VICTORIA— A bill introduced by the B.C. Liberal government will break apart the Agricultural Land Reserve, removing protections from 90 per cent of B.C. farmland and putting it at risk of industrial development, say New Democrats.
“Breaking apart the Agricultural Land Reserve is breaking trust with British Columbians, who overwhelmingly support the protection of farmland for today and for the future. The ALR was created to protect farmland in all of British Columbia, not just in some regions of British Columbia,” said Nicholas Simons, New Democrat agriculture critic.
“The way to support farmers is with program support like extension officers, farm insurance and other farmer friendly policies, not by opening up farmland to industrial activities, residential development and other non-farm uses.”
Bill 24 will give unaccountable B.C. Liberal appointees the power to allow industrial and residential development on 90 per cent of ALR land.
“At a time when California is in the midst of the worst drought in 500 years and British Columbian families are struggling with higher and higher food bills, the government should be supporting and encouraging farmers to farm their land, not encouraging them to remove it from the Agricultural Land Reserve,” said Simons.
“If the B.C. Liberals planned to dismantle the Agricultural Land Reserve, they should have put it in their election platform. They have no mandate to undermine these critical protections for B.C. farmland.”
Simons noted that one of the biggest reasons that the average age of farmers is increasing is because young British Columbians who want to farm can’t afford land. That’s largely due to a decade and a half of the B.C. Liberal government sending signals that ALR land is on the table for development.
“One of the biggest benefits that the ALR was supposed to provide was keeping land affordable for new farmers – by continually undermining the reserve, the B.C. Liberals have fueled speculation on B.C. farmland, putting it out of reach of young farmers,” said Simons. “This bill is not about helping farmers, it’s about helping land speculators and big industry to get their hands on agricultural land.”