Archive for the ‘News Analysis’ Category

The Fraser Estuary is trending well

June 14, 2017

There’s a promising trend for the Fraser Estuary, the union of mighty river and Salish Sea that begot the Richmond islands, much of Delta and more.

A citizens group and Ecojustice, along with Surrey and New Westminster, recently took the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to court. They are aiming to prevent the barging of immense amounts of thermal coal through the estuary. While we wait for a decision, we’re spared the hazards of dirty coal, and we can read an informative report here.

Another dire threat from the port is their proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2, a new artificial island of fill in the mouth of the estuary. (Click image for larger version.)
A federal review panel for the Terminal 2 plan keeps asking tough questions—this month with a focus on marine life. I’m impressed.

The port has announced that it’s now less intent on dredging the Fraser ship channel deeper. That may be part of the port’s strategy to get Terminal 2 approved, but it’s also an opportunity to stop harm to the estuary.

(Note: If the port doesn’t have to include the environmental impact of dredging as a “cumulative effect” of projects in the estuary, it has a better chance of getting Terminal 2 approved. After that assessment by review panel, the port could consider deeper dredging again.)

We trust a new government will listen well and sift through the old one’s half-decade of Massey Replacement content to find what’s ideal for transportation, safety and the environment.

They could revive the pre-Christy plan with extra insights.

The “Expanding the Tunnel” graphic shows the essence of it, with the eco-excellent “Green Tube” providing two new lanes.

That and the four-lane “Legacy Tube” would comprise the expanded Massey Tunnel in the Highway 99 corridor.

However, it could be best to place the Green Tube upriver, further east, as a new tunnel.

In that case, it could connect with Richmond’s Nelson Road, which leads into Highway 91, with just a minimal effect on farmland.

Either way, the aim is to increase the transit capacity by two lanes. (The Green Tube may not be directly used for transit but enables it.)

At least to begin with, Rapid Buses are the likely mode, planned long ago.

The Green Tube is the urgent need. Done fast and well, it could initially divert traffic from the Legacy Tube to expedite the many overdue and near-due renovations. (Legacy lanes could close for the work, a pair at a time.)

After the external phase of the seismic retrofit, that would entail refurbishing of the Legacy Tube with a new ventilation system, installing of ceramic tile throughout, renewal of the in-tunnel transmission line, and other refinements.

Beyond the tunnel, the renewal would include the seismic retrofit of highway approaches, as well as better overpasses and interchanges. That is described in the Phase 2 Guide for the Massey Project and shown here. (Click to enlarge.)

I’ve addressed the obvious, but the new government may do better. Perhaps, for example, they’ll work with the port toward extended operating hours that help reduce the route-clogging port traffic at peak hours.

A fast-tracked BC environmental assessment would be great. The previous Massey Replacement assessment seemed to skirt the process, but I picture this one embracing it.

In short, we humans are getting in tune with the estuary. Hurray!

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Notes: This blog includes an extensive Massey Project section.
For an overview of threats to the estuary, see Let the Fraser Live.

Christy Clark, Andrew Weaver and thermal coal

April 30, 2017

Just before the main election debate for BC party leaders, Christy Clark sent Justin Trudeau a dirty coal letter. Whether or not the two were in cahoots, it is highly political. It seems crafted to save seats in the BC legislature, not BC jobs.

It says, “I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.”

As an old saying goes, “Who’d have thunk it?”

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Of course, Clark excels at dramatic timing, and she used it to grab the limelight on debate day while prodding Trudeau to do a hatchet job. Still, it is a stunning gambit when a cheerleader for coal, bitumen and LNG turns green.

Clark’s commitment is suspect, but in essence the promise is welcome.

That said, the ban has a cost if Trudeau accepts the mission. It will cost the jobs of Canadians and Americans who mine thermal coal, not just Canadians who ship it.

And Clark vows to enforce it herself if Trudeau falters, using a high tax on exports of thermal coal, even from Alberta. To her credit, at least she is honing her trade-war tactics on nice Canadian neighbours before nipping at Donald Trump to make him behave.

In that vein, Clark implies she has crafted a bargaining chip to combat Trumpian lumber tariffs. However, her ban has left nothing to tempt the Americans to be fair. Perhaps the whole thing is play-acting as an election ploy or bargaining ploy. Whatever else, it is bunkum.

In reality, the American lumber lobby that ceaselessly preys on our lumber sector is anything but playful. If Clark instigates a hostile alliance of US coal and lumber, we might end up with BC lumber shut out of the US market.

Fortunately, American homebuilders want our lumber for their own sake. Also, Canadian companies have hedged by buying into the American lumber industry. That is comforting, but less so for Canadian workers than for shareholders.

Ms. Clark has opened quite the can of worms, which are muddy and tangled and who knows what else. Is there a reset button to push?

Possibly.

With her opportunistic approach to thermal coal, Clark contrasts with the steady Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party. He has funneled the passion of a values-driven movement into a viable political force. He espouses substance, but his affable nature gives him just enough style.

After the throne speech in 2014, Dr. Weaver proposed an amendment that the government explore all means to “halt the expansion of thermal coal exports in British Columbia.” Sadly, MLAs reacted as party automatons, so Weaver got squelched, 73 to 1. Ouch!

In his post-political way, Weaver stayed collaborative. If more MLAs had stood up for their constituents and aimed for consensus, we could be well along by now.

After all, BC’s grassroots movement that rejects dirty coal is very large and informed, and local governments pitch in. The momentum was free for the taking long before Clark got the impulse to surf it.

In what might have been, the phase-out of thermal coal exports from BC ports would be humming along. Meanwhile, the work ethic of former coal workers would be fueling the new economy, as described in Weaver’s platform. That ship has sailed, but a new cruise is possible, perhaps with a new skipper.

Weaver’s response to the recent Clark letter amounts to support in principle. It means the two leaders are well placed to share expectations and meet them together. Voters willing, they could soon begin with a thermal-coal transition plan, with a focus on jobs but a range of economic and ecological outcomes.

They would best forego any irritating direct linkage with softwood lumber. Instead, our province could take the goodwill from the diplomatic phase-out of thermal coal and bring it into a culture of teamwork with the state of Washington, including joint action to conserve and restore the Salish Sea.

All along, Weaver has known that Clark’s intended George Massey Tunnel removal would, by design, enable a mega increase in BC’s shipping of thermal coal, but he wisely does not cry “Hypocrite!”.

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For alternative views, see the insightful analyses thermal coal export ban promise by Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight and Kevin Washbrook in the National Observer. Smith has also written an enlightening column that, in effect, compared the views of the BC party leaders on the promise.

The NDP has been quiet on this issue. John Horgan has pointed out that Christy Clark had years to act on thermal coal and that Clark’s threats of retaliation are an irresponsible approach to the softwood lumber issue.

