Shedding light on columnist’s anti-ALR fuming

For once, I’ve sent a letter to the editor in response to the fuming of Black Press columnist Tom Fletcher. The problem is that the facts mixed in with his opinions are incorrect ones. On an issue as important as the future of the Agricultural Land Reserve, the harmful impact on unsuspecting readers is a shame.

Fletcher began “Detailed debate on changes to the Agricultural Land Commission got underway in the legislature last week, while protesters. . . .” (More)

Here’s what I’ve just sent to the Richmond Review.
(Update, April 18: It is now in the Richmond Review asALR bill is a real threat to farmland.”)

Re: “Farmland fight sheds little light” column, April 16.

If passed into law, the current B.C. bill to kill the ALR would make the Agricultural Land Commission dependent on politicians. It would become a shabby bureaucracy, not a real tribunal.

With that plus the dismantling steps, the bill would make the provincial ALR zone as feeble as Metro Vancouver’s quasi-zones.

If the bill becomes law, farmland will only be safe when the local government acts responsibly. Even farmland-friendly places like Richmond will be at risk. As history shows, some councils can’t restrain themselves.

Contrary to the column, detailed debate on the bill to kill the ALR has not happened. The bill’s topic just came up a lot in the Committee of Supply (re budget estimates). If the bill goes to second reading (debate), there could be trench warfare, but at this stage the sides can be friendlier.

The column did get one thing right: there’s a new Minister of Agriculture, Norm Letnick. The premier will have discussed the anti-ALR fiasco with Letnick before appointing him.

It’s possible that Letnick has to extol the tainted anti-ALR fowl on his platter and force it on us all. More likely, his role is to make the smell go away. As a pleasant fellow who’s been agriculture minister before, he’s right for that.

Farmers and ranchers like being consulted. Logically, some genuine consultation will be planned soon. The people to lead it are the experts, the commission, with support from the minister and all MLAs.

The process would lead to updating of the ALR regulations, which need it. Many people will also want the Agricultural Land Commission to be made more robust so it can’t be attacked so easily again.

The current threat to the ALR is still at the door, and we must stay vigilant and active, but at least there’s now a way to deal with it.

Update, April 17, 5:30 p.m.: Judging from a Chilliwack Progress article, Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick has set up a meeting with farmers and ranchers next Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Reminder: Please sign the Thank You Richard Bullock online card of appreciation.

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