Legal analysis of Metro bylaw illegality re ALR

If you care about our future, read lawyer Andrew Gage’s legal analysis titled “Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy and ALR Lands.” Ironically, the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw is titled Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping Our Future. When you read the Gage analysis, you’ll become more aware of how Metro might be misshaping our future by placing itself above the law.

Lawyer Andrew Gage explains that Metro Vancouver first received a warning letter from the executive director of the Agricultural Land Commission, Brian Underhill, about violations of Section 46 of the ALC Act, but Metro ignored it. Then, well before the Metro board vote of January 14, 2011, commission chair Richard Bullock notified Metro to correct the illegality.

When Metro directors voted, the illegal parts were still in the bylaw—and the directors had been poorly informed. Andrew Gage states:

When the Metro Vancouver Board considered the RGS, staff summarized Mr. Bullock’s letters as part of the public submissions as relating to “mapping inconsistencies” – clearly an inadequate description of the serious legal concerns raised in that letter.

Metro Vancouver had tried a disclaimer, section 6.1.12:

In accordance with the Agricultural Land Commission Act, in the event that there is an inconsistency between the regional land use designations or policies set out in the Regional Growth Strategy and the requirements of the Agricultural Land Commission Act or regulations and orders made pursuant thereto, the Agricultural Land Commission requirements will prevail.

Since both Mr. Underhill and Mr. Bullock implicitly rejected it, it was obviously not a good excuse. However, Metro kept on repeating the excuse anyway. Andrew Gage provides patient details, but I like his final observation best:

We also note that the idea that a general acknowledgment of the existence of a legal requirement (and section 6.11.2 essentially just repeats the legal effect of section 46 of the Act) can give a person the ability to violate it at the specific level is a curious one. If correct it would mean that Metro Vancouver could designate all ALR lands for future industrial development, relying on section 6.11.2 to rectify the clear illegality. The concept is analogous to a person prefacing threats to another person with the words: “I know that it’s illegal to threaten you, so please disregard everything I’m about to say.” These results are clearly absurd.

When you read Andrew Gage’s legal opinion, I think you’ll agree that the Regional Growth Strategy bylaw blatantly violates the Agricultural Land Commission Act. It will be shameful if the bylaw somehow comes into effect without being thoroughly brought into compliance with the law of British Columbia.

When shaping our future, we can do better.

__________________________________________________________

Andrew Gage is the acting executive director of West Coast Environmental Law. His legal opinion re “Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy and ALR Lands” was provided to the Garden City Lands Coalition Society, based in Richmond, B.C., but with Friends of Garden City throughout Metro Vancouver and beyond.

Thank you, Andrew Gage and WCEL!

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