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Tyee readers overwhelmingly against opening up the ALR

This week, The Tyee asked readers whether it's time to ease restrictions on the Agricultural Land Reserve.

As Andrew MacLeod recently reported, "The British Columbia government is dividing the Agricultural Land Reserve into two zones and loosening restrictions on how 90 per cent of that land can be used."

An overwhelming number of respondents said that was the wrong approach. More than 98 per cent of the 667 votes cast in the poll by Thursday afternoon were "nos."

Voters cited various reasons for their opposition. Some focused on the effect the ALR has had since its implementation, arguing that it works well already and doesn't need to be changed:

"The ALR has mostly worked as it is, other than those who take advantage of its loopholes. We don't need more loopholes that allow people to unfairly take advantage of the new regs to unfairly benefit some. A two-tiered ALR is unfair to those in the areas working in the original rules. One set of rules that are used in a fair and intelligent manner should work for all."

"The [Agricultural Land Commission, which governs the ALR] works well under its current framework of adjudication of the value of any particular parcel of ALR land. It also looks to the future of agricultural needs in the province. If ALR lands lack agricultural value under the current terms of reference of the ALC, both in terms of present or future agricultural capability, then the ALC can allow a broader range of use but such decisions should be on a case by case basis."

"This is one of the most effective pieces of environmental legislation ever."

Other respondents argued that ALR land is needed for food security and will become more important to protect as the effects of climate change continue to materialize:

"Viable and even marginal farmland will only become more valuable to the province as a resource, since we need to feed ourselves in the face of climate uncertainty and rising (economic & environmental) fuel costs."

"There's no future in the destruction of productive agricultural land. There is a greater need for it now as a food source than for its conversion into more speculative real estate, industrial or transport development."

Many respondents went for the pithy:

"To a critical thinker it should be obvious; you can't eat condominiums."

"Very simple: no farms, no food."

And many others for the personal:

"It will just lead to the loss of valuable arable land which was the point of it in the first place. I grew up on an orchard on the upper bench of East Kelowna that my family owned from 1923 until 1983. The ALR ensured that when it was sold it would remain producing fruit…"

"I own ALR land and there are restrictions of what I can do on it; however, I have lived with the restrictions for almost 50 years and am proud to be a part of sustaining B.C.'s agricultural lands."

There were also a handful of respondents who voted in favour of the changes. Some of their comments looked similar to those in the "no" camp, but with opposite conclusions:

"I live on a small piece of property in the ALR. Around me is huge growth, new homes, businesses, I do believe that large parcels and in farming communities should be kept as farming but for small pieces of property that have no farming access or such high density around them they should be eased off and let to come out of the ALR."

"It was a flawed piece of legislation from the start and should have been amended/repealed years ago. Prime farmland needs to be protected but a lot of the land in the ALR needs no protection."

The Tyee Poll is not a scientific poll, but rather is intended to simply get the pulse of Tyee readers and the wider community. This week's poll will remain open through the end of the day on Sunday.

Ian Holliday is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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