Letters

Bill 24 is a kick in the teeth to the Agricultural Land Commission

Editor:

Re: “Bill 24 opens up ‘major development’ in ALR,” April 30.

Bill 24, the bill to kill the ALR, is vile beyond the dwindled protection of our province’s scarce farmland. As the alarm gets louder, let’s grow more aware of the human harm.

I’ve earlier described how the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and his team have streamlined the ALC to meet today’s needs. Chair Richard Bullock’s factual updates on the ALC website show their systematic steps and impact. Instead of thanks, they got Bill 24 in return, a kick in the teeth.

There’s wider human harm for entry-level farmers. Attacks on the ALC spur speculators to buy ALR farmland at prices farmers can’t afford. While some speculators let farmers lease their land, many leave it vacant and run-down so they can claim it’s only useful for development.

For all of us, Bill 24 harms food security. With the decline of the Central Valley of California as a food source, we need more local food, not less. With rising prices, the poor will lose out the most. In effect, Bill 24 would take food from the plates of hungry children.

At his media event to unveil his brainchild Bill 24, Minister Bill Bennett brought in a supporter from East Kootenay to show the need. She wanted her children to be able to build a prison or motel on ALR land to supplement their farming income. So I admit the bill could please some people.

But does that offset the harm to the ALC team and young farmers and people struggling to get by? What’s more, the harm to the commission—and hence to all of us—would be hard to reverse. I suggest we let Richard Bullock and the ALC team do their jobs.

As for Bill 24, replace it. Return to a plan that helps farmers and food security. Former agriculture minister Pat Bell came up with it six years ago.

The news release said “B.C. Agriculture Plan goes local for global benefit,” and the plan went beyond that. It was so practical and visionary that I joined the B.C. Liberal Party, and it’s even better for today.

Jim Wright

President, Garden City Conservation Society

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