Minister rejects report of ALR demise

Proposal to dismantle agricultural land commission "so secret I don't even know about it myself," Bill Bennett says

VICTORIA – News reports suggesting the B.C. government is considering dismantling the Agricultural Land Commission are not accurate, the minister in charge of the government’s “core review” says.

A plan outlined in documents leaked to the Globe and Mail this week is “so secret that I don’t even know about it myself,” Energy Minister Bill Bennett said in an interview. “We’re not even considering blowing up the ALC, or bringing it inside government.”

Bennett said agricultural land commissioners will continue to decide on applications to amend the land reserve, established 40 years ago to protect farmland from development.

Bennett refused to comment on the suggestion that the province could be divided into two zones with different processes. But he said he is aware of many cases outside the southwestern part of B.C. where obviously unfarmable land remains locked in the reserve.

Part of the problem has been a lack of funding to the commission, Bennett said. The current budget adds $4 million to the commission’s budget over three years.

“It’s not all their fault, it’s the way the legislation is written, it’s the way their policies have developed,” Bennett said. “All of those things add up to a lot of questionable decisions being made, and certainly not in areas where they have good agricultural land like Richmond and south Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan.”

Bennett also rejected the suggestion that the Oil and Gas Commission would overrule the ALC on decisions in B.C.’s northeast. The OGC already has some authority on land use, and its role in the review is “tiny,” he said.

NDP leader Adrian Dix accused the government of hiding its intentions before the May election.

“After commending two separate reviews that called for the ALC to be strengthened before the election, the Liberals are now conspiring to undermine it,” Dix said.

Metro Vancouver mayors, facing the most pressure to expand development, expressed alarm.

“Certainly it’s disturbing if they’re throwing it out the window,” said Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters.

She said some ALR boundaries need adjustment, but beyond that, her main concerns are that the commission has been underfunded to do its job and that more effort is needed to help support the viability of farming.

“It has problems, but it has its place,” Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said of the ALR. “It protects us from ourselves.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Dallas Road

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

In January, six flights with cases of COVID-19 onboard have landed at the Victoria International Airport so far. (Black Press Media file photo)
Two new COVID-19 exposures reported on flights to Victoria

A Jan. 10 flight from Toronto and Jan. 11 flight from Calgary were affected

West Shore RCMP are looking for a suspect and their mini van, which crashed into a parked vehicle and home along the 200-block of Island Highway in View Royal on Jan. 18. (Black Press Media file photo)
Driver crashes into parked car and home in View Royal, speeds away: RCMP

Incident took place near 200-block of Island Highway Monday night

Victoria police say the number of business break and enters in the city has been rising for the last four months. (Twitter/VicPD)
Business break and enters on the rise in Victoria

Sophisticated techniques used to defeat alarm systems, police say

The Starbucks in Langford’s Westshore Town Centre is one of almost 300 storefronts that the U.S. coffee giant will be shutting across Canada by the end of March. (Google Maps)
Langford’s Westshore Town Centre Starbucks to close permanently

Popular coffee chain to close 300 storefronts across Canada by end of March

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth (Black Press files)
B.C. watchdog says mentally ill children and youth retraumatized in hospital

The number of children held under the Mental Health Act has increased an alarming 162 per cent in past decade

A new video from NCCIH and BC Northern Health titled ‘Healing in Pandemic Times: Indigenous Peoples, Stigma and COVID-19’ was animated by Joanne Gervais. (Photo Provided By: NCCIH Archives)
VIDEO: Stigma against Indigenous people is a ‘social sickness’

A new short animated video is aiming to educate the public on the stigmatization

Nanaimo RCMP are investigating after a threat was made at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Threat directed at Nanaimo mall, RCMP investigating

Police have searched areas of Woodgrove Centre accessible to shoppers and have deemed it safe

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Most Read