The Tyee

The Agricultural Land Reserve

10 May 2005, TheTyee.ca

View full article and comments: http://thetyee.ca/Election/Hotbuttons/2005/05/10/LandReserve/

THE ISSUE

For more than 30 years, the ALR has helped to protect B.C.'s limited supply of arable land from development. The provincial government recently gave local governments power to remove land from the reserve. The mere hope that land might be removed can drive up land values, putting good land out of the reach of farmers who wish to work it.

Of course, it's complicated

The original ALR boundaries were extremely imprecise and often inappropriate, and remnants of those failings still persist in the system.

The bottom line

Do you favour increased restrictions on removing land from the ALR, or would you loosen the rules further? Do you favour allowing sprawling greenhouses to be built on agricultural land?

THE ANSWERS

Green Party of BC

We believe that removing land from the ALR to further urban sprawl is short-sighted and compromises B.C. food security. While boundary adjustments may be appropriate in some circumstances, ALR regulations need to be decided by communities and the provincial government together. Greenhouses built on agricultural land may serve the key function of the ALR, yet annoy their neighbors. As with many of our answers, community control is key. Some communities will see these as suitable, others not. Our position is to let communities decide what's best for them.

Democratic Reform BC

Addressing the preservation of agricultural land in the absence of a vision for the future of agriculture is like a surgeon discussing which leg to remove from a terminal patient. The future of agriculture in British Columbia is at risk, and yes the ALR needs reform. We need to ask how we can preserve not just land but farmers. Democratic Reform has a six-point plan for agriculture that will strengthen farm families and communities by investing in agriculture on par with other Canadian provinces. That means returning 16 percent of agricultural GDP to the farm sector rather than B.C.'s disgraceful six percent. It means creating an environment for viable family farm succession, expanding agricultural PST exemptions, participating fully in available federal initiatives and risk management programs, providing a crop insurance program that reflects the diversity of the province's Agri-food sector and protecting and enhancing agricultural access to water. Al Clarke, Kelowna-Lake Country, DRBC agriculture critic, 250-763-9840, adc-alr@shaw.ca

NDP

The Agricultural Land Reserve is one of the enduring legacies of B.C.'s first NDP government. Its advocates say it not only preserved farmland but also played a central role in encouraging compact, transit-friendly development in the Lower Mainland. The NDP platform states that the "Campbell Liberals took responsibility for the Agricultural Land Commission away from the Ministry of Agriculture and deliberately weakened the protection of the Agricultural Land Reserve, once again giving land developers the upper hand." The NDP promises to renew the ALR mandate and "restore Ministry of Agriculture responsibility for the Agricultural Land Reserve, ensuring its foremost priority is to protect and sustain B.C.'s farmland". The platform also declares that agriculture "contributes more than $2.2 billion to the provincial economy, providing more than half our food needs and generating employment for more than 200,000 British Columbians" and states that 98 percent of B.C. farms are family-owned.

BC Liberals

After the last election, in keeping with its campaign promise, the Campbell government replaced the single provincial agricultural land commission with six regional authorities. The Liberals also gave local councils and regional districts more power to remove land from the ALR and permit new uses of agricultural land. Campbell told the Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith at the time that local communities are better equipped to decide the fate of marginal agricultural land. However, as local councils look for more tax revenue and face pressure from developers, prime agricultural land is at risk. The municipality of Kent, near Abbotsford, is currently considering a plan to remove a well-established farm from the ALR for housing.

 [Tyee]