Posts Tagged ‘Agricultural Land Commission’

An open letter to BC MLAs who support the ALR

October 28, 2017

Thank you whatever help you can manage!*

Every one of you—every green, orange or red MLA—please act together on this as British Columbians, transcending everything else.

You probably know that Richmond is fast losing its ALR farms to non-farm mansion use. While that city’s ALR has been almost defenceless, perhaps you can deter the pillage before your community and its ALR are hit as hard.

For better or worse, the legislature’s action or inaction will have wide ALR effects. We need you all to amend Section 18 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

Let Section 18 forbid “a residence with a floor area of more than 500 square metres” on ALR land. For years and for all of BC, that has been a Ministry of Agriculture suggestion in its Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas.** Make it law!

Then ask the minister to fix the guide advice on how to set local limits. It’s hard to know how to act on gobbledygook like the guide’s “commensurate with urban areas” standard, but Richmond staff found a way. They came up with a farm residence limit of 300 square metres.

Siding with election-expense funders, Richmond council ignored the staff method and embraced the speculator method: to brainstorm “compromises” between the proposed BC limit and infinity. The outcome was ludicrous too.

Beyond passing that BC limit into law, MLAs can’t force any local council to do its part, but the guide could show it how. It could express the “commensurate” principle like this:

In order to direct the largest residential uses to non-farm areas, a municipality may set a lower floor-area limit for ALR residences below the provincial limit. It would typically be the average floor area the municipality permits on urban lots that are zoned for detached houses.

The related Richmond staff calculation of 300 square metres (3,230 square feet, a big house) would serve the purpose. Be aware that a Richmond bylaw already gives farmers an efficient means to be permitted to exceed the local limit if need be. This approach could easily be implemented by municipalities throughout BC.

Be aware, too, that Section 18 of the ALC Act already forbids any building “to be erected on the land except for farm use.” To enforce it, the strict approach (not recommended here) would be to end any and all construction of non-farm residences on ALR farmland.

When ALR speculators protest the updates to the ALC Act and bylaw guide, perhaps you can tell them what they strictly deserve.

Sincerely,
Your faithful ALR***

Bcc: All who respect, defend and help revitalize the ALR. See final note.***

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* This letter was prompted by “Green’s Weaver takes aim at ALR speculation, “ Richmond News, Oct. 18.

** “2.4.6.5.3 Maximum Floor Area—Farm Residences” is on page 19 of the Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas, page 19 (PDF page 26), just before 2.4.7.

*** On ALR behalf, the Garden City Conservation Society wrote this and a recent letter to the Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, with a “Bcc” to all ALR supporters. The Letter to Ms Popham, written in collaboration with Richmond FarmWatch, addresses this topic in depth.

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Garden City Conservation Society and the ALR

October 17, 2017

Introduction: One facet of the Garden City Conservation Society is conservation of ALR land. This recent article recaps that story. Click on the graphic for a large version, which shows the Garden City Conservation Society at Richmond Harvest Fest 2017.

The Garden City Conservation Society embodies a Richmond movement to respect and conserve ALR land for ALR uses: agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness.

In the late 1980s, as the Save Richmond Farmland Society, the movement battled to save Terra Nova, farmland in the northwest corner of Lulu Island. The results include Terra Nova Natural Area and Rural Park, along with the Sharing Farm.

A decade ago, the movement evolved into the Garden City Lands Coalition. With great support from the people of Richmond and beyond, we helped save the Garden City Lands. (At the time, it was a huge federal field of ALR in the Richmond City Centre, with most of it slated for dense development.)

It was also a chosen battlefield for ALR opponents, and its fall would have been a major setback for the ALR in BC. Thanks to the highly effective citizen action, the ALR won, enabling the City to buy the Lands as ALR park.

Our ongoing action has included immense efforts in 2014 that helped limit the harm from the “bill to kill the ALR.”

In our recent return to the Garden City Lands for Richmond Harvest Fest, we carried on the tradition.

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If you are supportive, you’re a “Friend of Garden City,” and there’s a free newsletter, the Garden City e-News, via email about once a month. You can subscribe to the Garden City e-News here. (It is very simple to unsubscribe whenever you want, and your email address is never used for anything else.)

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This article is essentially an excerpt from a recent letter to Lana Popham, BC Minister of Agriculture, from the Garden City Conservation Society with regard to the epidemic of mansions that broke out on ALR land in Richmond this year.

