Governance & Politics
July 6, 2018

McMansioning of Agricultural Land May be Over~Province Finally Stepping In

After the majority of council in the City of Richmond busily carved up the best agricultural land in Canada — in their jurisdiction, sadly — the Minister of Agriculture is finally ready to step in.

As reported by the National Observer, the days of exploiting loopholes in Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) legislation may well be over; the ALR is all about protecting the best arable lands in Canada, and so the Province of British Columbia stated publicly that this land should be, well, exclusively farmland.

With the McMansioning of Class 1 agricultural land at epidemic level in Richmond, the Observer spoke to Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham about this central idea, and the reality that this is happening in other areas in the province too. Her response is telling.

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There’s a farmland travesty occurring in Richmond where city council has been influenced to approve mansions of 10,700 square feet on farmland over one half an acre, and on larger parcels, an additional house of 3,200 square feet for the “help”.

This is all a shell game in more than one sense. The pro-development Richmond Farmland Owner’s Association (you will note that is farmland owners, not farmers) has organized a $ummer Barbeque (yes they use the $ sign for the “S”) to raise money for the six councillors who were complicit in the McMansioning of City of Richmond farmland, ignoring the cap established by the province for houses on agricultural land (previously 5,382 square feet).

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Surprise — this October’s civic election in British Columbia will be no less gripping for those outside of the Vancouver echo chamber.

In the City of Richmond, and perhaps Delta too, citizens will directly decide on the city’s future as it relates to values around agricultural land protection, food security, and pushing back against deep-pocketed development.

The roots of the fight to come go way back; early European settlements used Lulu island (so named in 1862) for farming and fishing. It’s a big reason why Richmond got the name ‘the Garden City’. Farming is still important to Richmond today; Harold Steves, a longstanding Councillor for the City of Richmond, is also a farmer, and his family’s roots in Richmond date back to the early farming settlements of this place.

His family is why we have a village named Steveston, and Clr. Steves is one of the people for whom we have to thank for the Agricultural Land Reserve, established in 1973.

He’s also one of the few people in the halls of power fighting for its survival.

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It’s some sort of societal pivot when marijuana product producers seek certification from kosher inspectors.

It’s a good marketing idea for budding weed producers here in Vancouver — the coveted kosher certification as a useful way to distinguish your product in a crowded marketplace.

Rachel Adams writes in the New York Times.

As legalization of medical marijuana has hopscotched the nation, entrepreneurs have become nothing if not imaginative: Marijuana lotions, gluten-free edibles and many other niche products have hit the market. Businesses have also found resourceful ways to deal with a patchwork of taxation, banking and interstate commerce issues.

Little about the fledgling industry, then, comes as a surprise. But kosher pot?

Well, business is business, whether it’s widgets or weed, and any bit of competitive advantage is welcome.

“You’re seeing companies looking for creative ways to distinguish themselves, but also just interesting ways to appeal to different types of consumers,” said Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Canadians are moving slowly along the path to some sort of legalization of cannabis beyond the medical.  Amusingly, given the shenanigans of the last many years, some of the impetus for legalization came long ago from the Federal Senate.

Senate Committee recommends legalization of cannabis 

OTTAWA, September 4, 2002 – The Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs today released its final report on cannabis.  In an exhaustive and comprehensive two-year study of public policy related to marijuana, the Special Committee found that the drug should be legalized.  The 600 plus page Senate report is a result of rigorous research, analysis and extensive public hearings in Ottawa and communities throughout Canada with experts and citizens.

“Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue”, said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chair of the Special Committee, in a news conference today in Ottawa.  “Indeed, domestic and international experts and Canadians from every walk of life told us loud and clear that we should not be imposing criminal records on users or unduly prohibiting personal use of cannabis.  At the same time, make no mistake, we are not endorsing cannabis use for recreational consumption.  Whether or not an individual uses marijuana should be a personal choice that is not subject to criminal penalties.  But we have come to the conclusion that, as a drug, it should be regulated by the State much as we do for wine and beer, hence our preference for legalization over decriminalization.”

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Fertile delta land … part of the Pacific Flyway … below sea level:

Map here.



Story here.


Tsawwassen First Nation is open for business. With a new mega-mall on its land near Delta expected to be completed in May 2016, the TFN is now looking into building a liquefied natural gas export facility on a 32-hectare (80-acre) section of land designated  industrial.

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For one week — beginning Monday August 24 — staff, volunteers, and supporters of the Richmond Food Security Society (RFSS) will only be eating produce grown on our island, meat raised by our farmers, and seafood caught by local fishermen.