Trudeau gov’t favours dirty U.S. coal, not our agriculture and eco-rich river?

October 13, 2016

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Canadian Minister of Agriculture“Port development trumps agriculture: federal minister MacAulay” says the headline of Country life in BC, October 2016. It adds, “Senior level of gov’t has the right to exclude BC farms from land reserve.” Breathtaking, like a sucker punch to the solar plexus.

A bit of relief begins with the date of his comment, September 12, two weeks before Steveston–Richmond East MP Joe Peschisolido hosted Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (right), along with many Richmond citizens, at Richmond Country Farms  on September 25. MacAulay is Agriculture Minister in the Trudeau government.

As far as I can tell, Joe Peschisolido is trying hard to represent his constituents. When Joe introduced me to the minister, I tried to share a little related insight (with little response), and Joe told me later that he had turned that into an opportunity to explain our Richmond/BC perspective.

So far I’ve seen no tangible result, but I’m still hoping that something is in the works, especially since the threat of deep dredging of the Fraser River ship channel is so closely tied to the still-absent federal environmental assessment of the “Port Metro Bridge” project.

I’ll share the main part of the Country Life article below and then an outstanding letter to the minister and others from Susan Jones of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee and then a link to an also-excellent Stephen Rees blog post.

clife_lmacaulay

Here’s the letter from Susan Jones to the minister, prime minster et al.:

Federal Liberal Government misled by Port of Vancouver misinformation

It is alarming that the new Liberal Government of Canada is being completely misled by the Port of Vancouver.  

It is difficult to believe the statements by the federal Minister of Agriculture, Lawrence MacAulay in reference to B.C. agricultural land protected by the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve: “Lower Mainland farmland could be sacrificed to ensure agri-food exports can move to market quickly and efficiently, federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay told Country Life in BC” (“Port Development trumps B.C. agriculture: federal minister MacAulay, Country Life in B.C., October 2016).”

Canada wants to increase export-ready agri-food exports to China and other Asian countries.  It is ironic that the Port of Vancouver claims it needs to industrialize Canada’s best farmland in order to export agricultural products.

There is no evidence to support the claim that we need to industrialize farmland.  This is a ploy by the Port of Vancouver to expand its real estate holdings which will enrich the crown corporation and associates.  It has nothing to do with sensible port business.

Exporting agricultural products has been, and continues to be, important to the Canadian economy.  It can continue without using the precious 5% B.C. farmland.  

The largest increase in agricultural exports is wheat and other grains, which are being accommodated by a new massive grain terminal in North Vancouver.

In terms of processed foods, which were stressed in the article, Vancouver exported 20% more tonnage in 2010 than in 2015.

Fraser Surrey Docks is a wonderful terminal with a large stretch of industrial land which is ideal for the export of specialty crops and processed foods.  The current plans for funneling dirty US thermal coal through this great site are uneconomical and a waste of our precious port lands.             

The Prime Minister and federal Ministers of Agriculture, Transport, Natural Resources, Environment, Fisheries, and Trade don’t seem to be aware they are being duped by the Port of Vancouver.  Isn’t it time to stop listening to paid lobbyists and old guard civil servants and advisors? 

Isn’t it time to listen to public concerns about protecting the ecosystems of the Fraser River delta which interactively support the world’s best salmon river, Canada’s rich farmland, and Canada’s Most Important Bird Area for shorebirds, waterfowl and birds of prey?

For further insight, see Stephen Rees’s blog post, “Port development trumps agriculture.”

Leonard 1, Langford 0, but “It ain’t over. . . .”

July 5, 2015

Frank Leonard isn't out of the woods yetFrank Leonard, as the newish chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, has handled an early challenge well. Langford tried to negotiate a way for owners of Agricultural Land Reserve properties to buy exclusions from the ALR, which is a provincial land-use zone, although they wouldn’t actually pay the province.

The property owners buying exclusions would supposedly pay into an imagined farm-friendly Langford amenity fund, but not necessarily. The rezoning payment—to Langford—would only happen on the occasion of the city further rezoning the excluded land for development. It’s like a 2-for-1 deal, with two exclusions for one payment.

Leonard responded that the ALC would not consider the proposed amenity considerations when making decisions. Good!

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Langford,B.C., in the Capital RegionThat’s the gist of it. Here is some background, along with some links in case you wish to go into depth.

The city of Langford is east of Victoria and Saanich in B.C.’s Capital Region, as shown. (Click the image for a larger version.)

Its council has long stood out, like a sore thumb, as unfriendly to the ALR. It’s no surprise they’ve been quick to test Leonard.

For many years, Frank Leonard was mayor of nearby Saanich, so he knows the Langford situation. If he had gone along with the proposal, it would not have been a misunderstanding, and Leonard and Langford would have inflicted a blow to the ALR. In contrast, Leonard’s dismissal of the idea shows he is doing his job.

I was cautiously optimistic about Leonard in an earlier article, “How is Frank Leonard a viable ALR chair?” It’s still too early to make judgments, but I am typing with a smile.

In the past few weeks, the Times Colonist has published four informative pieces on Langford council’s gambit, the Leonard response and the council’s decision to keep going in the wrong direction:

How Langford could reshape the future of agricultural land

Editorial: Leonard must defend farmland

Agricultural Land Commission won’t accept farm cash for ALR removal

Langford presses ahead on cash-for-ALR-land plan

For a detailed sense of the context, visit our “Bill 24” section, since this is all connected to the “bill to kill the ALR.”

Kitty Liu on our Salmon Festival success

July 2, 2015

Kitty Liu, Director, Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond, B.C.Garden City Conservation Society director Kitty Liu (shown at right) has shared this open letter of gratefulness for the success of our 2015 Canada Day booth at the Steveston Salmon Festival in Richmond, B.C. Kitty was the team leader for the event.

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Happy Canada Day, everyone! That’s what we had, a happy Canada Day, at the Steveston Salmon Festival on Wednesday, July 1. It was a fun day to enjoy being fellow Canadians.

It was so great to see so many of you people from Richmond and all over when you came by to visit us at the Garden City Conservation Society (GCCS) booth at the Salmon Festival. What a perfect opportunity it was to see new faces and grow in awareness of the cause we care about—the conservation of our natural legacies.

We also got to mingle and build stronger networks with others who had community booths in the same area at Steveston Park. At setup time, the groups worked together to spread things out so there was room for all the tents. Then, on a day of strong winds catching the tents like sails, we and our neighbours worked together to get the tents raised and stable. Nature’s challenge for us became an occasion for harmony in the spirit of Canada Day.

