See what Bill 24 is and erase phoney messaging

Steve Vander Waal, chair of the BC Agriculture CouncilRe: Farm group reverses support for ALR bill, April 22*

B.C. Agriculture Council chair Stan Vander Waal (right) says the Agricultural Land Reserve bill is not what they were led to expect. The public have been misled too. Media reports of the ALR bill keep drawing on government messaging with the key phrase “protect farmland.” The bill* actually removes protection from nine-tenths of the ALR by opening it to almost anything else.

Supposedly too, the ALC “will remain a fully independent tribunal.” The bill actually imposes a mass of requirements that increase Ministry of Agriculture control of the ALC. The chair would not even be able to streamline the tribunal as current chair Richard Bullock has done, in keeping with the auditor general’s recommendations.

The bill also politicizes the ALR. For example, it would enable this government to quickly stack the ALC with laxer commissioners to reduce protection in the remaining one-tenth of the ALR. The chair has essentially been able to veto new commissioners, but the bill stops him from even being consulted.

That said, the government messaging is correct that the ALR-use regulations need updating. That will require require consultation, which the new minister* has promptly begun.

__________

* I sent this as a letter to the Sun yesterday, April 22.  It turns out that today I have a “Letter of the Day” in the Sun, but it is the one I sent last Friday, April 18. Since they’re not likely to publish the newer letter too, I’m publishing it here.

* You can read Bill 24 here and the BC Food Systems Network analysis here.

* The new Minister of Agriculture is Norm Letnick, who is also a former agriculture minister (2012-13) who obtained increased funding for the ALC.

Update, April 25, 2014: Minister Bill Bennett has, in effect, challenged Minister Norm Letnick. Bennett wants to ignore the BC Agriculture Council, public advice and Letnick and ram the bill into law. See “Minister says consultation will not change or delay ALR legislation.

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