Posts Tagged ‘ALR’

Succeeding at the farm house Public Hearing

May 10, 2017

These tips are related to “Exellence in protecting Richmond farmland.” They are tips for the Public Hearing of Monday, March 15, 2017 re farmland house size (floor area).

  1. On the Richmond.ca site, you can see the public hearing agenda. Notice that there are other hearings before the Agriculturally Zoned Land Bylaws at the end. Those preliminary ones will tend to move fast.
  2. It’s a good idea to get a seat early and sign up to speak early (if you wish to speak). The sign-up list will be at a table just outside the council chambers.
  3. The sign-up list will be open for signing from 6:30 p.m. on. Look for it and sign up promptly when you arrive—for yourself only.
  4. However, you could come half an hour or so late if you need to. You may have just standing room at first, but some seats will open up when earlier hearings on the agenda are completed. (It is even possible that staff will open up another room where you can hear what’s going on and come up to speak when it’s your time.)
  5. There’s also a section about public hearings that explains how to make a written submission or a spoken one. Council pays less attention to the written ones, but it’s still worthwhile to send a written one, whether or not you also speak as well.
  6. In written or spoken input to a Public Hearing, it is normal to begin by saying that you support a particular bylaw (perhaps Bylaw 9706) and/or oppose a particular bylaw (perhaps Bylaw 9712 and the related Bylaw 9717).
  7. You can send your written input by email to MayorandCouncillors@richmond.ca or use the online form. Be sure to send it before 4 p.m. on May 15. (That deadline is not an ironclad one, but follow it.)
  8. For speaking to the public hearing, it is useful to come with speaking notes and refer to them while speaking. Also practice a bit, and make sure your remarks will fit easily within ten minutes.
  9. However, most people can make their point quickly, beginning by stating their basic position. It is very effective to have lots of people like you stating their position and giving a concise reason for the position. That makes the point while respecting everyone’s time.
  10. If you have thorough speaking notes that are a rough script, the recording secretary would like to have a copy. You can give a copy to her/him before the meeting begins or right after you speak. (Be sure your name is on it.) This is a thoughtful thing to do, because it makes the recording secretary’s challenging role a bit simpler.
  11. While other people are speaking, make notes so that you can politely rebut their points or reinforce their points.
  12. Even if you did not sign up at the beginning, do this and perhaps speak at the end. The chair (almost always the mayor) will normally ask if there is anyone else who wishes to speak, and at that point you would raise your hand and make sure the chair sees you.
  13. We try to be respectful of the Public Hearing process while helping council to make an informed decision that is best for protecting Richmond’s threatened ALR/Agriculture farmland. We also respect opposing views and the people who state them.
  14. Council members can ask questions of any presenter (normally at the end of the presenter’s remarks), so be prepared for that. In this case they will probably not do that much because of time considerations.
  15. There is an opportunity to speak again for three minutes at the end if new content that will make a difference arises for you to share. (The mayor will ask for a show of hands of anyone who needs to speak again.) If you have made notes and have additional new information to add to a point or refute a point, this is the time to concisely state it.
  16. After all of that, council members will discuss the issue and eventually pass a motion for each bylaw on the topic. For example, there could be a motion to approve Bylaw 9712 or to refer it back to staff with particular instructions.
  17. There’s more on the “Speak at a Public Hearing” page.

The location is the first floor of Richmond City Hall on No. 3 Road at Granville Avenue. There is a fair amount of parking space, but come early to be sure of parking. If need be, park in the parkade to the west, on the other side of Minoru, or in Minoru Park.

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You can scroll up to go to “Excellence in protecting farmland” or simply click on that link.

My explanation to council is also a very useful if you wish to speak in an informed way and work for excellence.

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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.”

Bountiful Peace—hope for the Peace Valley

December 8, 2015
Some participants in Bountiful Peace—Richmond, Dec. 1, 2015. Arlene Boon photo.

Some participants in Bountiful Peace—Richmond, Dec. 1, 2015. Arlene Boon photo.

As you may know, an event named Bountiful Peace took place in Richmond last week. It was about saving the Peace Valley, and it was a wake-up call. That fertile land has been condemned to be flooded, but hope remains strong.

The Peace River would be blocked at Site C, near Fort St. John, by a hydroelectric dam—higher than Richmond’s tallest buildings and more than a kilometre long. Submerging the valley would change it from carbon sink to greenhouse gas emitter.

Crucially, it would destroy farmland that should help B.C. to adapt to climate change. The warming climate, along with the huge area of excellent soil, should enable the Peace Valley to produce an increasing amount and range of food, bolstering B.C. food security.

It would partly offset declining imports from California’s parched Central Valley as our population and its food needs rise. For British Columbians, the Peace Valley may be less replaceable than the Central Valley.

Unfortunately, we have provincial leaders who’ve skirted the Agricultural Land Commission, which would likely have conserved the Peace farmland, and the B.C. Utilities Commission, which might have rejected the dam. Unhelpfully, our leaders are going all out to flood the valley and not let it address climate change.

Still, if we citizens keep working to grasp and improve the situation, MLAs and potential MLAs will get the message. If the current B.C. government then stops the Site C project, excellent. Since it probably won’t, we need all who might form the next government to commit to cancelling Site C as soon as they take power.

As Bountiful Peace presenters made clear, it’s not too late. There’s site work in progress, but it can be put to new uses if the project is cancelled within 18 months or so. With dramatic timing, the next B.C. election is due in 17 months—on May 9, 2017.

Meanwhile, there’s ongoing legal action by First Nations and landowners. Since flooding the Peace Valley would be as bad for ecology as for agriculture, environmental groups like Sierra Club BC will also stay engaged.

That said, informed action by enough citizens is key. Good springboards include Stop the Site C Dam and the Peace Value Landowner Association’s info page.

Copyright © 2015 Garden City Conservation Society

Copyright © 2015 Garden City Conservation Society

I’ve just taken action by refining my “Keep the Peace” graphic, the issue at a glance. I’ll see if the campaign can use it on buttons or billboards or something in between. In any case, please act too.

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This article also appears as “Take action to keep the Peace,” one of my “Digging Deep” columns in the Richmond Review of December 9, 2015.

For further viewing and reading:

Site C—STOP the dam flood

December 3, 2015

The Bountiful Peace event in Richmond this week went well, and I like the Peace River Environment Association’s website. However, I’m still trying to get a handle on how to do something successful on this very important issue for both farmland conservation and ecological conservation.

There is an existing logo that works very well on a large banner and could work on road signs:

PVEA stop sign logo

It will also help if there’s a graphic means for campaigners to say a bit more than that does in a more compact way. It needs to be scalable to work at all sizes from a text width of just over 1.5 inches in the Richmond News to the 3-inch diameter of a campaign button to bumper-sticker size to 4-foot by 8-foot billboard size (with the graphic using the left half the width of the billboard). As my mind pondered that, this appeared:

Site C: STOP the dam flood. Keep the Peace Valley.

Copyright © 2015, Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond, B.C.

Of course, people viewing the graphic will often need some explanation, which would appear beside the graphic on a billboard but would require campaign button wearers to respond to questions about the graphic, enabling dialogue. They would explain that a dam at the place near Fort St. John called “Site C” would block the Peace River, causing the river to flood the valley to form a long lake that submerges fertile farmland and forest. Hopefully the message is catchy enough to slightly entertain and to get minds moving with a sense of the conservation perspective.

I will offer this to the main campaigners, since Garden City Conservation is just on the periphery. If they want to use it, they will be welcome to do so, with minimal acknowledgement when the occasion arises.

“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.”

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.