For those of you who haven’t been following the provincial Bill 24 debate, here’s the gist of it. On March 27th, 2014 Bill Bennett and Steve Thompson (acting Minister of Agriculture) announced Bill 24, the amendments of the Agricultural Land Commission Act. The creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in the 1970s was a visionary, strategic move on the part of the Government of BC to ensure food security for the future. The changes to the ALR are potentially significant and affect a policy that has lasted for 40 years. The Bill would see the ALR split into two administrative zones. One zone (Interior, Kootenay and North) would be open to development projects according to the Agriculture Council, which represents 14,000 farmers and ranchers. Current rules would stay in place for the second zone (Lower Mainland, Okanagan Valley, Fraser Valley).
There has been very little public consultation with key stakeholders including farmers, ranchers, local governments, and citizens of BC. Our leading farm and ranch organizations have prepared thoughtful policy statements on the ALR but these documents have not been factored into the discussion. There has been wide spread condemnation of the changes by agricultural producers, farmers, scientists, biologists and food activists. Farmers around the province have been sending “selfies” to their MLAs and Norm Letnick, the new Agriculture Minister asking them to postpone the second reading until the fall, unfortunately, it went ahead this week. You can still have a say. Here’s what you can do.
1 Send a message to your MLA now, regardless of whether he/she is Liberal or opposition.
2 Ask him/her to kill Bill 24.
3 State a persuasive reason (for food security, to allow time for consultation, to save the ALR, etc.)