For the Garden City Conservation Society, the event was an occasion to celebrate what the Friends of Garden City have accomplished together. Beginning with that setup experience, our booth embodied a generous spirit in doing whatever is needed to reach shared goals. It all went so well because of the GCCS directors and volunteers and visitors who joined in.

From beginning to end, I as the team leader had so many reasons to give thanks. Here are some examples, with a focus on people:

Volunteer Lynda ter Borg – our amazing hero – began working hard on the pre-event evening, picking up the tent, signs, tables and chairs, etc., from several places and bringing them to the Salmon Festival site. Early on Canada Day, she was back, bringing additional items and helping set up the tent. Lynda stayed all day, taking part, giving me confidence, and helping dismantle our booth before returning everything we had borrowed.

Jim Wright, our president, developed our event materials and organized them in a big box as a kit that was customized for the event, and he was always ready to explain anything I needed to know.

Daniel Leung, a founding GCCS director and still a Friend of Garden City, was our neighbour with a booth about prostate cancer awareness. When we had no pegs for our tent, he decided to use one peg per corner leg, instead of two, on his group’s tent. He then lent the pegs he’d removed to us for the day. Thanks to Daniel, our tent didn’t fly away, and we’re very glad that his tent survived too.

Some other neighbours who helped us tie things down were Check Your Head (a youth justice group) and the Liberal Party of Canada. For our part, we acted in the same spirit for other groups.

Sharon MacGougan, our vice president, patiently helped the volunteers and welcomed new Friends of Garden City.

Volunteer Eldon Lin, who is an SFU engineering student, was our superstar, energetically interacting with the public and transferring his outgoing enthusiasm to them as well.

Krishna Sharma, a GCCS director and agricultural scientist, brought his grandchildren Krishangi, 12, and Aishani, 8, to take part at the booth with him in the afternoon.

 Krishna said they have been helping him at the Sharing Farm with seed saving and climate adaptation study, so they have hands-on knowledge about conservation and food security.

Krishangi Dandapure at left

At the Salmon Festival, they set a very nice example. That’s Krishangi trying the approach of holding up a big Save Garden City logo (at left in the above photo).

Michael Wolfe, another GCCS director, had spent the morning with the Green Party’s float in the Salmon Festival parade, and he came by as soon as he finished that to help staff the booth.
Michael, who is a conservation biology teacher, leads our eco-tours, and he let people know about the upcoming tour of July 7.

Councillor Carol Day, who is a former GCCS director, had created our various pieces of signage years ago, and she provided it from where she stores it, along with her tent/canopy and other equipment, all useful.

Director John ter Borg, our treasurer, had arranged our event registration and insurance and managed to help even though he needed to be in northern British Columbia.

People like you. The event happened so smoothly and well because people like these were so unselfish and joyful about doing their part. I know there are lots of others who quietly did things to help, because everyone was trying to help us do well, not to get credit for themselves. Congratulations to all of you, because the success was your success.

Thank you all for showing support in what we do. Hope to see you all again at the East Entrance of the Garden City Lands at the July 7 tour on Tuesday.

Small pro-ALR actions mount up

June 28, 2015

BCALRcitiesAs you may recall, the Agricultural Land Reserve has been at risk from an anti-ALR faction in the provincial government. We in Richmond keep doing what we can, and it does pay off for the common good. (Note: B.C.’s ALR farmland is shown in green at right.)

As attorney general a few years ago, Geoff Plant of Richmond bolstered the Administrative Tribunals Act. That was to stop governments from dismissing tribunal members without cause or curbing their independence.

When Richard Bullock, chair of the ALR’s tribunal, was fired without cause anyway, we asked West Coast Environmental Law to look into it. They termed it “illegal,” and they wrote the premier about remedies. That will add to Richard Bullock’s moral authority.

Lately the government released its revised ALR regulations. They’re consistent enough with earlier findings from wide and essentially well-done consultation. It revealed that B.C.’s farmers/ranchers, local governments and citizens—like us in Richmond—want a robust ALR. On balance, the new regulations cushion the harm from the anti-ALR bill that the anti-ALR faction managed to force into law last year.

Among other actions, many Richmond citizens have signed the online “Thank You Richard Bullock” card, as requested in my “Standing strong in the bizarre saga of the ALR” column. There are now almost 1,500 signatures of individuals and couples. Each time Richard and his wife Jacqueline receive the card with more signers, they read the names and think about the places and comments. We’re simply treating good people in the way they deserve, but success will come from it too.

Just days ago, Richard and Jacqui told us this: “It is a humbling experience to know that people really do care and really are concerned about our food and agriculture land in this province. We want you to know that the fight is not over and we will do everything humanly possible to insure the safety of our food and the preservation of our farmlands in British Columbia.”

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This post, which builds on Standing strong in the bizarre saga of the ALR,” my Richmond Review column of May 20 that is also on this blog, appeared as a letter in the Richmond Review of June 26 but not yet in the online Review. Just scroll down for more-detailed earlier blog articles on this topic.

2015 ALR regulations reflect Letnick’s consultation

June 23, 2015

Norm Letnick and supporterIn the intra-cabinet struggle over B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve, pro-ALR Norm Letnick, the agriculture minister, has managed to shake off the B.C. cabinet’s anti-ALR faction. That’s evident in the 2015 ALR regulations that are finally public, although it’s too bad he had to terminate ALC Chair Richard Bullock in the bargain.

Previously, in the “Bill 24” section of this blog, I have written favourably about the way Letnick and his ministry team consulted with stakeholders about proposed changes last summer. Naturally the process wasn’t perfect, but it was an immense improvement over the consultation for last spring’s Bill 24, “the bill to kill the ALR.” (Until Letnick became minister at a very late stage, the main consultation consisted of an anti-ALR minister griping with his buddies.)

Although most of the revised regulations are not directly related to the bill to kill the ALR, they will generally reduce the harm from it. That is in keeping with what all the main groups of stakeholders told the Ministry of Agriculture when he was finally in a position to consult them. In the context of genuine consultation, the final step embodied in the regulations shows that Letnick and staff were not just letting people blow off steam but instead were listening in order to act heedfully. There is still a long uphill fight to protect the ALR after the 2014 legislative attack on it, but the final step in the genuine consultation gives reason for hope.

The relatively good new regulations are especially a reason to congratulate all the citizens in British Columbia and beyond who have made their voices heard. While we appreciate those who have listened, a great deal of credit belongs to those who made the strong case that was finally heard. The people spoke out in great numbers with a clear message.

The huge progress so far has been hard won. Let’s celebrate and then proceed with renewed vigour.

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It is hard to find a useful media commentary about the changes. However, the BC Food Systems Network has released an excellent analysis this morning. I don’t see it on the BCFSN website or on Facebook, so here’s the BCFSN news release in PDF. For now at least, I’ll also provide the body of the news release here (below in green) for those who prefer to read it on a web page.