“Bountiful Peace,” Tuesday, Dec 1 in Steveston

November 23, 2015

Arlene and Ken Boon

Flooding that river valley is probably a sin against humanity,” said Richard Bullock, former chair of the Agricultural Land Commission. He was gauging the effect of the impending Site C Dam on B.C.’s Peace River country near Fort St. John.

It’s fertile, and the sun’s summer angle gives the Peace Valley long sunny days to energize crops. And, as climate change takes effect, the crop-growing season there gets warmer and longer.

The aim of the dam is to block the river flow so that a stretch of the Peace Valley becomes a reservoir lake. When freed to fall from the surface onto turbine blades, the water would spin them to generate electric power before flowing on.

Judging from Christy Clark comments, Site C electricity is especially needed for LNG production, which requires an immense amount of power. However the LNG boom is in doubt. What’s more certain is the harm to agriculture and food security if the Site C Dam goes ahead.

The astute “Yellowstone to Yukon” conservation group, which collaborates with Peace conservationists, says this:

The Peace River Valley has 20% of the province’s best topsoil. Its Class 1 and 2 farmlands produce higher crop yields than many of Canada’s prairie regions, and it has the potential to supply fresh fruit and vegetables for a million people.

Yet the B.C. cabinet bypassed the commission and removed 3800 hectares of Peace farmland from the ALR. In effect, they raided our land bank. That endangers our food security at the very time when our California source of fruit and vegetables is drying up.

So what does this mean for us here, and what can we do about it? For a start, we can get some answers at the “Bountiful Peace” event on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at the Steveston Community Centre*. Richard Bullock will speak, as will Peace farmers Arlene and Ken Boon (shown above) and Coun. Harold Steves.

It’s slated for 7–9 pm, including at least 45 minutes for questions. Judging from Kwantlen Sustainable Agriculture’s well-received “Evening with Richard Bullock” in June, that will work well.

Sierra Club BC has organized this chance to learn what’s at stake and how there’s hope. Thanks to Sierra, Garden City Conservation is a co-sponsor, along with the Richmond Food Security Society and Richmond Blue Dot.

There’s no charge, and there’s no need to register. Parking is good in the community centre lot and to the east along Moncton Street.

Even if you’re a Site C dam fan, come along and take part in respectful dialogue. We all just want to be informed so our community and province will have a future worth having.

See you!

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* There will also be a Bountiful Peace” event in Chilliwack on  Wednesday, December 2, 2015.

The Facebook page for the Richmond event is here.

There’s a thorough Stop Site C website.

This column has now also appeared in the Richmond News of Novenber 25, 2015 as “Everyone’s invited to ‘Bountiful Peace’.”

Bullock on speculation, farming and the ALC

August 11, 2015

KPU Bullock 2015-07-28c

Richard-Bullock-at-KPURichard Bullock, the former chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, has never seemed fond of the spotlight, and he literally didn’t get a spotlight (or much lighting at all) when he spoke on the Richmond campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University recently.

As the photos show, the hall’s attention was directed to the future of agriculture and land use in B.C., with a semi-circle of bovine stakeholders on the screen watching and waiting for us human British Columbians to do the right thing.

Similarly, there wasn’t much media coverage, with just one report showing up when I googled the event. Let’s hope that some of the various people recording the “Evening with Richard Bullock” will share their audio/video soon.

In the meantime, here are a few points I jotted down.

In a sort of theme statement, Richard Bullock emphatically stated, “We’ve got to take the speculative value out of farmland.” Of course, he took the speculation problem in the right direction as ALC chair, and then the provincial Bill to Kill the ALR (Bill 24) reversed the gains and worse, as discussed in the Bill 24 section  of this blog.

When Richard Bullock spoke at length about the experience of farming, he emphasized this statement: “The toughest part of farming is the mental part.” There are so many implications when one reflects on it.

His dream, he said, is sufficiently wide respect for farmland “that the ALC should no longer be necessary.” Since he was speaking in Richmond, it’s too bad that Harold Steves was the only member of council who came. Some of his colleagues are quick to look for ways around the ALR when that suits their purposes. At present, Langford in the Capital Region seems to be the epitome of the problem, while (on the right track) Bowen Island treasures its bit of ALR.

