Abbotsford resident and Abbotsford Today contributor Walter Neufeld has be writing and receiving a series of emails starting with MLA Simon Gibson and continueing through Agriculture Minister Norm Letnik over the Liberal government’s changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Below is some of that correspondence.
Dear Honourable Minister Letnik,
Thanks for responding. I’m still awaiting a response from our local MLA Simon Gibson.
I had written to express my concerns about Bill 24 being a strategy designed to undermine both the integrity of farmland & the ALR’s ability to continue protecting it, “The ALR was set up to protect farmland from competing Market interests that would otherwise undermine its integrity over time.”
You responded by stating that, “Bill 24 was introduced to help farmers grow their business and earn a better living; support farming families in producing food on their land; and give the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) the modern tools it needs to continue making independent land decisions, as we all it expect it to do.”
Your response leads reasonable folks to believe Bill 24 is a simple modernization of the ALR’s independence and its capacity to continue protecting of farmland from competing Market interests that would undermine its integrity over time.
But in your last paragraph you appear to state the exact opposite is true, “Following passage of the Bill, consultations will take place with industry, local government and other stakeholders on the regulations that will give effect to some of the Bill’s most significant provisions.”
So which is it?
The Globe & Mail’s Justine Hunter wrote an article May 28, 2014 “MLA’s e-mails shed new light on ALR back room politics” which outs the motives behind Bill 24’s actual strategies.
On back room lobbying the ALC and challenging its independence:
“…In one incendiary e-mail, the MLA who would later be appointed agriculture minister, Pat Pimm, griped that he had been blocked from lobbying Mr. Bullock [BC’s ALC chair].
“Every time I try to contact Mr. Bullock, I am told that he is an arms length body and for me to get the hell out of his hair. Who the hell is running the province anyway,” Mr. Pimm wrote in a reply that echoed Mr. Bennett’s concerns.”
‘Mr. Pimm was named agriculture minister last year and would have been the minister officially fronting Bill 24, but he is on leave as he battles colon cancer and was replaced by Norm Letnick in April.’
On undermining the ALC’s ability to protect farmland from competing Market interests:
‘Mr. Bennett, in an e-mail to then-agriculture minister Don McRae, said “there has to be room for other job creating, tax-paying activities [on farmland].”
He cited an example of an RV park on farmland. “We do not need people from outside our region telling us we should cease developing our tourism industry.”
The Kootenay East MLA also reminded Mr. McRae that he had been promised a review of the ALR boundaries in his riding, and that he had the backing of rural caucus members in his demands. “Your apparent lack of recollection about this commitment … was surprising and concerning,” he wrote.’
‘At the time he wrote to his cabinet colleague, Mr. McRae, Mr. Bennett was tapping into discontent within the B.C. Liberals’ rural caucus. He copied Mr. Pimm and other MLAs, as well as including Mr. Bullock, on his correspondence.
Mr. Pimm responded to everyone on the e-mail thread, including Mr. Bullock. “Mr. Bullock seems to be able to tell a great story but to this point I have not seen any delivery,” he wrote. “Here is an opportunity to actually muster up some support for our team but instead we will ignore it and go out and find some way to give the Indians more money which doesn’t get me one vote! I am very tired of this kind of nonsense.”
Hunter concludes her article with this, “The commission manages 4.7 million hectares of agricultural land in B.C. Under Bill 24, the ALR will be divided into two zones and the commission will be required to provide more flexibility in land use in Zone 2 to allow activities such as food processing and potential oil and gas development.”
Hunter’s Globe & Mail article web link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/bc-mlas-e-mails-shed-new-light-on-alr-backroom-politics/article18878679/
Can you explain to the good citizens of BC why Today’s BC Liberals are lying to them about Bill 24? We deserve better.
I look forward to your timely response.
On Wed, May 28, 2014 at 10:13 AM, MiInister, AGRI AGRI:EX <AGR.Minister@gov.bc.ca> wrote:
Thank you for your recent email and for sharing your thoughts on the proposed amendments to the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act (Bill 24). Bill 24 was introduced to help farmers grow their business and earn a better living; support farming families in producing food on their land; and give the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) the modern tools it needs to continue making independent land decisions, as we all it expect it to do.
The response to Bill 24 on March 27, 2014 shows the enormous support all British Columbians have for farmland in British Columbia. As a result of this feedback, on May 6, 2014, I introduced a number of amendments to Bill 24 which take into account the written feedback of British Columbians and input gained from meetings with leaders in BC’s agricultural sector. The amendments will reinforce the preservation of farmland as the primary objective of the ALC across the whole Agriculture Land Reserve and will provide discretion to the ALC Chair in referring matters of significance to the ALC Executive Committee.
Following passage of the Bill, consultations will take place with industry, local government and other stakeholders on the regulations that will give effect to some of the Bill’s most significant provisions. British Columbia is a large, diverse province with different agricultural practices, different population and development pressures and different social and cultural realities in our different regions and I believe these changes improve the existing Act, maintain the preservation of agricultural land as the number one priority and continue to support farmers and the growth of the agricultural sector as was always intended. For more detailed information on the changes to the ALC, please visit http://www.gov.bc.ca/agri/landcommissionact.html.
Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts with me.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Walter Neufeld <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, May 10, 2014 at 10:10 AM
Subject: Bill 24 vs ALR
To: MLA Simon Gibson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Abbotsford Constituents <email@example.com>, “Hon. Norm Letnick” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Premier Christy Clark <email@example.com>, “Hon. Bill Bennet” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear MLA Gibson,
I’m writing this morning to ask that you consider helping stop the passage of Bill 24 and to express my concerns about it’s design to undermine the ALR’s integrity.
The ALR was set up to protect farmland from competing Market interests that would otherwise undermine its integrity over time.
The Market reminds us daily that it is neither our god, nor a benign or benevolent dictator. It has no special insight, foresight, wisdom nor does it have a moral compass. It cares only about itself.
The ALR was set up 40 years ago to protect farmland from the whims of Market’s arbitrary rapaciousness. Without the ALR’s intervention, farmland integrity is at risk and becomes beholden to the Market’s whims, by default. By that same default, BC constituents become liable bystanders to the outcome.
I am asking you to convince your fellow MLA’s to defeat Bill 24.
The ALR has done an excellent job providing reasonable farmland protection in long term best interest of BC.
I’m writing to ask for your support in upholding the ALR’s mandate as is.
I look forward to your timely response. Thank you.