Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bill 24 and the ongoing fight to protect the Agricultural Land Reserve

Dear Friends,

Over the last two weeks I’ve received over a hundred emails from people across the province who are outraged about Bill 24 and demanding that everything possible be done to stop it from becoming law.

I regret to share with you that Bill 24 – a piece of legislation designed by the BC Liberals to weaken the Agricultural Land Commission and gut protections in the Agricultural Land Reserve – was passed into law two years ago.

A 2014 open-letter penned by the indomitable Corky Evans somehow gained a second life last month on the internet and is inspiring a lot of people to write.

I really appreciate the input – the passion shown reminds me how important the ALR is to the people of British Columbia.

Please know that I worked very hard with my colleagues in the Official Opposition, and with farmers and farmer-supporters all over the province to try and stop it.

As the images to the right show, this campaign took on a life of its own under the hashtags #KillBill24 and #Farmers4ALR.

Although the BC Liberals used their majority to force through the legislation in the end, we were successful in demonstrating that their scheme was opposed by key stakeholders and thousands of people across the province. We demonstrated Bill 24 would significantly weaken agriculture protections for 90% of the land in the ALR.

Excellent work by Independent MLA Vicki Huntington this week provided additional evidence that shows the BC Liberals designed Bill 24 from the outset to undermine the autonomy of the ALC and make it easier to remove farmland from the ALR.

The fight to protect agriculture in BC continues – and your engagement is needed now more than ever.

A few examples:

  • 4000 Hectares of prime agricultural land is at risk in the Peace River valley if Site C proceeds as planned by the BC Liberals. 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! The land was removed from the ALR by the BC Liberals in a manner which in my view clearly violates the Agricultural Land Commission Act. (More information here)

  • Thousands of hectares of ALR land have been purchased by a conglomerate of large foreign corporations. The goal is to use the land for a dubious carbon sequestration scheme that will "offset" their polluting practices ...and make it impossible for the land to be used for agricultural production. (More information here
In order to bring the views and values of the farming community to the BC Legislature, I created the non-partisan Opposition Standing Committee on Agriculture and Food. We have toured the province (with another tour planned for next month) and released our first report. (More information is here)

I would like to thank all those who have written to me recently about Bill 24! With your help we can stand up to the current government’s attack on agriculture and lay out a vision for sustainable agriculture in the province.

To that end this week in the Legislature I introduced the British Columbia Local Food Act, 2016.

This legislation would encourage food production on B.C.’s agricultural lands and establishes food policies that are needed in order for B.C. agriculture to be harnessed as an economic driver throughout the province. It would also explicitly undo the damage done to the ALR by the BC Liberal’s Bill 24.

Please keep in touch.

Warm regards, Lana

Lana Popham MLA

Saanich South and Opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture and Food