BCFSN News release:
B
C Food Systems Network cautious about new farmland regulations

Vancouver, June 23, 2015 – “We’ve been waiting to exhale,” says Brent Mansfield, Director of the BC Food Systems Network, which represents hundreds of food growers and food security advocates around BC. He is referring to the recently announced changes to regulations under the Agricultural Land Commission Act, which have been pending for nine months.

The Act itself went through significant change in May 2014, over widespread public opposition. The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was divided into two zones and changes were made to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC)’s decision making criteria and structure: six regional panels replaced a single provincial Commission.

Then, in July and August 2014, the provincial government consulted with selected stakeholders on 11 proposed regulatory changes related to activities that could be allowed on farmland without involvement of the ALC. “We were very concerned about some of the government’s proposals which would have opened up ALR land to significant abuse, bypassing the ALC,” says Mansfield. “We are relieved that the most threatening proposals were not adopted and that the Minister heeded concerns raised by stakeholders.”

The new regulations encourage value-adding activities by co-ops and apply the same rules as wineries to breweries, distilleries and meaderies. They will allow landowners to lease portions of their land for agricultural production, and in Zone 2 they introduce, with conditions, life-term leases for retiring farmers, and second single-family dwellings for family or rental income.

Mansfield goes on, “we recognize several of these provisions as good ideas in principle. However we have some outstanding concerns about the leasing options and the second dwelling option, since there will be no supervision from the ALC. We question how and by whom the regulatory conditions will be applied. Could all these provisions apply on one property? If so, how many residences will be possible on a farm? How will impacts on farming be monitored? Will there be any follow-up if there are problems?

“Overall,” says Mansfield “especially given the changes to the Act, we remain very concerned about the direction in which BC farmland protection policy is going. Six regional panels are more susceptible than a single Commission to local development pressures. The two zones and additional decision-making criteria all point to a loosening of oversight and protection of BC’s farmland. The issue of enforcement has not been re-visited.

Finally, the abrupt firing in May of ALC Chair Richard Bullock, six months before the end of his term, increases our unease. Mr Bullock followed the ALC’s mandate and did the job expected of him by the public – protecting farmland with a view to BC’s future farmland and food needs. We will have to wait and see how the legislative and regulatory changes to the ALC play out.”

Trust of farmers and protection of farmland for farming are values esteemed highly by BC citizens, as shown in a September 2014 public opinion poll issued by the Real Estate Foundation and Vancouver Foundation. Farming, growing food and natural freshwater systems rated top priority for land use; loss or development of farmland as top agricultural issue; and reliance on BC food as top food concern. A full 95% of respondents support or strongly support the ALR to preserve BC’s farmland.

How is Frank Leonard a viable ALR chair?

June 8, 2015
Bill Bennett, Frank Leonard and Richard Bullock

Bill Bennett, Frank Leonard and Richard Bullock

Richard Bullock, the unlawfully fired chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, has wished the best to the person put into his job. Taking the Bullock cue, it’s fitting to wish the best to new ALC chair Frank Leonard.

Still, we’re alert to whether he’ll be a real protector of ALR farmland or a Bennett in Bullock clothing:

  • “Bennett” is Bill Bennett, the bombastic cabinet minister with a long-time crusade against the ALR, as you can see via a search for his name on this blog.
  • Bullock, along with founding ALC chair Gary Runka, is the gold standard for service in that role.

Interviews with Frank Leonard illustrate how hard it is to know what to make of him. Let’s look at an early one, a CBC Radio West interview soon after he was appointed. (It’s dated May 16, 2015.)

Interviewer: In your role now, what will you do, what sort of tack will you take, to ensure that farmland in B.C. is protected?

Frank Leonard: Well, that’s our mandate.

After a bit of wandering, more Frank Leonard: The best way, of course, for them to be preserved is for them to be financially viable too. And many times I hear from owners of farmland, ALR land especially, that they feel they’re carrying a burden for the rest of society, that they can’t earn a living off it, that they have to do other things in their lives to almost moonlight as a farmer, and I want to talk to those folks and help them make it economically viable, and if it’s viable, then the pressure on trying to take it out of the ALR is taken away in my view. So that may be naïve or idealistic, but in the time I have to be chair of the commission, that will be part of my guiding principles.

In a Justine Hunter interview in The Globe and Mail, half a month later (June 2, 2015), Leonard is on the same viability theme. In essence, his carefully chosen words are the same.

Of course, viable in an ALR context has always been code for “economically most lucrative.” A Bennett would allow weasel-word “viability” as grounds for excluding ALR land or allowing incompatible uses to take it over. In contrast, a Bullock wouldn’t abide that.

Frank Leonard is evidently trying to give the impression that he wouldn’t either. Instead, he indicates that he wants to help farmers to make a good living from farming ALR land. That would clearly be in keeping with the purposes of the Agricultural Land Commission. Bullock-like.

However, Leonard’s farmer-as-victim examples are vintage Bennett, whose idea of consulting to gut the Agricultural Land Commission Act was to sit around griping about the ALR with his farmland-owning buddies who don’t want to farm.

It definitely isn’t fair to assume that Frank Leonard is a lapdog for Bennett and the anti-ALR faction with far too much sway in the provincial government. Whether he will rise to the occasion, as ALC chairs typically do, still remains to be seen, but it is certainly possible.

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Postscript—this writer’s optimism:

Like Frank Leonard, I don’t want to be naïve and will keep an open mind. However, I’m optimistic for an unusual kind of reason: his background as a Kal Tire manager.

Long ago, I happened to help Kal Tire with a workforce performance improvement project prompted by their intent to expand fast, which meant coming up with a lot of additional managers who would maintain their high standards. I found that Kal Tire didn’t need to do much more than revise their store operations manual to make it a great job aid, and it was pleasantly interesting to work with their VP of stores to do that.

Their president was still co-founder Tom Foord, past retirement age but loving his work and encouraging the whole Kal Tire team to make a profit so Kal Tire could continue to provide good service. From the personal experience, I actually found that ideal to be believable.

Far from thinking that the Kal Tire background is irrelevant for Frank Leonard in his new role, I’d like to think he’s still a Kal Tire manager at heart. In that case, he’ll be far more of a Bullock than a Bennett.

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Thank You Richard Bullock card: You can still sign a virtual card to express support for Richard Bullock, who did such a great job for the people of British Columbia as a true champion of farmland and farming families. Please do so. For background, you could read “Standing strong in the bizarre saga of the ALR.”

Response to Port Metro land use plan

February 10, 2015

Update after March 16 council committee meeting: Amarjeet Rattan, Richmond’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, presented a proposal to seek broad support for a follow-up resolution to curb port land use that conflicts with local and provincial zoning and land use plans. The committee agreed. No doubt it will go to the next council meeting, March 23, to be ratified.