When Richard Bullock was asked about his top three issues related to agriculture, he had to stop and think for a minute. He came up with something like this:

  • Educating about the importance of food
  • Respecting the land and water where we live
  • Enjoying and sharing the bounty that we have

The event had begun with a Salish prayer, and with that answer it seemed to draw to an end with a shared silent prayer or affirmation: Amen.

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Reminder:

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Update, August 12: The Vancouver Sun came out with a Richard Bullock article on today’s page C4 and online here. It was said to be based on the KPU event and an interview. It reads to me as though too much of it came from fishing questions in the interview. To get the best information, one can’t beat being at a Richard Bullock presentation in person.

 

Richard Bullock at KPU Richmond 28 July 2015

July 6, 2015

Do you care about the future of agriculture in British Columbia?

Richard Bullock poster for 28July2015atKPU-Richmond

Richard Bullock at Kalamalka RotaryThe KPU Institute for Sustainable Food Systems invites you to join in an evening of conversation with Mr. Richard Bullock. The former Chair of the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission will share his vision for a strong future. There will then be time for questions and answers, with Mr. Bullock in dialogue with the audience.

  • Tuesday July 28th, 7–9 pm
  •  Kwantlen Polytechnic University:
    8771 Lansdowne Road, Richmond BC
    (north side, west of Garden City Rd).
    Easy access via Canada Line at Lansdowne Station or via Hwy 99 or 91.
  • Room 2550A: Melville Centre for Dialogue

Although admission is freeregistration is required.

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Notes:

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.”

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.

Illegally fired Richard Bullock responds with grace

June 22, 2015

Bullock portraitUpdate, June 24, 2015: The Globe and Mail has a relevant article today.

Legally, it appears that Richard Bullock should still be chair of the Agricultural Land Commission. West Coast Environmental Law has made a strong case that firing Bullock without cause was illegal and that it interfered with the independence of the Agricultural Land Commission. You can read about it in WCEL’s blog article and efficiently take action if you wish.

In a letter to the provincial government, West Coast even called on them to reinstate Richard Bullock as chair. Even Bullock would probably not want that, but the lawyers have made the point about what would be legally appropriate.

For his part, Richard Bullock and his wife Jacqueline continue to appreciate the support they receive through the online Thank You Richard Bullock card. They sent this note recently:

We would like to thank all persons that have taken the time to sign and comment on the Thank You card! 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.

Thank you again,
Richard and Jacqui Bullock

Some of our previous articles related to this:

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.”

The best media re the betrayal of Richard Bullock

May 29, 2015

Bullock-portraitThe firing without cause of Agricultural Land Commission chair Richard Bullock was cleverly timed for just before the May long weekend. While that reduced the media scrutiny, some media covered it well.

Reviewing it prepares us for the next wave, because that story and related attacks on the ALR will come back, probably soon.

The best news story is Mark Hume’s “B.C. government fires outspoken chair of Agricultural Land Commission” in the Globe & Mail.

The quick but thorough overview is my Richmond Review column titled “Standing strong in the bizarre saga of the ALR.” You can reach it by scrolling down on this blog.

CBC Radio did two illuminating interviews with Richard Bullock:

  • The CBC Daybreak Kelowna interview, “’They screwed this organization badly,’ says former ALC chair Richard Bullock.”
  • The BC Almanac (Vancouver) interview, which brings out Richard Bullock’s view of the B.C. Cabinet’s removal of a vast area of Peace River ALR farmland as a step toward the highly debatable Site C dam.

They had more trouble bringing much out of the replacement chair, Frank Leonard, but read “How is Frank Leonard a viable ALR chair?” You could also click on the audio below the Frank Leonard photo here to hear for yourself.

Of course, it’s still great to visit the virtualThank You Richard Bullock” card and consider signing it. At this moment, the number of signers (mostly individuals) is over 1,350. A lot of people to sign a Thank You card! Richard Bullock reads all the names and notices whereabouts the signers live. He’s very appreciative.

Standing strong in the bizarre saga of the ALR

May 19, 2015

Richard Bullock at Kalamalka RotaryOn May 14, Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), was furtively fired from that Agricultural Land Reserve tribunal for doing his job. With cabinet misfits biting at his ankles, he had stood up for farming and the ALR, which has protected B.C. farmland for over forty years.

Does it matter? Yes! The California water crisis makes the ALR more vital than ever. Meanwhile, an anti-ALR faction in cabinet endangers our farmland. They’ve now thwarted the tribunal by removing its chair—with more than half a year left in his term.

