Governance & Politics
August 17, 2018

Province Says They Are Going to Stop the Private Estating of Agricultural Lands

Finally — entering the final stretch of a hot, dry summer, the Province of BC’s Minister of Agriculture says she is going to do something about the flagrant misuse of council authority in the City of Richmond.

As The Richmond News reports:

Lana Popham the Minister of Agriculture is now saying it directly~she is closing the barn door  on Richmond’s agricultural land speculators this Fall. Ms. Popham states “Legally limiting house sizes on protected farmland is among 13 recommendations for “immediate legislative and regulatory change. We can expect to see changes coming forward in the fall with regards to that.”

Previously, this council green-lit the development of the best agricultural lands in Canada into exclusive private estates for the very, very rich — many off-shore owned. Of course, these particular land owners receive the unintended additional benefit of a ‘super’ land-lift, as their agriculturally zoned property becomes a McMansioned playground for the well-heeled from elsewhere.

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There’s no way to sugar coat what has been happening in the City of Richmond with the majority of their elected council.

Council members have been complicit in ponying up with the “get rich quick” segment of farmland owners who know their land would be worth more if it was not, well, agricultural.

Jack Trovato, who is running for council with the Richmond Citizens’ Association, is now calling for a change to the rules of the game, one that would pull down one of the curtains hiding any actual conflicts of interest.

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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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Saving the Best Land in Canada: Crime, Policy and Food Security in the Agricultural Land Reserve

 
Some of our country’s most productive soil lies in the delta of the Fraser River. The “Class 1” soils found here cover only half a percent of all land across Canada. As the climate changes, these lands will become even more valuable for growing our food. But current policies allow them to be built over, then taxed low because they’re ostensibly for farming. These lands are increasingly being used to build “farmers’ homes,” some as large as 24,000 sq. ft., and there are reports that some of these houses have been sites of illegal activity.
This month, the Agricultural Land Commission is asking for your comments on changing the rules. How can we prevent misuse of this exceptional land?

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The ALR has been in place for 45 years.  Now the provincial Minister’s Advisory Committee is seeking your views to deliver recommendations for a strong and robust Agricultural Land Reserve. .

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Share your ideas for revitalizing the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
Please read the discussion paper the committee has prepared before completing the online survey.
The survey focuses on collecting British Columbians opinions and views on these common themes:

  • A defensible and defended ALR
  • ALR resilience
  • Stable governance
  • Efficacy of zones 1 and 2
  • Interpretation and implementation of the Act and regulation
  • Food security and B.C.’s agricultural contribution
  • Residential uses in the ALR
  • Farm processing and sales in the ALR
  • Unauthorized uses
  • Non-Farm uses and resource extraction in the ALR

Here is the link to the process, discussion paper and ways to participate.
If you require further info, see the ALC website and good reference material in the library (especially the archived section).  
Write something long or submit something short with key ideas/shifts or objectives. The advisory committee will see all of the submissions.

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