Richmond will seek further action with the unions of municipalities for the Lower Mainland, B.C. and Canada.  Excellent progress, Amarjeet Rattan!

Roy-Sakata-speaking 2Update after the Richmond council meeting:
All went well, with citizen Roy Sakata (shown at right) bringing in the estuary conservation aspect and the City of Richmond at least talking a good fight. I was impressed that Richmond’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Amardeep Rattan, approach me after the discussion to exchange business cards, establishing a cooperative relationship. 

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The Garden City Conservation Society commends the City of Richmond response to Port Metro’s land use plan. These are my notes for speaking to Richmond Council about it on behalf of the society.

We commend the City of Richmond response to Port Metro’s land use plan, with its implicit long-term intent to turn large areas of our agricultural land into industrial land. In that way, Port Metro is already turning prime parts of British Columbia’s agricultural land bank into its own industrial land bank.

Garden City Conservation wants to enable informed public support for your current action for agricultural and environmental conservation, along with the follow-up action that is bound to be needed.

Along with you, we want to alert the public to implications of the Port Metro plan for the Fraser Estuary and Richmond agriculture. To illustrate the challenge, I’ll focus on agriculture and mention five of the threats to it:

  1. First, the Port Metro Land Use Plan threatens our food security, especially since shipped-in food is not-at-all secure.
  2. Second, it threatens Richmond farming, one of our core industries.
  3. Third, it threatens our identity as the Garden City with a cherished agricultural heritage.
  4. Fourth, it undermines the Agricultural Land Commission role.
  5. Fifth, it undermines the role of our local government, your role.

That’s a lot of reasons for some of the City of Richmond’s proposed action but also a lot for anyone to quickly grasp.

Your proposed action cuts through to the chronic disorder that fosters the Port Metro threats to our agriculture: Port Metro acts like a law unto itself. In contrast, the City of Richmond action would make Port Metro more accountable—less a law unto itself. To have a chance, the city and its allies like Garden City Conservation must build powerful public support. I’ve earlier shown how the threats are overwhelming and not so easy to quickly grasp, but we do see ways to succeed.

For a start, the City of Richmond itself will need to clearly exceed the standards it expects of Port Metro. For context, we remind you that we’ve often had to ask council to respect ALR values. For a year and a half, for instance, we had to keep asking council to require Metro Vancouver’s land use map to show all of our ALR land with ALR designations, not a contra-ALR one. These days, fortunately, the trend gives hope.

Harold Steves and belted Galloway on the Steve farm at the west dikeA great step would be to make respect for the ALR more prominent in our civic culture by celebrating the ALR in its birthplace. Maybe the place for that is the kitchen table in Kathy and Harold Steves’ farmhouse with their belted Galloways nearby for ambience. Or it could be on the Garden City Lands. In any case, our museum has shown that we know how to celebrate our agriculture well.

The point is to treat the ALR as a godsend that we love—never as obstacles the city is trying to get around. When Richmond celebrates the ALR, the need will be felt. That will bring a surge of community desire to make Port Metro accountable, with hands off our farms.

For now, we wish you good progress.

New agri-food committee would best be unpartisan

January 23, 2015

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!

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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.

A step to contain aquaculture

October 19, 2014

Lusha Zhou has reminded us to respond to proposed federal regulations about aquaculture by Wednesday, October 22, 2014. Lusha, 23, is a Friend of Garden City who is currently doing MA studies at the University of Toronto. Here’s Lusha:

Lusha ZhouThe proposed Aquaculture Activities Regulations have a lot of terms like “deposit” and “control” in order to make it easier for the aquaculture industry to harvest their kill. This jargon really translates to dumping chemicals into waterways. Why not practice in sustainable methods?

We will be healthier if the fish we consume have less chemicals from the waters they live in. May I also remind Stephen Harper that Canada’s motto is A Mari Usque Ad Mare, and shame on him for not protecting our geography from sea to sea.

If you do not like paying taxes to a government that irresponsibly deregulates its industries, please write to Fisheries and Oceans Canada by October 22.

Email: fpptr-rtppp@dfo-mpo.gc.ca. Fax: 613-993-8607.
Mail: Ed Porter, Manager, Aquaculture Policy and Regulatory Initiatives, 200 Kent Street, Room 8N187, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E6.

Thanks for sharing that, Lusha!

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The Garden City Conservation Society sent this letter. It draws on the analytical letter by lawyer Anna Johnston of West Coast Environmental Law.

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To keep up to date on B.C. aquaculture issues, read Alexandra Morton’s blog.

The Blue Dot is hot—in Richmond

October 16, 2014

Update, March 20, 2015: We have now been informed that Victoria city council is bringing the environmental bill of rights to their area association and, with any luck, from there to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Update, March 19, 2015: On Sunday, April 19, Richmond Blue Dot will extend a broad welcome to the Richmond celebration of “Connect the Blue Dots—A national day of community action.” Details soon.

Update, March 18, 2015: Richmond will be urging the Lower Mainland Local Government Association to ask the provincial government to enact a provincial environmental bill of rights. It includes the Right to a Healthy Environment that Richmond adopted last October 14, becoming a model for Canadian municipalities. It also goes further, as shown in this report from Amarjeet Rattan, Richmond’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. It has been ratified by committee, and it’s likely to be ratified by council on March 23. Great work, council and staff, in proactively furthering the Right to a Healthy Environment! 

Richmond Blue Dot team

When hot means popular, it’s great that the Blue Dot is hot in Richmond, British Columbia. It means that the community is behind the Right to a Healthy Environment in Canada and on Planet Earth, which (as seen from space) is a blue dot.

Lots of citizens in blue showed the strength of the Blue Dot campaign the Right to Healthy Environment at the Richmond council meeting of Tuesday, October 14. They included the group of Richmond Blue Dot campaigners shown above, displaying signed cards of support. National organizer Sophika Kostyniuk is in front of the Richmond Blue Dot Movement sign  with her young daughter.

In a positive and collaborative spirit, we experienced an excellent presentation by Sophika Kostyniuk and three young people, then several citizen follow-ups, and finally council follow-ups by every member there. I think that Richmond is the first small or mid-size city in Canada to take that step. (Congratulations to Montreal for being the first large city to act.)

Sophika has described the event in a Blue Dot blog article that includes this:

On October 14, Richmond city council unanimously adopted a declaration in support of the Right to a Healthy Environment, ensuring that access to fresh air, clean water and healthy food guides the community’s direction.

The residents of Richmond have clearly demonstrated that citizens have the power to positively transform their community by gathering around a key issue and amplifying a hopeful message. (more here)

You can watch the relevant Richmond council meeting online. The Blue Dot presentations begin at 00:19:25. Council discussion about the Right to a Healthy Environment begins at 00:37:00.