Why was Bullock appointed ALC chair? Results! He had succeeded as leader of agricultural companies, industry groups and the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board. And he lived the ALR principles.

What went well in Bullock’s term? A lot! In 2010, he led a province-wide ALR review, along with the agriculture minister. He melded the resulting insights with the auditor general’s advice in his thorough strategic vision. It was a blueprint to modernize the ALC/ALR.

For instance, he refined an application panel approach—with seven commissioners from all over B.C.—that kept the diversity of regional panels but shed their inconsistency. He also brought back ALR boundary reviews, an efficient way to exclude (or add) ALR land that’s out of place. His ongoing reports showed steady progress.

What went wrong? Bill Bennett. In early August 2013, when the ALC was conducting East Kootenay boundary reviews, Bennett grabbed the headlines to complain about ALC decisions that annoyed him and his buddies. He was the local MLA and the minister responsible for mines and a murky “core review,” and he threatened to drag the ALC into it.

Then what? In March 2014, Bennett held a media briefing in Victoria to hype a coming ALR bill with his anti-ALC complaints. None stand up to analysis. For instance, Bennett complained that a buddy wasn’t allowed to extend a gravel pit on an ALR farm, but it turned out that Bennett’s own mines ministry had rejected it. A Cranbrook farm owner Bennett brought in to castigate the ALC turned out to want to build a motel or prison on ALR farmland.

Was the ALR bill as bad as that? Yes! It’s been aptly called “the bill to kill the ALR.” For instance, the new “Zone 2” would turn most of the ALR into an “Anything Land Reserve.” A suffocating factor for the ALC was the layers of bureaucratic busy-work the bill imposed. Despite a public uproar, it got pushed through.

What averted disaster? Norm Letnick. After settling in as agriculture minister, Letnick swept some of the damage aside and teamed with Bullock to consult around B.C. on ALR regulations last summer. The government’s summary showed that the stakeholder groups—farmers/ranchers, local governments and the public—all want a strong ALR/ALC. We looked forward to regulations in that spirit.

Then what happened? The regulations, due in November 2014, are six months late, so Letnick has likely faced a long struggle in cabinet. Now they’ve disabled the ALC’s independence by firing Bullock. It all bodes ill for the coming ALR regulations.

What values can we still affirm in hope? We believe in food security for all. We believe in conserving our farmland for present and future needs, not for land speculation. We appreciate true public servants like Richard Bullock who help us make our province better.

How can one give due thanks? Google “Thank you, Richard Bullock!” You’ll reach a virtual Thank You card. Sign your name. That’s a good start.

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This article was earlier published online as a Richmond Review column with the same title, and it appeared in the printed paper of May 20. In place of Richard Bullock, Frank Leonard was appointed as Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission.

Encore: The bill to kill the ALR

May 18, 2015

In April 2014, this article appeared as one of my “Digging Deep” columns in the Richmond Review, in print and online. Because the Review is now in a different newspaper chain, the online version is gone. I’m therefore belatedly publishing it here for everyone’s reference, exactly as it appeared then. Be aware that all the links worked at the time, but many of them target pages that have now been removed or change, especially on the ALC website. The photo shows Richard Bullock interacting with a group of citizens.

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The bill to kill the ALR

Richard Bullock, ALC chairB.C.’s current Bill 24 would end the fragile independence of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). Through that and direct means, it would end ALR farmland protection as we know it.

It also smacks of reprisal against the chair of the ALC. This past year he’s had to rebuff political interference, at one point publicly.

The bill to kill the ALR is not yet law. The ALR—B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve—can still be saved and strengthened.

To get to the source of the mess, let’s recall the day Bill 24 was unveiled. Minister Bill Bennett held a media party. He “could not contain his excitement,” says Vaughn Palmer.

Proud papa Bennett is not an ALR fan, and the pretense for Bill 24 is a gimmick called “ALR core review.” Since no one gets to see it, the “review” is as bad as he wants.

To be fair, Bennett did get ideas from his Kootenay East constituents. At the media event, one of them said her children might build a prison or motel on ALR land.

Bennett said, “If I was going to point to one aspect of the ALC that people in my region really don’t like, it’s the fact that they apply and they get turned down by, essentially, bureaucrats who live in the Lower Mainland.” Stirs local pride, but false.

