden City Lands Coalition perspective on the ways the recent federal election results have affected the application to exclude the Garden City Lands from the ALR. The main effect of the election is that the already significant voice in Ottawa for saving the Lands has been greatly strengthened.

        Technically, the Lands are in the Richmond electoral district (“riding”), although they border Delta-Richmond East and are of equal concern to the residents of both ridings. The Richmond voters’ decision to replace the Richmond riding’s Pave-the-Lands Member of Parliament (Raymond Chan) with a committed new Save-the-Lands MP (Alice Wong) will make a major difference.

        It will also make a difference that Dr. Wong and Delta-Richmond East’s John Cummins, who both received landslide margins of victory, featured the Garden City Lands prominently in their campaigns. When the time comes for those two MPs to ask for federal action on the issue, they will be able to show that they were elected on the promise to act. In the case of Alice Wong, who won by a stunning  8,108 votes in what was supposed to be a battleground riding, she will be in a particularly good position to show the political ramifications of the issue. That includes the possibility of her party, the Conservatives, losing the seat in the next election if the federal government does not help her to deliver results.

        I’ll add a few details about Alice Wong. She is an ardent Save-the-Lands supporter who attended almost all of the 23.5-hour Richmond Council public hearing on the ALR-exclusion issue in March 2008 and who has helped and offered to help in various other ways. By repeatedly bringing up the issue during the election campaign, she differentiated herself from incumbent Raymond Chan, who had prominently taken credit for the Garden City Lands agreements for years, even though he tried during the campaign to shift responsibility. When the prime minister made a late-campaign stop in Richmond, Dr. Wong even told the media that she had used her brief time with him to talk to him about the issue. After being elected, she reiterated her stand on the issue in her victory speech and, in the context of putting her community first, in a Richmond Review interview. In the same Richmond Review (Oct. 18, 2008), editor Bhreandáin Clugston’s column analyzing Raymond Chan’s defeat explained at length how the Garden City Lands issue was a significant aspect of it. Several letter writers to the Richmond papers and Vancouver Sun made similar points.

        This is all relevant because of the federal government’s upcoming role in the Garden City Lands issue. If you reject the current re-application to exclude the property from the ALR, that dormant federal role will suddenly become active again. The federal government is one of the parties to the MOU (the basic agreement), and it also entrusted title to the property to Canada Lands Company CLC for community benefit, as well as for government profit. Already, a few months ago, the Minister of Agriculture responded to our petition (the same petition that each of you received in the Save Garden City binders we delivered to the ALC office eight weeks ago). The minister was as supportive of an agricultural future for the Lands as protocol would permit. Now, if the federal government is further motivated so as to become involved again, it will expect the other parties to follow the agreement and the original intents in ways that keep the lands for agricultural (and ecological) purposes for community benefit . The two local MPs, backed by massive support from their constituents, are very likely to be able to generate that motivation, and they will do so in a way that is well informed.

        Enabling a green future for the Garden City Lands for ecological and food-security ends is a complex puzzle, but the Garden City Lands Coalition constantly envisions the puzzle picture and is doing its part to help fill in the pieces. Gaining a second local MP who will team with John Cummins (Dr. Wong’s fellow Conservative) to influence the federal government in a deeply committed way has fitted another piece into place. It means that you can be even more confident of congruent federal action if and when you decide to keep the Lands in the ALR.

1 Comment »

  1. 1
    Tsui Yuen Ming Says:

    Yes, keep the Garden City Lands in the ALR for the sake of ecological and food-security!

    Even if it cannot be fully utilised as urban farming ground, the residents of Richmond deserve and need open , green space to escape from the jampacked , high-rise downtown core. That is best “use ” of the land so far. Make sure no more high rise.

    The land gives every passing driver a moment of tranquiility out of the crazy hectice life, it is not worthless, it is priceless!

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