Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Peace River & Site C

Dear Saanich South,

Two week ago I was on a working tour of the Peace River Valley. I met many people, including First Nation Chiefs, land-owners, hard-working farmers, community leaders - many fine individuals!

Last week in the BC Legislature I reflected on my experiences. Here is my two minute Statement:

And here is the context.

As you likely know, the BC Liberal government intends to flood over 13000 hectares of the Peace River Valley in order to create Site C (now known as the Christy Clark) dam. One of the many serious problems with this plan is that 4000 hectares of that land to be flooded happens to be extremely valuable agricultural land.

Until just a few months ago, this land had protection under the the Agricultural Land Reserve. On a gloomy day when distraction ran high, the BC Cabinet quietly signed Order in Council 148 which effectively ripped this land out of the ALR. (Source: OIC148/2015)

This clearly contradicts Section 16 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act: "Land included in an agricultural land reserve remains agricultural land in the agricultural land reserve unless excluded under this Act." This land was not excluded under the Act.

Instead it was grabbed out of the ALR by the BC Liberal Cabinet in a clear violation of Agricultural Land Commission Act. 

(The government cites authority to do this on the basis of another law, the Environment and Land Use A To add insult to injury this Act was purportedly designed to increase environmental protection and public engagement.)

The ALC, an independent commission set up by a past government to ensure such decisions are made fairly, was run over by Premier Clark and her Cabinet.

If the land had been excluded pursuant to the law there would have first been hearings by the Commission. There would have been opportunities for expert and public input. We could have heard from agronomists and successful farmers and rangers and others with an interest. There would have been a debate on the importance of farm-land to British Columbians! Our land is surely owed no less.

They government seems to be hoping people won't have the energy to fight this one. Well I do ...and I will continue to do so!

There is no land better for farming in BC than the Peace River valley!

This huge open expanse of land has extraordinarily fertile soil, full sun exposure and abundant water supplies. It is a rare and fragile piece of land, just a fraction of 1% of BC's land-base and yet it could grow enough food to feed a million people!

I am shocked that the BC Liberals intend to flood this land, killing its fertility and extinguishing its powerful food-growing potential. The BC Liberals are foolishly doing this in the face of growing global food insecurity and unpredictable climate change. Look at the drought which has devastated agricultural production in California.

There are many reasons to oppose Site C. Certainly, a primary reason is to show respect to the indigenous people of Doig River, Prophet River, West Moberly and McLeod Lake. They are currently fighting Site C in the courts because they believe it will severely damage their way of life.

In addition, the government has failed to demonstrate that this outrageously expensive project (which will be paid for by taxpayers) is needed in the first place. New sources of energy including wind, tide, and solar are quickly becoming competitive with hydro. 21st century conservation measures and efficiency improvements remain untried despite a decade of BC Liberal wimpy efforts and baffle-gab. The Official Opposition and many others have done excellent work to lay out the case against Site C. A balanced analysis is essential to making a good decision.

Before approving a plan like Site C, there should have been a review from an independent expert commission. The BC Liberals deliberately and explicitly stopped the BC Utilities Commission from doing exactly that. See the pattern?

For me, as a former farmer and Agriculture Spokesperson for the Official Opposition, I will always focus on the agricultural imperative to preserve the Peace River Valley.

This land is essential to the province's long-term capacity to grow the food future generations will depend on. With your support I will continue to fight this fight.

Lana Popham, MLA Saanich South