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Foreign trade zone threatens Delta farmland, says MLA

The provincial government's interest in foreign trade zones is likely to lead to the destruction of more farm land in Delta, says independent MLA Vicki Huntington.

"When you hear about the foreign trade zone, you just start connecting all the dots," said Huntington, who represents Delta South. "Delta's going to be used as the province's doormat . . . It's sad when there's a government with such single mindedness about economic values over all other values. It's a danger to the health and welfare of British Columbia."

The provincial government began searching in February for a consultant to study the pros and cons of setting up such a zone, where "tariffs are reduced or eliminated and goods can be stored duty or tax-free," Public Eye website reported.

Huntington and NDP Delta North MLA Guy Gentner both asked about foreign trade zones in question period today.

There's reason to be suspicious, Huntington said in the legislature, "When the former, former Minister of Transportation [Kevin Falcon] takes B.C. Rail to Dubai with him, when Global Container Terminals at Deltaport is owned in Dubai, when Global Container chairs the steering committee advocating free trade zones in B.C., when B.C. Rail has stockpiled more land than it requires for rail expansion and when a land consolidation group is secretly optioning agricultural land adjacent to the B.C. holdings in Delta."

She asked, "Will the minister tell me whether this government is contemplating a free trade zone on the agricultural lands in Delta?"

The current transportation and infrastructure minister, Blair Lekstrom, said no decisions have been made about establishing a foreign trade zone. "There is no determination, locations of any such," he said. "I think that would be far too premature . . . There has been no indication of any piece of property, whether it be in British Columbia or anywhere else that I know of, that has been committed to such an exercise."

Huntington said she believes that the government has secretly moved far along in its planning and it's likely a done deal. "This isn't about jobs," she said. "It's about greed. It's about flipping land in Delta, and it's about the destruction of the finest agricultural land in Canada."

Foreign trade zones do create jobs, Lekstrom responded. "There is a lot of speculation in your question, a lot of speculation that I think is unfounded, to be honest with you," he said. "I am all for continuing to enhance our gateway to the Asia-Pacific. It is a vitally important part of our economy. If we have the ability to create jobs for British Columbians and their families and their children growing up here, I'm going to do everything I can to ensure that happens."

Huntington said Delta includes key migratory bird habitat and more farm land should not be destroyed for a foreign trade zone. "It's money and big business and I don't think they're looking at the social and environmental factors," she said. "I am opposed to the destruction of Delta . . . We've done our share."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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