Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons

Insults fly as B.C. farmland bill passes

Agricultural Land Commission debate provides bitter end to spring session of B.C. legislature

VICTORIA – The B.C. legislature adjourned for the summer Thursday with opposition MLAs battling to the end against legislation to divide the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones.

The government used its majority to cut off debate and pass the bill, after days of opposition demands to withdraw it and complete promised consultation with farmers around the province.

“You’re all a bunch of corrupt liars,” shouted NDP agriculture critic Nicholas Simons, before he stormed out of the chamber as time ran out. Simons returned to withdraw his comments so he could vote against the legislation.

Independent MLAs Andrew Weaver and Vikki Huntington joined NDP critics in denouncing the move to ease restrictions on secondary farmland uses in the North, Kootenay and Cariboo zones. Another target of criticism was the move to formalize the six local Agricultural Land Commission panels to make decisions on exclusions and permitted uses.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald accused the government of adding social and economic considerations to farmland as a pretext to undermine the commission’s independence.

“We are talking about important agricultural areas that will now be open to exclusions, that decision being made by a bunch of B.C. Liberal political hacks on criteria that are totally nebulous – to the extent that there’s even a provision to add whatever else the cabinet wants to add,” Macdonald said. “It could be economic. It could be social. It could be anything.”

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick pointed to amendments made in response to criticism that emphasize that the ALC is independent and its top priority remains to preserve productive farmland.

Letnick used the example of a Peace River region farmer who was prevented from parking gas industry trucks on his land during winter to earn extra money.

“We as a government believe that there’s an opportunity in some parts of the province where there is less pressure on agricultural land to give farmers some freedom in making sure they can be successful on that land,” Letnick said.

NDP leader John Horgan said a leaked 2012 email exchange between Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett and Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm suggests a “vendetta” against the ALC and a desire to weaken it for political gain.

Pimm, who was replaced as agriculture minister as he undergoes cancer surgery, issued an apology this week for his comments in the email.

Premier Christy Clark said the changes do not affect the Okanagan, Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island zones, which generate 85% of B.C.’s farm income.

“We are making it economic in areas with a shorter growing season, with less productive farmland, to be able to continue to make land valuable enough that they will pass it down to another family,” Clark said.

 

Just Posted

Alberni hosts Island track and field championship

Secondary schools compete at Bob Dailey Stadium

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

200,000 salmon smolts released in netpens for Alberni salmon enhancement

West Coast Aquatic has released 205,000 chinook smolts into two net pens… Continue reading

Virtual simulation engages users in the event of a tsunami hitting Port Alberni

A team from the University of Victoria display a tsunami simulation at the 2018 #BCTECH Summit

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Searchers for Vancouver Island father turn focus to Cowichan River

Cowichan SAR joined by many other SAR groups, volunteers now determined to find missing man

Vacationers urged to check for stowaway bats that could carry deadly disease

‘White-nose syndrome’ has killed millions of bats in North America, but hasn’t arrived in B.C. yet

Highway 19A closed in both directions near Union Bay

An incident involving a vehicle has shut down Highway 19A in both directions early Saturday morning.

Are B.C.’s gas prices enough to keep you from travelling May long weekend?

Gas prices in B.C. ranging from 125 cents per litre to more than 150 cents

Most Read