This challenge is an exciting new initiative to raise awareness about local food and promote food security. It’s also an important fundraiser for the Richmond Food Security Society.

All funds raise through #RichmondEats will support the Richmond Food Security Society’s core activities aimed at fighting hunger in our community and building a nutritious, safe, secure, and affordable food system.

Donations can be made here.

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If the post below doesn’t make you feel better about this place and its possibilities, then this will:


Go here for link to video


From Sara Couper at the City of Vancouver:

While food policy is the centrepiece of the video, it tells a broader story of the City of Vancouver’s work towards creating a healthy and engaged city. The purpose of the video is to showcase the outcome of creating spaces where intergenerational and intercultural connections can flourish, and where food plays a major role in creating engaged, healthy, connected, and inclusive cities.

Best quote, especially if you were someone who was a bit cynical about people growing food in the city:

You are not going to be able to look at one block in this city in ten years and not seem some part of the local food economy taking root ….

– Sadhu Johnston, Deputy City Manager

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Somebody’s trying to be provocative.



In this case, Jon Dziadyk in the Journal of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute:


Food trucks, once severely restricted by municipal bylaws, are finding sympathetic councils liberalizing rules across Alberta to woo them en masse. It seems some view each additional food truck as a notch in the belt of becoming an ultraurban “live, work, and play” international destination. But does food from a truck taste better than from a proper kitchen? And does their presence add investment into a community?

In discussion with others, it seems that food trucks are appealing for the following reasons:

  1. Support for local business/food producers
  2. Maneuverability
  3. The “cool” factor.

My take:

1.  No business shows more commitment to a neighbourhood than those who risk all to establish a traditional bricks and mortar restaurant. Restaurants are almost always run by community members, and food is often locally sourced – we don’t need a truck to teach us about sustainability. Food trucks appear hyper-profit driven (spending so much time on marketing and lobbying) even though they, ironically, seem to cater towards the “socially conscious”. If a food truck stops going into a struggling neighbourhood, they are further disinvesting in its future: when the going gets tough…


2. Why is maneuverability of food a good thing?

If food trucks congregate at a local festival, and they intercept us before we can walk to a traditional restaurant, who is winning in this situation? They also often obstruct sidewalks with their customers, and they consume several parking spaces (including for their humming diesel generators) at the busiest-of-busy times.


3. People tend to point to the general ‘cool factor’ of food trucks. In my opinion they are not cool.

I do not like that there are no washrooms for customers (or for the food handlers), and I feel that they are typically overpriced (shouldn’t a truck that doesn’t pay property taxes pass the savings to the customers?). I can’t explain why they are considered ‘cool’, but they are. I predict that politicians will soon routinely pose for photo-ops in front of these trucks during elections, replacing the practice of pouring Tim Horton’s coffee in front of the media.

Yes, Portland has introduced several innovative concepts to the rest of us urban planners such as city-sponsored mixed-use developments, new takes on transit, etcetera; however, not everything from Portland should be adopted without critical reflection. We know that we do not like the extensive American highway infrastructure, but I feel that the food truck craze should also hit the road, or at least they should not be preferentially treated by bylaw over traditional restaurants.

Municipal councils across Alberta should ratchet up the restrictions on these trucks in favour of those who want to put an actual steak in the community (pun intended). Investment in a community should be encouraged by businesses, and other redevelopment will follow – creating livable spaces over the long-term. Let’s build communities to last.

Postscript: Okay, I was trying to be provocative, but it leads to the question: What is the ‘value added’ found within food trucks? Why are they considered ‘cool’? If we can isolate that, perhaps we could apply these principles to other infrastructure. The food truck provides an eerie obsession worthy of further study


Jon Dziadyk, RPP, MCIP has been an Alberta professional planner for eight years, prior to which he extensively travelled. He is also the author of the eBook novel Murder By Pizza where he provides further commentary on the importance of local restaurants to build community identity.

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UBC Margolese Design for Living Prize Lecture


The annual UBC Margolese National Design for Living Prize, valued at $50,000, recognizes a Canadian who has made outstanding contributions to the development or improvement of living environments for Canadians of all economic classes.



This  lecture will feature a keynote by the winner, Vikram Bhatt, a professor at McGill University’s School of Architecture, recognized for his decades-long work on minimum cost housing and more recently his work on urban agriculture


Monday, January 19

6:30 pm Lecture / 7:30 pm Reception

UBC Robson Square 800 Robson Street


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