Carole James MLA Report - May 2014

Over the past few weeks, I have heard from many constituents concerned about the provincial government’s Bill 24. This bill threatens to undermine B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), established in 1973 by the New Democrat government of the day to protect farmland from development.

It was contentious at the time, and has been threatened many times in the years since. But over the last 40 years, it has proven to be the foundation for the province’s agricultural sector, ensuring a bounty of locally-grown food while protecting B.C.’s very limited farmland.

Of the province’s total land base, just five percent is suitable for agriculture. Yet under Bill 24, ALR holdings outside Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan could be opened to development. Those holdings comprise 90 percent of the land in the province’s entire ALR.

Food security, food safety and local food production has never been more important. Droughts in California, reports of unsafe food production overseas and more expensive imported food all show that our B.C. farmland is an irreplaceable resource for all of us.

For the last 40 years, decisions about agricultural land have been made by expert members of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). But under Bill 24, such decisions will be handed over to a body of hand-picked political appointees.

None of this was mentioned as being under consideration during last year’s election campaign. It’s astonishing to note that Bill 24 was written and has been introduced with no opportunity for public consultation.

Such a significant change to public policy and land use demands that the people have a say. And yet that just hasn’t happened.

Land which isn’t farmable shouldn’t be in the reserve, government argues. Well, the Opposition agrees. For the last 40 years, the independent commission has taken care to review applications to remove land with an eye to making sure reasonable exclusions are allowed. That’s a responsible, rational approach to management of our agricultural land.

This legislation takes away that independence, and fails to recognize the importance of the ALR province-wide. Our farmland is precious and once it is lost as farmland, it is lost forever.

It’s crucial that we support the ALR, and that we support farms and farmers. By protecting the land that they depend on for their living, we who live in cities also protect our food supplies, and our food security for now and for future generations.

That commitment to ensuring safe and reliable made-in-B.C. food production is at the heart of the Local Food Act, introduced in the Legislature this spring by the Official Opposition. By encouraging more local food processing and sales, we can clear the way for farmers to more easily market their products right at home so we can all “Buy B.C.”

Bill 24 must be stopped, and we are fighting it in the Legislature. If you don’t want farmland turned over to development and managed through political decisions, it’s important to tell the government they need to kill Bill 24. It’s time for action, and you can help.

Please go to savethealr.ca to send a message to the Premier and the Minister of Agriculture. Use your own words to describe why you think it’s wrong to weaken protections for farmland.

As always, I appreciate hearing your views on this topic and any others of interest to you and your family. Please contact me at:

1084 Fort Street
Victoria, BC V8V 3K4

Phone: 250 952-4211
Carole.James.mla@leg.bc.ca

www.carolejamesmla.ca