VICTORIA – Despite its failure to implement the changes recommended in two previous reports, the Liberal government is wasting more time and money on yet another review of the Agricultural Land Commission, say New Democrats.
“In 2011, the chair of the ALC reported on improvements that needed to be made, but the Liberals have failed to implement them. Nor did much change after the Auditor General did a report in 2010, chastising the government for failing to meet the needs of the commission,” said New Democrat agriculture critic Nicholas Simons.
“Now, the Liberals are explicitly including the Agricultural Land Commission and the Agricultural Land Reserve in their core review. It’s hard to believe their goal is anything but more cuts that will undermine agricultural land protection in B.C.”
Simons said we should be strengthening our commitment to local agriculture, but during 12 years of Liberal government, agriculture has never received the support it deserves – beginning with cuts made to the ALC as a result of the Liberal government’s first core review in 2002. At that time, the Liberal government weakened the provincial commission by breaking it into six regional groups, allowing for easier exclusions.
By 2011, the chair of the ALC warned government that the application process had deteriorated to the point he said it “appears to be directly opposed to the objectives of the Agricultural Land Commission Act.”
“A small funding increase was granted specifically to allow the ALC to become more proactive,” noted Simons. “So including the ALC in the core review while changes are being made is cynical and highly inappropriate.”
“Since 2002, the Liberals have been chipping away at the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Agricultural Land Commission,” he said. “We have a growing population and more people are taking an interest in buying locally grown food. We need to protect our valuable food-producing regions, not put them in jeopardy by undermining the ALC.”
Simons noted that less than five per cent of British Columbia’s land base is productive farmland, and there are constant pressures to have that land converted for other uses. Meanwhile, the B.C. government contributes less to the agriculture sector, relative to the size of its industry, than any other province in Canada, and even cut the budget of the ministry of agriculture by a quarter in 2009.
“Farmland is a precious resource and should be protected, so that future generations will have access to locally grown food,” said Simons. “It’s time for the Liberals to commit to protecting our valuable food-producing regions.”