Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Messing with the A.L.R., beyond Sooke

The Agricultural Land Reserve was created in the mid-1970s to stop the spread of towns and cities onto rare farmland. The Agricultural Land Commission was created to administer it.

In 2004, a group of agrologists, planners, nutritionists and others interested in protecting B.C. farmland formed a group called the Agricultural Land Reserve Protection and Enhancement Committee to battle what it contended was a dangerous attack on the ALR. They invited the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Clinic to report on their findings. Their report says that the Agricultural Land Commission is failing to protect farmland from development. It is calling on the B.C. premier to launch a full-scale public enquiry. [Too slow ... oh, much too slow! - BC Mary.]

The current system is operating under 3-person regional panels which tend to accept what a developer says rather than pay attention to what the public service advises.

In an August 29 Times Colonist article Report: Farmland Vanishing, Jeff Rud lists the evident flaws in the current system, where some of these 3-person regional panels have approved removal of ALR land without testing key evidence; approved tourism buildings on reserve land on the assumption that the land could later be reclaimed for agricultural use; and failed to consult the local farming community.

"We looked at just 4 cases and turned up these anomalies and problems," said the Environmental Law Clinic's legal director. "It makes a pretty compelling case for government to establish a public inquiry to see if this is a commonplace problem, because hundreds of decisions have been made." They highlighted those 4 cases, which affected Courtenay, Windermere Lake in the East Kootenays, Abbotsford, and Sechelt. [Unfortunately, it does not mention Sooke.]

B.C.'s population is expected to grow by at least 1.3 million people over the next 25 years. In order to produce what it does now -- roughly 50% of the food consumed by British Columbians -- the province will need 1 million additional hectares of farmland, producing at the same rate as farms now in operation, said Dave Sands, recently retired as regional director for the South Coast including Vancouver Island.

Another excellent article appears in The Tyee today, 30 Aug., by Charles Campbell: Fixing the Agricultural Land Commission will take vision and spine.

If you're like me, you probably read the brief reports of Basi, Duncan, and Young being charged with allegedly offering and/or accepting a $50,000. bribe for the purpose of allegedly removing land from the Sooke A.L.R. which did subsequently become a real estate development. I thought it was a one-off, didn't you?

But if corruption is proven to have entered into the system protecting our future food production, that's a whole new erosion of public assets.

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