Posts Tagged ‘Frank Leonard’

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.”

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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.

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.