You can read other articles on this blog about the Blue Dot movement and the Right to a Healthy Environment by clicking on the Blue Dot Right category.

World Food Week—Oct 16–23, 2014

October 16, 2014

Today, October 16, 2014, is the annual World Food Day.

Food by the Numbers

To celebrate, National Geographic invites the world to view a video. When I watched, the two-minute investment included an opening commercial, which coincidentally fit well because it built up to this:

What if everywhere you went [pause] you experienced so much more than you expected.

That will happen with food if we work toward what the video proposes, which is more productive and efficient use of the farmland and food we already have available.

Here’s the video: Food by the Numbers: Feeding Our Hungry Planet.

This is important, so let’s be generous and give it a bonus week. Celebrate World Food Week, October 16–23 or for as long as you want.

Hello, new ALC South Coast Panel

October 8, 2014

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick has announced the make-up of the six regional panels of the Agricultural Land Commission. Only six of the 18 appointees (vice chairs and other commissioners) are holdovers on the commission, and one of those will be replaced in December.

The news release provides brief bios. It’s hard to see how some of the appointees are qualified, but we just have to trust the selection process.

One of the senseless changes to the ALC Act in this year’s Bill 24, the bill to kill the ALR (unsuccessfully so far), was the removal of the ALC chair’s role in consulting on such appointments. I hope he was consulted anyway—and will have a key role in a great deal of orientation.

Bill Zylmans with strawberries

The panel for the South Coast Region, which includes Metro Vancouver, is chaired by the amiable William Zylmans of W & A Farms.

Bill is famous for his potatoes and strawberries (at right), and he has chaired Richmond’s Agricultural Advisory Committee for years.

Satwinder BainsThe two commissioners with Bill Zylmans on the ALC South Coast Panel include Gordon McCallum of Cloverdale, who is a retired elementary school principal. He is also a Lions Club member. (So far, no luck in finding a photo.)

The other is Satwinder Bains of Abbotsford, who is director of the Centre for Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. She is a PhD candidate with expertise in cross-cultural communication and community development.

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A related note: I was almost amused by the no-chance-lost pushing of talking points that’s evident from the title of the press release, “Regional panels named to make ALC decisions at local level.” The “ALC decisions at a local level” part can sound good at first, especially with the “Us against the Lower Mainland” mentality that the Bill 24 ministers (Bill Bennett and Pat Pimm) played to. However, one of the main reasons the ALR—a provincial zone, not a local one—was needed was the daunting challenge  for local governments coping with the well-funded power of big developers intent on making a fortune from the rezoning of farmland.

Pleasant thoughts about climate change

October 4, 2014

Make a World of Difference is a video to get people dreaming of a world that has adapted to climate change by affecting it for the better. The video, which Morgan Freeman narrated, opened the recent United Nations Summit on Climate Change. After posting a link to it on the Garden City Conservation Facebook page, I got an idea for a Google image search, and it netted this cartoon with a different viewpoint:

ice age, from the August Chronicle

Clever! Of course, the Neanderthals who may have been affected by “ice age ending” ten or twelve thousand years ago didn’t significantly cause the change, even though they did face the need to adapt, as we do.

This seems like a good time to look back at a cartoon for the UN climate change summit a couple of years ago. No comment needed?

create a better world for nothing

Have your say in Society Act consultation

September 30, 2014

Update, March 26, 2015: The B.C. government has listened! The revised Society Act incorporates our request by removing the serious problem that we helped to identify. For details, see the West Coast Environmental Law Analysis here, and then please write to the minister, the opposition critic and your MLA here.

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“Proposed BC Societies Act could invite litigation against non-profits.” That title for a West Coast Environmental Law environmental alert captures the essence of a problem.

uneven-scaleThe key proposal is highly relevant to societies like the Garden City Conservation Society that sometimes have to take on powerful entities. With the inequality in resources and the low standard for taking legal action, it is inevitable that the powerful would use the weapon that the government is proposing to hand them.

Lawyer Andrew Gage’s legal analysis is insightful about the proposed new Society Act. In addition, the article provides an efficient means to send an email response. Have a look at it!

The Society White Paper Consultation is introduced on the Ministry of Finance site, with a link to the white paper, which highlights the proposed changes. The site alos indicates how to respond. Be sure to act before the deadline, Wednesday, October 15.

Please also consider singing the petition started by Bertrand Lau, who deserves support for making the effort.

As it happens, by the way, I was quoted on this topic in a Tyee article, Sep 29, 2014.

Navigating the Ecological Network Survey

September 22, 2014

The City of Richmond’s “Ecological Network Survey” is open until Friday, September 26, 2014. It is a supposed to be an important consultation step. If you’re thinking of taking part, here are a few points to be aware of:

  1. Ecological Network Management-StrategyAs shown at right, there is an easy-to-miss “Sign in” link. (It’s on the right side of the green bar at the beginning, just above the Search box.) If you sign in when you start, it may save you an awkward sign-in step at the end.
  2. There are questions where it’s probably best to select all the answers, rather than get drawn into false distinctions. That applies to questions 2 and 3. In question 2, for instance, clean air, water and soil are at a more basic level than the other answers and therefore not really comparable with them.
  3. For at least question 5, I felt it was best to pick out just one most important goal, “Engage through stewardship and collaboration.” That way the planners can report back to council that the citizens clearly want stewardship and collaboration.
  4. The survey seems designed to funnel respondents into volunteer work as stewardship. In practical reality, that is usually done by citizens in groups, not working individually with the City of Richmond. If you want to volunteer through the survey as an individual, that’s fine, but don’t feel bad about preferring to act for ecological stewardship through groups like the Richmond Nature Park Society or Garden City Conservation Society.
  5. For whatever reason, the survey is supposedly anonymous.

In case anyone wishes to refer to it, this article has an appendix that consists of some of my responses to the survey and my reactions to it. I am sharing it to provide insight, and my responses are NOT model answers to copy.

APPENDIX — one response to Ecological Network survey

Survey question 2. The aspects of natural areas that I value the most are:

The question mixes in clean water, clean air and clean soil, but they are basic to everything else, so I chose all the answers. I also added an “Other. I wrote “Physical, social and spiritual wellbeing. Wellness goes beyond health.” One reason I included it is that those three kinds of wellness are emphasized in the City’s 2022 Parks and Open Space Strategy, which council adopted less than a year ago (Oct. 15, 2013). I agree with that strategy’s distinction between wellbeing (or wellness) and health, which typically places the emphasis on treating illness and injury and working toward the absence of them. I think the City’s strategies need to be more consistent with each other.

