Finally the Agricultural Land Reserve’s independent committee has stepped in on the ongoing repurposing of the best agricultural land in Canada to privately owned gated estates, many in numbered companies and owned offshore for multi-millionaire elite.
Richmond City Council is in complicit in this destruction, allowing mansions of almost 11,000 square feet to be built on Class one agricultural land, and also allowing a 3,200 square foot additional house for the “help” on larger properties. Richmond has 61 applications they are now processing as the supposedly protected Class 1 agricultural land is busily carved up for short profit developer gain, exempt from foreign buyer’s tax, and getting property tax breaks by producing a rock bottom minimal “profit” on the land.
On Wednesday, the eight-member group submitted a report to the agricultural minister with 13 recommendations for legislative and regulatory change that would better protect B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The reserve was set up in 1973 to protect the province’s best farmland from development and now represents about five percent of B.C.’s total landmass. One key recommendation was that the province establish a maximum floor size for all primary residences built on ALR properties, noting the government’s current suggestion of almost 5,400 square feet as a good starting point.
“It came up all the time, people felt that it was an abuse of the ALR and increased the levels of speculation on the land,” said committee chair Vicki Huntington, a former independent MLA from Delta South. “They felt that it was detrimental to the preservation of the capacity of the land to be saved for farming, so we felt that it was one of the primary recommendations that we had to make.We’ll see if the government feels that it’s a worthwhile one.”
A Globe and Mail investigation in 2016 looked at the loopholes that has turned farmland into a residential cash cow. The Provincial opposition Liberals did themselves no favour by speaking out against the Agricultural Land Reserve, saying that decision-making was being taken away from farmers. That’s too little too late, as the wholesale destruction of the best farmland in Canada has morphed into a get rich quick scheme for exploiting tax loopholes for the super rich, and making multi-million dollar profit for the estate developers. It is time to respond to the wholesale destruction of farmland as if food security and the need for a farming future truly was important.