New agri-food committee would best be unpartisan

Update, March 13, 2015: The committee will hear submissions and respond to them at Williams Lake in the afternoon and evening of April 8, 2015. Good step!

Vicki Huntington, B.C. MLA and Vice Chair, Opposition Standing Committee on Agriculture and FoodUpdate, Jan 29, 2015:Independent MLA joins Opposition Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food,” says the headline of a media release, referring to MLA Vicki Huntington (left). It’s also what we suggested in this article six days ago.

I heard from the New Democrat agriculture leaders, MLAs Lana Popham and Nicholas Symons, and I gather from them that they were thinking that way all along. It’s great that they acted and Ms. Huntington accepted. Her years of advocacy for the environment and farmland make her a worthy vice chair.

The promising committee has clearly been in tune with informed community thinking from the beginning, and that bodes well for the six team members living up to the committee’s great potential. One can feel increasingly confident that the committee will effectively gather, analyze and act on informed input from the people of British Columbia. Congratulations on the great start, Lana and team!

_____

BC legislatureThe official opposition in the B.C. legislature has announced the Opposition Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food. The committee won’t have a direct effect on legislation, but it can bring together the informed opinions of farmers, consumers and everyone else who cares.

So far, there are five committee members (shown in order below):

  • Lana Popham, MLA Saanich South
  • Raj Chouhan, MLA Burnaby-Edmonds
  • Katrine Conroy, MLA Kootenay West
  • Robin Austin, MLA Skeena
  • Nicholas Simons, MLA Powell River-Sunshine Coast

Lana Popham MLARaj Chouhan MLAKatrine Conroy MLARobin Austin MLANicholasSimonsMLA

The announcement implies that Lana Popham is the chair. Her long record of informed leadership and consultation on issues of agriculture and food make her a good choice. The other committee members seem suitable too.

Unfortunately, all five of the announced members are NDP. That gives the committee an overly partisan appearance.

Vicki Huntington MLAAndrew Weaver MLAIt will be far less partisan and more effective if the NDP leader and Ms. Popham can persuade Vicki Huntington (Independent) and Andrew Weaver (Green) to accept positions on the committee, ideally with Ms. Huntington as vice chair. Both would bring commitment, expertise and skill to their roles.

Ms. Huntington is MLA for Delta South. Dr. Weaver is MLA for Oak Bay–Gordon Head. They would deserve highly respectful treatment from the committee’s NDP majority. Since neither would consent to becoming window dressing, the committee would need to go beyond politics to statesmanship.

Background: The B.C. legislature’s Select Standing Committee on Agriculture has not met since 2001, and it was especially missed when the irresponsible Bill 24, “the bill to kill the ALR,” was passed without public consultation in 2014.

Thanks to a new minister of agriculture, provincial treatment of agriculture has improved since then, but the harmful effects of the bill, now part of the Agricultural Land Commission Act, will linger unless and until most of the Bill 24 changes get changed for the better.

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