Survey question 3. The issues I feel are affecting Richmond’s natural areas are [choose all that apply]:

I chose all the issues and also “Other.” For “Other” I wrote this: “Critical mass of BS from the powers that be. For example, the section of the Alderbridge wildlife corridor from No. 4 Road west to Garden City Road had always been protected as ESA and was also protected the West Cambie Natural Park, the greenway, and the residential zoning. Every protection was simply removed in order to eliminate life on more than half of it, with the rest to follow.”

Survey question 4. The prompt for a text box is this: “The following is what I think the City can do to address the challenges to natural areas in Richmond.”

I wrote this: “Instead of planning ad infinitum, actually be committed and act accordingly. Not very long ago, the City endorsed the Parks and Open Space Strategy. That strategy referred to related strategies such as The Richmond Trails Strategy and ESA Management Strategy. Instead of adding more strategies, perhaps the City could come up with one page of action steps it will actually take to make a difference.

Survey question 5. The City’s Ecological Network Management Strategy is supported by four goals to guide the management of Richmond’s natural environment. The goals I think are the most important are to: [check all that apply].

I chose just one: “Engage through stewardship and collaboration.” Like almost everyone, I agree with the others, but I agree with what the survey sponsors already must know, since the rest of the questions are about environmental stewardship.

Survey question 6A. The types of environmental stewardship I would be interested in include [choose all that apply].

I chose “Wildlife habitat restoration” and “Other.” Oddly, that did not trigger a textbox in which I could describe my “Other.”

Survey question 6B. My motivation to participate in environmental stewardship initiatives would be: [choose all that apply].

One of my answers was “Other,” and that did trigger a textbox, where I wrote this: “To lead the world. This is not a goal in itself, but it is an effect that would occur if the City of Richmond were not squandering its opportunities.”

Survey question 7. The types of environmental stewardship initiatives I would like to see in my neighbourhood are:

“In my immediate neighbourhood, I would like the city to stop encouraging demolitions that enable gardens to be paved. A little further afield, citizens have contributed literally thousands of hours toward the environmental stewardship of the Garden City Lands and related matters, but a large part of that is wasted because the City of Richmond has deliberately wasted it, and I would like to see citizen values replacing City waste.”

Act locally for the right to a healthy environment

July 17, 2014
Children at the 2014 Steveston Salmon Festival coloured a “Bog Life” cartoon—butterfly, vole, killdeer, bog blueberry and sphagnum moss in the Lulu Island Bog. This Sunday, Michael Wolfe will lead a related activity at the David Suzuki Foundation event at Britannia Shipyards. Carol Day photo and Suzanna Wright art.

Children at the 2014 Steveston Salmon Festival coloured a “Bog Life” cartoon—butterfly, vole, killdeer, bog blueberry and sphagnum moss in the Lulu Island Bog. This Sunday, Michael Wolfe will lead a related activity at the David Suzuki Foundation event at Britannia Shipyards. Carol Day photo and Suzanna Wright art.

“What’s up, guys?” the vole seems to wonder as he pokes his head out of the Lulu Island Bog in the cartoon. The chance to colour it was a hit at the Salmon Festival, so Garden City Conservation’s Michael Wolfe and Eldon Lin are adapting the activity for a free David Suzuki Foundation family event.

It’s at the Britannia Shipyards site 1–3 pm this Sunday July 20, 2014. The “Bog Life” part is for “kids from one to 92” and beyond. The cartoon will prompt Michael to share insights, since he loves the sphagnum bog and loves teaching.

The event will kick off a far-reaching campaign for the human right to a healthy environment. The campaign is starting at the local level, and the aim is for Richmond to be a model for the communities of Canada. The Garden City Conservation board has strongly endorsed it.

The first need is for broader awareness—leading toward commitment—about the right to a healthy environment. With council action, the right could become a guiding principle.

After two or three years to build locally and provincially, it might be time to include the right in Canada’s constitution. Support across the country could actually make that feasible.

I was curious how a constitutional right to a healthy environment might work in practice. I found that half the national constitutions of the world already state that right, and three-quarters state some environmental rights. Canada, which has yet to act, can glean the best of their experience.

Canada’s right to a healthy environment, like other human rights, is sure to include limits to enforcement. And it will have to be moderate to survive the tough formula for amending our constitution.

I also see the right as a freedom. We gain freeness from clean water, air and soil and, in the long run, from biodiversity.

At this time, the challenge is to apply the right to a healthy environment locally. To become a model for the country, we must get results.

A good place for results is the Lulu Island Bog, the area from Westminster Highway north to Alderbridge Way and from Garden City Road east to Jacombs Road. It’s government-owned land that’s hanging on as a remnant of huge sphagnum bogs that had a vital role in forming the island.

That brings us back to the “Bog Life” cartoon and Sunday’s event at Britannia Shipyards. As a follow-up, Michael is enabling further action with a free eco-tour two days later. Whether you can come on Sunday or not, you’re welcome on Tuesday, July 22 at 7 p.m.

The eco-tour will start from the east entrance of the Garden City Lands, on No. 4 Road a little south of Alderbridge Way. Michael will help you see a world you may not know is there. With that you’ll see its role in the local right to a healthy environment.

For teachers, “Bog Life” class sets will be available courtesy of Garden City Conservation both days.

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This article also appeared as a Digging Deep column in the Richmond Review of July 16, 2014, but it did not appear in the Richmond Review online.

 

FREE at our Salmon Festival booth

June 27, 2014

Update: As usual, the 2014 Steveston Salmon Festival went well. Thanks are due to the Steveston Community Society and Janice Froese, Executive Director of the festival. With the help of our colouring sheets, the wildlife of the Lulu Island Blog made many new friends, especially young ones, as shown in Carol Day’s photos. (Click on a thumbnail for a larger version.)

2014 Steveston Salmon Festival 32014 Steveston Salmon Festival 2Steveston Salmon Festival 2

 

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Pick up copies of the “Friends in the Lulu Island Bog” colouring sheet at our booth at the Steveston Salmon Festival. It’s at Steveston Park on Canada Day on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The colouring sheets are just one of the items we’ll provide free as a community service to help everyone who wants to be informed. Coloured "Friends of the Lulu Island Bog" by Suzanna WrightThere will even be a few framed coloured illustrations. Note, though, that for those and for quantities of the colouring sheets such as class sets, it is on request from people who have the intent to use them for a particular need that is in keeping with the Garden City Conservation purposes.

Note: The coloured illustration shows wildlife in vivid colours that are related to actual colours that can occur in nature. However, since the illustration is a cartoon, kids (and adults) can feel free to use whatever colours they feel like. Either way, they can learn while having fun.

