ALR review may not be open-minded

Past agriculture minister Norm Letnick skeptical of NDP approach

What has been labelled as an “authentic and meaningful” consultation review of the Agriculture Land Reserve provincial policies is long overdue, according to B.C.’s Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.

But local MLA Norm Letnick is questioning if the review is truly an open-minded approach or just an avenue for the NDP to impose its preferred ALR and Agricultural Land Commission policies.

“My hope is it will truly be a valuable exercise and their minds are not already made up on what will happen,” Letnick said.

Letnick, the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country and past provincial agricultural minister, cited the past Liberal government’s review of the ALR, which sought input from across the province.

“We had a robust consultation process holding meetings in six different communities and received more than 100 presentations. It was led by input from the stakeholders, who to a large part were farmers,” Letnick said.

Related: Return to single-tier ALR

“This time the review committee is sitting for face-to-face meetings with hand-picked associations, and farmers are largely excluded from that, so I am a little skeptical of how thorough a review this will be for public input.”

The Liberal process led to the controversial creation of a Zone 2 under the ALR, which excluded the Okanagan, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island which were grouped together as Zone 1, to give more flexibility to permitted land use in larger Interior farm holdings.

“The NDP has been consistent in their opposition to that Zone 2 change and the agriculture minister has stated she would like to see a single ALR zone for the entire province, so now it appears she is fulfilling that commitment through this process,” Letnick said.

Speaking to Okanagan fruit growers last week, Popham explained the review’s objective is to make the ALR stronger than it has ever been.

“Corky Evans (long-time New Democrat MLA from the Kootenays) used to say the ALR was great for preserving agriculture farmland but did little to help farmers. So I want this review to look at everything today that was unforeseen in developing after the ALR was established in the 1970s,” said Popham.

“I think a lot of the topics that come up in that process will be regionally based, but there are issues such as farmworker housing and growing cannabis on ALR land that need to be addressed.”

Related: Letter—Value of ALR is in the fertility of the land

Popham said she expects the review committee to have a report on her desk by the end of this summer with recommendations for her to pursue either through regulatory or legislative changes.

“We’ll decide then what to do next but I would anticipate those suggestions being put into effect over next fall and the following spring.”

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis is one of nine people selected by Popham to serve on the advisory committee, the lone representative from the Okanagan-Thompson region.

Louis thinks he was chosen to sit on the committee to provide an Indigenous people’s perspective and his interest in expanding his own band’s agriculture production potential.

Louis said agriculture had been undergoing a slow death in recent years with the provincial and federal governments, both gravitating more to promoting high-tech growth and raw resource extraction such as forestry and mining.

“It used to be a person would travel to the Okanagan and say stop in Vernon and you could find 14 or 15 fruit stands around. Now today, you are lucky if you can find one,” he said.

He said the ALR is one component of preserving our agriculture industry, but secondary and value-added product development along with continued marketing to find new international markets he sees as equally important future steps.

“You can see how the Okanagan wine industry has evolved, winning awards and gaining international recognition. We can create that same thing with other agriculture products.

“It’s sad to see how our beef industry has been decimated in recent years. But you look at Australia selling beef to other countries, and it makes you wonder with the quality of beef produced in Western Canada, why aren’t we able to compete with them and other countries. Where are we? We are not even on the map.”

Louis said while our focus of late has been on the North America Free Trade Agreement, he noted that Canada has 88 trade agreements with different countries and regions of the world which offer an opportunity to export more agricultural products.

Letnick noted that every government since the NDP introduced the ALR legislation has attempted to enhance agricultural production in our province.

“Last year we saw record agricultural sales, profits, employment numbers, exports and domestic consumption, so we believed that according to the numbers we were headed in the right direction,” he said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Comox Valley RCMP looking for suspicious man in Courtenay

Man was frantically waving at vehicles

Comox Valley golfers prepare for another 55+ Games

Competition, camaraderie name of the game

Comox Valley firefighters assist with wildfire effort

Four Courtenay firefighters are in Fort St. James helping with the fight… Continue reading

Woman rescued from Stotan Falls calling for safety measures

3L Developments did not comment on immediate plans to add safety precautions

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Glacier View residents take a ride on the river

Ground Search and Rescue guides floaters on Puntledge

Two hurt in car wreck on old Island Highway

Honda and Volkswagen crash at 10 p.m. Friday at highway intersection in Nanaimo

Authorities mull evacuation order for Zeballos

Smoke billowed from the steep hillsides of Zeballos on Friday evening, as… Continue reading

Safeway union urges prejection of mediator recommendations

Says mediator asks for too many concessions

Fire chases B.C. crews out of their own camp

Crews in Burns Lake had to leave after a wildfire reportedly overtook their sleeping quarters

To address peacock problem, B.C. city moves ahead on trapping plan

Surrey’s new bylaw focuses on ensuring people no longer feed the birds, ahead of relocation

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

About 1,000 Saudi residents called back to kingdom after suspending diplomatic relations with Canada

Bernier diatribe against ‘extreme multiculturalism’ boosts Liberal coffers

Party spokesperson Braeden Caley says online donations doubled, social media engagement quadrupled

‘Disjointed’ system hinders British Columbia First Nations in wildfire fight

More than 550 wildfires were burning in B.C. and crews were bracing for wind and dry lightning

Most Read