As the Agricultural Land Commission website shows, ALC commissioners live in five of the six regions. There’s one apiece in the Kootenay region and South Coast, which includes the Lower Mainland. The ALC panels meet in their regions.

Bennett implied that Cranbrook, where he lives, has no local food. But the ALC’s Cranbrook commissioner produces free-range beef.

Bennett said the bill would allow farmers to do “canning or making jams or cheese or wine.” What? Within reason they’ve always been ALR uses.

Bennett complained that a constituent was stopped from mining gravel. But it was the mines ministry that turned it down. That’s Bennett’s ministry.

Bennett whined about bad local land stuck in the ALR. But the ALC is doing an ALR boundary review in Kootenay East. It implements the Auditor General’s advice, and Bennett may have slowed it to a standstill. He then blames the ALC for problems they were solving.

Bennett did admit confusion and mentioned he didn’t consult for Bill 24. True! He didn’t even consult the ALC chair, Richard Bullock.

Bullock is a successful farmer, business leader and public servant. It shows in his ALC work, a model of best practice.

Bullock became chair in mid-2010, just before the Auditor General’s report on the ALC. Starting with that, he consulted around the province.

Bullock wrote a thorough strategic vision. Since then, he keeps sharing updates about process and progress. Sadly, he had to issue a policy statement about the role of elected officials in applications to the ALC—prompted by political interference.

Now, analysis shows that Bill 24 demotes Bullock’s role. It transfers the duty of chairing the ALC tribunal to six chairs. In effect, that shift results in six tribunals with differing standards. Bullock isn’t allowed to chair any.

He is left out. The vague bill is clear about that. He will no longer be even consulted when the ministry selects ALC commissioners and panel chairs.

Bullock also acts as chief executive, but he’s to lose that too. The bill, which does nil for farmland and farming, does promise him waves of rules and requirements.

The ALR is a provincial land use zone. The bill slices it into two and then six. In zoning terms, we’ll have ALR1A, ALR1B, ALR1C, ALR2A, ALR2B and ALR2C.

The bill enables the agriculture minister to quickly take control of the tribunals. Not that it matters in ALR2A–C, nine-tenths of the ALR. Self-serve rubber stamps might do.

Why? The bill says the tribunals there must consider “economic, social and cultural values,” which means “anything,” in ALR decisions. Welcome to the Anything Land Reserve.

Is the California drought a myth? Is it time to kill the ALR? If no, what’s next?

It may help that Norm Letnick has become Minister of Agriculture. Perhaps the powers-that-be will now back Richard Bullock’s integrity with their integrity.

Something’s fishy—”New chair appointed to Agricultural Land Commission”

May 14, 2015

Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, listens to the Kalamalka Rotary.

Update: Listen to Richard Bullock’s comments on the future of the ALR in his CBC Daybreak Kelowna interview. As the now-former Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission puts it, “They screwed this organization badly.”

Over 1,250 people have now signed the virtual Thank You Richard Bullock card. Excellent!

To see the version of the card sent to Richard Bullock at the milestone of 1,001 signers, click here.

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Out of the blue, there’s a Ministry of Agriculture news release this afternoon: “New chair appointed to the Agricultural Land Commission.”

There’s not a word about what happened to Richard Bullock (shown at right), who is still shown as chair on the Agricultural Land Commission website even though the news release explicitly links to the ALC website “for more information.”

Until now, the end of Richard Bullock’s term as chair was indicated to be November 30, 2015. He had done a tremendous job for the people of British Columbia despite abominable treatment by the government.

Things seemed to get much better after Hon. Norm Letnick was well settled in again as Minister of Agriculture and leading the consultation that limited the harm from the dreadful 2014 Bill 24, “the bill to kill the ALR.” Now he has disappeared like a favourite uncle in North Korea.

Fortunately, it came out that the government has only fired Richard Bullock. Still, the news release states in all seriousness that “The ALC is an independent administrative tribunal responsible for administering the province’s Agricultural Land Reserve.” That was stated right after the B.C. cabinet appointed a new chair and then dismissed the existing chair almost half a year before the end of his appointment. If that is consistent with the tribunal being independent, the word independent has taken on a strange new meaning.

One thing we can all do is thank Richard Bullock for standing up for our future as a steadfast guardian of the Agricultural Land Reserve. We have a virtual Thank You card that you can sign. We’ll make sure that Richard Bullock receives it with all the signatures soon. Please go the Thank You Richard Bullock card now and tell others about it.

