Opinion

Apply best practice to ALR Bill 24

Lingyen Mountain Temple Retreat proposal from James K.M. Cheng Architects.  -
Lingyen Mountain Temple Retreat proposal from James K.M. Cheng Architects.
— image credit:

Agricultural Land Commission needs more funding, not more headaches.” That’s the title of the May 21 Review editorial, and it’s right on. If passed, Bill 24 will cause headaches and worse. We know that from Richmond’s Lingyen Mountain Temple experience.

Bill 24 would impose again a tried-and-failed practice that was foisted on the commission twelve years ago. In his review of ALC operations in 2010, commission chair Richard Bullock described it as “6 regional commissions.” The ALC regions hardly talked. One effect was low quality at too-high cost.

Early in that period, a regional panel approved an application to expand the Lingyen temple on ALR land in Richmond. It skirted the ALC Act and the city zoning.

Bullock restored the ALC’s provincial focus but kept the regional aspect of commissioners in many parts of B.C. One effect is high quality at lower cost. It has enabled the ALC to begin overdue ALR boundary reviews.

Last month, I felt sad for Lingyen temple members as I watched council have to speak against their plans once again. The way the ALC panel had let Lingyen bypass the city a decade earlier still hindered the temple’s cause. The cost and heartache has been immense.

Now Bill 24 would give the failed “6 regional commissions” practice the force of law. Insane. Food is basic to life, and the bad law would make our food supply less secure. Yet it would be imposed without public consultation.

The B.C. government can do better. In fact, it consulted widely on the way to the new water act. Tellingly, the MLAs of all political stripes were happy to vote it into law last month. That protected the future of our water, also basic to life. Surely our food deserves the same kind of best practice.

Bill 24 is like a runaway train with brake trouble. Fortunately, an MLA’s motion could slow it down for wide consultation. The motion will be debated on Monday.

To help out, google “Hands off our food security” to reach the West Coast Environmental Law page with that heading. With the online form there, you can quickly send a Bill 24 message to the premier, your MLA and others. The program also keeps count, and the statistics will usefully show how many people care.

With our helpful prompting, the government may apply its best consultation practice to enhance best ALC practice and avert the Bill 24 train crash.

Jim Wright is a Richmond resident and president of the Garden City Lands Coalition Society. For more information on this topic, visit GardenCityLands.Wordpress.com.

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