Bill 24 consultations ignore voices of farmers

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CRANBROOK – The B.C. Liberals are showing they don’t want to hear what farmers think about their devastating changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve, say the New Democrats.

“The B.C. Liberals promised extensive consultations that would inform government as they draft regulations after ramming through legislation that undermines the ALR, but now they’re ramming through the consultation in the same way,” said New Democrat agriculture spokesperson Lana Popham.

“Let’s not forget that 90 per cent of our ALR lands are now open for development because of Bill 24. The sham consultation process that’s happening now, for one short month, is sealing the fate of those lands,” Popham said.

Popham has been travelling the province attending the consultation sessions, including one today in Cranbrook. She says she doesn’t like what she’s hearing.

“The consultations were scheduled for the middle of summer – that’s when farmers are farming,” said Popham, noting that she has heard from many in the agriculture community that they just don’t have the time to participate at this time of year so their voices will not be heard.

“If the B.C. Liberals really wanted an authentic process they wouldn’t have chosen the time of year when participation would be lowest.”

Popham said the least the Minister of Agriculture could do is extend the consultation process until the end of the year.

“Consultation should have happened before Bill 24 was rammed through in the legislature. The very least they could do now is have an appropriate timeline,” said Popham. “As it stands, this process is deeply flawed, and will result in a report and regulation changes to the ALC that agriculture stakeholders can’t even review before it is final.”

Bill 24 removed protections for 90 per cent of ALR land, opening it up for development. The B.C. Liberals failed to consult with farmers before bringing in the bill and pushing it through in the spring legislative session.