For background, see the Bill 24 section of this blog.

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Updates: There’s now an excellent Globe and Mail article by Mark Hume that sheds light on what happened. Before that there was a New Democrat press release that says Richard Bullock was fired. In between, there was the usual nonsense from the anti-ALR Tom Fletcher of Black Press.

Open letter to Richard Bullock and Norm Letnick

May 22, 2014

Bcc to Friends of Garden City — a message sent today:

ALC Chair Richard Bullock and Minister Norm Letnick,

British Columbians all around the province have been signing the online Thank You Richard Bullock card, attached with signers’ names.

So far, there are almost seven hundred names. That is a remarkable number of people who have cared enough to say thank you to the low-profile chair of a quasi-judicial tribunal and his team, but informed opinion is growing. When one reads the names aloud, it becomes evident how many people they are.

Of course, the people who sign are much more than a number. When I read the names aloud, I notice the regions from the postal codes and sometimes google to get a sense of the human beings who are doing this. I hope you will do that too. The card is addressed to Richard Bullock but is clear about being shared.

I encourage you also to read the informed Garden City Conservation articles about Bill 24.

Particularly notice “Still a need to consult on Bill 24.” It responds to Voice of BC answers about consultation that feature the 2010 reports by the auditor general and ALC chair as major kinds of consultation leading to the bill.

The Garden City Conservation Society especially urges you both to consider an alternative way of implementing the current motion in the legislature if the MLAs agree in a non-partisan way. We suggest that you join together in leading a thorough touring consultation with stakeholders—including informed food consumers—around British Columbia.

So much interest has been generated by now that this would be a great time to harvest valuable input and take further a positive cycle of supportive concern for farmland, farm families and the farm produce that enables our food security.

With best wishes,
Jim Wright
President, Garden City Conservation Society,
based in Richmond and serving BC

Bcc: Garden City Conservation Society director
and the many Friends of Garden City

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THANK YOU card to ALC chair Richard Bullock in petition form

April 8, 2014

Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, listens to the Kalamalka Rotary.We’ve started a kind of THANK YOU card for Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commision, and his team.

(We first tried out a similar idea on this blog. It was well received. This time, the Thank You is in the form of a petition that simply asks the ALC chair and his team to accept our appreciation.)

It is a deserved act of gratefulness for a great job despite cabinet ministers working against him. They are politicians, but this isn’t partisan: it’s not for or against a political party.

In an indirect way, it could also save the ALR from Bill 24, the current bill to kill the ALR. Although that’s a bonus, it is exceptionally important for B.C.

Please sign the THANK YOU card yourself and use social media like Facebook, Twitter and the back fence to encourage others to do so too.

For context, there’s a related Richmond Review column, “Value the chair of the Anything Land Reserve (ALR).

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Some details:

  • When you get to THANK YOU card online, you’ll see how it works.
  • Just your name and postal code appear in the petition that will be sent as a Thank You card. Here’s an example in PDF (with just a few names from a pilot group).
  • You do provide your email address, and that may be used for an occasional follow-up via Leadnow.ca.*
  • This is the basic petition request: “We ask you, Richard Bullock and your ALC team, to accept our appreciation. You’ve earned it by doing a terrific job for the people of British Columbia and food security everywhere. THANK YOU!”
  • To get a sense of the Bullock team’s accomplishments, have a look at “The ALR: When it’s being fixed, don’t break it!
  • The occasion for this is Bill 24. The BC Food Systems Network, which impartially wants what’s best for food growers and eaters, has developed this concise BCFSN analysis of Bill 24.
  • As mentioned, “Value the chair of the Anything Land Reserve (ALR)” would fill that out.

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*Leadnow.ca, “People Powered Change,” is led by young Canadians who are out to save the world one giant leap at a time. They’re okay with small steps too—whatever it takes. In keeping with that, please both add yourself to the THANK YOU card and then spread the word.

To Richard Bullock from British Columbia

March 28, 2014

Sent by email this morning:

Chair Richard Bullock,

One glaring aspect of the content and handling of the ALC Amendment Act 2014 is that it’s akin to constructive dismissal. You don’t need the ALR chair position, but British Columbians present and future do need you. We think you will keep your dignity and stand firm, as hard as that must be. Thank you!

Jim Wright
on behalf of the Garden City Conservation Society
and—we dare to say—British Columbia

Update: Now you can also sign an online Thank You Richard Bullock card.