Our Garden City Conservation Society booth will be near the trees on the west side of Steveston Park, near No. 1 Road and the heritage tram. The park is on the north side of Moncton Street just west of the Steveston Community Centre. Looking forward to seeing you there! The Salmon Festival organizer has kindly provided this map of community booths at the 2014 Salmon Festival.

At the Salmon Festival, you can sign up as a Friend of Garden City at no charge if you support the Garden City Conservation purposes. (Note: If you are a Friend of Garden City who wants to go further and become a member of the society, you can do so at any time by way of the society’s membership page.)

You an also download a PDF of the colouring sheet and even the coloured version. This event announcement will remain on the blog after the event for that purpose.

Premier, Letnick and MLAs get deluge of email against Bill 24

May 24, 2014

Statistics from West Coast Environmental Law’s “Hands off our food security” reveal an onslaught of emails from opponents of Bill 24 who want at least a pause for the public consultation that was promised and then reneged on.

The “Hands off our food security” response aid makes it easier to send emails so people with little time or modest writing skill can make their voices heard. It had been running for almost two months with an ongoing stream of messages urging the government not to pass Bill 24 and give farmland more protection, not less. With Bill 24, the protection of farmland would be practically gone in nine-tenths of the province and badly compromised in the other tenth, mainly because the Agricultural would be weakened and far less independent.

Norm LetnickLately the stream of messages has become a river, as seen in the example of Norm Letnick (right), Minister of Agriculture:

  • As of Tuesday, May 20, 2014, the statistics show that citizens had used Hands off our food security” to send 1811 messages to Letnick to urge him to not pass Bill 24. That amounted to a strong statement of disapproval.
  • However, within three days the number of messages asking Letnick to say No had jumped to 2750.
    As of Friday, May 23, the increase in that short period
    was well over 50%.

File 154Similarly, for Premier Christy Clark (right), the increase was from 1897 on May 20 to 2837 on May 23. In other words, the flow of messages asking the premier to not pass the bill also increased by over 50% in only three days.

John YapFor some MLAs, the increase was even more striking:

  • With MLA John Yap (left) of Richmond Steveston, the number of constituents sending him messages against Bill 24 went from 3 to 32 in three days. There were also big jumps for the other two Richmond MLAs: Teresa Wat from 7 to 19 and Linda Reid from 6 to 30.
  • With MLA Dan Ashton(right), the number of constituents asking him to stop Bill 24 went from 10 to 68 in those three days. His Penticton constituency also includes Naramata, Summerland and Peachland—orchard and vineyard country.

Citizens have used many other ways to express their displeasure with Bill 24. Garden City Conservation has been copied on a large number of emails to the premier, agriculture minister and MLAs, and they typically come across as well reasoned and deeply felt. There are also petitions, including IntegrityBC’s “Hands off BC’s Agricultural Land Commission” petition to the premier, with 8793 signers.

Even though the government backed out of public consultation, the public have found ways to speak out. Ministers like Letnick then downplayed it, but the “Hands off our food security” statistics are reliable, and they show a powerful trend. The Letnick message lately amounts to a grinning “Tough luck, shmucks, ya can’t stop us.” They’re not grinning back.

Last try for Bill 24 consultation

May 16, 2014


The best chance to act on Bill 24, the bill to kill British Columbia’s ALR, is now.

If you just want to act immediately, take this action first: Go to West Coast Environmental Law’s page titled “Tell the BC Government: Hands off our food security! Scroll down to the online form. Complete and send it.

Note: When completing the form, be sure to fill in your postal code so that a copy will automatically go to your MLA.

By the way lately, one of my own steps lately was a 3,550-word letter to the MLAs that one MLA read to the legislature in an animated voice.

MLA Michelle MungallUpdate on Bill 24 to May 15, 2014

Bill 24 took two turns on May 14.

  • For better: MLA Michelle Mungall (right) made a motion to enable the people of B.C. to finally be consulted. Bill Bennett, the minister behind the bill, had said months ago there would be consultation through the finance committee. The MLA therefore moved to refer the bill to that committee, which will tour the province soon, listening to witnesses.
  • For worse: New agriculture minister Norm Letnick, who had promised wide consultation before Bennett publicly shut him up, then told the legislature “The government will not be supporting the motion to refer.”  In other words, the government refuses to listen.

MLAs like Ms. Mungall will keep speaking out for the people to be heard, but Letnick and all the government MLAs will eventually have to vote the way they’re told or be punished. Unless the citizens and other stakeholders are persuasive with the premier, the motion to listen will be defeated.

Citizens are now getting emails from Minister Letnick that promise to consult after Bill 24 is passed. That’s too late.

Fortunately, the legislature has a break now, starting with May 15. It returns on May 26 for a final four-day week before a four-month break. Unless the premier listens first, the government MLAs will be ordered to cut off all debate about listening to citizens or protecting farmland and pass the bill to kill the ALR that week.

The motion to refer Bill 24 to public consultation has made it simpler to act. The citizens and other stakeholders are simply trying to persuade the premier and fellow citizens that the government should pause to listen.

Bill 24 eliminates most of the protection of nine-tenths of B.C.’s scarce ALR  farmland. It also eliminates the genuine independence of the Agricultural Land Commission. It is akin to the founding of the ALR forty years ago, but in reverse. The other difference is that all parties supported farmland protection then, whereas only a powerful few want to end it. At this point, we are just asking the powers-that-be to listen before they act.

 

Ways for citizens to act

1. Ask the premier to act in a better way.

Just go to West Coast Environmental Law’s page titledTell the BC Government: Hands off our food security!You can read the description of the issue or just scroll down to the online form. When completing the form, be sure to fill in your postal code so that a copy will automatically go to your MLA.

 

2. Write to the media, especially in “letters to the editor” to the local newspapers.

At this time, we want the government to consult the citizens before the legislature votes on Bill 24, the bill to kill the ALR.

It is important to send your messages ASAP so as to have a good chance of being published early in the week of May 19–24.

 

Ways for local governments to act:

Local governments have been requesting to be consulted on Bill 24 before the legislature votes on passing it. Minister Letnick, speaking for the government, has now refused to consult. Any follow-up action by the local governments will need to occur soon enough to be publicized well before Monday, May 26.

 

Background about the motion to refer

See Hansard for May 14, 2014, including these parts:

  •  MLA Michelle Mungall’s motion at around 15:32: “That Bill (No. 24) not be read a second time now but the subject matter be referred to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services and further that the committee be empowered to invite witnesses to appear before it to assist in its deliberations.”
  • Hon. Norm Letnick’s resonse at around 16:12: “I understand the current motion before the House is to refer Bill 24 to the Finance Committee and wish to convey to the House that the government will not be supporting the motion to refer.”

See what Bill 24 is and erase phoney messaging

April 23, 2014

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.

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* 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.