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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Price Tags has been documenting the unfortunate story of the mowing down of provincial farmland ostensibly under provincial protection via the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), developed in 1972, and currently being ignored by municipal councils with highly questionable motives.
The City of Richmond is currently on a tear, looking to approve 61 development applications for 10,700 square foot mansions with 3,200 square foot second houses (for “the help”?); the land is being sold off for cheap, the estates being built are usually gated, and the ownership often offshore. And Richmond isn’t alone in their march to hand off as much of the ALR as they can.
The City of Delta has turned agricultural lands into industrial lands (and even a parking lot for trucks). Abbotsford and Langley also want to carve out agricultural land for industrial and residential uses. The City of Surrey wants to reclassify 235 hectares from rural to a bunch of urban uses, moving urban containment boundaries. And with the spotlight finally being shone on these questionable land deals, a dirty word has also begun to pop up — corruption.

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Hard to believe, but the story of BC’s provincially-designated Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) being eaten up for real estate development profits is not a new story.
Today, the councillors in the City of Richmond (with the exception of Mayor Brodie, Councillor Steves and Councillor Day) are expected to continue the dizzying trend of getting multi-million dollar land lifts by creating private, gated estates out of the richest farmland in Canada. In doing so, this Council — bullish on doing the right thing for developers seeking profits — are betraying the ALR, which was set up in the 1970’s to guarantee future food security, not to mention farmers’ access to high quality, arable lands.
The Globe and Mail’s Kathy Tomlinson covered this story in November 2016, and updated it last year. City councils elsewhere in Metro Vancouver have been allowing the carving up of farmland for real estate profit, and turning a blind eye to the practice.

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